Question from Rohit:
Sometimes one comes across really rare incidents – and the reaction of the general public to such incidents really saddens one.
I’ve actually taken some time to go thru some of Mitchell Heisman’s 1905 page suicide note. I do not find any flaw in his logic except perhaps too narrow a focus on the concept of equality.
Some of his ideas are actually pretty interesting.
If you go to his site www.suicidenote.info and see his pic you do not see a guy who’s pathetic in appearance. He actually looks a bit intense. If you read his note even in bits and pieces you soon discover that this was a guy who was not pathetic in mental abilities either.
How would atheism sell life instead of death to Heisman? Can it? Can atheism justify life over death?
Religion’s stand on death seems to be pretty solid by the way. I’m not so sure of atheism’s stand.
I am an atheist and I think it is purely a matter of personal choice, social custom, muddied up with an evolutionary survival instinct (will to live – like that of any living organism – an instinct of flight from danger).
But I’d like to hear your comments on it … there’s been no answer to this in another forum till now.
An aside – Heisman’s is a case that has an eerie comparable in fiction – Dostoyevsky’s Kirilov in “Devils”
Answer by SmartLX:
Excuse me if I don’t devote the next several days to ploughing through all 1905 pages. I’m already reading Scott Pilgrim and I Shall Wear Midnight, and I have a job to go to. The sheer size of the piece may have a lot to do with why there’s no full response so far. Another major factor is that he only killed himself last month. Give it another month or two before you really wonder why there are no responses.
I did skim it though. My immediate response based on that, and your description, is that if a man’s willing to write 1905 pages justifying his own death he’s not interested in being talked out of it. He appears to have pre-emptively dismissed the stances of any set of people who he thought might try: Christians, Jews, members of many schools of philosophy, psychologists, scientists, atheists and so on. (His own position, in the vein of pantheism, might be called “technotheism”: God, or the making of God, is technology and He will have fully evolved at the point of the Technological Singularity.) Nobody, let alone atheism, had a chance of selling life to this guy.
Atheism by itself doesn’t justify life, nor can it be expected to. There’s no line of reasoning that goes, “There is no god, therefore don’t die.” The reasoning that keeps atheists alive, when it has anything to do with atheism at all, goes, “Despite the fact that there’s no god, there are such-and-such reasons to live.” We find reasons not in the simple absence which is atheism but in the incredible presence which is the universe. Philosophically or psychologically this can take the form of humanism (humanity is important), altruism (others are important), egotism (I am important), hedonism (while I live, I can find happiness), curiosity (I can’t explore when I’m dead) or any number of other concepts.
When you get right down to it, it is personal choice and social custom, “muddied up” with the hereditary survival instinct. Humans, by their upbringing and their intrinsic nature, generally want to live and most of the intellectual justification for living (religious or otherwise) is rationalisation after the fact. Mitchell Heisman didn’t want to live anymore, and for an educated man like him that took a mammoth 1905-page effort to rationalise.
The sad thing is that his last work may or may not contain the real reason he killed himself. It’s just as likely to emerge from his own circumstances as the last weeks and years of his life are explored by the media. And wherever it comes from, we may not even recognise it among the chaff.
“…if a man’s willing to write 1905 pages justifying his own death he’s not interested in being talked out of it.”
Question from Rohit: