Scared to Die?

Death found an author writing his life.. Desig...

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Me too. I don’t think I would be a properly functioning, reasonably intelligent human being if I wasn’t.

I’ve been watching my mother-in-law decline. She’s 80, and her body is failing her as 80 year old bodies are wont to do. She can hardly walk, she has trouble expressing herself, and clearly she’s near the end of her life; though she could be with us for 20 more years, she has that kind of strong constitution, and I hope she will be. But it’s not fun to watch  her try to retain her basic dignity just handling the day-to-day activities necessary to human existence. Like using a toilet.

So, of course, when I see this, thoughts of one’s mortality tend to intrude into my consciousness. And I start thinking about death.

Actually, I’m not scared of death, I’m scared of dying. There are two aspects to that fear:

  1. I fear the process of death, not death itself.
  2. I fear and regret not being around after I die.

Clearly, being dead is simply another way of saying I will no longer have a conscious experience of life. Those who survive me will be aware of my non-existence, but I won’t be. That is something I did not experience before I was born, and I certainly have never felt any loss there, so I doubt that losing self-awareness will have a different effect on me when I’m gone. By definition, I simply won’t know.

One of the crappy things about life is that it is so tenuous. Not just human life but all life can be snuffed out without any notice. Death is arbitrary, and we don’t get the choice to pick and choose either the time or the manner of our death. It could happen after I leave here in my automobile, my heart could simply stop, or a large vein in my head could explode, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do to stop it or prepare for it. Sure, I can minimize the odds, but in the end, I really have no control over it.

Or I could contract cancer, or some painful and protracted disease, one without a cure, and linger, so that the time and the manner of my death can be brought more into focus. I’ll get a rough idea of how and when I die, but I’ll still be impotent to stop it.

Neither of these options makes the prospect of dying more palatable. It’s unfortunate that the nature of death does not allow us the ability to pick and choose the manner and time of our death, unless one embraces suicide. But our culture, and the laws engendered thereby, has a nasty habit of discouraging that. It’s nice to see that attitudes towards suicide are changing, albeit slowly.

The other aspect of death that scares me is that I may stop existing before I’m done with my life plan. Not that there is a real plan out there, but I do have some expectations for my future. I want to enjoy and share in as much of my children’s lives, and their children’s lives, as I possibly can. I want to see what they turn out to be, having seen what I’ve turned out to be, knowing that I had some effect on the outcomes.

I want to finish all the books I’ve ever wanted to read, including those that have not been written. I want to travel to places I’ve never been.  I want to meet people I’ve never met. I want to be around when some of life’s mysteries are explained. In other words, I want to live longer than my biological limitations will allow me, and that scares me, (actually, it pisses me off) because I know I won’t be able to.

I think these are rational fears. I don’t think the idea that when I die, unlike all other life, I will continue to exist on some other plane, in some other dimension, is rational. So I feel I’m steeply immersed in reality when I say I fear those aspects of death, and reject the notion of an afterlife. The idea that I’ve spent, say, eighty-some years struggling to exist on a speck of dust in the middle of a solar system on the outer edge of a galaxy somewhere in the rough limits of the universe, just so I could spend eternity in some amorphous place adoring a god that put me here in the first place makes absolutely no sense of all, and offends my sense of fairness, dignity and, OK, reality.

Compare 80 years to eternity. Can you actually get your head around the comparison? It’s like comparing a molecule of water to all the water on the earth, and even then the comparison isn’t close.

Now, I want to apologize for seeming so morbid, for ruminating on death. But be honest. You’ve thought about these things too. I doubt that what I say here is anything knew or enlightening. I find it so incredible that so many people place so much reliance on, and spend so much of their life planning for, something that makes no fucking sense, for which there is no evidence, not an iota, not a speck, not a shred, not a jot or a tittle.

I almost can’t wait to see what inanity Gideon will respond with.


59 thoughts on “Scared to Die?

