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ragnarthefirst

Religion for Psychological Reasons?

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I recently had a discussion with a friend of mine who is semi-religious. He said that religion might not be true, but that it gives comfort for people who are dying. This instantly felt wrong, and yet true at the same time. I'd be afraid to die, but it would not make me believe in a lie.

Yet, would I lie to people in the process of dying?
What do you think?

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We are all in the process of dying and truth is more comforting than falsehoods.  Love is what endures in life and memory.  Comfort those in the last moments of their life with love.

Repairman likes this

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ragnarthhefirst,

First, welcome to the forum. Could you clarify a detail: Are you the one dying, or is a close friend or relative dying?

It the case of the former, there would be no need to lie to anyone. Let's assume you are in hospice, and the end is near. Assure your survivors that life, with all of the challenges, was worth living. I hope that would be true, rather than a lie, but even if you have some deep regrets, you would be remembered for putting on a brave game-face as the curtain closed.

If the later were the case, there is no benefit to making anyone's last moment more uncomfortable, by suggesting that there is no life-ever-lasting waiting for them. If the ethical problem is one of concealing your non-religious beliefs, merely find some way to avoid revealing them.

Incidentally, I've delivered several eulogies for non-religious departed relatives, and with the proper touch, a secular burial can be as well-received as a religious one.

JASKN likes this

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A lie is at best a momentary comfort. But, sometimes a moment is all you need. There should be some purpose to your exchanges with people. If the person is a stranger with whom you require no future interaction, it probably serves no purpose to debate with them about the lie of religion in which they have chosen to believe -- you would do nothing but waste your time with no benefit to yourself. If they are looking for a fight, you might be better off responding with a bold faced lie and getting away as soon as possible. This assumes that you care about maintaining a quiet social atmosphere. Otherwise, say what you think, or say nothing at all, and then excuse yourself politely when you've had enough.

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It takes serious guts to face the fact of your own mortality. Most people never really do; "death" doesn't mean the same thing to a Christian that it does to an atheist. However, anyone who spends their life waiting for its epilogue will never get the chance to know what slipped through their fingers. And that's universal.

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It takes serious guts to face the fact of your own mortality.

Why should someone who's dying "face the fact" of their own mortality? Why not escape it as much as possible? Seems like unnecessary pain.

Of course, it takes facing that fact to decide to start escaping the psychological pain, in the first place.

Edited by Nicky

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Why should someone who's dying "face the fact" of their own mortality? Why not escape it as much as possible? Seems like unnecessary pain.

Whether we have two minutes or a hundred years (or perhaps a hundred million years, someday), every single one of us is dying. We should all face it for the same reason.

I say "face" instead of "accept" because to literally have no particular feelings about it is a very bad thing. Death is a bad thing, which we're right to avoid; I'm not advocating stoicism.

We should all face the fact that it will eventually happen, in its fullest and most horrible meaning (instead of glossing over it), in order to weigh the value of every moment that we do have. It doesn't matter how many moments we may ultimately get, in the span of our lives; what matters is the knowledge that every single one of them is irreplaceable. We should face death in order to make the most out of our own lives.

The link in my signature is actually so relevant here that I can't think of a humorous metaphor for it.

And there have been (and will be) plenty of people who lead perfectly happy and prosperous lives without ever realizing what "death" refers to. It's just sad because they could have been so much more.

And it doesn't seem likely that facing this monster, with two minutes on the clock, would really improve the rest of that person's life. On the other hand, though, what is a truly determined person capable of doing with two minutes?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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Death is the end result of the biological process of aging. There's no reason we can't (or won't) invent interventions for the harmful biological effects for aging.

 

So all of this going on and on about inevitability and acceptance is absolute bullshit. Belief in the inevitability of death is irrational, and accepting it is immoral.

 

The standard of value in Objectivism is your own life. Fight for your life and your survival. This is something we can and should fight, and win.

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It's irrational to know that man is mortal? And I don't know how one fights for one's own immortality.

The standard of life isn't defined by longevity.

Who knows the far future, in the meantime it is irrational to believe otherwise.

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I don't know how one fights for one's own immortality

 

See sens.org for example:

 

 

Many things go wrong with aging bodies, but at the root of them all is the burden of decades of unrepaired damage to the cellular and molecular structures that make up the functional units of our tissues. As each essential microscopic structure fails, tissue function becomes progressively compromised – imperceptibly at first, but ending in the slide into the diseases and disabilities of aging.

SENS Research Foundation’s strategy to prevent and reverse age-related ill-health is to apply the principles of regenerative medicine to repair the damage of aging at the level where it occurs. We are developing a new kind of medicine: regenerative therapies that remove, repair, replace, or render harmless the cellular and molecular damage that has accumulated in our tissues with time. By reconstructing the structured order of the living machinery of our tissues, these rejuvenation biotechnologies will restore the normal functioning of the body's cells and essential biomolecules, returning aging tissues to health and bringing back the body’s youthful vigor.

http://sens.org/research/introduction-to-sens-research

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Death is the end result of the biological process of aging.

