Michael Battalio

Friday, November 08, 2013

This I Believe (part 23):

        After about four years it is time for a revisit of my “This I Believe” series. As before, I’m still having trouble defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I hope to figure some of what I believe here.

Before in the series I explain my current beliefs and said that I really want God to exist. Let me elaborate on that.

        I want God because of two reasons.  First, praying to God allows you control things you couldn't otherwise control.  I can't tell you how tempting it is to pray to God when Rebecca is having a flair up of her Crohn's disease because otherwise all I can do is sit and watch her be in pain.  If only I could pray hard enough I could perhaps convince what should be a merciful God in the first place to heal her.  Prayer gives the illusion of absolute control.  People love that; I would love that if it were actually true.  

        Secondly, I’d like to not not exist. I am not necessarily afraid of ceasing to exist, I just don't want to.  I'd like to at least exist for longer than the 100 years or so I'd have otherwise.  If we get to the singularity in our lifetimes this won't be my problem anymore, and to some extent the singularity will mitigate my need for absolute power as well.  If I can live in a computer or have a perfect android body, I won't need a celestial magician to grant me wishes.  That's really it, I don't find comfort in thinking there is some being greater than me.  To paraphrase Douglas Adams, the universe is amazing enough that I don't need omnipotent beings in it too.

        I have always been afraid of death.  I can remember crying myself to sleep occasionally when I was five or six being worried about dying.  I have been preoccupied with this for the entirety of my memory.  Thinking about death while sitting in my grandmother's lap is one of my first memories.  I don't fear pain or loss, but it terrifies me not to exist.  I guess so much of it has to do with me really liking existing.  Although it also has to do with me concerned about leaving a legacy.  It is quite doubtful that I will leave a large enough mark in scientific literature to be remembered much past the decade after I die.  Very few scientists ever do really leave a profound jump forward in knowledge.

        One might speculate that it is my indoctrinated Catholicism that has caused me such fear. I suppose some of my fear comes from religion.  Catholicism is awfully concerned about guilt, reconciliation and repentance, but even as a child I was more worried not about salvation but about not existing.  I can't explain it any better than this.  I don't have a concrete reason for being so afraid; perhaps it is why I'm so cautious (sometimes to my own detriment) in my decisions.  Actually, I wonder how so many people can not be afraid of death.

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