“Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is—for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know.” – Socrates, from Plato’s ‘Apology.’
[No, the quote cannot be applied to the belief in “god.” I know he doesn’t exist!]
Death is a taboo and frightening topic. In the past, I was terrified of dying but once I came to grips with the fact that death is out of my control, it became easy to deal with my own inevitable expiration. No one truly knows whether, or not, there is life after death; we are free to believe as we please. One of the most interesting classes I have ever taken was ‘The Anthropology of Death’ with UMass Boston Professor Alan Waters. Studying the different ways cultures handle death, gave me a new perspective on the subject; I no longer fear death. (I’m actually looking forward to discovering what happens. *No, I’m not suicidal!*)
To me, the funeral practices of Christians borders on the ridiculous. (Yeah, I said it.) I don’t understand how people can spend their entire lives believing in “god” and heaven, but as soon as someone dies, it’s the worst thing that ever happened. Reason would dictate that death should be celebrated; the family member is in a better place, RIGHT? They definitely got it right in New Orleans. *I recommend that you, yes you, look up the different ways death is handled throughout the world…AMAZING!*
I don’t want to seem insensitive, but I can only voice my true opinions. (Anyone who knows me understands that I will give my honest opinion, regardless of feelings. I know there are those who think I am a jerk, but I’d rather be an asshole then fake, any day of the week. **I never care about hiding my opinions, which will be evident during next week’s ultra-controversial post.**) I tend to leave emotion out of most circumstances, it serves no purpose other than to cloud judgment. (Unless I’m drunk, but that’s a different story.) I can understand how losing a close relative can be devastating, and life changing, but it is a natural part of life. Obviously, the emotion of the actual funeral is too strong to be denied, and I have even broken down in the past, but I can’t see myself crying on any other day. Spending days, months, or even years, weeping over someone seems nonsensical. If you honestly think about it, people are either, in a better place, or they no longer exist. Wakes should be parties in which family and friends get together and celebrate the memory of the deceased persons’ life. When I die, I want family and friends to throw a party and play nothing but Cash Money Records. If there is no life after death, I won’t be able to witness the bereavement process, and if there is, I will haunt anyone who doesn’t at least listen to one CMR track. Oh yeah…No Mass please; that would just be offensive!!!
I admit that my way of thinking may be the result of me being heartless but I might just be right, and maybe those who oppose my views, do so because they lack reason…you never know! I just can’t see the point of missing someone, dead or alive; people need to learn how to just move on. With my late cousin Kevin, there are times when I am watching Sports Center and I’ll reach for the phone after seeing that Notre Dame suffered a loss in football. That’s not missing someone, it’s simply something that is routine. Like most beliefs, people refuse to change because that’s what they’ve always done. (I understand that some people who have lost loved ones may have a problem with my way of thinking, but I will not change my beliefs to avoid being offensive. In fact, I am offended that people allow emotion to block their ability to use reason. I guess the fact that I am an atheist and my background in History causes me to see the world from a unique perspective. ***Again, this will be evident during next week’s controversial post!***)
Losing a loved one can be a difficult situation to deal with, but everyone has to go through it at some point in their lives. The afterlife differs by culture but, for the most part, people agree that there is some form of an existence after death. I guess these beliefs continue because no one wants to think that they will cease to exist. It is comforting to think that our ancestors are watching over us from some unknown realm, but the more I think about it, the less I am inclined to believe in an afterlife. (Plus, isn’t the thought of ancestors watching over you all the time a little weird. If you say “No,” think about your dead loved ones watching over you the next time you are having sex…that’s creepy. Same thing goes for “god.” He is supposed to be omnipresent, right? To me, that’s perverted; “god” is nothing more than history’s biggest peeping-Tom!)
I previously wrote about my belief in spirits, but I can now understand that the mind is capable of altering our perception of reality; we see and hear exactly what we want to witness. This is not a topic that I am completely certain of because, although I understand that logically there can be no afterlife, part of me still wants to believe that one exists. (I can just picture meeting up with Kevin and boasting about the many accomplishments of former Gator’s quarterback Tim Tebow.)
The more I understand that my previous belief in the afterlife was based on the fear instilled in me by the teachings of the Catholic Church, the more I recognize my beliefs were false and founded on the weakest foundation. The concept of an afterlife is ingrained in people through religious, and cultural beliefs. The fear of death, causes one to believe in an alternative in which he or she is able to continue living. Mortality is real, and immortality cannot exist; it is unnatural. Generally, most people who believe in life after death do not believe that insects, or plants, share the same fate as humans. I’ve never heard anyone say, after stepping on a spider, “May your spirit be rejoined with your ancestors.” ***That would be ridiculous, right?*** I find it amazing how culture can turn the absurd into fact. Can you just imagine a world without religion? We would all be forced to question conventional thought, instead of simply believing what is told. [I apologize in advance for this tangent, but I’ve always wondered about something. Religious belief usually is passed down from parents. Does anyone ever imagine how their lives would be different if the people who conquered the land which you originate from, belonged to a faith other than yours? I am Cape Verdean, which means that my family is Catholic because the Portuguese colonized the Islands. What would life be like if the Muslim armies were able to conquer CV. Isn’t it amazing that people believe so strongly in a faith that they didn’t even choose? I would be more inclined to respect the faith of someone who studied different religions, before “believing.” There is another question which has always fascinated me. How does a woman, strong and independent, agree to believe in a faith which views her as a second class citizen? Funny, the things people learn once they begin to ask questions! Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I will borrow from him and say, the unexamined faith, is not worth believing!]
The brain is a powerful organ which has yet to be fully understood. If our belief in something is strong enough, we can convince ourselves that it is true. The mind will actually create “hallucinations” to validate our desires. People see ghosts and experience unexplainable occurrences, but I believe they are just a figment of the imagination. People will pray for some result, and when the prayer is answered their belief in “god” is strengthened. As far as prayer is concerned, I think there are many instances in which people pray and get zero results; they seem to forget those prayers, or they explain them away with ridiculous claims such as, “it’s not ‘god’s’ will.” I think that anyone who believes in "god" will actually be affected by that belief; it has the ability to change their lives, but that doesn't mean he actually exists. The mind is great!
When I studied Haitian Vodun (voodoo), I learned that the people of the culture are truly affected by the practice. It works because Haitians believe in Vodun, and scientists cannot explain the phenomena. Victims will go into trances and can be controlled by others; it's basically a form of hypnosis. All of these unexplainable cases have to do with the mind not "god." When humans reach a point that we have a better understanding of how the mind works, "god" will no longer exist; there will be no fear of the unknown.
I have had many occasions in which I blackout after drinking too much. People tell me all of the things that I did, and at the time they were under the impression that I was coherent, but I clearly wasn't. I think there has to be some correlation between belief and mind stimulation; people can trigger the part of the brain that alters perception. This is evident in the cases of stigmata, which happens to people who are ultra religious. They believe in Jesus with so much conviction that they experience what they want. The brain's power over the body is far greater than we can comprehend. A hundred years from now, humans will have a better understanding of how the brain works.
Sometimes people can hear and see things that are not there. I know that those of us who come to rely on our cell phones, tend to hear the phone ringing whenever we leave the room. Or we hear the ringer, even with the phone at our side; it has to do the fact that people judge their level of importance, by the number of calls they receive. I can remember being a child and often hearing my mother yelling my name, when I knew she was at work. There are also the occasions in which I think I see something but, when I look again, it disappears. It is easy to misconstrue these instances as proof of a spiritual existence, but the fact remains that they are simply the result of the mind creating exactly what an individual wants to experience.
I hope dead people continue living in another capacity, but I honestly doubt it!