The world is a slightly darker place this morning. We’ve lost a maverick, a pioneer, a visionary. Often controversial. Often combative. Always brilliant! A literary mastermind was Hitchens. He could turn a phrase like none other. His mind seemed to be a Rolodex of information and life-experience that he had the ability to sift through and access any bit of information at any time and bring it to us in fabulous poetic prose.
As a part of the free-thinking, anti-religious movement he was invaluable. Loud and boisterous and yet always eloquent. He was a bright light of reason in an often dark ignorant populous. This is where I believe he will be missed the most.
I wish I could say I knew him personally, but through his writing I feel I had the privilege to get a peek into the machinery that was his thought process. I’m sure that his close friends and family are feeling this loss deeply and my thoughts are with them.
This evening I will raise my glass (several of them most likely) to the man who helped me on my personal journey from delusion to enlightenment.
To Hitch! You will live forever in the words that you’ve left behind!
I really do not care about being comforted by mythology. I’d rather have the harsh truth and learn how to live with it, than believe myths that are just band-aids to cover reality.
This statement popped into my head today, so I figured I’d share it. It really represents the realist in me. Most people misinterpret my realism for negativity. I do try to remain positive in general, but when life experience is combined with evidence, a lot of times reality just isn’t that positive. I firmly believe that I’m not being negative, just realistic.
In the case of this quote, I’m obviously referring to religious belief. To me, I feel a lot of believers hold those views as a comfort. A security blanket if you will. They try to run and hide from the inevitable reality that we all live in. The fact that each of us will have to face our own demise. There’s no escaping it for any of us. I prefer to accept that when I’m gone, I’m gone. It’s helped me a lot lately to value each day more. I live a much fuller life now. Today is a certainty…tomorrow is not. So, today I chose to live the HELL out of life.
I’ve recently asked a few members of my family a religious/philosophical question that they have not been able to give me an answer to. I feel that it’s a legitimate question, and I really would love to know how they are able to reconcile this. Though, ultimately, I believe it to be irreconcilable under their current belief system. I will post the question below (as was presented to them) and then their initial responses and some of my replies.
Here’s the question:
“You and I are riding in a car and have a horrific accident. We both die instantly. We come to find out that it WAS, in fact, true that there is a god and it’s YOUR god. So, you get to spend eternity in heaven and I, obviously get to spend it tortured in hell. Now, you’re my mother/brother/sister/etc, so please explain to me how heaven is going to be a wonderful place for you to be knowing that I (and probably many MANY other people that you’ve known and loved in life) am being burned and tortured in hell?”
I realize this is a rather harsh concept, but I feel it addresses a rather important issue for believers. They claim that their goal is to get to heaven and spend eternity in God’s presence, but I don’t think any of them have contemplated what it would mean to have their loved ones not there, and according to the doctrine they believe, they are in hell.
This is the response my mother gave:
“One thing i know, God is the only one that can judge your heart and mine. I know his word well enough to know he loves us both. I know you want an answer about how I could enjoy heaven at that thought. I couldn’t. Not the way I am now. How could I. But all of his promises and assurances from the time I gave him my heart to him, tells me I can trust him with all that I have all now, and what I will experieced in the future. He hasn’t failed me. He’s my father. My papa. He brought me through so much pain and gave me peace. He is a loving God and knows the heart.
I love you.
This is an overwhelming thought and I’m praying for a clearer answer.”
I replied to her that I was looking forward to a further response on the question, but one never came. We did talk about it over the phone briefly once, and her thoughts came down to the idea that those memories would be gone. So, she figures she’d have no memories of her lost family members. How is that concept of heaven something desirable? My family, wife, and daughter are the most important things to me. If there was a heaven, I would want nothing to do with it if those things weren’t part of it. Not to meantion that it certainly seems like you would have to be fundamentally changed from who you were in life in order to be that way in heaven.
I posed the same question to my brother (who actively serves in the ‘ministry’). Got the following response…
“I will respond in time, i appreciate your patience…”
That was two months ago. Nothing else has been forthcoming.
The lack of valid responses to the question leaves me to believe that there is no good response. I think it leaves them feeling very uncomfortable because it truly does cause problems with their beliefs. I know I couldn’t resolve this in my own head. I’m open to honest responses from believers. I really am. I’d love to hear from people who can try to explain how they would resolve this. I’ve considered this for quite some time, and for now, I find it to be the ‘irresolvable problem’.
In some ways it’s not surprising. In others it’s just downright baffling.
Recently, my great-aunt passed away. We weren’t particularly close and she lived a good, long life that should be celebrated. Of course, any death is a sad time, it’s also an inevitability for all of us. So, if that person has lived 70, 80, 90 or more years, when that time comes, grief (at least for me) tends to be quickly replaced with awe and respect for a long life, well lived.
