How to reconcile our complexity with our mortality

129


Discussion by: Kyllan
Before I explain my dilemma I think it
is necessary to very briefly explain my current world views.

  • I do not believe in anything. I
    estimate statistically where required time/effort and available
    evidence allows and use experiential intuition where it does not.
  • I am an atheist and a physicalist
    in the strictest sense. (Physicalism, as explained succinctly by
    Wikipedia, means “a philosophical theory holding that everything
    which exists is no more extensive than its physical properties”.)



I have been brought up as a protestant Christian and decided to be an atheist at the age of 20. Since then
I’ve struggled with many of the typical issues that young atheists
struggle with, but I worked through them. However, I feel that
because I was subjected to a predominantly Christian society for so
long and during such a critical phase in my life I am now
ill-equipped to deal with some of the big questions in life.



One such question is the subject of
this discussion: How do we as atheists reconcile our own complexity
as human beings with our limited life span? How do we stave off the
depression caused by the simultaneous knowledge of our ability to
experience and enjoy life so deeply and that of our impending doom?
How can we hear about how rovers are driving around on Mars, imagine
what it would be like to go there someday, realise
that we will never experience it in our lifetime and then deal with
the inevitable feelings of missing out on something great?



These feelings may very well be a great
contributor to the fact that modern people cling to religion. That is
just a theory and I’ll leave it up to someone smarter than myself to
investigate.



It annoys me greatly when people say “I
can die now; I’ve had a full life”. I personally feel that I’m
living with the infinite regret of having to die in the infancy of my
mind’s lifespan. I’m not in any way saying that there is no enjoyment
in life because it is going to end, but that looming sadness that
gnaws at me constantly does make it less enjoyable. I also fear that
these feelings will only get stronger as I grow older.



I understand that there is currently no
cure for death and that this is all just part of the current human
condition, but perhaps someone has a different way of looking at it.
If you do, please do share. I you don’t, but you feel the same way
then please do share your feelings or thoughts.

129 COMMENTS

  1. Sometimes life feels like being in a toy store and having someone tell you that you can only choose one toy. There are so many wonderful choices, but you’re right – if we dwell on what we don’t have, or what we haven’t done, we can’t enjoy what we do have at the present moment. I don’t know if it’s simply a conscious decision to look at what you have and be glad for it, or if there’s something else that needs to be done so that we don’t dwell on what we lack. I wonder, at times, if online social media, like Facebook, makes us more aware of what we’re lacking. It often seems like a platform for people to show off.

    Every time has its own wonders, and we just need to throw ourselves into that. Revel in the discoveries being made and all the opportunities you have for learning. Contribute to that vast network of knowledge yourself. The future is built on what happens today, and you can be a part of that and leave a legacy. Sometimes life feels it looms over me, with so much to do that I simply don’t know where to start. I feel like I have the same problem when needing to clean my house. Instead of being overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, I should just pick one thing and focus on that alone, and move on to the next task when one is completed. Perhaps becoming more focused on a few things and investing your energy into that will help you become better able to ignore what won’t be.

    Personally I’m hoping for the singularity, though. There’s so much to learn! =)

  2. ” How do we as atheists reconcile our own complexity as human beings with our limited life span? How do we stave off the depression caused by the simultaneous knowledge of our ability to experience and enjoy life so deeply and that of our impending doom? “

    Regardless of what people profess to believe about the after life, most act as if they are going to live forever. That it is not true, doesn’t cause any real problems.

    In fact I think it is better that we do act as if we are going to live forever. At least then, we might preserve the world for future generations. Make the world a better place for future generations and it won’t bother you so much that you won’t actually be there to see it.

  3. I understand and share your consternation at what Aubrey de Grey calls the “pro-death trance” our society clings to. For my part, I’ve found transhumanism a useful way of dealing with the fact that death is currently inevitable; with sufficient work, we may rewrite this fact in our own lifetimes. It motivates and informs my current studies in biology, and I plan to engage in as much longevity research as possible when I complete my education. I’d recommend reading Ending Aging by the aforementioned de Grey. It details the current state of research and how we may build on it to increase life expectancy in our time. It’s not a sure thing, but it’s a rosier picture than one might first imagine.

    And then, of course, there’s always cryonics. While it’s certainly not a sure thing, it is a chance. And, at least for me, some chance is better than no chance.

    My advice to you is to conduct some serious research on these topics, and see what you think. If you have the mind for science, maybe that should be your aim. If not, there is still much work to be done in swaying the public away from the idea that mortality will be with us forever. A creative individual could make decent strides in that area without having to educate themselves in the science to a PhD level.

    Whatever you decide to do, put everything you are into it. We’re behind you all the way.

  4. I want to talk about Physicalism. I think its a very out dated idea.  Saying that only physical concepts and phenomenon can be studied scientifically goes back to people with a very constrained notion of what counted as science that had its peak in the 50′s with behaviorist psychology. The behaviorists banished any kind of mental construct from the realm of legitimate science. Chomsky showed that behaviorism was fundamentally flawed, that you can’t possibly explain language by just referring to behaviors and probability of behaviors the way Skinner did:  http://www.chomsky.info/articl

    You need to treat the concept of language as a first class entity capable of analysis all on its own.  This actually has implications that go beyond linguistics and psychology. If you take a computer science class on compilers you study the Chomsky hierarchy of languages which describes various types of language (context free, context dependent,…) with no reference at all to whether those languages are being generated or parsed by a human or computer. I.e., the physical implementation is totally irrelevant. There is a weaker form of physicalism that I think is true though, saying that ultimately you must relate any theory to observable physical behavior. That is much weaker though than saying that only physical things are legitimate topics for study. 

  5. >How do we stave off the depression caused by the…knowledge…of our impending doom?

    Let’s make a distinction between clinical depression and garden variety depression.  A brief description of clinical depression can be found here. http://www.mayoclinic.com/heal

    My ‘experiential intuition’ becomes concerned when I read something like “I personally feel that I’m living with the infinite regret of having to die…” or “…looming sadness that gnaws at me constantly…”   It’s important for you to understand that I’m not a doctor and I’m not making a diagnosis.  However, if the emotional states you are describing are persistent I hope you consider the possibility of clinical depression; there is no shame in seeking help for your mental health. 

    Clinical depression needs to be treated by trained a professional. 

  6. Are you sure that you are an atheist? ha,ha,ha,ha…. Sorry, but you have explained your worries that reminded me of a way how religious people think. I am an atheist whole of my life (I’m 40) :), and I have noticed that religious people need some sort of comfort and safeness regarding their existence. They are alway asking questions about “meaning of life”, they simply don’t (or can’t) except that there is not “meaning of life”. You are born, you live, and than you die – there is no some higher purpose of ones existence. You say: “I am now ill-equipped to deal with some of big questions in life”,… is there a well equipped way??
    I didn’t know that there are some “big questions in life”. Are there any list of them?? There are not BIG questions in life, just questions, like any other. Please do not mistake this words of my opinion as preaching. :)

    I can not fully understand your fear, but I know one thing, fear comes out of some unresolved matters in life which are not necessarily connected with obvious, for example one time in my life I suddenly had a fear of hight, although I have never had it before. Never. Later I realized that I am afraid of one dimension of human motion, and it was happening when I needed to became a student, subsequently I discovered that I was impeded myself (unconsciously) to move in a proper way in life because of my fear of losing (which I discovered much later). Your fear, like all fears is unrealistic, and you perhaps need to ask yourself why are You afraid, when did it start, and perhaps more look into your own feelings. :)

    In my opinion your questions emerge from a very wrong and false foundations regarding life generally. Perhaps you are looking to be safe,..I don’t know. And I am sorry but I also can die now, and in my opinion only people that have some matters left to resolve don’t feel satisfied. My advice to you is : go back and resolve it.

    In physical point of view I am glad that all the molecules and atoms are just as they are – magnificent creation of our universe, I am glad that I am an atom so to speak, and that Nature is so beautiful. No need for questioning.

    No hard feelings, and good luck! :)

  7. Kyllan:- “How do we stave off the depression caused by the simultaneous knowledge of our ability to experience and enjoy life so deeply and that of our impending doom?”

    Assuming that what The Jersey Devil writes above doesn’t apply to you, then how about a bit of Mark Twain?:-
    “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

    Twain is absolutely correct ~ grab life with both hands & you’ll be too busy & joyful for existential angst. There are far worse fates than ceasing to exist. When you have children [for example] your focus will shift from putting your self at the centre of things to realising how little your self matters. There are many consolations to being a mayfly ~ seek them out!

  8. How can we hear about how rovers are driving around on Mars, imagine what it would be like to go there someday, realise that we will never experience it in our lifetime and then deal with the inevitable feelings of missing out on something great?

    You may have been born just a few years too early to get the chance to go to Mars, but be appreciative of the fact that you are living in the 21st century. We are unbelievably lucky. The quality of life and the opportunities that exist for so many of us today, especially in the West, would have been unimaginable to anyone living on this planet from the dawn of history up to just a few decades ago.

  9. I was not an atheist, but I did not believe in eternal life. I just thought that there was nothig after death and I found it unfair.  But later I met some Christians and they encouraged me to study historical evidence for resurection of Jesus. Before that I thought that it was just a myth but after I had studied it I found out that there were great evidences for it. And I understood one thing: If Jesus had risen from death it means, that his followers will rise too.
    Do you want to start a debate about historical evidence for resurection of Jesus now?
    If yes this is my first question:
    When did the story that Jesus had risen appear? Who was the first to claim it? Where did they teach it? What might have been their motivation?
    Can anyone answer it? I will answer it tomorrow but before that I would like to read your opinions.
    btw I am not a native speaker, that is the reason for my imperfect English.

  10. Religion has bred a culture of fearing death. Our very language and psychology come from this culture. The Christian culture might be one of the most terrifying, and this might be because it has the most outlandish and spiritually bereft explanations of death. Some cultures teach a love for death, such as American cultures South of the US (La Nina, Holy Death), where skulls are jovial icons. Seeing a skeleton in a wedding dress looks macabre to me, but to many Mexicans it is adorable.

    For me, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle absolved much of my angst over death as a teenager, especially the poetry a Bokononist recites when they commit suicide. The next big thing to give me inner-peace was learning the Epicurus quote, “Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come,we are not.” From this I believe fear of death arises from a cognitive error, seeing ourselves as something we are not.

    My desire to colonize space has me wish I was born later, or that our species got its priorities in line. This is tempered by my appreciation that I live in a time with technology. I do believe in the technological singularity as an inevitability, and Kurzweil has me hoping, but for some reason that just inspires my dread that I might not make it and be one of the last to die. Then I consider uploading my consciousness, how that satisfies my personal desire for immortality, but then I’m not bothered by it being accidentally deleted. It’s not rational.

    I’ve found the fear of death declines with age, a survivalistic cognitive-error solicited by the adrenaline of youth.

  11. One argument that people have on this site a lot is the question of the historical Jesus. Was there actually even a person named Jesus who was a teacher and was put to death by the Romans? Many atheists think not but I think that most likely there was such a person and I believe my view is the most prevalent among biblical scholars who don’t have an ideological agenda either way. 

    But going from saying that there actually was a Jewish teacher put to death named Jesus and saying it supports the historical truth of the miracles in the bible is a huge unverified leap. There are all sorts of miraculous stories from antiquity, from God parting the Red Sea, to Achilles fighting off a whole army, to Mohammed ascending to heaven on a winged horse.  Why are you going to believe the Jesus stories and not the others? 

    And even just looking at the Jesus story there are an incredible number of contradictions even in the approved official gospels, not to mention all the heretical gospels that from a historical perspective should be given equal weight but each tell a slightly different story. Just to pick one example: where did Jesus, Mary, and Joseph go after Jesus was born? Mathew 2:14 says they went to Egypt. Luke 2:39 says they went to Nazareth. Scholars like Bart Ehrman have analyzed these inconsistencies and come up with some pretty convincing theories for why different authors made up different stories. Essentially it depended who they were trying to convert. Those trying to convert Jews made up details that said Jesus was the Messiah, those that wanted to convert pagans made up stories consistent with pagan demigods. But while scholars differ on many details and explanations the one thing just about any serious scholar agrees on is that you can’t take any claim in an ancient writing at face value and much less so miraculous claims. 

    Its just an accepted fact that people in antiquity made shit up a lot.

