Monday, November 3, 2008

Fear, again

I began thinking about this particular blog a few months ago. After many sidetrackings, I've decided to return to it. So, the question is, are you afraid of dying?
Davy Jones asked his victims "Do you fear death?" in the second Pirates of the Carribean movie.
Do you?
If so, how so?
By what reason or mechanism do you arrive at the point of fear whenever the thought of your no longer existing comes to you?
What makes you feel the way you do about your own impending death?
Have you ever thought about death's psychological power?
I know, I know, I just asked a lot of similar questions. Let's try and find some answers.
Death can mean a lot of different things to people. For some, it means the end of our physical life, our body's demise. It can also mean, the end of our mindfulness, our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. For many, we can die an unavoidable physical death, but can choose to either die or survive a spiritual death. So I ask, what is it about an ending that is so fear-inducing? We have no inkling what non-existence would be like. We have only ever been alive. We are understandably unfamiliar with what being dead could be like. Infact, we can't even be sure there is a recognizable likeness to being dead, we could be privy to, having never been in a state of recogizable deadness before.
Death is the unknown, and the unknown is what drives and sustains fear. If you are at all, or have ever been, afraid of your own death, it was (is), for sure, the currently unknowable premise of what awaits you, post-life, which has fostered your dread.
If you are not afraid of your own death, good for you.
This means you have come to grips with your inability to fortell the future, in one of a few ways. Either you are living in the comfort of any of the various forms of immortality offered by the many world religions, or you are living your life according to the principle that there is no afterlife to worry about and you only have the time you have on this earth to do with as you will, for good or for ill. Christianity offers immortality via jesus' supposed ressurection. Judaism offers immortality to those who are jewish and are awaiting the "real" messiah who will take them into paradise. Islam offers immortality to those who believe in Allah and his one prophet Muhammad (I probably spelled this wrongly). Hinduism and Buddhism advocate varying types of reincarnation as immortality, and so on and so forth.
None of the religions offer relief from the oppression of fear through personal means. It is always at the hands of an outside figure, a god who controls things from on high, or a perpetual evasion, that we can, through the world's religions, attain relief. Relief through Belief.
The religions seperate the mind from the body. Indeed, dualism is a bedrock of religious dogma. Without it, immortality would be a much harder sell. It's vastly easier to persuade someone to buy insurance than it is to buy a well made and easy to maintain item. Religion is a form of insurance, against an unpleasant afterlife. We hear the pitch of the salesman, " Serve god now with all your heart, and receive riches beyond your wildest dreams upon your death and subsequent entry into heaven i.e. rivers of milk and honey, gold-paved streets. It resounds with us "wow, I really should think about this, what if all this stuff is true, and I am digging myself into a deeper hole...". and we sign the check. Think about it, people buy homes on the gulf coast of the united states all the time, knowing full well that hurricanes are an annual imminent threat, and then they buy outrageously priced insurance policies to cover those houses, in the "event" of a hurricane. When it would be much easier and smarter to not build a house in an area of the country prone to natural disasters. We are so easily persuaded to do stupid things, things that run counterintuitively to our own common sense, it is no wonder religion has entrapped the world's population.
If you don't believe that our fear of death and the fear of our own mortality fuels the belief in the god of christianity, then ask yourself " What if we were immortal right now?" What if humans had been immortal since day one? If, hypothetically, we were always immortal, then many superstitions would simply never have arisen. Vampirism, ghosts, angels, the mystique of the graveyard, voodoo, the light at the end of the tunnel, etc... I could go on and on, but the point is made, halloween would not only be much less scary, it would never have become a holiday at all, so I guess there is a good point to religion afterall :-). The fear of death and mortality pervades so much of humanity. Without it gun violence would not matter, neither would drug trafficking.
Infact, if we were immortal right this minute, then most likely we wouldn't even be here, from the simple point that if all humans, ever, have always been immortal, then we would have had no need to procreate in order to continue the survival of the species. Species survival would have been a nonissue. Seeing that the world is the size that it is and can house so many individuals of so many species it seems obvious that the world was "destined" to be the home of mortal beings who die off periodically only to be replaced by newer members of the species. Death is part and parcel of the natural world, as it only could be. If according to christianity, adam and eve were originally immortal then it seems odd that having been made in the image of god, as the bible narrates, they were bestowed with the same reproductive "equipment" as all other mammals.
Dualism, "the ghost in the machine", " the little man at the controls", "the homonculus", the "soul" whatever, is an unnecessary step. We do not need to seperate the mind from the body. What basis do we have to even consider such a thing. We do not have anything to point to which we can say irrefutably "that is from the realm of the supernatural". We only can interpret things as such. And if one can interpret something as supernatural, another can interpret the same as natural, which is exactly the point, there is nothing that is universally accepted as being from the supernatural realm (and for the record, again, I am of the opinion, until shown otherwise, there is no such thing). On the flipside, we have plenty of universally accepted natural-world objects. Concrete blocks, hair, the Atlantic ocean, cock-roaches, thermonuclear warheads, the list is limitless. Well what about songs? Do they exist? Or poems? If they are realized, through production of some sort, they then exist in the natural world, for all to experience, but if they remain unrealized, they still exist in the natural world, the difference being they can only be experienced by the author(s). Thinking something is no different than building something, only the scale of enjoyment changes between the two, not the realm in which they exist.

If we do not seperate our mind from our body, if we reject the idea of dualism, then we need not harbor feelings of dread about death. It is only because we have been sold our insurance policy that we hold onto the unknown and it's fearsomeness. If we relinquish the policy, the unknown will become irrelevant, and there is nothing at all wrong with this. Infact, this would be a much more peaceful world, if we all lived with no regard for a continuation past our own death. Life would be more precious, because we would recognize it's fleetingness, and we would enjoy it more fully, knowing that once we die, we are gone. There would be less of a struggle to find ourselves, to live at peace with our neighbors, to be good people, because with no safety net to catch us, we would be on our own, and being on your own is the best way to grow up and be responsible. Despite the siren song of religion, I truly wish civilization could look clearly at what the world would be like without religion just once. Fear is what religions need, and it is what we have swallowed hook, line and sinker, it's time to spit it back out, before the whole world gets hauled up into the boat and slapped on the grill.

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