Monday, February 21st, 2011
By George F. Hart
In response to the slide show on ‘Science and Religion: an unnecessary conflict‘ my friend Bill Ross, recently brought up the question of how I view ‘death’ within my own belief system. Like all belief systems one view may be correct and the other incorrect but they cannot both be correct – although they can both be wrong. This, of course, is the reason for the tension amongst belief systems.
The questions raised were essentially:
How do I face life without religion to comfort me?
How can I face death without believing in an afterlife?
How can I make sense out of the death of a young child?
Why am I not terrified by having no answer to these questions?
I believe we can face all of these things once we accept we are part of the continuum that is our Universe. We live a life [even maybe only for six months in the womb] that is merely a changing combination of atoms within the physical form of a human being, and then those atoms pass forward as a continuum of matter and energy, taking on another form, and then another, and then another until the end of our Universe. Our physical form is only transient.
Similarly, since the moment we were born our mind has had an effect on everyone we interact with, maybe initiating a major change or maybe having an almost imperceptible impact like a single atom brushing against your cheek in a strong wind. But the effects of our mind and our body continue because life is not innovative but is a legacy system. It builds upon what went before and for the future we are what went before.
This is why I am fearless of those questions. I do not want to die because my id and ego is enjoying this brief moment but death holds no mystery and no fear.
My friend points out that in the book ‘The Secret Sorrow: A Memoir of Mourning the Death of God”, Jay E. Valusek, an identical view of our bodies being part of our ever changing Universe is put forward [now I must read that book!], and notes “I guess I occasionally have a sense for that while hiking in the wilderness ... but most of the time I sense no connection to my atoms, my cells, or even my body! Our ids seem to be completely unaware of, or personally connected to, our complex bodily selves. So it's our id that we so desperately want to see continue. We are humans. Therefore we care about wanting to continue. Trees are not afflicted with such feelings. And these feelings are both a curse and the stuff of living that comprise a full human life. That's the trade-off I say yes to.” [br]
But in a universal sense trees do have feelings! In my eBook [page 65] I note that “Once logic was established [in our Universe] the other traits associated with humanity could be derived: honesty, work motivation, preferential love, a sense of fairness and of justice. All of these have distinct counterparts in a single cell, where chemical affinity equates with preferential love, chemical reaction with work motivation, and, chemical binding with honesty.” The specifics may be wrong but the idea is correct! I do not imply that our cells and inanimate objects have the same feelings as human beings but the origins of our emotions and feelings have a deep origin in the evolution of matter in our Universe.
This has led to the question of ‘equal rights i.e. the “ideas have broad moral implications. If all of life has characteristics comparable to humans then the lowliest creatures deserve equal rights, yes?” [br]
Fundamentally, I agree with this but equal rights for one species or object [i.e. a rock] is not the same – it is equal rights within each set within which the objects exists. The concept of equal rights is a human construct based upon semantics and definitions. Humans legislate equal rights, lions do the same thing in the old fashioned way; strength, cunning and sexual favors: it is meritocracy at work – like in the olden days “Woman! Me big, me strong, we breed“. Crude but effective throughout nature and humankind’s early history.
Deep down all of matter simply follows the Law of Actualism! Of course, the other laws of nature also play a part: but everything, first and foremost, is part of it’s environment and reaches stability [it's equal right] by interaction between the individual object and the environment.
I do not know whether this is a satisfactory explanation for others who better understand what humanity really is but it is currently my personal belief system. Bill notes: “There is just one compelling theme I care about in all of this discussion: how to deal with death without religion (and knowing my atoms will continue doesn't help me). For me I deal with it by accepting the pain and sadness of knowing that death is a tragic loss with the incredibly compelling drama of a life with a definite expiration date and thus proportionally precious”
This is a very human viewpoint which I understand, but my personal problem is that when you live without fear you also live without some forms of love. I do not believe that people who have religion do any better than people who do not have religion: neither in their personal life or interaction with others. Do religious folk really think that after death they are going to a place where they will meet all the friends and relatives that they had in our world? Or, is the ability to believe simply a consequence of the evolutionary process i.e. it has an evolutionary advantage as far as consciousness is concerned and that is why it is so prevalent? If so why do some people have belief in God and others do not?
Ref: filed under slide shows: this site: