The day I die or that's life.
What does the first Monday in June, 1834 have in common with the last Tuesday in September of 2103?
I can name one thing for sure. I wasn’t live on the first and won’t be alive on the second. Neither were you alive on the first nor will you be alive on the second.
And that brings us to the main, cheery topic of today: death.
It is said by believers that there are no atheists in foxholes. Okay, believers aren’t that bright. Of course there have been atheists in foxholes. Both in literal foxholes and in metaphorical ones.
But the believer has to assure himself that there are no honest atheists who reject what they so willingly and unthinkingly accept.
I’ve had my own foxholes over the years. One near drowning and two armed assaults. Once in the Indian Ocean I got too far out and was having trouble getting back to shore and exhaustion took over. I was close to shore but not close enough. I felt myself sinking. I looked over at someone near me and said “Help” and the man gave me a giant push toward shore. It was enough for me to finally feel bottom and I got to shore and lived to tell about it. Though I rarely find a reason to do so.
The other occasions are more memorable and horrifying. On one occasion three armed men attacked my home. I won’t go into the details but at one point I was sure they would kill the one person in the world who I love the most, then and still. I lied to these men to distract them, in order to get them out of the room so that they got distracted from the promise to pull the trigger in front of me. I knew there was nothing the were looking for in the lounge. I was just diverting them. I thought there was a good chance they would kill me or both of us. When they found nothing they beat me but it distracted them enough that we both lived.
On the next occasion there were two armed men waiting outside the house. They grabbed my partner outside and demanded to know where I was. I was standing in the bedroom looking out the window when I saw them. They turned and fired at me. The bullet went into the window frame a few inches to the left of my head. I called the police and the two armed men fled the scene.
There were not literal foxholes but close enough. On two occasions I thought I would die. The third happened so fast I didn’t consider the possibility until after it happened. And none of it changed my mind as to the non-existence of a deity. Why? Because whether or not there is or is not a god is not dependent upon my circumstances. If there is a god not facing death doesn’t make him/her/it disappear. And if I do face death again, as some day I shall, doesn’t suddenly make him/her/it real.
The existence of a deity is not dependent on what happens to us. This is something that many Christians don’t actually seem to grasp.
If a god exists he is going to exist whether or not I believe in him. If he doesn’t exist then he doesn’t exist and it does not matter one iota how many other people say he does exist. They can shout and warble in tongues all they want. The shouting doesn’t mean he exists. They can feel every emotional high that we as humans can induce in ourselves and it makes not one shred of difference. If is he is there then he is there regardless. And if he isn’t there then he isn’t there regardless.
I remember starting to go under the water that day and thinking to myself that this was it. I wondered if it would hurt but I wasn’t particularly afraid. During the armed attacks I remained surprisingly calm and had myself untied almost the second they tied me up. When they were outside checking other buildings on my property I called the police and then ran back to where they had left me in case they came back in. I couldn’t get out as they had us locked in. In fact I remember how I acted when I turned and saw the three of them coming in the back door with their hostage. They left the door open and I very politely asked if they would mind going back and shutting the door so the cats wouldn’t get out. More surpassingly one of them did it.
It is not death I fear at all. How I die is of some concern but not the state of death. Why?
Go back to those two days. To me they are the same thing. Today I am alive. On August 1, 1945 I was not alive. I didn’t suffer as a result. I simply wasn’t. I didn’t exist then. And some day in the future I will be in the same state. I have no reason to dread that day anymore than I do the eternity behind me when I didn’t exist. From non-existence we come and into non-existence we go. That we have an interlude of existence and life is wonderful. I’m glad I’m here. But I have no fear of not being here. There is no fear in death. Dying is a different matter.
There are causes of death I would prefer to avoid. I don’t want the pain or the suffering of some drawn out illness. I would rather have it over with by choice under those circumstances. I don’t even mind having some knowledge it is coming just so I can take care things that I would rather not have others have to do. If someone said to me that they had the ability to promise that I could either die in 10 years time in my sleep or live 20 years more but die of painful cancer I would pick the former not the latter. Of course my real preference would be go 19 years and check out voluntarily when the cancer hit.
Believers are the ones who actually fear death not atheists. We have nothing to fear. We believe life ends when life ends. I have no other reason to think otherwise. And even if there is some form of existence beyond the grave, which I doubt, there is nothing I can do about it now. I’ll find out soon enough thank you very much. Making up a deity with supernatural powers doesn’t tell me anything more than I know now. I can imagine all I want and invent theories but I can’t know. And if my suspicions are correct, and this is all the existence we have, then I will never know since I will cease to be. There will be no “I’ to “know” that my theory was correct. That is a bit disappointing in a way. I think that all those believers who believe in Heaven for themselves and Hell for the rest of us are wrong. The only conclusive proof they are wrong, to them, is dying and being dead. But then they cease to exist and thus never discover they were wrong. Oh, well, that’s life.