Christianity and Gun Ownership

The picture below popped up in my Facebook newsfeed, which bothered me for multiple reasons, and, as I showered in the morning, I couldn’t help but stew over everything that was wrong and ignorant about it.

Guns and God

Let me start with this picture’s basic assertion. It is, essentially, just a more topical version of the old, patently false axiom, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” This isn’t just a condescending dismissal of atheism, but also of the pantywaist belief that maybe guns aren’t the solution to every problem. You can claim not to believe in the value of guns or God, it says, but in moments of trouble you’ll turn to both. Because godless liberals are all just raging, gutless hypocrites, doncha know?

Well, speaking from personal experience as a cowardly heathen, I can say this is false. My apartment was robbed on New Years Eve. It sucked, and while the robber(s) didn’t take as much as they could have (thankfully they got scared off in the middle of unplugging my computer), it was still an infuriating and disheartening invasion of my and my roommate’s private space. Not so private, it seems. Yes, my roommate called the police, not to protect us but so we could file an official report with the infinitesimal hope of maybe recovering some of the lost items. (We never did.)

I don’t claim to speak for my roommates. Maybe they’d like to have a gun in the house. It’s an option. I understand the desire for increased security, and I certainly don’t want us getting robbed a second time. Personally, though, I’d rather invest in better bars on the windows and a security system that can protect our place when we’re not here rather than a gun that a) would have been useless in this particular scenario (no one was home) and b) would pose a statistically greater risk to us than to any potential, future robbers.

I’ve never taken any training in shooting a gun (though I have gone shooting) and if I go my whole life without that particular skill, that strikes me as a win. While I’m sure that makes me less of a man in the eyes of many people, I have a hard time understanding why living my life free of fear represents a shortcoming. We live in the least violent period in all of human history, I don’t have any delusions of being a vigilante. It’s possible that a crazed gunman could kill me at some point (and if so, shucks), but living my life with a fear of it is beyond pointless.

So, I don’t believe in gods or guns. Why this offends the sensibilities of a large portion of America I’ll never understand. But, rest assured, in times of trouble, I don’t suddenly start praying for a .45.

Christianity and Guns

Now, let’s reverse the equation. To me, the most revealing aspect of that picture above is not what it says about atheists (nothing) or people who don’t like guns (again, nothing) or even what it says about what Christians/gun owners think about atheists/gun non-owners (nothing new). No, what it really reveals is the bizarre mindset of Christians who, despite professing belief in a loving, all-powerful, prayer-answering, omniscient God, still put their faith in a gun.

A gun, which is a weapon for the purpose of killing (Exodus 20:13); a gun, which is used to protect your material possessions (Matthew 6:19-21); a gun, which is meant to keep someone else from taking from you and punish them if they do (Matthew 5:39-41); a gun, which is your protection against enemies (Psalm 20:6-8).

A gun, which is about as appropriate in the hands of a Christian as a meat tenderizer is in the hands of a vegan.

(I want to be clear that I’m not saying American citizens shouldn’t have the right to own guns. While I am in support of intelligent gun control, I have never advocated for stripping Americans of their guns. Unfortunately, as soon as your lips start to form the words “gun control” you immediately get shouted down for trying to “trample on the 2nd Amendment” and no conversation can even be had. So fine, I don’t care. Keep killing yourselves, America.)

I believe this: A Christian who needs a gun is no Christian at all (I’m not referring to guns for the purpose of hunting, because, whatever). I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it: There’s no such thing as an American Christian. It’s an oxymoron. The gun ownership debate makes it pretty plain why: Whereas Jesus preached a message of peace, forgiveness, rejection of material possessions and a dedication to God that would require a person to abandon one’s family, the American life (the American Dream, in fact) is all about building up treasure on earth and guarding it like a rabid dog with special affection for vengeance and retribution.

I see nothing inherently wrong with the American life, other than that it flies in the face of basically every single one of Jesus’ teachings. Reconciling the two diametrically opposed worldviews of American Capitalism and Biblical Christianity is a feat of such gymnastic contortion, even a yoga master would pull a muscle.

If you want to own a gun, go for it. It actually is the rational choice for someone who has no belief in a higher power, and if I lived in a constant state of fear I might just be so inclined.

However, a Christian who condescendingly suggests everybody needs a gun is admitting one of two things: Either their faith isn’t very strong, or their god isn’t.

Jesus and Guns

I Want An Atheist President


It’s May, now, which means only 4 years and 7 months until the 2016 presidential election.

Of course, before that, we have to survive this one.

Since Mitt Romney is the Republican Nominee (yes, I know, not technically, but…) and we have a 2-party system in which a 3rd party can never hope to be anything but a minor nuisance to one or both candidates, I will be voting for Barack Obama.

I don’t want that to sound like I’m ‘choosing the lesser of two evils’ or something of that nature.  I like Obama.  He’s my president.  I am by no means enthralled with everything that has happened under his presidency and he has definitely punted on some issues when he should have probably fought harder.  But, I’m a pragmatist and a realist and I know how politics works.  Which is to say, it doesn’t.  You get your guy (or gal) in office and you should be ecstatic if even a tenth of the campaign promises get fulfilled.  Part of that is because politicians lie, and part of that is because our government is an intricate (one might even say, convoluted) system that favors the status quo over change (sometimes too our national detriment).

Some of us who voted for Obama in 2008 were probably a little too naively optimistic for the changes his presidency would bring, but better foolishly hopefully than filled with the paranoia and hatred that marks his most vehement opponents.

One of the most exciting moments of Obama’s presidency, for me, came very early on.  As in, the day of his Inauguration early.  For the first time ever, ‘non-believers’ were expressly mentioned in an inaugural speech.  The pertinent excerpt:

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers.”

I remember hearing that and feeling an even greater sense of pride in my president, which was already pretty high.  The President of the United States acknowledged that, indeed, there are people in this country that don’t believe in any god, any faith, and they should be included in the conversation and recognized as part of our nation’s heritage.

A Christian has no idea what that moment feels like.  Despite talk of ‘attacks on religious freedom’ and ‘the War on Christmas,’ there has never been a question that Christians are always part of the equation.  Though the U.S. is secular (no matter what David Barton falsely claims), the truth is that this nation is still predominantly Christian in its make-up and politics.

When you’re a person who doesn’t belong to any particular faith and refuses to pretend to believe in a god, you tend to get left out of the conversation, intentionally or not.

Almost every single man who has been President of the United States has been nominally Christian.  We have to go back to William Howard Taft for a President who may have been an atheist, though he denied it (Wikipedia lists him as Unitarian).  The further back we go in history, the more we find that the Presidents were willing to eschew official religious affiliation, though most were still some denomination of Christian.

There are still some who claim that Obama is a secret Muslim, which is ridiculous.  But, I’m interested to see if those people will vote for a Mormon, since most likely in their view Mormonism is not Christianity, and thus a false religion (I was raised believing Mormonism was a cult; from a theological point of view, I do think Mormonism constitutes a different religion from Christianity, but since I’m not a Christian, I feel the point is moot).

For some people this will be an election between a Mormon and a Christian (who’s really a Muslim).  The Evangelical right will likely choose the lesser of two evils as they see it.  Or as pastor David Jeffries said recently:

…Given the choice between a Christian like Barack Obama who embraces non-biblical principles like abortion and a Mormon like Mitt Romney who embraces Bible principles, there’s every reason to support Mitt Romney in this election.

It’s all about principles, after all.  Like, the principle of standing for what you believe.

While Christians may have to wrestle with their faith this year, we atheists will vote on the issues we care about and the policies we think better lead our country forward.  Many of us will vote for Obama.  I’m sure a healthy contingent will vote for Romney, and there will even be a good number who throw their vote away on Ron Paul (aren’t I a stinker). 

Atheists aren’t a singular voting block.  We don’t have a Pope or an Evangelical Conference to tell us which way to throw our vote.  Sure, many of us revere the same men (Dawkins, Sagan), but those people don’t tell us who to vote for, and we wouldn’t listen if they did.

We call ourselves Freethinkers.  Yeah, it’s a self-aggrandizing title, so sue us.

While you will find online groups for atheists and a growing number of organizations attempting to bring some cohesion to a historically disparate group (it’s like herding cats), our very nature tends to make us resistant to unification.  After all, we are the kind of people who critically question everything and many of us at some point intentionally left behind a community of faith.  Of course, even as I write that, I have to admit that many atheists probably don’t fit that description.

And that’s the point.  Atheists only share one thing in common:  We have no belief in a god.  We don’t “have faith that there isn’t a god.”  We simply don’t accept that there is evidence for a god and thus remain at our default position: No faith.

There isn’t an American atheist alive today who has ever seen their lack of faith reflected in their president.  Granted, Muslims and Jews are in their same spot, but as this well-trod survey shows, atheists have a greater hill to climb to the White House.*

I want an Atheist President.  I want an Atheist President exactly because his or her views will be that of a freethinker, and thus not inherently locked into one stance.  S/He could be a Republican or a Democrat.  S/He could be a wartime president or a lockstep pacifist.  S/He could hold any stance on any number of issues without beholding to faith.  That doesn’t mean s/he would oppose faith or religion, only that their stance towards it would be a dispassionate acceptance of it based on the principles of the Constitution (Establishment Clause/Free-Exercise Clause) and reason.

There will always be a portion of Americans who believe that atheists are evil, the scum of the earth, as useful as a third tit.  Atheist President isn’t going to get their vote.

But there is no reason intelligent, moderate Christians should oppose an atheist.  I have Christian friends who support gay marriage, oppose the death penalty, believe in a strong safety net for the poor and are supportive of equal rights across the board.  In other words, if I was running for president (if I could find time in my busy schedule of child sacrifices and depraved sex), a substantial percentage of the non-Evangelical Christians, the same ones who voted for Obama, could vote for me, an atheist.

Now, I have no personal political ambitions (blech!), but there are plenty of atheists out there who do.  As an atheist, I hope that in my lifetime I see an atheist in the White House.  Let’s be clear: I don’t want to see it because I think it’ll mean all of my interests will be represented. 

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that the unofficial religious test for Presidency which has been in effect for at least 100 years will finally be abolished. 

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that a majority of Americans accept that a lack of faith does not equal a lack of character.

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that intelligence, experience and ideas matter more than church affiliation.

I want an Atheist President because it will mean the president will take responsibility for his or her decisions.

I want an Atheist President because it will mean that the promise of Religious Freedom will finally be fulfilled.

You don’t have to be an atheist to want an Atheist President.  You can be a believer and accept us non-believers.  You can understand that what makes me an atheist doesn’t undermine my integrity.  In fact, it strengthens it.

In 2012, the presidential candidates each profess faith in a higher being.  I have no problem with that, I only care about their policies.  Their faith, in my mind, is no more pertinent to their qualifications for president as whether they are left or right-handed.  As long as faith is not a motivation for political policy, you can believe anything at all and be president.  Or believe nothing at all.

It’s okay to vote for an atheist.  We come in peace.

If you want an Atheist President because you know that one faith doesn’t have a monopoly on morality, ethics and compassion, say it with me: I Want An Atheist President.  Tweet it with me: #Iwantanatheistpresident.

You don’t have to be an atheist to be a freethinker.

*The question specific to the presidency was asked in 1999, prior to the 9/11 attacks, so undoubtedly Muslims have taken a hit since then.  But as the other surveys reveal, even after the attacks atheists remain the least trusted group across the board.

EDIT: My suspicions were correct, Muslims did take a considerable Public Relations hit after 9/11, but atheists still remain the least trusted group.

“Atheists are about as useful as a third tit”

I don’t normally do this, but this is irresistible.

In response to my blog post, “In Support of Jessica Ahlquist,” a commentator calling himself “Lord Monty” wrote this:

You must love North Korea a fine atheist nation as is China and the rest of the fucked up nations of the world.. your kind will bring the demise of mankind eventually.. Do you really believe mankind along with the concept of GOD has survived the millenia accidentally?.. FAITH is why man still exists and wtihout it he will surely not last long.. it’s as essential for the continuance of mankind and spiritual moral as the air we breathe. Atheists are about as useful as a third tit, their influences are counter productive. I would be insulted the mentally handicap to call you retarded but you really are nothing more tha worthless DNA .. the propagation of your seed contributes directly the regression of the species into animal sub-class. you are a cosmic fuckup in other words that you can comprehend

Now, I only post this because just the other day, a different drive-by commentator told me that I was going to hell if I didn’t repent.

