Friday, 4 July 2008

Poor Man's Cranmer; Serious Post


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."

14 comments:

Tuscan Tony said...

Ditto that, sir, esp. para 2.

The Tuscana is keen to set up a private international school here to enable her to sing plenty of hymns, esp at Crimble, without having some overbearing intellectually substandard loser at the front tooled up in a dog collar and gimp suit try to extract money from her by the use of a spurious overseas "Christian" project, thus enabling him to take a few exotic flights and holidays a year to said hotspot and justify himself. Having said that, there are plenty of harmless loons in the trade that would be lost at sea in the real world, so the church has its institutional uses too, like Cane Hill in Coulsdon did 40 years ago.

BTW - shouldn't you be furiously adjusting interest rates or whetever it is you bankers do ini the daylight hours? Two posts in a week sounds rather too intense for your monicker!

Tuscan Tony said...

..Baker obit read (missed the link first time through). An extraordinary person; and very sorry to hear of your loss of a friend. RIP.

The Beast Of Clerkenwell said...

Well said
You have seen death close up.
I happen to think that we do survive physical death(remind me of this as my eastern bound Boeing hurtles to the ground)frankly ,the idea of spending eternity with a cockney insurance salesman is my idea of Hell,So lets hope Im wrong about life after death.

Scroblene said...

Nice one Idle...as long as you go at the right time and definitely not before 50, that's a sad state of affairs.

Spike Milligan once said that when he died, he hoped that he would go to heaven, but if Jeffrey Archer was there, he's rather go to Lewisham..!

Lilith said...

I am so sorry to hear of your loss Idle.

I am not scared of death, I am scared of the consequences of death. Not the immediate personal consequences of being dead as that is nothing. But I am scared of being left or leaving too soon for those being left. That's what frightens me. Old age death can be a very welcome thing for many, and not something to be feared, in spite of loss. The "premature" stuff scares me shitless.

Scroblene said...

Lils - don't you worry Lil gal!

Sure you'll be ready to say "bye" in any case - unless you get run down by a train...

Agree about leaving the rest of the family to deal with everything, but, we had to do that didn't we?

'Fraid you can't worry about these things when you're a long time dead...

idle said...

I am fatalistic, lil, which doesn't necessarily banish fear, but it does in my case.

The premature thing is a bugger, of course. We made sure that there were confidential agreements with brothers and grandparents about who brought up the idle daughters in the event of Total Idle Eradication, fearful of a tug o' war if these matters were not anticipated; the wisdom of Solomon is not universally applied, as we know, and people do the strangest things when dealing with trauma and grief.

killemallletgodsortemout said...

I am sorry about your friend, Idle.

I work with the dead - well, I do the work, they don't tend to much in the way of work. For what it's worth, and from my day-to-day observations, being dead seems OK, it's the way we arrive at that state that can be a bit of a concern. I think that the arrival at the point of death can be helped by a belief that death is not the end. I know it's an old chestnut, but people who have a faith really do seem to be in a better condition than those who do not, if you know what I mean. Perhaps an optimistic view of what lies beyond plays a part in this. Black is the colour of death for a reason. Take a sheet of black material, which represents death. One can see as far as the material, but one cannot see through it, beyond it. What is beyond it, beyond the act of dying, is a mystery to us all. So it's optimism for me!!!

Re: the religious/spiritual element of the post. I work with lots of ministers of religion - mostly pompous, money-grabbing twats, in my view. My observations of this species lead me to the thought that God (He/She, Supreme Being - whatever) is Great, religion is crap.

So I live my life thinking that God's universe, you, me, all creatures great and small, even the Beast of Clerkenwell, even politicians are part of God's creation. When my time comes, I won't need any minister, just those who love me (if they're about) - and it'll be fine. If they're not about, it will still be fine.

Someone anonymous wrote:

"I've seen death too often to believe in death.
It's just as one goes home, pulls up outside the house in a motor car, sets the brake, turns off the lights and stills the engine. The car's still there, but I have walked into my Father's house."

Or something like that. You get the drift - leave the shell behind, your soul pops off to somewhere that there are no petits ennuis, no chavs, no sorrow, no pain.......

Sorry, slipped into work mode........

idle said...

Never argue with an optimist, they say. It just makes you look embittered by comparison.

And I am an optimist before I'm a nihilist, killem.

Trubes said...

Woody Allen once said, (I believe) 'Im not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be around when it happens!
I feel like Lilith. It's leaving those that love you behind that bothers me.

Last year, I had to watch my three darling daughters grieve and look after their Father (my ex- husband) as he struggled with the Pancreatic Cancer.

I felt helpless, and then, dreadful guilt when he died, because, I instigated the divorce( 26 years ago).
I too, read Tuscan's post about the 'road crash', and was so upset about it, that I've had dreadful dreams since.

I couldn't find words to write on his post, so just left it .

I will drop over now and write to him....He seems to be one hell of a decent guy.....

Di.xx

Thud said...

I've always been mildly catholic(?) but over the last few years have become more devout.Part of the reason is just to piss off godless libs and partly tomake a tiny statement against the religion of peace...sad but true.

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