How many times would you have to see the same thing happen before your eyes before you acknowledged the truth of the lesson being presented?
How about every single time? Wouldn't you have to admit that if there's any validity to the concept of truth then something that is attested to by every occurrence has to be considered true?
Gravity, of course comes to mind. Fire burns. Daddy's razor is not a toy. These are truisms we've all come to live with. Why? Because we have a vested interest, avoidance of pain, in remembering these things and none whatsoever in each time testing to see if, just this once, the laws of nature have been rescinded.
The ultimate, of course, is death.
Everyone dies. Everyone decomposes. Nobody comes back.
This is the truth.
Do I really have to bring out arguments in support of a truth that has been played out by everything that has ever lived and ever will live on this planet?
Death is the truth. The truth is death.
Don't like the sound of that? Tough. Get used to it. Nobody's going to change the laws of nature just because you think they shouldn't apply to you.
If you only remember two words from this essay, then I hope these are the two:
On some level, deep inside no matter how much dirt and rocks you've piled on top of it over the years...on some level you know the truth. Not on a conscious level; on a totally physical level. Your cells die daily. They know what your brain can't admit to. Your lungs know what it would feel like if they tried to take that next breath and couldn't. Even your brain, not your mind, but the fleshy, animal part of your brain...even your brain knows death far better than you.
The soul is a red herring. A distraction. Like those O2 masks that come down from the ceiling in a plane crash that don't do anything but give the passengers enough oxygen to calm them down before they die. The soul, religion, all the rest of that malarkey, is nothing but something to keep you're mood up even as your body ceases to live and the little spurts of energy firing within your brain start flickering out like city lights in a slow, rolling black out.
Look, suppose you had a perfect AI, passes the Turing Test with flying colors every time. A computer created artificial intelligence indistinguishable from a real person in blind tests.
For that matter, you could have the AI programmed to remember his life before he became totally paralyzed in a whitewater rafter accident. Really fix it so this AI doesn't know that he isn't a living human being, just one whose only interaction to the outside world comes through his computer. Kind of like your average teenager, for that matter.
Now, let's get really cruel...remember, this is just a demonstration on a computer simulation that mimics a human being...and program into the computer the absolute, religious faith that he has an immortal soul and when he dies he will go to Heaven to be with Jesus.
You with me so far? Pretty cool, huh? Like Frankenstein, but instead of meat life, we're creating a human soul.
Or are we?
Now, here's the question, the payoff to this set up.
What would happen if we totally destroyed the hardware this AI program was loaded on to? I mean, we're talking Arnold slipping into the vat of molten metal at the end of Terminator 2 kind of destruction.
I think most of us would agree that the AI program we created ceased to exist when the microchips it was encoded on were destroyed.
The fact that the AI was programmed to believe he had a soul that would survive his corporeal destruction could not change the truth:
There was a time when we didn't understand the flow of energy around us, the spectrum of light and sound and the splashing and crashing chaos of our world was limited to our five senses. Back then; we hadn't a clue what we were talking about. It was easy to speculate because we lacked the equipment to measure the world around us. So we could all have souls that left the body at the moment of death.
It was pretty easy to keep up believing in this nonsense until we had people start dying while they had all these wires and machines hooked up to their brains and bodies. All of a sudden you've got to ask yourself, Where's the soul?
Now if all of the brain cells were stone cold dead and there was this vague little halo of energy left inside off in a corner of the dead man's head that was still registering on the monitors and pumping out little 'hey, it's me' signals, then we might have something to talk about.
I don't think people quite get what medicine brings to the table when it comes to the debate between rationality and superstition. Or what they don't bring, I should say. No energy, capish?
You get some people who still want to claim there's a human soul that survives the death of the body in spite of the fact. They say the soul is composed of energy that can't be detected by our machines but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist and we're ignoring their theory and not giving it credibility
Strange thing about this elusive energy: the only reason you infer its existence is that without it your whole house of cards comes a tumblin' down and your porcine-behind is out of a job.
That's what it's all about, of course, not the money. Everybody got it all wrong back in the days of the televangelist scandals. These guys were amateurs, the goons. Weren't even smart enough to cover their own litter.
The thing about coming back from the dead is that it's kind of tricky. Anyone who's seen both George Romero's Dawn of the Dead and Stephanie Myer's Twilight can appreciate the difference between coming back as a mindless consumer and coming back as yourself, with coherent memories tying you to the past life you just gave up when you died.
Most of us don't believe in the reanimation of dead flesh. Those who do are in dire need of a check up from the neck up, as Kinky Friedman likes to say.
We believe in the immortality of the soul. Now Paul, the devious genius that he was, came up with the idea that your spirit has to have a body to reside in. The problem is, our spirits are stuck in flesh like a horse stuck in the mud. So we got to wash off and put on a new body...but this one's a Spiritual body, wink, wink...nudge, nudge.
So you have a soul that is what? Your mind? A mirror image of your mind...kind of a back up system in case the main brain crashes? Energy that's just too elusive for us to detect?
And this soul has to survive the death of your body with enough of you intact so that you have a coherent afterlife. Your hard drive is gone, liquidized. So in order to survive, your soul must be a form of free-floating energy. But in order to carry information about you and your recently departed life, this energy must first, be organized and encrypted and, second, must adhere to only energy like itself in order for there to be an afterlife. Dissipation, I'm assuming, would be a problem since we're talking about a free-floating ball of energy with you recorded on it like a demo tape for the afterlife.
