“You sure make the apocalypse sound like fun.”
“We all have to die sometime.”
“I know, but isn’t the thought of all humanity being wiped out at the same time just a little more unsettling? I mean, isn’t there some comfort in knowing that your offspring will live on after you’re gone?”
“Perhaps, but that’s a luxury of thinking that you can only partake in while you are alive. Once I’m dead—I’m sorry, kid, but Manny won’t give you a thought. I won’t hear anything, I won’t feel anything, and I won’t see anything.”
“But, Papa, even Jesus had his moment of doubt. You really don’t think there’s anything more to life than this?”
“First of all, Jesus was just a man—nothing more—and all men have doubts—except for me of course. Just look around. Breathe in and out—touch, smell, taste—listen—talk to me. Life is exquisite! I just don’t understand why everyone is so dissatisfied. It’s all pretty damn marvelous, if you ask me.” Papa pauses. “What, you want it to last forever? Sorry—that’s not going to happen.” And he adds his all too familiar mantra, “Kid, you’ve got to go with what you are given. The past you can’t change—the future you can’t know—always live for the moment.”
“True enough, Papa. I’m glad you are living for the moment. And I try to do the same, but sometimes I wonder if there isn’t something more—some state of being after we die—physically, that is.”
“Life after death? A pipe dream, my boy. That is the nonsense of religion. People have been deluding themselves with that kind of thinking, or I should say non-thinking, for many centuries. Understandable for the caveman to construct fantasy gods to help mitigate the scary unknown. But in this day and age we have science.”
My father’s tone feels demeaning to me. Filled with arrogance. “Science doesn’t explain everything. What about intuition?”
“Examples, my boy!”
“Okay, when I was nine, I remember being home with Mom when the phone rang. Before she answered, I said aloud that it was Carl and that he had been hurt. It turned out the call was from the hospital. Carl had cut himself badly at work. How do you explain my knowing that?”
“Happenchance.” Papa responds in less than a second.
“You may have been worried about your brother for any number of reasons. The phone ringing simply triggered your subconscious to express itself. The scientific approach would be to establish how many times in your life the phone rang and you had no clue. I’d venture to guess that, statically, your one experience has no validity in confirming the existence of intuition.”
There’ve been others. Part of me knows I’ll never change my father’s views about anything. And yet I keep trying. I’m not really sure why. “Since you are an atheist, Papa, I know any form of a god is out of the question for you, but I can’t be so sure. That’s why I’ll remain an agnostic.”
“And I thought I had raised you to be a good little atheist,” Papa says.
“God knows you tried! I guess it just didn’t stick. But more important, you raised me to think critically and always question authority. And it seems a bit pompous to say you know for certain that there is no such thing as god, or some form of existence after the one we are experiencing right now. Just as it seems presumptuous for any one religion to claim to have the true answer. Call me a fence sitter if you like, but I’ll remain an agnostic and just let the mystery be.”
His demeanor softens, becomes less high and mighty, as he jests, “Well, I only hope it isn’t a picket fence you are sitting on.” He leaves it there.
I leave religion there as well and neither of us brings up politics. Although, politically we most likely agree. But what does any of that really matter?