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Old 12-30-2013, 04:03 AM
 
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Here is a question for those who consider themselves an ATHEIST (especially a strong atheist/gnostic atheist . . . but any atheist can otherwise answer). Just curious as to what truly occurs in your actual thinking:



If you are an ATHEIST and you make regular or occasional visits to a CEMETERY to visit the FINAL RESTING PLACE of any of your loved ones (parents, relatives, children, your marriage partner, close friends, et al), why do you go IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE THERE IS AN AFTERLIFE and therefore that deceased person is, in your thinking, completely extinct forevermore (i.e., no mind, no soul, no spirit of that person continued on after their death)?

That is, if that deceased loved one is completely extinct in every conceivable way and always will be, then why do you go to the cemetery (with whatever degree of frequency)? That person will never know that you were there, will never be there in spirit for you to speak to or cry to or to share your thoughts or feelings with or anything else. They no longer exist in any way, shape or form (not physically, not mentally/psychologically, not in spirit or soul, not in any way). The ultimate question for me to ask of you is: Is your visiting the cemetery (with whatever degree of regularity) for your loved one(s) a demonstration that you actually wish or else secretly believe that this deceased loved one actually DOES exist in spirit? That is, are your visits to the cemetery a reflection of some degree of wishful thinking on your part?

Because, if you are correct that there is no afterlife, you can think of that person and pay tribute to them in your mind anytime and anyplace that you are locationally situated (without having to ever make any visits to the cemetery) if they are, in fact, extinct in every conceivable way. You don’t EVER have to visit their final resting place in the cemetery. They won’t know the difference (after all, they do not exist anymore and therefore no continuation of their mind or soul has occurred for them to know in any way of your visits or your talking to or sharing your feelings and thoughts with them wherever you are locationally situated . . . whether at the cemetery or anyplace else).


Please satisfy my curiosity . . . and perhaps your own curiosity as to how your fellow C-D contributors or posters on this thread think about this issue.
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Old 12-30-2013, 04:19 AM
 
Location: San Antonio, TX
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You could ask the same questions of Christians...why visit the body, when the soul has gone on to Heaven?
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Old 12-30-2013, 04:25 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Hedgehog_Mom View Post
You could ask the same questions of Christians...why visit the body, when the soul has gone on to Heaven?

Yes, that can be a valid and interesting question to bring up with Christians (or, for that matter, other types/denominations of theists).



By the way, note that I am a non-theist myself (either a pure agnostic or else an agnostic atheist) . . . though I was raised to be a religious Jew and, in a portion of my adult years for a time, was a practicing born-again conservative evangelical Protestant Christian who, beyond being a mere believer, tried to function as a preacher/teacher/apologist for the Christian faith.

Last edited by UsAll; 12-30-2013 at 05:35 AM..
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Old 12-30-2013, 04:26 AM
 
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Originally Posted by UsAll View Post
why do you go IF YOU DONíT BELIEVE THERE IS AN AFTERLIFE
Simple. Mental focus.

Taking out time to focus on memories of dead loved ones is a good thing.

Setting aside a time and a place to do so is in turn also a good thing.

Graveyards are quite, personal places where one can set aside personal private time to engage in those memories. As it is where the remains lay, a tombstone with the name of that loved one on it, and possibly some objects like flowers etc there as a testimony to that memory.... this all makes it a good place to help focus those thoughts.

Humans work heavily with "association". Certain actions, certain emotions, certain thought processes are easier for us if we have the right "associations" around us.

It is you, not them, that is laying over religious and theist expectations here. As such you find it difficult to understand the actions of those who do not also lay those expectations on it all. Remove your own filters. You are assigning meanings to graveyards and then trying to parse the actions of others through YOUR meanings.

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Originally Posted by UsAll View Post
They no longer exist in any way, shape or form (not physically, not mentally/psychologically, not in spirit or soul, not in any way).
Not true. They do exist mentally and psychologically. Inside us. In our memories. In our thoughts. In the aspects of them we have assimilated into us and our own lives.
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Old 12-30-2013, 05:07 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Nozzferrahhtoo View Post
Simple. Mental focus.

Taking out time to focus on memories of dead loved ones is a good thing.

Setting aside a time and a place to do so is in turn also a good thing.

