Intelligent Design

The Precipice is Real

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All that follows is from commenter “Redwave”:

Prior to taking a long road to a juncture at which I became a scientist, I was an hospice chaplain who had visited hundreds of people at the precipice of life, at death … at death’s appearing and intruding into every fibre that intertwined what we have thought to be an ontological whole. Death is as overwhelming, as consuming, as saturating, as Life, though often compacted into a moment of breath. The moment of breath visits remind me of Derrida’s Epilogue … one must know the end of it to fully appreciate its beginning. And so we face a conceptual paradox, a transformative continuum from which we can not escape … the precipice is real.

Somehow the atheists have integrated this existential ontological reality, the steepness into the unknown, awaiting us at the moment of breath. Would they otherwise be human? Somehow the atheists know that their life will continue only through writ and talk, and recorded in the memories of those standing a safe distance from the precipice. What matters is to be remembered … that is the ultimate end game … there is nothing beyond the Epilogue. The atheists have nothing else. Their engrams evaporate into nothingness. Being remembered at all costs, whatever this entails, being remembered is the atheists’ teleological imperative.

I remember one ninety six year old man passing out of our lives and he was unashamedly honest with this priest, “I have lived all these years without God, why would I need you and your God now? And anyway if your God exists I am sure he cares little about me. Why would he after so long a time, I have given nothing to him?” My first response, “Who told you God is a man?” at which he nearly chocked from laughter and asked what on earth could I do now as he invited me to sit, have some coffee, he lit a cigarette, and said “lay it on” him. The days leading up to his death, I asked him to share with me, and his ninety four year old wife, stories about his birth and the years of his childhood. They had known one another from her thirteenth year and had been married nearly eighty years, smoking tobacco and drinking coffee to the last day, yet the stories of his first few years of life were as fresh and vital as if they happened yesterday. The moment of breath does not yield to time’s restraints.

Did I convert him on his death bed? Was a moment of belief, however minuscule in time, sufficient to subsume over three billion seconds of living? One must not waste the moment of breath on images of an old white bearded man stuck on a throne hovering above the earth, or a jolly fat balded man in lotus repose, or one sporting an elephant’s head, or dancing in ecstasy, or with a spiraling array of arms, or hanging upon a tree. The precipice is far too tenuous a moment, irreversible and consequentially permanent, for all moments from life’s beginning.

Among those facing death there are atheists, yet at the moment of breath the controversies between the Creator and the myriad human constructs, break down, dissipate and one thing remains encapsulated within the moment of breath … Life.

Is this moment of breath, the precipice, the crisis of which Myers, Dawkins, Coyne, Krauss, et al., can make no sense? They will be remembered by some, then fewer than some, then fewer still, and then lost to the ages … until an unknowable discovery might piece together their remains. What was the name of that Neanderthal found in the Engis caves?

14 Replies to “The Precipice is Real

  1. 1
    News says:

    Yes, my name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye mighty and despair.

    That said, I know a man who experienced an awakening of sorts when he was about 92 years of age. It happens.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    I’m also very concerned with who remembers me after my life ends here on this earth.

    Luke 13:27
    “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

    Luke 23:42:43
    Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
    Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”


    Joyful, Joyful – Casting Crowns

  3. 3
    Graham2 says:

    Did I convert him on his death bed?

    What a repulsive thought. To confront someone at their very last moment, when they are most vulnerable, and try to show them that their whole life was a lie. Ugh.

  4. 4
    StephenB says:

    Once someone puts the subject of Hell on the table, there would seem to be six possible responses:

    [a] I must avoid that place at all costs. Clearly, such an existence would be intolerable. What must I do to escape such an awful fate?

    [b] I am not sure that I believe such a place or condition exists. It is an outrage if it does. Nevertheless, I can’t simply ignore the threat because the stakes are too high. I must now go to the trouble of learning more about the person or persons who put it on the table.

