Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Prospect of Death

As World Suicide Prevention Day just passed us by, I find myself having to continually readjust my thoughts on the issue of suicide and the unavoidable event of dying we will all experience one day. As a Christian, I simply believed that suicide was wrong because my church said so; dying wasn’t so bad because an eternity in heaven was waiting for me. Indeed, the church makes dying seem like the best thing that could ever happen to a person. This is probably one of the reasons the elderly find the church so appealing; it gives them false hopes of a new life in paradise. Needless to say, my perspective has been forcibly changed since becoming an atheist.

Suicide seems even more asinine to me since it took around 3.5 billion years of evolution for me to get here in the first place. I’m only here for what might be described as a ‘blink of an eye’ and even that is probably an exaggeration. In the case of suicide, a person is given this amazing gift of life and then throws it all away. You won’t be back for a second chance and the ‘movie’ keeps rolling on without you. Until evidence proves otherwise, there’s not going to be a heaven where you worship god forever, while some of your buddies spend their days roasting in an inferno. We aren’t going to be reincarnated or ever experience the profound state of consciousness again either.

At the same time, I realize that we are a very emotional species that don’t always think rationally, by any stretch. We rely on ill-advised habits like smoking to get us through a stressful day, not putting much thought into the deleterious effect it has on the body. We ingest heavy amounts of sugar that can likely result in the early onset of diabetes. In short, many of us prefer immediate pleasures over longevity of life. Some slightly less sane individuals, like Evel Knievel, embark on dubious ventures such as jumping over canyons on nothing more than a crotch rocket or cascading over a seemingly impossible number of cars. These daredevils care more about the thrill of life than life itself.

There have undoubtedly been times in my life when I wished for death. I remember earnestly waiting for Jesus’ return since things seemed so bad. Having OCD and a multitude of other possible psychiatric diagnoses, I’ve had more than my fair share of hopeless feelings about life. Instead of being upset when catastrophic world events occurred, I would be hopeful that the end was coming soon. It’s this line of reasoning that makes certain Christians so dangerous; they don’t care about the world around them, or the prolongation of the species, because they see the end of the world as a time for better things to come. Who needs science to help keep the world intact when Jesus is coming to save the righteous, and judge the wicked? This is why some Christians can be viewed as a hindrance, or even an enemy, to science and reason. Now that I recognize how precarious life is, I prefer to see how long I can ‘keep this ball rolling’. I’ve found a new passion for life, study and science as I have alluded to in the past.

As I was lying in bed this morning, some pretty disturbing thoughts came to my mind about my own demise. I newly recognized that after only a few generations, my memory would most likely be blotted out forever. Furthermore, any of my surviving off spring or extended family who thought that they would see me again one day will unfortunately never likely do so. After enough time, no one would know that I ever existed or even necessarily care. This is an admitted struggle for someone who realizes that there probably isn’t a life after death. It’s a blessing and curse of being able to examine the meaning of life as us Homo sapiens can. We are also capable of pondering upon our own death which makes religious belief more understandable. People wanted, and still want, to believe that there was/is something lying outside of their present existence, waiting for them when the time comes. I want to believe that someone will remember me when I’m gone but it’s not going to happen—and probably won’t bother me when I’m dead anyway. It certainly didn’t bother me when I wasn’t around for the first 13.5 billion years of the universe as we know it.

1 comment:

  1. One of the transitions I had in becoming an atheist was accepting that I'm not so damn special. Christianity tells you that you were created by a loving God, that you have a higher purpose for being here, that you'll spend eternity with this God who loves you so darn much.

    The reality is that our entire species' existence is an outcome of chance, and our individual existence is no different. No one will give a shit about us after we die, and neither will we because we'll be gone.

    But to me, that's not a sad thought. I feel extraordinarily fortunate to be here, and to have the opportunity for life, love, and all the little things that make the journey so challenging and incredible.