Unhitched

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Why is Joel reading a newspaper? 

Perhaps you remember the treatment that Steve Jobs, a Buddhist, had at the hands of the editorial cartoonists of America. Yesterday, upon learning of Christopher Hitchens’ untimely death, my friend Josh Cagan commented via twitter:

“That sound you hear is every editorial cartoonist shitting a brick, realizing they can’t draw Hitchens at the pearly gates.”

To which I replied:  “the second sound is them doing it anyway because, hey, fuck it.”

I’m sure a lot of you didn’t agree with Hitch’s politics or views on religion, but I hope you can all at least respect that he wanted to see humanity evolve beyond the constraints of fear and doubt and better ourselves through a greater understanding of ourselves and the universe around us.

COMMENTERS: If you find anyone that actually makes a “Hitch and St. Peter” comic, please link it in the comments so I can be sad. If you find anyone that does something clever with the idea, please link that as well. If you have a favorite Hitch quote, story or a link to tribute or article, please feel free to link that as well. Please please please PLEASE do not start a religious or political flame war in the comments. Anyone doing that will be banned.

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105 Comments

    • HA. That's actually funny.

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  1. The commenters thing is all smoooshed on your front page, and is that probaly instead of probably in the comic on the second panel?

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    • Fixed

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  2. It really is a shame. As a Christian, I can say with certainty that I have seen many fundamentalist Christians talk about how Hitchens is a bad person and deserves to die over the past year. I hope that his pain and his *lack* of "seeing the light" at the end puts a sour taste of ashes in their mouths.

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  3. rough but so true

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  4. Personally I'm agnostic but I cant understand how the idea that there is nothing after this and that everything we do, feel, think or love is gone when the lights go out, can somehow bring anyone happiness. I'm not saying its wrong, I'm just saying I don't understand.

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    • I'm kind of the same way. I understand the pearly gates version of the afterlife is a stretch (especially the clouds cliche and all that), but for there to be nothing? I feel like there has to be something, anything. Life is too heartbreaking as it is to think that there's nothing else.

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      • Well, to be honest I could see there being nothing, and most of the time that seems likely to me. What I don't understand is how believing that is the the case with to any hope that there may be something after this, could do anything but make you too depressed to function. Again, not wrong, just don't get it. I need to talk to an atheist I guess.

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        • As an atheist, I find the idea of this being the only life we have to be uplifting. No life after death means that I make the best of the life I have.

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          • If that works for you, good on ya. I am jealous. That said, may I ask what does it matter if you "make the best of the life I have?" If you are an atheist, then what is the reason for living in this way? Just trying to understand. I mean if everything ends when the lights go out then nothing we do ever have any purpose or consequence. Even if we "changed the world" with music, art, war or even love….its all for naught in the atheist view right?.

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            • You're confusing nihilism with atheism.

              The reasoning behind striving for the best in life can be anything from an emotional impulse to a rational conclusion depending on the justification. You can be a person who wants to live an idyllic life, but also have a part of you that realizes the reality of it is impossible to achieve. That doesn't negate the urge to strive toward the ideal, it just gives you introspective on the journey.

              Better stated: Atheism doesn't preclude living toward an ideal life.

              Or, as I like it: Being a human being is walking the line between our ideals and the reality we are presented.

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              • "You're confusing nihilism with atheism. "
                Exactly.

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            • " if everything ends when the lights go out then nothing we do ever have any purpose or consequence."

              This only works if everyone on earth dies at the same time. As long as there are still people, your comment makes absolutely no sense. If I die tomorrow, but my wife and child live on, then everything I have worked for is certainly not for naught.

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            • We, like all other animals, are living breathing packets of genetic data. The point of life is to pass on that genetic data to the next generation. Everything else we do, be it art, technology, etc is gravy.

              That being said, the gravy is what makes life worth living. We may exit the stage on a permanent basis when our lines run out, but that doesn't mean our impact on those around us doesn't continue beyond us. Especially nowdays with the level of social media and sharing of our lives, when we die, there are still digital records of us left behind.

              Then you have the positive influences you've had on others' lives. For a loose example, when I was 17 I talked a close friend out of killing herself. If I had not been around to talk her out of it, she MIGHT have gone through with it. So even if I never marry, and never have kids, as long as she does, I will have left an impact on the longer term.