What these comments both have in common (besides a second grader’s grasp of grammar and spelling) is that, for some reason, my very existence has angered them.  Neither one of these posts (the other one was about Gay Marriage) was an angry tirade against religion or an insult-laden piece of faith-baiting.  They were just my arguments for my views.

In fact, I would say the Jessica Ahlquist post was more than evenhanded and went out of its way to simply show support for the teenage girl, without vilifying the opposition.

I’m not sure why I’ve received 2 such comments in as many days.  Maybe my site has been linked on some Christian/Right Wing message board or blog.

Whatever the reason, it’s amusing.  These are the comments that don’t actually require a response because they’re pure angry id, poured out on the page.

I am an Atheist.  I know a percentage of the world agrees with this commentator simply because of that fact.

This is why I write.

In Support of Jessica Ahlquist

Jessica Ahlquist is a normal teenage girl.  She goes to school, reads Harry Potter and.. oh yeah, challenged her school board on the legality of having a Christian prayer plastered on the wall of her public school.

I recently wrote on the prayer in school debate.  My opinion on it, in my mind, seems pretty uncontroversial.  After all, I don’t believe that Christians should be barred from praying in school.  I don’t think that a Christian student who holds a Bible study on school grounds in any way impedes on the rights of non-Christians (whether they be Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Atheist or whatever).

However, Christianity stands on the rights of others when it imposes its particular belief system on the grounds and walls of publicly funded property.  How often do we hear, “I don’t want my tax dollars to pay for welfare babies” (or something in that line), but rarely do these same people have a problem with tax dollars being spent on public displays of faith.

A public school is a secular school.  If you don’t like that, send your children to a private school of your religious preference.

Yes, some public schools once used the Bible as a textbook.  And our country used to condone slavery.  Just because it happened in the past doesn’t make it right.

Jessica Ahlquist is expressing her 1st amendment right.  Most certainly, the government cannot step on the free expression of religion in private life, but at the same time, it cannot respect the establishment of any religion in public life.  Before you argue that the government has no place telling people of faith how they can express their beliefs, tell me, how do you feel about Sharia Law?  Hypocrite.

As a 16-year-old, Jessica is probably prone to the same types of immature mistakes that all teenagers are.  She will post on her Facebook an overly-emotional lyric from a pop song because of a boy that broke her heart.  She will fill a journal with silly, trite expressions of individuality.  She will say things she regrets and wish she could just disappear.

But, as a 16-year-old, Jessica Ahlquist is standing up for one of the most basic rights of American independence, and if you can’t feel pride in that, you probably believe that your religious freedom is more important than other people’s religious freedom.

Here’s to you Jessica Ahlquist.

America was built by the fighters.

Extranatural: How Intelligent Design Hopes To Reclassify ‘God’

Ex-tra-nat-u-ral: Adj. – 1. Any explanation for unexplained phenomenon that is a possibility in nature, yet so outside the realm of normal human experience and scientific discovery that it is highly improbable.  2. A method of explaining the Supernatural as an aspect of the Natural.

Let’s discuss the idea of God A Designer as a scientific theory.

I think it’s fair to say that the Intelligent Design movement does not mean Spock when they say A Designer.  After all, if we concede that aliens created life on this planet (a theoretical, but unlikely possibility) that would still just leave the question of the origin of those aliens.  It’s merely passing the buck in a way that even IDers would find unsatisfactory.

The Designer then must be something other than just another, ancient biological creature.   After all, the point of ID is to confront the materialistic worldview, specifically biological science’s reliance on a wholly natural approach to describing life and the universe.  The Designer, who or whatever that may be, is something that exists outside of our normal understanding of nature.

The vast majority of Intelligent Design proponents would happily call that Designer “God” and would mean the monotheistic God of either the Christian, Jewish or Muslim faith (ID has made inroads in many Arab nations).  However, as a ‘scientific’ proposal, the Designer need not be labeled in any direct way, and, in fact, the ID movement must be careful to distance themselves from their religious supporters for fear of, rightly, being labeled as reconfigured Creationists (the landmark case Kitzmiller V. Dover Area School District ruled that ID is merely Creationism 2.0 and thus unconstitutional to teach in schools, as the Judge stated in his decision: “For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the religious nature of ID [intelligent design] would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult or child.”)

