The Roar of Many Waters

I have often described atheism as a positive and hopeful worldview, and I stand by that description. I truly do believe that humanity has the potential to inherit a future glorious beyond imagining – not an imaginary heaven, but a real and genuine utopia existing in this world, one built up by our hands and our effort. But I cannot deny that this vision still lies far in the future, and some days it seems as if it is receding farther away, rather than drawing nearer. The problems we face seem so vast, and our efforts to solve them so feeble. The old evils that we thought we were long rid of have once again sprung up, and far too many good people of courage and conscience are complacent and unwilling to fight back. And I cannot deny that, at times, I feel despair, even hopelessness. Sometimes it seems as if all the moral progress the human race has fought for, all the intellectual and ethical achievements we have made, are no more than a guttering candle flame at the mercy of the darkness that surrounds it; that this feeble light will be snuffed out and the dark will once again close in, plunging us back into an era of suffering and superstition worse than any we have ever known. Sometimes it seems as if the struggle for the good is doomed to fail, that our efforts will inevitably come to naught.

But in times such as those, I take comfort from the lessons of history. I remind myself that we are not the first generation to live through such times. On the contrary, our forebears fought evils even more grievous, battled hatred even more malignant and well-entrenched, and won. The great orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass once gave voice to these words:

“The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”

In our era, this message seems prophetic. We are struggling for liberty, and the forces of darkness are fighting back fiercely. We hear that roaring now; we are in the heart of the storm, tossed and turned by its convulsions. It is the roaring of the vested interests we hear, the blind and selfish masses and those who profit by pandering to their prejudices and fears. Their anger and hate buffet us with the vast implacability of a force of nature, like a monstrous wall of dark water. They care about nothing but establishing their own will, and if the price of doing that was the ruination of humanity, they would gladly plunge into destruction and take the rest of us with them.

The foot soldiers of this darkness all emerge from a common wellspring. Whether it is the the anti-woman crusaders who rage against the use of contraception while the human population swells beyond sustainability and cheer from the sidelines as wars and strife inevitably result, or the end-times fanatics who hail the ongoing destruction of the Earth as prelude to their heavenly exaltation and go into paroxysms of glee at the thought of the rest of us falling into an eternity of burning, or the dominionists who want to conquer the world and harden it into the cold iron of theocracy, or the suicidal jihadists who would set the world on fire rather than allow any sect whose beliefs differ even slightly from their own to continue to exist – they are all alike, and their goals are all the same. They wish to clamp down on the light of knowledge, stamp out the sparks of human freedom beneath the awful weight of petrified dogma, and wall off the true awe and glory of the cosmos behind bricks of primitive beliefs. In their quest to prune the vastness and complexity of the world down to something their faith can easily grasp, they would block out the night sky above us and the great oceans of history in the rocks beneath our feet; and given the slightest opposition, they would willingly crush human lives in the gears of their terrible creeds. And their leaders are the worst of them all: the selfish elite who would build walls of money and privilege around themselves as the flames rage and the waters rise higher, who would gladly consign humanity to an apocalypse of their making as long as they can insulate themselves from the effects.

In these hateful hordes, we see our own worst nature writ large. There are demons that still lurk at the bottom of the well of the human mind, demons of ignorance, fear and unreason, and it is those demons that ride the shoulders and caress the faces of those blind and self-righteous crusaders who think they are fighting for the glory of God. In reality they are driven and enslaved to the lash of their own base natures, mistaking the hate-inflamed fantasies of their own creation that drift before their eyes for reality.

The people who believe these things are numerous and strongly motivated, and every day they are plotting how best to spread their noxious message and impose their will on the rest of us. And far too often, they are winning. Little wonder, then, if even the most die-hard optimist still occasionally feels a tremor of despair.

But the crusaders of darkness have not triumphed; their victory is incomplete. Despite the roar of the storm and the lash of the waves, all is not lost. In this angry chaos, there is a glimpse of another way: a break in the clouds, a shaft of bright light and clear air that beckons through an opening in the dark sky. In this beam there is a bright future that hovers just out of our grasp, as fleeting as a soap bubble, and as fragile. Whether it comes to pass is a choice that lies in our hands. One course of action will imbue those filmy images with the depth and solidity of reality; another will burst the bubble, whirling them forever beyond our reach.

