Death and NOFX

Question from Anonymous C:
I’m a 15 year old sophomore in a little city right outside of Chicago, IL. Seeing as it’s a suburb, I’ve had more than enough time to think, seeing as there is nothing to do (That’s my attempt at humor, haha). Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of against me and nofx, by lately I mean a year. I’ve always had an apathetic religious view but lately I’ve been thinking a lot more about death. I really just want some sort of reassurance. I’ve been using the simile that I’m like a soldier on the front-lines, or like Darwin. It really is a very disturbing thought to me, and I wish to know why… Why does this bother? There’s no real words for it other than an oblivion of emotion. I’ve been looking at cardiac arrest patients that have been clinically dead and resuscitate for some answers and it’s not very helpful. Well anyways, I hope that your input can help,

Thank you for your time.

Answer by SmartLX:
Death is a disturbing concept for most people, especially when they first begin to realise their own mortality. You’re certainly not alone there.

Since most people are religious or at least raised in religious environments, they have a ready-made concept of the afterlife presented to them which they may then accept or reject. The concepts provided by the major religions can be comforting, but they can also be terrifying; Christians might go to Heaven or be sent to Hell for something they don’t remember doing, Buddhists might reach nirvana or be reincarnated as a tapeworm, Scientologists might leave their bodies to do high-level research or come back in a new body but still bound by a billion-year contract, and so on. Near-death experiences are not informative when judging them, because any real NDEs that might have happened were indistinguishable from dreams or hallucinations.

All of these concepts have one thing in common, and it’s possibly the most comforting thing about them: the basic idea that we have some control over what happens to us, that what we do in life determines what happens afterwards. Death is inevitable, and we feel helpless when confronted by it, but the idea that we can affect the nature of it mitigates this somewhat.

Of course, the fact that an idea is comforting doesn’t make it true. It just makes people want it to be true. You might want to convince yourself of an afterlife story because it will stop you from worrying, but be aware that religion is a package deal. Other beliefs and obligations accompany an afterlife belief, and you risk your whole life becoming centred on them.

As a child, I was terrified of death. The Christian view of the afterlife didn’t help me at all, because firstly I may not have fully accepted it even then, and secondly the ways to get sent to Hell are so numerous that I didn’t think I could possibly avoid them all. I’m much more at peace with it all now because I’m more focused on this life, the only life I know for sure that I’ve got.

You may not resolve your issues the same way, but believe me, you’ll get over it. Everyone finds a way, and time and distractions are a great help. No offence, but that amount of NOFX is not a huge help to your introspection. Play something optimistic once in a while. I recommend most of the musical output of the 80s, or the early 90s before grunge.

6 thoughts on “Death and NOFX”

  1. My two cents worth –
    Don’t think too much about death … there is no point thinking about it. It is inevitable and unpredictable (at-least as of now, given the current technical state of the world). Things that people who have been brought back from the brink may have to say will not help too much. How do you know its not just the brain’s wiring firing off in a particular way when you’re not breathing anymore that makes near death experiences allegedly similar across people?

    What matters is what you are able to do between the two end points of birth and death. There is an infinity of curves you can take between those two end points (if you are mathematically inclined). There’s a lot to know, to learn, to experience, to enjoy. There’s also a lot to get wisened-up about, to get cynical about, to get to learn to live with. A mixed bag, but well worth it. Everyone’s life’s like a snowflake – each different from the other.

    Life’s pretty big, the world’s vast, there are a lot of things to do with one’s life. Some would argue that precisely the fact that we have limited time is what makes life interesting.

    I’d recommend some western classical music – soothes the nerves and tends to help bring in clarity and focus. Try Tchaikovsky. Also – try sleeping under the stars a few nights, if you’re adventurous. It can be pretty awe-inspiring on a clear moonless night. Especially if you think about stuff like how you’re actually seeing the stars as they were millions of years ago (due to the limit of speed of light). Or that each one of those benign pricks of light up there is actually a nuclear inferno.

    Pick up a hobby – I’d recommend programming / math/ physics/ science – all the geeky stuff. Keeps the mind running and helps develop a questioning / problem solving attitude.

    I could recommend philosophy and some philosophical literature but I’ll refrain. Maybe when you’re 20 or so.

    Above all stay away from crazy shit that you may be tempted to take up to kill time. Life’s pretty long (its limited but long enough) and you’ll need your body and brain with you in good shape for a good 70 – 80 years, if not more – so be very careful with what you do with both.

    Communicate – you’ll be amazed with the stuff people can tell you / you can pick up from others. But always use your reason – take nothing at face value, believe nothing without scrutiny.

  2. Thank you for presenting your arguments in a well thought out and constructive manner. While I disagree with some of your points, some I totally agree with, even thou I am a devout follower of Christ. Though I do not know your religious upbringing, I must correct some of your misguided views of Christians, which, unfortunately, you most likely got from over zealous, misguided Christians. There is only one way to hell (eternal separation from God, and everything that entails): failing to accept Christ as your savior. Everyone of us is subject to our sinful human nature, and need the savior. Even someone who lives a perfect life cannot measure up to God’s glory and therefore needs forgiveness. So instead of being scared of where a strict and judgmental God may sent you for doing any number of things we’re programed to do, be confident that a loving and redeeming God wants you to spend eternity with him, not without. It’s that simple. All the rest is just filler and much of the traditional stuff leads us away from God’s heart, not closer. If I can suggest two books to you if you dare to investigate the literature of the adversary: A Case for Christ by Lee Stroble, who like yourself was an atheist who set out to prove once and for all that Christ was a hoax, but came away with a different outcome, and Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo about a true story with a boy who dies on the operating table and sees heaven before being brought back. What distinguishes this story from most afterlife witnesses, is the starling out of body experiences where the boy recounts what his parents were doing while he was in surgery. Thanks for your time and I invite all responses to my email:

  3. While that was certainly recognisable as reassurance, Brendan, it carries no weight without pre-existing faith in, or evidence for, the existence of God and the divinity of Jesus. The writings of Strobel and Burpo are focused on the evidence side of things, but they don’t ultimately contribute much.

    I first addressed an argument of Strobel’s in 2008 on the old site (now archived, so don’t try to comment over there). I’ve since learned that many of his books, including The Case For Christ, consist of interviews exclusively with people who agree with Strobel at the time. He paints himself as a neutral interviewer, but his questions are softballs for which he knows his subjects have answers. (If you’ve seen the man talk, you know he’s anything but neutral.) If you think a specific argument from one of Strobel’s books is genuinely convincing to unbelievers, send in your own question about it.

    Todd Burpo’s account of his son’s recollections has inspired much skepticism, even from Christians. By Burpo’s own admission, he only attempted to avoid asking young Colton leading questions after he’d been at it for some time. It also strikes me that only where Colton’s account contradicts Christian doctrine, for instance regarding the position of Gabriel, are his “supporters” willing to think he got it wrong.

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