The latest piece in a fantastic series from NPR called Losing Our Religion, has asked how atheists cope with loss and tragedy. The short answer, with great difficulty. This is as it should be. There is nothing easy about it.
However, they have also nailed why religion has so much sticking power.
To quote the late Christopher Hitchens,
“It will happen to all of us, that at some point you get tapped on the shoulder and told, not just that the party’s over, but slightly worse: the party’s going on — but you have to leave. And it’s going on without you. That’s the reflection that I think most upsets people about their demise. All right, then, because it might make us feel better, let’s pretend the opposite. Instead, you’ll get tapped on the shoulder and told, Great news: this party’s going on forever – and you can’t leave. You’ve got to stay; the boss says so. And he also insists that you have a good time.”
It’s a melancholy prospect for sentient beings to grapple with no doubt. The much easier way out is to construct an imaginary world to which we all get mysteriously transported after death. Put some social trappings around it, make some rules for entry, and poof, religion.
But intellectual honesty demands more from us than that. The reality is this: life must be lived to the fullest, it must be gulped down like a tall glass of cool water on a hot summer day; for this life is what’s certain and nothing more.