The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

God Squad Review CLIX (Dying)

February 13, 2006 | 44 Comments

When is it best to hold ‘em or to fold ‘em? A Squad reader whose 26 year old cousin’s wife is dying wants to know when a person should fight to live, or just give up. The Squad says it’s easy:

The simple answer is that as long as there is hope for a cure, we must fight to live. When there’s no hope for a cure, remission or an extended period of time to live with a chronic and fatal disease, then we can properly give our souls over to the God, who gives life and who takes life away.

* * *

There is a grace to living, but there is also a grace to dying. The tipping point is for each of us to determine. Religion does not save people from death. Religion saves people from despair.

If God “takes life away,” He’s the reason for there being no hope for a cure. And even when there is hope for a cure, those who nonetheless die are doing so because God is taking their lives away. Certainly there’s no reason to fight if He’s made up His mind about that. And the tipping point is His to determine — even if we can make it sway little bit nearer to the life side, His can smack it back with His little pinkie. (Hope this saves you from despair).

* * *

I won’t dissect the second letter, in which the Squad distinguishes between the “truth of things” (science) and the “truth of good and evil” (religion). I’ll simply note that the reader begins his question by confessing that he can’t “mentally comprehend a light year” — and the Squad never corrects his apparent misconception that a light year is a measure of time, rather than distance.

Comments

44 Responses to “God Squad Review CLIX (Dying)”

  1. mycyrus1
    February 13th, 2006 @ 7:50 pm

    A light year can be a measure of distance: distance = speed of light * one year’s time =~ 1year * 3×10^8 m/s * 365 day/year * 8.64×10^4 s/day = 9.46×10^15 m.

  2. will
    February 13th, 2006 @ 8:09 pm

    Actually, a light year is not a measure of time, but is a canonical meaurement of distance. A light year is the distance that light travels in one year, approximately 5.9 trillion miles. The distance between the earth and the sun is approximately 9 light minutes.

  3. The Raving Atheist
    February 13th, 2006 @ 8:10 pm

    That’s my point. The reader mistakenly thinks it’s a measure of time (and apparently believes a light year is longer than a regular year) rather than a measure of distance. This is clear from his later statements about things happening on Earth 2,000, 4,000 and 20,000 years ago — he probably thinks a light year is much longer than any of those periods.

  4. Viole
    February 13th, 2006 @ 8:23 pm

    Heh. Wow, RA, those two really must think you’re stupid.

    Of course, with what you’ve been posting recently, I can’t blame them.

  5. will
    February 13th, 2006 @ 8:38 pm

    Thanks RA for being kind. Reading comprehension used to be one of my better skills. Dementia, here I come.

  6. Choobus
    February 13th, 2006 @ 9:50 pm

    Actualy the sun is 8.3 light seconds from earth not 9.

  7. Choobus
    February 14th, 2006 @ 12:31 am

    minutes

  8. mycyrus1
    February 14th, 2006 @ 12:43 am

    Oh, I get it. I should have read that last sentence of the thread much slower. And, no RA I never thought you were stupid.

  9. Rocketman
    February 14th, 2006 @ 8:42 am

    Is this really about the central point of the question?

    Which is when do you accept death–regardless of the thought of afterlife–what do you do in that situation.

    Frankly—absent the god thing–it doesn’t sound to me at all like bad advice.

    Fight while you can–when you have lost the fight go to your wend with grace and dignity–of course the religious will insist upon maintaining life past the point of bearability–

    they refuse to embrace the idea of euthanasia–

    But other than that–not bad advice at all.

  10. JUST_ANTOHER_PRIMATE
    February 14th, 2006 @ 2:48 pm

    Well – unofrtunately, for many, their advice to continue while there is hope is often perversly translated to hanging on in the “hope of a miracle”.

    And then you have the good old double standard: the ultimate fate of any god fearing person is to join god and leave all this misery behind —- ah but how they beg and grovel to not be taken to him when the time is near.

  11. Lily
    February 14th, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

    What a stupid and ugly comment, Another Ape. Theists, at least Christians and Jews, are not suicidal. Life is a positive good and it is perfectly in keeping with commonsense and Biblical teaching to seek to preserve it.