What about death by starvation, suffocation or bullets?

Even if we cured aging altogether, we would remain mortal.

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See sens.org for example:

 

It doesn't make sense to plan for longevity unless there's a real option on the table that will give it to you. In all likelihood, you'll die at around age 90, best case scenario. Then, as HD pointed out, you could die each and every day. With those two pieces of knowledge, you can lead your life. It would be irrational to say, "Damn you death, you're bullshit and I refuse to die!" when you know very well that you will die within the span of decades, based on today's technology.

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The "immortal, indestructible robot" comes to mind. "Such an entity would not be able to have any values" [AR]

 

Elsewhere, (ItOE?) she directly correlates values with the length of life.

 

So while this is not an immortal robot under discussion, we are talking about man's life approaching that stage. I wonder what an almost unlimited lifespan would do to one's values, but more, if even holding values might not become impossible. A friend said to me, "But just imagine, you could take a space flight to see the rings of Saturn up close!"

OK, but then what next? I replied.

Edited by whYNOT

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The "immortal, indestructible robot" comes to mind. "Such an entity would not be able to have any values" [AR]

 

Elsewhere, (ItOE?) she directly correlates values with the length of life.

 

So while this is not an immortal robot under discussion, we are talking about man's life approaching that stage. I wonder what an almost unlimited lifespan would do to one's values, but more, if even holding values might not become impossible. A friend said to me, "But just imagine, you could take a space flight to see the rings of Saturn up close!"

OK, but then what next? I replied.

A man with a techonologically legthened life would be nothing like an indestructible robot. The whole point of that analogy was that the robot is indestructible by nature. For man to live longer, that takes values and effort. Edited by Nicky

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Death is the end result of the biological process of aging. There's no reason we can't (or won't) invent interventions for the harmful biological effects for aging.

 

So all of this going on and on about inevitability and acceptance is absolute bullshit. Belief in the inevitability of death is irrational, and accepting it is immoral.

 

The standard of value in Objectivism is your own life. Fight for your life and your survival. This is something we can and should fight, and win.

I thought we were talking about people with terminal illnesses. You can be sure that you're not gonna survive terminal cancer. I assure you, it's not something that's gonna be cured in six months. If nothing else, government approval to start using any potential treatment on humans takes longer than that. Edited by Nicky

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A man with a techonologically legthened life would be nothing like an indestructible robot. The whole point of that analogy was that the robot is indestructible by nature. For man to live longer, that takes values and effort.

Quite. But reduce the destructibility of man "by nature", (through bio-technology, and all that stuff) and he *approaches* the robot's state, no?. 

 

Shorter the time, the higher the value significance, is Rand's explanation. The longer the time...

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Shorter the time, the higher the value significance, is Rand's explanation. The longer the time...

Would deliberately infecting yourself with some incurable disease make the rest of your life worth disproportionately more than the years you'd be sacrificing? Would the value gained from that outweigh the loss?

If not (and I really think not) then there must be more to it than that.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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I think that by framing it exclusively in those terms you're taking the other side of epistemologue's false dichotomy. Instead of saying "Damn you death, you're bullshit and I refuse to die!" you're sort of saying "Well, maybe death is a good thing" and it just isn't.

Life is good. Eating good food, having good sex, enjoying good art; these things are good regardless of when or how you'll stop being able to ever experience them again.

And while you are right, in that having less time to live forces you to really choose wisely how you spend it, having more time to live gives you so many more options. If you only had three days to live you could find some creative ways to really LIVE them but you certainly couldn't write a novel or discover some revolutionary knowledge; things like that take time.

Just imagine what someone with a million-year lifespan would be capable of doing with it!

I think that the point isn't to accept death in that way (as something that actually makes anything MORE valuable, in the big picture) but just to accept that it is a fact of life, and to live accordingly.

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Quite. But reduce the destructibility of man "by nature", (through bio-technology, and all that stuff) and he *approaches* the robot's state, no?

No; we are mortal, by which I mean this.

We, as conscious beings, are a certain configuration of matter and energy (which means a configuration of moving matter). If our pattern is disrupted in any number of tiny ways, for even a moment, we cease to exist.

Now, the most common way in which our patterns are destroyed is from the sum of the countless, imperceptible ways they're damaged during the course of any given day (meaning old age), and that's not likely to change anytime soon. However, even if we did find a solution to that, there are so many other ways to die that they cannot be enumerated - and some of them just can't BE fixed. If your body gets hot enough the individual proteins inside of your cells get bent out of shape (we usually call it "cooking"), and that's caused by what proteins fundamentally are; to make yourself un-cookable you'd have to replace your own body with something inorganic, which would probably kill you.

