It’s been a long time… an atheist’s thoughts on death.

How to explain my absence in a few fragments…

I got a huge design contract which kept me busy up until last month. But just before New Year’s…

My father died.

I know I’ll never be the same. I’m sure that joy will be able to break through my sorrow eventually, but for now…

See, this is where I envy the religious. For them, it’s not over. For them, there’s this great big reunion and everything is made right in the end. But that’s just not how things work. Believe me, if there was ever a time that I wished heaven existed, it would be now.

But even in my lowest lows, I just can’t force myself to believe. Never could. Look, I didn’t choose to be an atheist, I was simply born this way. This isn’t some attention thing, or some type of rebelling, I’m just being honest with myself. I’m not saying that theists are not being honest with themselves, what’s true to one, is not necessarily true to another. What I mean is that you either believe or you don’t. You can lie and say you believe all you want, but if you doubt it, I’m sorry brother, but you’re one of us then.

I came across a people magazine article yesterday quoting Denzel Washington on John Travolta. Travolta’s son died around the same time my father did and it made me feel better knowing that someone else was still struggling with a loved one’s death. Perhaps I had been too hard on myself? Or I have a selfish bitch of an ex-friend that thought her wedding engagement is more important than my father having died, literally hours before… but that’s another story and I digress.

Anyhow, this is what struck me though. Like, why do theists get upset over death if they believe in places like heaven? I understand the shock thing, but its not final for them. For me, one of the most difficult things to accept is that I will never see my father again. I will never talk to him again, we’ll never watch The McLaughlin Group together again, he’ll never get to walk me down the aisle… he can’t peak down from heaven to check up on me either. He’s dead. And that’s it. But theists… they have heaven. They have gods and all sorts of fun stuff. They have the grand reunion. Ultimate closure.

I don’t understand how death could be so upsetting to them. I’m not trying to be a dick, I just honestly don’t understand. It’s only a temporary thing from that frame of mind, right? If it’s temporary, then there’s still something left. There’s still something there. I swear I’m not mocking! Damn, I would be so grateful if that actually was the case. I would even be happy for the lucky guy that gets to escape this strange state of existence we call “life”. Whatever that means…

All I know, is that we are so so small. Watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. We are really small. And we’re only here for such a small amount of time. Life, as we know it, has only existed during the last slice of history. We are barely a blip in the entirety of the cosmos.

The universe is so massive, we really do appear insignificant. But at least we’re a part of it. I know that my molecular material is the same stuff that makes stars. And that goes for everyone here. Even assholes like Rush Limbaugh and Dick Chen have the same elemental make-up.

I suppose that’s comforting… somehow? Maybe i’d feel warmer and fuzzier if I didn’t have a mental image of Limbaugh…


12 Responses to “It’s been a long time… an atheist’s thoughts on death.”

  1. πŸ™‚ it’s the life that’s still around you that helps.

  2. Hey rizzie,

    Just cause we’re really small and insignificant, doesn’t mean on our own scale that insignificance is a bad thing. I mean, its all about relativity and the perception of an individual.. if we think of our “world” as being what we know, who cares how small we are in relation?


    • JOHN!!!

      Always a pleasure to hear from you! Thanks for your comment. Lol, you caught me there. How could I bemoan the vastness of space and completely ignore quantum mechanics and general relativity?

      Watching Cosmos was perhaps one of the best things I could have done to help me gain some perspective on my father’s sudden passing. Seeing how small we are, but yet still part of this massive… thing, it was so comforting.

      Watching everyone else’s life go on was what made it all feel so insignificant. Then again, just because I felt some way, doesn’t mean that it was true.

      Thanks again! πŸ˜€

  3. My heart goes out to you. I’m so sorry for your loss. I don’t know what I’d do it I lost my dad. My father is way religious. He believes in God and saints and everything. Me… I’m still on the fence, leaning one way then the other. Your blog puts into perspective my fears… my dad is old his health isn’t so good and one day I’ll lose him.