  1. I’ve come close to it as a younger man when I was in combat and wounded, been in some aircraft that the crew had to work a little harder and a whole lot faster than the suddenly adverse effects of physics, weather, bad luck, and bad judgement to keep us from turning into worms meat. Been in south atlantic and pacific storms while crewing a sea going tug my first year in the army. Few other things.

    I’ll be 64 on Saturday, and I don’t know how long I’ll live. Just been to the oncologist lately, and still in the “middle” stages of melanoma. I won’t really ever get better. But then, another stroke could finish the job, or this blood problem could make me spontaniously bleed to death with no warning…unless the crazy bitch who ran me down with her Jeep about five years ago takes another crack at me. 😉

    It is, in fact, the process which is daunting. This life will end. No question about it, for me a little sooner than I thought…actually quite a bit later, so what I’ve had since 1967 has been a bonus as far as I’m concerned. Good and bad, I’ve had life. I know a lot of people who simply haven’t lived in all their years. They stayed in their rut, some wonder what they missed.

    “Afterlife”? I micturate on an afterlife. I think immortality is what you pass into the world. My music, things I’ve taught the young’uns in my life that they may pass on, a horrible joke that makes people groan that they’ll remember… a person who cared about them when they thought no one did, but was there. And they pass that on.

    The process of death will be uncomfortable and undignified, it always seems to be.
    I’ll wonder, “what REALLY happened…” and how things will turn out.

    I think that the plumbing fixture commercial has a lot of truth to it. You know, the one where the old Italian woman is dying, her family is around her, she consoles them telling them that her life has been full, she’s experienced so much, she’s dying satisfied, don’t mourn, and we see she is surrounded by pictures of the famous people she’s known and the great thing she has done.
    Then, across the way she sees some appliance that is new and snazzy, being enjoyed by someone.
    She draws her last breath, yells, “Damn”! and dies. That, I think, is the discomfoort that lies in a healthy respect for death. I don’t want to MISS that!

    I really suggest that you read Finley Peter Dunn’s “Mr. Dooley” item that compares life to being in a dining car. If I ever read anything spot on about life and its end, that’s it.

  2. For me, it’s not so much a fear for myself of dying. It’s that I have so many people who depend on me, my wife, my children, and my mom, who like yours, SI, is not in great shape. I fear the struggles they will have to endure without me around to aid them. However, if 30 years or so from now and it my wife has passed on and my children grown up and making their way in the world, I can face death knowing I lived a life well lived.

  3. just out of curiosity –

    what would your first thought be if you died and realized that your consciousness had not terminated and you found yourself in a place unfamiliar to you and face to face with a being you had never seen before and that being told you it was now your time to face your creator?

    i obviously understand that you don’t believe there’s any chance of that happening but if you could humor me with an honest answer…

    much obliged

    • I’d be quite impressed with myself to warrant a personal visit from Yahweh, plus that would mean I’d be in Heaven rather than the bad place, so I guess I’d be REALLY impressed with myself. Once I got to meet him, I’d be full of questions, naturally. But then what if it turned out he was Odin or worse, Crom?! Luckily for me I know the riddle of steel. Of course I could be lead to my alien creator, or creators, in some laboratory. Oh, what if this life is just one big simulation? I could wake up as an alien being awoken from my “human ride”, sorta like Avatar or that episode of STTNG where Picard lives an entire life in 20 minutes. That would be interesting.

      I wonder how any religious person would react if they found themselves in the afterlife of another religion. Imagine a Jew being lead to Allah, or a Christian lead to Brahma. Imagine any non-Buddhist waking up to find themselves as a newt! Reincarnation could really suck, or rock.

      Interesting question. I think atheists generally would roll with any of those afterlife options better than a religious person could deal with another religion being right about the afterlife. Too much invested. This is probably why jason can’t accept SI’s answer. He’ll probably not accept mine, either. I think anything other than saying we’d shit ourselves with fear probably won’t be an acceptable answer, but I could be wrong, just like I could be wrong about the newt thing. 🙂

      • i appreciate the humor of your response. i really do. however, you haven’t really answered the question. avoided it entirely, really.

