I’m an atheist. Among my friends, this isn’t controversial, even though most of them are not atheists. At one time, to be educated and a decent person, one was required to allow others to disagree and, as importantly, to consider that one could be wrong. These days, that attitude is considered weak: doubt is a despicable character flaw to many. Not so among my friends.
That said, I believe there is no god. I’m as certain as I can be.
Recently, I startled some friends with a different, but consistent, belief: there is no immortal soul. Death is the end of the individual. I am as certain as I can be.
The response from several people was “but you don’t (or “can’t”) know that.” While that is true, it doesn’t change my certainty. When I die, the atoms that make me physical will migrate. The energy that animates me will dissipate. That which makes me Mark Hinton will vanish. Yes, that makes me sad and angry. While that is true, it doesn’t change my certainty.
For the real me to survive death, my appreciation of irony must survive, as well. If we find ourselves together in the Hereafter, feel free to laugh at me. If you precede me in death, please haunt me. I’ll do the same for you. If it turns out I’m wrong, I owe you a Coke.
Not surprisingly, there’s not a lot of support for the view that there is nothing after death: it’s a serious downer. Absolute death runs counter to well-established traditions, even otherwise intellectual ones. If I were trying to win an argument, I might point out that many who believe in god or something after death do not value life as much as I do. But I’m not arguing, and I’m trying hard not to mock. Believe what you will. You can’t know for certain. There is no knowing – or anything else – after death. I’m as certain as I can be. Love life while you can.