    You once mentioned in a blog of yours a long, long time ago that most people perceive atheists as a scourge. That we are without morals and have no regard for life. But what they don’t realize is that to an atheist, this is the only life we have. There is no great eternal reward or an afterlife of bliss. There is just the here and now and because of this life is very precious to us.

    – JJ

    • Thanks man. So good to *see* you!

      I’m touched that you remember those rants of mine from the old days! I’m not as frustrated with religion the older I get and the more cynical I become of us as a species. Kidding…

      “But what they don’t realize is that to an atheist, this is the only life we have. There is no great eternal reward or an afterlife of bliss. There is just the here and now and because of this life is very precious to us.”

      Can I get an amen on this? πŸ˜‰

      In all seriousness, you’ve hit the heart of my personal atheist philosophy. I’d rant on but I think you said it perfectly. πŸ™‚

      Let your dad know how you feel. For some reason, the past year or so, I started thanking my parents for the way the raised me. Despite how much it hurts, I know he knew I thought the world of him. That brought me a lot of consolation, and it definitely made his day whenever I said it. I’m sure your dad would love it.

  4. I think so too. I think I’ll do that. It sounds like it should be easy, but its not. LOL. But its a powerful lesson you’ve given me today.

  5. Stephen M. Bauer Says:

    Consider that although your father may be dead, and you don’t believe in an afterlife, you still have a relationship with him.

    • True, but it’s still a relationship with someone who doesn’t exist.

      Sorry, its like a knee-jerk reaction these days.

      Thanks, I feel you. It sounds kinda sappy, but like, I’ll see him in other people… Idk if that makes any sense. Someone will say a phrase just like him, or something, idk…

      Consciousness is such a weird thing when you look at it from a cosmology perspective. Who knows… could be yet another stage in some kind of metamorphosis. The universe is a very strange place. Uh oh, I might be slipping into pantheist realms…

  6. I’m not exactly religious but I do believe in the afterlife. I believe in the possibility of God, but for those who are religious yet mourn their loved ones, I think they use that as comfort even when a part of them doubts they might ever see their S.O. again.

    To me, I don’t say I believe in religion because I refuse to have a crutch. Axe murderers can be christian and use god as their savior and reason to to go and kill others. Athiests who are contemplative and logical don’t necessarily lack empathy, a lack that is needed when one goes off to blow other people’s heads off.

    This is not a hard rule as I’m sure there are christians who are far better than myself, and there are some lunatic athiests who would gladly murder when given the chance. But in general, I hate the “good christian” stereotype that’s permeated society and created a sort of “OMG he killed yet he’s christian” response. Personally, I prefer not having excuses to commit religiously-based cleansings in my life TYVM.

    Anyways, scientifically do I believe there is an afterlife? Yes. Maybe I’ve been watching too many ghost stories or paranormal tv episodes but I’ve seen far too much and witnessed far too much to believe anything else.

    But this doesn’t mean that only one form of religion, christianity, is possible to explain this. Of all the things I wish they taught in religion I wish they explained religious freedom and not damning other practices to hell.

    • Oops and sorry to go off topic and that this may “challenge” your beliefs but think about yourself. When you die do you feel that the answer is that you’ll simply cease to exist? That there is nothing left after death?

      While that is a possibility, the actual truth is is that there are things that just can’t be explained via science alone. Regardless of whether you believe in religion or not, the question of conscience and also how we exist as being spiritually aware of ourselves and our lives is in and of itself a mystery. If biology and chemistry cannot fully explain how we function something else can. What it is has yet to be discovered. So even though your father may not be looking down from you in heaven, I wouldn’t rule out “gone for good” because we simply don’t know what happens afterwards.

      But if you do want certainty what you believe in may be far more important and beneficial than “may-be”s. There is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself or living life to your fullest or coping in your own way. Your father sounded like a loving man and I’m sure he wanted you to be happy.

      Lastly there’s no need to punish the veracity of your beliefs simply because you are atheist or they are different from others. But there’s also no need to punish yourself for believing in them.

      Your beliefs are just so and there are no hard rules to mourn, but it’s true that it is never easy. Just don’t punish yourself and doubt yourself further than need be. And I hope that the open-endedness in “what happens afterwards” is comfort in certain cases.

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