As an atheist, I am always interested in a healthy debate about the existence, or non-existence of god, and all that comes with it. In a conversation that I had this week, with a good friend of mine, she made a comment about her Dad, who passed away last year, looking down and laughing at her. Knowing that I do not believe that to be possible, she said that she felt sad for me. I, of course, explained to her why there was no reason to be sad for me, and why my way of thinking is the ultimate peace of mind. I don’t claim to speak for all atheists, but in a nutshell, this is my explanation.
I believe that when a person dies, they just cease to exist. No after-life, and no heaven or hell. The light just goes out……..for good. Most believers find that kind of thinking just as sad as my friend does. The reason for that sadness is because of years and years of conditioning, combined with a complete inability to consider any alternative possibilities. It’s these alternative ways of thinking that make the life of THIS atheist, far better than any believer could possibly imagine.
For starters, I don’t go through my life worrying about whether or not the things I do are a sin or not, and whether I will have to ask for forgiveness for them later. I have a much better concept, whereas I choose to just be a good person. Not because I want my golden palace and eternal life when I die, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. What a novel idea. Conversely, the fear of burning in hell for eternity doesn’t fuel my good behavior either. I certainly don’t find the idea of using reward or punishment as motivation for being good, a viable tool unless it’s for a child. Insert completely sarcastic comparison here. Ultimately, I believe that people would be far better off if they just wanted to do the right things in life because they were the right things to do. Especially when this is the ONLY life you have. Great segue.
Imagine, for a second, that someone you have known and loved your whole life, was going to be the first person ever to go on a never ending trip through space. You would never be able to see them or talk to them again. Wouldn’t you attempt to do as much with that person as you possibly could before they left? Now, imagine that you were the one going on that trip. Wouldn’t you try to see and do all the things you wanted to, with as many of the people you consider important in your life? I’m sure the answer to both of these questions would be yes. That is exactly the way an atheist goes through their life. Living our lives to the fullest because we accept the fact that our time is limited. We have only this one life, and it is incumbent on each and every one of us to maximize it. In doing this, you remove any excuses from the equation. You do the best you can with what you have. No regrets. I guess that would make Bobby Valentine an atheist. Huh? Oh nevermind.
In the end, I could say that I feel just as sad for believers, as they do for me. Needing a set of guidelines to be a good person, instead of doing it out of common sense. Believing that you will see someone you love in the after life, while simultaneously crying about all the things you wished you had said and done with that person. That makes no sense. That should be something an atheist does, because we know we won’t have another chance. For a believer, that seems hypocritical. In my opinion, a true believer shoud never cry at the passing of someone. If I believed in the heaven that a believer does, and my Dad passed away, I would be completely psyched. I would be calling everyone I know to tell them the great news. “Dude, my Dad went to heaven. How awesome is that? Lucky bastard. If you can see me right now, Dad, how many fingers am I holding up?” All the while laughing my ass off. That would be awesome. That’s not what happens though. Everything about the believers beliefs is a giant contradicion and is completely confusing. When the people I hold most dear to me meet their end, I will hope that I have done all that I can with them, and also that they know what they meant to me. If not, that will truly be a reason to be sad.