So I tweeted out a poll recently concerning my thoughts on the after life.
If you’re wondering why I included “get off the goddamn porch” it’s because I’m sometime referred to, colloquially, as a “porch atheist” and I like to have a little fun with it here and there.
As for the rest of the poll, I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people agreed with me. Granted I probably shouldn’t have been; I deal with mostly atheists online, and we tend to have a different outlook on death, but I was glad to see my views are shared by others.
Interestingly enough, that conversation never goes well with my religious friends. I once made a good friend cry talking about my afterlife beliefs, and have been thought to be suicidal more than once.
I’m going to flesh it out today, and really try and explain my position.
I was recently talking with one of my best friends about this, when she told me the thought of heaven had terrified her as a child. That hit me hard, right in the chest, because I was instantly reminded that, so was I.
I don’t know if I’d repressed that memory, or if it had been simply lost to time, but it came back intensely. I was somewhere between 6 and 8, thinking about heaven, and I was horrified at every concept of it I could come up with.
“What if I don’t want to sing praises all the time.”
“What if my friends aren’t there, or someone I love doesn’t make it?”
“What about Ozzy? I know he’s not gonna be there.”
Im a life long metalhead, and Blizzard of Oz was the first great love of my life.
The thought of heaven still fills me with dread, though some of the reasons are different.
First of all, I’ve never been presented with a heaven that wasn’t entirely servile. You’re slave to God for all eternity. Not my idea of a good time. Hey, work all your life for God and save up treasure in heaven. Then when you get there; you can give it all back to him and praise him forever. No fuckin’ thank you.
Secondly, how could I be made perfect and still be me? How would it be possible for me to maintain any sense of self? I can’t see it, and if I’m not me why bother. Think about it, if you’ve got however many millions of people and they’re all perfect, how could you distinguish them from each other?
That makes heaven kinda seem like an oblivion of self, but with continued existence.
Once again, NO FUCKING THANK YOU.
If did conceive of a heaven I would enjoy, perhaps an opportunity to learn everything and set some things right, it would have to be finite. I would have to have an exit option.
Now, none of this is relevant to whether or not there is an afterlife. There either is or there isn’t objectively, regardless of how I feel about it.
That said, I’ve never seen any evidence, that shows our consciousness is separate from the body, or can survive it’s death. So I don’t believe it is, or does. It’s really that simple.
Now you might say: “But Duke, what about near death experiences?”
Great question. I’ll be posting about that in the near future, and talking about the evidence for a naturalistic consciousness also. But for today I’m just talking about how I feel about it.
So, as an atheist, I believe in my eventual extinction. If I’m honest, I believe that is universal.
To quote Neil Gaiman’s Death character from The Sandman series:
“When the first living thing existed, I was there waiting. When the last living thing dies, my job will be finished. I’ll put the chairs on the tables, turn out the lights and lock the universe behind me when I leave.”
Obviously, I don’t believe death is a cognitive being, but it’s a lovely quote and I think it conveys my point really well.
Honestly, if you’re not reading Neil Gaiman, I don’t understand what you’re doing with your life.
So, you might ask me:
“But Duke, isn’t life sacred?”
Fuck no! Where the fuck did you get that idea?
I will gleefully spray my yard with fire ant killer, and think happy thoughts while those hateful little motherfuckers die.
Some life is sacred.
My life is sacred to me, and the lives of my loved ones also. Through empathy, I’m able to draw the conclusion that human life outside of that bubble is sacred also, and extrapolate from there to other sentient beings. From there I can apply appropriate rights to each level of consciousness, and fire ants have no fucking right to exist.
Sorry. I really hate fire ants.
Moving on, I know that the extinction of one’s personal life, and of our species is something that most people find upsetting. While I’m in no hurry to die, and I want to see the human species flourish into something more wonderful than it is today, I don’t see it that way.
I think it’s beautiful we are here at all. I think the finite nature of existence is what makes it valuable. If you live in the West, you may take water for granted. It’s everywhere all the time, so you just drink your fill and you don’t give it a second thought. If the water started running out it would quickly become the most precious thing in the world to you.
Perhaps that’s how I will feel if death comes for me slowly. If I waste away, instead of dying instantly. Who knows, but I do know there is nothing to fear.
If I die quickly or slowly the end result remains. I won’t exist anymore, so I won’t be there to notice it.
In a universe where life could’ve not happened at all; I got a shot at it. I find that thought to be lovely.
As for why I find the idea of oblivion comforting, it’s an eternity of rest, which I think will be welcome when the time comes.
As precious as my life is to me, I wouldn’t want to do it forever. I’m not even sure I’d want a do over.
Sure, I’m not famous or wealthy, and I’ll likely never be. But my life has been mine, and, for the most part, I’ve loved it.
I’ve connected with some truly beautiful people, had great times, great sex. I’ve had my heart filled with light, and fire, and I’ve seen that fire extinguished, a bit to often maybe, but I’d rather feel both than neither. I’ve watched two children be born (and let me tell you, that’s the greatest feeling ever).
I’ve really lived, and I love it.
I wouldn’t change a thing, and I don’t begrudge life for not keeping me forever.
When the end comes, it comes, and I think I’ll be ready for a break.
I love you all.