I talk about my beliefs about what happens during the process of death, and how that can provide comfort as an atheist.

  • originalucifer@moist.catsweat.com
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    1 month ago

    to me, atheists value life more than the god-fearing. just look at all the death and destruction caused specifically by religions.

    atheists value this life more because there is no second chance. there is no ‘later’. its now or never. this is your one shot and you better use it.

    that added value makes grieving so much harder than those that believe in the crutch of the supernatural.

  • Flying Squid@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    I’m very sorry for your loss and I won’t criticize your essay, although I do not agree with it, but I will give you this:

    You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

    And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

    And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

    And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.

    – Aaron Freeman

    https://www.npr.org/2005/06/01/4675953/planning-ahead-can-make-a-difference-in-the-end

    • APassenger@lemmy.world
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      1 month ago

      I want neither a religious leader nor some physicist with vague “energy” platitudes as a speaker at my funeral. But I think that’s the thing. Death is personal. We want different things. And that’s it’s own beauty.

      For me… I want an atheist with an understanding of pain, suffering, delight and nothingness. Someone to, without lecturing, explain that in my view I was not here for eons. Then, for a brief period I lived. I stumbled, loved, and grew old. I relished my moment. I saw it for what it was and made what I could of it. And now I return to the nothing.

      Selfless, selfish, nurturing and angry. I did it all. I stayed at home for vacation, I traveled. I was poor. I had a season of money. I lived my moment. I am at peace with that. It could have been far, far worse.

      And while returning to the nothing may seem ghastly to some, to me it has beauty. Symmetry.

      Even this happy life has struggle. One day, the struggle ends.

      • Flying Squid@lemmy.world
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        1 month ago

        I honestly don’t care what happens at my funeral because I won’t be there. As long as my loved ones are satisfied, that’s all I hope for. I just posted that because I know many atheists who grieve have found it comforting.

        • APassenger@lemmy.world
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          1 month ago

          This is the same conversation my wife and I just had. Funerals are for the living. That’s not to dismiss them, I think they serve a purpose in helping the living reconcile to their new normal.

  • SolidGrue@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    I liked this article and wanted to share some thoughts I had while reading it.

    An important thing to remember about grief and grieving is it is as much a social process as it is a psychological one. The process is one of closure and moving on undertaken entirely for the benefit of the bereaved because the deceased is simply not able to partake except in effigy.

    People are social animals, and religion arises out of those foundations. When we lose a beloved member of our community, it starts a period of psychological and social adjustment that, for better or for worse, religions offer a convenient road map and social process to follow. The shamanic figure in a social group (pastor, imam, rabbi, or other spiritual leader) helps to guide that process with rituals that help the bereaved find their closure. The rituals offered by different religions are old and comfortable to many because they are effective for the adherents of that religion, and perhaps also to former participants of those religions. A common element in these rituals is for the survivors to commune with the memory of the deceased, to celebrate a lost loved one, and to reaffirm the preciousness of life, a catharsis that ushers deceased from person hood into the community’s memory. The community disperses having partaken in a final gesture of love for the deceased, and sent them on to whatever comes next.

    In modern life, one would hope to experience such death and loss infrequently, and if so lucky might be expected to fall back on those old and comfortable rituals of our social circle rather than navigate that process alone. Unless you yourself live a shamanic way-- living between reality and a sort of ur-spiritual mindset that eschews the super natural-- you’d probably find the closure process more challenging. Most people simply aren’t wired to face death, and to counsel others in their grief. In such times that framework and the community around it are attractive, and so thoughts of an afterlife without the hardships of daily life come naturally.

    Saying goodbye is hard, but religion offers frameworks that effectively guide communities through a grieving process towards a stable state of closure. Is believing in Heaven or Paradise or Reincarnation healthy? Perhaps, but maybe only because it’s less healthy for everyone to face the alternative alone.

  • partial_accumen@lemmy.world
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    1 month ago

    I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. I have a different take, which might also bring you comfort (warning, it may do the opposite).

    Many people speak about a person “being” with a singular “stop being” we call “death” or “the passing of a person”. I understand why we do this, because from all outward appearances that’s what it looks like. However, its not actual, in fact so. In fact, almost our entire body at the time of our death has nothing of our original body. Skin is replaced in weeks, while at the other end our skeleton has about a 7-10 year cycle time. From what I can gather, besides a few hundred grams of cells in a few places in our body, everything else is replace many times over the course of our lives. We are, all of us each, a walking “Ship of Theseus”.

    So by middle age, our entire bodies (again besides the few hundred grams) have been changed out multiple times. The fingers you’re feeling with, those aren’t your originals. The certain structures in the ears you’re hearing with have been swapped at a cellular level from what you were born with. The living cells in bones of the legs you stand on have been grown, shrunk, ,and replaced cell by cell until nothing living in those bones is your ‘original equipment’.

    Further, you’ve experienced life and your views have changed since your youth. You’ve been exposed to different environments and chemicals which will have subtle effects on your cognition. When compared to your youth, you are neither the same person in mind or body.

    What we draw from this is that we have “mostly died multiple times already”. How does it feel? Do you mourn for your former self(selves)? Is the world missing the former “you” or did your actions when that person existed still echo in the world? Did your good works and helping hand still live in the memories of those you assisted?

    If so, then when your final copy of your body is on the edge of being retired, your actions and the spirit (as defined as the actions you produced over your life) are noted and know to those you touched. Will it be so different from the multiple times you’ve “died” already?

    All of our atoms in our bodies are borrowed. We’ll simply be returning them from where we got them. Where do we go when we die? The same place we were before we were born, pieces of the universe in use with other objects and beings.

    • hperrin@lemmy.worldOP
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      1 month ago

      Thank you. I do like that. That’s kind of what I meant when I was talking about everything that made him him disappearing when he died. All the atoms are still there, but the life is gone, and he was the life, not the atoms.