Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and an Embrace

Even though the image has been around for a few months now, a few different people sent it along saying the caption underneath it is simply beautiful.

They’re absolutely right:

It’s odd, thinking about death while being an atheist. To understand that afterward, you are simply not.

Dawkins and Hitchens both know that what is coming is permanent. There is no happy ending, with no chance of reunion or redemption in some other plane. Death will be a final parting, permanent and absolute.

In that embrace, it’s not just that Hitchens means a great deal to Dawkins. It’s knowing that soon, they’ll be separated by eternity. And yet, in infinite time and space, two motes of consciousness, against unfathomable odds, simply had the opportunity to enjoy a brief lucidity of life and touch each other in some small way before returning forever to the endless naught.

Honestly, there is absolutely nothing more important than the realization that this life, the single life we have, is all and everything that we will ever have; when it’s over, it’s over. In a way, it gives life more sanctity and meaning than any religion could dream.


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=750428174 Paddy Reddin

    11 years later and I can still hear the sound of my fathers last breath.

    • Anonymous

       Odd, I experienced the exact same thing when my mother died 11 years ago.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=750428174 Paddy Reddin

        It really does change you, knowing that some day my sons (and maybe daughter) will hear me make the same sound – if we’re lucky.

        Such an odd thing to say and yet, I mean it.

  • ArionVII

    Hey, I’m the guy who wrote this. Seeing it here is pretty cool!

    • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

       Well written; beautiful, actually. Reading this made my day.

    • Paige Jeffrey

       Thank you for writing this. Honestly. It’s so beautifully accurate that it brought tears to my eyes, heh.

    • revid

      so brave you /r/atheism people are, when will you learn that you are just as much a part of a religion as christians are.

      /satire

    • Annie

      Thanks for sharing, Arion VII.  So very well said.

    • http://twitter.com/luciferadi Adi Rule

      Lovely.

    • Anonymous

      Well written.

    • http://twitter.com/BrookLaa Andy Laa

      Beautifully written.

      I’m posting it to Facebook and possibly some other social networking websites, can you let me know what name I should attribute it to?

      I mean, your real name preferred, but if you want me to use a screen name or whatever, that’s all good.
      Would that be okay mate?

      Maybe, just the first place you posted it if you don’t want to give out any names?Cheers mate, get back to me on Twitter or I’ll check here now and then.

    • Chris Sadler

      Very moving and spiritual. Another myth that the god types have is that the Atheist can’t be spiritual.  Thanks ArionVII, Hitch would have been proud of that.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    Embracing death and understanding it for what it is actually gave me comfort when I first deconverted and continues to comfort me to this day. There’s no ambiguity; no uncertainty. I can just live my life and not think or worry about what happens afterward.
    I’m pretty sure I already know.

  • L.Long

    Actually they are not correct.  As a skeptic they should admit that they do not know any more then a dogmatist knows.
       As I live my life without g0d I also do not think of death as nothing nor as something, it is just unknown and I will find out soon enough.  As there is no evidence for anything beyond, one is silly not to live the here and now as the most important thing.
      But thinking on it, I figure IF there is something then ‘g0d’ made me as I am and he will have to accept what it created-no real problem.  
       If its yehway  then I’d rather go to hell then be with it, so I will join Hitchens and ‘sing with the drunken angels in the merry side of hell’.
       If its nothing then I wont know and can’t do anything about it.

    • Anonymous

      “As a skeptic they should admit that they do not know any more then a dogmatist knows.”

      Ever lose consciousness?  What do you feel during that time?

      Ever go under for surgery?  What do you experience during that time?

      The only difference is that consciousness is lost forever, not a short specified period of time.

  • Ricky

    Who wrote the caption originally?  I would love to repost it and credit the author.

    • ArionVII

      Me! My actual name is Andrew Loughlin. 

  • Anonymous

    I find the idea of non-existence after death makes me feel much more alive. Perhaps partly because it makes living in the present do attractive.
    I’ve been thinking too that it’s not fear of your own death that inspired the creation of religion but that of someone you love, Something much harder to face.

    • Anonymous

      I’m pretty sure that’s true. The earliest signs of religion that we have are grave goods. Losing a parent, a child, or a spouse is the hardest thing there is to endure, and as inescapable as it is for us in our modern world with modern medicine, the death of loved ones was an even more ubiquitous experience in the small tribes without medicine at all and no control over the food or water supply. So rises a hope of a life to come and “technologies” to supplicate or control the natural forces that mean us–i.e. our families–death in the present.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.buckner1 Matthew Buckner

    ArionVII, those were wonderful words.

    • ArionVII

      So are yours.

  • guest

    this is the first time I see this picture and it’s powerful on it’s own. but with the comment below it made me tear up. 

  • skarab

    It is nice to see kindred spirits making contact in a confusing and sometimes overwhelming world, but I find their certainty kind of off-putting. I’m not certain of ANYTHING. What makes them so sure they know?
    And don’t flame me because I said “spirits”,
    it’s just an expression!

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      The only reason people entertain the idea of an afterlife is because society says that one exists. Is there any reason whatsoever to assume that a person’s brain can survive the physical death of the body? It would seem to be a biological impossibility. There’s no reason to think that such a thing is true, and in that sense, we can be sure that dead people are not “out there” somewhere, floating on clouds or flying around space.

