Uncommon Sense

January 22, 2021

On Death and Dying . . . and Religion

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:42 am
Tags: , ,

Create Your Own Religion: A How-To Book Without Instructions by [Daniele Bolelli]I have been reading Create Your Own Religion: A How-To Book Without Instructions by Daniele Bolelli which is very thought provoking; I am sure to be commenting upon it quite a bit. Currently I am reading a segment on god and the afterlife and what role they will play in the religion I create.

The author ends up in a fairly good position, namely: The long loop of my personal experiences brings us back to our starting point: we have no certain answers about the afterlife one way or the other. Anyone claiming to know otherwise is trying to sell us something. And yet, death is too big of a topic to ignore. While the nature of death is a mystery, the fear of death is as real and concrete as it gets, so it needs to be addressed.

I can accept that death is possibly too big of a topic to ignore, but in getting to that point he also wrote this: “There is no greater source of anxiety for human beings than the inevitability of death.

and this:

We hardly know the first thing about death, so how is logic going to explain it all?”


We don’t know the first thing about death? I think he just tripped over his intellectual feet. We are experts on death. We have explored myriad ways to kill people. We can do large numbers or small, overtly or subtly. We know how to create near-death experiences, so suitable when torturing someone. We pay large sums of money to merchants of death.

We have studied it scientifically. We know what happens to our heart and brains when we die. We know the decomposition processes by which the atoms of dead animals are recycled/reused. There is no other topic I can think of that we know more about than death.

I suspect he was thinking about the so-called “after life.” That we know nothing about.

The human capability that most makes us human is our imagination. We notice that some people are better than others. In our imaginations, we think that there are some people, who are not right here to be examined, who are probably even better, and we like to carry things to extremes, so we ask ourselves “Is there somebody who is best?” And the answer, of course, is “gods.”

We think about being born, growing up, growing older, growing old, and then dying and the refrain of the song “Is that all there is . . .” is playing in the background. Well, either it is the end for you and your “legacy/memories” are carried by subsequent generations or in physical works (art, books, etc.) . . . or our imagination tells us “No, that’s not the end, there is life after death.”

Whenever we get carried away and take things to extremes we end up at an absolute and nature tells us, loud and clear, “There Are No Absolutes.”

As to “There is no greater source of anxiety for human beings than the inevitability of death.” If you were to add up all of the times I have spent considering the inevitability of my own death, you would only need a stop watch. Now that I am old enough to die, were I rich, I would just hire someone to mop up after me when I go. But, I am not rich, so I have to do all of the planning myself. And that  planning is what has taken up the bulk of the time I have spent considering my own death.

Now, granted, I have lived in an age when life has not been precarious, for some of us anyway. Compared to many, my life has been easy. I even have the cultural advantages of being tall, white, and male that, I am sure, have greased my skids from time to time. If my neighborhood had a large population of prowling predators with a taste for man-flesh, it would probably be different. But it hasn’t and I don’t see that a person’s death should require more religious services than a person’s birthday party. Hello? We all die. All of us. Death is the Great Leveler. Rich people die and poor people die. Brilliant people die and stupid people die. We all die. It is as normal as a birthday party. There is just a larger volume of trash to take out on that day.

This sounds a touch like the apologist’s strategy of accepting everything their religion does as being right and proper and then finding reason after reason why it must be that way. But in the case of death, when other animals die, their bodies lay where they have fallen and nature takes back what was hers. At one time I wondered why the woods weren’t full of deer antlers. So many die naturally. Studies then show that those antlers are good sources of minerals for quiet a few species and they get eaten. All of those atoms are not going to waste, they are being reused. The process is not scared, it requires no rituals so that supernatural custodians clean up the mess made by those deaths. It has all been taken care of. But somehow, someone has convinced most people in our society that you have to spend many thousands of dollars on burials, coffins, services, parties, etc. Unlike weddings, a ceremony at which a party is an appropriate way to send a couple off to a new phase of their lives, dead people don’t care. But there was money to be made, so priests/shamans are hired to scare away demons and make sure the newly dead person’s “immortal soul” makes its way to its proper place and to make sure they don’t hang around as disturbing ghosts.

Can you spell scam, boys and girls?

I will make arrangements to have my body collected and cremated, so that the atoms will be unimpeded as they are recycled . . . and I would like to have a party, a wake, to which my remaining friends are invited to eat my food and drink my booze and tell lies about me. That would only be to comfort those not yet dead.

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