You will need to listen to the video to understand my commentary. I recommend listening to the video even if you don’t care to read my diatribe 😉 It is no secret that I love to hear Sam Harris speak; he brings to life, the things that I believe to be true but lack the ability to verbalize, particularly in such an eloquent manner.
Over the past 5 years, I have lost some of the most important people in my life; my parents, a beloved uncle and several dear friends.
Do I believe they are in heaven? No.
Do I believe that when I die, we will be joined, once again? No.
Do I believe these people are watching over me, loving me from the ethereal plane? No.
Mr. Harris, I believe, is on the money, in his analysis of the concept of creation and the underlying fear that when we die, that’s it. That’s all she wrote. The trip has ended and there’s nowhere else to go.
This doesn’t fill me with fear or grief. It simply reinforces my belief that we are here for a short time, too short a time to act like assholes. Too short a time to worry about the nonsensical behaviour of others. The time we have, this very finite time, should be spent widening our horizons, doing the best we can for others and for ourselves, without some selfish desire for reward from some unseen cartoon characters, created to explain the inexplicable.
Many of us laugh at the ancient constructs – that volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and floods are the physical manifestation of a severe scolding by some mythical, unseen, super-creature. We are horrified when learning of human sacrifice by human ancestors, in order to appease the aforementioned mythical super-creature(s). The ancients are viewed as superstitious and ignorant of the ways of the universe.
How is what these ancients did, any different from what we seen now or what occurred in our not-so-distant past?
Iran, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. The Holocaust. The Holodomor. The Salem Trials. The actions of the KKK. ISIS(L). The Taliban. The Crusades. The Inquisition. The strife between Palestine and Israel. We actually make our ancient ancestors look like pikers in comparison.
Jehovah Witness believers hold that only 144 000 souls will make it to heaven. The rest of the 7 299 856 000 souls, (est. current world population) are doomed, as are the trillions who walked this earth before this moment.
Sound silly? No sillier than believing that the likes of John Wayne Gacy or Clifford Irving could be floating around in some god’s grace because at the very end of their lives, they were contrite and apologized to this god for raping and murdering someone’s son or daughter. (I have no idea whether they were contrite or not – just an example).
Would it be comforting to believe that my Mom and Dad are in heaven, watching over me, together with other family members who have died? Of course. But it would be great to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny as well. Who doesn’t want some unseen force wrapping us up and protecting us from the evil in this world? But I don’t. I don’t believe my loved ones are sitting in some celestial parlour watching my antics on earth.
I believe that I was more than just fortunate to have shared some time with these people. I believe that they gifted me with love, laughter and more than a few groundings (as a teenager). While they were here, they protected me. They showed me that being a good person was the only true way to live my life. They taught me that it is never too late to change and to grow.
I don’t need to believe that they are in heaven. I don’t need to believe that Hitler and Stalin are burning in hell (it IS a nice fantasy, but just a fantasy).
I do need to believe that humanity has to stop this whole god thing and look around at what we can do, in the here and now, to be more human. To live with compassion and to learn, to grow, to evolve.
It is never too late for anyone to change. We have a small window of opportunity, as men and women, to improve this earth, NOW. There is no “later”. There is no reward or punishment when we die. There is only death.
It isn’t a bleak concept. It is reality. Be compassionate because it is the right thing to be, not because you get a big old cookie when you cease to exist in this mortal coil.
When we take our last breath, the antics of our politicians, the abundance or dearth of funds in our bank account, the size of our vehicles or homes, won’t matter. Think about it – these things simply won’t matter. They don’t matter now and they won’t matter later.
He who dies with the most toys is, none the less, dead.