  12. Thorngod
    February 14th, 2006 @ 4:02 pm

    Lily, in a sense you are right. Life is all you have and all you get.
    But hanging on is not “in keeping with commonsense.” It is in response to the survival instinct, without which no higher life form could have evolved. But fear not. If your reward is not there you will know it not, so you will not be disappointed.

  13. qedpro
    February 14th, 2006 @ 4:20 pm

    Deep down people know Death is bad, that death is permanent, that there’s no 72 virgins, no heaven, no hell.
    We don’t treat death as if someone is going on a really long vacation and we’re not going to see them for a couple of years.
    Death is no more. The end. Death is to be avoided.
    Otherwise why would people cry? They cry because they have permanently lost something very important to them. Yes the life is important, not the death afterwords. You’re not going to see that person again – ever. All that they are is gone.
    If people really believed that they were going to heaven and meet all their family, friends, dogs, cats, etc., no one would cry. NO ONE. We’d all be having a party like in Logan’s Run with everybody urging you to go towards the light.
    I don’t see any parties – do you. I see a lot of crying!!!!!!!!!

    Religious beliefs just allow people to deal with the fear and mute the pain. Religion cheapens our too short life.

  14. Lily
    February 14th, 2006 @ 4:39 pm

    I tear my hair out at least once a day over what passes for “wisdom” here. It is a wonder I have a single living follicle left!

    qedpro, have you read any poetry, fiction, or philosophy at all? Ancient? Medieval? 18th century, 20th? Any?? How is such ignorance possible?

    If Jesus could weep, and he did, at the tomb of Lazarus, the rest of us may rest assured that death is ugly no matter what lies on the other side. Grief at parting from those we love is quite appropriate, as is their grief at losing us, even if it is only in the short run.

    But I cannot put in, what God left out. Educate yourself. Read the poets, the philosophers, the writers who have actually lived life and have seen death and have loved and lost. Maybe some glimmering of understanding will dawn…

  15. twyg
    February 14th, 2006 @ 4:59 pm

    ahh yesss… drink deep from the well of wisdom that spews forth from the piehole of Lilliputian! Jebus wept indeed! there is proof of this occuring in this here book of fables that Lully bases her entire life upon. Its called the BIBLE and its fer real!

  16. qedpro
    February 14th, 2006 @ 11:20 pm

    Jesus wept because he knew he was full of shit and there was no “other side.”

  17. Anonymous
    February 15th, 2006 @ 3:36 am

    “Theists, at least Christians and Jews, are not suicidal.”

    You say a lot of stupid things, stupid, but this one’s pretty stupid. Get wisdom before you waste the rest of your life the way you’ve wasted the last ten seconds of mine.

  18. jahrta
    February 15th, 2006 @ 10:04 am

    Lily

    I can think of nothing more arrogant or flat-out stupid than to suggest that qedpro has no concept of what it is to lose someone important. Are you suggesting that s/he has never experienced a death in the family, or are you trying to say that qedpro hasn’t REALLY experienced it, much in the same way that scientologist assholes make their “students” look up every single word in the dictionary until they “REALLY” understand them?

    One does not have to experience everything through your eyes in order to have gained that experience, you egocentric asswipe.

    Grow up.

  19. Lily
    February 15th, 2006 @ 11:03 am

    Jahrta: Your nasty disposition is showing again. Read both posts again and see if you get it.

    No?

    OK, here is the idiotic paragraph:

    If people really believed that they were going to heaven and meet all their family, friends, dogs, cats, etc., no one would cry. NO ONE. We’d all be having a party like in Logan’s Run with everybody urging you to go towards the light.
    I don’t see any parties – do you. I see a lot of crying!!!!!!!!!

    Only a middle schooler could write such drivel without blushing or, someone, totally ignorant of what both religious and non-religious people throughout human history have thought and written about death.

    Got it now?

  20. JUST_ANTOHER_PRIMATE
    February 15th, 2006 @ 12:00 pm

    11. Lily said:
    What a stupid and ugly comment, Another Ape. Theists, at least Christians and Jews, are not suicidal. Life is a positive good and it is perfectly in keeping with commonsense and Biblical teaching to seek to preserve it.