And the way you get to the afterlife is by having faith...
...wait a minute, this is beginning to sound familiar!
I got it!
Remember, when her light was going out because she drank the poison instead of letting Peter drink it, and you had to clap and squeal real hard:
"I believe in fairies! I do, I swear I do!"
Until the stagehand had enough begging and started turning the dimmer switch back up.
Acknowledge the truth. We die, we decompose, we don't come back.
OK, take a deep breath now. You don't have to do it, all you have to do is imagine what your life would be like if that were true.
Now first, there's a technical problem with your senses and there's nothing to be done about it except try and find some wiggle room around it. The problem is the human mind cannot conceive of it's own non-existence. Least that's what I've heard; sometimes I think I can almost grasp it, then it slips away.
But, good old logic to the rescue, you know exactly what it means to be non-existent. You were non-existent for an eternity before your birth. So, when you die, you go back to being in the same state you were before you were born.
On August 1st, 1950 I did not exist. Sometime during the day on August 2nd I came into existence...or are you one of those sick-o's who believes that yucky stuff that fills up the nipple on a used, stretched condom is alive? Christ, the murders I have committed literally at my own hand are astronomical!
OK, here's the deal with life. You got to be able to keep it on your own or you lose it.
Adam was created from the dust of the earth. His body was completely created and formed in every detail but not animated by a living soul until God Breathes the Breath of Life into his mouth at which point he becomes a living soul.
So we don't become souls until we are capable of sustaining life on our own. Mom did her best while she had you in her Lovin' Oven now it's up to you to breathe or die, sweety. That's why frogs and insects have all kinds of kids. That way you don't get attached.
And here's a thought:
If they're keeping you alive with machines then you aren't a human being any more, you're a science experiment.
Probably stole that from somewhere. Was it Hemingway who said "All writers steal, good writers know what to steal."
I'm wandering, but I do my best thinking when I let the dog off the leash and let her chase the coon herself while I sit up here on the porch in my rocking chair with my shotgun across my knees while Chet and Molly's retarded boy plays that same damn song on the banjo over and over again. Dadgum boy done went all Hollywood since that movie.
You see, it's not a stream of consciousness if you try to use a rudder. The worst mistake a writer can make is to get in the way.
Point is, we know that when we fry a hard drive on the barbie that everything stored on the drive is gone and isn't coming back. Unless it's NCIS and Abbie gets hold of it, of course.
We know our bodies die and decompose. We know they don't come back.
We just don't say it aloud.
Because if you say it aloud then you give it power.
How about if we do that whole sinner's prayer thing they had in the back of the Chick Tracts...talk about great American Primitive artwork...I was proud to hand a sinner a Chick Tract because I knew I was giving him a quality product.
You know the one, where you say aloud how you believe in and accept him into your heart...blah, blah, blah, 23 pages of boilerplate, standard savior/sinner contract...been a hell of a lot easier if his dad would have only signed his name...who knew thirty was underage for an eternal being?
Here's the deal, I'm not asking you to ask me into your heart. Even though Valentine's Day is coming, that would still be just creepy...
What I want is for you to say aloud one simple, absolutely true and undeniably significant statement.
Here, I'll show you how easy it is.
When I, Philip Jarrett, die I will cease to exist.
My body will decompose.
I will not go anywhere or come back from anywhere.
There will come a time when I, Philip Jarret, will no longer be the center of the universe and all existence.
The universe and all existence will continue on without me.
There's nothing personal about this, it's just business the way it's done in our universe.
Nobody can get me off the hook for old times sake.
There will be no last minute call from the governor staying my execution.
It is a harsh truth but no belief system has been able to stop death.
They are failures, they are a waste of time.
Time, as in your life. Time that if you accept your own mortality will become the most precious part of your life. The flow of the sand in an hour glass, the ticking of the clock on the mantel, the candle as it sputters out...or perhaps is snuffed.
If you believe you will meet your parents or children or anyone else in heaven or you will get a chance to make up for your failures in another life here on earth then where is the motivation to do something about these things in the real world, the here and now world?
This isn't moral. This isn't ethical. This is a lie.
Anyone who tells you there is life after death doesn't know anything more than you do on the subject and that makes him a liar.
If the truth makes you free then anyone who tells you a lie is tring to make you a mental slave.
Free Minds can make a Free World.
But we aren't born free.
Freedom is not a gift from a supernatural being. God does not believe in Free Will. With Him it's either My Way or the Highway to Hell.
Each of us has to fight for our freedom. Each of us has to swim upstream against the flow of history.
You have to kill who you are to become who you want to be. And you'd better best get in the habit of doing it every morning if you want to life a happy life.
Here's a clue from my person Atheology:
Since death is the ultimate and escapable truth of life, then each moment of our life is our life.
If you want to have a happy life, then you have to learn to stream together as many happy moments as you can.
Admit the truth and be happy. Believe the lie and live in fear of either eternal damnation or an afterlife of blessings you know deep down that you don't deserve.
There's a line from City of Angels where Nick Cage explains to Meg Ryan about the supernatural afterlife and the existence of angels by saying:
Somethings are true whether you believe in them or not.
Great line, too bad it was wasted on an Oprah Winfrey feel-good movieto Meg.
I think we, as atheists and non-believers, should steal and re-word this line for our own purposes:
Somethings just aren't true no matter how badly you want to believe they are.