        • I knew I should have gone with shitting myself. That’s the correct answer, right?

          It’s laughable that you refuse to accept the honesty of anyone’s answers, especially when you’re not honest about who you are. Anyway, it would probably be some interesting last firings of neurons in my brain and not real anyway so I’d roll with it until the end, and if it didn’t end, then I’d deal with that. What I gave was my honest answer. Take it or leave it.

    • I think I’d say “Hi, Creator. I have to say, I didn’t think you exist, but it’s certainly nice to meet you. Do you have some time to talk, because I have a lot of questions. In fact, a lot of us who died today have questions and we’d LOVE to hear your responses.” Wouldn’t anyone respond that way? Wouldn’t anyone be curious and excited to meet the creator of the whole universe?

      I have to think that an all loving, all knowing god wouldn’t mind indulging a bit with some of his more inquisitive creations and that such a god would be emotionally secure enough to understand that simply not believing god existed is not the same as hating his or her guts.

      The language you use in your question, however– “face your creator”– sounds a bit like you’ve already made up your mind that god will be pissed at atheists, and, as others have already suggested, that you want to hear one of us confess that we’d crap our pants. Ironically, I, even as an atheist, have more faith in god (assuming god’s existence) than to think he or she wouldn’t respect me as at least a decent, well meaning person who took life seriously. I think god would have to be, almost by definition, emotionally secure enough to handle the fact that I was an atheist, and I think god would respect my being up front and honest. I think god would appreciate that my first instinct wasn’t to throw myself at his or her feet and start begging for what I want as opposed to getting to know him or her as a person.

      If god doesn’t respect that, then what would be the point in groveling anyway? Would that impress god? Make him more likely to save me? Hey, if I meet god, I’ll be the first to admit I’m wrong and I’d be eager to find out as much as I could about life and reality. I think I’d get along with god, assuming he liked and respected me in return.

      But, if god’s going to send me to hell, torture me and punish me solely because I came to the conclusion god doesn’t exist, then, sure, I’d probably crap my pants when I found that out. But while I’m sitting in my own poop, I’m going to be pretty secure in my belief that such a god was never worth believing in.

      • I have to think that an all loving, all knowing god wouldn’t mind indulging a bit with some of his more inquisitive creations and that such a god would be emotionally secure enough to understand that simply not believing god existed is not the same as hating his or her guts.

        The problem with Christians is that they are schizophrenic on this. They tell you that the god they believe in is all loving and good and kind, but the one they actually believe in, deep down, is like the Wizard of OZ. Not the man behind the curtain, but the loud, scary, ghostly image hiding behind smoke and thunder that causes the cowardly lion to quake with fear and run away.

      • There’s a semi-old Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode where this alien appears at the UN and says his people seeded this planet and waited for humans to develop properly but instead everyone just engages in one pathetic war after another, seemingly learning nothing from each event. In light of this, they’re going to exterminate everyone and have another go at it. Naturally everyone freaks out and asks for a chance to prove they’re worthy. The alien is amused, but gives humanity 48 hours and in that time, the world unites and creates world peace. When he returns, they show him the world peace treaty, full of pride. The alien laughs and says, “we’ve seeded thousands of planets throughout the galaxy but you humans of Earth are the only ones to fail at developing into proper warriors!” Then everyone gets exterminated.

        Wouldn’t it be amusing if there was a god but instead of wanting unquestioning belief and worship, he wanted us to use our brains? What if he saw the believers as the defects? What if he wanted warriors?

        • What if he saw the believers as the defects? What if he wanted warriors?

          What if he wanted strong, independent thinkers, not obsequious sycophants?

      • Addendum:

        I’ll add that I would be in awe… humbled. Much as I am when I look up at the night sky and consider the magnitude of the universe only more so. No different, however, than anyone else would react to meeting the creator– atheist, christian, jew, muslim, zoroastrian or what have you.