(Interested bystanders would be advised to watch the documentary about the case, “Judgment Day,” available to watch for free online.)

It is worth noting (though, not as a mark against ID’s validity) that the outspoken proponents of ID are all very religious (Christian) men, Including Michael Behe (Roman Catholic), Jonathan Wells (Unifacationist), William Dembski (Southern Baptist) and Stephen C. Meyer (Presbyterian), who is the director of the Discovery Institute, the single organization behind ID’s explosive emergence in the past two decades.  Their religious background and association under one Institute’s umbrella by no means debunks ID, but it should be kept in mind when the more conspiracy-minded proponents of ID start claiming a widespread blackballing of ID on ideological grounds (I ask, who is more likely to have an agenda: A worldwide spectrum of scientists with varying backgrounds and religious beliefs, or a singular organization brought together under the flag of one idea?).

The Designer

Back to the theory: Can the idea of the Designer be somehow both non-naturalistic and yet not religious?  God is supernatural by definition, but to be supernatural is to be ostensibly religious.  Science as it has been understood since its origins has always been interested in the material world.  Even when science has delved into ideas like psychic abilities and ghosts, there has been a determinedly naturalistic approach to the studies.  After all, we are natural, material beings, how else could we expect to understand the world?

The point of religion and faith has always been to try to explain the supernatural, the realm beyond our senses (in the grandest case of Begging the Question the world has ever known).  But, whereas scientists have historically been religious to some extent, it was almost always understood that science dealt with one realm (the natural) and religion dealt with a different realm (the supposed supernatural).

ID hopes to upend that paradigm by claiming the natural world is a window into how the supernatural world exists.  They are seeking to manufacture a middle ground between science and religion, all the while claiming that their feet are firmly set in the realm of science.

The Designer must be something beyond nature, but for ID to be scientific, it can’t be supernatural.

I suggest a new term for this merging of natural and supernatural into a plausible sounding (but ultimately specious) form of nature:


Alien abductions are an extranatural phenomenon.  By that, I mean, from a purely hypothetical point of view, aliens could exist (probably do somewhere in this unimaginably vast universe), and less likely, but still infinitesimally possible, could be visiting our planet and abducting humans.  No real evidence exists for such occurrences and scientific insights lead us to conclude that it is highly improbable, but even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a chance that this happens means it cannot be ruled out as a real, natural event.  All natural understanding denies it, but extranatural understanding keeps the door open.

Aside:  One of my favorite shows, “Supernatural” (about brothers originally from Lawrence, Kansas who hunt and kill demons, monsters and other assorted beasts of legend), has taken the classic myths and legends of world religions and combined them into a mythology that is actually less Supernatural and more Extranatural.  The monsters are usually mutants or changed humans and the demons and angels are affected by natural items, like symbols written in blood or a special gun that can kill any creature (and the demons leave behind sulfur wherever they go).

(It may sound a bit hokey when written on the page, but as a show it nicely runs with the humor and excitement that the best seasons of the X-Files had in spades.)

Back on point:  How does this relate to ID?

Intelligent Design is an attempt by Creationists (the history of the ID movement is littered with Creationists who adjusted their views to get more public and legal traction) to move the Designer out of the realm of the Supernatural and into the realm of the Extranatural.

Obviously, since I’m coining the term Extranatural, this isn’t their stated aim, but it is ultimately what they are trying to accomplish.

The Argument from ID

This is the ‘scientific’ argument of ID, as concisely as possible.

Aspects of nature (the eye, bacteria flagellum) are so intricately fashioned and precisely crafted that if they were missing any parts they could not possibly function as they do.  Since evolution by Natural Selection builds up from simplicity through random mutation [but not by chance, it should be noted], it would have been impossible for these ‘irreducibly complex’ mechanisms to have been evolved.  Therefore, something or someone must have intentionally created them.  Ergo, Designer.

Now, an astute reader will recognize that this argument is not a scientific hypothesis, but rather a logical argument.

It could be reworded as such:

Aspects of nature appear to be intentionally designed.
Natural Selection cannot explain how such designs came into being.
There must be a Designer.