Graveyards are quite, personal places where one can set aside personal private time to engage in those memories. As it is where the remains lay, a tombstone with the name of that loved one on it, and possibly some objects like flowers etc there as a testimony to that memory.... this all makes it a good place to help focus those thoughts.

Humans work heavily with "association". Certain actions, certain emotions, certain thought processes are easier for us if we have the right "associations" around us.

It is you, not them, that is laying over religious and theist expectations here. As such you find it difficult to understand the actions of those who do not also lay those expectations on it all. Remove your own filters. You are assigning meanings to graveyards and then trying to parse the actions of others through YOUR meanings.

(See the boldfaced comment of yours above): Not true (as to your boldfaced comment). I can understand the actions of non-believers who visit the final resting place of a loved one . . . for I visit the final resting place of loved ones myself. The questions that I asked and how I phrased them are not meant to reflect "expectations" (as you have phrased it) of my own regarding these situations . . . for I have no such "expectations". I am just curious to know how other non-believers (besides myself) actually think in real-time while engaged in this activity of visiting the final resting place of a loved one at a cemetery . . . to see the actual thinking occuring in the minds of different non-believers who consider themselves to be atheists.

What I wonder is: Do some atheists actually engage in "talking" to their deceased loved one(s) at a cemetery? If so, are they just, in their own mind, talking (as you put it) to their memories of said loved one(s)? (For, as you stated, these loved ones ". . . exist mentally and psychologically. Inside us. In our memories. In our thoughts. In the aspects of them we have assimilated into us and our own lives."). Or instead, do some atheists actually think as though they are talking to the "living spirit" of the loved one directly (as though the deceased loved one actually does, in the cemetery visitor's own mind, have a "living spirit" that they feel they are communicating with)?

Or perhaps some would say that such a distinction as I made in the above paragraph shouldn't or needn't be made by myself or by anyone else. That is, when a person who thinks of himself or herself as a strong atheist/gnostic atheist or agnostic atheist is "talking" to the loved one at a cemetery, even though they are acting as though they feel that they are talking to the deceased person himself or herself, it might be reasonably assumed that the dedicated strong atheist/gnostic atheist or even an agnostic atheist knows or believes (from his or her own perspective or viewpoint) that he or she is just "talking" to their memories of that person and/or to the aspects of the loved one that they have assimilated into themselves and their own lives.

Last edited by UsAll; 12-30-2013 at 06:20 AM..
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Old 12-30-2013, 05:34 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Funerals and memorials are for the living, not the dead. When my previous wife died, her desire was to be cremated and her ashes scattered on our property. But recognizing that her family might have wished to have a memorial to visit, I offered them a portion of her ashes and to pay for a memorial in their local cemetery (as they could not afford it). As for myself, after the grieving period, I had no particular need or desire to visit or reflect on the location of her remains, and in fact have since sold the property. However, had I wished to, it would have been scratching an itch that had nothing to do with my beliefs or lack thereof concerning her continued existence. It would have been a point of focus to keep her memory alive. I have been able to do that without that particular point of focus, however.

This is why I am fine with whatever memorial service or burial arrangements my wife or children might wish (or not) upon my demise. I will not care, as I will be dead; but I want them to be comforted in whatever manner seems best to them. As none of my loved ones are theists, it won't be religious in nature; but if that were not the case, it would not particularly trouble me, either. The world has never asked me what I thought about how it treated me in life; it certainly isn't going to ask me in death. This side of death, I would express my wishes that my corpse not be used to promote ideations about gods, but I'm not going to invest a lot of angst in it, either.

Similarly, I would prefer cremation and scattering to any form of memorial interment, not only for philosophical reasons, but for economic and ecological reasons. But once I'm actually gone, I obviously won't give a fig. People will end up doing whatever they want anyhow.

As to the specific point of the OP, I have never felt the need to visit the graves of my grandparents, parents, eldest brother, or any other deceased relative. It does nothing for my memories of them, which are fond and respectful. It does nothing for my incorporating the best parts of those memories into my own life, which is the only half-baked "immortality" that those persons will ever have. I can see where some people would be aided in honoring their dead by visiting their remains, regardless of their metaphysical beliefs. It just doesn't float my boat.

