A few months ago I posted this article on my “stroke” blog and also on my Alaskan husky club blog as it has some relevance to both. The reaction was swift from the South African Federation of Sleddog sports and my membership was suspended, ostensibly for insulting the person called Marcel Meridith. It was only after joining Athiestnexus last week and being exposed to the many views of people with a similar outlook that I realised that the extreme negative reaction to my words may have been caused by the second last paragraph starting “my worldview”. The worst and most persistent attacks came from Christians who were middle aged and childless with essentially dogs instead of children. Did I hit a nerve? I’ve always been fairly private with my Atheism until I had the stroke. I’d really appreciate some opinions please?
A fate worse than death
These are the words of my old nemesis Marcel Meridith, head of the NSPCA in South Africa. She is an animal rightist who is against all animal / human interaction and whom I condescendingly refer to as “Merrydeath the Nut”, coined from the character “Jabba the Hut”, from the Star Wars movies. She was referring to her right to end an animals life if in her opinion the continuation of that life constituted a “fate worse than death”.
After a traumatic family argument this morning I find myself alone, in a black mood, contemplating the significance of these words in a more general setting. Does the pathetic circumstances that a person is left with after a stroke, or for that matter any physical or mental trauma suffered by a human being, qualify under this definition. Where is the point if it exists at all where “a fate worse than death” is reached?
Of course Merrydeath is only referring to animals, and does not give the animal a choice in the matter. Would a stray cat who is taken in to “care” and “humanely” murdered have taken its own life given a choice. I think not!
If I had died when I had the stroke many things would have changed for my immediate family. More money would have been available, at least at first, as medical bills, special equipment, etc., would have been unnecessary. Insurance would have paid and the burden of having small kids and a disabled person to look after would have been lightened. My wife would always be happy to have me as I am now than not at all, even if sometimes the burden can become intolerable. I would rather have the life I lead now than none at all and can’t imagine, even in the worst depression, a circumstance where living would be a fate worse than death.
My worldview does not allow me to have cosy fairy tale places where I will exist for eternity with harps or 100 virgins after I die. This one life is all there is and I have to make the best of it regardless of misfortune. My children carry a part of me into the future and that’s as good as it gets. I am just another species of animal on this planet and have no special after life privileges denied to “lesser” creatures.
There you go! This is done. The black cloud has receded for now. I can feel sorry for Merrydeath instead of loathing her. My meandering tirade has gone full circle without answering any deep philosophical questions, I can spend today alone being creative instead of destructive and will revisit the question of the meaning of life, (and death), at some future time when I’m in the mood again.
'L'athéisme n'est pas une croyance. Il s'agit de la situation par défaut dans lequel tous les innocents est né.'
La situation par défaut a toujours été la mienne. J'ai rejeté la religion à un âge précoce, malgré une éducation catholique.
En Australie, personne ne se soucie de toute façon.
Religion gives us definite and simple facts about how the world was created, how we should live and who we have to thank. It’s a perfect story.
Anyone whose had any life experience knows that life isn’t a perfect story. There is no right track to be on. There is only what works for your life. Your strategy that works for you. It may coincide with others strategies, but all are slightly different and attuned to our own lives.
I grew up in two different households – one theist and one atheist. When I was about 6 years old I asked each parent the question: how long has the earth been around? One told me ‘it’s a eternal cycle that repeats identically every 5,000 years’, the other told me a long story about a big bang, swirling masses of star dust and evolution with respective billions of years attached.
I decided that although I loved my first parent, my second parent sounded more plausible – because there was more complexity in the explanation and there wasn’t certainty about any of it – it was proposed as a strong probability – not simple fact.
I preferred the long story, the complexity, the uncertainty and the proposal of a strong probability more than I liked the simplistic short story that was given as truth, right and fact with no sense of uncertainty.
I think this is an excellent post.
I agree that science has much to be thanked for showing us the light when it comes to the truth. I do also think that one can find oneself heading down the path to truth and atheism without even using science. There were atheists across the world in ancient times that came long before Darwin or modern science. I think philosophy and personal experience can lead someone to atheism. I think personal experience for me was a huge factor.
I was a liberal Christian once who accepted a lot of the truths science provided. I would believe in the Big Bang for example, but think that God had something to do with it. I just did not bring those truths to the logical conclusion of atheism. While science allowed me to doubt God and learn to be skeptical, it was personal experience and political philosophy that sealed the deal. I guess once I decided that I should not believe in a God, I then allowed science to fill in the final gaps.
I've been an atheist since I was 15, but it's only been in the last couple of months that I decided to reach out and find like-minded individuals, (I'm 54). I had never met another atheist, (that I knew of). I covertly felt superior to the religious, but I still felt embarassed, not proud, of being an atheist. A couple of years ago I saw an advertisement on a bus, Good Without God, by the Coalition of Reason, and it stuck with me. I finally decided to look them up and get involved. I also read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, and "Godless" by Dan Barker of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Now I feel proud of being an atheist and being in the same company as people like them and like the people that I'm meeting.
For many years I had been estranged from my mother due to her fundamentalism. She considers herself a prophet and she has a web-based ministry. We're back together again and I've come out as an atheist to her and to my friends. I'm not embarassed about it any more. I now feel that I can hold my own against her dogmatism, and she's happy just to have me back again, even if I am an atheist. Reaching out has instilled a new sense of pride in my rationality and changed my life.
Pre-scientific votes shall now only be awarded a shiny blue sticker for participation.