On Death

There is nothing when we die

No hell, no heaven up in the sky.

Dead is dead and this I know

Because the Bible tells me so.

“For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope; for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.” Ecclesiastes 9:4-5

 

The True Miracle of Life

I’ve tried to express here on many occasions why I feel that we need to live this life to the fullest and not waste our time expecting any kind of afterlife.  I have tried to describe why this is important, but it seemed that my words could just not express the beauty of this life and what we can experience in it.

Fortunately, I’ve found someone who can.

“When my husband died, because he was so famous & known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me — it still sometimes happens — & ask me if Carl changed at the end & converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage & never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief & precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive & we were together was miraculous — not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance… That pure chance could be so generous & so kind… That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space & the immensity of time… That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me & it’s much more meaningful…
The way he treated me & the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other & our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.“

– Ann Druyan, talking about her husband, Carl Sagan

A Message From The Dead – A Skeptic’s Last Words to The World

Phil Plait blogged about Derek today.  Derek was a skeptic who I never knew, nor herd of, until today.  He died of cancer May 3rd and he left a final message on his blog.  Please, go and read it.  It embodies everything I believe about living my daily life, which is; never take anything for granted, enjoy every moment, and always tell those you love that you love them, as often as you can.

This life, as far as anyone can tell, is all that we have.  The people in our lives are what give it meaning, and it is to the people in our lives that we will leave our legacy.  Once we die, we will live on in thier memoires, the stories they will tell about us, the influence that we had upon them. 

I lost my father in 1992, my sister in 1997, and my mother in 1999.  They all died suddenly and I never got to say goodbye to any of them, but I had no regrets because I always kept in touch, and I always let them know that I loved them.  I learned more from these loses about living day-to-day than anything else in my life. 

You never know when you, or someone you love, might be taken from this life.  Cherish every moment you have with those that you love, and tell them and show them, as often as you can, that you love them and value them.  It will be your legacy to them and it will enrich thier lives more than you can imagine.

I will leave you by quoting Phil Plait, who quoted Slau, who quoted Warren Zevon:  “Enjoy every sandwich.”

Coexistence?

A dear friend of mine posted some disturbing videos from Indonesia of people being stoned to death for one religious offense or another on her Facebook profile to highlight the terrible violence that religion continues to inspire. She changed her profile photo to
wpid-174270_830719950_2402185_n-2011-02-13-18-21.jpg

I found what I consider to be a much more accurate version of the Coexist sign above,

wpid-sexist_by_dailyatheist-small-2011-02-13-18-21.png
*by http://dailyatheist.deviantart.com/. Used with permission.

I’m not a graphic artist, but I’m sure if I had the talent I could come up with other signs that contained more “truthiness” that the Coexist one.

Of course, the Coexist message represents something to strive for and as such it serves its purpose well. If religious coexistence was a fact, we wouldn’t need the logo in the first place.

While I fully support efforts for peoples of all faith to coexist, my feelings, as I said in my response to one of the videos, is that to coexist we must see each other as fellow humans, not as believers and unbelievers and until we can throw off all vestiges of religions, that can never happen. As long as people allow religion to guide how they live their lives, the violence and hatred will continue. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but we need to be realistic about just how insidious the influence of religion really is and how very difficult it will be to change that.

Religious Thinking Hits Home

A good friend of mine from my Army days has unfriended me on Facebook. He took issue with my post of the morality of sex acts. Here I present his message and my response. Other that my response to him, I don’t really have anything more to say about this, except that it make me very sad.

Ed Connor February 1 at 2:42pm Report
Jay

I saw your extremist writing on sex not being connected to morality. As a father and a husband, you should really be ashamed of yourself and deeply embarassed and you really need to get a grip on reality. I doubt that hurt spouses whose partners have commited adultery, or prosititutes whose lives have been destroyed or children who have been sexually exploited, or those suffering from aids or other veneral diseases would agree with your bizarre and warped views promoting sexual immorality on a wholesale scale. Your children are in deep trouble given your bizzare views. So given your criterea, I guess your ex “Holly” was justified in engaing in beastiality and other infidelities. I guess the the children victimized by pedophile priests are in the wrong and need to put up with having their persons violated by these perverts. I guess you want one big Soddom and Gommorah to prevail. I see through you and other perverts like you and that is this: You want a life of unrestrained immorality with no accountability or consequences. That is what you promote and I’m sure that is what you teach your children and you deride and insult any people AKA Christians, who disagree with you.

