Friday, July 20, 2012

Reverse birthday party

I was reading a post today over at Black Skeptics where the topic was the death of a friend-- and atheist-- of writer Sikivu Hutchinson. I think funerals naturally draw people toward thinking about their own deaths and what their own funerals ought to be like. As in the case of this man, there was no choice available in the matter, as his friends and family proceeded with a Catholic ceremony in a church. My own family is ostensibly Buddhist with a few Catholics sprinkled around, and so far every family funeral I've attended has been largely Buddhist in nature, so I think I know what to expect if I don't specify otherwise (and I will, by the way).

So here's a good question. It's been asked and answered before but let me provide my own take on it: should atheists have funerals? I mean why bother? The standard answer is that funerals are not for the deceased, but for those they've left behind, because everyone needs a sense of closure and a chance to say goodbye.

Except funerals are for the deceased, just not while they're deceased. Your funeral is your final hurrah, your last and only reverse birthday party, and I think the living take some comfort in knowing that they'll have one eventually, especially if they've had the foresight to plan for it.

But it's most important to soldiers, policemen and firefighters, who risk their lives as a part of their profession. Even if they don't believe in an afterlife, knowing that a grand display awaits them in death reminds them of why they do what they do and who they're fighting for. It isn't even necessarily a matter of the funeral itself, but the ceremony is one component in a greater zeitgeist of admiration and respect for the lives lived.

What's my funeral gonna be like? Well, if I get my way, I'll be disposed of in the most economical and environmentally friendly way possible, and there won't be any Buddhist monks chanting for six hours straight, that's for damn sure (An impressive feat, but ultimately useless. Kind of like carrying a cross 1500 miles). And I would most likely have a statement prepared stating my final existential musings, the things that I couldn't speak to everyone more plainly about while I was alive (Hey, I'm dead. I can say whatever the fuck I want.). I'm pretty sure this is the route most academic atheists will take so in that sense I'm a bore. Well you know what? It's my reverse birthday party, and as long as it's not a surprise party, I'm happy as a clam.

A naturalist's view of a massacre

Inevitably following a massacre people start talking about gun control, but I'm going to move away from that and toward something far more pertinent but rarely spoken of. When you have a naturalist's world view, you can see these things for what they really are, which is mental illness. People forget that your mind and personality comes from a biological organ, and it is susceptible to disease and failure just like the rest of the body. When you see the mind-- the soul, perhaps-- as an ethereal entity piloting a machine, you conclude that a mass killer is evil when he's really just sick. Sick people can't be reasoned with, and they need to be taken care of before these kinds of things will happen. The signs of sociopathy and psychopathy must be detected early, especially when they're children, lest we think of them as having simple personality defects to be grown out of in time.

The latest I've heard is that the mother of the killer knew right away that the perpetrator was her own son. I'm willing to bet she knew he had problems for a long time, but again, society doesn't take these things seriously because society has the completely wrong view of why these things happen. Let's recognize the facts: there is no soul, we are at the mercy of our brains, and sometimes our brains get sick. Let's do it right, and put one person in a hospital instead of a dozen in the morgue.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

OMG Zimmerman

wtf is wrong with you, Zim?

George Zimmerman has revealed to Sean Hannity that he believes that Trayvon Martin's death was part of God's plan. As an atheist I was quick to jump onto this and declare another example of a religious evil, but I'm going to wait on that. People aren't always so stupid, and I remember the national letting out a collective groan after Michael "Dog Fighter" Vick declared he had found Jesus following his prosecution. So I can't declare this a religious evil over an opportunistic play for sympathy until I see a sizable population gullible or religion-rotted enough to believe in this new revelation.

Let me be clear, I was actually sympathetic to Zimmerman before this. I don't think he intended to kill anyone, but he presented an unknown threat to an innocent person, and that innocent person chose to fight back, and with potentially deadly force. He responded with assured lethality.

But now, Zim? Are you crazy or are you just an asshole?