I apologize to IDers who might consider that overly simplistic, but that is the argument boiled down to its most basic form.

As we can see, it is a logical argument, and so to approach it requires addressing the premises and questioning if the conclusion follows.

What can also be plainly seen is that this is not a scientific argument.  Science is a branch of philosophy.  It has specific qualities that distinguish it.  Logic informs science, but it is not science in and of itself.

No (scientific) predictions are made based on the conclusion that there is a Designer.  No testable hypotheses come from the conclusion.  The only pseudo-prediction we could make, once accepting a Designer, is that we will find aspects of nature for which we cannot explain a natural evolutionary development.  But this is a circular argument: “Because of irreducible complexity, God exists, and because God exists, things must be irreducibly complex.”

From a scientific point of view, the idea of a Designer is antithetical to inquiry and exploration.  It tells us to stop looking further, to give up if a problem seems too complex to figure out.

It also assumes that because we have yet to unlock the evolutionary history of the flagellum that we never will.

(I will not go into the actual evolutionary science behind the eye and the flagellum here, but interested parties are encouraged to research “evolution of the eye” and “evolution of the flagellum” or simply “responses to irreducible complexity” for counterarguments to ID assertions.)

If the ID movement can affectively transform The Designer (God) into a logical conclusion, they will have moved this supernatural figure into the realm of extranatural existence.

So, the question remains, do they have a sound logical argument?


Let’s look at it again:

Aspects of nature appear to be intentionally designed.
Natural Selection cannot explain how such designs came into being.
There must be a Designer.

We must look at the first premise.  The words ‘appear to be’ in there is important.  If we leave that out, the argument is a logical fallacy, “Begging the question.”

Aspects of nature are designed assumes a Designer, the conclusion.

That ‘appear to be’ in there is important not only for logical consistency, but because it allows us to probe further.

The second premise is where all the heavy lifting is done.

It is, in fact, missing an important word.

Natural Selection cannot yet explain how such designs came into being.

Science is an ongoing endeavor and to assume that a lack of knowledge now precludes future knowledge is counterintuitive and in complete disagreement with the spirit of science.

Furthermore, the leap from the second premise to the third premise is another fallacy, a False Dilemma.  It assumes if not X, then Y, but it gives no reason for ignoring a potential Z, or A through V.

If any of A through V, or Z, is true, then it would undermine X (Natural Selection) and Y (Intelligent Design) equally.  For any of the hypothetical alternatives to X & Y to be considered, though, they will have to be testable, researchable and capable of making predictions.  Natural Selection has all of these features.  ID does not.

And that is where we live, with two prominent theories, one that has been vetted for 150 years and, while not perfect, has stood the test of time, and another theory that has existed since the beginning of time, yet has never produced a satisfactory prediction, test or repeatable result.

The Designer (“by any other name”) is still Supernatural.

The Intelligent Design movement is attempting to give said Designer an Extranatural makeover, but they lack the science and the logic.  They have some pretty confounding rhetoric, though, so don’t expect them to go away anytime soon.

When we die, we will die with our arms unbound

What happens to us after we die?

Kind of a big question.  Or, you know, the biggest question.

Religion developed as a means of answering that one question (before tackling other subjects).

Heaven, hell, purgatory, reincarnation, Morgan Freeman.  We expect that we will experience one of these things when we make our last CO2 deposit.  But, of course, there is no way to know.

Despite the fact that no one has ever crossed over and returned to describe it (since that would be impossible), people believe in very concrete versions of the afterlife.  Visions of heaven during Near Death Experiences® have long been understood to be the firing of chemicals within the brain and body – not unlike dreaming – that create hallucinations and the sensation of being “out of body.”  That everyone seems to see heaven during these experiences, and never hell, should raise questions.  Surely some of these people were dicks and deserved the fire pits.

Just because no one has ever been to heaven and come back obviously doesn’t disprove that there is one.

