Monday, February 21, 2011

Don’t Tell Me That

This post will piss off some readers. I’ll take my chances.

When it comes to religion, I generally respect everyone’s right to believe or not believe whatever they want. I will admit, however, that I am often a skeptic about some widely held beliefs about death and God’s will.

A comment frequently made when someone dies is “they’re in a better place.” My mental (and sometimes verbal) response is “they’re in the morgue (or a coffin). That’s a better place?” I will admit that when someone who has been suffering dies, they are no longer suffering. In that regard, they are in a better place. People who use the ‘better place’ phrasing mean well and maybe their view on religion leads them to believe that the person who died has moved on to heaven and that’s a better place than planet earth. Again, my skepticism kicks in. I do not know if there is a heaven. I try to live my life as if there is nothing after it so I try my best to make this a good life for me and everyone I know. If it turns out there is a heaven, then hopefully I’ve done the right stuff to get in.

The friend who died recently was unique on so many levels. She was intelligent, highly educated (finished 1st in her Ivy League college graduating class), was good at her job and devoted to her main non-job passion. She led a fairly healthy life but cancer killed her at age 48. There is nothing fair about that, but it is what it is. Life is not inherently fair. Maybe there is some meaning behind someone like that dying so young or maybe it was inevitable that someone whose mother and nearly every female in her family tree died of cancer would also suffer the same fate. Some would say “it is God’s will.” My mental and often verbal response to that is “why would God kill off a positive, productive member of society and let a criminal live?” Don’t tell me it’s God’s will! It is fine if you believe that but if you tell me that, be prepared for a fiery reaction. You’ll get that same reaction from me if you say Hurricane Katrina deaths were God’s will or that my highly moral, by-the-book Dad suffering 15 years of Parkinson’s Disease was God’s will. The one good thing that might come from someone dying is that their survivors can learn from her or his life; and we can learn that life is short so make today count for something because there might be no tomorrow.

If God really does control every little action of humanity, then why should we bother making decisions for ourselves? We’re not controlling anything anyway, right? My belief on that: “bullshit!” We do have control; we have the ability to make choices. Much of what happens in life is random, in my opinion, and much of what happens is the result of our interactions with each other. We are all connected. IF there is a God, I believe he/she/it is that interconnection. One of the seven principles of the organized religion I usually claim as mine reads: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. To me, that is what God is. God might also be a name for doing the right thing, treating people well, respecting living beings. God might be the personification most religions teach and if so, that’s great. But I can’t imagine that God is a control-freak pulling all the strings and making every detail of life happen. If I’m wrong about that, then maybe you won’t see me in heaven. Meanwhile I’ll keep trying to be a good person and continue helping others in whatever way I can.

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