  4. if you could humor me with an honest answer…

    Sure, Rudy. I’d say “Damn, those crazy theists were right all along,” and I’d roll with the punches.

  5. where are you getting the name rudy from?

    so much for an honest answer. why the hesitancy to answer thoughtfully?

  6. i believe its dishonest because i don’t believe that’s what your first thought would be. its thoughtless because you devoted less than seven minutes total in thinking about then writing your obviously flippant one sixteen word sentence.

    • What you call flippant, I call succinct. I did give it some thought, and it wasn’t a difficult question. I would acknowledge to myself that apparently I’d made a mistake, and I’d then proceed to go with the flow. Someone wants me to go see my Creator, I guess I should go meet him.

      You think I’m being dishonest, because you don’t like my answer, but I stand by it.

      Why don’t you write what you think I should say, and I’ll tell you if I agree.

  7. i guess what i’m driving at here is this – have any of you really ever spent any serious thought contemplating the notion that you very well could be wrong? if you’re serious about being free thinkers and all, i would assume the notion has floated into your head from time to time. just wanted to know a little bit about those rare moments. not willing to share? fine. just say so.

    • …have any of you really ever spent any serious thought contemplating the notion that you very well could be wrong?

      Are you fucking kidding me? What do you think we do when we go through the process of deconversion, shedding a life long held belief in religion? Just wake up one day and think “Oh. God. Doesn’t exist. Better head down to breakfast.”

      …rare moments…

      They are not so rare. But the more you have them, the more convinced you are that you’re not wrong, because every moment brings a opportunity to review another piece of the so-called evidence, and find it wanting. And it’s the accumulation of those moments piled on top of each other than makes the mere concept of god so far fetched, so delusional, so fantastic, that the initial deconversion is solidly confirmed.

      I feel sorry for people like you still stuck in your mind set. It doesn’t really take anything but a little logic to break free.

      • “What do you think we do when we go through the process of deconversion…”

        sorry – i meant after your deconversion. moments of doubt in the present where you might say to yourself, “damn. what if i’m completely wrong on this? am i prepared for the consequences of that mistake?”

        “I feel sorry for people like you still stuck in your mind set.”

        no need to – even if i and others with similar belief systems are wrong, then at death nothing is really lost nor would there be any awareness that nothing is to be gained.

        • Yes, but you live the only life you have in a delusional state of belief. There’s no do-overs.

          • “Yes, but you live the only life you have in a delusional state of belief.”

            which might be regrettable – if regret were possible after death if there be no God. here’s a hypothetical – which life is preferable if God does not exist: one lived in pain and misery but with the knowledge of absolute truth or the one lived in joy and comfort but with false beliefs?

            • Your question assumes (1) that those are the only alternatives and (2) that belief in god/an afterlife necessarily brings one joy and comfort while not believing in then necessarily makes life painful and miserable.

              Why couldn’t someone come to terms with believing there is no afterlife and simply go on to live a happy life, enjoying what this life has to offer? For that matter, why wouldn’t someone who believed they will be called to task for their entire lives be filled with horrible anxiety about the coming moment of judgement and risk of eternity in hell?

              Speaking strictly in terms of happiness and personal satisfaction, it appears to have much more to do with how one’s beliefs contribute to their overall level of adjustment than anything else. It’s possible to lead a satisfying life either way.

            • LG already pointed out the false dichotomy, but I’d like to address the problems with one of your choices, the happiness via false beliefs.

              First, if personal happiness is all that matters then anything you do, be it helping the needy, raping children, stealing and killing, are all justified.

              Wait a moment! Is THAT why some religious people say if they didn’t believe in their god, they’d just go around raping and killing? Holy crap, that says two things. One, that they believe because it makes them happy and two, that the thought of being able to rape and kill people makes them happy, too. Yikes!

