Monday, 19 January 2015

Life, death, and atheists

I regularly get asked a question that I find quite strange. The wording differs slightly but the general gist is 'you're an atheist...if you don't believe in god, you have nothing to live for. Why not just kill yourself now?' 

The most recent example I saw wasn't asked to me directly, but was retweeted into my twitter timeline by my friend Shay (@cherokee_Autumn). 

The alleged logic here just doesn't flow. It is the theists for whom there is a benefit in dying. There are no virgins waiting for me, let alone 72 of them. I'm not going to be heading somewhere where my dead relatives are waiting to greet me. 

As I said on twitter - I'm an atheist, it doesn't mean I have nothing to live for. It means I have nothing to die for. Some people have misunderstood what I meant by this. Yes, I would die, if I had to, in order for my children to survive. But that's not the point I was making. The point is, in death, for atheists, there is nothing. Everything that is good for us, is in life. 

Martin Luther-King is quoted as saying 
And if a man has nothing to die for, Then his life is worth nothing.
Again, I think he's talking about having a cause in life. Something you feel so passionately about that if necessary you would give up your life to protect it. My children are, of course, in this category. So to reiterate, there are things for which I would give up my life to protect - but in death, for me, there is nothing. That's what I mean by nothing to die for. 

In that context it should be easy to understand why atheists have nothing to die for. What's in it for us? Nothing. For the theists who ask me why I don't kill myself, they have everything to die for. For them paradise awaits. They get to spend eternity with their lord and saviour and/or their god. They think they get to again see relatives who have passed away.

Heaven (if the myth is true) contains none of the trials and stresses of life on Earth. It is paradise. All good, all the time. It is the theists who I would think would long for death, not the atheists. It is theists who say, when someone dies, they've gone to a better place. (If this is the case I'm not sure why they don't just send all their loved ones there, but I'm glad they don't).

I've wrote a blog a little while ago with the title 'Atheists have nothing to live for' which explains that we, in fact, do have something to live for. More than that, we have everything to live for. 

So rather than asking why an atheist doesn't just kill themselves, ask, why would they? Yes, this life ends and that will be the end for me. I'll no longer exist, but in memory. 

As Louis C.K. said in response to 'What happens after you die?': 
Lot's of things happen after you die. They just don't involve you
If I want to be involved, I need to be alive. If I want to finish a book series I'm reading, I need to be alive. If I want to know who wins the next AFL premiership, I need to be alive. This list is almost endless. 

This gives me all the incentive to be alive and no incentive to be dead. 

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