All our problems are interconnected. Pollution and climate change, overpopulation and environmental destruction, poverty and want, religion and unreason, war and terrorism – all have roots in each of the others, and give rise to all the others in turn. We cannot solve one without solving all. But we know exactly what must be done to achieve this goal; there has been no shortage of perception or counsel. Humanity lacks neither the knowledge nor the ability. All we need to muster is the will. We need the courage to listen to the dictates of reason, to face up to the problems that menace us squarely, and to be willing to take the difficult, painful, but absolutely necessary measures to put an end to them.

And we can no longer afford to put off doing so. In human history, our place is unique. We live at the tipping point, the fulcrum of history, the dawning of the age of consequences. Only a few decades ago, many of these problems were either not yet visible or not serious enough to menace our world as a whole. Only a few decades hence, the time for action on many of them will have passed, and we will necessarily have chosen the course we are to take, whether for the better or for the worse. In a very real sense, our choices today will determine what the world of the future will be like, and so our time to act is now.

As a great man put it, future generations will wonder why we did the selfish, ignorant and irrational things we did. We must hear that question now, and get others to hear it, if we are to have a hope of choosing correctly. But at the same time, we can use this as a reason to hold fast to hope. The future is calling out to us, giving us a reason to persevere. I find that the surest cure for despair is to remember what we are fighting for. So long as we keep our gaze fixed on the destination, we can draw strength from it. And no matter how the waves batter us, if we keep our gaze on that shaft of light and swim towards it with resolve, then I see reason to maintain my optimism that, despite the current tumult, liberty in the end will not be denied.

Weekend Coffee: March 28
New on the Guardian: The Peaceful Side of Atheism
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Why Atheism Is a Force for Good
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Philip Thomas

    While I don’t think utopia can be acheived here on earth (and in some ways it is dangerous to think it can be), I do think there is considerable scope for improvement in the lives of our fellow human beings and ourselves, and that the problems you mention can be substantially reduced by wise policies.

    Obviously change requires effort, but we should not think our ends justify any means: that is the trap men and women have fallen in down the ages. I am sure Adam is not advocating violence, and I welcome that- I believe in evolution not creating everything from scratch in seven days!

  • vjack

    Good post. I can certainly relate to the feelings of despair and hopelessness, but I join you in your optimism as well. From history, we learn that politics is cyclic and that periods of religious extremism are often followed by those of enlightened reason. We can be models of how to live without supersitition. It isn’t about converting others to our viewpoint so much as it is helping them see that their irrationality is unnecessary.

  • SpeirM

    “We need the courage to listen to the dictates of reason, to face up to the problems that menace us squarely, and to be willing to take the difficult, painful, but absolutely necessary measures to put an end to them.”

    What do you have in mind? Exactly what “difficult, painful, but absolutely necessary measures” will be required “to put an end to them”? How can you eliminate the problems you mention without eliminating the people you believe are causing the problems? You have suggested elsewhere that the gentle and sometimes slow-acting suasion of reason won’t suffice. What will it take? Make it good or you’re likely to find not only many of us not working with you, we’ll be fighting against you.

  • Philip Thomas

    Hey SpeirM, don’t knock the rhetoric. He’s just setting the tone, he’ll be discussing more detailed matters in due course (I hope). Let us hope it doesn’t involve any fighting at all!

  • SpeirM

    I understand that, Philip. In fact, I was in ecstasy reading some of it. Sometimes he waxes almost poetical.

    Still, this is the kind of rhetoric that chills me just because it is so indefinite. Such words have inspired some awfully bad things in times past. They’re words that grab the emotions as much as the intellect. There’s almost a religious fervor here and I’m afraid of the kind of thing that stirs up. People worked up into an emotional heat are unpredictable. I would like to know the particulars.

  • dhagrow

    These thoughts will sound strange to many of you, I think, but give them a moments consideration. The type of world Adam describes here–a utopia (don’t dismiss the concept so easily, Philip. What part of your heaven is inconceivable on Earth?)–is one that I have dreamt about. But it certainly does seem, sometimes, as if the realization of such a world is an impossible achievement, especially considering the state the world is in today.

    Yet, do not forget that this era has birthed the the single greatest tool for the mind ever created by man: the computer–and by extension, the internet. The internet is not just limited to porn and blogs and real-time text versions of your local newspaper. It is a global, dynamic network that can connect two people on opposite ends of the world, or a million people from all over to a single location. As one who has studied how the internet works, I feel I can say that the full potential for the internet is not even close to being realized. And I say the same for…video games.