              Alright, where was I? Right, the second problem with false beliefs being ok as long as it makes you happy. How about anti-vaccinators? Believing that they’re saving their children from autism no doubt makes them happy, but at what cost? We already have kids dying due to lack of vaccinations. What about all those people who bought homes they couldn’t afford? Whether you blame them for not researching wtf an ARM is or you blame the banks and realtors who told them they could afford them, these idiots’ false belief that they could have the homes they had no doubt made them happy… for awhile. Gosh, what else? It makes people happy to believe their kid can be saved with prayer rather than medicine. It makes people happy to believe Katrina was due to not enough hating on the gays. It makes people happy to think that our economy suffers because women are working instead of staying home raising kids. Fuck, I could go on but the bottom line is, as always, the ends never justify the means.

    • I’m confused, does that mean you spend time thinking about if you’re wrong as a believer, or are you under no such burden since you’re a believer?

      Exactly how much time must one devote to unwarranted hypotheses in order to satisfy your definition of a free thinker? Is there a sliding scale, like should I devote less time to the possibility that there are hairy giant humanoids with big feet roaming the woods than the possibility that there’s at least one god? If so, what’s the scale based on?

      • “I’m confused, does that mean you spend time thinking about if you’re wrong as a believer, or are you under no such burden since you’re a believer?”

        are you asking if i too have moments of doubt? yes.

        “Exactly how much time…”

        18.3 hours

          • pc,
            if i thought for one nanosecond that you really were here for an honest discussion instead of just trying to spread vitriol and spew sarcasm, i would gladly engage you as such.

            don’t bother with a denial either. you’re writing makes it quite clear what your intention is.

  8. “I’d say “Damn, those crazy theists were right all along,” and I’d roll with the punches.”

    Tell, you, Jason, that’s pretty much what it would have to be, wouldn’t it?

    I personally can’t think of what would be more painful, an eternity of pointless sychophancy to a homicidal, egotistical entity that loathes me in the first place because I have committed the high crime of being human as a starting place, or an eternity of physical punishment because I have committed the same offences but ignored this entity and its fuminations.

    Just roll with the puch and take what comes the way I always have. Maybe shout a curse, an insult or two at that entity as I am sped into the outer darkness.

    • “Maybe shout a curse, an insult or two at that entity as I am sped into the outer darkness.”

      no surprise there.

      • Jason, you’ve been pretty civil, and maybe I owe you a better explanation.
        You have not clarified the deity that you mean when you say “creator”, but people who ask that question usually mean the “creator” as envisioned, idealised, and discribed by Calvin, Jonathon Edwards, and Saul of Tarsus in his shit house rat crazier moments.
        I must also guess that my not believing in this entity, rejection of proffered “salvation” will have incensed it so that what is waiting after our interview will be best comprehended by a peek at works by Breughel, Bosch, Michelangelo and Dante. Pretty close to what you have in mind?

        Supposing, also, that I still retain my present personality, yeah, I’d definitly feel some apprehension. But in my life I’ve faced some pretty bad things, and even though I dribbled a little piss down my leg on occasion, I looked what was coming in the face and went to meet it, I didn’t wait for it to come after me, and I’d do it again. I mean, what more could go wrong? Could it get any worse? I used to just say, “FLIAHO” and get on with it. I’d do it again.

        And, yeah, I’d probably yell an insult or curse or two on the way out. And if it actually WERE the “Jonathon Edwards, New Covenant Model”, I’d like to add, “What’s WRONG with you”??!!! on the way out.

        When I think about the horrors I’ve seen visited on people in this world, and according to “doctrine” of even the most “liberal” of christian sects, the people Ive seen who died of starvation, disease, injuries because of the mechanations of the great with their wars and kid games, they had so little in life, suffered so, and they have to suffer for eternity because they didn’t have the correct rituals said over them? Didn’t believe the unbelieveable? Had other concerns more immediately? Whatever.

        No, I might not like the climate, but I think I’d be in better company sharing the boiling pitch with Garibaldi, Russell, Crisp, Ingersoll, Vidal.

