Child: During our talk about God, you said we could talk about death later.
Meyers: Certainly. And I agree that now is that conversation's later.
Child: I don't want to die.
Meyers: Of course not. You are like me, you like life.
Child: But everybody dies. Only they don't really. They go to heaven, so they don't really die, at least if they are saved.
Meyers: Another belief system that denies the reality of death postulates reincarnation instead of heaven and hell. In reincarnation the soul, at death, moves into the body of a creature being born. Reincarnation is associated most closely with Hinduism and Buddhism. But let's focus on the death of the human body, and worry about heaven and reincarnation later. Okay?
Meyers: How old are you?
Meyers: Then thirteen, or certainly fourteen, year ago you were not alive. Any problem with that?
Child: No, I guess not.
Meyers: And you would agree the past is real. Yesterday was as real as today, and the day you were born was a real day, and before you were born real things happened, like the births and deaths of your ancestors in say the 19th century?
Child: Of course.
Meyers: I only make the point because some religions and philosophies, like Buddhism and extreme forms of skepticism, insist that the present is an illusion, and the past must be an illusion too. We'll talk about the idea that the world is an illusion at some other point, or else we'll lose track of this death question.
Child: So what does the past being real have to do with death?
Meyers: Let's suppose you live for a really long time. Just say 80 years. Now imagine we are both dead, let's say a hundred years from now. Go ahead, try to imagine being someone else, a hundred years from now, who maybe has heard about you or me, and is thinking about the year 2010.
Child: I guess anyone could do that. Anyone alive then. Just like I can imagine my great grandfathers during World War II. Two of them fought, one was too old, one was too young.
Meyers: So it is pretty simple. People are born, live some length of time, and then die. After they die their life is in the past. Can we see the City of London right now?
Child: No, but I could get web cams to come up if you wanted to see.
Meyers: Surely you could. And there are still archives about your soldier ancestors, we could see them if we wanted to. But we can't be in two geographic locations at once, and we can't be in two times at once. Our present is your ancestors' future and your descendents' past. It is all real.
When someone dies their life is simply in the past, to the people whose life goes on. But their life is still real. The common phrase "he passed away" really should be "he's in the past now."
Child: But what about heaven? Your body could be in the past, and your soul could go to heaven.
Meyers: People are sad when their relatives and friends die. They wish they were still alive, in the present. So a long, long time ago people invented the idea of ghosts. They would dream they saw their dead friends, so they thought they were still alive in some form. Then the professional religious racket got a hold of the idea. They encouraged people to think that ghosts are real, and they invented a home for them. At first it didn't sell well, because the home was pretty gloomy. Then some priests realized that inventing a happy ghost home, heaven, made living people happy. They wanted their dead to be alive in a happy home, and they wanted to go to a happy home themselves when they died. But it is just a story. The truth is dead people are in the past.
Child: I don't know. Seems you could have both.
Meyers: Sure. Some time when you have some time to put to use, you could read some about the Greek and Egyptian religions that were around before Christianity. You get an idea of the trajectory, of how religious and philosophic ideas developed. Sorting out what is true from what is false is no easy task. A lot of people want you to believe what they believe. And a lot of people choose that, to go along, to pretend to believe, just to get along with their friends and family.
Child: I want to know the truth.
Meyers: I think that's good. But the truth is not always beautiful, at least not in detail. Ugly things happen in this world. Hopefully you'll avoid the worst of them.