    Yes, I mean Tetris and Mario Brothers and Doom. But, more to the point, I mean Oblivion, Eve Online, Spore, and many others. Games that have come as close to modeling real aspects of our world (human interaction, economics, and evolution/intelligent design :), respectively) as is possible, short of the supercomputers that model the climate and earthquakes. Real world models (yes, based in fantasy settings for a fun factor) that any suitable home computer can run. And with the advent of the Massively-Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG, commonly MMORPG, for role-playing), we have models running in real-time with people from all over the world. There are thousands of these games, especially in Asia. The largest, World of Warcraft, boasts over 6.5 million active players. These aren’t all youths either. I don’t have a reference, but I remember learning that a considerable majority of players are over 18. Understandable, as there is often a monthly payment. There are even laws in China to prevent “unhealthy” over-playing, and prohibitions against teenagers from entering any game-related internet cafes at all.

    What does all this have to do with changing the world? Video games are giving people new mythologies. Players are gathering over the contemporary equivalent of the campfire (voice-chat) to talk about alternate realities. And as the availability of some of the larger games spreads to other countries, we shall begin to see mythologies shared internationally amongst players of all religious persuasions. And people won’t be fighting religious wars over these (well, not as many at least), because they are obviously fantasies. These games are seeds of understanding. A “guild” of Islamic Lineage players in Iran could interact with a world of Confucian, Christian, and Buddhist players, all working towards a common, if artificial, goal. They will play the fantasy, but real world issues will unavoidably emerge and be discussed. More importantly, by playing with others from elsewhere, the potentially disillusioned, terrorist-prone Iranians will gain respect for people with different beliefs than their own. I extend the same potential to the bible-belt.

    This is just the current generation of games. There is every indication that the game industry is maturing at a rapid pace. Innovative ideas such as Nintendo’s Wii could bring games to previously untouched casual gaming markets. Imagine a gaming platform that effortlessly lures the average person into social interactions with people from all over the world. A casual game of tennis becomes a marketplace of ideas for an American couple chatting freely with an Afghani couple. These things are happening right now amongst gamers, and gaming is becoming something that everyone can enjoy.

    What I suggest is just one possible path, and certainly not the only one that should be considered, or attempted. I haven’t gone into much detail, but I was trying to be brief (and failed) on a topic that’s far beyond the scope of a blog comment. Food for thought.

  • dhagrow

    To SpeirM,
    Keep in mind that the previous posts on “evangelizing for atheism” that Adam references here are much more reasoned, as opposed to rhetorical. Some people let themselves be guided by emotion. We should be guided by reason. But emotion is really the only effective way to propel an idea once the path is chosen.

  • SpeirM

    I do mean to withhold judgement until Adam responds, dhagrow.

    What bothers me, to put it another way, is that he seems to be in a hurry here, almost desperately so. He knows that a sizeable chunk of the population–perhaps a majority–would have to do a 180 to come around to his way of thinking, at least on some issues. How does he propose to implement the kind of changes needed to bring his vision of the world to be over their opposition? And yet, unless he overrules them in one way or another he’s not likely to get what he wants anytime soon, and maybe never.

    When I look back over the expanse of human history, I see a general progress forward. It tends to be very jerky. There are whole eras where it looks like we’re going backward, in fact. But I see the barbarity of men as expressed in the Hebrew Scriptures and detect a marked leap forward in the thought of the Greek philosophers. The Hellenistic era spread that all over the known world. Even Christianity, although Christians sometimes deny it, owes a great deal of its early thought to Plato and his descendants. Platonic thinking was preserved in the West while Aristotelian writings were preserved in the East. Merged again after several centuries, they together sowed the seeds of the Renaissance where men at last allowed themselves to ask “Why,” even if a completely honest answer wouldn’t have been tolerated. The Protestant reformers took another step when they said, in effect, “We don’t have to put up with this foolishness.” Oh, they turned around and implemented a foolishness all their own. But in the process they forever broke the taboo that insisted religious authority not be questioned. Following hard on their heels were the thinkers of the Enlightenment. Many of those could find not reasonable basis for belief at all, and had gained a modicum of freedom to do so. Others were Christians, but even these refused to be bound by authoritarian orthodoxy. The direct product of these together was this country which, while Christian in the main, has always insisted one can believe what he wants or nothing at all. And over the years Court decisions have tended to divide religion from government even more distinctly.

