Phillip McKay



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If Death motivates us to live more fully does religion stand in the way of a fulfilled life.

I've always got the death inspiration. It seems logiocal. Near death propelled me to have kids. Death reminds me of a finite life span. It wills me into life. So if this is the case. Does religion and the associated afterlife diminishand obstruct this life potential? Like to know your thoughts.

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    Dec 29 2011: Religion can no more stand in the way of a fulfilled life than a corrupt government, or a nagging spouse. Why is it that many believe that it's an either/or always.

    What kind of religion are you talking about? Organized religion? And if so, which one? Why is it you speak in generalities? Haven't presidents and king and queens, and athletes, and singers, and scientists, and courageous man and women who have been explorers and adventourors practiced religion? Haven't they lived a fulfilled life? Why is it that this question is being asked one more time???

    Look at one of the definitions of the word religion:

    Religion: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.(Webster Dictionary)

    Many hold on to principles that are harmful. Their system of beliefs which they hold onto does not allow them to view others with an open mind, they quickly categorize people into good or bad, kind or mean, righteous or unrighteous, giving or selfish, smart or dumb, believers or atheist, saved or lost.....How sad. It is their own thinking that gets in the way of living a fulfilled life, not their religion. Talk to 200 people coming out of any given place of worship and you'll encounter 200 different personalities.

    You can easily fall into the trap of standing opposite of organized religion and putting everyone of faith into one lump sum.....this also is very dangerous.

    Phillip....I think that noone, not a religion, not an organization, not a government, or even one's own mother, can stand in the way of a fulfilled life Unless you give them permission.
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      Dec 30 2011: Thanks Mary,Your words, "I think that noone, not a religion, not an organization, not a government, or even one's own mother, can stand in the way of a fulfilled life Unless you give them permission."Is a tad idealistic. People do, religion does and governments can. I dont feel i need to quote the instances in history and today where people's lives are obstructed and squashed. Some are simply killed. Our beliefs which we are indoctrined into can stunt our development. Can lead us into lives of ignorance and misery. This is a no brainer really. This is why we think education is a good idea. Religion if it works as it is designed to, takes the fear out of death. In effect, you never die. Praise the Lord! I will not get into an argument on semantics with regard to the meaning of religion. That's too boring but is often a way out for religious people when they feel backed into a corner. But the argument misses the point. Perhaps in the end a religious person can live a full life but i doubt it. Believing falsehoods is a lie of a life. That is not fulfillment. I'm sorry if this recurring question makes you angry clearly it still has some power and probably it wont be going away for a lvery ong time. Take care Mary and thanks again for your comments.
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        Dec 30 2011: "In life you have to be careful not to fool yourself, and remember, you are the easiest person to fool". Religion like all other organized things of human origin continue to be the scapegoat for everything that is wrong with us. To live a fulfilled life, you have to take full responsibility for your actions or lack of them.

        I think many times people are mad and upset at the powers that be.....whether it is religion, parents, a boss, or even the police......and Praise what Lord? Religion is a snare and a racket.

        I am an open minded individual who has lived in many countries, and have been exposed to many cultures, and guess what? People are always finding ways to blame others for their own closed mindedness. A very dear friend of mine who is over eighty blames her poor husband and her mother for everything that she did not do in life....."I never drove because my husband wouldn't let me, I never became a pharmacist because my mother didn't allow me to pursue higher education...." I call it martyr syndrome. Being a martyr because you imprison yourself into thinking that what is wrong you or humanity is the fault of another.

        Life is hard Phillip, but it includes a free trip around the sun annually.:) The human spirit is strong. Despite of where we live, or how we are raised, we have free will. We can turn a rotten situation into a life altering, life changing moment by changing our attitude.

        As far as religion taking the fear out of death Phillip. I find it the total opposite. People fear death because of what religion says. Heaven or Hell. Religion is just as bad as other falsehoods. That the soul or spirit survives death is a falsehood. When humans die, they seize to exist, back to the ground they go, just like animals.

        The only thing we have to fear itself. Sadly, because I am typing and you cannot hear my voice, you assume I am angry...I am not. I am happy to share my thoughts with you.