  9. To tell the truth, I fear death a lot less now than I did as a believer. I don’t look forward to it, and I hope I won’t experience it for a long time yet, but it’s going to happen sometime.

    As for jason’s questions – Yes, I have thought seriously about whether I could be wrong. As SI said, thinking seriously about the consequences of being wrong is a crucial part of the de-conversion process. So, on the off-chance that I come face to face with a maker of some sort, the best I’ll be able to do is take full responsibility for who I am and what I’ve done, and deal with whatever consequences come my way as needed.

  10. have any of you really ever spent any serious thought contemplating the notion that you very well could be wrong?

    Yes, when I was a believing Christian, I gave serious thought contemplating the notion that I could be wrong. And then I decided that I was. 🙂

    I’ve freed my mind of the shackles of superstitious nonsense and don’t give any thought to “what if I’m wrong?” To me it’s nothing but silly human egocentrism to believe that a being powerful and intelligent enough to create a universe filled with billions of galaxies find itself mostly preoccupied with the mundane affairs of the human inhabitants of planet Earth. Such a being, if it exists, is surely secure enough in its ego that it does not need us constantly praising it and kneeling to it while constantly monitoring our actions and thoughts.


    Yeah, sure.

  11. The IDEA of death kind of bums me out, for many of the reasons SI mentioned (I won’t bother to reiterate). The “fear” part though is primarily of the process of dying and the potential pain of a lingering death. I’m not real macho with pain.


    You are confused, my man. Not spending time saying “what if I’m WRONG about a creator” is no more a lack of “freethinking” than me not giving serious consideration to a guy who tells me he was abducted by aliens, received anal probes and had a chip inserted in his brain. In fact – I think he probably deserves more consideration than a deity. But even if you disagree, you can’t seriously assert that it’s any sillier than you or I spending hours of contemplation of alien-boy’s story. What “freethinking” really means is that your mind isn’t locked into dogma. What you do with it after that is kind of up to you, and you are a free thinker.

    • “What “freethinking” really means is that your mind isn’t locked into dogma.”

      i would agree.make sure, however, you include dogma that certain atheists fall into.

        • sorry, there’s no chris here.

          there are too many to name but here’s one.

          science is the only way by which man can know truth.

          • science is the only way by which man can know truth.

            Interesting (straw man) dogma. Do you know any atheists that believe that?

            To head you off a bit, I know that I believe that science has been shown, so far, to be the best means of obtaining truth about the natural world. Hands down. Is that dogma I’m spouting?

            • “Do you know any atheists that believe that?”

              wouldn’t have written it if i didn’t.

              “obtaining truth about the natural world. ”

              quite a distinction between that and what i wrote, no?

          • Too many to name? Wow. Have all atheists fallen into these dogmas? Are they dogmas unique to atheists, or are all humans susceptible to these dogmas? Can we have a second one, please? That shouldn’t be too hard if there’s anywhere near as many as you claim. Besides, the first one wasn’t even a real one, at least not how you phrased it.

  12. lifeguard,

    “Your question assumes (1) that those are the only alternatives…”

    no, it doesn’t. it just asks which of the options PRESENTED would be preferable.

    (2) that belief in god/an afterlife necessarily brings one joy and comfort while not believing in then necessarily makes life painful and miserable.

    no, you just misunderstand my meaning. let me clarify. the pain and misery are a separate condition apart from the knowledge of absolute truth. the same with the second option – the joy and comfort are not a direct result of having false beliefs.

    there are in reality, of course, more than these but i’m asking of these TWO which is preferable?

    • I see. So what you’re asking is that ASSUMING the only options available are (1) be happy but wrong, or (2) be miserable but right,– a situation you openly acknowledge is inconsistent reality– which would be preferable?

      It depends.

      If one is a hedonist, then number (1) is clearly preferable. If, however, one is a good, old fashioned “lover of wisdom,” then number (2) would be the obvious choice. Of course, that sort of blows the choice to smithereens, doesn’t it? If you prefer one to the other it must be because you place a higher premium on truth than happiness or vice versa.

