Just about a month, ago, Greta Christina (of Greta Christina’s Blog, of course) came through Tuscaloosa and gave a talk titled “Happy Thoughts On Godless Death.” Since that time, I’ve been thinking about the subject quite a bit. It is without a doubt one of the most frequent topics brought up to atheists by believers, primarily because it isn’t easy to get your head around secular death without a good frame of reference.
It is easy to claim that there is no comfort to be offered by the secular view of death, especially when compared to the fantastical religious alternatives. But honestly, I have to humbly disagree.
For someone who thinks and sees the world in material terms, the religious afterlife offers no comfort whatsoever. It isn’t something we can choose to believe in; it just doesn’t fit with the way we think and see the world around us. It is a classic round-hole/square-peg situation as far as I can see. So, when someone says “it must be so depressing to not believe in an afterlife”, it doesn’t really register for me. I am going to live this life, and then break back down into the physical bits that made me up. I, in the sense of my body, will be back in the big ol’ carbon pool. Maybe part of me will wind up as part of a 20 ft mutated squirrel creature in the future. That sounds pretty awesome to me, and about as far from depressing as possible.
It is the loss of personality and “mind” that really seems to bother people, though. I see life in that sense as something of a magnificent fireworks show of neurons and other science-y things. It is both outstanding and precious, but as with all great shows, the curtain has to come down. We may not want it to, but a closing is really necessary. Think about television shows for a minute: sometimes a great show will come along, and it will blow people away. Sometimes these shows get cancelled far before their prime, which is sincerely regrettable.
Other shows are desperately clung on to, and kept alive far longer than they should. Without a timely ending, the luster and amazement that came with the show’s prime is lost.
Basically, I am saying that eternal life would eventually wind up like House or Stargate SG-1 (drawn out and ultimately stale), whereas our mortal lives as they exist are akin to Arrested Development or Firefly. Even The Twilight Zone (which I love and have written on before) only lasted an even 5 seasons. And I am honestly happy that it ended there, and didn’t spiral into mediocrity by pushing into the 10-12 season mark. Maybe that isn’t the perfect metaphor, but I think you can get where I’m going with this. Speaking of, check out The Twilight Zone episode “A Nice Place to Visit”, it compliments Greta’s talk quite nicely.
I’ll just conclude with a song: The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realize??” I think the tune covers the basic outlook of many materialist thinkers when it comes to the topic of death, but condensed into a simplified and catchy form. Also, the video is visually pretty entertaining.
Peace be with ye, Heathens.