So...yesterday I went hiking with my friend Marcy. Marcy is a unicorn. She's a Mormon Democrat. It's kind of amazing. I lived in Idaho for years and Intel recruits heavily from BYU and I'm pretty sure she's the only Mormon Democrat I've even known. That's actually why we are friends. She had a real lack of liberal friends and a mutual friend of ours (who is not liberal so couldn't fill the role) suggested she make friends with me. So I am her liberal friend. And because she's Mormon, she counts as one of my more conservative friends. Totally counts.
Anyway...while we were out hiking she asked me about some of my fictional stories and how they relate to my lack of religious belief. Because, as you all know, I often write stories where the undead aren't really gone. Souls, spirits, ghosts, they are all main characters in a lot of my writing. So she was curious, knowing that I don't consider myself religious, what I thought happened after we died.
I told her nothing. No, I didn't keep my opinion to myself, are you new here? I told her nothing happens. Nothing, that's what I believe probably happens. I always say probably. Or I believe. Because I don't know. Nobody knows. It's what keeps me on the agnostic side of the line though I lean pretty atheist.
But I believe that nothing happens. I believe that it's much like before you were born. You weren't here, then you were. When you die it's the same in reverse. You were here then you aren't. I have entertained ideas through my life that deal with energy and recreation and such things, but those are more due to my imagination and partly having a hard time dealing with letting go of the religious belief of more than anything else. I really do believe that this is life. Right now and right here, and after this we are done.
But I discovered yesterday that that is hard to explain. Or hard to explain in a way that is easy or acceptable. Religions give you something else. Some next. Either a new land, heaven, hell, reincarnation, limbo...something. But nothing? Nothing at all? Just absence of belief? That's a tough one to want to believe in. And I get that, I really do.
How do you tell a story about how to live your life that ends with...and then the lights went out. Click. Done.
People want more.
Not me. I actually like the thought of nothing. I like that what I do right now matters not because of what might come next, or what reward I am getting or punishment I am avoiding but just because it matters right now. I like that my legacy is what I do and what I leave. The people I've touched in some way. My son and what he does with his life. My friends and any hearts or minds that I've changed in positive ways. Those are good things, but even the negative things. The people who would rather never hear my name again. I had an impact. I hope it's positive, even a negative interaction can lead to a positive direction.
But that is a really hard sell. There isn't a promise of pearly gates or streets of gold or a do-over in another body. There is no reward waiting for you. There is no carrot. There is also no stick. There is no purgatory waiting for you if you are so-so. There is no hell if you were a so and so. What are you living for if it's not for the end game? We've been conditioned to always be reaching for some prize. To be good because God is watching. To do the right thing because we will be judged. To say, I do the right thing because it's the right thing? I don't expect a reward. I don't expect to get anything out of it except that it was the right thing to do. It's not as easy to explain.
Another friend was surprised the other day that I don't believe in karma. Again, I will write about karma, and even say that karma will get someone. But one, that's not really how karma works, if you do believe in it. You can't really wish for someone to be "gotten" by karma. That would be bad for you karmically...ANYWAY...even though I use the figure of speech, I do not believe that there is some great cosmic justice system out there waiting to punish you if you do something wrong. Now I do believe that you get what put out there, which is karma in a broad sense. But the reason why I believe you get what you put out there is because there is nothing else that would make sense. If I'm an asshole people are going to tend to be assholes back to me. If I'm a decent person, the same is going to happen.
That's not really karma, or supernatural, or religious, or what ever. That's just human nature. But actual karma? Nope.
I can't believe in it because we've all see too many instances where really bad people have really great things happen for them. So where was karma again? Just taking the day off?
And I have the same issue with God. To believe in a supreme deity who has his own book (or books depending on your faith) I would need to believe in that book and his omnipotence. The book contradicts itself. The book has stories that do not make sense if you take them literally. And shows a pretty heartless God if you do. And, again, the world is currently full of really shitty things happening to people who don't deserve them. So you have to take all of that in stride and tuck it away in to the "God works in mysterious ways" folder and move along.
I find it easier to say no.
To believe that there is no broken karmic system.
To believe there is no indifferent to the suffering of starving and dying children God.
That when we are done the world will weigh what we left and how we are remembered but we are done. Lights out. Click.
But until that switch is flipped I am here. I am responsible for my actions. I am able to influence people. I am able to make the world around me a better place in small ways and sometimes in larger ways. It's all on me. Not for later. For now. Before the click. I would say that's better than nothing but...