      To make the basis of the choice “preference” carries with it the consequence that you feel that the quality of your life will be improved or diminished depending upon the choice, and that’s an individual judgment. Is ignorance truly bliss or not? If I think not, then I will choose truth with the attendent disappointment about reality, because I find that option more fulfilling than blissful ignorance. Under those circumstances, truth will always make me more satisfied than ignorance. You might call it maturity, or something.


      I don’t know. The more I think of it, your question, with all the required suspension of reality and what I see as the contradiction described above, doesn’t seem to make much sense. I mean, I understand the question, but I don’t see what you’re driving at.

      • but I don’t see what you’re driving at.

        What all theists drive towards. Delusion. Craziness. Fantasy. whatever. His question assumes a world that doesn’t exist, and even he knows that. What’s the point of discussing it, or trying to resolve a dilemma that is meaningless and non-existent?

        • “What’s the point of discussing it, or trying to resolve a dilemma that is meaningless and non-existent?”

          really? two thousand years of philosophy and debate and study but its meaningless and non-existent so why bother, right? that’s what you’re gonna go with, huh?

          • Quite an ego there, Chris. Equating your little false dichotomy to two thousand years of philosophy.

      • “I mean, I understand the question, but I don’t see what you’re driving at.”

        real simple. in a universe where God doesn’t exist, what has more priority: a healthy, comfortable life or the knowledge of absolute truth?

        for me, i would have to say the knowledge of absolute truth would have to take a backseat to being physically happy.

        however, in a universe in which God does exist, i would say that is absolutely imperative to know truth even if it meant eschewing physical happiness. i think c.s. lewis said it best – “christianity if true, is of the utmost importance. if false, of no importance at all. the only thing it cannot be is of moderate importance.”

        you, of course, are free to disagree.

        • So, are you saying that if god did exist, that would be very important, so we should act like it’s true? Or are you saying that the question of god’s existence is an important one?

          If the former, good luck convincing anyone of that who doesn’t already believe that god exists.

          If the latter, I don’t think anyone who reads or writes an atheist blog would disagree with you that the issue is important. I mean, that’s why they write about it, am I right?

          They may think god doesn’t exist, but his existence or lack thereof is clearly not something they consider inconsequential if they’ve devoted an entire blog to their position on the matter.

  13. quite a distinction between that and what i wrote, no?

    Exactly, which is why:
    1. No atheist believes what you wrote, and
    2. I called it a straw man. Easily knocked down.

  14. sorry fellas, i’m just out of time here.
    thank you all for the interesting discussion. well, thanks to most of you anyway. just kidding philly, i actually think you’re a decent enough guy. stop rooting for those over rated chiefs, though – a deep postseason run just isn’t in the cards.
    i wish you all a very merry christmas and a joyous new year.

  15. There are just far too many sub-threads at this point, each with different points to address so I’ll try to hit them all in one fell swoop.

    First, the ends don’t justify the means, meaning a bad action is not justified by a positive outcome. To the suggestion that a false belief is justified because it’ll provide you happiness, even if somehow that was the only way you believe you could be happy, it’s still not justified. How bad it would be to have that false belief would depend on the harm it caused. For instance, believing you’re suave when you’re not isn’t that harmful, but believing you’re entitled to take what you want from whoever you want is potentially very harmful.

    Second, I don’t understand how the existence of a god should have any influence on whether someone should prefer knowledge over hedonism. To be clear though, the conversation is over beliefs, so what we’re really talking about is the influence of the belief in the existence of a god, not necessarily the actual existence of a god, but again, I don’t get how the belief should influence one’s choice of hedonism vs knowledge. The suggestion seems to just echo the first point, that if belief in a god makes you want knowledge rather than hedonistic satisfaction, then the belief is good, but that’s an ends justify the means argument, and thus, fallacious. Furthermore, to say that you require belief in a god in order to choose knowledge over hedonism is itself an act of hedonism!