Think of Wolverine, from the X-Men; let's suppose that we could make our bodies heal themselves the way his does. OK. Well the way our cells reproduce is governed by these little caps of DNA, on the end of their chromosomes, called "telomeres"; we may actually be able to do that by changing our own telomeres. And we have tons of evidence that cells with abnormal telomeres do, in fact, grow and heal themselves like crazy - we usually call them "tumors". If Wolverine were real, he would probably die at 30 from cancer.

I could go on, but I think you get the inductive point I'm trying to make. When I say that "we are mortal" I mean that we are fundamentally and inherently different from the indestructible robot. We will always be destructible.

And that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to live longer, cure cancer and solve senescence; just that we shouldn't think of actual immortality as a real possibility.

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Ah, I used the analogy of the robot as further analogy. It is not important

Nor do I think I am leaning into the other side of a false dichotomy, that's the nature of identifying an issue ( I suppose).

If it seems I'm praising death--Ha!

 

What does have to be skirted carefully is the intrinsicism at the heart of this. I've seen and heard from many sources the recent breakthroughs of bio-medicine. I read here that since life is good, much more life must be wonderful. Yes, I don't doubt it could be. But I haven't heard much about man's consciousness. It's almost as if (the thinking goes) our minds will automatically fall into line when our bodies and organs go on and on, almost endlessly. A suggestion of a mind-body split? That's a little of my impression.

 

I found the passage of Rand's [Concepts of Consciousness]:

 

"Since a value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep, and the amount of possible action is limited by the duration of one's lifespan, it is apart of one's life that one invests in everything one values. The years, months, days or hours of thought, of interest, of action devoted to a value are the currency with which one pays for the enjoyment one receives from it".

 

That is elegant, and in my experience true. A correlation between value intensity, and the time "invested" and 'given'..

 

A simple life example: every parent values seeing their children and often their grand-children grow up, graduate, marry, etc. Could anyone doubt that after seeing (say) 575 of your great-great-etc. progeny on their graduation day, the pleasure might wear a little thin?

 

How much capacity for value does one consciousness have?

Edited by whYNOT

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Quite. But reduce the destructibility of man "by nature", (through bio-technology, and all that stuff) and he *approaches* the robot's state, no?

No. The robot's state is an impossibility. Approaching it is impossible too. There's no similarity between anything that's possible and that example. Rand used it strictly for explanation purposes, not to suggest that it's a possibility or to warn against it.

Making it harder to die would have no negative effect on our lives or ability to reason and be moral. If anything, it's the desperation of inevitable death that's driving people to irrationality like religion.

Edited by Nicky
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Then Nicky, I also used it for "explanation purposes". Without threats to its existence - without the possibility of death - our 'robot' cannot have values. (Like all metaphors it can run out of comparative usefulness).

 

The desperation of inevitable death drives many, but not ALL people to religion and irrationality. The prospect of death motivates some people to real-life value, too.

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I haven't heard much about man's consciousness. It's almost as if (the thinking goes) our minds will automatically fall into line when our bodies and organs go on and on, almost endlessly. A suggestion of a mind-body split?

Your mind is what your brain does. Your brain requires all of your organs to be working properly in order to do it. No organs, no brain, no consciousness, nothing; existence doesn't exist, for you.

The beginning and the end of every conceivable value is the fact that you are conscious of it. Without consciousness, there can be nothing. There is no pain for corpses, either, which forces us to ask which is more important: the pursuit of pleasure or the escape from pain?

I'd like to make this perfectly clear.

In every waking moment, you are either chasing what you want or running from what you fear, to one degree or another. Everything that you can ever do is done for one of those two reasons. Most of the time these coincide, so that desire and fear both lead to the same sorts of actions, but not always; once in a while they contradict each other, which forces us to prioritize between them.

Corpses want nothing and fear nothing. It is only your conscious mind which does those things and your mind cannot function without your living brain.

HENCE, if pleasure is more important, LIFE is an INHERENTLY GOOD thing because there can be no good without it. If pain is more important then life is an inherently bad thing because there can be no pain without it, which means that whether you know it or not you are acting on the premise of death.

Now, as for the extent of our capacity to value, that's an extremely relevant and insightful question to ask.

What do you think was the significance of the oath: "By my life and my love of it"?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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Now, as for the extent of our capacity to value, that's an extremely relevant and insightful question to ask.

What do you think was the significance of the oath: "By my life and my love of it"?

.

Man's life is the standard of value (and each individual's, the purpose). Not 'man's life-span'. The life of man is the standard of value as actuality--in that it IS, not how long it is. Up to now, the length of life was an established metaphysical given, so all of philosophy was implicitly based on man's threescore and ten.

 

"My life and my love of it" is exactly what's at stake here. Or: How long a life can still be 'loved'? So it begs the question and becomes rather circular, don't you think? If time, (along with virtues, conviction, thought, focus, etc.) is a currency we spend on our values, would unlimited time devalue our values?

 

It is tempting to extrapolate from one's own experiences and observations of others' lives, that consciousness - as we know it - will continue linearly into a hugely extended lifespan.

I'm only concerned with reality, therefore merely cautioning that this would not necessarily be the case.

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