        Enjoy your day, go out and live it!
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          Jan 1 2012: Not sure what you're getting at Mary. Thanks for the advice about living my life. I'll try.
          Great to hear you have travelled well and been exposed to many cultures. Not sure what you're saying there either. Perhaps you are stroking yourself? You are open minded too?
          Life must be hard travelling to all those countries Mary? Life is hard for some Mary and not so for others. You say we have free will but we do not. Most of our actions are determined benath the surface. Tell me has your life gone to plans. I'm sorry Mary. I'm bored. Bye.
        • Jan 9 2012: Mary,
          How do you know religion is a falsehood?
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        Jan 4 2012: Hi Phillip,

        Just wanted to know how you were doing. This last entry kind of worried me. You don't sound well. I hope you are having a good day today.

        Phillip, let me just say, that I would have to write a book on your question: "Tell me has your life gone to plans".....mostly because I had to get out of my own way in order to start living the life I really wanted. I'm half a century young, and I can honestly tell you Phillip, that life if very very hard, but the suffering Phillip, the suffering, alot of it is optional at our age. We cannot be victims of our past. We sometimes choose, like I did, to be a victim. But thankfully my life turned around when somone pointed that out to me. I underwent a paradigm shift Phillip.

        I am not a pollyanna. I am a realist. Suffering exists for many in the world. And also for my neighbor. External suffering is beyond our control.....internal (mind) suffering is within our control. The latter is the one I refer to always. As adults we have the blessing of our reasoning powers. Some however see the power to reason as a curse.

        I don't know if you will understand me or not. It is your choice. I have no control of your mind, just like you have no control of mine or anyone else's mind. But please know that it's ok to be happy, and it's ok to be bored, and it's ok to be mad, sad, jealous...etc... we are humans.

        Wishing you all the best Phillip. I really do enjoy your entries. And also the honesty with which you comment.

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          Jan 9 2012: Thanks Mary,
          I enjoy your comments also.
          So often we move to polar opposites when perhaps we could have met in the middle?
          I do understand you.
          And I'm glad you have a healthy world view these days.
          My point is that not everyone's does.
          I hope sometimes that Ii can help clean peoples' lenses just a little,
          Mindful that, i also, am learning to drive my own vehicle.
          Mary Its been very nice.
  • Jan 10 2012: Death does not motivate us to live more fully. Passion does that.
    Every man dies, but not every man truly lives, says William Wallace. A life without passion is no life at all.
    If you are motivated because of death, then I'm afraid you are motivated for the wrong reason. Do you do what you do because you are "afraid" and want to "avoid" it? Or do you do what you do because you "desire" or have a "passion" for it.

    Think about refugees for a second. Refugees are people who must flee due to fear of death (fear for losing ones life). They didn't come to your country because they WANTED to, but mainly because they had to flee. If you are motivated by death, you are essentially living a life in "flight". But rather, we should be living our lives fully by pursuing our passions, pursuing what we desire.

    Death keeps us humble, and reminds us of our mortality, but it shouldn't be the motivating factor in your life to live more fully.
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      Jan 10 2012: Thanks for your considered thoughts Joseph. Look deeper than the passion whatever that might be. Passions are great and we are lucky to be able to have them, never mind realise them. I feel the need to establish an identity, that includes death. All stories must have an ending. Death is part of the package which includes, life, and its loves/passions, needs and expectations. I'm not sure that I advocate a fear of death. My aim is not to locate death with fear. Though you could forgive me if i did. We must explore its meaning for us. It is perhaps our ignorance of death propogated through religion, that has kept the fear with death. Perhaps knowing death and living with the accompanying respect for life might lead us down a better path. I believe so, at least this is my understanding of my life. And maybe that path will be a little bit scary in the beginning - like the yellow brick road.

      Many atheists report a link between the finality of death and a passion for life. I am one more.

      I know many more people that cope by partitioning the mind. Talk about death for these people can penetrate well guarded areas and a rejection of conversation on the topic.

      Its great you're not one of those.

      Thanks mate.
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    Jan 9 2012: Have you ever read Ernest Becker's "The Denial of Death"? It gave me a different perception of death.

    Its actually an interesting book and he argues that death actually does not motivate us to live a more fulfilled life (for the most part). His reasons for saying this is because we are faced with death everyday and everyday we recognize our own mortality and due to this recognition we have two choices: become neurotic or as he would put it "repress our inevitable fate" (by means of religion, society, culture, war, etc)

    He would argue that humans have a dualistic nature a physical/biological side and a symbolic side and it is the symbolic side that gives our lives meaning.

    Of course there is a difference between an individual who has overcome cancer and faced death as opposed to an individual who is neurotic because they fear their own death and it is the individual who had a near death experience that usually lives a more fulfilled life, given that they have a deeper understanding of the nature of death.

