What is Eternal Life?

As I get older, I think about how I look at life. When I was a kid, there never was an end. Even having lost some childhood friends to death, I still didn’t understand death. And then in my twenties, I thought I was immortal; and there were definitely nights that I should have been horizontal. Then I got married and had kids, and I still did not definitely grasp the impact of death. Then I got my diagnosis of MS, and BAM it hit me. Square in the face. MS is not fatal, but all off a sudden my immortality was gone. I became human. I realized I was not longer going to live forever. My body would ultimately fail me, ending what seemed like a blast.

Last week I signed off on my will and powers of attorney, legal and medical. (Do not read anything into that statement; it’s the smart thing to do, not a sign of anything pending.) I accepted that I would not live to see my 200th birthday. So now I’m at peace with myself. The same peace I was at when I was 8 years old. Except now I’m going to stop living. And that’s ok.

The geek in me starting thinking about all the neat sci-fi concepts about reincarnation, different dimensions, or even cybernetics. Then I looked at the easy path. Can I find the Fountain of Youth, or the Lazarus Pit? Hey, what does it take to live forever, or a very long time? I know science is continually pushing the boundaries in getting our bodies to extend themselves. But ultimately we’re made of chemicals and basic elements that are designed to disintegrate. We’re not really meant to live to 200, or 150, or even 100. Yeah there are cases of people living to 110-120 years old (the oldest woman lived to 126), but really think about that. You are 100. How many of your friends are still alive? Your buddy who was your wingman during happy hour. Your co-worker who you retired with, walking out the door together still bitching about your boss. Your sexual partner who taught you every position of the Kama Sutra. Chances are that none of them will be with you at 100. Maybe your children will still be around, thanks to your impressive DNA. But I doubt either of you will be able to go dancing. It obviously gets lonely. Oh yeah, you have TV and friends in the nursing home and the newspaper comes on your birthday to give you your 15 minutes. But is that really living? So is eternal long-life really worth it?

And then I think about the other sci-fi, religion. They constantly tell you not to worry because you go to heaven upon your death (even Jeffrey Dahmer got to go). Well if heaven is so great, why aren’t religious people killing themselves to get there? Yes, I know there are fanatics who do that, but by and large almost all religious people wait until the very end. And that’s because they realize what all atheists realize…there is no more when you breathe your last breath. Going to heaven is a panacea; only they refuse to understand that. Stop breathing and that’s it. Finished. Finito. Death ends it all.

So how does one become eternal? The same way everybody always has. It’s by what we leave behind. Our DNA is ours. It may be flawed, but it’s ours. It’s what makes us human and humans us. Every black hair, brown eye, cancer cell is imprinted into our DNA. And we hand that DNA down to our children, our grandchildren, and (if lucky) to our organ donees. But then there’s the other part of eternal life. Our experiences are the most important part of our eternity. What we did, what we didn’t do, who we touched and how we reacted to the challenges of life is our eternal life. And when we share that with our children, our grandchildren, and our organ donees, we now get to share that with friends and strangers. We leave our imprint on them, which in some way, shape, or form, ends up being imprinted into their DNA. And we are eternal. Yep, we debate whether it’s nature or nurture that makes us who we are. It’s actually nature and nurture that make us who we are, and also makes us eternal.

Coming Out of the Closet

I am an atheist, and have been one for 30+ years. But I have been out of the proverbial closet since my divorce 15 years ago. And my reflection of my actions and thoughts over the years, not only make me proud of being an atheist but also supportive of all people who cannot be themselves and leave the closet.

Nobody goes into the closet; we all start in there. From birth (the ultimate closet), we constantly step out of the darkness to reveal ourselves. Every human being is unique. We all have something to offer this world. The challenge is opening the door and stepping out.