Frankly I don't understand the reason for the OP's question, as I see visiting graves as having little to do with (a)theism unless one has the notion that theists derive comfort from the practice that actually is uniquely enabled by theistic beliefs. If anything, I believe the opposite to be true. Any belief in an afterlife, for yourself or for others, inhibits your ability to fully deal with the fact of mortality -- both yours and your loved one's. Failure to properly deal with that is unhealthy and harmful.
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Old 12-30-2013, 05:52 AM
 
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Originally Posted by UsAll View Post
I can understand the actions of non-believers who visit
I will take your word for it. However you might also take my word for it than an impartial reader of your OP will read your paragraph about wishful thinking, or secret belief in afterlives, as suggesting quite the opposite.

However as I said I feel you may be over thinking it. You want to see the "thinking in atheists" who go to such places and I would suggest there is not so much "thinking" involved in it as you expect. People simply like to engage in exploring their memories in an environment conducive to doing that, and for many they find this draws them to grave sides. It is an emotional action, rather than a thought out one.

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Originally Posted by UsAll View Post
What I wonder is: Do some atheists actually engage in "talking" to their deceased loved one(s) at a cemetery? If so, are they just, in their own mind, talking (as you put it) to their memories of said loved one(s)?
Pretty much yes. We have evolved the ability to create representations of other people in our own minds. There are good evolutionary reasons for this. The effect however is almost as real as the people themselves. Sometimes more so as any teenager creeping home at night after curfew will attest as they imagine the encounter with their angry parents... an imagined situation which often turns out more terrifying than the real one.

We hold conversations with people (alive and dead) all the time in our minds and imagine their responses and our responses to those responses and so on through many iterations.

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Originally Posted by UsAll View Post
Or instead, do some atheists actually think as though they are talking to the "living spirit" of the loved one
I guess some minority of them do somewhere. I certainly have not met anyone who identifies with the term "atheist" who would match such a description though. I have not, to my recollection, conversed with a single "atheist" who holds on to notions of the minds ability to exist independent of the death of its body. Though I do not doubt such people exist.
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Old 12-30-2013, 05:53 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mordant View Post
Funerals and memorials are for the living, not the dead. When my previous wife died, her desire was to be cremated and her ashes scattered on our property. But recognizing that her family might have wished to have a memorial to visit, I offered them a portion of her ashes and to pay for a memorial in their local cemetery (as they could not afford it). As for myself, after the grieving period, I had no particular need or desire to visit or reflect on the location of her remains, and in fact have since sold the property. However, had I wished to, it would have been scratching an itch that had nothing to do with my beliefs or lack thereof concerning her continued existence. It would have been a point of focus to keep her memory alive. I have been able to do that without that particular point of focus, however.

This is why I am fine with whatever memorial service or burial arrangements my wife or children might wish (or not) upon my demise. I will not care, as I will be dead; but I want them to be comforted in whatever manner seems best to them. As none of my loved ones are theists, it won't be religious in nature; but if that were not the case, it would not particularly trouble me, either. The world has never asked me what I thought about how it treated me in life; it certainly isn't going to ask me in death. This side of death, I would express my wishes that my corpse not be used to promote ideations about gods, but I'm not going to invest a lot of angst in it, either.

Similarly, I would prefer cremation and scattering to any form of memorial interment, not only for philosophical reasons, but for economic and ecological reasons. But once I'm actually gone, I obviously won't give a fig. People will end up doing whatever they want anyhow.

As to the specific point of the OP, I have never felt the need to visit the graves of my grandparents, parents, eldest brother, or any other deceased relative. It does nothing for my memories of them, which are fond and respectful. It does nothing for my incorporating the best parts of those memories into my own life, which is the only half-baked "immortality" that those persons will ever have. I can see where some people would be aided in honoring their dead by visiting their remains, regardless of their metaphysical beliefs. It just doesn't float my boat.

Frankly I don't understand the reason for the OP's question, as I see visiting graves as having little to do with (a)theism unless one has the notion that theists derive comfort from the practice that actually is uniquely enabled by theistic beliefs. If anything, I believe the opposite to be true. Any belief in an afterlife, for yourself or for others, inhibits your ability to fully deal with the fact of mortality -- both yours and your loved one's. Failure to properly deal with that is unhealthy and harmful.

