Of Course There Is No Afterlife! Although…

IMG_2050I’m an atheist. I don’t think it’s the most interesting thing about me, it isn’t something I need tattooed on my forehead, I have other beliefs that would seem to annoy people who disagree with me far more. None of these things would have been true a decade ago, when I was beating people over the head with “The God Delusion”, but you live, learn, and become a determinist. That is a good book though, I should probably read it again.

At any rate, as an atheist, I find the idea of heaven and hell to be laughable. How convenient! Scared of death? Don’t worry! You can’t die, ever. But, if you follow my rules, you live forever in paradise, if you don’t though, just fyi, you burn in hell.

The whole idea of infinite existence is exhausting in either situation, who has the energy for that? If there is a heaven, it’d be punctuated life times in various enjoyable situations. It’d need to have context in order for the joy to be experienced though, otherwise you have the gambler in that Twilight Zone episode where he always wins vibe going on.

That scenario is actually in line with the machinations behind my own secret desire for life after death. This variety of the afterlife, essentially repetitions with variation of the kind of life I lead now seems possible without divine intervention, via two physically possible scenarios. One is that the universe contracts and expands repeatedly, and does so with slight variations. Infinite iterations of the universe lead to a great number of universes in which you exist in some form or another. Life after death!

Another is what is called the coke bottle theory, or I think it’s called that. I think Brian Greene called it that. At any rate, what it comes down to is that in a given area of space there will only be so much material. Too much and it’ll form a black hole, too little and it will disperse to other areas. Given that there can only be so much material, it can only take so many forms. Given enough space and time, those forms will repeat. So, some of those forms will include me sitting at this computer drinking instant coffee because the goddamn jug part of our french press keeps breaking and you can’t just buy the jug part you have to buy a whole new french press and now I’ve got multiple presses and no jugs. Someday I’ll die, but the universe will repeat that french press-less form of me at the computer and presto, life after death!

It’s baloney. One, the universe isn’t contracting, and shows no signs of ever doing so, and if it doesn’t contract it can’t expand. This is the only universe we get, so don’t litter! Even if it did, and in the coke bottle theory of the afterlife, the best you could hope for is that the universe construct an exact replica of yourself, right down to the genetic code. In order for that to be “you” though, you’d have to have some continuity of consciousness, that replication would have to somehow cause you to come online again, which it wouldn’t, because if it did then identical twins would be experiencing each other’s lives, and, as far as I know, they don’t.

So, no afterlife. Which is fine, really. You get to be alive! What crazy universe is this that the dirt stands up and looks at itself? Almost too good to be true. It also alleviates any and all concerns of alternative timelines. There are none. Every choice you’ve ever made is the only choice you will ever make in that exact situation, there is never going to be a do over. So get over it already!

Unless of course this is all just a video game, and maybe I’ve got another guy after this one!

Happy Vaisakhi!

20Today is the Punjabi celebration of the solar New Year, a day correlated with the Spring Harvest, a time of new birth and rebirth. I had planned to spend the day gardening in celebration, but the monsoon that has consumed the Pacific Northwest rages into it’s 147th day, so we’re going to a Mariners game instead.

But what better way to celebrate the optimistic spirit of the New Year than with a baseball game? Especially when the home team, who hasn’t been to the playoffs in nearly a generation, is on a four game winning streak. Maybe they’ll win! Maybe they will keep winning! Every year, we entertain the hypothetical premise that the Mariners will keep winning. We have been disappointed over and over again, and still, we’re willing to believe it is possible.

Louis CK once opined that to be an optimist is to be an idiot. “Maybe something nice will happen!” he mocked them as proclaiming, “Why? Would something nice ever happen?” he challenged them. But Louis CK has been banished, for other reasons, and the indomitable spirit of optimism, that definitive characteristic of the adventurous and bold, marches on. And indeed, on occasion, nice things do happen.

I planted seeds in the ground the day before our last snow this year. Weeks crawled past with no sign of a seedling anywhere, but I waited. I did not plow the ground and try again. I did not, sensibly, begin the seeds indoors and then plant the starts later on. No, I just did nothing, believing the seeds would bear life if they just had more time.

Carrots! Basil! Radishes! They live!

Happy Vaisakhi!

Holy Day Appropriation!

On Easter Sunday I was driving home from a camping trip, traveling directly past my family’s festivities in honor of the day on my way. We were skipping it this year, and I was thinking about talking with my wife about dis-including Easter from our holiday calendar permanently. As a father, I am not particularly interested in perpetuating the strange mythology of the Easter Bunny, and as someone who is not a Christian there was no spiritual significance either.

My thoughts drifted on and I began to question why, as non-Christians, we had appropriated only Christian holy days. Easter and Christmas are the only two religion-affiliated holidays we observe, though we do so secularly, but why?

The answer is really just that we grew up celebrating them. I like Christmas too, so we’ll keep celebrating that one, but what else? There’s 12 months a year, why are we only celebrating two holidays anyway? So, I looked to the mighty oracle Google to discover what other holy days there were to take on and how to celebrate them secularly. Thusly, I present to you the official holidays of The Church of Black Coffee for the remainder of 2018!

