On a recent Atheist Experience, an atheist called in and said that she was twisting quantum mechanics around as a way of coming to grips with the death with her mother. Now I understand that some people have a really hard time letting go of deceased loved ones, but let’s be honest here. From every shred of evidence we have, we understand that when your brain dies, everything that could be considered “you” is now gone. “You” cease to exist. “You” do not go to heaven, “you” do not go to the great beyond, “you” stop being anything meaningful, except in the memories of those who knew you.
From what I recall, this atheist started out as a theist and rejected Christianity because she was having trouble coping with the loss of her mother. Then she became an atheist and was trying to argue quantum mechanics as some sort of apparatus which would allow her to believe that her mother’s “spirit”, for lack of a better word, was still floating around out there somewhere.
Somehow, I don’t think this individual has really gained anything by getting rid of religion, they’re seeking the same kind of irrational belief using a different system and that, as far as I’m concerned, is problematic. I’m certainly sympathetic toward someone who has suffered a tragic loss and misses their relative but what I’m not sympathetic toward are people who just can’t make it through the day without some sort of absurd woo. Dressing up quantum mechanics in supernatural clothes is woo, like it or not.
Unfortunately, there are doctors like Robert Lanza who put forward this quantum mechanics “life doesn’t really end” nonsense but it just isn’t justifiable. You are a complex organism, your mind is a convoluted mix of electrochemical and biological parts, the specific arrangement of chemicals and neurons make up this thing called “you”. If something dramatic changes, if the brain gets damaged, then “you” are no longer “you”, you are someone else. We’ve known this for a long time, we’ve seen case studies where people’s entire pasts have been erased and they’ve developed as an entirely different person. We know that there are split-brain patients who develop two completely different personalities, including people who have one side theist and the other side atheist. The idea that disparate atoms that may or may not have some kind of “paired memory” actually represent some part of “you” is really absurd. In the end, they’re just clutching at straws, trying to weave a web of ideas that might make the gullible happy, but doesn’t really solve anything.
People really need to get a grasp on reality. Sure, it might not always be happy, sure you might not like what happens. People die. All people die. Eventually, you will die. So will your pets, your kids, everyone you ever know and love. They’re all doomed. Welcome to the real world. Wishing you could take the blue pill instead of the red one doesn’t change anything. But you know something? Nobody ever promised the planet was going to be puppy dogs and unicorns. We’re animals, just like every other species on the planet. Every other species goes through the same general things we do. They all get hungry, they all get sick, they all drop dead and so do we. Of course, there’s plenty of good along the way too, we have good experiences, we form close relationships, we have children, we grow old together, those are the good parts of being alive. That doesn’t change the bad things and the bad things don’t change the good things, we need to be intellectual, rational beings and be able to deal with both of them equally. Pointing out this reality doesn’t change the reality any, nor does it make me a mean, awful person, it makes me a person with realistic expectations.
So please, if you’re an atheist, just deal with the world as it actually is instead of how you wish it was? People die. You can, and should, miss them. You can, and should, remember them. What you ought not do is to pretend they’re not really gone, to think that they await you in some quantum mechanical wonderland somewhere or to pretend that a particle here or a particle there actually represents the sum total of your lost loved one. That makes you no better than the theists who are convinced that the dead are either singing God’s praises in heaven or screaming in pain in hell. It’s all bunk. Let’s be realists.