  12. Our complexity and limited life spans are two things that don’t need to be reconciled as they are simply two facts about the way things are that have very limited connection to each other. It is our complexity that allows us to live such full lives.

    Yes, you, me, and everyone we know will die someday (barring huge strides in medical science), but it isn’t something to be depressed about anymore than the day ending and the night starting is something to be depressed about. In fact, compared to most mamals we have quite long lives which should bring us a feeling of joy. Death is not a doom; it is an ending. Do you fear the time before you were born? Most people don’t, but it is no different from the the time after you die – both are periods when you don’t exist.

    I don’t want to die, I want to live as long as possible in good health. But I don’t fear death or allow the fact I face death one day to in any way lessen my enjoyment of life in the now.

  13. Here’s how I deal with it. In my life I have adopted many views and outlooks. The ones that didn’t work I abandoned , some with great struggle. I’ve had man failures through out my life , I’ve had to revise my philosophies on many occasions and now I have arrived to this point. My truth , if you like. I don’t regret who I am , because to put it quite simply, there is no other way. I’m bound to that, whatever else. The blessings of iteration!

  14. if Jesus was resurrected it would have made the news. At least the equivalent back then. There would have being pandemonium in the streets. The fact that it was a secret and revealed to just a few sits nicely for people who think it encourages faith. Isn’t it more reasonable to say that it never happened and was, well , made up. 

  15. >>It annoys me greatly when people say “I can die now; I’ve had a full life”.
    Why would this annoy you? This is exactly what I want to say. I had many accomplishments, I made a difference, I did the best I could.

  16. At your age it is normal and inevitable to fear death but living a full life makes the fear vanish- trust me, I’m old!! 
    Religion is a comfort to many but a false one; take Islam, whose most committed believers say they value death as we value life… and be thankful you were not born into Islam! 

    Try not to worry and give yourself time to mature emotionally. This can take a while as I have discovered. Concentrate on enjoyment, both your own and that of the people you love; strive to add to everyone’s pleasure. 

    Well done on discovering that religion is a myth and best of luck!

  17. Maria, if you research these questions you will find that Christianity is a rehash of much earlier pagan beliefs; all the way back to Sumeria and the dawn of civilization. Those stories also had virgin birth, crucifixion, miracles, resurrection, a great flood, saving the animals and all the other nonsense you think is unique to Christianity. 

    Reasons for religion? Trying to explain the unknown; fear of death; human vanity and hubris, among many others. The foundation of religion is fear- hence ‘God-fearing’ sin, punishment, hell and damnation. 

    What is your “evidence” for Jesus? I know of none, other than folk stories from 2000 years ago. How about Muhammad? Allah? Vishnu? Do you realise that your place of birth probably determined which deity you ‘believe in’??

  18. Be thankful you still find life so wonderful and exciting at the moment. Some of us lost that naive and hopeful feeling a very long time ago, when we grew up and became adults, and now see the world as the cold, thin, deteriorating shell of a place that it mostly is. Be thankful that the scales have not fallen from your eyes yet, and hope that they never will.

    Of course, those of us who get little or no joy from the world anymore still recoil at the idea of the final oblivion that comes after. This world may be a depressing and unhappy one, but it’s the only one we have. The hope that it will get better is slim and unlikely to come to pass, but we still remember what the happiness of childhood was like, and sticking around to wait for circumstances to change is our only shot at regaining that long lost feeling.

  19. It’s the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.  -  (Bette Midler, The Rose)

    All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. – (Gandalf, Lord of the Rings)

    What, me worry? (Alfred E. Neumann, Mad Magazine)

    The Big Questions in the original post are about as important as wondering what holds up the turtle that holds up the elephants that hold up the world.   The quotes above are the ones that sprang to my mind on reading, sorry if they seem off topic. 

    As for the sci-fi fantasy of uploading ourselves, or being cryo-preserved until some future age that has managed to implement Immortality, these are just nonsense notions of no more merit than the afterlife peddled by religions. 

    You’re gonna die.   Get used to it, and get on with living while you still can.

     I don’t mean to offend, hope you’re feeling better soon.

  20. Kyllan,  I’m scratching my head at a few comments here because it is my view that they just aren’t getting what your asking. I deal with questions like this frequently; by nature, I am extremely reflective and introspective. You will not get all the answers here since the question you ask deals with the “art” of living. Art is best learned by doing. These answers can be best explored through journaling, psychology, therapy, philosophy, art, etc. I would suggest you get a few books by Eric Maisel, an atheist psychologist who deal with existential issues. He also deals with the idea of “depression” from existential issues.

    Religion attempts to answer the big questions, but is problematic. Religions that dictate views do not encourage people to find answers on their own. Spiritual paths like Buddhism and New Thought encourage personal reflection and have a step up on existentialism, but everything eventually leads to God. Some religions, unlike belittling fundamentalist religions, encourage prosperity or fulfilling a divine purpose and achieving a higher potential. Religions, motivational speakers, teachers, parents etc. encourage us to dream big, setting goals, be somebody, finding our destiny, planning for the new year. “What are you going to be when you grow up?” They set us up to expect great things. Some of us do go on to create something that will impact others greatly, Some of us have the potential and get stuck into the day-to-day routine of life. Others, especially the young, have entered into professions and found that they needed to compromise their skills, abilities, and intelligence for an employer that doesn’t see them as someone on the way to becoming great. Some of us might just not have what it takes in terms of intelligence, ability, skill, talent, etc.

    Being unskilled to handle the big questions in life is common place. I don’t think you could fully blame religion on this one. Certain types of personalities tend to be more reflective and have a greater ability to be introspective. Others have no concern at examining their own life and finding meaning. Until something upsetting happens, they avoid taking a  closer look at their lives. Some people also become reflective at certain point in their lives – a tragedy, midlife, boredom and wanting change, facing an illness, dealing with a loss. I encourage you to get to the core issue of the questions that you ask. Know that you will need to look elsewhere.

    Here’s a few of my thoughts to your questions”

    “How do we as atheists reconcile our own complexity
    as human beings with our limited life span? How do we stave off the
    depression caused by the simultaneous knowledge of our ability to
    experience and enjoy life so deeply and that of our impending doom?”

    No kidding. I’m hitting 50 this year. I feel as if I’m finally clear about something I would like achieve in my life. I realize that I’ve wasted a lot of time, and most of my life has already been lived. Even though I look like I’m in my mid-thirties, health issues are unfortunately setting in :( . I’ve come to realize that I need to focus even more by not wasting any more time. I find that I tend to be more future oriented, but need to focus in on the here and now. Frequently, thinking about a different time period is a way for us to avoid dealing with difficult issues we are currently facing. Some look to the past, others to the future – anytime but the present. Tomorrow may not come and putting things off is no longer acceptable. We need to live our best life NOW. That means if our career, health, relationships, life situation, etc. is not enjoyable, we need to change it ASAP. If I am unable to attain my best life on my own, I will need to find help or assistance from others.

    “How can we hear about how rovers are driving around on Mars, imagine
    what it would be like to go there someday, realise
    that we will never experience it in our lifetime and then deal with
    the inevitable feelings of missing out on something great?

    That’s like missing a special event because and even better one might come along. Perhaps traveling to Mars wouldn’t be that great. It would be dark, claustrophobic, our urine would be floating around… Rather than idealizing the future, you could see potential and challenge in what is going on today?  How about a trip to Iceland where Volcanologists are studying the potential of an eruption that’s likely to occur any time now.

    “I personally feel that I’m
    living with the infinite regret of having to die in the infancy of my
    mind’s lifespan. I’m not in any way saying that there is no enjoyment
    in life because it is going to end, but that looming sadness that
    gnaws at me constantly does make it less enjoyable.”

    Rather than idealizing or fearing what has yet to happen, make certain that you are not neglecting the present and using your concern over the future as an excuse to not fix what’s going on in your life right now. Make your life enjoyable now!

    Someone at work has a sign that says something like “More problems are created by overthinking.” Sometimes we just need to seize the moment and try to live more fully than what we are already doing. This is our only life, so live it now.

  21. Red dog, thanks for your reply but is it possible to stick only to one point, not to vary from topic to topic? Lets focus on the story of resurection as it is the fundamental pillar of Christianity and if you prove it as mythology you will destroy my Christian faith completely.
    You have written that there are some questions whether Jesus existed. Can we avoid extreme point of view and agree on things that 90% of historians agree whether they are believers or not?
    First thing that most historians believe is that there was a preacher Jesus who lived in Judea in 1st century and he was crusified.
    I agree that the resurection is a bit similar to the old mythology and if we could not trace when this story began, or if we could trace that it had developed in a period of a few generations I would say it was a mythology.
    BUT
    Second thing that most historians agree is that his followers started claiming that Jesus had risen from death and they saw him alive just a couple of days after the resurection. Moreover they started claiming it in Jerusalem – in a place where you could verify a lot of facts (empty grave).
    So unlike in old mythologies in this case you can trace exactly when the story of resurection appeared and when and who started claiming it
    To conclude it the story of resurection was told by men who had been with Jesus for 3 years, they started claiming it in Jerusalem just a few days after resurection.
    Can we agree on it? Do you want some facts (historical, archaeological)  to support it?
    The fact they claimed it does not mean it did really happen.
    But I want to continue later.

  22.  It is true that risen Jesus showed himself only to the 500 people, not publicly. But it did cause something very important, believe in resurected Jesus started to spread rapidly despite the cruel persecution and just a few decades later there were thousands of believers not just in Judea but in many provincies of Roman empire.

  23.  Nodhimmi, I will just copy what I have writte to the red Dog.
    I agree that the resurection is a bit similar to the old mythology and
    if we could not trace when this story began, or if we could trace that
    it had developed in a period of a few generations I would say it was a
    mythology.
    BUT
    Second thing that most historians agree is that his
    followers started claiming that Jesus had risen from death and they saw
    him alive just a couple of days after the resurection. Moreover they
    started claiming it in Jerusalem – in a place where you could verify a
    lot of facts (empty grave).
    So unlike in old mythologies in this case
    you can trace exactly when the story of resurection appeared and when
    and who started claiming it
    To conclude it the story of resurection
    was told by men who had been with Jesus for 3 years, they started
    claiming it in Jerusalem just a few days after resurection.
    Can we agree on it? Do you want some facts (historical, archaeological)  to support it?
    The fact they claimed it does not mean it did really happen.
    But I want to continue later.

  24. First of all I want to react to the statement that my place of birth determined my faith.
    Do you know that if you had been born six hundred years ago you would have believed that the Earth was the centre of universe?
    But was the Earth the centre of the universe? No.
    The point is that our faith can not change the reality. Reality remain reality no matter how many people accept it.
    If Jesus really rose from death it does not matter whether people believe in it or not.
    I do not want to copy evidence for resurection that I have written down, you can read them.
    btw there are more historical records about Jesus in secular books from first century, not just New testament

  25. Dear Tvrdonova, pity you have not read any of science proofs that Jesus did not exist, and that is actually a made up figure.
    Pauly_ and Red Dog are right. :), and by the way I don’t think that anyone here needs your advice, or opinion, which is not even about the topic.

  26. I am continuing.
    The fact is that we can trace when the story that Jesus rose from death appeared. It was a few days after his crusifiction when his followers started to claim in the streets of Jerusalem that they had seen Jesus alive, they had been eating with him, touching him, being taught by him.
    If Jesus had not risen from death and they inveted this story, it does not make the difference whether they adopted this story from a pagan mythology or took it out of the blue. The were telling a lie.
    I am not a naive person. I know there are millions of people willing to lie. I know that there are a lot of people who live in a delusion and are willing to die for something really stupid, but this was a different situation.
    They had no profit from telling a lie. They were cruely persecuted for preaching that Jesus had risen and majority of them were killed for their faith. So it is unlikely that they wanted to lie. Because nobody will die for something that he knows it is not true.
    So perhaps they really believed that Jesus had risen. Otherwise they would not have bear persecution.
    But what if they lived in a delusion?
    Most of the people start believing in delusion because someone persuades them. A manipulative leader just keep saying something until people believe him. But this was different. They had an experience of Jesus.They were not told that Jesus had risen. They saw him. It could not have been a hallucination because people do not share the same hallucination. It is not posiible that five hundred people shared the same hallucination of risen Jesus. And if they had had the same hallucination the grave could not have been empty. 
    The only reasonable interpretation of this events is that Jesus really rose from death. Do you have any other interpretation. If you prove that resurection never happened I will give up my christian faith.

