The End Of The
Tunnel Of Light
Ned

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism"
To: "Ned"
Subject: Positive Atheism Letters Section
Date: October 16, 2001

Ay! We thank you for your kind words! Even some who you'd think would appreciate what we do still can't handle this or that quirk. Never mind, because this is art -- self-expression -- and, speaking only for myself, I do this for me and for me alone. Anybody who wishes to look on or even to join in is welcome as long as they behave themselves (at least try to be polite, try to maintain some semblance of quietness, etc). And if they don't like it, there's always the animated rubber ducky that used to live on the front page. [The link would take the reader variously to Teletubbys, Tickle Me Elmo, That disgusting Purple Dinosaur whose name (mercifully) escapes me, Romper Room, Hump the Wonder Panda, Davey and Goliath, Heckle and Jeckyll the Talking Magpies, and so fourth.]

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism"
To: "Ned"
Subject: Positive Atheism Letters Section
Date: October 16, 2001

Well, it would be nice to have something more substantial to go on than the anecdotal account of somebody whose health has gone so far south that a team of seasoned ER physicians has pronounced him "dead."

Unfortunately, we have little to go on besides these dubious anecdotes showcased in National Enquirer plus the claims of a relatively small number of nineteenth century-style "mediums" ("media"?) cracking the knuckle of the big toe under a table in a dark room. I really don't have any reason to believe that life goes on -- except that I'd really like for it to go on! I really wish I could see my grandma again. I wish that those few brief and very sickly years weren't all my little brother got for his only-ever turn at Life's bat.

I used to think that if DNA could make "Me" once, it can make "Me" again. Then I realized that if DNA could make two copies of "Me" in succession, then there's nothing stopping her from making two copies of "Me" simultaneously. Think about it!

I mean -- uhhh -- can you picture that? having two consciousnesses going on at the same time? What would it be like to shake "your own" hand with "yourself" -- at the same time?

Sometimes it really kills me to think about this kind of stuff, but there's no sense in worrying about it because there's nothing I can do to change the situation. There is nothing I can do to keep my life (unless I happen to have missed something in my search for evidence of life after physical death). If there were even a hint of a possibility that we get to live again or that death is not final, I'd be one of those who would latch on to that possibility and not let go. I just don't see any such thing on the horizon.

Then again, even when I did believe in the afterlife, I didn't feel any better about death than I do today. Even that one time when it looked like I was on my way out I didn't want to go. And as much as I don't like the prospect of annihilation, I don't feel nearly as weird about dying as I did back then, when I thought there was an afterlife in store for me.

Most importantly, I don't see any evidence that the brain or nervous system interacts with something that we simply have yet to detect. To even keep looking for it any more is almost cliché , almost like we're trying to find the object of wishful thinking the Fountain of Youth or the Old Man in the Mountain or whatever. Meanwhile, every time we turn around, the human nervous system is shown to have this or that previously unknown but marvelously intricate function -- always, of course, explained in terms of the physical and never even a hint that there might be something not physical going on.

I am not saying that there is no afterlife. All I'm saying is that I have spent most of my life looking for reasons to believe that there is an afterlife and have not found any reasons to justify my believing that way.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism"
To: "Ned"
Subject: Positive Atheism Letters Section
Date: October 16, 2001

I'm not sure I follow, but I am willing to discuss just about anything that's even remotely related to our editorial position.

However, some of these topics are more along the lines of, "I'll tell you where thirty years of pondering on that subject have taken me at this point in time and what steps I took to come to my current viewpoint on the matter."

Other matters will reveal that I'm clueless and have spent zero time and energy studying those topics (American football, for one).

My favorites, though, are those where we're both jumping in and stretching concepts and learning something. Even what I said about the afterlife is the result of having worked out a few new quesitons and learned a few new things about that subject.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism"
To: "Ned"
Subject: Positive Atheism Letters Section
Date: October 17, 2001

So, then, what is it that you want from me?

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism"
To: "Ned"
Subject: Positive Atheism Letters Section
Date: October 18, 2001

No, I'm serious:

Why is it that you want me to believe in so-called dear-death experiences?

Why is it that you want me to devote space and time to delving into the arguments and counter-arguments that are more than adequately covered elsewhere?

Since my medical conditions render me about one-third as productive as an able-bodied individual, and since I field over 250 e-mails per day, and since I do this alone, without any help plus publish a monthly print-edition magazine, I'll need to justify going off into a topic that I have not even wanted to pick up because, on the very surface, it's clear to me that we're dealing with very subjective and very ambiguous anecdotal evidence.

Having hallucinated profusely both after taking drugs and following an injury, and having come very close to death in a seizure where I spent at least a few minutes not breathing, I am not ready to take the testimony of a handful of people, all of whom were in such a state of unhealthiness that medical professionals pronounced the "dead," and call the conclusions behind all this "truth." I'll need more.

If you can talk me into it, I'll set aside some time and look into the situation and try to come up with the simplest explanation. I will try to avoid (or find alternatives to) explanations that would topple or overthrow current schools of science -- unless the evidence is strong enough to overwhelmingly show that that branch of science is, indeed, outdated.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism"
To: "Ned"
Subject: Positive Atheism Letters Section
Date: October 18, 2001

As much as I want to live again, I certainly wouldn't want it to be like the Christian Heaven. Read Twain's "Letters From The Earth" for an approximation of my views in that regard.

Perhaps within a year I will be competent enough to make worthy pronouncements and speculations on this matter, but I am not that competent today.
 

I'm sorry you consider the Burden of Proof to be "tepid" since I consider it to be the cornerstone of dealing with existential claims.

As particle physicist and [soon-to-be] philosopher of science Victor Stenger said yesterday, "I do not accept the burden of explaining all phenomena, real or imagined." (From his list, avoid-L, now posted in our quotes section.)
 

And science cannot reach "up there" any more than science can reach Santa's Workshop.

If they want us to take them seriously, they'll have to do better than Pascal's Wager or the Lazarus parable in Luke 16:20ff. If they can't do better, then we are not obligated to believe what they're telling us.
 

And people can believe if they want. I may want to believe, but I don't have to follow through with that desire any more than I am compelled to follow through with a desire to get toasted or to debauch a moist one.

Ergo, any argument that weighs in against a selective deity shunting your soul off the moment the ticker cuts out smudges the fundamental appeal of revealed religion. I suspect that most believers only put up with the nonsense because they like the preferred sojourner package in the end.

They've allowed themselves to get taken in on the remote possibilities suggested by some variant of Pascal's Wager.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
To: "Ned"
Subject: Positive Atheism Letters Section
Date: October 19, 2001 8:05 AM

Just reading Stenger? We were the first to publish a comprehensive skeptical reply to Dr. Newberg's claim that he had discovered how the brain "detects" the presence of "God" or the existence of "Ultimate Reality." Since then, a few have asked us for our opinion on their treatment of the subject, including Vic, whom I've known for two years, now. He was able to come up with some original objections to Newberg's claims that neither we nor Shermer's Skeptic piece had brought up. Between the three, I think we've pretty much covered all of the important bases.

Check this Interview which he linked from his page.

Stenger said he'd advise me in PAM's upcoming FAQ project on the Big Bang. Another real coup would have been if he or I could have talked professor Dawkins into proofing the Evolution part. I only wish I wasn't so ill and had the resources to pull off what I want to do here. Now it's all just a drea--

 

... at which point Brad Pitt, whoever he is, enters the bar ...

 

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2009 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to Positive Atheism to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.