I saw a link on Twitter to a post on Digg.com entitled What Happens After I Die?. Being a curious Catholic sort, I clicked on the link, which took me to another site, a completely black web page that scrolled down “infinitely”.
My first reaction: “Har, har. Oh, what wit. How clever you are. When we die we are annihilated. That’s hysterical We sure showed those religious types.”
But then I thought about the fear evident behind this web page and the posting on Digg (as well as the hundreds of comments and thousands of “diggs” on the web page). What would prompt someone to create this page? Where does this false bravado and antagonism? I recognize there could be legitimate anger against the excesses of some religious adherents. History is replete with people who have committed atrocities in the name of religion. They could merely be offering adolescent rebellion against the faith of their parents or grandparents or rebellion against the moral law they find so restrictive. Yet there might be something more as well.
If someone truly believed that after life was only nothingness and annihilation, I think they would live in terror of death and its inevitability. Like a gazelle being stalked by a pride of lions in the open savannah, death will come for all of us, sooner or later. If after death, there is nothing, how terrifying it would be to contemplate the abyss. But these people do continue to function in their lives. Certainly, denial is a powerful mental process that aids all of us to continue down some paths at one time or another. (Every habitual sinner is intimately familiar with denial.) Still, I believe there is also in them an innate knowledge that death is not the end. Knit into the very fabric of our being is an understanding that we are immortal, a knowledge that lives in our breast beside the natural law.
Melanie reminded me that C.S. Lewis wrote that, unlike the lower species like animals, we experience time because we are ultimately meant to live outside of time. (I’m paraphrasing her parphrase, so excuse my imprecision, if you will.) A fish does not contemplate the water he lives in, but we experience the time we live in many ways. We are observers of time. Time flies and it drags. We mark time and take time. One day, we will see time as God does, from his vantage point. We live in time for a time, so that one day we may live timelessly.
I pity the fearful who mock the darkness with the semblance of a brave front. If only they knew that on the other side of the veil of life is a new life. Not darkness, but light and joy and Life. I pray for them that one day, before it’s too late, they will embrace the Light and Life. Because the alternative is not nothingness, but something worse.