  27. Dear Modesti, I studied history at the university and I studied a lot about this topic and it were not just christian books. I grew up in a comunistic country where we were taught that Jesus never existed. I have read three books by Richard Dawkins and in his book God of delusion I expected him to write something about the issue of resusrection. If one of the aims of his book was to prove that christianity was wrong, why did he not focus on the fundametal pillar of christian faith, which is resurection? Mr. Dawkins is a clever man and he surely knows how great historical evidence for resurection there are. That is the reason why he focused on things that were not important for christian faith and sidetracked his readers from this topic.
    I have read argumentation from atheist as well as christians. The question is whether you have read the argumentation from both sides. Or it seems that it is as you have written that nobody wants to hear anything that would disturb your world view and make you think about this topic.
    Btw it is about the topic. It is about the question whether we have  the hope to live forever or we must just accept the fact that one day we will exist no longer.

  28. I guess it’s either something you struggle with or you don’t. To me it’s not an issue. If it helps, I find the thought that there is no afterlife goverened by an evil god rather comforting. Standard ideas of heaven also sound like hell to me – praising said hypothetical monster for all eternity….

  29. How do we stave off the depression caused by the simultaneous knowledge of our ability to experience and enjoy life so deeply and that of our impending doom?

    I’m glad life’s not that long. It makes people take more risks and be more fun. 

  30. Hey Maria, Where are you going with your posts? “Do you want to start a debate about historical evidence for resurrection of Jesus now?” No.  Let’s be respectful of the person that wrote the original post. He deserves answers. I like the topic.”Red dog, thanks for your reply but is it possible to stick only to one point, not to vary from topic to topic? ” (That’s right hijacker- stick to the topic posted by Kyllan) I suggest you start your own. It is likely that the moderators will delete your posts for being off topic. I suggest you copy and paste them elsewhere ASAP.

  31. OK. I expected that very few people in this forum would want to start thinking about this topic. But it is about the topic, I explained the reason why.
    But I appreciate that the author of the article was sincere, Not many many people are. When I wrote a blog where I admitted that after I had realised that one day a would die, it was really depressing for me and I claimed that everybody wants to live forever, all the atheists wrote comment that they did not want to live forever. I do not think they were sincere.

  32. Maria, 

    I suggest that you create your own discussion on this website. It will lead to a more in depth discussion than you are experiencing now, since people here experience your posts more as a distraction or as off-topic. (Saying it is your beliefs that give you comfort is fine, but insisting that we all accept them is a whole other discussion.)

    As to why you would doubt the sincerity of people who don’t want to live forever is beyond me. Mortality and immortality both have their up- and downsides. But mortality is the reality, and many have concluded that acceptance is the most rational and rewarding way to deal with it.

    Looking forward to your brand-new, 100% resurrection-geared discussion topic. Should prove… interesting.

    Cheers

  33. Since I do not have heaven or hell — or any other afterlife type thing, I want to live forever.  However, instead of regretting all the things I will not get to see, I celebrate the things i do get to see.

    This person, Maria, has successfully diverted the attention away from a great discussion.  She has done so with something as unprovable and patently childish as resurrection!!!  Look, sweetie, it is bullshit.  It is a way of assigning “supernatural” properties to an ordinary person.  If you’d like to debate this, start your own discussion thread (it is easy to do) and we can discuss it there.

    As for the actual topic, we live in a marvelous world and at a marvelous time.  Investigate it!  Read>  Experience it.  LIVE!  

    Our complexity is due to our evolutionary history coupled with our unbelievable intellectual capacity.  Exercise your unbelievable intellectual capacity.  Learn Biology….. or Chemistry….. or Physics…… 

    Be too busy to be depressed.  Look at the world around you with the curiosity and wonder that drives you to successfully accomplish the things that are within your reach to accomplish.

    When I walk through the woods with a group of people, I am buoyed by the fact that I know and understand the biochemical cycles (like photosynthesis) that are going on around me.  i know about the evolution of the life around me ….etc……  it makes me feel great about me and I raise both hands over my head in triumph.

    The others in the group are thinking “wow….shiny stuff….”  or ” god must have created stuff…..” or “dada, dah…dadadada….” But i am thinking of complexity and beauty.  And that is how I have created my own “purpose and reason” to be here.

  34. MODERATORS’ MESSAGE

    The Terms of Use on this site require comments to be on the specific topic of any given discussion thread. This thread is NOT about whether there is or is not historical evidence for the existence of Jesus, or even about Christianity in general.

    There are other threads on the site where such discussions will be on topic. If you wish to continue, please find one of those and post there. 

    Further off-topic comments on this thread will be removed.

    Thank you.

    The mods

  35. I was sticking to one point. My point is if we don’t have complete consensus from scholars on even the most non-miraculous facts about Jesus such as what was the story of his early life or whether he even in fact existed its ridiculous to think that stories written about miracles can count as actual historical data. And you are wrong about the authors of the gospels. On that there IS virtual unanimous agreement on anyone that is a serious scholar, whether christian, atheist, or whatever, and that is that virtually all of Jesus’s original followers were illiterate and that the Gospels weren’t written by people who knew him in person but rather were written down decades after his death.  For example, the gospels are written mostly in Greek but all of Jesus’s followers spoke Aramaic, Greek was the language for the more learned few. See the books Jesus Interrupted and Forged by Bart Ehrman.

  36. The SF writer Frank Herbert heads one of the chapters of “Dune” with the following (I paraphrase): “When you first suspect your mortality it is the beginning of terror. When you know that you are mortal it is the end of terror.” 
    I have found that to be true. When I was 20 I was terrified of death. Now I am 60 and I can accept it.
    I love life no less for the realisation that it will end. 
    Immortality is a much more frightening concept than oblivion.

  37. Some people see the glass half full, others see it half empty, but the world belongs to people who say “What ! What’s wrong with that glass ? My glass was full, and it was a much bigger glass !” So I understand your frustration, Kyllan. On the other hand, the fact that life is short and unique is, in itself, a very good reason to enjoy it while we can. Sure, you can’t go to Mars, but you can travel the world like nobody could 500 years ago. If you feel sad for not living in 2500, shouldn’t you feel happy for not living in 1500 ?

  38. Why does this thread continually get pulled off topic???  

    How could Christ be born before christ (Sept 11, 3 BC)?  Research into this topic (good fodder for yet another thread) shows that no one knows or agrees on when Christ was born (not even “scholars” who study ancient history).  There are estimates, based on estimates of other historical events…. but this is clearly off topic and perhaps as stupid as the resurrection bullshit……

    So..

    Salman Rushdie has an awesome awesome book called Grimus that stars a character called Flapping Eagle who attains immortality.  He wanders the earth for many years and eventually arrives at Calf Island where everyone is immortal.  

    It was his first book and critics hated it.  I love it.  I would jump at the chance to be immortal, again, because I do not have heaven nor hell.

    Question:  Why, if you believe in heaven (and believe you are going there), do you fear death?  I used to work in a hospital and there was a priest there who would sometimes administer extreme unction to dyig believers.  He would be all cheery and happy.  He’d congratulate the dying person on their impending death.  I thought “at least here is someone who actually believes this drivel”.

    The believers families complained about him and eventually he disappeared from the hospital.

  39. Existentialist concept?  Sorry, I thought his post was about dealing with emotions.  He uses the word feel(ings) seven times by my count.  He also uses words like depression, sadness, enjoy, regret, doom and fear. 

    If Clinical Depression is non-applicable then no harm done.  Still, how do we know the info couldn’t help another reader of this site?  BTW, for people with CD – which is real whether or not you put it into quotes – all the little ‘Life is like a box of chocolates…’ philosophies amount to a pile of crap.

    As far as existentialism, I like to go out dancing and that’s more then enough to give my life meaning.

  40. What a joyous attitude to have,  crookedshoes!   Short of a ‘happy’ pill,  I would prescribe reading your marvellous post as therapy.   Whenever I feel down-in-the-dumps,  I will reread your advice on this page.  Thanks.

  41. Hi Red Dog, thanks for your reply. I think that your post is veering off topic a little, but it is interesting nonetheless. If you would like to discuss physicalism further please let me know and we can set up a separate dialogue.

    To be clear though, for the purposes of this discussion, I will explain what I mean. By saying that nothing is more extensive than its physical properties I mean that there is no magic to anything, nothing that cannot ultimately be explained in the physical world or put more succinctly – there is nothing more to anything other than its physical properties. This is relevant to this discussion because it explains why I do not believe in a god, a soul or an afterlife.

    I know what you mean with the references to computer languages, context free and context dependent, I studied computer science myself. Abstract concepts like psychology, language and emotions are typically not studied at the lowest level (i.e. their physical properties) exclusively and higher level constructs or generalizations are used instead. It is the same as calling a range of colours “red” instead of specifying the light frequency range; or generalizing a range of emotions as “anger” instead of giving precise measurements of brain chemistry. These constructs or generalizations are useful tools and make it easier for us to communicate, but like you said they must ultimately relate back to the physical world. Simply creating a construct like “god” or “soul” that has no footing in the physical world therefore has very little meaning to me and often confusing/conflicting meanings even to people who believe in them.

  42. Jersey Devil. That is a good distinction to make and thank you for your concern.

    I do not think that I suffer from clinical depression. The feelings are not persistent. Rather they are looming in the background and come to the foreground only when something triggers the specific thought process that this discussion is about. The rest of my life is depression free and I feel pretty good about most of the things in my life, so I think these feelings are isolated to this specific issue and doesn’t affect my daily life.

    Also, I am actively working on coping mechanisms, e.g. I’ve actually discussed these feelings with a therapist, I am discussing them with close friends and I am here seeking advice from other people with different points of view.

    Perhaps “depression” was the wrong word; it is more angst, regret and a sadness that builds up as I get older and the knowledge of my inevitable death becomes more real/tactile. I can see that the way I described it may have been construed as symptoms of clinical depression.

  43. Modesti, thank you for your reply.

    You are right, people often look for meaning in things that have no intrinsic meaning. I can assure you that as someone who supports the idea of physicalism I am not one of them; there is nothing more to anything than its physical properties, therefore why would there be a “meaning to life”, “higher purpose” or “a reason for this or that”?

    The big question in this case is “how do I feel better about the fact that I’m going to die?”. And the reason I am ill-equipped to deal with this question is because I’ve wasted too much time believing in a god during my younger years. I have started this discussion in a hope to learn from other people who haven’t.

    I know the type of thinking and the type of person you are describing, but I am well past that stage and am now trying to undo the damage done by years of faith during my forming years.

  44. How do we as atheists reconcile our own complexity
    as human beings with our limited life span?

    This one gets by by not giving it much consideration…the duration of the limited lifespan I mean. Anyway, how long is long enough? I’m fecked if I want to live forever. Especially if it’s that suck arse happy clappy eternity the holy rollers are visioning. I get tired. Also, the way things are panning out with we humans on this planet…no thanks.

    How do we stave off the
    depression caused by the simultaneous knowledge of our ability to
    experience and enjoy life so deeply and that of our impending doom?

    Stop thinking too hard about it….worry is not good for you. The only way to sort that shit out is to avoid any potential suffering that your eventual demise might entail by sorting it out yourself. That would mean sorting it out now though…I mean right now. Catch 22.

    How can we hear about how rovers are driving around on Mars, imagine
    what it would be like to go there someday, realise
    that we will never exiperience it in our lifetime and then deal with
    the inevitable feelings of missing out on something great?

    A bit short sighted are ya not? I’m hoping descendants of mine will get it together to ship out before the rest of mankind has bollocksed it up good and proper. I’m envisaging a bit more than rovers racing around Mars. But that’s wishful thinking and my lights will be well and truly out by those said times.

    These feelings may very well be a great
    contributor to the fact that modern people cling to religion. That is
    just a theory and I’ll leave it up to someone smarter than myself to
    investigate.

    Reason for clinging to religion? Lets look at an example. The genuine Christian will be looking forward to the apocalypse….all the rest are just playing at school. I can tell you that the 100% genuine Christians are a minority that are classed as fringe lunatics by the hand wringers playing at school. The hospitals and doctors surgeries are chock full of those playing at school that are without the conviction of their faith…I’ve shit the lot of ‘em!