    In regards to religion, Becker is against it and does see it as an impediment because it makes incompatible truth claims but he realizes that w/o it nihilism would emerge so he does not want to get rid of it completely given that it is actually a symbol of hope for humanity.

    When it comes to the afterlife I would state that such a notion does take the value away from our current lives
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      Jan 10 2012: Yeah cool Orlando. your thoughts resonate. I am of the belief that finding a good place for death in our minds is achievable and important for our future health. Some cultures are better than others at this, but religion is the usual strategy - the usual account.

      Its simply not a good enough story to sit well in my mind and I'm sure its not good enough for the advancing educated generations.

      I think I'd like our symbolic and physical/biological natures to move into the same picture a little more. Perhaps, then the neurosis could subside?

      I think we need to become brave.
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    Jan 9 2012: Curious, why did you throw in Steve Jobs at the end of your list?
    I think that I've already stated that when one recognizes life is fleeting and temporary one makes haste in contributing to it, if they are so inclined.
    Believing in death is easy, we all know that it will happen to each of us, there is no escaping it's eventuality. But I suspect that people who contribute and who have contributed significantly to their respective societies do so mainly because they want to impact life and humankind. Believing that death is inevitable perhaps sharpens their focus and quickens their resolve; death is the When and not the Why they do it.
    Every generation builds on the latter and those that take the best of generations past ultimately flourish and thrive.
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      Jan 9 2012: Thanks for your comments Brian. You seem like a good man. I'm not sure believing in death is so easy. Many choose not to go there. Opting for the comfortable way out. I have tried to grapple with the concept and its significance for many years. You see I never had a ready made answer for death. And because society has been so consummed with the ready made versilon for so long, Ive had to start from scratch.

      I see through your arguments that you make very good sense but that you also reveal your own contradictions. This is neither good or bad but a symptom, i believe, of our brains. They say some people can partition their minds so that one ideology does not conflict with another. (How could we live with ourselves?) But often in consciousness they appear together. This makes for the mind numbing paradoxes, , hillarious ironies, and the most improbable juxtapositions. Dont you love life?

      As every generation builds on the latter to make the best, I wonder if we will look so pretty? You seem to think that beliefs inspire one to be their best. Beliefs also inspire some to be their worst.

      I like your positive outlook Brian. Perhaps i am jealous. But i cannot have what you have. Not now anyway.
      There is too much to be done.
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        Jan 9 2012: You're welcome Phillip, it is an interesting question and one that I feel privileged to offer my input to.
        I am certain that many people struggle with the issue of death and dying, is it final or does something exist beyond the grave?
        My point was that the inevitability and reality of it is inescapable and thus we all understand it's certainty in the end. I would much rather focus on life and it's complexity and simplicity all at once; it's marvel and it's awesomeness. I love to watch at the incredible photos of our galaxy and solar system, our amazing universe (multi-verse). The smile of a child, a nod of approval from a peer, simple time with good friends, pride in my children,s achievements, these are the things of life that inspire me and steals my focus, these are the things that make life worthwhile and precious. But what of death, what is it that can make it worthwhile? Is there anything? Many folks have found religion to be comforting, to remove the sting, the finality of life, who would take that away from them and why? Some have embraced their own understanding of life and the cold comfort of scientific calculation to the end of life and the absolute end of all consciousness, and who could change their view and why?. I can see the paradox, death is inevitable and simple to understand yet it remains an unknown frontier for so many.
        You are right, what one believes determines what one eventually does and not all provocation is inspiration. Works that stimulate people to be the best that they can be are inspired. It is these works that when generation take, the best of the past that'll make a better future.
        Phillip thanks for the kind words, they mean a lot to flawed individual who struggles with the stuff of life and the questions of death as so many do.
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    Dec 29 2011: Religion says us live life in a 'right' way, but not fulfilled. Fulfilled life may contain moral ups and downs, making mistakes, and learning from them, but 'right' life is probably considered as the one without mistakes (especially those which are emphasized by religion). The conclusion is quite clear.
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      Dec 29 2011: I agree with you, although I think that religion helps to reach fulfillment to others who don't have the ideas so clear than you.
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      Jan 9 2012: Beautiful Julija
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    Dec 29 2011: Agree, your logic is understandable. In fact, I think that anyone who tells you what to do is blocking your potential to develop yourself, wether religion, your spiritual mentor, family, or even yourself thinking 'I can't'.

