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.