    It annoys me greatly when people say “I
    can die now; I’ve had a full life”. I personally feel that I’m
    living with the infinite regret of having to die in the infancy of my
    mind’s lifespan.

    First…the regret won’t be infinite. Secondly, at least you are aware that your mind has a lifespan. There are millions of deluded out there that haven’t got the wit to live life for today, let alone a lifespan…whatever that even means….so just you enjoy the moment.

     

    I’m not in any way saying that there is no enjoyment
    in life because it is going to end, but that looming sadness that
    gnaws at me constantly does make it less enjoyable.

    You are not doing it right in that case.

    I also fear that
    these feelings will only get stronger as I grow older.

    They might for you, because you are not doing it right. The more I removed myself from the wooly crap and began to learn, the less anxiety I felt about the light switch going off someday. The only thing that gives me the least bit concern is the method by which I’ll be despatched. Ideally, it will be in my sleep….but I really don’t think about it that much, and if you do, I’d take the advice of others given here and look to professional help. Worrying too much is worrying.

  45. Thanks Michael. I like the term “existential angst”! And “mayfly” :) You’ve either thought about this topic before or you’re very good with words.

    What you said makes sense – focus on living life enough and you may distract yourself from worrying about death. This is the best suggestion I’ve seen so far. Like most things of lasting value this will take some work, but at least this could work. I worry though that due to my personality (I like to contemplate life, the human condition, etc.) this won’t be easy.

    Thank you for the advice.

  46. Hi Kyllan. I am new here, and will keep this short.

    Let me acknowledge your background and views upon human civilization. For me, sometimes it seems like we are looking out a window at the world, going by so fast, but asking if we are a part of it – and if so, how? Time flies so quickly, and as it does, it seems lost.

    I like the term “thinking atheist”, and I often work to search for knowledge – to seek, understand, ask, learn more. To me this is as fulfilling as going to church on Sunday is for many theists (I presume). I have other things I fill my life with – and I always seek to challenge myself with something new. If I can’t do something new, then at least try doing something a different way and see what happens.

    I know that when the time is right for me, I will welcome death, not regret or fear it. If I am sad about my death, it is probably not time for me to die.

  47. Hi Maria, no problem, I am not a native English speaker either.

    If I could believe that a man has risen from the dead that would make things easier for me. However, as David Hume said: “A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence” or Carl Sagan “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.

    A man rising from the dead given the technology available at the time is an extraordinary claim and would therefore require solid, reproducible scientific evidence for me to accept it as true. A story or other anecdotal evidence is simply not enough. Even if the people who lived during that time who claims to have seen Jesus rise from the dead told me in person that it happened I would still not be convinced – it is far more likely that they, for example, suffer from some sort of mass delusion or that they were perhaps victims of an overly superstitious society (as I suspect they may have been in those days).

    As I said in my original post: “I do not believe in anything. I estimate statistically where required time/effort and available evidence allows and use experiential intuition where it does not.”

  48. I Googled Cat’s Cradle quickly to see what it is about, but I have not read it. I will take a look at it, thanks.

    As for the Epicurus quote and the cognitive error you mentioned. This is the key to the discussion – it is an inevitable cognitive error that we make due to (I think) the fact that we are too intelligent for our own good. We have imaginations and minds capable of conceiving extraordinary things, but we are stuck in a mortal body that will die too soon for us to realize those things. It is like Kim Probable said in one of the other replies in this discussion: “Sometimes life feels like being in a toy store and having someone tell you that you can only choose one toy.” Except that these are not toys – they are deep meaningful experiences.

    I have read some of Kurzweil and I love the idea of a singularity and being able to upload your consciousness/mind to a less fragile physical space. If Aubrey de Grey (watch his talk on TED) has his way so we can stay alive for another 100 years or so perhaps the two of us could still make it into the singularity :)

    I find it interesting that you say the fear of death declines as you get older. If I may ask – how old are you?

  49. To me personally saying that would make me feel like I’m giving up, like I’m satisfied with the limited experience that I’ve had. The more you live life the more you realize how much more there is to experience. Why would you want to stop when you’ve only just started? Your entire life, even if you grow to be 100 years old, will only be a very small drop in a very big ocean of experiences. It bothers me that people don’t realize this; that they accept that their life is “full” when they’ve only just started.

    I do only mean “annoy”, I do not mean to say that it angers me or that I hold it against anyone. I just wish they wouldn’t want to stop living so soon.

  50. Haha, turtles.

    That first quote is so true and speaks to some of the issues that flows from the problem I’m having. The fact that I know my time is limited is keeping me from making long term commitments to anything. My time is not a “lifetime” (as if there is another life) it is “existencetime”. I am therefore too afraid of spending it on the wrong things and because of this I end up not spending my time on anything – exactly like your quote says.

    I do give more merit to the sci-fi fantasies than the religious ones though, but nowhere near enough to actually make me feel better.

    Thank you for your reply. You get the “most entertaining reply” prize. Gandalf :P 

  51. Wow, that is some sound advice. Thank you for this. I will have to think hard on everything that you’ve said.

    Idealizing the future as a means to find an excuse not to fix what’s wrong in the moment is certainly something I’ll pay more attention to.

    Thank you.

  52. Thank you for your post.

    Curiosity and wonder for things within our reach is certainly rewarding. Together with what other people said about living in the moment as a means to distract from the fact that we will die I think I may get somewhere. It’s a shift in focus to attainable things and a habit of being more aware of the present that I will have to nurture in order to feel better.

  53. I simultaneously wish I could be in the “acceptance phase” where you are now as well as wish that I will never get there. Accepting mortality would probably make me feel better like Frank Herbert said, but perhaps not accepting it and finding a coping mechanism (like living in the moment) would have a healthier long term effect on my life. Maybe I can have both acceptance and a coping mechanism… but perhaps we need to “rage against the dying of the light” in order to develop effective coping mechanisms; perhaps accepting our mortality too early could hamper our efforts to develop them.

    Thank you for the words of encouragement.

  54. True, we are discussing feelings and how to deal with them, but the root cause in my case is an existential concept. So discussing that is on topic.

    I agree with what you said about the “life is like a box of chocolates” philosophies having no effect on clinical depression. If you have clinical depression you need professional help and perhaps drugs because it is a real illness like cancer or a cold. It’s not caused by over thinking things as in my case.

  55. If only there is not time. Why do we human have a sense of time? Wild animals live in the moment (like small children, up to 3-5 years, when they develop time illusion ). If gazelle, who is eating the grass in the African Savannah for example, would think if there is an enemy animal near observing her ready to eat her, she would have no time to eat, and she would probably die. Animals (except ones raised with humans) do not have illusion of time, for them is always NOW, they are always living in present, and they are certainly not “thinking” about dying, ha,ah,ha,ha. We people have this unfortunate sense of time passing, but I think that focusing on something that one is doing at the moment can resolve that. For example when I paint, time ceases to exist, I do not have a sense of passing time. We humans are able to think ahead, but sometimes I think that if we would resolve matters in our lives in the same moment when they happen, we would live in the moment, in the present. Past and future are dimensions that create dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction because we are often referring to them, we often compare our acts with them. Kyllan, you say that you love physics,… try to see what happens with energy that we raised for making something but we didn’t use it because of some inner impediment as fear of being wrong or fear of being laugh at, etc. Whole risen energy must be used (based upon 1. and 2. law of thermodynamics), what happens with a left over that is not transformed in action (mechanical way), or did not come out through sweat, or our body  radiation. Perhaps when energy is not completely converted into work stays as a electromagnetic field inside of us? Perhaps in some way create feeling of time passing? Perhaps if you would live in moment you would be ONE, and content with yourself ? (just thinking). Perhaps your answer lies in holographic reality of zero point field? 

    I would not bother you any more, ha,ha,ha,ha… Good luck, and I am sorry that religion has left you with some sort of inadequacy feeling. :)

  56. I’m not a sentimentalist,  I am partly in agreement with your views on airy fairy philosophies. Of course the reason such philosophies are that, is there is no karmic justice in this world. But such sentiments are not totally redundant as we all express a level of faith and hope. Hope that we will not get sick , hope we wont be killed in the roads , hope that life has something good in store for us, faith that we will wake up in the morning.

    And also many people believe in these philosophies because their life is just fine and dandy. If I should quote from another movie

    Melvin Udall: Some of us have great stories, pretty stories that take place at lakes, with boats, and friends, and noodle salad. Just no one in this car. But, a lot of people, that’s their story; good times, noodle salad. What makes it so hard is not that you had it bad, but that you’re that pissed that so many others had it good.

  57. Here it is from my perspective and I am going to state the obvious. You sound like an intelligent chap and you too know this. Living for extraordinary timeframes is not possible , it will never happen at least quick enough to impact your life  , why waste your time on such thoughts. Cut it in the bud and accept it , you will not see the 22nd century. All the best.

    And also just an observation you seem to have a philosophy , Physicalism, that given your present mindset , will only cause you heartache.

    Edit: Just another observation , I have being on this site for a while , I have read a few science related books , a few skeptic religious books and I never heard of the philosophy Physicalism in the Atheistic sense. I mean the word makes sense , it makes sense in the natural world. Why a Physicalist though , Why not an Atheist or an Agnostic? I do understand that you may not want to label yourself in the political sense. I’ve just never heard of anyone describe themselves in this manner.

  58. One such question is the subject of this discussion: How do we as atheists reconcile our own complexity as human beings with our limited life span? How do we stave off the depression caused by the simultaneous knowledge of our ability to experience and enjoy life so deeply and that of our impending doom?
    How can we hear about how rovers are driving around on Mars, imagine what it would be like to go there someday, realise that we will never experience it in our lifetime and then deal with the inevitable feelings of missing out on something great?

    The Earth, the Solar system and the galaxy are very big places, with massive time spans.  There are many things and places we as individuals will never see or experience.  Unrealistic expectations, will only lead to disappointment. 
    There were numerous events before we were born, and there will be many more after we die!

    It annoys me greatly when people say “I can die now; I’ve had a full life”. I personally feel that I’m living with the infinite regret of having to die in the infancy of my mind’s lifespan. I’m not in any way saying that there is no enjoyment in life because it is going to end, but that looming sadness that gnaws at me constantly does make it less enjoyable. I also fear that these feelings will only get stronger as I grow older.

    Immortality is something we never had in the first place, so it is no loss.

    Eventually we all get old and worn out, so make the most of your life. 
    It’s the only one you have – even if many of the deluded around you, waste their’s, preparing for a promised immortality they will never collect!

  59. Zengardener, thank you for your reply.

    In my experience false assumptions come back to bite you somewhere along the line. You may feel better for now if you con your mind into believing something that isn’t true, but because it doesn’t correspond to the way things really are reality will slap you in the face somehow… and hard.

    For example, believing you don’t have cancer and living as if you don’t while you are not presenting any symptoms will make you feel better for a while. However, because you weren’t preparing yourself mentally and emotionally for the reality of what it means when you do start showing symptoms you may be worse off. The same goes for death. While you are young you feel like you are going to live forever. However, as you get older and the reality sinks in that you won’t you may suffer more dire emotional stress because you weren’t preparing for the reality of it. Or maybe believing it will be fine, but not believing it will somehow cause you to appreciate life more and thus you may have a richer life.

    This is a generalization of course. Maybe for some things it is better to fool yourself, like with death. I don’t know, but I’m not convinced. For now I think that accepting reality as the truth and responding to it appropriately is the best way forward.

    As an aside, this very mismatch between what I believe to be true and how the world really is is one of the reasons I abandoned religion and faith in the first place. It will be hard for me to backtrack on that decision now. It also seems like a slippery slope – how many un-truths should you introduce into your world view for the sake of feeling better? And isn’t this very slippery slope how religion got started in the first place perhaps? People may have invented it to feel better about themselves and the fact that they don’t understand everything? I know I’m blowing things out of proportion here; I’m doing it on purpose though to show where this type of thinking (double-speak from 1984, George Orwell :)) leads to.

  60. You are right of course; living with this philosophy does indeed cause heartache as you put it. But as I explained to zengardener I find it hard to convince myself of something I honestly hold to be false. I am convinced that it will somehow lead me astray if I did. This is why for now, while I estimate/calculate physicalism to be true I choose to respond to it and to its consequences. The heartache it causes falls under “no pain no gain”.

