Sorry for the delayed response, I had to get out of town for a couple of days to clear my head. Thanks everyone for the incredible answers. I can tell you guys have thought about\discussed this issue before. So here's my next question that I have, it's a little more philosophical. (and probably in the wrong section) How do you deal with losing somebody you love? Even though it doesn't make any sense to me why someone as charitable, kind, and Christ-like as my friend was, would be allowed to die; the thought of being able to see my friend again is very comforting. Religion offers me hope, even if it is false hope. Is the truth really always better?
Nobody really knows what happens when we die, so I don't find it useful to draw comfort from the unknown. I don't want your experience to be more painful than it already is, but I think focusing on your friend's life and the good he did with it might actually be a greater comfort to you.
Some people live 100 years without really living. The fact that your friend did live, and that he impacted at least your life as significantly as he did is amazing. You had the opportunity to know a wonderful person while he was alive, and I feel sorry for the billions of other people who didn't get that chance. You're the lucky one. ;-)
Your friend may very well be experiencing salvation in Heaven, but we don't know for sure. What we do know is that he was alive, and he obviously did great things with that life, and I think that matters more than all the eternal rewards of Heaven.
Forgive me if I come across as unsympathetic, but I’ve been there and I know what you’re feeling, and there are just some things in life that you can’t gloss over with pretty words and happy fantasies. I’m going to tell it to you straight and I hope you can eventually appreciate this.
It is times like these that provide all the reason in the world to drop the expectation or hope that there is more to this life than what you see and pick up a healthy appreciation for each and every day that you are given the luxury of experiencing life. All too often we take this life for granted and then feel cheated when we don't get what we expected. Really, we should be incredibly grateful for what we have had. Not knowing whether death is the end or not, we better live for today. Regardless of what you believe about an afterlife you can never get this life back, so everyone should live it to the fullest.
You should look at the time you shared with your friend as a gift. While it’s completely understandable to be sad that you don’t get to share more with your friend, it was never guaranteed and you should be remembering that time with joy, not sadness. Whether you ever get to see your friend again, what you shared should be utmost in your mind. You will lose loved ones in the course of this life. That is inevitable. Believing that you will see them again does not make that loss any less painful. Does the delusion really provide any comfort, or does it merely provide a distraction? In the end, your friend is still gone.
The idea that “it doesn't make any sense to me why someone as charitable, kind, and Christ-like as my friend was, would be allowed to die” is obviously ludicrous. Everyone dies. Why? Because our bodies can only keep regenerating their cells for so long. That’s the only why or how or purpose or explanation. Your friend’s life was cut short because s/he sustained injuries that could not be fixed by his or her body. That’s the why. It happens to millions of people each and every day, young and old, rich, poor, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, and one day it will happen to you - all because that’s what life is and how it works. As humans we get these ideas that we’ll live forever, that bad things only happen to bad people, that all of life should be puppies and rainbows and that’s just not reality. We might be able to cover over that glaring gap between our ideal and reality with wishful thinking, but when we find ourselves staring reality in the face, as you are now and will find yourself doing more and more as the years go by, that wishful thinking just isn’t going to cut it, no matter how much we want to cling to it as a comforting security blanket.
Your wonderful, beautiful friend is gone. Nothing can change that. There is nothing to do but accept that. How you do that is to appreciate what you had, not be mad or sad because you didn’t get more. It’s doing a disservice to your friend’s life to focus so completely on his or her death. Learn to appreciate life for what it is, and appreciate every moment of it, because nothing is guaranteed so you better live it now, not tomorrow and not yesterday – right now. Don’t let beliefs hold you back from living and appreciating life. Let reality provide the ultimate appreciation for what is, instead of worrying or fantasizing about what might be.
I am sorry for your loss, but I prefer to think of what you shared with your friend as a gain.
Dealing with losing someone you love is never easy. I still get pangs of sadness over the death of my grandmother, and it has been over 20 years since she died. It'll never truly go away, but it will get easier to bear, Axl.
As much as the thought of seeing my grandmother again in an afterlife may be attractive and comforting, I cannot bring myself to abandon fact for fiction, no matter how good it might feel.
Personally, I'd rather have the truth, even if it is a sadder truth, than to comfort myself with fairy tales. As George Bernard Shaw said, "The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one."
When it comes to coping with the death of a loved one, I focus on their life, the good times we had, the memories which will live on for as long as I do. In a way, as long as I remember them, they're not truly gone, they are still having an effect on the world, if only by proxy.
Sadly, death rarely makes sense. If it did, if good people died peaceably of old age surrounded by loved ones, while the wicked died early, then there would perhaps be some evidence of a guiding hand. But the truth is, our lives can be cut short by the most unexpected and trivial of events, without rhyme or reason. There is no 'allowed' or 'not allowed', no great overarching plan, things just happen, and we must deal with the results.
