I just read a fascinating article on teenageatheist.com. She talks about dying and there being "nothing". Even though zillions of years passed before her 16 years on earth, she now exists and doesn't want it to end.
I believe my life will end and I will go to the same place I was in 10 million BC or 1940. Nowhere.
As an atheist, do you believe there is life after death? Or do you think there's just nothing; that you cease to exist and that's the end?
Guilt is very effective in controlling people... even animals. If you make the dog feel guilty about sneaking a biscuit, he might be less likely to do it when you're not looking. Guilt is incited by knowing you will be disappointing someone you respect or care about. Animals want to please their mate/parent. It can go right along with altruism. Doing what's "right" for the tribe/herd/pack will help that group survive. It's all about cooperation!
All dog owners like to think that their pet can sense their mood and emotions. Although researchers now accept that dogs, and other non-human animals, can experience primary emotions such as anxiety, fear, and anger, they still do not accept that "animals" have a sense of self and are capable of sophisticated secondary emotions. Instead, the scientists believe that non-human animals are incapable of understanding the feelings of others around them. Without a sense of self, they say, secondary emotions, like jealousy (he's enjoying that ... but I would enjoy more) or empathy (what a terrible situation that person/other dog is in) are impossible.
This is a complicated argument, and we don't have to review the details here, but suffice to say, not everyone agrees with the scientists. As sympathetic as I am to the difficulties of scientifically proving animal self-awareness and secondary emotions, I prefer to give animals the benefit of the doubt. http://www.petplace.com/dogs/can-dogs-sense-our-emotions/page1.aspx
"Pan's Labyrinth" was a good movie! I'll admit I tend to like movies with such endings. "Atonement" has another "happy" ending that isn't.
I had mostly good experiences with Christianity, and my former faith helped me through some rough times and brought a lot of joy. However, I cannot honestly say that I am a believer now, and, to me, truth is more important and a better choice than a "good" falsehood. But even though I just framed it as a choice, the choice was in the examining, not the conclusion - I always thought my faith would strengthen under close and thorough examination. It was a devastating conclusion that I was slow to accept.
Consequently, I've had a few years of mourning over my lost faith, and much of it alone because my family are strong believers. I don't regret all of this, but I miss the certainty and feeling of security, and, well, happiness my faith brought me.
A favorite quote of mine is this from Salman Rushdie:
"Love is what we want, not freedom. Who then is the unluckier man? The beloved, who is given his heart's desire and must for ever after fear its loss, or the free man, with his unlooked-for liberty, naked and alone between the captive armies of the earth?"
Losing my faith was sort of like gaining the "freedom" he talks about. But for me, the loss of the eternal has made this life more valuable, and consequently shifted my focus.
I read a little bit of your profile, Cara. You said, "They kept telling me I thought too much." I've gotten similar responses. Still do, actually. :-) I going to keep an eye out for more of your posts.
I totally relate to everything you said. I've definitely mourned aspects of my faith, although I think it's been a bigger relief than anything.
I mean, I do miss that "certainty and feeling of security" you talked about. I miss feeling like a prayer had some sway over the events in my life. It was as easy as driving down the road and pleading with God to, pretty please, make sure I got that job I was applying for. Now, when I feel really stressed, I wanna pray... but I know it's useless. And it was useless before, too. I remember crying and begging God to please help in this way or that way, only to be met with indifferent silence. It's actually a relief to know I was not being ignored during those times of desperation; no one could hear me.
It is lonely and strange to be on this side of faith sometimes. For one thing, you realize how delusional you were to think Christians are persecuted. Far from it! Almost everyone believes in a god; it's so hard to find anyone that doesn't believe. It was weird to have to figure out my own ethics once I realized there were no rules. Yes, and strange to find that I didn't want to go on a murderous, thieving, raping rampage like I'd always told I would if I forsook God. I found something I had NEVER had as a Christian, and that was peace and confidence. Feeling the weight of guilt and shame lifted has been the best thing for my self esteem. It was disconcerting to realize there was no "plan" for my life and that I could actually make a mistake... but it's been awesome to take control of my own destiny.
Ahhh, such conflicting emotions... but I would NEVER go back to my faith, even if I could become blissfully ignorant again. Besides, that's how I got here: I don't want to be ignorant, even if it means I become mortal. ;)
All of evolution can be seen as natural selection for traits which help the organism avoid death. Sensing pain may be one of the biggest adaptations in death avoidance. In most circumstances an animal experiences great pain in the process of dying. I think that pain is what we truly fear, and the understanding that it ends when we die will never completely overcome the billions of years of natural selection that makes us fear it.
Add language to this and it's easy to see how we evolved all kinds of social systems that take advantage of our fears. There is a lot of baggage to overcome in getting to a rational view of death.
I fear that there might be something. That's the freakiest thing of all.
Even back when I thought the grownups had something going on, I prayed that I wouldn't have to go to heaven (or hell) - that I'd just get nothingness.
I have no reason to believe there's something after, other than pure egocentrism.
I *do* fear death, the cessation of my existence. I know it's completely irrational, but it's too biological to avoid. But I think that's not the same thing as fearing nothingness, that's just fearing the ground after jumping out of a plane without a parachute. (And that's what life is, in metaphor: falling without a parachute)
But if I'm really honest with myself, I'm afraid of dying. Not afraid of being dead - of the process of dying.