    The pain is the “heartache” and the gain is the result of seeing the world for what it truly is. Like so many of the greatest scientists before me (like the guy who said the world is round or Darwin with evolution) I refuse to cling to beliefs simply because they are soothing. I’d rather face the harsh reality of the world; it might just keep my mind open enough to one day perhaps discover something great as well.

    That is not to say that I cling to physicalism religiously though. If you or someone else illustrates to me that it is false I will abandon it at once; I am a scientist after all. For now however it looks like the best working theory to me.

  61. You are right, of course. I wouldn’t really advocate self delusion.

    If there is a choice between overestimating your lifespan and being depressed about how short it really is, optimism would make your life better.

    I just turned 39 and I don’t know if I should be optimistic about advances in science greatly increasing my longevity or should I assume that I won’t be able to afford anything that would make much of a difference.

    There is also the very real chance that I will get T-boned at the intersection 200 feet from where I sit.

    No use getting down about it. That would just poison what time I have left.

  62. Thank God, I’m An Atheist. 

    When I was 4 or 5 I Was Told I Was A Catholic, By 10 I Was Told I Am A Christian, 
    By 16 I Had Know Idea Who I Was, Or What I Was. All those Years, The Group Homes, The Foster Homes, What Was It All About? 
    It Made Me Angry At GOD. I Wanted To Refute The Bible. But What Could I Prove? And To Whom? 

    10 years I Wondered. No Family, No Close Friends, 1000 of miles away from How It All Started. 
    Kinda Mad At The World For Dumping Me Out There. But I Evolved, Changed My Way Of Thinking, 
    Begrudgingly Conformed To Society’s Rules.    

    When I Look Into My Child’s Eyes Today. And I Know I’m In The Mix. My Life Span Is Compounded, 
    I Know As I Make My Way Through This Life That Everything Will Gradually Change, This No Longer Depresses Me. 

    Having Been Exposed To The Knowledge That There Really Is Not Some Supernatural Entity Out There Waiting To Stuff Me In A Lake Of Fire.
    I Do Not Dwell On The End Days, I Try To Learn Something New And Positive About Our Existence, As It Is A Vast & Fantastic Voyage Of Knowledge That Is Laid Out In Front Of Us Today. 
    My Thoughts Of Travelling The Cosmos Makes Me Grin, At The Exciting Times Ahead For All Those That Follow. 

    The Transformation Of Our Planet, Over The  Last 100 years Is In My Opinion Nothing Short Of Amazing  We As A Collective Species Will Travel Those Very Cosmos & Do the Things That We Are Only Dreaming Of Today.
    I Believe No Matter How Small A Part You Play In This Existence,  If You Know Who You Are, & Were You Came From It Sure Makes It Easier, To Know Were Your Going.  

     

  63. LizE, as you experience more of life in your quest to try new things, don’t you sometimes feel saddened by the fact that there are so many more things to try that you’ll never be able to? I find that the more I live the more I want to live, but then the realization that I just can’t because one day I will die sinks in and I feel the way I do now.

    I am glad that you find joy in trying new things and that you seek understanding. I too find joy in that, it is just sometimes spoiled by the feelings described in my original post.

    Thank you for your reply.

  64. Kyllan, I think I understand what you mean. It seems that all the responses I’ve read so far (I’ve read many but not all yet) fall into three basic camps: 

    1) Those trying to help you get over your “fear” (which you don’t seem to have; rather, you have sadness); 

    2) Those trying to help you focus on goal-setting and enjoying life despite your “fear” (which, again, you don’t seem to have; and also you said you do enjoy things, just not as much as you would if you weren’t going to die someday); and 

    3) Those trying to tell you it’s stupid to even think about such “big questions;” to just shut up & go get a beer & watch tv & forget about all that nonsense.

    Only one response that I’ve read seems to come even remotely close to understanding what you’re trying to convey: that posted by QuestioningKat, who recommended Eric Maisel (in fact I’m going to explore Maisel’s works; I’d never heard of him & it seems he may be right up my alley.)

    But as QuestioningKat continued, I soon realized that he/she also missed the point, from what I can tell.

    In fact, he/she merely offered further advice of the kind, “life is short; start living it now; if your situation’s unhappy, change it ASAP” etc; which I think totally  misses your point and falls under 2) above.

    Allow me now, if you will, to offer my own worthless bromides.

    If I understand you correctly, you do enjoy life, but you feel a constant sadness in the back of your mind – a sort of continuous, quiet drumbeat of “yeah, but we’re all going to die; the sun’s going to go Nova in 4.5 billion years & incinerate the Earth; and eventually the Universe is going to go utterly cold and dark and all that is and every was will be less than a shadow of an echo of a memory.

    “If I’m correct about what you wrote, then I must say that is exactly what I experience literally every minute of every day. It’s an existential angst that I just can’t shake.

    It haunts me day and night, it casts a pall over every activity, it lessens the enjoyment I get out  of life.

    I have no desire to kill myself – in fact, the very thought of suicide is SAD – precisely because death is the very phenomenon behind the sadness I feel: the inescapable reality of the previous or future death of me, everyone alive now and everyone who’s ever lived and died in the past!

    I find myself, when driving past a cemetery, wondering where *are* all those people? Of course, the answer is, probably “nowhere.”   *sigh*

    I’m not looking for a way to overcome fear or set goals or learn to enjoy life.

    I’m not (very) afraid, I have many goals (though it’s hard to feel there’s any point in bothering to achieve them, since we’re all going to die anyway) and there’s a lot of things I enjoy doing.

    The problem is … hard to explain. I think the closest anyone’s come (for me, at least) is Woody Allen, in “Annie Hall”:

    (From the script):

    MOTHER
    (To the doctor)
    He’s been depressed. All off a sudden,
    he can’t do anything.

    DOCTOR
    (Nodding)
    Why are you depressed, Alvy?

    ALVY
    (His head still down)
    The universe is expanding.

    DOCTOR
    The universe is expanding?

    ALVY
    (Looking up at the doctor)
    Well, the universe is everything, and if
    it’s expanding, someday it will break apart
    and that would be the end of everything!

    Disgusted, his mother looks at him.

    MOTHER
    (shouting)
    What is that your business?
    (she turns back to the doctor)
    He stopped doing his homework.

    ALVY
    What’s the point?

    MOTHER
    (Excited, gesturing with her hands)
    What has the universe got to do with it?
    You’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not
    expanding!

    DOCTOR
    (Heartily, looking down at Alvy)
    It won’t be expanding for billions of years
    yet, Alvy. And we’ve gotta try to enjoy
    ourselves while we’re here. Uh?

    He laughs.

  65. Kyllan, you said, “…or put more succinctly – there is nothing more to anything other than its physical properties. This is relevant to this discussion because it explains why I do not believe in a god, a soul or an afterlife.”

    I gotta draw your attention to Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) correlations (a/k/a “spooky action-at-a-distance”) if you’re not already aware of them.

    From my limited understanding, we may have souls, and the phenomenon could be somehow related to something like EPR correlations, I suspect.

    Not saying I believe we have souls, just that to discount something that hasn’t been discovered yet, merely because one believes it “isn’t physical” may be a bit … premature.

    My real point is that I think we are very, very far from anything even remotely resembling a full understanding of the Universe and its rules, so caution may be advised before ruling *anything* out.

  66. crookedshoes: you said, “The believers families complained about him and eventually he disappeared from the hospital.”

    Sort of makes me wonder if the “believers” really believed! Since if they did, the priest was spot-on (assuming the dying one was a believer also.)

    Or maybe they were just jealous of their dying loved one for getting to go to paradise while they were stuck here, and were mad that the priest was rubbing their nose in it! LOL

  67. Kyllan, you said: “…therefore why would there be a “meaning to life…””

    Again, I know it’s possible we do have a soul and continue to be conscious after our “death.” (I doubt it, but I’m not arrogant or ignorant enough to rule out the possibility.)

    Therefore, since we in general tend to give our life a great deal of meaning before our death, then it would stand to reason that we would continue to give meaning to our “life” (whatever form it took at that point) after “death,” if our consciousness does indeed somehow continue (which I doubt, but who knows?)

    What strikes me about you is this sort of certainty about what’s *not* true, and it seems quite similar to the certainty that theists have about what they think *is* true.

  68. That is an interesting theory, the EPR correlations. I read something about quantum entanglement a while back and I think it is related.

    Sure there is much to learn about the universe and quantum physics is pushing the boundaries of science and forcing us to rethink our existing theories about how things work. At the moment we don’t understand enough about phenomena like EPR correlations to fully explain how they work, but someday we might. However, just because something remains outside our current understanding doesn’t mean that it is not part of the physical world and I would be hesitant to say that it might be. That would be cutting it too close to explaining things using mysticism or magic (or religion for that matter).

    Until illustrated otherwise my bets are still on the theory that everything resides here in the physical world. Looking at the evidence known to me (and I must admit I’m not very knowledgeable on quantum science in general) it still seems more probable that physicalism holds. Like I said before however, it takes one solid piece of evidence to disprove it and I’ll abandon the theory of course. So I’m not ruling it out; it just seems fairly improbable that something like a soul exists outside the world.

    This is getting a little off topic though. Maybe you could start a discussion on physicalism in a separate thread? That would be interesting.

  69. Thank you for this. It is good to know I’m not alone in these feelings. You are right, it is definitely more “sadness” than “fear”.

    Funny thing is I’ve had that exact same thought when looking at cemeteries; it is disheartening to know that I’m just a meat computer that will someday literally become dust and that my consciousness will no longer be. This is a pretty macabre thought. It is the inspiration for many different works of art; so it must be a well-known feeling amongst many people. For example, read the lyrics to “Agalloch – In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion”.


    Fall. . .so shall we fall into the nihil?The nothingness that we feel in the arms of the paleIn the shadow of the grim companion who walks with us

    Something else you said also struct home. What is the point of even trying to achieve anything if you’re just going to die? This is something I consider all too often and it has a paralysing effect on my ability to make healthy choices and commit to achieving goals. Fighting this paralysis is part of the reason I started this discussion; perhaps someone has a practical method for combating it. I think this is what I will take from some of the replies suggesting to focus on the moment and live life to the fullest (like the one by QuestioningCat). It won’t take it away, but at least I may develop a healthy coping mechanism to fight the paralysis.

    Thank you again for your comprehensive reply.

  70. Kyllan: Wow. I must be a really bad communicator.

    To clarify, I am a pure physicalist. I don’t think anything can be understood (like quarks or souls or unicorns) with any method other than science (i.e. dream up a hypothesis and test its predictions experimentally.)

    You said you’re sad because you’re going to die & you can’t do all the things you want to do etc.

    I’m saying that maybe you’re not going to die; that there is a possibility (though I doubt it) that you have a “soul” (for lack of a better term) and your consciousness will continue after your “death.” And that EPR correlations suggest (from what I can tell) that this may be possible.

    And maybe that can help you to feel better about your existential angst. So I think it’s on-topic.

  71. You are right, as scientists we shouldn’t cling to any theory religiously. I don’t think I do though; I merely adhere to the one that seems most probable given the current evidence known to me. Picking the best theory and reacting to it in my experience gives the best results. Until of course a better theory comes along in which case I’ll pick that one and then this whole discussion might be become moot.

    I also don’t mean to make physicalism a necessary axiom for this discussion. If one can somehow reach this same state of mind/emotion without accepting physicalism then this discussion is still relevant. I stated it only to cast some light on where I’m coming from.

    I would very much like to discuss physicalism on its own on a thread similar to this one.

  72. Here’s another tidbit you can maybe use to help you feel better about your impending death: as you’re probably aware, regarding the death of a close friend, Michele Besso, Einstein wrote, “That [the death] signifies nothing. For us believing physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

  73. Kyllan: you said,  ” Fighting this paralysis … perhaps someone has a practical method for combating it.”

    Ah, I see what you’re after. Basically a way to block your view of the abyss.

    I can’t fault you for that. Though I must say that, for me, I’ve long ago given up on trying to ignore it or distract myself from it.

    It’s there, I’m rushing headlong towards it (as are we all), and I can’t stop thinking about it.

    If you come up with a trick to blot out that reality, please let me know.