              You leave many little "footprints" in life. You change others lives, either for the better or the worse, and those changes live on past your own existence. If you live your life thinking that all you're doing is earning credits for the next level, you may miss changes you can make here and now that will effect those around you for the better, and in the case of some religious people, instead proceed to effect everyone around you for the worse (Westboro comes to mind).

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              • " the gravy is what makes life worth living."
                This is true on multiple levels.

                Seriously though, that was very well put.

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                • I may have had roast beef on the brain… maybe

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        • Why should the lack of an afterlife make me unhappy? I have a life right here, and I like it, and knowing that it's all I've got makes me appreciate it all the more.

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          • Why would the realization that everything you've cared about or done or throughout your life had absolutely no purpose? Why would it make you unhappy if the the lessons you've learned in life, the wisdom you've accrued…just disappears? Why would it make you unhappy that all the vile shit that happens to children all over the planet everyday is just "oh well"…why should that make you unhappy? I dunno…I just don't get it is all.

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            • Why does the universe have to have purpose? Life is what we make of it – personally, I think "making the world a bit better than it was before" is a good purpose to try and achieve. Asking "what is the purpose of life" is a little like asking "what is the purpose of marshmallows" – they don't have to have one for me to find them delicious.

              'Why would it make you unhappy that all the vile shit that happens to children all over the planet everyday is just "oh well"'

              It would make me far more unhappy if I believed that the misery were part of some overall plan. As it is, we're free to do everything we can to prevent and end misery.

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              • I am not saying it does…and frankly most of the time I cant imagine a reason it would. But thats not the point I am making here. I am saying, if you truly believe (and are happy about there being no life after death, in some form or another) then how is that not sad, for the reasons stated above?

                Life is what you make of it…unless you are born into a life where you don't have that choice. Oh like a child sex slave, or a woman in a large percentage of the countries of the world…you know.

                Why would it make…if the children…was that a joke question? Is this the joking portion of the conversation? I'll answer just in case it wasn't. It makes me unhappy to know that children suffer and there is no retribution, no second chance…just suffering and then death? Because that is exactly the kind of shit that makes normal people sad!

                This last one…its just silly. That makes no sense. So really we should stop talking about it. It makes you unhappy to think that there is some plan for peoples suffering..that will somehow play out into some kind of, oh I dunno, lets call it a purpose…but it makes you happy to think that we are free to do everything we can to try to try to stop said suffering? Which incidentally we never had in the entire history of our species? Seems a little silly to say that is all I'm getting at.

                Just to clarify Nick, you ARE an atheist?

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                • Yes, I am an Atheist.

                  No, I was not joking. My point is that there _is_ suffering, and if you believe in a god, your choices are that he's incompetent, indifferent, or that the suffering is part of his 'plan' – and that seems far more unpleasant to me than accepting that misery is up to us, and something we can end.

                  Most religions don't offer the retribution you say you want anyway – they offer eternal life and unconditional forgiveness for anyone who says sorry to the right deity. Retribution is reserved for the unbeliever, not the criminal.

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                • Why would it? If this is the only life you get, then you have two choices, either sit around and be depressed because it doesnt get continued after death, or enjoy what time you do have. As for the suffering thing… is it really more comforting to think that some other intelligence is deliberatly making your life a living hell rather than to just acknowledge that its most likely just random chance that things are as they are?

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                • I don't understand why theists are classifying atheists' recognition of no afterlife as "being happy with it."

                  Sometimes I really do wish I could believe in some higher power who could shoulder all responsibility and blame and provide infinite hope, but I can't.

                  My grandmother died 2 years ago this coming Thursday, and I miss her every day. Knowing that she is truly gone and I will _never_ see her again kills me.

                  So why are people assuming atheists are "happy" about no afterlife? We accept it for what it is, and clearly many people take away the lesson that it means we must make the most our lives now, which I do too, of course, but I doubt many are actually smiling in the face of "the void".

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            • It is a very myopic, self centered and somewhat sociopathic view that assumes your death would somehow cancel out everything you've ever done. There are other people in your world, correct?

              Take it to the opposite extreme. Instead of love and art, what about death and war? What if you killed someone then yourself? Do those acts have no purpose just because you are gone?

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    • What matters is what is true, not what makes one happy. Believing in things based on whether or not they make you happy is a recipe for living a life of fantasy.

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      • You're a contradickhead ha ha:) Sorry, jk. Aside from the whole thing you just wrote being hilarious, why would that matter…to an atheist?

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        • One more like this and you're banned for good.

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      • I do agree with you, but at the same time, in many cases I would choose fantasy and happiness over the truth. Not anything truly detrimental of course, but I really do think that's why we like comics, reading stories, watching movies or playing video games. But then I have a hard time sometimes with hard truths.

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        • So you choose the steak, eh? Life is really short and there is something to be said for being happy (even it it means being deluded) during that short time. The reason humans keep inventing magical things to be happy about is that life, as a whole, is rather bleak. That doesnt make the bleakness any less true through. Ive known a lot of people that think, "Life sure does suck, but as long as I tough it out there will be a big happy ending for me at the end of the rainbow." Assume for a moment that this is all there is. I bet that guy would try a bit harder to stop living a shit life. I equate it to working a shit job all week just so you can have fun on the weekend. Life would be better if you treated every day, every moment as precious and rare instead of just waiting for the one happy thing at the end that will make all the suffering worth it.

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          • Assume for a moment that this is all there is. I bet that guy would try a bit harder to stop living a shit life.

            Dude, you've hit upon an ancient truth here. Religion – the opiate of the masses. In other words, society's tool to make people accept their shit lives (so the rich can keep getting richer).

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            • Not to reference a silly scifi movie twice in the same thread, but (here goes) religion is just another system of control. There's a reason 99% of American politicians claim they are deeply religious. People are easier to control if they think your abuse of power is a mandate from the almighty creator instead of run of the mill human greed.

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              • What's the movie there? I'm blanking…

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      • Exactly. "That's sad so I dont like it" isn't really an argument. This is exactly why every culture in human history almost immediately creates a religion with an afterlife. Because the alternative is depressing. Im sure ants dont like getting stepped on very much, but they do. We're just really big, somewhat smarter ants and we often just get stepped on. The only difference is we are smart enough to dread it, worry about it, obsess about it, deconstruct it and feel something when it happens to others. The act itself is the same. Only our dumb brains make it more significant.

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        • Yes, the brain, the causer of great self delusions and falsehoods. I agree with you, but at the same time, I still believe in something happening in the great hereafter. I'm currently agnostic and a bible college dropout myself, so I see both sides of the coin. It's still very important to people to hold onto that feeling of something else (including me) even if we have no idea or facts for it. It's nostalgia, it makes us feel better in dark times like a good book or movie. It may just be a story and maybe that's a failing in the kind of person we are, but so long as it doesn't become anything like what organized religion has made it to be (ie. it stays just a happy, personal place), that's what matters I think. Otherwise, focusing on it too much can drive you crazy, and believe me, I've been there. Regardless of what you believe "don't be so heavenly minded that you do no earthly good". Even if you don't believe in heaven, focusing on the here and now is what matters: the world and the art and beauty in it.

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          • I honestly can't deny you this. Simple pleasures that make life more tolerable are sometimes all we have between us and dispair. The part that I cant personally reconcile is knowing the simple pleasure is based on what I believe to be a lie. For instance, if you have a bad day and a few beers help take the edge off, I doubt you wake up the next day thinking "Yesterday wasn't so bad after all." You just medicated the situation so you could get to another day (this is probably a bad example because it sounds like Im advocating alcoholism, but its 2am here and thats the best I could do). Belief in eternal glory in a miraculous afterlife isnt just a bandaid. Its the idea that the wound never happened (now Ive gone and switched metaphors. I really should get to bed). Anyway… what was I saying? Right… bed.

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    • "everything we do, feel, think or love is gone when the lights go out,"

      It isn't. Not at all. We teach our children, we change the world, we are kind to people and in turn all of those things leave the world a better place, if we are lucky, than we found it. The things we do, the art we create and the love we make is all still here after we're gone. It keeps going. That is immortality. That is the only immortality.

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      • Neil deGrasse Tyson is doing a reddit AMA right now: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/ngd5e/i_am_… In answer to a question about time travel:

        "Space Station Astronauts routinely travel a few thousandths of a second into our future. Beyond that, get over the fact that for the foreseeable future we remain prisoners of the present."

        I'm not awake enough yet to articulate the link between this and the afterlife discussion, but I think there's a parallel.

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      • Whew…ok. Wine outta my system. Sleep acquired. I think I was misunderstood. As I said earlier in the thread, I'm not saying that atheism is wrong, I'm just saying I don't understand how it could make anyone feel better about life, and its trials.