    ——————————————————————————-

    I never said anything about atheists or secularists being suicidal. I’m sure many want to hang on to the bitter end no matter how painful existence might be. But to wish upon a “divine miracle” when the end is certainly at hand seems very strange to me.

    If you ever find yourself with a terminal illness where the pain is unbearable then go for it —- hang on and bear all that sensless pain until your very last breath —- all for naught of course.

    I on the other hand would like to know that there is someone who loves me strongly enough and is sensible enough to give me the option of ending that miserable pain.

    So I “kick the bucket” a few weeks early – big deal.

  21. Lily
    February 15th, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

    Huh? I wasn’t talking about euthanasia or secularists/atheists. I was talking about this bit of ugly nonsense:

    And then you have the good old double standard: the ultimate fate of any god fearing person is to join god and leave all this misery behind —- ah but how they beg and grovel to not be taken to him when the time is near.

    Like I said in reference to qedpro’s equally ugly remark, this is foolish beyond any belief. Life is good and there is nothing contrary to belief in an afterlife to make prayer for health and recovery a “double-standard”.

  22. JUST_ANTOHER_PRIMATE
    February 15th, 2006 @ 12:42 pm

    Which of the two distinct comments in my original post your rebuttal referred was not clear at all.

    HA HA HA HA – no double standard. YEAH RIGHT.

    We are praying for our son Toby to survive ….

    If Toby survives – YAY – it was a miracle.

    If Toby dies – OH it was god’s will.

    DOUBLE STANDARD!

    ———————————————————————————

  23. Lily
    February 15th, 2006 @ 1:23 pm

    There were not two distinct statements in that message. Just one dumb one. Just like in this one.

    You might want to look up the definition of double standard. You are misusing the concept.

  24. Sir Robin Goodfellow
    February 15th, 2006 @ 1:40 pm

    A religious person, having lived a long, happy, successful life, still fears death, despite their deeply held belief that they’ll spend eternity riding unicorns with Jesus and that goldfish they had in the third grade.

    That, I think, Lily, is the contradiction that is being discussed.

  25. JUST_ANTOHER_PRIMATE
    February 15th, 2006 @ 1:53 pm

    To Lily:

    You are right – I was using “double standard” incorrectly.

    The idea that the many people who pray for a miracle but are perfectly happy to “accept gods decision” no matter what the outcome is — is not a double standard —- it is just PLAIN DUMB!

  26. Choobus
    February 15th, 2006 @ 2:35 pm

    Lily, you beautiful cunt,

    what is it about having a fictional relationship with jesus that makes you so fucking arrogant? By virtue of your delusional state of grace you feel empowered in the most disturbing manner: you believe you can lecture superior intellects, you don’t mind supporting the demise of American democracy and you are A-ok with the torture of children (as long as the commander in chimp feels iti s necessary to ensure the success of his secret agenda), and you think you can fool people into believing you are not retarded. I wish I could help you to see reality by providing you with a mouthfull of wake up spooge. Sadly, I have no zima’s.

    get real fool. You can’t compete with herm or jahrta or even the humble choobus. You have an IQ of about 85 and (I’m guessing) an absolutely enormous arse. This means you should stay inside and stay off the internets.

    In order to pass the time here is a suggestion for you: ask for people to send you frozen sperm and when you have enough make a DIY bukkake video. It’s not as good as giving a hummer to 5 guys, but it’s as close as you are likely to get, what with your oversized arse and all.

  27. Lily
    February 15th, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

    Sir Robin:

    If that is the contradiction being discussed, you are the first to articulate it. Certainly RA made a hash of it and the comments are even worse.

    Who says that this person (“A religious person, having lived a long, happy, successful life, still fears death, despite their deeply held belief that they’ll spend eternity riding unicorns with Jesus and that goldfish they had in the third grade.”) even exists? Have you known someone like that? Read about someone like that? Where is your documentation that there are all these believers, who “grovel and beg” for life?

    Now when family and friends pray that a loved one might live longer they are in no way “grovelling” as the Ape so charmingly put it. Nor are they somehow lacking in faith in the afterlife. They are expressing their wish not to be parted from their loved one. This is perfectly acceptable and normal.

