I heard from my dad today that a high school classmate of mine has been diagnosed with MS. He, like me, is 43 and until this problem cropped up was in the prime of health. He has a family and a good job. Well, he had a good job, as this health problem has resulted with him being unemployed for the time being. The doctors have him on drugs that will not cure him, of course, but help him to function in these stages of the disease and will supposedly extend his ability to function normally for another 10 to 15 years. Their words of hope to him are that perhaps 15 years will find a cure.
Therefore, mortality rears its ugly head again in my face. I lost my younger brother a little over 10 years ago in a car accident. He was a few days short of being 30. At the time I was a die-hard evangelical Christian and I found great strength in that tragic situation from my faith in a GOD who ruled the world and controlled the destiny of all humanity in perfect love and righteousness. My brother however, was a non-believer. Though he accepted my attempts to convert him with love and acceptance, he never quite accepted the message. He sincerely loved me no matter what drum I was pounding, of that I remain convinced.
Since losing my faith, I notice when faced with mortality, as in the condition of my former classmate, I have very little to offer in the form of condolences. If I were still a faithful follower, I could spout platitudes of how I am praying and how GOD loves them and so on and so forth. I could offer then a beautiful scenario which I now see as a cruel fantasy. BUT! I could offer them something!
The siren song of faith is persuasive in that it offers the self-aware mind we enjoy a way out from the extremely uncomfortable truths of real life. The cat in my house is not so self-aware, so death and suffering, though in his experience, is not either overwhelming or apparently an item of concern to him. Further, he seems non-pulsed by misfortune. Not so with the totally self-aware human being!
Since written history began, the desire for self-preservation beyond the grave has been documented in the histories of all civilizations. Ancient Egyptians believed in eternal life as much as the modern Christian.
I believe that this striving to stretch our individuality beyond the grave is merely a manifestation of the basic desire to survive. It is an extension of normal survival instincts amplified by the intelligence and self-awareness that we posses as human beings.
The siren song of religion is that personal survival, which is impossible in this world, is possible and guaranteed in the next world, the world inhabited by dead humans.
I no longer believe in an after life at all. I believe, as my cat, I will cease to exist and become one with the elemental nature of the universe.
Does that realization in any way offer a higher purpose or hope?
Perhaps not, but it is true and states emphatically that we should relish each and every moment we experience in this life, for truly we shall not pass this way again!
To desire a pleasant falsehood over a harsh reality is symptomatic of a diseased thinking process. Life is what you make it, but to be lost in a fog of fantasy is not where I want to be anymore.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)