        I really don't know, I have no idea what happens when you die, hence being agnostic. Honestly most of the time my view leans more towards atheism. The way the afterlife has been portrayed…makes no sense to me, ever. Thats not to say I don't hope there is something after this. I do, I genuinely hope there is some sort of existence after this bleak and painful life.

        But I still say, yes, everything we do is for naught if atheism is the "truth." Human existence, hell the entire universes existence is finite. So yeah, in the very short term what we do has an impact on the world, and the people we leave behind. But when you get right down to it…it doesn't mean a thing.

        I engage in these conversations, not to argue but because I personally struggle every day with this stuff. I genuinely want people who have locked into a belief system, be that Christianity or Atheism, to help me understand how they got there.

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        • Surely it's just arrogance and hubris that make us think that our lives have to mean anything? Why should they? What makes us so important?
          Why can't we just exist? Every other organism on the planet seems to manage it.

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          • "Surely it's just arrogance and hubris…" "Why can't we just exist? Every other organism on the planet seems to manage it."

            Im pretty sure we're the only organisms capable of arrogance and hubris.

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            • I don't know about that, Joel – the owls in my neighborhood all act like their shit doesn't stink.

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            • You've never met a cat, obviously.

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        • If a fly dies when it's short lifespan is completed, what meaning did it's life have other than the continued propagation of it's species?

          As for the universe, frankly the disintegration of the universe is so far out, even the destruction of our planet is so far out, that the chances that the human race will still be in any way existent by that point is ludicrous.

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        • Like the guy above me said, its very much likely that our lives and existance HAS no meaning beyond the short term, either during our own existance, or to our direct descendants. You have to remember, everything we feel, experience and think… is the result of a material process. There is no higher purpose to our existance here, its merely the current status of an impossibly complex and essentially random series of events that began with the universes creation, and will end when that ends. Thats it. Humans have no real reason for existing aside from what they make for themselves, and I think we need to accept that instead of desperatly grasping at false hope. You're born, you live, you die. Thats it.

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        • I'm not saying that atheism is wrong, I'm just saying I don't understand how it could make anyone feel better about life, and its trials.

          Knowing about the Holocaust didn't make me feel better about life or its trials either. In fact it made feel pretty damn sick to my stomach. Should I not have learned about it?

          Sometimes the facts are not pleasant. You can deal with them or not.

          Oh, and atheism: not a belief system. Lack of a belief in something does not constitute a belief system. How I "got here": no one ever showed me any convincing evidence of why I should believe in a god. And "it would be really sad if there wasn't one" isn't evidence of any kind, convincing or not.

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          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6w2M50_Xdk
            This is probably the best summary I have ever seen. We are so small in the rest of the universe, that it's likely nothing we do will affect the greater cosmos.
            Since this life is all I have, I'm going to spend it trying to learn all I can, advance the truths we know, and make others' lives better. My goal is always to be able to look back on my life without regret, and to consider it well-lived.

            As for the fear of black nothingness… that's not it at all. We return to the place we were before we were born. You were there for eons, and were never afraid before. :)

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            • I think it was on Angel where they said "If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do"

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              • You win for invoking Whedon :)

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        • I fail to see how the existence of an afterlife (any afterlife, you seem to be suggesting) would give life meaning. Say we lived in a universe where something like the christian heaven and hell existed, but which one you went to was not related to how you lived or what you believed, but was decided by a flip of a coin. Would that give meaning to a life of suffering? Some christian sects actually believe something close to this, that whether you are saved or damned is decided by god before you are even born. Is there meaning in that life? Suppose after you die you get to live the same life over and over again groundhog day style? What would be the point of that? There is equal evidence of each of these scenarios (none), but I hope they make clear that the mere existence of eternal life would not imbue this life with meaning.

          I think what you are really lamenting is the lack of a supernatural dictator to tell you what you should do with your life and why. It seems that in the abrahamic scheme, the "point" of life is to grovel and worship and beg forgiveness for failings that you were created with and those that you chose, in the hope that the all loving and merciful father will not have you tortured forever. That does not sound like a worthwhile life to me. I'll let the man of the comic explain it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f40TRJl5vvI

          The crux of the matter is that the emotions you are associating with knowledge of the state of our reality are not in any way inherent in that knowledge. As others have described to you, they have the same realisations but find it to be quite a relief. We can make our own decisions about what is worthwhile in this life. I'm sorry that you don't find that to be a source of joy. It used to get me down once as well, but it turned out that I was serotonin deficient.

          Oh yeah, Happy Christmas.

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    • This might be a bit dark for this discussion, but…

      For me, the thought of a great big nothing fills me with relief. I have a hard time believing that any kind of permanent existence can lead to anything but emptiness and grief. The only kind of continuance that would fill me with hope would be reincarnation, but I really don't believe in that.

      I don't think it could be healthy to be stuck in the same state for eternity, even if you started out on a good note. And for those of us who are burdened with an unpleasant mind, eternity is even more scary.

      Nothingness is a kind of peace, even if I am not conscious to experience it.

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      • I tried to convince myself that I believed in reincarnation years back after I came to the same conclusion that you did about eternity. But it just didn't stick. It was trading one impossible fantasy for another. I remember when I was a kid I would ask questions about Heaven like "will I miss my friends" and "will I get to play" etc and my mom would reply "it will be so wonderful, you won't even care about those things." The more I thought about that answer the more I started to equate it to a sort of state of brainwashed bliss. Just a opiate-fueled happy coma. I think that's what she's after in the long run and I cant think of anything more depressing.

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        • I'm so happy I never got an answer like that about Heaven when I was still a kid. Even back then, it would have scared the living crap out of me. I guess being stubbornly fond of my (possibly delusional belief in my) ability to make my own decisions doesn't really go well with a Heaven that overrides your thought processes.

          I've never really likened the popularized version of Heaven with drugs, but once you said it, it fits perfectly… and is kinda ironic considering the stance most people who seek Heaven have towards drugs.

          (Oh and just for the record… I am a theist strongly influenced by a Christian upbringing, I just don't view things the same way as many who share parts of my worldview. I reckon my stance on eternity might not give that impression)

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        • My daughter had a few of her pets die, one right after another. It destroyed her. She started asking the questions: "Why do we die, where do we go when we die, I miss Sammy, and Sage, will I ever see them again?" So then…that when you have to make the choice.

          Option 1: What we feel is the likely truth – Nope we all live and die and thats all, so try to be happy while your here.

          Option 2: Regurgitate what most of us perceive to be fairytales – No honey, when we die we go to heaven and everyone we love is there and they are all looking down on us from above.

          Option 3: A hybrid approach – I don't know honey, I don't think anyone knows for sure but a lot of people believe in a heaven.

          I went with option 3, maybe leaning more towards option 2. If this has happened to you yet…what was your approach?

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          • When our 4 yr old asked "what is God?" after she had heard the word a few too many times to ignore, my wife said, "a lot of people think one person created the whole world and all the stars and everything else." She asked "is that true?" My wife said, "What do you think?" My daughter replied, "NOOOOOO! No way. I don't believe that. That's silly!" And we left it at that.

            An un-indoctrinated mind can cut through the BS pretty easily. Common sense is all she knows and it serves her well. Don't put your hand in fire, look before you cross the street, and magic (while fun) isn't real.

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            • I hear you there, but has she been confronted with it, mortality? That she, mommy and Daddy are all going to die someday? Its different if they are exploring stories or words they have heard, opposed to experiencing real loss.

              On that day, will/did you comfort her, or give her the "truth", or simply say, "I think you can figure it out?" Again, not saying its right or wrong just trying to get to the crux of the discussion. Which I believe to be: Is it better to live a "lie" and have hope, or know the "truth" and play the cards we've been dealt and thats it?

              I don't know the answer, but you and others here seem to have come to a pretty firm stance as to what each scenario means. You also seem at peace with it. I am honestly still just searching and trying to come to grips with it all myself. It may just be the curse of a dwelling artist mind, but I struggle with depress and anxiety and this very issue seems to be the major contributor.

              Thanks

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              • We have a rule of not outright lying to her. We dont shove all of life's most bitter truths down her throat because she's 4 and emotionally incapable of dealing with things like genocide or terrorism. When she experiences death first hand, depending on her age, we are either going to say that person is gone and they can live on in her memory and when we tell people about them, etc or go into a bit more detail about what others believe vs what we believe. Its not that complicated really. Lying to kids just leads to more problems and confusion down the road.

