Dealing With Death. Another “Fail” in the Skeptical Community.
These past couple of weeks I have been very busy. My uncle died and during my grieving process I had quite a few situations that resulted in additional stress. People stole things out of my uncles apartment while we were preparing for his funeral, members of the family fought about burial and monetary issues. I ended a romantic relationship. There was confusion around my scholarship between my former high school and current college and this may result in unplanned educational expenses. I am going to stop there because the list goes on…
So now I am back on the horse that I call my life and am ready to explain the harsh title. You see, during my week in emotional rollercoaster land, I called upon my skepticism and critical thinking skills. But sometimes so many things seem to happen and emotion sort of takes over. In times like these it can seem as if critical thinking skills are useless.
My uncle’s death made me think about how the skeptical and atheistic/agnostic community lacks the sufficient emotional foundation to support a person when they are dealing with significant sadness. Other skeptics and I have mentioned this in the past but I am going to mention it again because I believe it is crucial to the growth of this community.
When I talked with many of the members of my uncle’s family and friends I can’t help but feel alone in my view of the world. I looked at all of these people who forced themselves to deal with this loss with the idea that my uncle will go on to a better place and that one day they will all be together happy again in an afterlife of some kind. I, on the other hand, cannot take comfort from such denial. I know that everything that was my uncle was made up of electrical activity in his brain, and when that activity ceased to exist, so did he. The probability of an afterlife is almost nonexistent. Yet, since the dawn of self-awareness, humans have embraced the belief that when someone dies they are never completely gone. These religious views seem to put the mind at some sort of ease when dealing with death.
So what puts me to ease? And how am I supposed to convince people that skepticism and critical thinking is a better way to live one’s life then living it in denial when organized religion gives people comforting answers that provide emotional support in dealing with things like death?
I have always struggled with the idea of death. And I am probably not finished with my struggling with the idea of death. However, I do feel that I am on the right track in terms of coming to peace with it. Let’s face it, it is extremely difficult to imagine one day just being gone and never coming back. The prospect makes most people uncomfortable. I seem to take comfort in my ideas of life and death. I like relating an individual life to a pebble. When a pebble is dropped into the water a ripple effect occurs. Every life creates a ripple in the lake that we call the universe. But in my lake, depending on the pebble, the ripple may continue forever, changing, influencing and affecting all it encounters. And that is my eternal life. I want to create a positive, influential, courageous, inspiring and loving ripple. If I feel that by the end of my life I have done this I will die a good death.
Death is one of nature’s few mercies; if it does anything at all it eliminates suffering of the deceased. Since energy can neither be created nor destroyed, a living organism will always be a part of the beauty that is the universe.
I’m confident that comfort and emotion is available within the skeptical community. I just think it will take a little bit more than infrequent meet-ups revolving around alcohol. 😉