Going to a Better Place
by Chris Volkay (e-mail: CVolkay@liberator.net) [September 28th, 2002]

A young mother in Texas methodically drowns her five children in the bathtub. Murder by numbers, one, two, three, four, five. She then calls the police and waits for their arrival. A young man chases his ex-girlfriend through her wedding reception, killing her and then turning the gun on himself. Another young man leads police on one of Los Angeles’ daily and seemingly mandatory high speed chases and, holding them at bay, turns the gun on himself, removing his cortex from its container.

“When you believe that another life exists, a better one at that, one with those plump virgins waiting under every dimly lit lamp post, it breeds recklessness in our own lives, reckless and devaluing of other people’s lives.”

Now what do these three seemingly unrelated incidents have in common? Well, in my opinion, they are but further examples of the endless calamity and torment that religion and superstitious thinking so commonly visits upon our world. And what do I mean by this? First a brief bit of background.

Picking these three incidents was actually quite arduous. There are so many acts of madness and mayhem to choose from. Here in California a mother, to get back at her doctor husband, kills their 3 children, another mother hurtles her 2 children off a bridge, a man forces a shoot out with police, the infamous suicide by cop. I could, of course go on and on, the list is endless and growing as you read this. The names seem to me, to be almost irrelevant. In the end they all blur together with more and more coming each day to further obliterate any remaining lines of demarcation.

Now, the question arises, why? Why the mayhem, why the madness? Well, from the outset, let me make it clearer than crystal, that, like the fall of the Roman Empire, there are a myriad of intricate whys and wherefores. Mucho mas. Into the bubbling, scalding cauldron of what we liberally refer to as our “human reasoning” many, many motivations are teeming and breeding, like the proverbial bunny in heat. But is it possible that underpinning all of this is most of humanities belief in another world, a better world, life after death, heavenly bliss, paradise awaiting, gold, wine and the ubiquitous virgins in the wings, a second chance, another go round the big bucolic maypole?

In a word, I believe the answer is yes. Can I prove it in a court of law. Well... Can I prove it in a local bar..well that’s another matter. By the very nature of many of these deeds, many of the players take their hatreds and motives with them to the grave. Some leave notes, talk to friends, but many don’t. We are left to speculate, to ponder. To pen op-eds, opinion pieces. And this is my opinion.

But lets look at a few of these occurrences. The Texas mother Yates, at least according to her psychiatrist, for what that’s worth, killed the children because she feared that they would burn and be tortured in hell if they had lived. The jilted lover kills his lady love then himself at the wedding party. Now, he could have shot up the whole assemblage, her relatives, the preacher, the caterer, etc. but he kills only himself and his lady love. Now he’s got her alone, all to himself. The new husband, left behind. Brothers, father, police, parole boards, probations, restraining orders, all left behind. He’s got a new chance now with his lady love, and in the land of milk and honey to boot! Romeo will have his Juliet in death. What a sweet deal! Of course there’s only one somewhat diminutive problem. No land of milk and honey exists, it was all a figment of the fictions that had been embedded into him since he started teething on his pabulum. No heaven, no nirvana, no lady love, no nuttin, just big barrels brimming with bountiful bupkiss.

Or our suicide. I’ve personally known suicides, most certainly fancied they were going to that better place. Suicide notes are legendary for articulating how the person believes they are leaving the virulent vicissitudes of this ignoble life and moving on to a peachier existence up there somewhere.

In a number of cases where the mother or father has killed the children I have seen reports on the TV news that state that the mother/father(sort of “gone postal” post-modern Medeas) killed the kids and then were planning to kill themselves and follow them to the new land. What a reunion! However in many of these cases the mother/father, after some deliberation, decides against whacking themselves. I’ve heard the TV news many times report these types of angles, but then never seem to follow them up, as they might not be popular views or angles or motivations for the case.

In a previous article, I wrote about organized religion’s “gentleman’s agreement,” with each party to never criticize the others religion, lest your corporate competitor criticize you. The oldest and most wagon train circled “good old boys club” going. Well, of course the media is part of this club, as well. They go along with whatever their corporate masters(owners) want them to do and to report. So never a discouraging word about religion in the media or press. Not even when it can be an prominent part of the saga. But don’t worry, their masters throw enough bones from their finely polished marble tables to keep the “reporters” all running around sniffing each other and reporting stories of real global importance. Hey, what about Jennifer Aniston’s new hair style!!! (Mmmm good doggies, now roll over.)

