Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter - don't waste your life!

The Four Horsemen get together in a multi-part conversation about atheism.

About six minutes in, Dan Dennett says "There's no polite way to say 'do you realize you've wasted your life' " to a believer.

As harsh as this sounds, it is simultaneously profound, because it reduces the problem of belief in imaginary beings to raw emotion about how you spend much of your life.

For those people who require certainty, order, direction, comfort, a sense of community and the hope of transcending their present circumstances, religion provides an unparalleled crutch. I understand this - I have felt this - it is attractive, powerful, compelling, a little awe-inspiring, and even a little frightening.

What if a different focus was available? What if every Sunday morning, for four hours you donate your labor to building a house for the needy, or preparing food, or preparing clothes, or providing job training, or providing medical attention? If 15% of the adult population donated this much time, 22 1/2 million mornings a week, 90 million hours a week, how would the well-being of this nation be improved? People in need would have some needs met, people providing the services would have that warm glow, that feeling of community, that knowledge that, if the need ever arises, they too could receive the fruit of human kindness from their neighbors.

All we lack in this scenario is the knowledge that this life, this one right here, is the one shot we have. There is no heaven, nor hell. The soul that we feel we have, may dissipate upon our death, never to return. We probably feel nothing, know nothing once the moment of our demise passes. There is nothing for us after our brains die - we should not spend thousands, tens of thousands of hours deluded that something is going to intervene and make us unimaginably happy, healthy, loved, serene, for all eternity. We have tens of years, they should not be wasted.

We can create a better world here, where we are now. There is no imaginary being that will do it for you. It is your responsibility for you. It is my responsibility for me. It can be done, if we don't waste our lives believing in something that isn't there.

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