  74. In response to your edit: I don’t mind labels – they’re words to describe things.

    I am a physicalist and by extension also an atheist. By definition god (or most of them) exists outside of this universe and even outside logic, so therefore clearly outside the theory of physicalism. So then you would call me a physicalist.However, even if physicalism is proven wrong I would still be an atheist. So then you would call me an atheist.Even knowing which one is the real one he will still need to do a lot of explaining before I might consider supporting his cause. So then, if he is the Christian god, you would call me a Satanist perhaps.This is all just Occam’s razor starting with physicalism and moving toward theism.I think agnostics give equal probability to the existence and non-existence of deities and thus do not have an opinion either way; this is not me. Agnosticism seems to me to be a simple miscalculation in probabilities :)

    We should probably move this to another discussion though. Just thought I’d answer your question.

  75. Kyllan – I am a physicalist and by extension also an atheist. By definition god (or most of them) exists outside of this universe and even outside logic, so therefore clearly outside the theory of physicalism. So then you would call me a physicalist.However, even if physicalism is proven wrong I would still be an atheist.

    I am also a materialist or – if you prefer a “physicalist” .

    The “gapologists” claims of vague deist gods hidden in gaps of knowledge “outside the universe/space/time/ logic etc”, is just the little “god” in their heads, looking for a place to hide where it will not be exposed as a powerless personal delusion, when its ego is posing as “master of the universe”!
    Where better to deflect observers attention, than to misdirect them to look at the far reaches of the universe light-years away from the real location!

    The world of materialist neuroscience  embraces and understands “spirituality”.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/re… –
    Although it is well established that all behaviors and experiences, spiritual or otherwise, must originate in the brain, true empirical exploration of the neural underpinnings of spirituality has been challenging. However, recent advances in neuroscience have started to make the complex mental processes associated with religion and spirituality more accessible.

    “Neuroimaging studies have linked activity within a large network in the brain that connects the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortexes with spiritual experiences,

     

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re…  –
    “We have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it’s not isolated to one specific area of the brain,” said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions.
    “Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain.
    Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.”

     

    “Spirituality” and “gods” are in the heads of believers or as subjective emotional feelings in the rest of us. If there were any “souls” they would be detectable as energy by physics, or as reactions in brain biochemistry.  No such “supernatural energies” are in evidence! – Just the ordinary complexities of physics and biochemistry. So “gods” and “spirituality” end in individual brain death.  If you think back to the evolution from single cells of our animal ancestors, this should be obvious.  (Despite the RC Church claims of  single-cell zygotes and blastocysts, being “ensouled at conception”. 

    Funny thing is I’ve had that exact same thought when looking at cemeteries; it is disheartening to know that I’m just a meat computer that will someday literally become dust and that my consciousness will no longer be.

    I think misgivings about death are part indoctrinated religious delusions, part lack of experience, fear of the unknown, and part modern life which isolates (city) people from much of life and nature. Our ancestors (as some remote tribes do today) lived with the death of members of their communities and hunted animals. 
    These things like human sickness and death are often hidden in homes or hospitals in modern city life, while animal sourced meat & fish, “appears” in shops from unknown sources.  Many people have very limited experience of mortality – sheltering them from the unpleasantness, but depriving them of mentally coming to terms with these facts. 

    So plan for a finite life span. Look for targets to achieve, and happily work with friends & family towards them, as far as you can.

  76. Dawnsend: I gotta draw your attention to Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) correlations (a/k/a “spooky action-at-a-distance”) if you’re not already aware of them.

    From my limited understanding, we may have souls, and the phenomenon could be somehow related to something like EPR correlations, I suspect.

    <to (like=”” a=”” am=”” any=”” anything=”” be=”” can=”” clarify,=”” don’t=”” i=”” method=”” or=”” other=”” physicalist.=”” pure=”” quarks=”” science=”” souls=”” than=”” think=”” understood=”” unicorns)=”” with=””>

    I used to have a similar view when I was a deist — that maybe there was some part of me that is completely different from the religious view of “soul” would live on. Unfortunately, all science has shown that our consciousness ends when our physical body ends. I also know that certain drugs, illnesses, medical procedures, etc. can cause my personality to change drastically. I can also undergo anesthesia and completely have no knowledge of what happened to me during the time I was under. It is these realities that have led me to believe that I will cease to exist upon death. Even if a small part of me were to continue on as some life force energy, my thoughts, feelings, experiences, and everything that makes up who I am is gone. I fully expect that death will be like anesthesia except I will never wake up. It is this reality that causes many atheists to have  an existential crisis, especially new atheists. I have also found that considering that there would be no continuation of life causes theists to think that all atheists would want to kill themselves because life would be pointless. I think many hang onto deism and the idea of an afterlife because it gives them hope and something to look forward to. Essentially they consciously chose a fantasy view of the end of life because thinking otherwise would be too difficult

    I have personally chosen to struggle through any concepts that kept me on the fence. That means I went through a dark depression when I fully accepted that my life would end in nothingness. I really should have gotten professional help, but how would they help with an existential depression?

    Kyllan: And maybe that can help you to feel better about your existential angst. So I think it’s on-topic.Something else you said also struct home.  (Is this really what you believe?) What is the point of even trying to achieve anything if you’re just going to die? This is something I consider all too often and it has a paralysing effect on my ability to make healthy choices and commit to achieving goals. Fighting this paralysis is part of the reason I started this discussion; perhaps someone has a practical method for combating it. I think this is what I will take from some of the replies suggesting to focus on the moment and live life to the fullest (like the one by QuestioningCat). It won’t take it away, but at least I may develop a healthy coping mechanism to fight the paralysis.

    Dawnsend: But as QuestioningKat continued, I soon realized that he/she also missed the point, from what I can tell.

    Considering the quote above, I think I’m pretty much on. The reality is, we are complex individuals. We may have an existential crisis, then be OK, then we are reminded of something, then we are fine. Some advice is good for now; other advice good for later. Knowing yourself takes time and effort.  I strongly suggest reading Eric Maisel and start paying attention to what is triggering emotional responses.

    If you are having a paralysing effect realizing you are just going to die, it may be due to not creating your own meaning in life or not acknowledging that you already have unconsciously assigned meaning to aspects of your life. When our belief system collapses, more than just our view about God gets lost. For some,the idea that we had a purpose determined by God gets lost. Some people like knowing a reason or purpose. Without it, they can get depressed. I realize some here will say– just live life and have a beer, but realize —all of us have intention even if we don’t acknowledge it. We have placed value onto some situations while we have ignored other situations. We have preferences to certain objects, people, places, etc. Some people may chose not to have it knowingly spelled out and if that works for them – OK. Others may need to make a conscious effort in reminding themselves why they are doing something. If the world/universe/life is ultimately meaningless, then it is up to us to create our own meaning. It is up to us to say, I enjoy this and this pursuit is worthy of my time. An atheist cannot blame a hurricane on gay marriage and must acknowledge that the storm is neutral. We assign meaning saying the weather is good or bad by giving the event meaning by giving it a story. Now that God is out of the picture, realize that what is left is neutral with no meaning. You can choose to see the situation as good/bad/right/wrong. You decide.

     </to>

  77. Kyllan: you said, “…You are right, as scientists we shouldn’t cling to any theory religiously.”

    I again mis-communicated. My apologies.

    In fact, I did not mean that you seem to irrationally adhere to physicalism. (I think physicalism is the only rational way to see the world, since after all, we have only our 5 senses with which to see it!)

    I meant that you seem to irrationally believe that things like “souls” could only exist supernaturally and therefore would be undetectable by normal scientific methods.

    I mentioned EPR correlations as a possible explanation for “souls” (if we indeed have them.) Hope this clarifies.

  78. QuestioningKat: you said, “Even if a small part of me were to continue on as some life force energy, my thoughts, feelings, experiences, and everything that makes up who I am is gone.”

    I think it may be possible (though I of course have absolutely no evidence!) that the totality of you may be contained somehow within each and every one of your neurons.
    Every thought, every memory, every belief, fear, hatred, prejudice, hope, dream, aversion, quirk, every-THING that makes you, “you.”

    We don’t know if some future technology will be capable of digging up a random grave, extracting a single, dead neuron, and replicating the entire consciousness of the person. We really don’t know.

    I doubt it very much – but my point is, it seems that atheists are very quick to label things as “impossible.”

    Reminds me of the close-mindedness of theists!

  79. Dawnsend,
    So, instead of saying something like “the totality of you may be contained somehow within each of your neurons” is “impossible”.  I will say to you that it is very very improbable…  And utterly untestable.   However, you are right, calling something impossible is sometimes myopic.  The thing is, proof is what is at a premium here in my “atheist world”. Proof.

  80. What about this?

    There’s a reasonable chance the universe is infinite, or there’s an infinite multiverse, or the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is true. If so, it makes the death of others maybe a little easier to bear. The people they would become if they didn’t die are alive and well in different universes, so nothing is really lost on a multiverse scale.

    What about me then? In an infinite multiverse I exist in infinitely many copies. I’m not one of them; I’m all of them, as “I” is in fact a particular brain pattern running in my brain, not the brain itself. I already have a small measure of immortality, because if some copies die without experiencing it, say during sleep, it makes no difference, really. 

    With a violent death, there will still be me, but without the memory of the violent death. Is that really me? Well, I’m sure I’ve lost entire days from my memory as it is, but I don’t think it makes much sense to say that the person who experienced those days is dead now. What are the chances humans can become immortal in the course of the next sixty years? I’d say it is non-zero, and that’s all I need to become immortal for certain.

    Well, maybe. It’s something.

  81. The nature of identity is what makes this a bit tricky to talk about. It’s an illusion, of course. There’s a continuity, mostly because of memory, and we call the continuity “I”. But without the memory, what is the “I”? I wish to live forever as well, but then what is it that we wish for, really? Say some historian comes up to you in ten thousand years and shows you a picture of a person, tells you a little about this person’s life, then tells you it’s you. You have no idea what he’s talking about, you can’t remember any of it, and the picture doesn’t even resemble you that much. If there’s no such thing as a soul, how is the person “you” exactly? And you wouldn’t want an infinite memory; you’d go insane. So sadly, immortality may be as incoherent a concept as god, it seems to me.

  82.   dawnsend – I think it may be possible (though I of course have absolutely no evidence!) that the totality of you may be contained somehow within each and every one of your neurons.Every thought, every memory, every belief, fear, hatred, prejudice, hope, dream, aversion, quirk, every-THING that makes you, “you.”

     

    We do know that neurons like all other cells in all living things, and all things which have lived, breakdown into basic atoms and molecules after death.  We also know that there is no Dinosaur DNA in fossils because even the DNA of preserved cells breaks down in time.

    We don’t know if some future technology will be capable of digging up a random grave, extracting a single, dead neuron, and replicating the entire consciousness of the person. We really don’t know.

    We certainly do know that this is wishful wild speculation, and that there is no evidence of memories being contained in individual neurons. ( Not to mention being irrelevant to the claimed general existence of “souls”)  The evidence is that it takes multiple parts of the brain working together, to generate any thoughts or memories, spiritual or otherwise. (As I pointed out and linked earlier – http://richarddawkins.net/disc… )
     

    I doubt it very much – but my point is, it seems that atheists are very quick to label things as “impossible.”

    When considering highly improbable speculations, there is a difference between a critical open mind, and a bucket with no lid, into which any nonsense can be poured! 

    (to Kyllan) I meant that you seem to irrationally believe that things like “souls” could only exist supernaturally and therefore would be undetectable by normal scientific methods.

    The supernatural is a paradox.
    If something has any effect in the material world, it is measurable and detectable by science and is “natural”. -
    If it has no effect, or no detectable effect, it is non-existent or irrelevant!

  83. (to Kyllan) I meant that you seem to irrationally believe that things
    like “souls” could only exist supernaturally and therefore would be
    undetectable by normal scientific methods.

    Actually, (correct me if I’m wrong) It is Dawnsend who has this view. She stated it to Kyllan as a reason to feel better/ have hope about life ending completely at death.

    Dawnsend,Let’s say at the end of my life, someone gets a hold of some of my DNA and clones me. One hundred fifty years from now I am reborn. Physically and genetically that may be “me” but all my experiences, family, situations, thoughts, remembered responses will be lost. This new me will not have any memory of me from 2013. It would be the same as any other person being born – not connected to me now; life would just continue on without me-Kathryn. I know that this will happen anyway. Seasons will turn, people will create new art, the young will grow, babies will be born.

