Robin Williams (1951 – 2014)

“Once upon a time on this stage, a special kind of magic happened. A great artist walked out here and went into orbit, for more than five hours. So Consider yourself warned and privileged as we were, to enjoy the comedic genius of Robin Williams.”

What can I say? I was just watching Mrs. Doubtfire for the 100th time last week. My goodness what a loss.

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Hitch is Gone, but the Joke is Still on Religion

I know that this may be too late, but I feel I need to write this tribute to Christopher Hitchens, whom I adored for his courage and brutal honesty. But, this being late may not actually be in vein. In recent days I’ve seen a lot of videos regarding Hitchens’ death, as I also saw a trend of twitter become filled with comments about him, many of them were from Christians and those who disliked him.

People like Rick Warren, one important enemy of reason and Homophobe, tweeted: “My friend Christopher Hitchens has died, I loved & prayed for him constantly & grieve his loss. He knows the Truth now.” There were other numerous videos on his death, people who were actually happy, but saying: “We should love him.” Or, “It’s by God’s grace that I am not feeling happy now.”

Quite an interesting dilemma: In the context of Christianity for most Christians, or many other religions and their followers, it is considered bad, or “immoral”, to feel happy for someone’s death (no matter who). Now, how ironically self refuting that is, that the same religion creates a sense of happiness in its followers for the death of its “enemies”. So, you “should not” be happy, but you “should” be happy. Or, maybe you “should not” be happy, but you cannot not be happy.

It was a huge fun to watch these religious people struggle with this dilemma, when they actually were happy, but they new they should not have been, because their religion said so! But Either way, the joke is on religion.

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I never drink, nor do I smoke; But, I salute your memory Mr. Hitchens, may it be remembered in history of our intellectual struggle against religion.

 

Death

It would be a lie, for probably anyone, if one says one is not afraid of death; and it does not matter if they are religious or not. In fact, followers of Abraham may not realize it, but their religion does not create comfort for them, it creates even more despair. Not only the fear of the unknown side of the inevitable demise does not diminish by their faith, but one more fear is added to it: The fear of eternal damnation.

This reminds me of a teacher that we had, he was a fundamentalist since he was teaching “Islamic thought” nonsense to us. He used to say: “I am going to hell anyways”. Of course, he didn’t mean it. He was trying to be humble, but this triggers my point: No religious person can even remotely be sure that they would go to heaven.

It has always been amusing for me to see people have the ultimate phobia of the end. Being afraid of the unknown is one thing, but not wanting to face the inevitable is irrational. Of course, this does not mean that we should not try to live longer, or we should commit suicide; but it means that when it is time to go, well, it is time to go…

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I wonder If this fear is the reason why “afterlife” was invented? Watch as Sam Harris explains about the science of mind and the ultimate question about afterlife, that religious people, of any sort, have to be able to explain:

 

A Hypothetical Case for an Economical Question: Would You Die for a Billion Dollars?

When I was studding for my bachelor degree, we had a professor who was teaching us principles of economics. He had this habit of asking these peculiar, but relevant to economic analysis questions that were (and still sometimes are) food for my thought. One of these questions was about the price of death, and not just anyone’s death: It was about our murder!

Imagine, that there is a very rich psychopathic murderer, by the name Mr. X, who takes pleasure in killing people. But like many psychopaths, he has a set of rules that have to be obeyed. The rule is, the killer gives a choice to the people whom he wants to kill: He can either not kill them and let them go, or he can give them one billion dollars, leave them to do whatever they want to do for a month, but then kill them definitely after that time has passed. Assuming the victims cannot escape this choice, and assuming they cannot do anything about their pending death in the future if they accept the deal, and they know this, will they accept his deal? Will YOU accept his deal?

It’s a bit like the movie “saw”, but I don’t think our professor had seen that one, because then he would have given “more” choices to the victims!

I don’t remember my exact answer to the question at the time, but the question itself remained in my mind. I came up with this answer some time ago:

Take into account two extreme situations: The first is the situation that one will “always” accept the offer, and the other is the situation that one will “never” accept it. Keep in mind that we choose an economical point of view, and we are after economical reasons for accepting (or not accepting) the offer, so we assume Ceteris paribus, which means other reasons involved in that particular choice are fixed in the economical analysis.

Now, what would be a situation in which someone will most definitely reject the offer? It seems most likely that this is the normal situation, because obviously most people will definitely reject the offer of the killer. But, if we are after a solid rejection without any hesitation, it may be the case of an 18 year old who already has 100 billion dollars. No person like this will ever accept the offer.

Now comes the interesting part: Who will most definitely accept the offer? A 75 year old with no money at all? Maybe, but not definitely. So, who would that situation be?

How about this: A person with no money at all, and with complete knowledge over the fact  that he or she will be dead in 3 weeks as a result of a heart attack? This seems to be the economical situation in which a person will surely say yes to the our Mr. X, the psychopathic killer.

And where is our answer? It seems that we can recognize two different variables here: One is the psychological satisfaction that a person gains from that billion (which is the same as Utility in economics), and the other is the victim’s expectation from the future of his/her life. It would be highly likely that if the victim expects a long life, he/she will not accept the deal.

We should have in mind that these two are also co-related, since if we “know” that there will be no [economical] joy in our lives, we will consider accepting the offer. And no matter how much money we have, if we “know” that we are going to die in 3 weeks, we will consider taking the deal.

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So, what is the moral of the story? Life is as precious as our expectations out of it. But since most of the times we cannot see the future of our lives, we expect too much out of it. Could it be why we are so much afraid of death?