  28. JUST_ANTOHER_PRIMATE
    February 15th, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

    Oooooo, ooooo, ooooh, (scratch, sniff)

    Apeman smarter than human.

    Apeman sad when female die.

    Apeman no pray for miracle.

    Oooooh ooooh – where I put that banana ?

  29. Jahrta
    February 15th, 2006 @ 4:35 pm

    Lily

    I think what they’re getting at is that it seem hypocritical and selfish for someone to pray for the prolonged suffering (i.e., temporary reprieve from death) of someone who is about to die, if they themselves foster a belief that their loved one will be whisked away to paradise when they die.

    The obvious answer is that it is a condition of the human experience to grieve for our loved ones when they die. There is a deeper mechanism hiding beneath the surface, which seems to be the acknowledgment that this turn ’round the ol’ carousel is the only one we get, which makes it inherently precious. It is because of this inherent value, and the bonds we form during our lives on this earth, that we grieve. Some people consider it to be dishonest for someone to claim a belief in a wonderful afterlife, then continue to sob their eyes out when there’s a death in the family. I think that’s all anyone here was getting at.

  30. Lily
    February 15th, 2006 @ 5:13 pm

    Jahrta: I agree with everything you just wrote except for this:

    There is a deeper mechanism hiding beneath the surface, which seems to be the acknowledgment that this turn ’round the ol’ carousel is the only one we get, which makes it inherently precious.

    I can even partly agree with that statement in that this life does only occur once and it is precious. But it doesn’t follow that valuing it and praying for its continuation is somehow wrong or indicative of a lack of faith. We sob our eyes out at a death in the family because all people, but especially our family members, matter. We will miss them. Our lives will change because they are no longer there. Even when the death is a blessing, as was the case in my mother’s early death, it still hurts us.

    From a Christian perspective it is the case that while Christ has conquered death, death was not supposed to be part of the human condition. It entered the world, like evil itself, as a result of the fall. Now, however one wants to understand this (literally or metaphorically), our example is Jesus who, when confronted with Lazarus’s death, wept. And when he confronted his imminent death, he prayed that it might not have to be.

    Only the young can shrug off death, as though it somehow did not matter. Those who have lived long enough, know better.

  31. Sir Robin Goodfellow
    February 16th, 2006 @ 12:31 am

    Lily, the only documentation I can really give you is anecdotal. I’ve outlived three grandparents, devout, churchgoing Catholics all. Even with a final Communion, last confession, extreme unction (or whatever hip new name they gave it in the sixties), my grandpa still didn’t want to die. Imagine that.

    My question is why is it that this special bond between man and deity fails to provide comfort, at least in this case? Shouldn’t a promise of eternal peace, happiness and so on, make one eager to shuffle off this mortal coil? Why don’t Evangelical Christians fly to Tehran and give the Good News to the first Iranian soldier they see? Scripture instructs Christians to spread the Gospel.

    The reasons they would give for not doing so would vary (family commitments, spreading the Word at home already, doing valuable charity work), however I do believe the real reason would be fear of swinging from a gibbet in the town square.

    In the end, we are all biological creatures, and, as such, strive to survive, fearing the unknown.

  32. hermesten
    February 16th, 2006 @ 11:15 am

    Choobus, Chimp quotes, like this one –“stay off the internets”– are wasted on the likes of Lily.

  33. Lily
    February 16th, 2006 @ 12:39 pm

    Sir Robin:
    I think you are approaching the question the wrong way. The question might rather be asked, why do so many Christians face death so bravely (martyrs are what I have in mind, chiefly, but there are untold millions of stories that could be told of believers facing death serenely.) Death is universally the subject of fear and horror. Belief in God makes it bearable. But it is the rare person who embraces it.

    You ask: Shouldn’t a promise of eternal peace, happiness and so on, make one eager to shuffle off this mortal coil? No. Life is a positive good. It is the place where we prepare for eternity.

    You also ask Why don’t Evangelical Christians fly to Tehran and give the Good News to the first Iranian soldier they see? Scripture instructs Christians to spread the Gospel.

