Friday, 4 July 2008
The Tuscan's awful tale of what happened to him on his return to Italy last weekend got me thinking about death. That, and the fact that I had attended a memorial at Winchester Cathedral earlier in the week for a very close friend, plucked from this earth before his 50th birthday, whose son is an idle godchild.
I am an atheist, but not in a hostile way. I love Agnus Dei and Miserere, and the rollicking good hymns of my youth. I entirely see why "Christian" morality is deemed to be A Good Thing, and I try to be tolerant and charitable, though I indulge myself quite often in frothing intolerance and selfish pursuits. I think the modern Church of England is a confused rabble.
But I was challenged by an intelligent fellow to explain myself, given that I bring my children up in (low-intensity) CofE private education, and have no shame entering churches. Also whether I "feared" death. I mumbled and gibbered and failed completely to articulate my philosophy.
Later, I remembered another obituary I had read a few months ago. This clever man got it about right:
He did not think it was necessary to believe in God to recognise the value of religion in providing the individual with a moral compass. In a recent exchange on AskPhilosophers.org, a questioner wanted to know whether it is rational to fear death: "It's irrational to fear what death will feel like if you know it won't feel like anything," Lipton replied, "but it doesn't follow that it is irrational to fear death. It's not irrational to look forward to the pleasures of living, and if we know that death will take these away, the fear of losing those pleasures doesn't seem irrational either."
création d' idle at 4:46 pm