    Why stretch the idea of a “soul” away from the religious definition? You’ve moved the goalpost.  Dawnsend, you have started with the concept of soul and tried to make science fit this idea. (Ok it’s early and I forget…what logical fallacy is this?) As A4D commented…. a bucket with no lid, into which any nonsense can be poured! With this logic, you can say anything is possible simply because it cannot be disproved. You could simply move the goalpost at any dispute that is said. (Actually, I would really like for you to call in the Atheist Experience and pose your ideas to Matt Dillahunty. Please do.)

    Kyllan, I would suggest you listen to the Maurice Sendak video here. If you’re not familiar with his books and illustrations, google him.

  84. QuestioningKat

     
    (to Kyllan) I meant that you seem to irrationally believe that things like “souls” could only exist supernaturally and therefore would be undetectable by normal scientific methods.

    Actually, (correct me if I’m wrong) It is Dawnsend who has this view.
    She stated it to Kyllan as a reason to feel better/ have hope about life ending completely at death.

    It was indeed from dawnsend – and if you look at my post it was in a list of quotes from dawnsend , but I clarified that it was directed to Kyllan rather than to me. Some posts get quite complicated.

    The rest of your post is a very good, clear explanation, of the wishful thinking of speculation which contradicts known science.

  85. Dawnsend,
    The thing about your BTK statement is, science was working on the technologies that lead to the breakthrough that allowed this “miracle” of science.  I understand your point from the standpoint that science of one decade can be unbelievable to previous decades.  However there is a huge huge point that must be made:  Whether DNA can be used as an identifier is TESTABLE.

    Your statement is not testable: it is simply manipulation of language to conjure up silly ideas.  I’ll demonstrate….

    “Technology will prove that cows prefer to ruminate in the zero gravity of deep space.”
    “Under communist regimes the main flora of the skin is Staphylococcus aureus while under democracies we will see Staphylococcus epidermidis.”
    “If evolution is true, we should see bacteria growing on the surface of the sun.”

    I could go on all day….. and not say a damn thing.  Statements about souls and “the entirety of you residing in one neuron” are not demonstrating the former but rather the latter.

  86.  But, Kyllan, Carto is a young genius yet to get the recognition he richly deserves. I feel confident like Nodhimmi that a happier acceptance awaits both he and yourself. Nor is genius a necessary element here. Reward for efforts expended can be tremendously restorative to one’s view of the world. Finding your little corner of it is a little bit tractable and that you have the ability to change it on your own or in concert with others can be very exciting indeed.

    My middling years seemed miserable with my un-analysed agnosticism. Now I have a vision of sitting at the most exciting known time in the Universe, the present, where we can see more, know and understand more because of the effort of all our antecedents who tweaked the world a little bit, inventing more compassionate and creative cultures for us to live in. Rightly or wrongly by seeing cultures as the (potentially) rational entity (they invented language, logic, science, justice…not any man or woman) we become part of this fantastic adventure, become part of the reason for its ongoing success.)

    Happiness is, though, a function of our brain chemistry and it is the dopamine rewards that will make us feel good. Personal success plugs straight in there. Societal, cultural success seems a bit more of a stretch. But brains reach out. The tools that we use soon become co-opted and are literal extensions of ourselves and becoming part of our current identity. The cultural tool of language we imagine, and live as if, it was our very own. Our cognition is not only embodied in our bodies but situated in our societies. Becoming engaged with our culture can open us to a myriad of rewards.

    Happiness is sometimes indicated as needing you to identify with something larger than yourself. Skydaddy or the culture of the naked ape is an easy choice. Only one gifted me the best seat in the house.

    As for personal death, it makes the days count, makes sweetness when it happens the sweeter. An infinity of possibility cheats us of any possible value.

  87. ” What is the point of even trying to achieve anything if you’re just going to die? This is something I consider all too often and it has a paralysing effect on my ability to make healthy choices and commit to achieving goals.”

    The point of the whole thing is up to you. Do you want to lay down in a bed and sit there until you grow old and die. Or do you want to try to do something you’d consider worth while with the time you have to exist. Or do you want to just take it easy and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. None of these choices are objectively better or worse then one another. You have to decide now and throughout your existence what type of life you want to live and what course of action makes you the happiest.

  88. Hi Kyllan, sounds to me like you’ve got a bit too much time on your hands already, never mind the infinite future, Carpe Diem dude, live forever in a moment and a lifetime everyday, only a fool believes in death, I’ve been immortal for the whole of my life so far and intend to continue being so for as long as I can! 

    Stop obsessing about all these pointless little ‘ists and isms’ and all the other artificial crap that people seem so desperate to cling to as signposts to their self evidently vital role in the universe. From the greatest world leaders to your own little self, we are all just pointless little blips in an unimaginable vastness of time; get over it, live or die, the universe doesn’t care and neither does any God. This knowledge is true freedom if you know how to handle it (and if not, too bad, the truth is what it is). The world is stuffed full of wonders and beauty, stop gazing into your navel and get out there and experience as much of it as is available to your ingenuity and, if along the way, you can find even one or two people who you can love and who can love you then, my friend, you have lived! 

  89. crookedshoes: Your analogies don’t seem relevant to my neuron fantasy.

    Either our consciousness is contained holographically in a single neuron (or a bunch of them) or it’s not. 

    As for being testable, no of course it’s not testable today. 

    But if some day they dig you up & analyze your neurons and re-create your consciousness in some kind of computer, then that would be the test of course.Not sure what we’re arguing about. Are you saying all that’s not possible, ever? Or are you saying it’s silly to talk about since it’s so science-fictiony/far-fetched? Or what? I don’t know what point your’e trying to make.The only reason I brought it up is because Kyllan asked for ways to overcome his sadness about his impending death, and I use this sort of thought-process to make myself feel better. (“Cheer up, Self! Maybe they’ll dig you up some day & re-create your consciousness in an iPhone v3847!”)

  90. QuestioningKat: it sounds to me like you and A4D are saying that our consciousness ends at death, and that is that, it is 100% true and it’s signed, sealed and delivered. If that’s what you both are basically saying, then that is an irrational view to have, since there’s no way (at this time) to know that for sure.

  91. QuestioningKat: regarding clones: of course your clone is not you. Your clone is essentially your identical twin, regardless of when the clone’s created (in the womb with you, or 1000 years later, using your DNA.)

    Our consciousness appears to be the entire electro-chemical arrangement of certain of the neurons in our brain at any given instant in time.

    Since the brain is constantly changing itself based on new input, of course your clone’s (twin’s) consciousness would be completely different from yours.

    As for talking about things being possible no matter how flaky & weird they may seem (“Hey, Orville.” “Yes, Wilbur?” “Let’s build a machine to fly like birds.”) – well, if someone doesn’t understand why that’s ok to do, I would simply have no words for them. I would be speechless.

    This insistence that our consciousness ends at death (and will always end at death) seems to me as closed-minded as a religious person’s insistence that is does NOT end at death. There simply is no way to know either way. Taking either position is irrational.

  92. QuestioningKat: you said, “(Actually, I would really like for you to call in the Atheist Experience and pose your ideas to Matt Dillahunty. Please do.)”

    Why would I want to do that? Do you mean he will convince me that consciousness absolutely, definitely, fer-sure ends at death? Or what?

  93. Dawnsend,
    I am not really arguing with you about anything.  

    But you do hit the nail on the head when you call this idea a fantasy.  My analogies are trying to illustrate that just because you can say something in a sentence that makes grammatical sense; it does not mean that it makes any scientific sense whatsoever.

    Simply setting up a dichotomy is not testing something.  Also, dead is dead.  

  94. Dawnsend,
    Another thing.  Just because you set it up so that there are two choices in a given scenario does not mean that the two choices are equally weighted as far as probability is concerned.  to dismiss “eternal life” or “eternal consciousness” as impossible may be irrational but to weight it as equally probable as the alternative is not fair either. 

  95.  dawnsend, You are asserting a positive that souls or an afterlife exists. The burden of proof is on your side. You are correct; I cannot disprove the idea of a soul. It would be great if it were true, but everything points to our lives ending and our need to make this life the best life. Is a soul possible? Yes of course it is possible. It is also possible that there are invisible machines floating around and speaking to people. I have seriously met these people. I cannot disprove this either. If you were to claim that you had a dog and I saw no evidence that you owned I dog I could still never disprove you. You could simply move the goalpost. I could stop by your home and comment that there are no hairs, bowls, toys, food, photos, leashes, dumps in the yard…and you could say well he’s staying with a friend out-of-state for the next week. If he is not there the following week, you could say that he is at the vet’s recovering from surgery. There is no evidence for a soul. The burden of proof is on the person making a positive claim.

    To compare the idea of a soul to the human invention of the airplane…really? Consider the evidence the Wright brothers and many other inventors also experimenting with a flying machine had that showed flight was possible? They had plenty of evidence– physics, bird anatomy, small flying objects, hot air balloons, kites, models, and an understanding of the physical world. They also had an understanding of the materials to work with and were able to build upon existing knowledge from previous generations. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E

    I mentioned calling the Atheist Experience because your view is full of logical fallacies. They are quite skilled at getting to the core issue…much better than I am. Since I sense that this conversation will go nowhere and to keep it on topic with the original post. I will no longer discuss whether or not a soul exists. If you can show why believing in a soul is important to living right now and why this belief is relevant to the original post, then continue on.

    Anyway to pull this post back onto topic…we have today and our physical life here on this planet and it is a wonderful place. In the words of JonP “The world is stuffed full of wonders and beauty, stop gazing into your
    navel and get out there and experience as much of it as is available to
    your ingenuity and, if along the way, you can find even one or two
    people who you can love and who can love you then, my friend, you have
    lived! ” To put your faith into the possibility of a soul, is like hoping for a party to happen one day while a party is already going on. Yes this life has it’s ups and downs, but this world and life is so unbelievably incredible.

  96. Both of my parents died before 60 and none of my grandparents made it past 40 and I have no siblings . I’m an atheist and always have been, no matter what stupid people say that I have decided because of my bad circumstances. I have resolved to have the best possible time during th years that I probably have left, genetically. If I’m making a bad bet, well then I’m winning the unlucky lottery, and living broke thorugh my 70′s. People just dont understand that I can be happy now at 35, knowing that I’m never going to be 100, and being at peace and happy with that and loving a fun life while I can. It makes me infinitely angry that everyone wants to project their terrible psychobabble onto me when I am completely happy but also able to understand that life is short and I want to use it all. One of my good friends said that I’m mad at my mother for leaving me? I don’t even know what to say to these people? It’s absolute retardation. I’m sick of pretending that every view has some meaning.

  97. Hi Kyllan, I was brought up atheist, so I never had to contend with disappointment about mortality, it was always simple and obvious.  Still, as I am triple your age, perhaps I can help you by high-lighting the alternative.  If you really picture what it means to live forever, you will see that this alternative is worse than death.  Try to really imagine, in detail, a life without end, and you will come to see it for a futile and wearying dream.  Change itself withers and palls over time, beauty dwindles, and even love erodes, notwithstanding romantic twaddle about “forever.” Sadness is the honest man’s portion.  Pride in your own strength to look at things as they are helps a little.  Living each moment so as to minimize regret helps a lot.  Standing up straight, looking at things levelly, you may see the ugly along with the lovely, but you see the truth.  There are many things we want very much that we can never have:  justice from the world towards ourselves, for example. Here’s what we can do:  we can square our shoulders, and live without, and strive to make the lives of others as just and as long as possible.

  98. the “most entertaining reply” prize

    Hey, thanks Kyllan, you just made my day.   See, the small things can make a difference.

    And I was wondering if I wasn’t being a bit harsh.  

    There’s clearly more to you than you revealed in your original post, so I’m willing to bet you’ll hit a point where you stop spinning your wheels and head off in some definite direction, full throttle, with a song on your lips and joy in your heart.   You’ll know the moment when it happens, just remember not to resist it.   Good luck.

  99.  

    you’ll hit a point where you stop spinning your wheels and head off in
    some definite direction, full throttle, with a song on your lips and joy
    in your heart. You’ll know the moment when it happens, just remember not to resist it.  

     
    Very nice OHooligan. No need to go to church on a Sunday– wise words at the RD atheist lounge.

