|An Atheist Perspective on Death
The Religion eZine - Atheism
Monty Python and Always Looking on the Bright Side of Life & Death
By Charles Moffat - 2007.
When we die, that's it, we're dead. No more, fini. Bleeding demised. Passed on. You are no more. You have ceased to be. You are expired... and not gone to meet its maker. My apologies for paraphrasing Monty Python's "The Parrot Sketch", but that comedy sketch actually does a fairly good job of poking fun at death. Even better however is Graham Chapman's Funeral Service, during which John Cleese also paraphrased the Parrot Sketch and the Monty Python members sang "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (and Death)".
Which begs the question. If we die and we're no more, doesn't that mean that life is precious and that we should try to enjoy every minute of it?
Yes, I believe it is. All life is precious. Except the lives of mosquitoes. I think we can agree that we could all do without mosquitoes. Damn blood-sucking insects don't deserve to live.
From the moment we are born to the moment we die humans are precious. We have the capacity to change the world, to shape history and to contribute to the greater good of society. That contribution is immortality by itself. We don't live on in some alternate universe or "Heaven", we're simply gone. The only meaningful immortality is WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND.
And I'm not saying that being famous makes you "immortal". 5000 years from now most people likely won't remember who Adolf Hitler was (or care). As human history goes by we do good to remember people from 2000 years ago, let alone 5000.
No, from my perspective the most common and obviously important thing we leave behind is our children and grandchildren.
Every day we live we set examples for our children. We do things right or we do things wrong, and our children learn from our mistakes (hopefully) or they keep making those same mistakes as we do.
Our children watch us, learn from us, emulate us and eventually grow up to be like us. Sometimes it skips a generation. I'm apparently quite a bit like my grandfather, who was a farmer/tax-collector. He was a jovial man who kept detailed tax records, farmed his land and raised 4 children. Those 4 children went on to have 9 grandchildren and so far 5 great-grandchildren (and undoubtably more on the way). I'm not the only one like my grandfather either. I have a cousin and a cousin's son who are also quite a bit like him.
One of the fundamental concepts behind all religion is what happens to us after we die. Is there an afterlife? Whats it like? Are bad people punished? Is there karma and reincarnation?
Monty Python even made a movie on this topic: "The Meaning of Life", in which they go through life in chapters from Birth to Death and eventually end with the song "Its Christmas in Heaven".
Heaven aside however the fundamental answer behind "The Meaning of Life" movie is try to be nice to people, live in peace and harmony, stay in shape and enjoy yourself.
Which manages to make some important philosophical points: If there is no god/afterlife then OUR primary goals in life is to be nice to each other, have fun... and create.
Creation isn't actually part of Monty Python movie, but it is part of mine. Whether its creating babies and offspring or creating artwork and comedy, I feel creation is a fundamental part of life. The act of sex and the creation of babies therefore is a fundamental part of life (and a necessity from a chicken and the egg perspective).
Comedy and having fun is also important. It gratifies life. What is the point of living if you're not enjoying it? Small surprise the Comedy Network TV station is wildly more popular any religious channel available.
Comedy Vs Religion was the topic of a Sean Connery movie "The Name of the Rose" in which he plays a monk searching for a book of comedy (The Second Book of Poetics) written by the Greek Philosopher Aristotle and how the Catholic Church sought to destroy the book of comedy because they feared if it was mass produced it would become more popular than the bible.
Not a surprising idea actually. Lets face it: The bible is not funny.
During the movie Sean Connery's young assistant/monk falls in love with a girl... which raises the point: Why dedicate your life to a church when you can dedicate your life to a loved one and raise children with them?