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!

Religion? What the hell is Religion?

IMG_1061

At 7:30 this morning I wrote the following:

Religion is a big deal to a lot of people. The majority of world leaders severely impacting the lives of their citizens invoke it as justification. The overtly Islamic governments the Middle East do so in restricting women’s rights, while the government of the United States, secular by law, founded by atheists and skeptics, but recently some kind of Christian in practice, invokes it in ripping small children away from their mothers and fathers. So, with women being stoned to death and little kids crying themselves to sleep, alone on a cot in an old Wal-Mart,  because of religion, we should probably try to figure out what the it is. 

Religion seems to be a particular set of beliefs. If you believe a, b, and c then you are a Catholic. If you believe b,c, and d, then you are a Protestant. If you believe c,d, and e you are Muslim, and so on. 

It is now 7:30 in the evening. 7:34 anyway, about 12 hours later. I spent today cleaning out the shed in my backyard, I actually started yesterday. I took everything out of it, swept and vacuumed, put aside a pile to garage sale next weekend, threw a ton of stuff away, and then put everything back in a way that is logical and maximizes the space well.

I took a break in the middle of it, went to Lowe’s with my wife and son. I got some perennials for the yard, a table saw, pretty excited about that, and a big tub to put all my camping gear. Not all of it, actually, it doesn’t hold the sleeping bags and whatnot. Instead I filled it with all the stuff I forget whenever I go camping. I just went camping, and forgot everything, so that what made me think of it. Actually, now that I’m thinking of it, it was my friend saying he was going to get a tub for all of his camping stuff that made me think of it. Thanks Adam. Anyway. Chairs, coffee maker, pan. I also put the tent in there, so that I don’t forget to bring the tub.  On the way home we stopped at a garage sale, a couple was moving to Honduras so they were selling everything they owned. We got a good sized picture frame, a pole saw and a weed whacker, both battery powered and we we got a couple batteries and couple chargers as well. My wife got a dress, then as we left they threw in a Stephen King book that I haven’t read in a long time, and a Dean Koonts book. I’ve never read Dean Koonts, he has kind of the same reputation as Stephen King though, so I imagine it might make for some decent laying in the hammock about to take a nap reading.

Anyway, we got home, and I got back to it. Listened to the Mariners game as a I swept and vacuumed and piled and sorted and reorganized. They lost, but that’s ok, it’s just baseball. I’m not even on the team.

This morning, before I started really getting into it, my wife made me an omelette and hasbrowns for breakfast. It’s Father’s Day after all, though she does often make breakfast regardless. I make breakfast when she does not. Omelettes are pretty hit and miss for me, but this one was a major hit. Everything about it, the texture and degree to which the ingredients coagulated with the egg, just beautiful. For lunch, nachos. A Thai restaurant made us dinner, which was nice of them, all we had to do was give them money. It was delicious. The coffee was bountiful all day long.

As we ate dinner my wife and I played a game of cribbage. Our son finished and put him in the bath. He has a little portable tub, so he took a bath right there in the kitchen while we kept playing our game. On the table was a board printed with several photos of my son and I, as well as a little handprint art project my son made for me at daycare. We haven’t finished the game yet, our son wanted to get out of the bath and go to bed. My wife is in with him right now, reading books. (He isn’t acting sleepy anymore, cheeky monkey. Not really though, the monkey part. He, like you and I, presumably, is an ape. It is evidenced by the fact he resembles a monkey in many ways, but lacks a tail. That’s pretty much how you tell. It’s an important distinction. We really are very similar to gorillas, orangutans, especially bonobos. It might be harder to drive them into extinction if we, the human subspecies, recognized that, and, perhaps, subsequently, more difficult to destroy the existence of every other species as well). I have a pretty good hand sitting on the table too.

Anyway, I had a great day. Spent time with my boy and my wife, ate good food, accomplished a fairly laborious task with an aesthetically and pragmatically satisfying result.

So then I came into finish this sermon. I missed it last week already, and if I ever invent a god to accompany this religion I don’t want it to get mad at me, so I figured I ought to bang it out. I read what I wrote.

Religion seems to be a particular set of beliefs. If you believe a, b, and c then you are a Catholic. If you believe b,c, and d, then you are a Protestant. If you believe c,d, and e you are Muslim, and so on. 

Fine. I mean, it means that. Words are defined by use, and that is the way the word is used. I could spin an argument showing it means this or that, but it’s getting late and I’m tired and frankly I don’t care that much right now. I had a good day, I just want to sit on the couch and end it in peace.

The relevant fact is that religion doesn’t have to mean which building you go once per week to everyone. I mentioned Jack D. Hughes defines it as  something like the sum of your actions, which I like. I like that definition a lot actually. For some, their religion is separating children from their parents, both of whom are fleeing possible death in their own countries, in order to prove a point about law and order or something. I didn’t save any lives today, didn’t even try. But I feel good about what I did, and so I will try to have more days like this. That, being productive while spending time with my own family, for the moment, is my religion.