Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thoughts About Death

   Due to a recent announcement that a family member of mine has been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, I have been thinking a lot about the inevitability of death. Not in a "oh no I just realized I'm a mortal!" sort of way, but rather in a "why do we have so many different ideas of what happens when our life ends?" way. I personally am not religious, I do not believe in a god, or a higher power, but rather in things that can be proven....
   If you are offended by my views I apologize, but please respect that I am entitled to them. I don't challenge other people's views, or try to change them, so please don't try to change mine.

   That being said, I guess I would be considered an Atheist, but to me that label seems to imply that I actively believe there is no god. This isn't the case, to me there is a big difference between not believing in something, and actively believing that it doesn't exist. The distinction being that I don't find the notion of a higher power to be some ridiculous notion, I simply don't think it is the case.

   In the same vein, I don't think that an afterlife is some crazy notion, I just don't think there is one. I personally think that as humans we are cursed with knowing that we will, eventually, die. And it is the burden of this knowledge that causes us to imagine all sorts of different possibilities as a coping mechanism. I read an article ( I don't remember where but if I recall I will link to it) that explained how people 's lives flashing before them, or people seeing late relatives when they die momentarily, could very well be our subconscious attempting to soothe our conscious mind. Basically, the article said that because death is something we are either programmed to fear, or to look forward to (based on beliefs and how we've lived our lives) that the unconscious  mind triggers these thoughts and memories, more or less, because it's what we expect to see.

   To me this makes perfect sense, we are all confronted with death at some point in our lives, directly or indirectly. Also, we have all seen TV shows, movies, or heard stories, of people seeing a tunnel of light, or seeing Elvis, or whatever it may be, that we then consciously or unconsciously associate with death. So, to recap, to me personally religion and beliefs about a spirit world or an afterlife are essentially a coping mechanism to deal with the burden of our own awareness.

   Some people I have talked to about this have told me "I know that there is an afterlife and I know that there is a god." Again, I do not intend to challenge or change any one's beliefs, but invariably the discussion goes to one thing.

   As in, "how do you know?" I don't ask this to offend the person, I just wish to know how someone can be so certain about something which others are so uncertain of. I've had a few interesting answers, the most memorable of which included the individual describing extraordinary that had happened in her life. However, most people just answer my question with one of their own. "How do you know there isn't a god?" The answer of course is, I don't. But you really don't know either, the difference between knowing and believing is evidence.

   Feel free to comment, tell me your beliefs, if you feel that I'm wrong, tell me how I'm wrong. Please note: telling me I'm going to burn in hell is not going to help anyone.

-Onward and Upward!

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