    My point? We’ve made progress. I submit that if we want to continue making progress it will be by the same method. We have to persuade and then allow people to come around. But there’s a problem with this approach: it takes time. It has already taken a lot of time. It undoubtedly will take a lot more. It may take generations yet. Furthermore, it’s chancy. I agree with Adam that we’ve reached a potential watershed moment in human history. Religion has been backed into a corner like it never has been by the overwhelming expansion of human knowledge, much of which flies in the face of supposed revelation. Consequently, its more radical elements are fighting as though their lives depend on it. In a way their lives do depend on winning–their way of life, at least.

    But I’m still encouraged at the progress. Science is overwhelming religion. Get onto any Christian discussion site and you may be floored at how many Evangelicals have accepted some form of descent with modification. I imagine that the average Fundamentalist would be devastated to learn how many sharing the pew with him from week to week secretly suspect we evolved from lower forms of life. Many others are starting to feel the heat of the philosophical implications of scientific discoveries. No matter how they protest, any disinterested observer can see that Christianity isn’t what it was a few hundred years ago, or even a few decades ago. Yes, there are holdouts. At present, their numbers are significant. But they’re being increasingly marginalized.

    Does that mean we’ll win in the end? There are no guarantees. There wouldn’t be if Adam were crowned king tomorrow. In the meantime, we can’t rhapsodize on such lofty ideals as liberty and rights if we mean to have our way, liberty and rights be damned. I’m not accusing Adam or anyone else of advocating such a thing. It’s just hard to imagine how he expects to get what he wants anytime soon by any other method.

    I advocate persistant patience. If we’re really convinced we’re right–if we really are right–enough people will come around in time to give us a good result. And if they don’t? Well, I ask again: how else do you plan to make it happen?

  • Philip Thomas

    Well, I doubt that we can eliminate suffering or the human tendency to break the UMC. But my concern is not really with the aspects of my heaven that cannot be effected on earth, since I am not trying to put it into practise- Its Adam’s utopia I am wary of.

    Wary, because if utopia were achievable, it would seem reasonable to use any means to arrive at it, and there we are back in the disaster zone!

  • Michael Bains

    How can you eliminate the problems you mention without eliminating the people you believe are causing the problems?

    By HELPING them, SpeirM. HELPING.

    It involves giving of our time for OTHER’s needs. It involves embracing the evildoer, at some inevitable risk to one’s self, in order to HELP them overcome whatever has made them so whichever it is they are that they would commit evil.

    It means understanding that we all share the same biological componentry of human mammals and can thus all achieve some sort of individual goodness.

    It means accepting that there are different ways to live, and the only ways which are unacceptable are those which sublimate and perpetuate violence.

    I’m in agreement with Ebonmuse that Religion has had it’s place in the evolution of thinking about our world. It’s time is rapidly, and violently due to its power within folks’ minds, coming to an end. Its impetus won’t dissappear, any more than that of any personal superstitions will. As an irrefutable source of knowledge for the great mass of humanity though, its time must come to an end.

    Otherwise our species’ will likely end in terminal extinction, rather than an evolution of something derived from who we now are.

    (That’s my belief, btw. I think its a sound and likely one, though I’ve not seen the future so won’t claim it as God’s Word Fact. {-;)

  • Philip Thomas

    I’m a little alarmed by the view being taken that the main (almost the only) problem facing humanity is religion. Religion has been a contributing factor in a great many evils, but it is probably best tackled indirectly. The principle weapon here is education- the further along the education track, the less literally people take sacred texts. Raising people’s standard of living is also useful (and of course, both these things are good in themselves). By contrast, attacking Religion head on could lead to a nasty and futile quarrel and end up reinforcing stereotypes.
    Meanwhile, combating disease and want and squalor and ignorance are all better ways to spend our slender resources.

  • SpeirM

    “By HELPING them, SpeirM. HELPING.”

    Yes, indeed. But not against their wills. I don’t believe in gods. I’m not going to pretend to be one.

    But yours was my whole point, don’t you see? Even though I tend to agree with Adam’s ends, we aren’t free to use any means to achieve them. If, as you say, only nonviolent means are available to us (I agree), then we’re left with having to convince people. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be right to deprive a large segment of the population of their right to participate in the process because their views differ from ours.

    So rational suasion, as I’ve said, is the only weapon to use in this fight. But that kind of thing takes time. And I think we have time. I don’t think anyone has demonstrated that we’re on the edge of extinction.