That said, here is a run-down of something I read when my mom posted about her aunt’s death on her Facebook status. The response from one of my mom’s friends (who I’ve talked about here before) was this:
my condolences. I wish I was going with her
This just left me scratching my head. But only momentarily. As I said at the top of this post “In some ways it’s not surprising”, and definitely NOT the first time I’ve heard something like this. So, to understand the mentality of this fundamentalist belief is to understand that this life, in their view, is very temporary, and almost an inconvenience. They want nothing more than to get on to eternity in heaven. So, instead of embracing life and living it to the fullest and enjoying it, they seem to hate this life and wish it away. They seem to view it as a separation from their god. What’s sad is that none of them have a single drop of evidence to support the idea that ANYTHING happens after they die. Let alone their particular brand of afterlife. So, to squander this one and only life by wishing for it to end creates in me a sadness for them that I can’t even begin to conceptualize. I just wish they would have a wake up call and realize what they are doing.
I mentioned in my last post, that there’s comfort to be had in the atheistic viewpoint when it comes to death. This post deals with some of my thoughts on the matter.
I think when people talk about eternal life, I’m not sure that they totally grasp the magnitude of the concept. In Christianity (and most other major religions), the believers will spend eternity in heaven worshipping God and singing his praises for ever. Do these people ever sit down and try to conceptualize the amount of time that actually is? Our lives consist of, at most, a paltry 100 years (to round-up to a nice easy number). To most of us, that’s a long time (of course, that’s because of our reference point of not knowing anything else beyond our own years of life). Imagine being in heaven. You worship and sing praises to God for 100 years. An entire human lifetime. Doesn’t just THAT seem like an awfully long time to be doing anything? Then take and double that to 200 years. Then double it again, and again, and again, and again. Over and over until you are up to millions and millions of years. At that point, you are still at only a drop in the endless bucket of eternity.
To be completely honest. This has NO appeal for me. When I was a believer, I never fully sat down and considered this. This life is relatively very short in the grand scheme of things. But from our limited points of reference it can, at times, seem very long. And often times, very difficult. In my view, death can seem like a relief of sorts when the time ultimately does come. A silencing of ‘the noise’ of life. I don’t want this perspective to sound morbid. I definitely don’t want this to sound like I am looking forward to that time at all. That’s most certainly NOT the case. I love life and living it to the fullest. However, there are those times when I can understand and see how the relief from the stresses, and pain, and insecurities and all of the other unpleasant parts of life could be welcomed.
To get back to the point, I don’t see how spending an eternity doing what I described above would not get thoroughly boring and repetitive after only a few weeks or months. Let alone year after year. Decade after decade. Millenia after millenia. And so on. Not to mention (and this will be the topic of another post), if the Christian view is correct, all those in heaven will have to try to remain happy knowing that a lot of people they knew in life are suffering eternal torment in hell. I know I would not be able to live eternally happy knowing that.
So, for me, there’s comfort in knowing that there IS an ultimate end to the pain and suffering of this life. Obviously, that also means there’s an end to the joys and happiness as well. I think a finite lifetime can make us appreciate the moments more fully. So, as has been my ‘theme’ lately here…embrace each moment of life. You may not get another one!
It’s a question that I’ve learned over the last few years that is not one that can really add any value to life at the moment or moving toward the future. That said, sometimes it’s really hard not to ask that question.
It just hit me that, when I was younger, I remember sometimes thinking to myself things like this: “Man, I hope that when we die, all these mysteries of the universe will be answered for us, and we’ll know how & why we are all here.” It was the child-like hope that we would be lifted up into heaven to be ‘educated’ by God of his master plan for everything. That all the ‘unknowns’ that we have in life will suddenly be revealed and all of a sudden everything would make sense.
In pondering this today, it struck me that maybe this is why I didn’t try so hard to learn when I was younger. I basically skated through school, doing just the minimum to pass. I didn’t really care about learning (even though, I really did enjoy thinking about the universe and the ‘big questions’). I basically blew off college…twice. (until I was married and realized that convenience store work wasn’t going to cut it, and then I went to Tech School). I just never really had the desire to know things deeply (and took a lot of things as truth based on authority).
Now, I realize that whatever there is to be learned by our brains, needs to be done within our lifetimes. I feel a bit like I missed out on so much potential because I was under the assumption that all would be revealed after death. Man, that is so disappointing to know how wrong that was now.
I’m going to have to accept this and move along in the right direction going forward, but I have a feeling that this is going to always be eating at me. I hate to focus on ‘what if?’ questions, but that is a BIG ‘what if?’ in this case. Regret is too harsh of a word. I don’t regret my life now. I love my life now. I just feel like I could have done so much more had I had a different worldview 20 years ago when I could do something with it. Now, I find myself basically trapped in a career that’s just OK. I’m a network engineer. And while, I know I’m providing a service to the world, I find myself feeling that I’m not making enough of a difference. It’s a thankless job. And usually, it’s quite the opposite…someone complaining that something isn’t working or that something was done wrong.
At this point in my life, I don’t see any way of moving toward something different. I always joke (well, semi-joke) with my wife that I want to be a Park Ranger. Being outside all the time would be incredible. But I do try to step back and see how even that, after a while, could become monotonous and boring. So, who knows? Maybe this is all a ‘rite of passage’ for people in my current age group. Maybe this is just what we all start doing at this point in our lives. We look back and analyze the right and wrong decisions. Try to imagine how life could or would have been different. And then hopefully can find a way to accept our current situation, be happy, and move on in a positive direction.
With any luck, soon I will find a way to avoid that question.