Atheist on Death
Brian J. Sabel from Just Atheists wrote a post that caught my attention. Since my grandma died, I’ve been thinking about death quite a bit for obvious reasons. Obviously, my view of death is that we who place faith in Christ go on to eternal reward, while the rest do not. “[I]t is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment . . .” (Heb 9:27).
I believe that my grandma has gone on to that eternal reward. Not because I want to believe that since it is a comforting thought for me, but because my grandma placed her faith in Christ. At the funeral, I could see the fruits of the Spirit in her lives through the stories people told of the lives she touched. I had no idea how much time she donated freely to good causes. Even though she was sick, she still donated time and crafts to other sick people. She was an Eucharistic Minister and traveled to the sick and infirm at homes and hospitals to share the Lord’s Supper with them, and to talk and pray with them.
I could easily get into the debate about faith vs. works here, but suffice it to say that I believe her actions proceeded from her faith and that faith is what saved her, not what she did in this life. That isn’t the point of my post. The point is that Brian from Just Atheists believes that this life is all that there is and that view of life elevates life on earth above the religious view.
Many faithful see this as a very bleak way to view our lives. Without the rewards of the afterlife, they say, our lives on earth have no value or meaning. They often view my rejection of a belief in an afterlife as a cynical and nihilistic view which robs humankind of our best qualities. They could not be more wrong. And, in fact, I feel that my view elevates the value of human life beyond the capacity of a religious view.
The finite nature of our lives compels me to believe that each life is unique, valuable, and irreplaceable. When a person dies she is gone and we will never get her back. The consequence of this belief is that I love the people around me very deeply because I recognize how precious they are and how fortunate I am to experience their lives – they could be gone from me so quickly. (source)
Brian actually has a point. His view elevates the view of this life above how religious often view it. But the Bible doesn’t teach us to view this life as one of much importance. The Bible calls this life a “mist” (Jms 4:14). Like Brian’s astute observation, the Bible affirms that this life can be taken from us at any moment. Unlike Brian, the Bible states we must build our treasure in heaven (Mt 6:19-20).
Does this mean that the religious should place no importance on this life whatsoever? Of course not! There is certainly wisdom in the expression “We don’t inherit this planet from our parents, we borrow it from our children.” With all of the comparisons to God as the landowner and humans as His stewards in Jesus’ parables, can anyone ever really conclude that we aren’t called to be stewards of this planet? God commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply,” and in order to do that effectively, we must be good stewards of the resources on this planet.
So there is some importance in this life. But, unlike the atheist viewpoint, this life is not all that there is. There is more out there, there is eternal life to be spent in perfect communion with our Creator, and with those that have gone before us in Christ.
Meanwhile, let’s be good stewards of this planet. When God returns to earth, we’ll have to give an account for it.
You say, “Of course not!”, but it sure sounds contradictory to me. Should we be stewards, or should we “think not for the morrow” as Jesus advised? Should we invest in this life or not? Should we believe Jesus when he says that poverty and suffering are virtuous, that no rich man can go to heaven? Or should we believe him when he says that we should help the poor? I think you’re glossing over the fundamental contradictions between these two ideas.