  • SpeirM

    “I’m a little alarmed by the view being taken that the main (almost the only) problem facing humanity is religion.”

    I hope you aren’t referring to what I wrote, Philip, because that wasn’t my point at all. (Although, obviously, I’m not a devotee of religion. I do think it has caused a lot of harm in times past and could still.) On the contrary, I quite agree with what you wrote in your post. Those are exactly the means we should use to correct problems. Disenfranchisement, or worse, is not the answer. (And, again, I’m not accusing anybody of advocating such a thing. It’s just that the words in the essay could easily be used to that end.)

  • Philip Thomas

    I was mainly referring to Michael Bains- I think I may have read his meaning into your post too, sorry about that.

  • Ebonmuse

    Hello all,

    First off, my readers may be interested to know that this post was inspired by another essay I read once, We were made for times like these. Although it is written from a theistic viewpoint which I do not agree with, I thought it was a beautiful and moving piece of writing and motivated me to try to write something similar from my own viewpoint. As I wrote in this piece, I sometimes feel the temptation to despair, and the first few paragraphs reflect that; but I wanted to create something that I could reread at those times to encourage myself not to give in to those feelings, which is why the tone shifts throughout the piece as it does. If others find it useful for the same purpose, I’ll be glad of that.

    Now then: In answer to SpeirM and others, allow me to emphasize as strongly as I can that this is not a call to violence or force. I am not advocating and do not ever support violence, except in the most immediate extremity of self-defense or defense of the lives of others. A utopia is not, by definition, a utopia if it is built on a mountain of graves. Its status as a utopia is intrinsically linked to the means by which it was brought into being.

    That is not to say that actual fighting will not be necessary at all. Again, there are some times when violence and force are necessary to defend human happiness, and those times are as follows: when the opposing side has already initiated violence and force as a weapon against that goal. The American Revolution, for example, was a case of justified force in defense of human rights. The battle against Islamic terrorism is likewise an event that justifies force, although our enemy now is more diffuse and accordingly we must take every reasonable precaution to safeguard human rights and protect innocents who are caught in the middle. The Christian right, however, for all their overheated rhetoric (and it is extremely savage and overheated, with calls for the imprisonment and execution of people who disagree with them in any way now routine), has not resorted to violence, and therefore should not be met with violence. Should some powerful religious right figure ever call for his followers to take up arms and spill the blood of people who oppose them, and should they heed that call, then things will be different.

    It is true, however, that many people in that movement are immune to the dictates of reason and conscience and cannot be reasoned with. These people must be fought and defeated: not by force of arms, but by the mechanism of democracy. They cannot be persuaded, but they can be put into a state of powerlessness and irrelevance by building a coalition of normal, reasonable people who recognize the danger they pose and will vote to oppose them. And I retain hope that there are enough reasonable people out there to achieve this goal. I maintain that human nature, for all its flaws, is intrinsically good, and the wild-eyed fanatics who are driving that evil movement are and have always been a minority. It is only by camouflaging their beliefs in a cloak of reasonableness and working to inspire irrational fear can they ever persuade enough reasonable people to vote along with them to achieve their goals. (I am supported in this opinion by a vast number of opinion polls which routinely show that the American people oppose the goals of the religious right by solid majorities when they are apprised of exactly what those goals are.) The way to defeat them is not to attack them physically, but to expose their true goals and awaken the rest of society to the danger they pose through that aforementioned process of rational persuasion. We must dispel the clouds of fear they have sown, and tear away that cloak of reasonableness and make it very clear exactly what they want and how they plan to achieve it. If we can achieve this, I am wholly confident that a more than sufficient number of reasonable people, whether believers or not, will stand with us to defeat the fanatics, and that is a statement in which I have never lost faith.

  • SpeirM

    I find nothing objectionable in that. Thank you for clarifying.

  • Azkyroth

    I assume you mean “has not resorted to violence as a group” or “has not become a violent movement” or something similar, since there are numerous examples of individual rightwingers and small groups thereof who have indeed resorted to violence.

  • Philip Thomas

    and leftwingers!

  • Quath

    I see two possibilities for “utopia.” Both are pretty much based on technology. The first is to fix our known problems like disease, death, food, and other physical things that cause us to suffer. I think we will modify humans so that we get rid of emotional suffering. Maybe lessen aggression or incease harmones that makes us bond.

    Another way is to keep our bodies alive and live in virtual reality. If you can make reality anything you desire, have you made utopia for everyone?

  • SpeirM

    “Another way is to keep our bodies alive and live in virtual reality. If you can make reality anything you desire, have you made utopia for everyone?”

    Except you can’t virtually get rid of earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, hurricanes, asteroid impacts, people and other critters that want to kill you, etc. We’d still have to eat and deal with the inevitable consequences of eating. (We might devise a technological alternative to sleep.) Escaping reality–”real” reality–has never been a good thing. I can’t imagine it ever would be.

  • tminuspi

    Quath is on the right track, but it’ll be medical science that saves the day, in the literal form of cloning. Once the intricacies of the brain are mapped out, transference of experience to new shells will be routine. That’s the only way we’re going to get off the planet and use up the ones to follow. That just might be THE “tipping point”: a wholesale refusal by traditionalists to adopt biomedical advances, and the more-adventurous nontheists continuing with discovery.

  • Philip Thomas

    The technological advances required for such a utopia are very far in the future, if they are possible at all (I find it difficult to conceive of a conscious being which is unable to suffer, and given that the advances do not address our tendency to break the UMC, it would seem people would still be causing suffering).

    A political programme of action to be taken now should not be focused on such advances, I think. Of course, scientific and technological progress is a good thing and one we should encourage with our political measures, but there are more practical things we should be doing to reduce sufffering.

  • Gordon Hide

    “I have often described atheism as a positive and hopeful worldview”

    I suggest you look it up in the dictionary. I hope it doesn’t bring you down to earth with too much of a bump!

  • Rhapsody

    You made a comment after more than five months of inactivity just to say that?

  • Serban Tanasa


    This page is one of my favorites on this website. I find it fitting, therefore, to publish this dialog that I’ve carried out somewhere else here. I apologize if you find it wanting.

    I was told:
    “Of course the world you live in is real, but only for a little while. Then you will die. In all likelihood all memory of you will die. If you are quite content to be erased in this way, no sense arguing about the subject.”

    My reply was:
    “It is not dying per se that bothers me. The way I read most religions, the afterlife they speak of can be either in time or outside of time. For immortality to be outside of time, our “selves” would have to be changed so much that essentially nothing of the “self” would be preserved. (Memories are temporal, actions are temporal, thoughts are temporal). So an after life outside of time would mean oblivion to me, or at least to the characteristics I value.

    Now, the other option is an after life within time. This would supposedly allow for the preservation of some recognizable part of the self, and could go by the name of immortality proper. My problem is that immortality sounds tedious. It literally means living forever. Not a thousand years, not a billion, but eternally. If the part of “I” that lived eternally would have any semblance to what I currently call by that word, I would grow weary after a while. So I wouldn’t want that either. To this, some people tell me that I don’t understand, the afterlife would be bathed in the “divine and delicious light and music of God, of which no weariness can come.” Sure, that could be. But to me, that is the equivalent of sitting on a couch, with an IV of hallucinogenics dripping into you. You supposedly never get bored of it. But you are passive. And therefore it is oblivion nonetheless.

    No, I am not afraid of death, of oblivion. After all, even stars “die” and possibly even the universe will end at some point. It is the prospect of living a shorter life than I would wish it that I am not content with. Now it could be that I only wish to live 80 years, or it could be that I wish to live 800. I would like to have the choice.

    It is our greatest failure, and a shame to us as a civilized and scientific species, as well as a reminder of our animal origins, that we are still in thrall to aging.
    Now, save for some unforeseen accident, I have a few decades left in this body. But I wish that we could come up with a cure for the damage brought about by aging. After some research I am convinced that it is theoretically possible to slow aging down. It might not arrive in my lifetime. But I would like my children or my grandchildren, and if you have children, your children or grandchildren, to have the choice of getting to choose when they die, or to put it another way, to decide when they have lived enough.

    I put my faith in men and their reason, not in hopes of benevolent gods. I find it a safer, and far more comforting, bet.”

    I am posting this here because I am curious on how other people here feel about this subject.

  • Jim Baerg

    I think literal immortality might eventually become tedious. My attitude is ‘give me a few centuries of good physical & mental health & ask me afterward if I want a few centuries more.

    An eventual limitation on lifespan would be the finite capacity of human memory. Somehow increasing the memory available & the mental processing ability so I can do something meaningful with the data may be feasible, but would the result still be ‘me’?