But, come on, doesn’t the idea of a perfect place in which you live in everlasting happiness sound, sort of, I don’t know, juvenile?  It’s the same sort of belief that we have as kids when we think, “When I’m an adult, life is gonna be great.”  And then when we’re 18: “When I’m done with college, life is gonna be awesome.”  And again when we’re 40: “When I retire, life is gonna be peaceful.”  The belief in heaven is just another way of saying, “Life isn’t great now, but later…” 

So many people spend their whole lives looking forward to that next stage, forgetting that whatever stage of life you find yourself in is the best stage of life, because it’s the only one you can control.  (There are exceptions to this rule, of course.)

In fact, though it may seem contradictory, belief in hell is wishful thinking, too.  It’s just, we wish it on other people, those people we don’t like.  Religion, being the wily beast that it is, managed to combine both beliefs as a way of motivating people to act one certain way, to avoid hell and to attain heaven.

(Reincarnation is a very different form of the afterlife, but its use as a manipulative tool is exactly the same.)

The truth is, no one knows what happens to us after we die.

Except me.


Here is what happens to you after you die:

Your body decomposes while simpler lifeforms digest you (unless you were cremated, in which case, your ashes sit in an urn somewhere).  People who knew you miss you to varying degrees, depending on how much of an ass you were.  These same people also die off and, with time, every person who ever met you dies off until no one remembers you.  You may live on in family history, but even that will begin to fade with each successive generation until you’re no more than just a name in a genealogy.


There are some exceptions.

Some people will be remembered by third parties who didn’t know them but heard about them.  Some people will be celebrities to a certain extent, living on as the obscure punchline of a hipster joke or being remembered for their great contribution to their field, whether that be in art, science, politics or some other realm of public influence.  A select few will become historical legends.

Considering how many human beings have existed over the millions of years of human evolution, a rather paltry sum of homo sapiens have lived on in the collective memory of the human consciousness. 

For every Julius Caesar,  Joan of Arc and Abraham Lincoln, there are a thousand Jim Fallow’s, Abdullah Fashid’s and Cindy-Sue Smith’s (don’t know who any of them are? Neither does anyone else).

Also, its not forever because theyll die too.

Live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse

We are told it’s noble to live for heaven.  That is to say, living as a martyr or, at the very least, a morally and religiously upright person, espousing God, Allah or Zeus.

But, since heaven (and God) is an unknowable goal, I wonder, is that really such a noble aim?

What if, instead of living for a post-death reward, we lived our lives for post-death remembrance.

I’m not talking about feeble celebrity.  Who really thinks we’re going to remember who Snookie was in 50 years (I don’t even know who she is now)?  There will always be idiots famous for idiotic reasons (the idiot demographic is a surprisingly robust and well-funded one), but for lasting remembrance, you will have to have had a dramatic impact, not just on friends and acquaintances, but on strangers and future generations.

If we’re gonna live for a fantastical afterlife, it might as well be the one that we know at least some humans in history have achieved.

And we can look you in the eye and say, “We’re not afraid to die!”

What remains after our death?  Our piles of stuff in our lifeless bedrooms; our Facebook pages in stases; our tracks in the snow and dirt, gradually eroding away.

And our art.  It is our only lasting gift to future generations.  By ‘art’, I don’t just mean music and paintings (though it can be), I mean whatever it is that we create through our passion and talent.   Thomas Jefferson was an artist.  Edison, Franklin and Einstein, artists of intellect.  To create is the truest expression of life, to bring some amount of form to an otherwise chaotic ether.  Devotion to your art is the only truly noble life.

I’ve met lots of people who said they weren’t artistic.  I’ve never met a person who didn’t have the spark of creation in them.

You can live for heaven, but it’ll get you nowhere (literally).  You can live for celebrity, but it’ll die with you.

But if you live for your art, mastering your craft, then you may come closest to achieving the thing that religion promises but cannot provide:  Eternal life.

Living As Art

I believe in art.  I believe in its power to educate and illuminate.  I believe in its almost (almost) supernatural ability to evoke emotions and experiences, even those that you have never known before.

And I believe that the way we live our lives is our ultimate artistic expression.  When we think of great artists and thinkers of the past, we aren’t just impressed with their achievements, we’re fascinated by their lives.

I’ve written on this topic before, so in lieu of repeating myself, I’ll leave you with one final thought.

I quote myself: 

“I believe if you can’t be a decent person, then you should at least live enough stories to leave behind a decent myth.”

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