What If …

(For regular readers … I’m taking a break from my break because, well, you’ll see in a minute.)

Each night before I sink into my most comfortable sleeping position and pull the covers up to my chin, I look outside the window above my bed at the night sky. If it’s not foggy or overcast, I can see a fairly decent swath of stars among the pine trees. (Stars are very special to me, as you can tell if you look closely at my avatar.) On the nights when they’re hidden, I know they’re still there so I just use a little imagination.

Anyway, along with this visual sweep of the night sky, I also say a few words of thanks. Who am I thanking? I don’t know. Certainly not “God.” I guess maybe that Universal Presence that I talk about in my book. Anyway, I start out by expressing my appreciation for “life” … for simply being part of this magnificent universe. Then I add how thankful I am for my health (which, BTW, is very good. Thankfully. Winking smile).

Next, I express gratitude for my home. Not that it’s anything special, but it’s home. It’s a place that protects me from the elements and where I feel safe.

After that, I extend my appreciation for my overall happiness in life. No, my life is not perfect. I experience many of the same trials and tribulations as others, but overall I feel a peace and a general sense of well-being.

And last, I offer thanks for my little dog (Miniature Schnauzer) who brings me so much joy and happiness. Now for some, this may not be a big deal. But from the moment I laid eyes on her at the shelter, I felt a deep-down connection with this little mutt. And this feeling has grown even deeper after her injury last summer when she slipped and fell and severely injured her spine. She was unable to stand or walk at all and we wondered if she would ever return to normal. Without going into extensive detail, suffice it to say she was seen by two neurologists and the prognosis was that with time, physical therapy, lots of love and TLC, she had a 85-90% chance of walking again. I took on the challenge and guess what! She  recovered! Well … to a point. She’s crippled because her left side doesn’t work as it should, but she gets around. And her spirit is still as bright as ever and her tail wags just as fiercely!

Anyway, I’m telling you all this to share what happened a few nights ago.

I don’t recall what point I was in offering my nightly words of gratitude, but suddenly a very strong (and very unwelcome) thought pushed itself into my thoughts. WHAT IF … there really is a “God” and because I no longer believe in “him,” I might be destined for HELL!

Let me tell you. My chest seized up and my heart skipped a beat.

Yes, I know. I wrote about the non-existence of hell and eternal punishment in my book … and I’ve “preached” against it on several blogs. But the several years of BRAINWASHING while I was in church apparently is still roaming around in my amygdala. Even though I’ve been AWAY from it for over 20 years!

Fortunately, the thought only lasted a couple of seconds and I quickly regained my senses. Whew!

As I considered sharing this experience on my blog, I hesitated. I thought … what if I’m stirring up a hornet’s nest? The true-blue Christians will be coming out of the woodwork to tell me it was a MESSAGE FROM GOD! But then I thought, what the heck? I know … and most of my blog readers know … there is no What If. We live. We die. We return to the stars. And that’s all she wrote.

“I’ve Had A Wonderful Life”

On another blog, someone commented with a quote from Ludwig Wittgenstein (1989-1951), an Austrian-British 20th Century philosopher:

To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning

As I read this, I asked myself, “Self, does this mean life has no meaning without a belief in God?”


Ludwig Wittgenstein (by Ben Richards)

In a cursory reading about Ludwig on Wikipedia, I found it rather interesting that he made the following comment as he lay on his death bed, just before losing consciousness for the last time, “Tell them I’ve had a wonderful life.”

In the last years of his life, Wittgenstein was said to be agnostic — in a qualified sense. Qualified in that he did not accept any religious faith. In fact, he was impatient with “proofs” of the existence of God and any attempts to give religion a rational foundation.

So it would seem his original thinking, as stated in the above quote, had changed by the end of his life. He had found meaning in life despite his agnosticism … to the extent he was able to say on his death bed, “I’ve had a wonderful life.”

In his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus  (1922), he wrote:

Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits.

I like this: eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.

There is no other time but now. There is no other life but this one. Enjoy the life you have at this moment. Even if you are living with pain and suffering, always remember, you still have LIFE! You are still able to enjoy the magnificence of the universe, the love of friends and family, the joy of simply “being.”

And when the time comes for it all to end, may each of us join Ludwig and say, “I’ve had a wonderful life.”

Who Decides? You or God?

There has been extensive discussion on some of the blogs I follow about “Free Will.” I even posted something related to the issue; however, it didn’t really address my personal outlook on the topic.

Free Will is defined in various ways. Following are a couple of defs that I came across …

  • WordWeb: (n.) The power of making free choices unconstrained by external agencies; (adj.) Done of your own accord.
  • Wikipedia: The ability of agents to make choices unimpeded by certain prevailing factors.
  • Wiktionary: (n.) A person’s natural inclination; unforced choice; (philosophy) The ability to choose one’s actions, or determine what reasons are acceptable motivation for actions, without predestination, fate etc.

The major discussion around the topic is generally divided between those who believe humans possess free will (as defined above), and those who are certain our actions are dictated by a higher power. I lean towards the former.

Here’s how I look at it …

Throughout our lifetime, we make choices. These choices run the full gamut of how we live our lives. Further, I think this ability to choose is part of our organic evolutionary makeup and begins in early childhood — around the time of our “self-awareness.”

I DO NOT think our choices are dictated by anyone or anything. We alone our responsible for the decisions we make and the actions we take. Yes, we often weigh external factors and resulting consequences, but in the end, WE are the ones who make the final decision on how we will proceed. If we make a bad decision, we will suffer the consequences, which could even lead to our death.

Here’s how many others look at it …

Some believe God (generally the Christian God) is the controlling factor in our lives. They free_will_puppetcontend that all human actions are dictated by an omniscient (all-knowing), invisible, super being. Moreover, not only does this super-being know the choices we will make, but it has actually pre-determined these choices. Further, by virtue of its omnipotence (unlimited power), it controls the factors that make up these choices. In other words, our lives are totally controlled by a Power that cannot be physically seen, felt, or heard … yet exists to run our lives.

Based on this “Godly” perspective, not only are we born by God’s choice, but it is God who decides everything for us from that point on. And think on this — if God is the determining factor in a person’s life choices, it could be said it is God who decides whether a baby will be aborted! (Take that right-to-lifers!)

Thus, according to this school of thought, anyone who believes in individual free will is living under an illusion.

As I mentioned elsewhere, this is a topic where neither side can be declared a “winner.” Nonetheless, it makes for fascinating discussions since multiple scenarios can be presented to “prove” one viewpoint over the other. And that prompts me to say … “Have at it!” What’s your take on the subject? Do you agree with me or “the others” … and why?

Free Will and Evil

This is a topic that incurs endless discussions on the internet (and elsewhere) with neither side “winning.” Nonetheless, when I watched this video, I couldn’t help saying to myself … whaaaaat??!!? Is it just my imagination or is this guy talking in circles?

P.S. If I knew how, I would have taken out the “advertisements” at the end. Sorry about that.