My 15 years in the closet were not necessarily painful. Not at first. It was easy to maintain the lie to my ex- since I was only sacrificing Sunday morning. But then the kids came, and baptism seemed silly. (Greek Orthodox church, if curious). Godparents made no sense, especially since none of them were mentioned in the will. As they got older, then I really struggled. Why push them into religion when I didn’t believe it! What kind of dad and adult was I by propagating a lie to my children! The divorce kicked me out of the closet. Forced to look hard at who I was, and what I truly believed in, I felt like a load was lifted off my shoulders (atheism didn’t cause the divorce, but it was a factor).

So I realize that the only way to come out is to have the proverbial band-aid ripped from you. The instantaneous pain felt is nothing compared to the long-lasting pain you keep buried in you. You can’t step through the door and out. It takes too much effort that. Too much time to think about your actions. Do it and move on.

The other good thing about coming out is it makes you evaluate your social environment. Your friends will now split into 2 groups: one that will support you and congratulate you, and the other that will treat you as if you have leprosy. Then you know how your journey will go as you take the steps in the brave new world.

So I can truly empathize with fellow atheists, my LGTB fellow humans, and any others who hide part of themselves away because it’s ‘safe’. Life is a series of challenges… conquer them and you live it to the fullest; turn from them and you will never be happy.

FAQ: Why do atheists celebrate Christmas?

As soon as someone finds out you’re an atheist, the questions start coming. These are MY thoughts, not the thoughts of all atheists.

Why do atheists celebrate Christmas? Although some celebrate Christmas by attending a church service, Christmas is not a religious holiday. In addition, Santa, presents and decorations are new traditions that evolved in the past several hundred years. Therefore, it is actually hypocritical for Christians to celebrate Christmas with anything besides a meal and prayer. No gifts, no Santa, no mistletoe.

Live Science History of Christmas

National Geographic History of Santa

FAQ: Why do some atheists get mad when I say I’m praying for them?

Why do some atheists get mad when I say I’m praying for them? Well, it’s a little self-serving if you know the person is an atheist. Imagine I said I was thirsty, and you took a drink of water and asked me if I felt better. Praying makes a religious person feel better and as if they’re helping in some way. It does nothing for the atheist who is being prayed for. It is nice to know that someone cares, but not when that person is disrespecting you. Again, this only applies if someone knows you’re an atheist.

FAQ: Why do you want to take our religious freedom away?

As soon as someone finds out you’re an atheist, the questions start coming. These are MY thoughts, not the thoughts of all atheists.

Why do you want to take our religious freedom away? The Constitution mandates separation of church and state, due to the issues in England where the church and the government were intertwined that they led to the Revolutionary War. While there are atheists who want religion to be gone, there are also plenty of religious people who want any religion they don’t believe with gone – or any atheists. Religion should in no way be endorsed by the government or supported with tax dollars, unless all religions are represented, which is basically impossible as there are thousands of religions in the world. And, as there are so many different Christian churches in the US, each (obviously) with their specific take on it, with many teaching that people who aren’t their particular flavor of Christian are going to hell, why would you want a public school teacher who is a member of a different religion praying with your children?

FAQ: Have you tried reading a Bible?

Have you tried reading a Bible? The vast majority of atheists that I know have read the Bible many times. It is usually the contradictions in the Bible that make them start questioning things. I was raised atheist, so never read it growing up. A few years ago I attempted to. I got to Genesis 19:30-38, and the story of how Lot’s daughters got him drunk so they could have sex with him so he could have a male heir. And you know what? I decided I didn’t want to read anymore of the book. Two – unnamed – daughters felt their father needed a male heir so they conspired to have sex him. The misogyny, sexism and horror in that section is breath-taking, and I was done.

FAQ: What’s to stop you from killing and stealing and raping?

As soon as someone finds out you’re an atheist, the questions start coming. These are MY thoughts, not the thoughts of all atheists.

What’s to stop you from killing and stealing and raping? I’ll let Penn Jillette answer that one.

“The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine. I don’t want to do that. Right now, without any god, I don’t want to jump across this table and strangle you. I have no desire to strangle you. I have no desire to flip you over and rape you.” – http://www.npr.org/2005/11/21/5015557/there-is-no-god