An eternity existed before I was born and an eternity will exist after I die. Life is but a short distance of the needle hitting the vinyl on a never ending record. Everything that makes up our identity is in the physical brain. Our personality, sense of humor, mannerisms, memories, mood, cognitive ability and all our mental strengths and weaknesses are not eternal. Physical trauma and chemical imbalances within our skull can change us. There is no rational reason to believe that we exist after our physical brain shuts down.
The thought of immortality is seductive. The ability to view the world 100 and 1,000 years from now is desirable. Wouldn't it be nice and comforting to believe that our lost loved ones will someday be reunited? These dreams only exist for those who can believe based on convenience, desire, fear and supernaturalism. Other people like me are not capable of such faith. Our beliefs are built on reality as in what we know to be tangible. We keep our knowledge of the natural world and our beliefs closely aligned. We don't allow our faith to linger in fantasy. Rationality has overcome the survival instinct.
We are all human beings on this earth for a short period of time. No one is deserving of worship and no one is deserving of oppression. Six feet of earth make all people equal. At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back into the same box. Death is the great equalizer of mankind. The grim reaper doesn't care about status or celebrity. Against this foe there is no ultimate victory.
Everyone we know will die soon. Even a child who will live to be a hundred has very little time when compared to the history of human existence. So many lives have gone before us along with their stories. Every day there is a song that is played for the last time. We see people in old pictures that no longer have a name. Countless tombstones exist that are no longer visited. Soon enough we will join the rotting corpses, skeletons and ashes.
Death is to be lamented, but it shouldn't be feared. "Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist." – Epicurus. Fright should be reserved for what is in our control. Fight or flight response, food and shelter are ways to keep breathing. The inevitable end of our story is beyond our means. While we live, honesty and courage are the highest virtues. As we live, it is better to live without fear, even at the risk of confronting evil head on and dying just a little bit sooner.
Fools say there must be eternal reward and punishment for mankind to behave. History does not agree. Children need adult supervision, but when we grow up typically this oversight is no longer necessary. The adults supervise the children and are supervised themselves by the laws of their society. There is no higher authority than this. The laws are established by mankind. The laws are enforced by mankind. The laws are improved as a civilization advances. Laws can oppress rather than protect if a civilization morally degenerates.
Fools say that our lives are insignificant, but this is not true. We may just be smart primates on a planet that isn't very special, but we still matter very much. To say that we are insignificant because we are temporary is to say that we are no less significant than the stars and the galaxies for they are temporary. To say they we are insignificant because our time is so small compared to eternity is to say that the future is more important than the present, but it is not. The present is no more insignificant than the past. The present is no more insignificant than the future.
This is our time on this world right now. We are not dead yet. We have this day and all that it brings. We represent ourselves and our generation to other human beings. The joy, the sadness, the pleasure, the pain are all to be embraced as part of life. We should be thankful for the day. We should conduct our self in a manner that makes us proud. We should be proud and thankful for the day just as we should be proud and thankful for our lives. I plan on being thankful and proud of the life that I have lived when I die. In the grand scheme of the universe, my last thoughts may matter little, but they matter to me. I will conduct my life in such a way, to the best of my ability that ensures my last wish. A wonderful life filled with gratefulness, purpose, contribution and integrity.
James Kirk Wall
Author of Agnosticism: The Battle against Shameless Ignorance
Death through the eyes of an agnostic atheist
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