    Death is a frightening motivation for me, it is like doing things because of the punishment. I prefer positive reinforcement, I motivate myself just thinking in enjoing each instant as long as I can.
  • Jan 9 2012: Many topics to address and clarify in such short space and time. I will say this about some of the comments: I have been very successful at living life without blaming others for what I have or not done. Take responsibility for your actions. Religion is a very personal matter, and a very complicated one. I do, however, believe it is not up to any of us to convince the other about what we think is the right path. It is more our responsibility to assist individuals to thrive in their beliefs, as long as they are clearly not harmful to themselves or others. As far as death, the possibility of afterlife or there not being one, I would like to propose one thing as a solution: live NOW in harmony with yourself and others and with a compassionate heart. To attempt defining death in terms of how we live might be presumptuous no matter what our beliefs are. The mind of God, for those who believe in a deity, is out of our reach and understanding, but I do know that whatever or whomever God is, his intent might not have been for us to make living harder than it naturally is. Life for all of us is hard. It's important to accept and understand that fact. To avoid hardship is futile and impossible. Once we accept this there is a possibility that we might just achieve some degrees of happiness.
  • Jan 8 2012: If one thinks and believe firmly that faith is lie and believing in Hereafter and the God is all false and untrue and he/she is determined not to reason then there is no point in further discussion. But if you have real eyes, ears, mind and lips (not like that of animals) then there things which you can see clearly. For example
    1) We are made up of zillions of cells ( A fact no one can dare to refute)
    2) Each cell is far more complex than all industries of the world put together (Only idiots of highest grade can argue against)
    3) once we were only one fertilized cell, like of which thousands can stand on the point of a thin needle (A fact)
    4) From that one cell all of our body is created in the most marvelous and organized manner
    5) Our body's each cell is so small and yet it contains DNA taller than ourselves and all our blue prints is so meticulously written that even by one hair we can tell out of billions that it belongs to only you alone (And that is the reason fraud of Osama thrown into ocean was created so that no one can by pulling one hair of his can prove that he is not Osama)
    6) Our body is constantly being changed and replaced in the most organized way all our life; slightest change will result in cancer and other diseases
    7) How complex would be entire universe and whatever is in it if one cell is so complex
    8) every thing in the universe is highly organized and created for mankind directly or indirectly
    9) If you judge the Creator by His creation and organization then you might have slight glimpse of the Creator, maintainer and Sustain-er of entire universe.
    10) While little creators will give you a booklet guide to operate a machine, will it be surprising if the Master Creator sent you a book
    11) will it be surprising that the Master Creator sent you a teacher to explain the book and to show practically to how to use and apply the book?
    12) Actually thinking otherwise would be idiotic
    That final guide is Quran & the final teacher is Muhammad
  • Jan 6 2012: true. There is no room for clergy in religion. True religion brings enormous tranquility and strength
  • Jan 6 2012: Islam motivates to remember death often and to work hard and right. I found so much Islam in Steve Jobs speech. Calligraphy is pure Islamic. Masjid Qurtabah in Spain has such a great calligraphy that that led to student from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to learn Arabic and then to study Quran. It is Quran which founded all modern sciences and pulled Europe out of darkness and gave world renaissance. Amazing his biological father was a Muslim and his and his sister had craving for art. True religion without fabrications is the biggest stimulant for science while fabricated and man made changes spoils the religion which causes hindrance in science. Within 100 years of Quran all modern sciences were founded i.e. Chemistry, Physics, modern medicine, algebra etc.We must discriminate between true religion and fabricated one. To us all true religions were Islam; the terms Judaism, Christianity were later inventions. Only and only Quran is protected in its original language and its is as fresh as it was 1450 years back and also not change of a single letter or word. A living miracle which can be tested by anyone
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    Jan 5 2012: My point here is that if your understanding of the world is a limited one (ie belief in god and all the boundaries and walls and lies that go with it) then, surely your thinking and therefore life will not be fullfilled as well as it might be otherwise. I have had conversations with many people of the faith and they simply end. They hit a wall and all the exploration , all the potential in the conversation, all the learning is lost.
    If i truly believed in the afterlife, meaning i do not die, isnt one susceptible to take it easy or to be fully alive?. Arent i susceptible to not have the drive to fullfill my life? If i believe in things that are untrue, wasnt my life a lie? Wasnt it not real?
    and therefore unfullfilled.
    I notice some comments descending into semantics which often serve as red herrings.
    I make my comments from personal experience and i do not want to diminish the worth of lives lived under the 'faith' however my life has exploded with production, creativity and learning since becoming an athiest.
    • Jan 8 2012: No, not at all. I firmly believe in Hereafter however I know that good life in Hereafter depends on true faith and good deeds. I know that even an electron can be created by itself, not even electric bulb etc. etc. This world and zillions of creatures are too complex and by any statistics these can not be created and maintained by itself. The Creator who created can't be expected to not to communicate with us and guide us. There too many proofs. How Quran is kept fresh and totally preserved letter by letter word by word for last 1450 years. Quran predicted many things with total confidence years before such as victory of Rome over Iran. Quran told many many scientific facts before time e.g. mountains are far deep in the earth, all life is created from water, all iron on earth came from outside galaxies. First please read Quran without bias and you will find out that how divine teachings guided human beings to the right path. When divine guide was corrupted by man made changes and clergy, religion was distorted and became hindrance to science and progress. Only one divine book i.e. Quran is protected as it is the last and the final edition and it is for the entire world. ANYONE, ANY PLACE CAN TEST IT
  • Jan 3 2012: Define "fulfillment."
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    Jan 1 2012: I am not certain that I understand your comment Phillip.
    If you are saying that religion has an influence on our lives even if we are not conscious or aware of it, I may agree with you. But It ought not diminish our full experience rather it may enhance it. Many folks find fulfillment and direction from their religious beliefs, just as others find it in their non-religious system of belief. When you accept and believe something it doesn't limit you it inspires and frees you to be the best that you can in all areas of life.
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    Dec 29 2011: My thoughts . . . fulfillment is in the personhood. I suspect Mother Teresa was fulfilled. Name an atheist that was/is fulfilled (perhaps Richard Dawkins?) and there one has both ends of the spectrum. I would suggest that death would be the same motivator for each: things to do and places to go before death.

