An in-law of mine that I hardly knew died in his early 20s from cancer the day before Valentine’s Day. It is a sad thing, but I do not feel myself filled with the same kind of dread I had when I was struggling to cope with such realities as a Christian. I do not have the same kind of grief and fear I see on the faces of believers as they shout “why” to a god that does not answer. I know there is no “why” to the end of this life other than the cancer. There was nothing personal about it and there was no uncaring god that let this happen that could have intervened. I had never met a believer that was truly happy that someone moved on to a “better place” and said with conviction that they will see them again. Everyone always seemed to acknowledge deep inside that the person is gone from them forever.
Since I have realized how much I do not know about the universe and now see death as the natural end of a story, I think I can be more objective about what that really means. Our lives unfold as unique stories just like a book. Some stories are long and interesting. Sadly, some stories are much shorter with the hints of what could have come if the final page wasn’t already written. As sad as “The End” is to see and experience, it is an unchangeable characteristic of these books of life just as the opening chapter always begins with our birth. I don’t think I’m cold to have the thought that it is best that the book, the life and its story, exists exactly as it did rather than trying to hope for any other thing after the end has already been written.
I feel grief and fear for those that are dying instead of those that have passed away. Once you are gone I would rather dwell on what was instead of what is no more. So if I do not cry when your story ends it is because I used it all up in your final chapter as I could feel the book thinning and the final page on its way. The funeral is too late for tears and is the time to reflect on a story well-told and on the book to be filed away on the shelf of memory.
There were some quotes about faith from a church bulletin and some questions over at The Atheist Mama blog. Here’s my take on the quotes…
“Faith is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” I believe this to mean that faith is the only thing that keeps you believing in something after the magic has worn off and you’ve seen the evidence of the magician’s trickery. Faith keeps you believing in that mirage in the summer haze that was just a trick on your eyes. Faith is what makes you think you can actually walk up to the end of rainbow, touch it, and have the colors wash over you. It may be pleasant or harmless ideas, but faith does not equal reality.
“Faith is both the substance of things that we hope for and the evidence of things yet to be realized.” I always say that prayer and faith are just hope wrapped in religion. Hope is good. Hope drives a person to action to achieve what they hope for. Prayer and faith puts your hope in a god’s hand that delivers with the same reliability as chance. Faith is not about what is real now or what we have evidence of from the past. That is why the quote tells us faith is all about that feeling of hope and what is yet to be realized. It’s a trick to get us to think that when we get what we hope for that it is a god that gave us that when it is the work of humans or chance that has ultimately delivered.
It’s these tricks of remolding hope into faith that keeps believers believing. We just have to remember that hope is real and natural and it is only us that can do anything about it… like building dollhouses for our daughters. 🙂 “Keep the faith” is the same as “keep your hope alive” for nonbelievers.
I “hope” some day everyone else will wake up from the fantasy and quit trying to live their lives for a mythology and instead live it for family and society. Maybe then we can work on our hopes and dreams together without waiting for gods to deliver…