    The reasons they would give for not doing so would vary (family commitments, spreading the Word at home already, doing valuable charity work), however I do believe the real reason would be fear of swinging from a gibbet in the town

    And that strikes you as a bad reason for not doing so??? Yes we are called on to spread the gospel. No, we are not called on to commit suicide.

    I really think that you do not understand how important life is, particularly to the believer. This is the place where, for better or worse, we were placed with a certain span of years before us in which to become the kind of people we were meant to become. It matters how we use that time.

    There is not one single older person (and/or person on the verge of death) who will not tell you how heartbreaking it is to reflect on opportunities squandered, on broken friendships, and on the road not taken. A certain amount of life experience, which you may or may not have yet, is required to understand this.

    You also write: In the end, we are all biological creatures, and, as such, strive to survive, fearing the unknown.

    I am as certain as I can be that my cat has never spent a single second worrying about death or wondering about what, if anything, comes after. Biological creatures will fight death but they don’t fear it until it is upon them. Only humans do.

  34. Anonymous
    February 16th, 2006 @ 1:12 pm

    I stand by my original theory, that Lily is Lucy Muff with a creative writing course from the local community college under his/her belt. My guess is he/she got a B.
    I liked him/her more when he/she pretended to be Chinese. Does he/she ever do that, anymore?

  35. hermesten
    February 16th, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

    “I am as certain as I can be that my cat has never spent a single second worrying about death…”

    Which, of course, means absolutely nothing. The answer to this question is unknown. This mere belief may one day be put away on the same shelf of self-serving ignorance that had people saying animals don’t feel pain.

    Also, anyone who has ever observed real animals knows that animals experience fear. Personally, I condsider it more likely that this fear is fear of death, rather than say, being sued, or forced to watch the Chimp’s state of the union address.

    Your cat would be afaid too, if it met my dog, or it would end up dead. And if it’s afraid, and, say, trying to escape in order to live another day, then you can’t legitimately say it’s not worried about death, because it’s acting like it is, and you simply have no idea what’s actually going on in its little cat brain, and whether or not its observable response includes a brain process that can be described as worrying.

  36. Sir Robin Goodfellow
    February 16th, 2006 @ 10:06 pm

    Lily, thanks for your responses.

    With regards to the hypothetical evangelist on a mission to Iran, I was thinking along the lines of an individual who sincerely felt a calling to minister to Iranian Muslims, someone who really believed they had been chosen by God to bring them to the Lord, despite the grave risk to their own personal safety, as opposed to a person (depressed, mentally unstable, etc.) commiting a sort of “suicide by imam”.

    As far as the lower animals are concerned, I agree that they are not alarmed at the idea of death, as humans are, but I would say that’s a result of their lack of self-awareness.I think animals tend to live mostly in the now (likely why they are such poor financial planners). Humans, of course, know they are born to die. And dying means an end to consciousness, an end of self-awareness, an end of self. Self-awareness, I would argue, is the result of evolution giving us great big brains. A religious person would probably say it’s the soul that separates us from the lesser beasts.

    I can see the comfort one might derive from the belief in an afterlife. No end to self-awareness, for one thing.

    I’m not afraid to die, as I think death is just a state of non-existence. I am, however, in no hurry to finish living just yet, so I’m going to hold off on any travel plans to Islamic theocracies for now.

    The one thing I think we do have in common is that neither of us wants to die, just not for the same reasons.

  37. Jahrta
    February 17th, 2006 @ 9:53 am

    Lily

    As to your comment that humans are the only animals capable of contemplating our own death or grieving for lost loved ones, I would direct you to this study:

    http://www.abslogic.com/CaseForPersonhood.htm

    It’s quite interesting and thought-provoking. Here is an excerpt:

    We present this individual for your consideration:
    She communicates in sign language, using a vocabulary of over 1000 words. She also understands spoken English, and often carries on “bilingual” conversations, responding in sign to questions asked in English. She is learning the letters of the alphabet, and can read some printed words, including her own name. She has achieved scores between 85 and 95 on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test.
    She demonstrates a clear self-awareness by engaging in self-directed behaviors in front of a mirror, such as making faces or examining her teeth, and by her appropriate use of self-descriptive language. She lies to avoid the consequences of her own misbehavior, and anticipates others’ responses to her actions. She engages in imaginary play, both alone and with others. She has produced paintings and drawings which are representational. She remembers and can talk about past events in her life. She understands and has used appropriately time-related words like before, after, later, and yesterday.
    She laughs at her own jokes and those of others. She cries when hurt or left alone, screams when frightened or angered. She talks about her feelings, using words like happy, sad, afraid, enjoy, eager, frustrate, mad, and, quite frequently, love. She grieves for those she has lost-a favorite cat who has died, a friend who has gone away. She can talk about what happens when one dies, but she becomes fidgety and uncomfortable when asked to discuss her own death or the death of her companions. She displays a wonderful gentleness with kittens and other small animals. She has even expressed empathy for others seen only in pictures.

    I would agree that an animal such as a cat may not be able to grieve for a lost loved one, at least not in the way that a human might, but some primates seem more than capable of doing just this.

  38. lily
    February 17th, 2006 @ 11:14 am

    Yes, Koko, whom I have been reading about with a great deal of interest for years, is quite an interesting case. I remember when her kitten was killed. As a fellow cat lover, I grieved with her! I am not even going to pretend to an opinion about what a primate can and can’t conceive of.

    But I do not think she spends time grieving over lost opportunities or wondering, “if only I had done/not done x” . the way humans do, which is what makes growing older and facing one’s mortality so sobering. It is amazing how quickly one’s options are foreclosed. I cannot even begin to tell you how many things I wanted to do, I now, literally, do not have time to do any more.

    In any case, death is the lot of us all. There is no escaping it. How we face it– whether it is with hope or resignation or despair depends very much on what we believe and how we live now.

  39. jahrta
    February 17th, 2006 @ 12:12 pm

    so are you saying that regret is what separated us from the apes?

    how can you be so sure they don’t experience this emotion? I’m sure Koko regrets letting AllBall (her cat) out of the complex when it was struck by a car and killed.

  40. Lily
    February 17th, 2006 @ 12:54 pm

    Jahrta: I have wandered into areas that I have not thought through, so whatever I say is pretty preliminary…

    With that understood, no, not regret, at least not by itself. I am talking about reflection; weighing up the things that I have done and left undone, the outcomes both anticipated and unanticipated and making judgements that this or that would have been better. Regret plays a role, of course.

    Why are you sure that Koko regrets letting Allball out? How do you know that she remembers or even knows that it was Allball getting out that led to the kitty’s death? I don’t think that anything I have read suggests that she can follow a complex chain of events and foresee the likely end.

    In any case, the subject is us and our understanding of death and why it is not often embraced with enthusiasm, even by believers. I am pretty sure that I have said all that I usefully can at the moment about that.

  41. jahrta
    February 17th, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

    Well, I respectfully disagree. After reading the article it seems clear that koko mourned the loss of her cat, and she understood what happened after it was explained to her. Obviously, a lowland gorilla doesn’t possess the same COMPLEXITY of thought as a human, although on numerous tests her IQ fell within the 75-90 range (and average is 100). This would seem to indicate that her intellect would be comparable to a child or a person of diminished capacity. Certainly children and those with learning disabilities are “people” who are protected by civil rights, so the problem is that this research creates grey areas, not least among them being whether or not we should continue to keep these animals in zoos.

    The whole thing is somewhat off-topic, and neither of us are experts in the field of simian or primate studies, but my only real point in bringing this up in the first place was to illustrate that humans may not be as special as you’d like to believe.

  42. Thorngod
    February 17th, 2006 @ 4:49 pm

    What separates us from other apes is morphology and cerebral capacity. Gorillas, chimps and orangs could more justifiably claim souls and deny them to horses than humans can deny them to our fellow apes.

  43. hermesten
    February 17th, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

    A professor in the movie “Waking Life” says: there is more difference between Einstein and the average man than there is between the average man and and an ape. Sixty seconds of Fox News viewing will confirm this observation.

  44. choobus
    February 20th, 2006 @ 3:18 pm

    Lily, it’s a bit much for you to comment on Koko in any way given that she kicked your ass on the SB intelligence test.

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