Religious apologists would no doubt utter something like, the three cases you picked here are but aberrations. They don’t represent the true teachings of our religion. (Mmm, where have I heard that before?) These people were crazy, insane, and their actions were driven by insanity, not religion. (Asking what’s the difference, would of course be beneath me, so I won’t do it.) Well certainly depression, alcohol, drugs, jealousy, rage, fear etc. may have been factors as well. I don’t deny that. But take Texas mother Yates. Had she formed other delusions from the fictions she had learned (her children being tortured in hell if they lived,) she may have chosen, may have acted on some other more benign, less lethal delusion. It’s speculation of course, but certainly possible. If she didn’t have these hideously horrifying images of hell and torture and suffering bouncing around in her noggin, she may have chosen another course, whether sane or not.

“We as a people need to realize and accept that this is it, that our lives must be protected, the lives of others must be protected, that by killing this person or this tribe or this nation, I’m not sending them to a better place, I’m simply murdering them.”

When you conceive that this is some sort of a dress rehearsal, that if you mess it all up (lose your life) you still have another chance, what does that do to our views regarding life? It cheapens it. It devalues it. It makes it dispensable. There is always that make-up test you can take. A safety valve. A safety net always looming under your wind blown and shaky-kneed high wire act.

I have known friends of mine to say, when I was younger especially, “Well yep boy, driving 100 miles an hour is a little bit screwed up, and even dumber when yous drunker than a stinky skunk like I is, but what the hey, if I die I’ll just go to a better place anyways, so like, what the hell.” (I had somewhat colorful friends, didn’t I?) When you believe that another life exists, a better one at that, one with those plump virgins waiting under every dimly lit lamp post, it breeds recklessness in our own lives, reckless and devaluing of other people’s lives.

Of course one of the great arguments against religion has always been the chronicling of the various and endless atrocities that have been committed in the name of religion. Wars, civil wars, genocides, mass murders, slaughters, crusades and on and on it goes. How much of this is underpinned in the notion that these lives do not end and that if they are killed, they will receive either gods retribution or stern teaching in how to better comport their lives? (you know, how to live more like the people that just killed them.) Wherever and whenever people have been off slaughtering and ripping their fellow planet dwellers apart, these types of notions have been firmly planted in their heads. And the murderers are just dispatching them “on their glorious way.”

Or how about this popular phrase, “Lets kill ‘em all and let god sort it out.” While it sounds like a bit of jest, I would argue that this is exactly what is in the minds of many of the people that are so adept at this butchery. You see, you’re not “really” killing them, you’re just sending them on to gods grace. The ultimate justification. Specious sophist sagacity of a truly biblical proportion. And that’s saying a mouthful.

Now let’s get a few things unbent, shall we? As already mentioned, I am not saying that this belief, the “going to a better place” belief is the sole reason that these wars and murders and suicides and reckless deaths and body parts keep raining down on top of us. As I said, these are complex issues including, but not limited to, poor impulse control, jealousy, insanity, coveting the other fellows land, hatred of the other fellows religion, despair, alcohol, drugs, depression, parental abuse and just really really poor toilet training. But these kinds of religious beliefs do play a contributing role in varying degrees. In the wars, crusades, mass slaughters etc., certainly. In the suicides and murders, in some cases a very direct and strong role (I’m on my way to a better place, I’m saving them from being tortured in hell, etc.) This over all view of having this ever present safety net, is a bad concept for people to harbor as it can play some sort of role in all manner of mayhem and insanity. We as a people need to realize and accept that this is it, that our lives must be protected, the lives of others must be protected, that by killing this person or this tribe or this nation, I’m not sending them to a better place, I’m simply murdering them.

The reason that this issue is important to all of us is of course, that we, our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and friends very well may be harmed and brutalized by these superstitious notions. It’s all around us. This is why what I call the battle of science vs. superstition is such an important one. Because the more minds we, all of us, can convert and open to a reasoning scientific approach, rationality and humanism, the better our chances are of heading off these kinds of atrocities and tragedies. This is why I believe that what we do, write articles, give lectures, publish magazines, form councils is not only important, but absolutely vital to all living things on this planet. In fact, I believe the age old battle of science vs. superstition, for this reason and many many others, to be the most important issue of our time, or any other time for that matter.

Resources and Avenues for Further Study

  • The Liberator: Science vs. Superstition
  • Secular Web: Murder in the Name of Religion
  • Google Directory: Science: Social Sciences: Psychology: Psychology and Religion

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