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  5. I grew up Catholic, but loved Kurt Vonnegut's work. I really believe religious people can enjoy the writing of the non-religious, and visa versa. If not, then we just create a schism between two very big groups.

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    • Agreed on both the general sentiment here and Vonnegut. I, too, was raised Catholic ( in the most nominal way – had to go to CCD, make sacraments, but my family never went to church). I converted to Judaism before marriage (I'm likely the only Jew named Christopher you'll ever meet), but honestly the only things that have changed are the house of worship that I never go to and the day that I don't go there. I've never been religious at all, but it doesn't preclude me from being able to enjoy the literature of the devout.

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  6. if things go my way then when i die (should i become famous) then all the newspapers and their editorial comics will portray me in hell

    also the guys from epic meal time will probably be there as well, in which case i will promptly join them in an eternity of bacon, boose, sex, and other various debaucheries of the sinning variet

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    • An eternity of bacon. That's my kind of place.

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      • the only problem being that since it is hell, the odds are that you would be going through these carnal pleasure, nonstop, for the rest of eternity

        or if you're me then that isn't really a downside

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  7. I'm just astounded that there are newspapers that still have editorial cartoonists on payroll. Our industry has shrunk so much, most of them were among the first casualties of layoffs.

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    • Its a sort of chicken and the egg problem. Were they cut because the newspapers lost money or was the fact that editorial cartoons are just trite rehashes of the same 3 jokes part of the reasons newspapers popularity has been dwindling?

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  8. Many of my friends are devout Christians, and some of them are going nuts with glee over this. Most aren't but some are. My Facebook feed is full of this weird Germanic debate.

    To them I say "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."

    And I shared this comic, cos you just nailed it!

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    • …you need better friends, dude.

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    • Nailed it. To celebrate death is the antithesis of Christian belief. Jesus came for everyone, those who believe in him or not.

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  9. In a way, and my favorite way, Hitch has his afterlife. When I am confronted, as an atheist, by christians and asked what it is that I think happens after we die and I tell them "nothingness" of some sort I'm often asked "well isn't that sad? What incentive do you have" etc. For me the answer is the same. We have one life, we have a very short time on this Earth, relatively speaking and so, the best incentive is to, like I believe Hitch has done, leave behind a world that's better for us having lived in it. A happier world for my children and their children. That will be my afterlife.

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    • My comment to them is "Why do you need promises of the afterlife to make you do good things? Should you just seek the good anyway?"

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  10. Although Christopher Hitchens was a very polarizing figure, it is unfortunate that much of the comments and debate about his death will likely be vitriolic and quite nasty. Despite your personal feelings about him, Hitchens was a very talented writer and journalist. Even though he generated a lot of controversy, he has made many significant contributions to the intellectual discourse in our society.

    However, luckily for me, I am a disciple of great Vaprak, Chaotic Evil God of Trolls. The great torrent of internet flaming resulting from this unfortunate passing shall ignite a mighty conflagration that will provide succor to my lord and propagate his ever expanding influence.

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  11. Sure, Hitchens was brilliant and talented and a great writer and whatever other misty-eyed eulogizing. So is Karl Rove. Here's a fun excercise for anyone actually interested in "the truth" that Hitchens always claimed to promote: find any articles or essays Rove and Hitchens wrote about Iraq and Afghanistan, scratch the names off the bylines, and see if you can figure out who wrote which. About the only way to tell their positions apart is that Hitchens was a lot more shamelessly open about his bigotry and hatred towards Muslims and Arab culture in general. Every time he talked about the Middle East I half expected him to just up an' call the locals a bunch of savage Hottentots incapable of governing themselves without the firm hand of Mighty Whitey.

    A clever, erudite asshole is still an asshole. I was personally always inclined to just ignore him, because he was as entitled to his devout religious beliefs as anyone else is, and it's not like sanctimonious editorializing has ever been in short supply; but pretending like he wasn't an asshole just because his political views sometimes lined up with your own is just hagiography. He didn't seem like the sort of person who was fond of making excuses; don't make excuses for him just because he's dead.

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    • Why not? Everyone did that with Steve Jobs too. Sure, he built his fortune and fame off the misery and work of others, but he made fancy toys, so he must be an awesome person.

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      • Steve was a great person, in that the good he created greatly outweighed the negative aspects of his life. He was a bad father, a bad boss, an asshole, a dictator and he profited off of the labor of the underpaid. He also personally saw to the advancement of technology and public's acceptance of it as his life's mission. Great men are often deeply flawed, complex and confusing.

