You are one intelligent lady. You blow me away. You must have done (still do) a lot of research.
Well, thank goodness. I thought you were a whacko and needed a little reality check. So, all these words later, back and forth, and what have we gained. No, I am not smart, I just know how to look things up. The computer ... a great tool ... except she has been giving me fits. Life goes on after computer failure?
We say there is nothing after death.
Xians say there are wonderful things after death, but they're hanging on here until their knuckles turn white. Why is that?
If North America ever legitimizes euthanasia, I shall open up a small clinic with the promise of sending christians to their eternal bliss. Win-win.
They taught me to believe in life after death when they taught me all of that god business. Today I would ask you, "is there electricity to the light bulb once the switch is turned off?" It's pretty obvious until some idiot starts talking about your "duality of being." Sorry, Charlie. I don't have a soul. I became one. There is a difference.
After life, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly.
Physicist report all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. All the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her/his eyes, that those photons created within her/him constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.
There is no need for faith; indeed, you should not have faith. Know that you can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time.
You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves science is sound and your energy is still around.
According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly.
~ Aaron Freeman
My earliest geology dig was in Pre-Cambrian. I found sharks teeth in the Devonian, and the Cretaceous was a virtual mine of fossils.
Dennis Michael Pennington, I like your analogy of electricity and the light bulb. That is how I see the transition from life to death. On/off. The energy is always there, just in different forms. At least that is what physicist tell us, and it is a better story than any others I have heard.
Be aware that your posts influence me a lot and I always love to read what you have to say. Some time back I borrowed a term, (Buybull) I believe from you. I had never heard the bible expressed that way, and I like using it that way.
Dan Tabor , are you bragging or complaining?
It was the acknowledgement of my own mortality that was the final straw...the 'Sinner's Prayer', so to speak...that led me to atheism.
Knowing death as the end breaks the back of all forms of superstition...religion or "I'm spiritual, but not religious' Oprah Winfrey bullcrap that is so popular now in the US.
I have posted elsewhere on this subject under the title of "Atheism is Admitting the Truth" and 'Death and the Lack of Alternatives.'
Understanding that you will cease to exist when you die is, to my thinking, the same thing as admitting that the Earth is not the Center of the Universe.
It is the benefits of this admission, what comes to you once you admit that one day you will die and will cease to exist, that need to be emphasized.
I remember very clearly the days and weeks following my own acknowledgement of my mortality. I remember the changes I went to as very visceral...very much a readjustment of my physical reality...rather than simply esoteric.
I remember how quiet it got.
My mind was free of the constant yammering between God and Satan and Me. Suddenly, the Voices stopped and I was alone...for the first time in my life I was alone in my own body.
It was so strange. Just being Me. Not the Me that was the center of a cosmological battle between God and Satan, struggling for possession of my soul.
I was alone.
It scared the shit out of me.
At the same time, it thrilled me as no other 'conversion experience' I had ever had before.
God...and his twin Satan...were just gone. They dissapated like fog in the light of the morning sun.
I didn't miss them at all. So many atheists are still nostalgic about their 'loss of Faith.'
There was none of that.
There was simply silence. A void in which nothing, no one existed but myself. And I wasn't at all sure what my 'self' was. I realized what Kierkegaard meant when he said: "Existence precedes essence."
Who was I? What was I? Did I even exist?
But there was no hurry, no rush to define myself. To attach myself to any belief system. It was joyous...I know that word seems out of place, but it is the only one that comes to mind.
I was alone. I didn't have anyone, anything surrounding me...the Voices were all silent.
I could speak, if I wanted to...I could speak myself into existence just as God supposedly once spoke Light into existence.
But I didn't have to.
I could just stay there. Alone. Happy. Joyous.
That is so much what is lacking in so many 'conversions' to atheism. They are just running from one comforting, defining self to another.
But I didn't need to do that.
I could be myself.
I didn't need to explain or excuse myself.
I could just be.
That moment is still inside of me, I go back there whenever I find myself getting agitated and upset -about all the flim-flammery discussing atheism with theists or even other atheists.
I can draw myself back into myself.
Anne Rice's...who I have loved then grown to hate as she embraced Fundie-Catholocism ala Mel Gibson and his ilk...husband, who was a poet and writer in his wife's shadow...put it so elegantly:
"I became the soft animal of myself."
I can be without having to explain myself to others or, worse yet, to myself.
I am alone.
And that's just fine by me.
The next sensation...and I make no pretense of these being philosophical ideals...they are sensations. Sensations that are available to anyone who has the courage to admit their own mortality...
The next sensation was that there was no one, nothing outside of the room where my body dwelt.
That the universe ended at the limits of my perception.
That my kitchen did not exist until I stood up and walked from my bedroom to the separating door.
And once I was in my kitchen, my bedroom ceased to exist.
Not that I was the center of the universe as I had been taught by theism for so long. But that I was, as Hemingway put it, "A Moveable Feast."
If you have never drawn yourself in to the 'soft animal' of your body then you are missing a treat. You are missing what well may be the whole point of atheism.
Aleister Crowley...the self proclaimed 666, the Beast...had one of the most poignant and pertinent methods of meditation I have ever heard of...have ever experienced...
He said to lay down on the floor and stay there until you had to move.
There is no reason, no impulse, no demand that will make you move. Eventually, my physical body reasserted myself and I had to get up and urinate, but even that was a matter of cleanliness and social decorum.
Aside from that, there was nothing.
I could stay inside myself, I could be myself without any pressing need to do anything else but lay there.
I didn't need anything from outside myself to be myself.
The next sensation...and I cannot emphasize often enough these were not thoughts, no concepts floating to the surface of my brain...they were sensations as real as the cut of the knife or the gasp of an orgasm...
The next sensation was of time. I came to understand that I was all wrong about time. As I had put it in a poem once about the Nullabor Plain in Australia..."time was not a speeding train, hurling cross a treeless plain...'
Rather time was a bead of rain sliding down a slender reed into a still and silent pond.
Time was a bubble. I was in the bubble, but so was my wife sitting on the bed next to me. That we didn't go through time as particles but as waves, not to get too physic-al about it. That I was part of a bubble, a bubble that contained not just me but my wife and my children and anyone else who happened to be in the bubble of my perception at that particular moment.
That we're all bubbles, joined for a moment, then slipping away. I see a cluster of frog's eggs. Each egg a potential individual frog but for now they are all one.
From that image grew the sight of all people...of all cultures...of all nations...and, ultimately, of the human species...all sliding and bumping into each other...each contact sending us off in a different direction...each of us still connected....still a part of the whole...even as we realize our own individuality.
The last sensation...at least, the last one I want to deal with in this post...was that I was a part of the whole biosphere of this planet. That I was not placed in dominion of this world, but that I was, as a birthed, then living, then dying part of a world filled with birthed and living and dying things.
That I was nothing special.
The admission of my mortality was an act of humility.
As I became me and nothing but me I became one with every other living thing.
My birth, my life, my death...
They weren't meaningless. They became meaningless only when I tried to cling to my self, my time. my place.
There is no life after death anymore than there is life before birth.
But there is life now, life that we, the living, share.
Knowing that, really deep in the bone knowing that you will die and go back to the state you were in before you were born, is nothing to be feared.
Pull back into the soft animal of your body.
There is nothing to fear. Fear is clinging to life.
Or, as one of my greatest spiritual teachers Stephen King put it:
"Death is when the monsters get you."
Awesome post Philip. Very profound.