  100. dawnsend

    it sounds to me like you and A4D are saying that our consciousness ends at death, and that is that, it is 100% true and it’s signed, sealed and delivered. If that’s what you both are basically saying, then that is
    an irrational view to have, since there’s no way (at this time) to know that for sure.

    The evidence of the laws of thermodynamics, and other aspects of physics and biochemistry indicate it is about 99.99% certain that there is no surviving energy or structure of mental activities of the brain following a time lapse after death.

    You on the other hand are claiming it is more “rational” to back the ≈ 0.01% chance that some “new physics may turn up to permit that speculation to happen.
    This strikes me as being like the person who jumps from a tenth-floor window in the expectation that some “new-physics” will refute Newton, before they reach the ground! 

    The idea of wasting my whole life on some quest for the remote possibility of a mythical afterlife seems ludicrous.  The fact that deluded people have repeatedly asserted the existence of “souls” (frequently in ludicrous RCC forms which intrude into moral decisions) , has over centuries, not produced one scrap of evidence of their existence, but has produced many claims which contradict established science!

    To the scientifically informed and numerate, all probabilities are not equal, and neither are all opinions. The critical rational mind evaluates the evidence and the probability of claims.

  101. I really do not understand your concern with death in the future.. I just live every day to the fullest I possibly can..
    I plan to do a great many things that are currently possible for me to actually do (sure there will be things I cannot do) but there are no shortage of things for me to complete and experience in my life rather than worry about things i might never get chance to experience, such as visiting mars etc…. 

    I’m 41 and I’ve been athiest since I was a child of around 4-5 when i was already able to see the unfeasability of god and religion.. my parents never had any religious leanings (nor were they in any form vocally athiest either) as i grew up so there were no religious influences on me as a child (i count myself very fortunate in this respect)… 

    so as an athiest I can also happily accept that some day i will die, but its not something i dwell on at all.. (it could come tomorrow .. who knows?)
    So why not try to focus on the great things you might do today and tomorrow for humanity and the next generation, and as others say aim to leave some sort of positive legacy of your time here..

    Regards Andy

  102. QuestioningKat: you said, “You are asserting a positive that souls or an afterlife exists.”  

    No, I’m not. The fact that you believe I am, shows that you either didn’t read what I wrote, or didn’t understand it.

    Either way, I have discovered on this site that interacting with atheists gives me the same nauseating feeling that I get when interacting with Baptists. <burp>  

    Bye, everyone. Enjoy your certainty.</burp>

  103. Bye Bye.  How convenient.  Get cornered by logic and burp your way out of the discussion to keep from being wrong.

    Back to the OP.

    Kyllan,
    This was a very enjoyable topic and the posts were excellent.  I just bitch slapped an NRA gun control shit head on another website and afterwards, I rushed back here to share with everyone that I found another awesome reason to be alive!!!!

    Being correct and trapping the incorrect in logic loops of their own creation is a delight that makes it all worthwhile.

    Thanks everyone for the content that I have read here.  (Even Dawnsend) who, I think was pretty entertaining.  Sorry you had to run away, mate.

  104. Dawnsend

    I think you tried to make Kyllan feel better , I give you that.

    And also I loved the Annie Hall story. Next time someone asks me why I’m feeling down, I know what to say , its because the universe is expanding. Funny

    Your surely a computer programmer , your opening and closing burp syntactic statement is admirably consistent..

  105. dawnsend
    This insistence that our consciousness ends at death (and will always end at death) seems to me as closed-minded as a religious person’s insistence that is does NOT end at death. 

    … But that could only be because you failed to understand the scientific evidence which refuted your wild speculation about neurons! 
    Evidenced claims are NOT of equal probability with unevidenced claims

    There simply is no way to know either way. Taking either position is irrational.

    This is just an irrational assertion!  – Without checking the scientific evidence I have given – how could you know??

    Think about this analogy!

    (My computer has had all its insulation burnt away and its wiring is a puddle of metal in the bottom of the case, but my bucket of wishful thinking says it still works, so anyone who says this is nonsense, must be irrational!  – I WANT to believe it is possible – so it must be! )

    Brain circuitry also fails when its components and chemical composition fall apart!

    dawnsend

      QuestioningKat: you said, “You are asserting a positive that souls or an afterlife exists.” 

    No, I’m not. The fact that you believe I am, shows that you either didn’t read what I wrote, or didn’t understand it.

    You were certainly asserting that “souls” or an afterlife, could exist, so asking for supporting evidence is reasonable, and denial is not!

    Either way, I have discovered on this site that interacting with atheists gives me the same nauseating feeling that I get when interacting with Baptists. < burp> 

    It’s probably the embarrassment of making up nonsense on a science site, failing to produce evidence or a reasoned argument, and having no answers to the scientific refutations of the nonsensical claims!

    Bye, everyone. Enjoy your certainty.< /burp>

    Oh dear!  No answers showing an understanding of  PROBABILITY, when there could have been a reasonable scientific discussion about why your neuron claims don’t work!

    Never mind!  I’ve tidied up anyway, and the “rational burps” are quite entertaining!

  106. Maybe too late to reply to dawnsend, but anyway….

    I quite agree that there is a tad too much certainty round here.  Let us take a moment to bow our heads and humbly acknowledge that we don’t know everything.   Then raise our heads and proudly acknowledge that we still know a damn sight more than anyone a hundred, a thousand, or two or ten thousand years ago, verified again and again by stuff all around us that Actually Works.

    Then get back to finding out more, rejoicing in the certainty that there’s always more to find out.

  107. Interesting that you mention big brains, Vonnegut also discusses that in Galapagos, comparing our big brains to the cumbersome antlers of the Irish Elk which led to its extinction. Vonnegut is a great source of atheist spirituality.

    I’m a 33 year old male, so that is just past the adrenaline/testosterone peak. I’m much calmer about death, not so paranoid in a way that would have benefited my tribe in older times.

    I like Aubrey de Grey as he rejects austere longevity methods like the CRON (calorie restriction, optimum nutrition) diet. CRON works but life without Guinness, pasta, and sex?!  A good site for transhuman news is singularityhub.com. They have a very measured enthusiasm for discoveries and predictions.

  108. In short, Kyllan, no. I am grateful for the short time I have on this planet. I am saddened by our continued destruction of its’ beauty. When I die, I won’t have to think about that anymore. That will bring me peace.

  109. “How can we hear about how rovers are driving around on Mars, imagine what it would be like to go there someday, realise that we will never experience it in our lifetime and then deal with the inevitable feelings of missing out on something great?”
    But you’re not going to go there even if heaven and all that actually existed. So this isn’t an atheism vs religion question, just a question of how to cope with eventually dying.

    By the way, why on earth would you want to visit mars? Isolation, radiation sickness, Alzheimers, malnutrition, lack of exercise, bone atrophy, barren and unliveable landscape would await you. 
    Just to say you’ve been there? That would surely be a bit ego-centric, especially given the huge cost and fuel, and putting others’ lives in danger in accompanying you.

  110. Hi Kyllan. One way of understanding this problem is through understanding the mind/ego construct where the dilemma you talk about is formed. It is only the mind that fears death
    and annihilation. The mind knows the body is impermanent which is why it
    creates concepts of to how it can survive death – perhaps through historical
    longevity, the family, religious beliefs and even through science.

       
    The mind as a necessary survival tool presents no problem, but the mind
    as a phenomenon believing itself to be a real entity and through adopting the
    inevitable mortality of the body as something it has to avoid, has
    created an ego structure of beliefs and concepts describing an identity that
    must survive at all costs. It is only the ego/mind that fears death – and what
    is so strange is that it is only a construct and has never existed as a
    reality, only as an idea.
        I like the old story of a person who asked a wise man ‘Why am I unhappy?’ He replied ‘Because most of the time you are thinking about your self, and there isn’t one. 

  111. Hi Kyllan.

    The short answer about your intellect enduring beyond your own death, is to leave some knowledge, writings, or constructions, which will be valued by future generations: – as many great scientists have done.

    It is also a good idea to avoid leaving suffering, hardship, or problems, to present or future generations, as many politicians, business tycoons,  and religious leaders have done!

  112. Kyllan,

    “How do we as atheists reconcile our own complexity as human beings with our limited life span?”

    I don’t understand this question. It’s like asking, ‘How do we as atheists reconcile the fact that we have two legs with our limited life span?’ Having evolved to a certain degree of complexity does not contradict mortality.

    “How do we stave off the depression caused by the simultaneous knowledge of our ability to experience and enjoy life so deeply and that of our impending doom?”

    When you have no choice you make do as best you can. Since we all have to die we can either put this knowledge to the back of our minds and get on with things or we can let that thought ruin everything, like an impending trip to the dentist. However, this is not really much of a choice. Forgetting is clearly better, though occasionally remembering you are going to die reminds you not to take things for granted and adds some spice to life. 

    Of course, if you are willing to lie to yourself and say that death isn’t really death but ‘the afterlife’ (ha ha!), then you have solved your dilemma. However, this may leave you feeling a bit ashamed of yourself. Self-deceit can have a bitter taste. 

    “How can we hear about how rovers are driving around on Mars, imagine what it would be like to go there someday, realise that we will never experience it in our lifetime and then deal with the inevitable feelings of missing out on something great?”

    I hate reading about men who are sleeping with beautiful women. All those lovely women I will never kiss! But part of growing up is learning that you can’t have everything you want. I stopped letting such things worry me when I was 15.

    “These feelings may very well be a great contributor to the fact that modern people cling to religion”. 

    I agree.

    “It annoys me greatly when people say “I can die now; I’ve had a full life”. I personally feel that I’m living with the infinite regret of having to die in the infancy of my mind’s lifespan. I’m not in any way saying that there is no enjoyment in life because it is going to end, but that looming sadness that gnaws at me constantly does make it less enjoyable. I also fear that these feelings will only get stronger as I grow older.” 

    Apparently Joseph Conrad became really depressed when he was told that the universe would run down in so many billions of years. The truth is, as John Maynard Keynes once said when asked about the long term, ‘In the long term we are all dead’. In the same way you have had to get over the fact you can’t fly or run at 100mph, so you will have to get used to the fact that you can’t live forever. And be grateful to lady luck that you live in a prosperous country at a prosperous time and that you didn’t die at the age of 6. 

    One final thought. I think people with big egos find it harder to die than others. To someone whose only interest is himself then dying will feel like a catastrophe. However, if over the course of your life you have developed some interests, then the knowledge that these things will continue after you die (your children, the stars, Manchester United F.C, the Enlightenment project) is some consolation. I suspect that the less you think of yourself and absorb yourself in things that are not you, the easier it is to die with some equanimity…I hope.

  113. Well, you cannot live without reasoning as your letter itself reveals.

    You do not have to believe in anything; just as you cannot be called upon to prove a negative, e.g. as in being challenged to prove that a god (any god), does not exist. But, reason is not an optional extra, it is a fundamental attribute of man like breathing. It is to mind what water is to swimming. Imagine how long you will survive if you systematically disregard, deny and ignore the relation between cause and effect, and you will instantly see why reason is a fundamental attribute of the human condition.

    Accepting this indisputable fact about the nature and primacy of reason in your life, establishes a way of at least giving you a fundamental yardstick and cleaver about what you must not choose to believe in. Specifically, all human action is based on, or informed by either reason or faith—a straightforward dichotomy. And, the reason why you should reject faith in any form is because faith destroys reason.

    Think for yourself: you have an inbuilt capability to do so, all it needs is a little practice to attain the mental fitness to do so. The more you rely on reason, the less you will panic about what to believe in ‘out there’.

    Reason functions by integrating perceptual data into concepts, a process that is the foundation of the most important integrations you perform to act in the world, to know things about the world and to form your values. Thus, by your intrinsic nature, you cannot choose to live without a philosophy, you can only choose which philosophy you live by.

    If you don’t think for yourself; if you don’t make up your own mind, someone else will quickly step in to tell you what to think and believe, thereby taking control of your life. And, for this ‘service’ (Sic!), they will always try and make you pay a material price or in some or other way, convince you to transfer some of the wealth you create by your effort to them and their life’s enterprise. (I believe 10% commission for thinking for you is the common minimum price for this unholy bargain.)

    Deluding others is a highly profitable business.

    Deluding yourself is comfortable foolishness that instantly destroys your integrity and dignity.

    Just do it: make reason your absolute.


    For the above, I acknowledge my indebtedness to Ayn Rand.

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