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        • "Great men are often deeply flawed, complex and confusing. "

          This is the most important lesson we can learn from our idols. It's often easy to make ourselves believe that people that has changed the world for the better are somehow close to being perfect. But once we realize that they aren't, we open up the door for the realization that you need not be perfect to have a positive impact. Sure, few of us will have the impact of Luther, Hitchens, Ghandi, MLK etc.. but, as one looks at them withouth rose-colored glasses, and realizes that their flaws in no way detracts from what they accomplished… we also realize that our own flaws is not good enough reason to think that we cannot have a positive effect on the world, be it small or big.

          For this I am truly grateful for the existence of men like Hitchens and Jobs. They prove that we do not need to fix everything about ourselves before we interact with the world. We just need to stick to our convictions and morals, and do what we think is right. (Of course, it helps a lot to be willing to re-evaluate every now and then as we can easily make errors of judgment)

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        • That doesnt make him a great person though, that makes him a great innovator. A great person would be if he was that AND a decent human being, which he was not. See, I dont think his accomplishments should excuse all the other crap he did. It doesnt invalidate his work, but it was kind of annoying to see people basically sanctify him despite how he treated people.

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    • I cant say I fully understand his positions on the war in Iraq and how they align with his other, more enlightened ideas. But I do grant him, as i would any person I respect, the right to be flawed or at the very least complex.

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      • You do have to take the bad with the good. I confess to being completely baffled by his Iraq war views.

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        • I think a lot of people were really broken by 9/11. They just couldn't reconcile their pre 9/11 world view with a post 9/11 world. I think it's just an intense manifestation of greif. Look at Frank Miller. He's a fuckin' nut now.

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          • I honestly dont get why 9/11 affected some people that much. Was it because it shattered their fantasy about their home nation being impervious to people who hate it? Or was it just being forced to confront what a lot of places have to deal with on a daily basis?

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            • Both. Why is that hard to understand?

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              • Because most people dealt with the initial horror and moved on, while others were completely shattered by it. I get that people respond to trauma differently, but Ive always been confounded by people who respond to tragedy by acting like they never even contemplated it happening to them.

                Actually, it reminds me a lot of the kind of religious people who renounce their faith once something bad happens to them personally. They can handle tragedy as an abstract concept happening to "others", but once it hits home, everything falls apart.

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                • Did you see it on TV?

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  12. I regret there's no life after death, if only because there'd be a great #Hitchens column today…

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    • Doubly so, if you consider that he'd be writing with firsthand empirical evidence of life after death! Man, he'd be going ballistic.

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  13. This seemed appropriate.

    Dirge Without Music
    Edna St. Vincent Millay

    I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
    So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
    Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
    With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.
    Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
    Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
    A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
    A formula, a phrase remains, — but the best is lost.

    The answers quick & keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
    They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
    Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
    More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

    Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
    Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
    Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
    I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

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    • My friend Rob made that. He was a big fan of Hitchens.

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      • It doesn't actually make any sense, of course. The world being worse off without him doesn't mean he is in a better place at all.

        And, of course, the whole point is that Hitchens left the world a better place than he found it.

        And I'm grateful to him for that. I hope to do the same. That's all I hope to do.

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    • That's friggin brilliant!

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  14. Im probably an atheist, though I dont want to label myself as one because there's too many douchebags who use the term, and I honestly dont understand why people are so dead set against life just being over when you die. Why does everything HAVE to have a purpose?Yeah, all the stuff you learned and lived through will be gone, but they mattered for the life you DID have, and its not like you'll be lamenting the loss, because you dont have a conscioussness anymore. If anything, its more unsettling to think that all the crap people get put through is part of some divine plan of suffering. I prefer the idea that its all just random, pointless cruelty inflicted by a completely indifferent universe. I find it more comforting than the idea that its somehow deliberatly inflicted on me.

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    • Fear. People fear the end because they don't know what happens, and don't want their existence to be over. When people get afraid… well… Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate is the path t the dark side.