You are not the same person I was friends with and we have nothing in common and I want no part of what you espouse. As such, I do not want to have any further contact with you. Thanks.

Ed

Jay Walker February 1 at 7:32pm
You know, Holly cheated on me. She tore out my heart and ground it into the dust. But it wasn’t the sex, it was the betrayal of trust. It was taking me for granted.

I teach my children to respect each other and other people and to treat people as they would like to be treated (you know, that do unto others stuff from that bible of your). Most importantly I teach them to be honest, with themselves and with others.

I am all about accountability and consequences. I’m about adults being open and honest with each other about their feelings and emotions, their needs and their desires.

Immorality is lying, to yourself and to others. It is hiding the secret desires that you have and pretending that they don’t exist. When you are open and honest about everything then you can decide to act or not act on those desires, but if you do decide to act you must do so with the understanding and support and agreement of the one you love. If they don’t agree or support you, then you have a moral obligation not to act. The morality comes from your respect of one another. The immorality comes from disrespect, selfishness and disregard of other’s feelings and well being, not from the acts themselves. The actual act has no morality attached to it, only the intent and execution makes it moral or immoral.

I am sad that you choose not to have anything to do with me. I certainly don’t agree with your religious views, but I believe you have every right to believe as you choose and I would never let that fact that you believe in some things that I find disagreeable influence our friendship. Unless you have done me harm by believing as you do, then I have no reason to not be friends with you. You haven’t done me harm with your beliefs and I don’t see how I have harmed you in any way with mine.

You must do as your conscience tells you, but your reaction proves one of my main points about the religious: you may espouse forgiveness as a central tenant of your religion, but you don’t mean it and you certainly don’t practice it. The bible also teaches you to judge not lest ye be judged, but I don’t see much of that going on here either.

I don’t follow any book or writings and I don’t let anyone tell me what to believe so I don’t have anything to refer back to to justify how I live my life, only my espoused belief in honesty, truthfulness and respecting my fellow human beings. You may not agree with what I believe, but at least I have the honesty to live my life by own words. You, and those like you, on the other hand, don’t have the honesty to live by the words you claim to revere.

I’ll always consider you a friend, Ed, regardless if you don’t consider me yours. But I will respect your wishes and will leave you alone.

Of Skepticism and Love

I am going through my second divorce. The first one was five and a half years ago. That marriage lasted over 17 years. I have friends who keep telling me that the right woman is out there for me. Some say that as soon as I stop looking she will show up in my life, other that l am a loving, caring person and that I deserve to be happy and they are sure that prefect woman for me will come along.

I know my friends are trying to cheer me up and don’t want me to lose hope that I’ll find happiness. Hell, I want to tell myself the same things, because, yes damn-it, I do deserve to be happy, but I know that life doesn’t work that way. I don’t want to get into the gory details about what happened to bring me to this point. Suffice it to say that my love and trust was terribly betrayed to the point where, for a while, I didn’t believe in real love at all, but instead saw love as a selfish way for people to get what they want from someone else. Fortunately, I realized that I still had the capacity to give love without totally selfish motives so I figured that if I could do that, so could others.

Life is not going to give me what I want or need. The universe doesn’t care about my desires, or anything else for that matter. The universe just is. It follows laws that came into being when it did and what ever happens is merely a result of the interactions arising from those laws. The only one or thing that can fulfill my needs and desires is myself. Not in a hedonistic way, but by making the most of what life throws at me. Of course I have plans and dreams, but they are only guides, like a compass needle pointing me in the direction I want to go. How I navigate the landscape that is presented to me as I go is totally dependent on what I see in front of me. We dream, we plan, but ultimately, we react to what is placed in our path.

The good thing is that I still believe that real love, true love, is possible. I still believe that there could be someone out there who would fulfill all of my needs and desires, and I hers. I just think that the chances that I’ll ever meet someone like that are astronomical and I’m too much of a realist to think that there is some kind of universal justice that will someday give me what I desire. The universe is arbitrary and there really is no rhyme or reason to it. We, as humans, are evolved to find patterns where there are none and to assign agency to events in our lives where none exist. Unlike many, I actually find great beauty and solace in this idea. It means that none of us are anymore more special than anything else in this world, and that is a great equalizer.