April 14th: Vaisakhi: Punjabi Spring Harvest/Solar New Year

I don’t understand the January 1st New Year, it’s miserable! A spring new year makes way more sense, and this one from the Punjab is at the optimal flowers blooming, birds singing, and bees buzzing time of the year. I’ll be spending the day out in the garden, and celebrating with family and friends that evening with a decent fruit and vegetable rich meal.

May 1st: Lailat al Bara’ah: Islam Night of Forgiveness

This is the night that many followers of Islam pray for the forgiveness of their loved ones. I already forgive all my dead friends and families, but on this day I’ll be sure to tell stories about them, and try to visit at least one or two graves to say hello.

June 11th: Laylat al Kadr: Night of Power

This holiest of nights for Muslim people commemorates the revealing of the Quran to the prophet Muhammed, a book that begins with the command “Read!” This will be a day that celebrates reading in general, with gifts of books to friends and family. It also so happens that I am not particularly familiar with the Quran, so I will make it a point to begin reading it on this day.

July 27th: Dharma Day: The Buddha’s First Lecture

After achieving enlightenment Siddhartha Gautama felt the overwhelming urge to share his newfound understanding of the universe. While often rendered as an oversimplified version of itself in the West, Buddhism does espouse the benefit of rejecting materialism, and fosters the idea that events in the world are often of much less significance then we give them. This will be a day of quiet breathing, of forgiving myself and others, and of relaxing. I anticipate a hammock being involved at some point.

August 15th: Assumption of Mary: The Rise of Mary into Heaven

Mother Mary wouldn’t suffer such a pedestrian triviality as death! The mother of The Son was assumed bodily into heaven on this day in 41 CE, a Thursday according to Google. The Christians celebrate this day with a feast, and I don’t see a way to improve on that, so a feast it will be.

September 3rd: Labor Day

This holiday has been deprived of celebration for many decades. Now it serves simply as a stopping point for Summer’s fun. No longer! The Church of Black Coffee will bring back the true observation of this holiday by reflecting on the fruits of organized labor, such as the minimum wage, or the weekend. If there is a picket line within 50 miles on this day, we will join it. If not, we will use social media, and perhaps go out into society itself, to remind others of what is made possible when the labor force takes a stand against the oligarchy.

October 1st: International Coffee Day

While the Church of Black Coffee does not usually tolerate international days of any kind, we’ll have to make an exception here. On this day we will indulge in coffee, of course, but we will also be mindful of the origin of our coffee, remembering the resources necessary to producing it, and reaffirming our commitment to buying only sustainable, fair trade, shade grown beans. There will be much jittering on this day, that can be assured.

November 7th: Diwali: The Festival of Lights

While the word means ‘a row of lanterns’, for followers Hinduism, Jainism, Diwali is the celebration of good over evil! In the Hindu tradition it celebrates Rama’s defeat of king Ravana, and so Rama’s return to his kingdom. On this day I will act to achieve some good in the world, be it volunteering at a local food bank, or writing a persuasive letter to a senator or representative. I also know that there are celebrations of Diwali that are open to the public, so I’ll be seeking one to participate in.

December 25th: Christmas

I like this one. I think putting a tree in your house is hilarious, I like getting up early and drinking coffee while the kid plays with the new toys. It’s great. In the spirit of the holiday, and specifically the Sermon on the Mount, I will also demonstrate kindness to the less fortunate around this day, be it in donating toys and clothes or volunteering hours.

So that’s it! Not a huge spread really, but its a start. The 2019 holiday calendar will come out in December of this year. If you have ideas on what holidays to celebrate next year, please let me know!

 

George Carlin

 

1-28-18

There is a lot going on in this bit!

-Among the first is the quandary of how a being can be all knowing, all powerful, and all good, and yet sentence human beings, who are flawed by his design, to an eternity of suffering.

-The monetization of faith.

-Going back to the supposed omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent nature of God. If that is true, what the hell is going on? How did humanity become such an unhappy and unsuccessful enterprise? Given the widespread existence of poverty, disease, greed, corruption, and violence, even if God exists, why should anyone be impressed?

-Worship as a form of reverence. George talks about worshipping the sun, but he is really just talking about appreciating it as the all giving life force that it is. No need for supernatural phenomenon or life-after-death resurrections, just an appreciation for life.

-The paradox of prayer and God’s plan. God, being omniscient, knows what is best for you, and, being omnipotent, can make that happen for you, and, being omnibenevolent, desires what is best for you. So God needs no input, and your trust should be entirely in God’s plan, irregardless. Yet, prayer exists, and prayer is the often the asking of change, which suggests that they prayer believes God’s plan could be improved upon. Seemingly disrespectful in itself, made even more egregious by the fact these suggestions of improvements to God’s perfect plan occur, in their greatest frequency, on his day of rest.

– Prayer versus action. Instead of praying to a mysterious man in the sky, why not simply ask somebody on Earth for help? God works in mysterious ways, but Joe Pesci doesn’t. You want a problem fixed? Call a human with the tools. Perhaps a reference to the idea that if God exists, he equipped the earth with the necessary means to all possible ends, and so he expects you to make things work on your own.

-The equivocation of God, prayer, and religion with superstitions regarding shooting stars and four leaf clovers. Do humans just have a natural tendency to assume random events in the universe are directly related to themselves? Could we be that egotistical?