On Suicide and Belief

circa 2005? I don’t know. It’s just really old.

[You think I can’t snark an essay on suicide? Just watch me…]

A friend told me that if there wasn’t a god, she’d kill herself. [This makes no sense, of course. Because no one knows if there is a god or not. So, she must mean that if she didn’t believe there was a god, she’d kill herself. Problem solved: just believe whatever you need to believe.] She fervently [What is it with me and the word ‘fervently?’] believes that god exists and it is that faith, she said, that keeps her going. She described this earthly life as a torment, a test of suffering, a hell. It was almost like a warning: don’t cause me to think about this too much, or too clearly–don’t encourage me to consider the idea of atheism, because if there is no god, there is no reason for me to continue. [This, of course, presupposes it’s a god who won’t send her to ‘real’ Hell for some minor slight…like talking to an atheist.]

This weighed on me heavily. [Weighed on me heavily? Why am I talking so weird?] It caused me to consider and evaluate my thoughts regarding others’ beliefs. Does it matter to me? Yes and no. It does bother me that people believe in things because they prefer comfort to truth. But, at the same time, I have an appreciation for the fear the human animal must live with and the sadness at the prospect of lost existence. [Sadness? I think it’s more like freakish terror.] I have considered these feelings thoroughly. [Oh, really?] I have come to the conclusion that I, personally, cherish truth above all. [Cue: The Association, “Cherish”] I don’t have a deep and desperate need for comfort. I don’t know why that is; it just is. Perhaps the ability to accept and live with atheism is imbedded in the personality. [Yes, it’s probably very Freudian.]

What is my responsibility to a friend who claims consciously that faith in deity keeps her going? Is it my duty to refrain from promoting the atheist and rationalist ideal in her presence? I definitely can’t lie to such a friend and pretend to believe or even pretend that belief is okay. And yet, perhaps belief is okay. Perhaps belief and ritual were born into the human spirit out of dire need of, not comfort, but preservation. Perhaps, long ago when the world was even more cruel than today, when survival was the priority, not material gain, without the comfort of belief in afterlife and protective deity humans could not have made it through the trial with their sanity intact. Perhaps.

[I am so poetic. I should be a writer, or something.]

I don’t want others to become atheist. It’s not that. [My god! Not that!] I do want people to understand what truth is and what it isn’t. I’d like people to think logically about what they believe in, and accept that they are choosing faith and belief over knowledge and fact. If people understood and accepted that, they would no longer try to force their beliefs on others and they wouldn’t judge others by a book they could now acknowledge was written by ancient men. But, maybe that’s too much to ask. Maybe once people admit what their belief really is, comfort, they’d lose the comfort. [Well, yeah. They’d be rationalists.]

When I think about my friend, I think about the few other people who have expressed similar ideas. Others have said that without their faith this life would be meaningless and there would be no reason not to end it all. Still others have accused me of intellectual dishonesty in not killing myself. [No, seriously. They might not have used the phrase ‘intellectual dishonesty,’ because, let’s face it, those are some big words. They tend to say ‘hypocrite.’ That’s right. Atheists, if they followed their ‘logic’ (you can practically hear them sneering when they say that word) to its inevitable (probably don’t use that word, either) conclusion, would, if they weren’t such hypocrites, jump off cliffs or blow their brains out, because seriously people, if there isn’t any life after this one, in a really nice place like, say, a heaven, to make up for this shitty life we’ve got now, if they have no ultimate purpose or reason for existing, why are they even here? Sheesh, it’s so dang logical. Cue: Supertramp, “The Logical Song.” (Like you didn’t know that was coming.)] If I accept that one day the sun will burn out and life on earth will end, they say there is no reason for me to live. I have no purpose, no meaning–why don’t I just off myself? “If you were honest about your atheism,” they say, “you’d kill yourself.” [You know someone’s feeding them this stuff.]

Well, certainly, if belief in deity is the only thing keeping you from slitting your wrists, by all means, believe. But admit that you are believing because you can’t bear the thought of nonexistence. You can’t bear the thought that this is all there is to it. This life, ugly and horrific as it may seem at times…is all there is. Stop trying to tell me that your belief has anything else going for it. It’s just a pacifier. That being said, there is no reason left to proselytize. [You can hear the hope brimming in my every word. But alas… My door still gets knocked upon by creepy old women in long dresses and sometimes fresh-faced boys in ties.]

So, why don’t I kill myself? Because this is all there is! This life is it! It’s all I’ve got! There’s no second chance as far as I can tell. Why would I end it when there is nothing else after it? [Duh.] This life is precious to me. When times were tough and I thought life was shit and I couldn’t stand to look myself in the mirror; when I thought everywhere I went people whispered behind my back; when I hated myself and everyone else, I thought a lot about killing myself. I couldn’t do it, though, because sometime after sunset I knew there would be a dawn and a new day and I knew if I could just figure out how, I could be better, I could have a life worth living. And I did manage that. If I’d killed myself, I’d have gotten nothing.

What I don’t understand, actually, is why theists don’t kill themselves more often. The only reason I can imagine is that they believe that suicide is against the will of their god. Their god makes them suffer here on earth as a test of some sort. Or, if not a test, then suicide is a sin because it is destroying the gift of life that their god gave them. So, basically, they don’t kill themselves because if they do, they don’t get the eternal heaven promised as a reward to those who obey said god. They don’t kill themselves in hopes of paradise after this life on earth.

Remember when the religious claimed that suffering was good? The more you suffered here on earth, the greater your reward would be in heaven. This was supposed to appease the masses of ignorant poor I suppose. That just wouldn’t work for me.

If the Christian god exists, this life is not so precious. The real fun will start after this life, when you hopefully get into heaven and get to live with your creator. So, people live their lives, struggling through, waiting to die and get it over with so they can enjoy life (er…death)?

To me, life is extremely precious. [Meh. I wouldn’t go with ‘extremely.’] We have a strong survival instinct because we fear death. Why should we fear death if there is a god and an afterlife? We sense the end, we sense our mortality…not god. To me, life has precious meaning because of its finiteness. I know that I have to live each day, striving for meaning and purpose, enjoyment and pleasure, love and joy. Because this is all I’ve got.

If this wasn’t all there is–-if I believed there was some heavenly paradise after this…I wouldn’t have made it through my teens. [Ain’t it the truth?]

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