“I can't prove that God doesn't exist, but I'd much rather live in a universe without one.”
Lawrence M. Krauss
As instructed by my stand-in urology consultant, Tori and I head into town the next day to put our affairs in order. The first stop is the bank. I need to change all of our accounts into joint names to make things easier for Tori after my death. It all seems rather surreal as I explain to the teller why I need to suddenly convert all of my accounts into a joint-names after all these years as a single account. It all seems quite easy to deal with emotionally, I may not be at all happy about my condition, indeed I feel somewhat cheated and I have a lot of self-pity at the moment, but I am not frightened by my prognosis. After the bank we call in to the solicitors and make an appointment for the following day to make a new will.
The next day and the solicitor’s appointment is also fairly straightforward. I have no special requirements other than insisting on a humanist ceremony for my funeral. I feel a Christian burial would be highly hypocritical and most inappropriate. My will is otherwise not complex and both I and the solicitor are able to discuss my death in a rather matter of fact manner, which is far less painful an experience than I imagined it would be.
I suspect the surprisingly valiant manner in which I am able to contemplate my demise with my bankers and solicitors has a direct link to my lack of religious faith. Thank goodness I’m an atheist I often now think. I’m really not sure how I could cope with it all if I thought the pain, suffering and death caused by my disease and numerous other diseases were the sentient and desired plans of a supposedly just deity. That would be truly terrifying.
If we choose to credit any god with the true wonders of creation, then it must be for the whole of creation. If we want to sing jolly little ditties about the creator of all things bright and beautiful then we must also acknowledge that he is also the designer of deadly parasitic worms and viruses. The creator of kittens, puppies, fluffy bunnies and pretty flowers is also the creator of influenza, ebola, herpes B, filarial worms, parasitic wasps, and toxoplasma gondi. Toxoplasma gondi is a feline parasite that infects the brains of rodents to make them attracted to cats by causing the host to actively seek out a cat so that it can be killed and thus allow the parasite to spread to its preferred host. I will not be worshipping the creator of toxoplasma gondi on principal.
I find it much easier to accept that all of the above parasites, viruses and diseases and a million other things including my renal cell carcinoma are merely the biological results of a universe that has come into existence through the natural laws of science. Natural laws of physics and chemistry which permit the evolution of life over millions of years via random mutations in the genes. Life that has evolved a myriad of different forms on our planet with no conscious thought or concern about any other of its other inhabitants. Unlike gods, evolution makes no claims on it’s virtuosity.
As the often imagined creator of the universe must therefore have a rather twisted and callous outlook perhaps we can put ourselves in the mind of the religious apologists and try and find another way of excusing the perverted and cruel elements of his creation. The perennial religious favourite of putting the blame back on ourselves via freewill doesn’t really wash for this problem as we clearly did not create any of this ourselves. The only defence left is therefore that perhaps this marvellous deity just set up the rules and let it play out. Like the programmer of an AI system, he could have written the rules, axioms and algorithms, compiled his code and then let it execute under its own autonomy. If this was the case, then I’d have to conclude that rather than being a heartless megalomaniac he is just highly incompetent menace. The third possible option is simply that no god exists at all. I find this a far more preferable answer to the the tyrannical or bungling god alternatives. Thankfully this is also the more evidential and plausible option.
I appreciate that none of these points of view are terribly original or indeed especially deep thoughts. Theologians have grappled these concepts for centuries and despite concocting a myriad of excuses and complex illogical diversions for this clearly observable deviant behaviour, none have provided a simple clear exoneration. The fact that the over centuries of scholarship the sharpest minds the Church can amass are unable to provide a logical rationale to the true cruelty of creation suggest that such a conscious design is utterly inexcusable.
Being thankful that my condition is not the plan or desire of any particular divinity makes my condition much easier to accept. It also makes my eventual demise much easier to come to terms with. After all, I have no fear of being judged, and potentially punished, by the dubious creator of Toxoplasma Gondi. I have no reason to concern myself with the myths of heaven and hell and fret over which destination may be my ultimate fate. My eventual and inevitable non-existence posses me no angst. Indeed, I imagine the billions of years after my death will be as painless, carefree and untroubled as the billions of years prior to my birth, the number of fucks I shall not give after my death, are without number.
The ultimate bribe of the three main Abrahamic religions is the promise of eternal life. By introducing the fear of death and the threat of eternal suffering religion then cleverly assures its own solution that guilefully cannot be completely logically disproved. The promise of salvation through eternal life in paradise sounds like an idyllic answer. However, like Wizards annual winter ditty wishing that is could be Christmas everyday, it doesn’t take too much thought to realise that this is not a particularly well thought through idea. I would certainly like to live a lot longer than my prognosis gives me, but how much longer? An extra twenty to thirty years would be brilliant, that would bring me up to the expected average and I’d have no excuse to feel hard done by anymore. If I lived another hundred years perhaps I would see the advances in science, technology and exploration that I would dearly love to witness. Maybe even a couple of hundred years would provide a fascinating view of mankind’s advancement, but these numbers are along way short of the eternity on offer by monotheism. Inevitably at some point I would have had enough, I would crave peace and I would desire an end. The denial of an eventual end point would eventually become an unbearable and callous torture.
The overwhelming probability there is no god therefore gives me peace of mind on a number of counts. I have no anxiety that my condition itself is the design or desire of any conscious being, I have no need to brood over why a supposed loving god does not cure me, I have no fear of eternal damnation and I have no worry about the curse of immortality. I really don’t know how rational people of faith could possible cope with these dilemmas.
That’s not to say of course that I am completely without worry. My main worry of course is for my wife and children after my death. I know they will find my death hard and there is little I can do to help with that. I do however know that they are all strong and sensible people, I know they will eventually come to terms with my death and be able to get on with the rest of their lives. It’s also quite reassuring to know that they will forever carry memories of me with them. I may not be able to do much about the consequences of my death but the one thing I can however do is ensure they have no financial concerns after my death and no complicated red-tape to deal with immediately following my death, those affairs at least, I have been able to put in order today.