Last night our local group of heathens and extended friends had our Winter Solstice/Festivus/FSM Holiday/Christmas/Hanukkah party. It was fun. The conversation was very interesting and incredibly diverse. Here are two topics I discussed.
I was talking to a Buddhist physicist who works for NASA part time. He started talking about how the earth and rocks have sentience. I disagreed, of course. He had this weird logic that was completely flawed. He said something about how humans are sentient, and we need the sun and the earth so they are sentient too. Um, what? And he works for NASA?
My friend Eric works for NASA. He went to his office christmas party where they prayed at the beginning "in jesus name".
This is fascinating and disturbing. I had this idea that people in places like NASA are rational and critical thinkers. But I guess you can be smart in one area and compartmentalize your beliefs and faith in the supernatural in another, and blithely eschew critical thinking. I think early and lifelong indoctrination is definitely a factor. It is disheartening, though.
One of my friends, Jim, is a grief counselor so he and I ended up talking about death and the afterlife. Cheery, huh?
We both agreed that as atheists, there is no fear of death. Being dead is natural. It's the end. For about 14 billion years before you were born you didn't exist. Now you do. Eventually (hopefully later rather than sooner, after a rewarding and wonderful life) you will die. We all die.
Where I have problems with death is the actual act of dying. I really don't want to suffer. I don't like pain. I don't want to lose all of my dignity. As Jim said, though, we are really working on that.
Anyway, if you're religious, you are led to believe that there is an afterlife. Well, some religions anyway. Apparently the jews don't hold to that notion. So if you're a muslim and you do good deeds like kill a bunch of innocent infidels you and 72 members of your family go to heaven where you get 72 virgins (see inside label for details).
If you're a christian, you get two choices (well, catholics get purgatory, too). You're going to hell unless you get saved and accept jesus as your savior (rules and restrictions may differ for your denomination. See insert). Then you get to go to heaven to worship god for all eternity.
Let's say you follow the rules for your faith in christ. Then you get cancer at the age of 52. You start praying feverishly for a miracle. Surely God will answer your prayers. I don't understand why you would bother to pray if you believe that God let you get cancer in the first place.
According to my friend Joe who is a medical transcriptionist for a cancer center, many people will try every alternative remedy and hokum they can find on the internet when they are first diagnosed. I'm sure they're all praying too. Joe then says they will come back to the doctor and ask for regular treatment and it's usually too late so they end up dying. If they had taken the science-based treatment when it was first offered they would have had a chance.
So often even die-hard christians will turn to science-based medicine to fight their cancer. In fact, a study found that christians will fight much harder to stay alive than the nonreligious. They demand more heroic measures to extend their life, even if it's only hours or days.
But, when you die you go to heaven with Jesus and God, right? So why wouldn't you hasten that process? Why would you slow it down? Why do they prefer to be resuscitated (which I imagine is quite painful and stressful) or be on a ventilator to survive a few more hours? Why suffer like that? Shouldn't they be asking to be removed from all equipment so they can be in Jesus' arms sooner?
Not to mention the cost of all of this heroic life extension. Think of the impact on the family left behind. But christians don't care. They aggressively cling to this world, separated from God.
Perhaps they are doubting their faith? That's all I can think of. It just doesn't make sense. They should be actively and happily working toward their own death, really. They should encourage assisted dying. Of course, in the bible, suicide is a sin, so they can't kill themselves, but they can have a doctor kill them, can't they?
And funerals should be a time to rejoice because Grandpa is now in heaven. Instead they are times of great sadness. Of course, for those left behind, it's a time of grieving the loss of a loved one, so that's the same for everyone.
Personally, I just don't want to suffer. And when I die I want my body donated to science after my good organs are harvested for transplants. I want something good to come out of my death, if possible.