Extrange

Gaps of the Godless, Part 2: What happens when you die?

Thu, 3 May 2012 | robert

Until Atheism can cater for the psychological requirements of man, it will remain unpopular

Atheism makes perfect sense. It is simple, and elegant, and beautiful. It really is.

It's just not very nice. It doesn't listen to you when you're troubled. It is not in control, like Allah. You cannot give it your burden when you are weary, as you can Jesus. It will not show you how to be at peace, as the Buddha does.

But I can. Many people can. And I'm not going to try to convince you that my imaginary friend is real, or tell you incredible stories of miracles to convince you that I am right and the next guy is wrong. I am going to tell you some genuinely useful stuff.

And, what's more, you don't even need to be an Atheist to do this stuff.

What happens when you die?

Before I give you the bad news, I want to mention the good news, and I'll come back to this in a moment. The good news is that you are part of something much bigger than yourself. It is very important, not just for this topic, but for everything you do, so please remember it. You are part of something much bigger than yourself.

Now for the bad news: Whether we like it or not, the same thing will happen to you as happened to both Mother Theresa and Adolf Hitler. And Mohammed, and the Buddha, and Jesus, and Elijah, along with everyone you know who has died. First, you will probably feel a sense of euphoric sameness with the universe, and profound peace. That's your brain shutting down. And then you will lose consciousness. And after that, nothing. It will be just like it was before you were conceived.

You can't remember before you were conceived? Nobody else can either. (Some people think, after regressive hypnosis, that they can remember events that happened to them before they were born into their current life, but these are constructed memories, based on imagination, and not first-hand experience. Yes, really. Hypnosis can do that. It's a very powerful tool, but it's important to know what it's good for, and what it's not.)

But before I digress too badly, let's get back to the good news; the bit about your being part of something much bigger than yourself.

After you are gone, there are things that live after you. Firstly, the memories of you in the minds of the people you have left behind; your family, your friends, colleagues and people who knew you. In most cases these will be good memories. Most people are good people, and even the ones who aren't all that good are usually loved by their families. I'm sure your family loves you no matter how good or bad you are. After we are gone, we are missed.

There is something more important that lives after us though; the effects of everything we have done.

You are a part of humanity. We can zoom out, and say that you are a part of the universe, but that's too broad. Or we can zoom in and say that you are a part of your civilization, your nation, your community, your family, but that is zooming in too far, and missing the point. Humanity is the perfect zoom level. You are not a big part of humanity. At the time of writing there are about seven billion humans alive. That is more humans alive right now than the total of all those who have died up until now. It makes you feel small. But you are not insignificant. Whatever it is that you do is helping humanity, or hindering it, but probably a little bit of both. The sum total of what you have done throughout your life will be the only important thing after your have died, because there is going to be a lot of future compared to the brief period you're actually alive for.

That's the bottom line; everything you do is more important than anything else about you.

If you want to live forever then do the best you can for humanity. Not just for your family -- don't neglect them, of course -- but it's about more than them. Not just for your nation. Do what will be best for everyone.

That is your immortality. That is the only immortality.

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