As I write this, the passing of my brother-in-law, whom I have known for 16 years, is not even a day old. Sergio Hernandez, 34-year-old father of two infants, succumbed to brain cancer in his sleep. It was a mostly peaceful ending to what proved to be a year of needless suffering.
A possible benefit of this tragedy was the potential awakening of my family from their dogmatic slumber. A year’s worth of praying was not going to prevent the inevitable. Having been a staunch atheist from a young age, this experience further affirms not only that God is not real, but even if He was, He is not a benevolent and omniscient being.
Assuming my atheistic beliefs are fallacious and upon the moment of my passing I face the ultimate judgment at the pearly gates of a heaven filled with people I probably do not want to associate myself with, I know what I would do. I would spit at the heels of God, ask for a copy of J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition along with a pack of cigarettes and tell them to do what they must. Seeing as how I have never asked Him for anything, I would hope He can grant my one wish.
The fact of the matter is you and I are primitive and fragile beings, thrown onto a planet in the middle of nowhere for no reason at all. If this sounds gloomy, I would argue my view is much more optimistic and selfless than that of a theologian. The theologian is audacious in thinking a benevolent being could care so much for humanity to keep a watchful eye upon the planet, granting the wishes of the devout and awaiting our company in the afterlife.
My concession comes in the form that belief is imposed upon vast swaths of our population, both through colonialism such as the Catholic presence in South America, or due to material conditions in the form of the poor and destitute having to turn to the metaphysical because the material world is so hellish. While I do find any sort of metaphysical belief ridiculous, it is these victims I empathize with and fight for. Through the achievement of a classless society, we can achieve one in which religion is obsolete.
What would we be ridding ourselves of by leaving religion behind? We would be overcoming a violent tradition—one that has dominated much of our society, resulting in events such as the Crusades and the current War on Terror. In a Freudian sense, religious ideology perpetuates a patriarchal society and the desire of a father-figure. As a society, we are obsessed with grand narratives, perpetuating them in politics, religion and our own individual mythology.
Religion is an affront to ideals which seek to liberate mankind from the clutches of theology and into the hands of science and reason.
This column does not come from a place of spite. My brother-in-law’s death, a crime in which absurdity is the culprit, seemed like an opportune time to reaffirm my philosophical position. The question of our existence, and what may come afterward, robs us of the essential time we have on this planet. It robs us of the time necessary to create paradise on earth and derive meaning from the void.
Reader, you and I are condemned to freedom. Our existence precedes essence and, for that, you should be thankful. Our one duty in this life is to overcome the nihilism a godless world instills in us and, in that struggle, carve our own definition.
– Rudy Martinez is a philosophy senior