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  15. Christopher Hitchens was (and will forever be), beyond a great hero of mine, a very convenient crutch in a world of intelligent, well-meaning, and otherwise pleasant cow-orkers who, upon learning of my atheism, seek to "debate" with me over how untenable such a worldview is. After it becomes apparent that neither side is more open to re-evaluating a truth than the other, I often drop a copy of a Hitch book, essay, or article on their desk (or in their inbox) with a quick note along the lines of "Hey, it was fun, but this should explain why I'm really not interested in continuing this conversation." Most of the time, they will send me a rebuttal such as "I see. I understand how someone such as yourself would be attracted to such a poorly-reasoned argument as Hitchens's, but the evidence clearly indicates that he bases his conclusions more on emotion than fact."

    I get a good chuckle at that, refrain from taking the bait, and go on caring a lot less about who approves of my "worldview" than these fine folks do. Hitch just makes it very easy to find an eloquent way to end a discussion, which is much different than trying to win one. I know I didn't change the other guy's mind, and I most likely didn't even make him think twice about his position, but I do feel better having not fallen into the trap of getting upset over it beyond my capacity to hold my own intellectual ground.

    And most of them do exactly the same thing for themselves with the writings of William Lane Craig. At the risk of sounding snotty (and feel free to chastise me if I indeed do): (A) Which of those two men is more entertaining to read or listen to? And (B) which name is better known?

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    • " I know I didn't change the other guy's mind"

      You did, however, plant a few seeds in mine years ago that probably helped ease the eventual transition from fear and superstition to being at peace letting go of such things.

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      • At the risk of overusing the phrase "at the risk of": That's one of the nicest things anybody has said to me in a long time.

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  16. I gotta be honest Joel, I did not even hear about Hitchens until reading this strip (2nd panel was the funniest part), but he sounded like an interesting guy. Now I don't want to be one of "that guys" and steal the spotlight off someone else, but as comic book fans, here's something we should know about: http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/12/16/r-i-p-jo

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  17. You have testable proof for the nihilistic death Mr Hitchens? It's not some random or anti-establishment, and otherwise unfounded "belief" with mere "faith"/"expectation" to back it up?

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  18. The Twitter character @TheTweetOfGod (I believe run by a Daily Show alumnus) is a big fan of Hitch, and claims in his role as God to have brought him to Heaven just to piss him off/because he's a fan; then "Hitch takes over the Twitter" and makes several snarky remarks about how it's bullshit that he's up there. I kind of like that treatment of it.

    I always wondered, as far as getting into Heaven – where's the line? I mean, how bad do you have to be before you're cut off? (assuming you're not a hard-line "saved only" believer.) One of the questions I don't ask believers one-on-one unless I feel like being a dick.

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  19. I'm never really sure what I believe. I suppose I believe there is a god while allowing I could be totally wrong. Makes for an interesting day.

    One aside: I find it interesting how defensive and dismissive – sometimes mean spirited – many atheists have become even in this thread. You don't need to tear down someone's belief in order to defend your own.

    I suppose that's what comes of dealing with so many pitchfork wielding douche-bag religious nuts. You start becoming what you didn't like in the first place.

    I actually think Hitchens would find that to be missing the point.

    The world is poorer for his absence. We all now need to pick up the torch – question everything. Challenge what people say is truth. Grapple with big questions.

    I have no clue what – if anything – comes next. I have my hands full here.

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  20. It just occurred to me the only true way to do the "pearly gates" cartoon for Christopher Hitchens would be to show St. Paul at the pearly gates talking on a cell phone and saying:
    "Christopher Hitchens? I don't believe in him."

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  21. Firstly, thanks to everyone who has posted such insightful and clearly stated comments on atheism and why we're not necessarily all miserable nihilists. Inspiring to read! Secondly, I actually find immense comfort and wonder in the thought that a series of coincidental occurrences led, through millennia and multiple changes, to humanity -a species able to question their existence, create great works, comprehend the workings of the universe, and reach toward the stars. And in the fact that, on a universal scale we barely even exist and yet we continue to strive to do all these things, and that in doing so we do, in fact, improve ourselves. I think of us floating out here on our little planet and the vast universe and I kinda feel like I do when I'm warm and cosy on a rainy night. We have created our own reasons for being, and the more we have understood our planet and ourselves the lesser need we have had to ascribe natural and unexplained events to a higher power. In the same way that Penn & Teller revealing how a trick is done doesn't reduce how impressive the trick is, understanding more about our universe and our place in it doesn't diminish the majesty of it all. If anything it makes me more appreciative. One tiny change, millennia ago, and we might not be here to discuss it at all. Seriously makes me feel amazed.

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