As the great man's guest must produce his good stories or songs at the evening banquet, as the platform orator exhibits his telling facts at mid-day, so the journalist lies under the stern obligation of extemporizing his lucid views, leading ideas, and nutshell truths for the breakfast table.
Cardinal J. H. Newman, Preface to The Idea of a University, 1852

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More on death and faith (some clarifications on my previous post)

The trouble with writing anything is that the moment I've written it I invariable think it misrepresents what I really think. Fortunately you can edit posts, so that's what I've done with the previous post in this blog. And why not? This is my private blog and it comes with no claims of academic credibility!

Also a couple of clarifications/further developments:

1) I'm not saying that it is OK deliberately to lie to make make people feel better. Just that you should be sensitive. Dawkins and some of the New Atheists come across as insensitive to a degree that amounts to being cruel.  I don't like people being cruel.

2) My own faith is not an easy solution to my fear of death. When I experienced le reveil mortel (the first realisation of eventual extinction - see Julian Barnes "Nothing to be frightened of") I was 13 or 14 years old, and, like John Betjeman recounts in 'Before the Anaesthetic' I was immediately aware that my Christianity - as I then formulated it - was no match for death.  Basically I believed the science before the Christianity, and I couldn't, however much I wanted to, 'choose' to believe in that way.  Forty years on, and the way I see it now is that in faith - faith, not belief - there is way forward.  For me, faith in the resurrection of Jesus contains within it - among other things - faith that we are not defeated by death.  It is not saying that extinction does not happen, but that whatever it is in extinction that I fear is not what I think it is.  That love is greater than death.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Yes, I am afraid of death (but I'm not afraid of the dark)

I've been wanting to say something like this for a while, and I saw an opportunity as a comment on this article in the Guardian.

Here's what I said (later edited - you can always follow the link above if you want to check what I wrote at the time -  and then see also the following post):

I'm not afraid of death, ....There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.

the idea of extinction holds no more fear than sleep. It really is insulting to accuse me of believing there might be life after death because I'm afraid of the dark.
Well you two are different from me then. I'm bl**dy terrified of extinction. You people who don't have this fear, should read, for example, Julian Barnes "Nothing to be frightened of", Larkin's "Aubade" or Betjeman's 'Before the Anaesthetic". If you people really don't have this fear you don't know how lucky you are. (And actually I think it displays a lack of imagination.)

I can only assume that the likes of Hawking and Dawkins who love to mock 'afraid of the dark*' really don't understand this fear. If they did, and they continued to disabuse people of their only escape from the terror, they are no better than the 'hell fire' preachers who at least offered an escape.

*The dark? The dark? Is that really what you think I'm afraid of? I love the dark, but extinction is NOT the dark and if you think there is any parallel then it just proves that you don't understand the problem.