I had not meant to post again so soon, but circumstances compelled me.  I'm writing partly in response to Joan Denoo's hopeful response that we atheists can do better in creating a world free of religious fantasy and conflict.

Maybe religion will retreat only so far and under certain conditions.  Maybe we can't cause major change. I think it was Shimon Peres who said that if a condition resists all effort at change, perhaps it should be considered a permanent part of the landscape.

So it is with religion and its merciless grip on the human mind.  It offers an insane but for many irresistible solution to a largely inflated problem: death. So instead of preparing for the final curtain during adulthood (we don't have to frighten kids with it), people invest incalculable amounts of time in the machinations and gyrations of fantasy merchants who profess to solve the problem.  It's all about fear of death, and once the the fantasy merchants hook into that, the deal is sealed.

Death came visiting, and no amount of prayer could dissuade him from taking the friend I just lost.  College classmate, grad school roommate, gigantic intellect, magnanimous and good-humored, a real mensch who influenced hundreds, maybe thousands of people. A master writer and thinker. One year older than I.  Three-year battle with cancer.  I didn't know.

I didn't mourn my cold, withholding, lying mother.   Said not a word at her funeral.  But this loss I really feel. The first of my contemporaries and someone with whom I had a real connection - and was proud to know.  

Humanists have to find constructive, empowering ways to deal with death.  "Going to a better place" won't cut it.  Opiate of the people, indeed!

Society, as B.F. Skinner observed, "attacks early, when the child is helpless."  Religion taps into this primal fear of death and enslaves people their whole lives.  And they buy it!  Even Ultra-Light hypocrites like my brother attend synagogue a few days a year, just so God punches his ticket.

What's the atheist answer? Many approaches - all must be applied.  Clear thinking is necessary.  My stepson, incredibly, had a handle on it when he was nine. Asked what would happen to him after he died, he said, "It'll be just like before I was born." QED 

I wanted to see what would happen when it came time for Rabbi Sherwin Wine -- a heroic atheist -- to die.  But he was killed in car crash - a severe blow to many of us who loved and respected him.

Well, if you don't have Jesus, you need a plan.  Along with mental practice, my death strategies include close friends and good drugs.  After you're 70, you should get whatever drugs you need, so I expect Ecstasy (pure), LSD, and others to ease my passage.  Dilaudid is great stuff.  

Given the above, I should be able to go out with dignity and class -- no frightened deathbed conversions -- that is, unless some texting teenager hits me head-on tomorrow.  You never know.

Any suggestions?

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Comment by Bertold Brautigan on May 10, 2018 at 3:19pm

One of my favorites is a New Yorker cartoon showing two older women standing in front of a gravestone. One of the women is saying "I told him it wouldn't kill him to be nice just once. I guess I was wrong."

Comment by Alan Perlman on May 10, 2018 at 3:05pm

Agreed.

Cartoon shows woman talking to robed figure on her front porch: "Wow, what a great Grim Reaper costume!  Harold, you have to see this!  Harold....?

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on May 10, 2018 at 3:00pm

Humor is not only a survival mechanism in my book, but also a guiding light. You can never trust anyone who doesn't have a sense of humor, especially in regard to themselves.

Comment by Alan Perlman on May 10, 2018 at 2:33pm

Bertold,

Mental strategies certainly include humor.  As for the point...you have only to look at the morning rush hour to know that an awful lot of people have not thought this through, this trading of precious life for meaningless dollars.

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on May 8, 2018 at 10:37pm

The point here is nothing new, but I thought this was quite a successful attempt to make it vividly visual.

Comment by Alan Perlman on May 7, 2018 at 12:10pm

Frankie, Thanks for your good wishes.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on May 6, 2018 at 8:25pm

Alan i hope the medical issue is limited.  

Comment by Alan Perlman on May 6, 2018 at 3:03pm

Tom, I feel real sorrow for you and all others who were relentlessly brainwashed.  Judaism was real vague on the afterlife, so I escaped it.  But if there's no death payoff, why bother?

Joan, sounds like you have practiced well.  I am your student.

Ruth, I share the experience of watching my physical abilities decline, month by month.      Acceptance of impermanence is what it's all about.  A couple of years ago, a local college student I knew died from a fall -- NH has steep roadside drop-offs.  Dead at 22. So yes, death can be all at once, but not for most of us.  In young adulthood, I wasn't worried about humanity getting its shit together before I die.  Now I am.  Nuclear extinction, ecocide, or both.  Yes, like the cat, we are not-alive, alive, then not-alive.

Frankie, I have a medical problem and am undergoing tests.  Nothing to worry about (yet).  Losing Clifford would be a blow under any circumstances.  I think we're on the same page -- the fear of death is assuaged by replacing it with something good and something bad.  And here's what you have to do to get in the good place:

Comment by Tom Sarbeck on May 6, 2018 at 9:57am

There was a time when only Egypt’s rulers had an afterlife.

That commoners and even slaves would have afterlives was ONE HELLUVA MARKETING TOOL.

My dad put his five kids into Catholic schools, where there might have been a few days in a year that nuns didn’t tell of the importance of being prepared for death.

The price was higher than I wanted to pay, but the indoctrination had been so thorough that I needed trauma to break its grip. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on May 6, 2018 at 2:47am

Alan, I am very sorry for the loss of your friend.

I feel pain, too, as I read that you had a "cold, withholding, lying mother!" 

Yes, we need a plan. My wishes are for Larry to dig a grave with his back-hoe in the forest across the meadow from my west-facing window, and Laura and the girls wrap me in a sheet and bury me where I can feed the trees that feed me now. 

I am 82 years old and waiting for the morning I don't wake up. 

Until then, I will tend my little greenhouse, take wee Spaz on a leash for a walk in the meadow with Dominic and Zeek running into the forest and out again to surprise us. They bring me pinecones or sticks, and sometimes they find a long lost ball. I am quite content. 

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