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All Lives Matter & No Lives Matter


That headline is supposed to be an attention grabber, but it needs some explanation. First, it has nothing to do with 'Black lives matter.' Of course, they do. Any life lost due to violence of any kind by any people or organization matters. I'm talking about something altogether different; the idea that we have an afterlife.

Some of you may recall that a while back, I posted an obituary of sorts to our old Bengal cat, Casey, who died a few months before his seventeenth birthday due to kidney problems. I received numerous comments of solace that were greatly appreciated; no one who has lost a furry friend goes through that process without pain, and the outpouring of sympathy is a great salve.

Now, for the but. But at least one person commented, "He's in a better place." I know that sentiment is heartfelt, well-meant, and sincere, but again, it made this old Athiest question the logic of a "better place."

Many, if not most, of us were raised in some version of the Christian faith to believe in life after death; other religions have their versions of how we "don't really die." While I reject that notion, I understand the desire to want to believe in some afterlife utopia where we all see our ancestors, most of whom we never knew, so what's the point? Of course, we mourn the loss of loved ones, be they humans or pets, but an afterlife?

If a tree, a bush, a tulip, or the neighbor's cow (yes, I know most of us don't have a cow for a neighbor - humor me) dies, do we declare that the tree, bush, tulip, or cow is now "in a better place?" I doubt it very much. Life is a constant of birth and dying all over this planet every minute of every day. Why do we think only human life, and maybe a pet or two, deserves to move on to another life?

Don't try to answer the question; it was rhetorical. Through the magic of Sunday School, Madrassas, and other religious youth training, we are programming young people's minds to believe in a higher power and that this higher power granted us humans domain over all life as well as eternal life while everything else must perish forever. An afterlife, and whatever else is out there like that, is the construct of humans millennia ago who couldn't conceive that death was final, that it was the period at the end of the sentence we call life. Death to them was mysterious and unexplainable; we now know precisely how and why most people die.

There is no afterlife, clouds, virgins, harps, angels, or whatever image you may hold in your head for we humans, animals, or any other living organism. We are all part of a natural cycle of birth and death. I understand this is not an easy or pleasant concept for many people, especially close to religious holidays, but I believe it is the hard truth.

All life matters, and no individual life matters.