    It's all the people inbetween that may not live a fulfilled life because of fear of not attaining, e.g., heaven; doubt for life's purpose; and, anger for the way things are.
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      Dec 30 2011: Fulfillment is personal, it cannot be measure, it cannot be standard, nobody can say to you if you are fulfilled but you.

      I think that If you are afraid or anger, it is your responsibiliy, you are responsible for overcome it, for looking for your own fulfillment.
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    Dec 29 2011: I am not certain that death motivates one to live. If one can see all of the wonder and awesome splendor in our world and not be inspired by that, I can hardly see how the grave motivates one to live. I think that the certainty of death and the uncertainty of the day and time of the event may motivate one to accomplish something, to make a difference while there is still time. Live whilst you breath, for the next breadth is not scheduled or certain.
    Religion is not an obstruction to life ii is an invitation to another, assuming that one believes.
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      Jan 1 2012: Perhpas it is beneath the surface. I never think of DNA reproduction when i want to have sex but hey thats why i do it.
    • Jan 6 2012: Death makes you realize many things:
      1) Time is very precious and must not be wasted
      2) Materialism is the most idiotic thing
      3) Must prepare for net life with good acts
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        Jan 7 2012: Death certainly brings the significance of our limited time here, if we are to make a difference and contribute positively to the human experience and condition.
        Acts of kindness to each other without reservation or judgement does go a long way in accomplishing a life well lived in the little time allotted each of us.
        The material does matter though Anwar, don't you think? After all we live in a material world and our appreciation of material things add significantly to our experience and pleasure. I would agree that the pursuit of material things exclusively to satiate a deeper meaning for life is a futile attempt, because we are spiritual beings as well.
        It is best that we grasp at the unseen than possess the material, which will eventual fade away.
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        Jan 9 2012: The concept of spending time in creating a "net life" by producing good acts is outstanding!!
    • Jan 8 2012: who r the one who gave the most to the world in world of science???
      1) Ibn-e-Sina whose book "law of medicine" was standard textbook of medicine for 600 years in European medical Colleges
      2) Qasim Az Zahrawi who is father of modern surgery whose book at-tasreef remained standard text book of surgery for 600 years also
      3) Janir bin Hayan who founded chemistry and laboratory sciences
      4) Ibn-e-Haitham who founded modern physics
      5) Mamoon Rashid who gave the world most in sciences. He created House of Wisdom which translated all books of sciences and critically analyzed removing all myths and garbage of greeks
      6) Khalifa Walid who made the very first hospital in the world
      7) Haroon Rashid who made the second hospital in the world
      8) Umar Bin Khirab who gave the world modern mail system, social security, justice system,
      9) Prophet Muhammad who gave the best conduct to man kind
      10) Steve Job who gave us pCs
      All of them had firm belief in death and utilized their time in the best possible way