  • Marguerite

    This is a lovely little essay. One of the hardest things for me in giving up religion was the fact that I had to face I’d never see my husband again– that he wasn’t waiting for me on some mythical other side, and that fifteen years together was all there ever would be for us. But in a strange way, knowing that our life is limited does make it much more precious. If our life on Earth is just a tiny drop in a vast ocean of eternity, then it doesn’t mean all that much. If that drop is all we ever get to drink, then it seems far more valuable.

  • Guest

    Well written! 
    When Christopher Hitchens died I felt the downside of atheism, that he was absolutely gone. I can see the comfort in some kind of  belief in the afterlife.
    But I am still an atheist.

    • Guest

      I mean I am still an anti-theist.

  • Guest

    I meant I am still an anti-theist.

  • Liz Heywood

    The picture brings tears to my eyes–and then your caption makes me cry. Beautiful, Andrew. & beautiful comments, everyone. :’ )   (My smile & tear.)

  • Anonymous

    *sigh* Lovely and heartwrenching. “Doomed to be free”.

    Losing faith in some imagined afterlife wasn’t such a loss. It’s about like kicking myself for spending too much money on the lottery, or ending a relationship with somebody who was just no good for me. Even as a young child, I got the distinct impression that those church ladies saw me as a dupe, and I could walk away before I lost too much to those slick scammers’ empty promises.

    What’s truly sad is the loss of connection with our fellow human beings when our ideologies grow in different directions. Do we speak up and start an argument that may never be resolved? Or maintain an unhealthy awkward silence? Spend many useless, unproductive hours arguing with every durn fool Ethical Absolutist that the absence of an ethical standard doesn’t necessarily follow from the absence of a religious system? Or keep quiet and let the blowhard continue to convince others that the godless are on an endless quest for some fucking, thieving, and drug smoking orgy? Do I gouge the eyes out of that crotch-groping hypocrytical creep, and prove his misconceptions about my ethics right on one level? Or run away meekly, and prove him right on another level?

    Losing faith in the essential goodness of humanity is what’s killing me right now. I’m actually losing myself in SF and zombie movies to fill the void.

    Thanx for this post. I might even be able to get up out of this sofa dent and go and deal with people again :-) 

  • Mairianna

    There is more “life” in that embrace, then in any clasped hands in prayer.  No pretending to be brave, no saying hollow words of blind faith.  Just honest love and respect.   Beautiful.    

  • Tardistalk

    At times mortality and the reality of it can get me down… but I do think a lot about time. Sometimes, I reflect that people I lost, aren’t really gone…they are still alive and living back in the years they lived. Their use and participation of time, as it moves forward however, is gone. They’re stuck in the past. In a weird way this gives me a fraction of comfort… abeit weird to think about. In a sense, nobody truely is ever gone completely…they just stop experiencing the present, and cannot move towards the future.  Sadly a time machine is not an option…but they’re there, doing everything you loved and remembered them doing, if you COULD travel back.
    Perhaps I’m on my own with that thought, but really…life can be depressing enough. Sometimes even weird thoughts can help get you through it all.

    • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

      Tardistalk,

      I get what you say.  It is a good way to think about it.  In the big picture we all just travel a finite time period.  The only loss is that not all time trajectories completely overlap.  Some end before others. Some start later.   Concentrate on the times that they do overlap and enjoy life.

  • Jef Jacobite007

    I make a little poetry from time to time,published often, I try to avoid ‘death’ in a poem, and I feel in life, in all of us, we try to avoid dying! I had a brother who recently
    left this world, and remember clearly whilst in  a group a year or two before he died, the question asked  was ‘what is really the worst thing that can ever happen to us humans here  on earth’ and my brother’s reply was swift without hesitation.’That one has to die’ The fact is, we hope its never going to happen to us. That hug between
    two like-minded friends touched me as it touches the many who sees it, it is powerful
    and it says exactly what they believed.’ This is it my friend, we know the finality and
    the brevity in this life, and we know, without  the rituals and religiosity, that there is
    no other place to go and that knowing in that hug carries their belief in a greater sense
    as Atheists than the beliefs of those, who by their faiths believe otherwise. I think the
    word Atheist is a vulgar term, and especially so when it is attached to two brilliant
    minds, both of whom enriched my own, and loved their thought,their erudition,their
    courage, their brilliance and their acceptance that we all once are, and then naught..

    jaffray geddes

  • Phil

    beautifully written, poignant. miss yer hitch. x.

  • http://twitter.com/rakesh_patel rakesh patel

    I Think Bill and Ted paraphrased it as ” Be excellent to each other”

  • sdr

    What difference does any of it make? Trying to pour meaning into nothingness. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Padilla/1576096047 Joe Padilla

    Or maybe they went to hell? I mean Dawkins certainly had to think twice about it. 

    Atheists troll the blogs en masse. When the ol’ false equivalency of god to Santa thing comes up it’s kinda mean. Maybe these two old dead guys are living in hell.  We certainly have no proof that nature alone was the sole creator of us so I suppose hell could be possible. Even Dawkins admitted that he didn’t know.

    Me thinks Atheism is just another religion. And it’s a really depressing one besides.

     

    • rabenatz

      How is it depressing to live life at its fullest?


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