@Nelson- Thanks, I appreciated the part about coming to atheism due to logic, not because of pain, or anger towards God.
@Pam-I think that's a very good point about focusing on what time we had together rather than on losing him. In other words, not relying on an idea to give me comfort, but rather relying on people. (That's how I took your answer anyways)
@Stacy B- Thanks for the honesty, the part about "puppies and rainbows" made me laugh (something I haven't done in a while) I also liked how you threw in how believing that this life may be 'all we've got' actually makes you live life more fully.
@Dave G- I loved the example about relating drunkenness with believing in something with the sole purpose of making me feel better. I guess drugs or alcohol give you a false sense of happiness that doesn't last. I see how it relates. Thanks.
So hopefully I'm getting more or less what you all are trying to say. I'm trying to have an open mind to new ways of thinking.
Okay so last couple of questions I need answers to, then I'll be outta you guys hair: One thing that really helped me stick to the principles that were force-fed to me, was being able to read the Bible\Book of Mormon every day. It helped me to constantly remind myself what I stood for, and got me in the state of mind to be the person I wanted to be. What do you do to stick to your morals (whatever they may be) and become the person that you envision yourself becoming. Last of all, please recommend one good book about atheism.
THANKS so much for your answers, it really means a lot to me.
I would ask did the Bible and Book of Mormon tell you what you stood for, or did you focus on the parts of the Bible and the Book of Mormon that fell in line with what you stand for on your own? I highly doubt you stand for killing disobedient children and women keeping their mouths shut in church and being willing to kill your own child because you think some god has told you to. You don't stand for offering up your own daughters to be gang raped in order to keep your guests safe and you don't stand for punishing an entire people for the evils of their ruler. So did you get your morality from those books? Did they tell you who you are and what you stood for? Or did you merely take from them the good parts that naturally appeal to you and use them to illustrate what you stand for?
For all the good lessons taught in the Bible (I'm not familiar with much of the Book of Mormon except its dubious origins) there are other fables and stories that teach the same lesson without the religious rhetoric. If you need analogies to remind you of those lessons, there are other books out there. Aesop's Fables is a great place to start. However, all you were really doing when reading the Bible and BofM was to bring to the forefront of your mind the lessons you have learned. You can do that without either of those books. Just look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself who you want to be today and how would that person act. Use real life situations to remind you of what you stand for. Learn from reality.
What do I do to stick to my morals? What purpose or reason or incentive would I ever have to NOT stick to my morals? Why would I want to do something against my nature? What could possibly make me want to do something "wrong"? I know who I want to be. Why would I ever be something else? If you need a book to remind you who you want to be, then you have no idea who you want to be. You need to figure out what's important to you, not what's important to your church leaders or what some book says is important or what you think is supposed to be important. What is important to YOU? It shouldn't be too hard to follow that path if you have truly analyzed why those things are important to you. If you know why something is important then you don't have to remind yourself what is important. The right things just are important. Your morality and what you stand for and who you want to be is internal, not externally embedded in and drawn from a book.
I'm not sure that there are really any books about atheism, per se, but certainly some that explain some of the issues and fallacies of some religions. You can't go wrong with The God Delusion by Dawkins. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris are some well known authors of books on the general subject.
Now, as to my morals. My morality comes from my reason and millennia of evolutionary adaptation. Humans are a social animal, we're adapted to live in groups. Much of our morality comes from advantageous adaptations to that environment. Altruism, compassion, honesty, trustworthiness, and many more virtues were selected for due to their evolutionary advantages, and are borne out by our success and by rational thought. One of Daniel Dennet's books, I think Darwin's Dangerous Idea, has an excellent chapter or two on evolutionary stable social strategies and how things like altruism and honesty can be selected as advantageous traits.
Although many religious people will not admit it, their morality comes from the same source. Religious texts get their morality from humanity, not the other way around. Every time someone reads the Bible or the Koran or the Vedas and picks which sections that will obey, they are using the innate sense of morality that developed as a part of human nature to judge the historical morality that their religion imposes. The Bible, for example, clearly states that anyone working on the Sabbath is to be stoned to death.
One of the dangers that religion poses is that religious indoctrination can override a person's innate sense of morality. Again using the stoning on the Sabbath example, I (and I would guess you) would consider that immoral, to kill someone for working on Sunday (or Saturday for Judaism). Yet in some ultra-orthodox areas of Israel, groups of people *will* throw stones at people working (or even driving a car) on the Sabbath. Again, in one of Dennett's books (I enjoy reading Dennett, can you tell? :D ) he talks about how certain situations, when presented as a moral dilemma, will get one answer if the dilemma is presented as involving characters of the person's religion, and a totally different way if presented as involving characters of other religions.
So, in short, my morality springs from my humanity, modulated and directed by my reason.