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Daylight Atheism 9: Stardust


Lee confronts death from the perspective of atheism. There’s a brief essay on his experience in a cemetery. It’s nicely written, but it doesn’t really follow the tone of the rest of the book. It also doesn’t seem to make any real arguments. I’d cut it.

Although the stardust comparisons are very interesting, something about them bothers me. I feel like it is using the illusion that will endure to make death seem nicer by saying our molecules and such will go on forever and perhaps live on in another. So? I won’t live on. I could fleck off a skin cell and it could continue on in  honey badger, but that doesn’t really make me feel immortal or comforted at the thought of my consciousness winking out.

There’s a critique of the afterlife also, which seems alright, though not all that convincing I think. Lee looks at how afterlife beliefs apparently degrade the value of our finite lives. How about reincarnation? If my actions have a direct affect on my next life, does that really devalue what I’m doing now? Add to that Lee’s assertion that when people believe that our lives are “a brief prelude to an afterlife of infinitely greater importance, their actions can’t help but reflect that belief” (183). The endnote for this is to a guardian story about Nigerian children who are victims of Christianity based witch hunts. Really, that’s your evidence? That’s one story, and Christians who do believe in an infinite afterlife who find this appalling. Lee seems to be making an overreaching blanket statement.

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