I was especially interested in your particular viewpoint (Mordant), for instance . . . as I know, from seeing your many postings over time, that you have mentioned having lost various loved ones who were close in relation to you (e.g., a wife, a brother, and any others that you may have mentioned but that I don't remember).

When I myself visit the cemetery (such as for my parents) and I talk to them, there may be a part of me that "acts" as though I am, in fact, talking to them (i.e., to a spirit of them that can hear and perceive me) . . . but I am, in fact, more inclined to the probability that they don't exist anymore except in my memories and that I am therefore more likely talking to (as C-D poster Nozzferrahhtoo put it) my memories of them or to the aspects of them that I have integrated into my own being. But as to your wondering about "the reason for the OP's question" (as you phrased it), I wondered if any other atheists or agnostic atheists (besides myself) would be candid or truthful enough to reveal that they actually have a part of them that thinks of themselves as either actually communicating (tallking) to their deceased loved one's "spirit" or else they don't postively think this to be so but perhaps sometimes cling on to some element of "wishful thinking" that it were so that their deceased loved one has a "spirit" that lives on that can hear and perceive them . . . or, instead, if what the real story is regarding this "talking" to their deceased loved one(s) is that they actually do affirm to themselves in their own minds that they "know" or "believe" that they are, in fact, talking to their own memories of their deceased loved one(s) or to the aspects of their deceased loved one(s) that they have integrated into their own beings.

Last edited by UsAll; 12-30-2013 at 06:11 AM..
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Old 12-30-2013, 06:17 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Originally Posted by Nozzferrahhtoo View Post
I guess some minority of them do somewhere. I certainly have not met anyone who identifies with the term "atheist" who would match such a description though. I have not, to my recollection, conversed with a single "atheist" who holds on to notions of the minds ability to exist independent of the death of its body. Though I do not doubt such people exist.
Although unbelief in gods is strongly associated with unbelief in an afterlife, they are not inextricably linked. An afterlife of some sort as an intrinsic property of nature or the universe with no gods involved can happen. Some forms of spiritualism are like this, as well as some forms of "New Thought", etc. Therefore in principle an atheist could believe that consciousness continues after death. All it requires is a belief in the possibility of discarnate entities, and declining to superimpose religious assumptions / explanations upon it.

While I think that it's less unlikely for consciousness to be separable from the physical body than for there to be gods, the odds of that are one of those "twice nothing is still nothing" kind of things to me, and, I think, to most atheists.
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Old 12-30-2013, 06:28 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Originally Posted by UsAll View Post
... I wondered if any other atheists or agnostic atheists (besides myself) would be candid or truthful enough to reveal that they actually have a part of them that thinks of themselves as either actually communicating (tallking) to their deceased loved one's "spirit" or else they don't postively think this to be so but perhaps sometimes cling on to some element of "wishful thinking" that it were so that their deceased loved one has a "spirit" that lives on that can hear and perceive them . . . or, instead, if what the real story is regarding this "talking" to their deceased loved one(s) is that they actually do affirm to themselves in their own minds that they "know" or "believe" that they are, in fact, talking to their own memories of their deceased loved one(s) or to the aspects of their deceased loved one(s) that they have integrated into their own beings.
I haven't over-thought it to that extent.

If you pursue links on thanatology (the study of grief and loss), you'll find that the intensity of the sense of loss, and therefore the intensity of grieving, is basically proportional to how much the deceased was a part of your daily life and formative experiences and for how long and how recently and how invested you were in them. That is why it's generally far more painful to lose a spouse or child or even an adult sibling than, say, a distant relative or a casual acquaintance. More distant losses like that are, largely, disturbing only to the extent that they force us to examine any unexamined aspects of our own mortality, and that is not the same thing as actual grief. That is a question of fear and denial.

In the early stages of mourning, if we were close to the deceased, we have not acclimated to and integrated the fact of their passing. For example I would sometimes turn to remark upon something to my wife, out of habit, only to realize she wasn't there anymore. As such, it is comforting during this adjustment period to purposely speak to them as if they could hear you. I did this at times, with the awareness that she was not actually there to hear me. I was aware that I was role-playing that she was, to ease the pain of the transition. It stopped after six months or so. I think that this is fairly typical. It also explains a lot of the claims of people "seeing" their lost loved ones. The mind is very powerful and can construct very vivid experiences out of whole cloth.
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