Birth, Death, and Other Trivialities
Religions worldwide primarily concern themselves with an attempt to answer 2 questions:
1. Where did we come from?
2. What happens after we die?
These are universal concerns for humanity, and questions that are difficult to answer when we are being honest with ourselves. Our obsession with birth and death are justified; they are the two most important things that will happen to you in your lifetime. The question of what lies on either side of this journey we call life is the real mystery, and for centuries religions have claimed to have the answers to these two fundamental milestones.
Religions thrive on this premise, the ownership of these answers, and because life is the only thing we will ever experience on a personal level, they perpetuate themselves on the fear of the unknown, both before and after death. Before we are born, or even conceived, the religious create a life-force, the spark of life that is given to us from god, to fulfill this life on earth. This god breathes consciousness into us, which means we owe this god a favour, one that can only be repaid by worship. Once an end of consciousness is “experienced” by a human, thus begins the start of the mystery, and the realm of superstition, mysticism and mythology. We cling to our lives, and can’t imagine a world without “ourselves” being in it, and because of this, we also find it hard to imagine a world where someone’s consciousness just blinks out, especially if the person who dies is a loved-one. It’s the fear of the unknown that props up religion, and the claim that religions have the answers that gives religions an authoritative voice in matters of mortality.
All creatures live and die in the same way. Some live longer, some show signs of human-like intelligence, and many are self-aware. They feel pain, and are capable of anguish and distress. They are even capable of love. But we have a tendency to raise humanity up above all other creatures, because we have an advanced sense of self, an over-inflated sense of our importance in the world, and live under the misapprehension that humanity is somehow an “end” in evolution. We believe that our existence on earth is somehow predestined, and this causes us to see ourselves as better than, or superior to all other animals on earth. Because of these standpoints, we start the conversation of “what happens when we die” from a fundamentally flawed beginning position. We make the assumption that the human animal is the only creature special enough to hold within it some kind of everlasting presence, a “spirit” or “soul”. However there is no indication from the breadth of human knowledge over the entirety of human history, that the “soul” is anything but a quick way to answer the question of what happens after death. Once you fill the void after death with an ever-present immortality, you then have to create a “where” that this presence goes to. We then create a need for an “afterlife”, whether it be heaven, hell, purgatory, or even reincarnation. The question of death suddenly ceases to be a problem, because when you replace uncertainty with the eternity of immortality, death is just a journey to the afterlife.
Given this as a backstory, it comes as no surprise that religions have created a whole series of allegories and rules which hinge on these two fundamental stages of life, claimed superior knowledge, and loaded them with tenets that hinge around life and death. Jn order to attain the afterlife, you need to behave in a certain way. You need to follow certain rules, doctrines and dogmatic ideals, worship the figurehead of the religion, and suddenly the belief system that was once about personal salvation becomes a political state. formalised religious dogma, such as in the Catholic church is as much about controlling your actions as it is about the worship of a deity, and it operates much like a business, a property owner, and a politician all rolled into one.
The extension of claiming knowledge over “what happens before birth” is an implicit claim to knowledge of intentions of a divine being, which from all studies in the history of humankind, does not exist. But by claiming this knowledge, the religions also claim knowledge over what a divine being might want for us humans to do for it. Knowing why humans are created means we can then impose regulations over how, why, and with whom we have sex. Not all religions are predisposed to sexual activity, but those who hold the most sway in society make it a priority.
It’s no coincidence that religions focus on pre-birth, post death, and the act of sex. These are the three fundamental moments and events in life that are required for life to occur and end. The problem is not with the answers religions give about birth and death, rather, the problem is the question itself. In fact, where something so powerful claims hold over answers that it can’t possibly have, the answer of “nothing” seems, to many, to be the more difficult of answers one can receive. But the truth doesnt care whether your feelings are hurt, whether you believe in something, or whether you want something to be true. The truth is the same whether you like it or not.
Let’s not pander to truth claims by religions anymore. It causes disruptions in communities, divisions between borders, and deaths between kin. We can respect a person’s right to believe, but we are under no obligation to respect the beliefs a person serves up, especially when the beliefs themselves are factually incorrect, or without merit. We can move forward as a world if we speak plainly about things such as territory, commodities and poverty, without differing to a higher power for guidance. We have grown up enough that we don’t need the doctrinal dogma of religious allegories to steer our decisions.
Birth and death are trivial. They affect us on a personal level like nothing else in life, but to a universe incapable of noticing, these things don’t matter. We need to make our lives matter to us, to our friends and loved ones, and to the species, or the fairytales of the religious will forever remain the only purpose we strive for.