    Our “mystery” believer has relied on the oldest trick in the book of manipulation, emotional appeal. First he essentially asks if you’re unhappy, then offers his product as a means to happiness. Should you have any reservations about the product, be assured that as long as it makes you happy, then it’s ok to use the product. And finally, he claimed that with the product he’s not just happier, but a better person, the kind that he couldn’t be without the product. Snake Oil 101.

    Oh right, he also weakly attempted the closed-minded argument (more critically addressed by QualiaSoup).

  16. Man, you infidels can sure wax solemn! It’s Christmas, for fuck sake, the pagan high day of the year! Are you gonna leave it to an old Bible puncher like Yours Truly to show you how to crank it up?

    Have a good holiday season, infidels.


  17. I suppose I’ll have to confess, SI, to being the atheist who believes we can only really “know” things through science. I’d just like to give myself a little cover by adding – “or something LIKE science” – such as history, math, logic – none of which are generally recognized as “sciences”, but which, when done correctly, are very much in the tradition of science. Seriously… where else to we go to really, truly “know” something?

    Someone might argue, “how do you KNOW you enjoy and find inspiration in Beethoven, but not from (fill in the blank). You can’t find that knowledge scientifically”. I’d argue back – that that isn’t true knowledge. That’s simply me acknowledging my own subjective feelings, without any particular expectation that anyone else SHOULD feel the same. Much the same as the religious person should do when they examine the “knowledge” they get from a religious experience of any kind.

  18. Gideon, I had a great time. I recently had surgery, it is still quite paonful, and the wound has reopenned which is also painful and very messy to maintain. Probably won’t heal until July if it’s like last time. We’d been invited in October, but I felt like cancelling because of my situation. My wife and our friend (members of the extended “Sisterhood”) told me we were going, so that was that.

    But my wife, a friend, and I went to a small town and participated in their Victorian Christmas, which they put on every couple of years as living historians. We stayed in one of the historic homes for the nights. Played my fiddle, guitar, and harp during the day, christmas eve we played for a candle light service held in one of the museums, we reenactors had a party and dance right afterward. Didn’t even think of my pain, as before the dance was over I was saying, “Please, thumb, go numb”, and also wondering when my wrist was going to just break and get it over with. But, when they come over to you afterwards and rave because they had such a good time, and you’re the only fiddler they know of who can play “Sir Roger de Coverley” (actually traditional for Christmas) and “Cuckold Comes Outa Th’ Amory”, life is good.

    Played for the Chistmas day service, and those of us who had stayed had a great Christmas dinner together. Actually had goose and a “boars” head along with the turkey. A very charming young lady had found out that it was also my birthday (25th) and baked a cake for me. My wife stood up and told everyone that I was now 64 and she would, indeed, “still feed me, would still need me”, although the feeding would be rather less since I was displaying more avois du pois than she liked…unless they start me on Interferon in Jan. like they said. Won’t need to, then.

    Swept down, helped with the dishes, packed, and came home happy.

    When you have refreshed yourself in fine viands and regaled yourself in brave and gentle company, you always have a good time, no matter what.
    One lady said, “I knew three people here, but I wasn’t among strangers”. And that said it all, no one disagreed. We were actually home for a great holiday.

    Yes, I played my harp for the church services, and I’m told there was no exchange of religious/atheist cooties.

  19. “… I’m told there was no exchange of religious/atheist cooties.”

    And, there won’t be now. I hope 2011 shows itself kind toward you and yours, especially where your ailments are concerned. I only wish I could show you that this world isn’t the end of everything, that it’s trials and triumphs are trivial in comparison with eternity.

    I expect I’ll be partying hearty with believer and infidel, alike, these holidays, between runs. Fiddle music? Yeah! Here’s a tune for you to whittle away on, if you haven’t already… one of my all-time favs!

    • Thank you. That is, indeed, one of my favorites (along witth The Dubliners), and I play it on both harp and fiddle. I have also arranged it for our civil war band, and we recorded it last year.

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