Thursday, May 23, 2013

How we die is more important than how we live

No, this isn't a post about the afterlife. It is a post about how we end this life. The fear of suffering in America is quite large. Which is odd, because in America, there is almost no suffering. Nothing like in the rest of the world, anyway. There is a reason people still risk their lives to come here, undocumented, to become the equivalent of slaves, earning less money than it takes to survive. We may no longer be the land of opportunity, but we are certainly the land of no suffering. If you are in pain, we've got a wide variety of medications to make it better. If you are a pregnant teenager- there are tons of charities that would love to help you keep or adopt out your baby. If you are poor, there's always SNAP food stamps- so much so that the real problem with malnutrition in America is people getting fat off of the bad nutrition of cheap calories and food insecurity where they binge 3 weeks a month and starve the 4th. And if all of that isn't enough- Washington and Oregon offer legal suicide in the last 6 months of life (really, to anybody who can convince a doctor that they are in the last 6 months of life) and now 18 states legally offer abortion past birth up to the first breath (though a doctor was just convicted of going past that, and five others are either under investigation or arrested for infanticide). America has truly defeated the problem of suffering. And yet, fear of it drives people into Atheism daily- and Nones are the fastest growing religion. Why? Respond in the combox.


Bill S said...

Fear of suffering drives people into atheism? How so? I've heard that fear of death drives people into religion but not fear of suffering drives people into atheism.

Theodore Seeber said...

The problem of evil. I don't have the time to explain more right now; but the inability to see value in suffering, especially supposedly needless suffering (which always indicated to me as much a lack of belief in chaos theory as a lack of belief in God and miracles) leads to a rejection of the supposedly "not Good" God, merely through misunderstanding of the value of suffering.

Bill S said...

To the atheist, suffering is part of life. There is no value or purpose to it. It's not a punishment for anything we have done or the first humans have done and it has no redemptive value. Believers attribute everything to God which creates a problem because that means that God allows suffering. The way around this for maintaining that God is good and in control is to say that suffering has a good purpose. It really doesn't but to admit that would be to admit that God is not all powerful or is not good.

Theodore Seeber said...

Then why decry the problem of evil? You must admit, it is a common meme. The valueless suffering, over and over. But for the believer, suffering always has value- because it engenders compassion in others.

The lack of understanding of the value of suffering is quite apparent. You cannot take it away merely by denying the existence of the meme. In fact, your own attachment to your suicide plans and euthanasia prove the fear of suffering.

Bill S said...

"your own attachment to your suicide plans and euthanasia prove the fear of suffering."

To me, there is no hell except hell on earth. I think it is entirely useless and unnecessary. I firmly believe that someday there will no longer be any religious opposition to euthanasia as in mercy killing and in doctor assisted suicide in general. Planning a suicide requires that one devise a way to pull off a crime of sorts. People are not free to take their lives on their own terms. Not that I have any plans to do so.

Theodore Seeber said...

That's the propaganda side again. The reality is that euthanasia will become legal because it is the cheap thing to do, not the right thing to do. If suffering is a part of life, then suffering need not be hell- as the Zen Buddhists say, you need to adjust your expectations.

Though- an interesting idea: Legalize euthanasia, but require 100% estate taxes from those who take it, to eliminate the possibility of profit from the system.

Bill S said...

I would rather be euthanized than live in a nursing home. Maybe when I am ready for a nursing home, I will feel differently about it. We all need a better understanding of what actually happens when we die. It is just like being unconscious with no dreaming. All this talk about heaven, hell and purgatory only serves to unnecessarily agitate the dying and those worried about dying. They are just incentives and deterrents used to control our thinking and behavior.

Theodore Seeber said...

Where I've taken care of relatives in nursing homes- and would love to retire to one. Need to someday afford Knights of Columbus Long Term Care insurance to do so though.

Maybe our thinking and behavior NEEDS some controls, did that ever occur to you?

Still, look a couple more posts further on for a discussion on absolute vs moral certainty, and the last things.

Bill S said...

"Maybe our thinking and behavior NEEDS some controls, did that ever occur to you?"

Yes. That may be so. But our thinking and behavior should only be controlled through enlightenment not by made up stories about heaven, hell and purgatory. If the Gospels are true, then Jesus was the worst offender. His story of Lazarus and the rich man is one giant scare tactic. Note that purgatory didn't seem to be an option at that time.

Theodore Seeber said...

What if those stories about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory aren't made up?

After all, it isn't just Catholicism that tells such tales; it is also Tibetan Buddhism.

What if the real satori, is the discovery that you might be wrong?

Bill S said...

"What if the real satori, is the discovery that you might be wrong?"

For me to be wrong to the extent that there would be some sort of repercussion for being wrong, the following conditions would have to exist.

1. I should have believed in something for which there is very little evidence and no proof. For example, that Jesus rose from the dead and that we will have eternal life like him with resurrected bodies.

2. I should have believed something known to be physically impossible. See example in 1.

3. Because I failed to believe, I face a punishment of some sort. Or, worse still, I face eternal damnation.

The closest I can come to a God that I can believe in is the God of those who believe in intelligent design. I doubt very much that such a God would know or care about what I believe. Any requirement that I believe anything at all would just be a ploy to try to force me to believe it and would most likely not be true.

Theodore Seeber said...

1. There is a lot of evidence for those items. Just because you've dismissed it neither eliminates nor invalidates the evidence.
2. In science, there is no such thing as a physical impossibility, only highly improbable events. Dogmatic absolute certainty is incompatible with both science and Catholicism (though sadly, large numbers of Christians in official dissent from Church teaching make this mistake).
3. Eternal damnation is only a punishment if you *want* to be with your family and believers for eternity. Otherwise, it is a reward, for not believing.
4. You are correct, even in Catholicism, God doesn't care. He loves, agape, but he doesn't care. If after a lifetime of rejecting His agape, you make the final rejection, then he has provided a state of mind for you to spend eternity in as his last act of love for you- one that is separate from his presence- and he allows you the free will to choose to go there.

WE care. You family cares. God? No, not really. You are just one being in a four dimensional universe of trillions.

The requirement isn't that you believe. The requirement is that you doubt.

Bill S said...

"Dogmatic absolute certainty is incompatible with both science and Catholicism"

Whether they would be called dogmatic or absolute certainty or not I don't know. But there has to be some certainties in life. Scientific theories are certainties to me. Catholic dogmas are not.

Theodore Seeber said...

In science- absolute certainty (about anything) runs the danger of preventing new discoveries, coming up with new explanations. It is directly against the scientific method, which holds that all evidence *must* be examined, even questionable evidence.

But in Catholicism, absolute certainty is even worse- it is seen as the "sin of presumption", the finite created man presuming to understand the mind of God without evidence.

Fortunately, we can have varying degrees of moral certainty, based on how much evidence our models have behind them. But moral certainty is based on probability, and is NEVER 100%.

Which leads me back to the original posting that started this discussion- most practicing (as opposed to practical, and I know you know the difference) Catholics are 2-5 on Dawkins Scale of Theistic Probability. We are prevented by doctrine from being Carl Jung style 1, and our experiences with being open to prayer and miracles prevent becoming 6-7 atheists.

There is no actual certainty in this life- and no assurance of anything in the next.

We can, however, count on God being rational- which is why Catholicism was able to come up with the scientific method when the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Islamics had all tried and failed.

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