The Dead are Dead, Leave Them Be

deathtoetagI’ll be honest, I don’t give a damn when celebrities die.  As I write this, Peter O’Toole and Nelson Mandela are still being whined about, as well as the tons of atheists who are remembering the death of Christopher Hitchens two years ago, but you know something?  None of these things bother me in the least.  Why?  Because people die.  Everyone dies.  Death is a natural part of life. It’s as natural as going to the bathroom, yet you don’t see many people wailing and gnashing their teeth because someone takes a shit.  Maybe if you only did it once in your life, they might, I don’t know.

The reality is, about 6100 people die every single hour worldwide.  You don’t see the Internet community falling down about the overwhelming majority of those deaths, do you? Why?  Because virtually all of them are nameless unknowns.  They weren’t on TV.  They weren’t in movies.  They didn’t run with a football or do anything else notable.  But honestly, what makes the people who did any of those things inherently better than the factory worker who died or the doctor who died or the teacher who died?  Absolutely nothing.  The world doesn’t remember 99.99% of the people who drop dead, why should they remember the .01% that might have been relatively well known?

As far as I’m concerned, when you’re dead, you’re dead.  We enjoyed what you did when you were here, but after you’re gone, you’re really of no more use to the world.  You’re just a lump of flesh.  You are not an ongoing concern.  The people that I know personally who die, I grieve for, but for the rest, no matter how much I might have liked their on-screen work, I have no personal connection and so there is no grief.  I didn’t feel horrible when George Carlin died, even though he was my favorite comedian.  I didn’t tear my hair out when Christopher Hitchens died, even though I enjoyed at least some of his work.  I accept that people die.  I don’t wallow in it.

People need to learn to deal with reality.  Everyone dies.  Everyone you know is going to die.  That’s life.  I’m going to die.  You’re going to die.  Most people don’t know me and won’t grieve for me because there’s no point to it.  I probably don’t know you and won’t grieve for you.  I don’t view death of a single human being to be a tragedy, it’s simple reality.  This is especially true when most of these celebrities are in their 80s and 90s and are dropping dead of natural causes and people are acting like this is some sort of horrible happenstance.  Why? That’s how most death occurs!

So why are so many atheists so caught up in death?  Is this a recent thing?  Is it because of the Internet?  Is it a result of hero worship?  Please, someone explain it to me because I don’t get it.  How can someone that you’ve never even met mean so much to you?  Of course, it’s not just the famous, random people who die get nearly as much attention.  Some kid blows their brains out?  Holy shit!  Rally the troops!  Some school gets shot up?  What the hell?  It’ll be the top topic for weeks!  Every single one of the dead will be a victim or a martyr, just you wait and see.  It’ll spread like wildfire across Twitter and the blogosphere.  There will be Facebook memorials set up. Why?  Because nobody ever ought to die and certainly, they shouldn’t die violently, yet that’s exactly what’s happened since man came down from the trees and I just don’t get the attraction to mourning the loss of every single human being that makes the news.  They’re dead.  It’s a shame.  I feel bad for their families.  I don’t feel the need to go beyond that.

Why do you?

6 thoughts on “The Dead are Dead, Leave Them Be”

  1. Personally, I think it comes from the fact that people actually think about their own death at these times. This then makes them go on these long mourning periods as they start to realise their own mortality. Its the only reason that I can think of.

    1. It's funny, I was talking to people about suicide recently and it's absurd how many people think that suicide is wrong because it makes them feel bad personally. They don't care about the person who commits suicide, they only care about their own feelings of mortality.

        1. Someone might be in pain, someone might just be tired of living. There's nothing wrong with either of them and I don't see why anyone ought to be able to stop someone who wants to kill themselves, regardless of the reason.

  2. I don't get particularly caught up in the death of someone I don't know personally. Grieving for someone I've never met has never made much sense to me. But I think it is natural to miss someone's contribution. I certainly didn't grieve when George Carlin died, but it did occur to me that I would miss his comedy and that I would have preferred him to have more time. I suspect that many of the atheists we see talking about Carlin, Hitchens, and others are doing something similar. Grief is not the only factor that might lead someone to want to remember someone who has died, celebrate their work, etc. Instead of being caught up in death, perhaps they are just remembering someone who made an impact on their lives.

    My recent post Imposing Religion on Our Children

  3. "But honestly, what makes the people who did any of those things inherently better than the factory worker who died or the doctor who died or the teacher who died?"

    Nothing. And no one who pays attention to the death of these celebrities has said this. You have created a strawman. You are assuming that because people pay attention to the death of these people, this means they think they were "better than the factory worker who died or the doctor who died or the teacher who died." Caring about or paying attention to the death of other people does not equate into a belief that these people are better than anyone else.

    " I accept that people die.  I don’t wallow in it."

    And neither did those of us who mourned the passing of Christopher Hitchens. Nor do most people who mourn the passing of other well-known people. So stop lecturing the rest of us and criticizing us for celebrating and recognizing the life of those whom we appreciated while they were alive. It only makes you appear as a smug, sanctimonius-like ass. Now perhaps this is what your were going for. If so, you've succeeded.

    I for one joined about 30 other members of my local Skeptics group at a local pub and we all raised a toast in honor of Hitchens. In fact, I offered the toast. I suppose that because we did this you think we all were not dealing with reality. I submit that I and most of the people I know have a firmer grip on reality than do you.

    "People need to learn to deal with reality.  Everyone dies."

    Holy Shit, get over yourself. Just because many of us mourn the passage of someone, to raise a glass in honor of the life they lived or to be saddened by their passing doesn't meantwe aren't dealing with reality. Of course everyone dies. Why don't you say something the rest of us don't know or something that is profound instead of this trite and trivial bullshit.

    " I don’t view death of a single human being to be a tragedy, it’s simple reality."

    This is just sad. Some deaths are tragic. Some are tragic because the person died as a result of some cruel or heinous act. Some are tragic because they died before they had a chance to live a full, rewarding and productive life. Tragedy is a part of life. I suppose since you reject tragedy you found or would find no pleasure in reading Shakespeare for example. I can't help but feel that something of some importance to leading a life that maximizes joy and satisfaction and provides for a greater sense of personal enrichment is absent from your life.

    "How can someone that you’ve never even met mean so much to you?"

    Are you really this clueless? I never met Charles Dickens but he has meantt much to me and countless others because of way the literature he produced has enriched our lives. I never met Mark Twain, but he has meant much to me and countless others because of the wit and wisdom received through his writings. I never met Ghandi, but his life changed the world that you and I live in. There are countless people who have lived and died and that I and countless others never met, but their lives mean much to us because of the impact they have had on the world. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln and so many thousands of others from the world's of literature, philosophy, politics, science and so on. I and countless others have mourned their passing because it means that there will be no more great works by them to be enjoyed; no more acts by them that will further improve and enrich our lives and the human condition. And yet you think us all fools of some sort for mourning their passing and/or celebrating their lives after they have passed. I am truly grateful that you are not in my circle of friends and acquaintances. You would be such a depressing person to have around.

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