Michael Battalio

Friday, October 28, 2011

Serious conversations (part 30):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The thirtieth through thirty-third entries deal with death.

Are you afraid of death?  Why, why not?

        At present I am not.  Part of that is naïveté certainly.  Part of it is because I am rather young and in theory I won’t have to worry about it for at least half a century.  I take a dual approach (one from my vaguely Catholic side [I could pick any religion, but I’ll stick with Catholicism because I know it best and, well, I have to pick one.] and one from my agnostic side).  If God exists I think I’ll go to heaven or at least purgatory (assuming that exists) (I haven’t committed any of what the Catholic Church calls mortal sins, which is a debatable term in and of itself.); however, I no longer regularly confess what “sins” I do have to a priest.  I, of course, don’t know how important confession is to God, but neither does the Catholic Church really, so who knows.  It just happens to be one of the seven sacraments.  (I also question the authority of priests. I know some really sinful priests. How much can they really do to absolve me when they sin worse than I do?) I don’t preach the Bible anymore and seriously doubt the existence of God, but I think I’m a good person and remain open to the possibility of God and evidence asserting that claim.  I believe that being a good person and acting in genuine accordance with what you feel is moral is good enough to get you some points.  (I’ll repeat that if God really wanted us to blindly believe in him he shouldn’t have made his existence so logically improbable and given us reason and logic to have figured this out.  So how can he punish someone simply for using his “gift” of logic? [I refer you to my “This I Believe” series that can be found earlier in this blog on more about what I believe.])  I still attend church and try to pay attention, but I admit most of the reason of my attendance is because I get paid rather well to play music.  But I try to believe, and that is the point is it not?

So under the assumption that I will get to heaven, which I am reasonably confident of, and that heaven is a nice place, why worry about death?

        Agnostically, I have focused myself on not wasting my time under the assumption that when I am near death if I feel I have accomplished all that I can and want, I will have no regrets (besides wanting more time).  If I have lived a life I am proud of – one that has made me and others happy (I refer you back to the discussion of happiness [S.C. Parts 20 and 21] as to what I think makes me happy.) such that I feel fulfilled, then I will have done all I can do in life.  I think that it is the fear of regret that causes such fear of death.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Serious conversations (part 29):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The twenty-ninth entry is a selection of comments on relationships.

        This is more a comment about marriage and relationships in general, but to what extent are all relationships arranged.  I'm not talking about fate but mere happenstance.  By our choices in life we are arranging to meet and intersect with a certain subset of the world's population and diverge from the rest.  There is absolutely nothing stopping me from moving to Europe permanently (practically speaking), and by not doing so I have arranged for myself to not have any chance to be in a relationship with most people in Europe.  All of our choices set a sequence of events in motion that preclude certain individuals from intersecting with our lives and include others.  Our every action arranges who our eventual partner (or lack thereof) will be.

Arranged marriages:
        I think it is more than just selfishness and the idea that the family is important that keeps people from submitting to arranged marriages in the west. Some of it is that western society has decided that the family should support what an individual member does so long as it isn't self destructive.  Individuality is much more important than unity.  The family should be happy because its members are happy.
        I just don’t understand how arranged relationships can work at all unless one partner is submissive (or just really lucky that personalities match).  A relationship is a delicate balance of wills.  Unless one member doesn’t care ever, there will inevitably be conflict within a relationship.  Part of a relationship is coming to terms with differing opinions, and I believe that is what makes the healthiest relationships – those where both members are tolerant and patient.  Those relationships that are thrown together without a chance for the individuals to adapt to new surroundings and a new structure of power are doomed to at least be rocky. Also a relationship must be based in trust and be respectful. It would be difficult to trust someone you did not know.

In general:
        We are all told to strive toward a relationship.  Emphasis is placed on finding someone.  A lot of that has to do with the beliefs of religions, Christianity in particular, that the son leaves the mother and starts a family of his own etc. – that famous scripture from Corinthians that is read at every single wedding in the US.  I kind of resent that thought.  For the longest time in high school and for a few years of college I placed such emphasis on defining myself by a current relationship that I lost sight of who I really was.  It has only been recently that I no longer define myself by who I am with (or not with as the case might be).  I define me by me.
        Relationships are so very random and chance.  This might be why religions have embraced them so much.  This is another element of our lives we cannot control, but it certainly is something God can control.  If we pray enough and in the right way to him, perhaps he will grant us that perfect somebody to spend the rest of our lives with. I contribute my general success with relationships mostly to my luck and the fact that I’m quite patient and forgiving and I tend to attract similar people, not that I have been destined by fate or gifted by God.
2003-2016 Michael Battalio (michael[at]battalio.com)