    [c] I have made a life study of this subject, and I am convinced that those who introduced this idea were as evil as anyone who ever lived. They simply wanted to gain power and control over others even if it meant instilling neurotic fear into innocent and unsuspecting hearts.

    [d] I believe that such a place exists, but I couldn’t possibly go there. I have absolutely nothing in common with the damned. I am the best person I know.

    [e] Even if such a place does exist, I don’t care. No one can scare me and I can take anything that comes my way. Bring it on.

    [f] Don’t bother me with such nonsense.

    Only the first three responses are rational.

    *** Option [c] is logically possible, but it almost never turns out that way. People who draw such a conclusion almost never do their homework.

  5. 5
    Barry Arrington says:

    Graham2 @ 3:
    It seems to me that if Redwave truly believed that the man’s immortal soul was at stake, then it would have been the unloving of him not to try to persuade him. Also, your statement is based on an obvious conceit. You assume that Redwave’s faith is baseless. You don’t know that. You shouldn’t put your anti-religious bigotry on display so publicly. It is unseemly.

  6. 6
    Graham2 says:

    Spoken like a true religious bigot.

  7. 7
    Axel says:

    Not only that, but you seem totally unaware that you lack the remotest sense of justice, Graham.

    If their whole life was a lie, you think they should be treated with kid gloves….? Bearing in mind the description of the Last Judgment in Matthew, Chapter 25, the only such description in the whole of the Bible, and given, moreover, by God, himself, I wonder what their victims would think, because you may be sure that if a person’s life was just a protracted lie, he will have left many victims of his callousness and cruelty behind; assuming their victims haven’t yet passed on to their reward – likely to be heavenly.

    On a lighter note, I think this quip by Woody Allen might be shared by Graham:

    “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen; I want to live on in my apartment.”

  8. 8
    Learned Hand says:

    The atheists have nothing else. Their engrams evaporate into nothingness. Being remembered at all costs, whatever this entails, being remembered is the atheists’ teleological imperative.

    Redwave doesn’t seem to know many atheists. I can’t think of anyone whose imperative is “being remembered at all costs.” I certainly know some people who would like to leave a mark, but I don’t think they’re predominantly atheists.

    If your impression of what it’s like to be an atheist is such a paper-thin stereotype, you might not know enough about atheism to make pronouncements about it.

  9. 9
    Learned Hand says:


    Or [7], I have no reason to believe hell. After all, the only evidence it exists is the testimony of people who haven’t been there, based on religious teachings that are both culturally constructed and inconsistent with the pronouncements of other people who claim to be the custodians of true revelations about the afterlife.

    Your model of how atheists think doesn’t look anything like the thinking of any atheist I know. Is it possible your construction of the “six possible responses” is designed to lead to a conclusion you find ideologically comfortable?

  10. 10
    CalvinsBulldog says:

    Please tell me that Graham2 has been permanently banned.

    Atheists are the oxidation of the internet. You find them posting around everything beautiful, true, and wise, rubbishing it, criticising it, and attempting to tear it down with the most pitiful arguments.

    Christmas carols on Youtube? Atheists. Something deep and insightful about the existential issues of life (as above)? Atheists. They offer nothing; they contribute no material for reflection; when it comes to the big questions of life, atheism is the equivalent of an intellectual sloth, occupying space and giving nothing.

  11. 11
    Axel says:

    Calvinsbulldog, I must have upset some little geek in charge of a thread or two at YouTube, as he’s sabotaged my ‘uptick’ and ‘downmark’ functions, so both plus and minus turn out up in the ‘dislike’ count. One choice is ‘unlike’ and the other, ‘dislike’. In fact, some of my anti-atheist comments just haven’t appeared. Fortunately, it’s not the end of the world for me.

  12. 12
    Axel says:

    @ Learned Hand #8

    ‘….you might not know enough about atheism to make pronouncements about it.’

    I’d be intrigued to discover that there was much at all of any positive nature about atheism; rather, simply, a lack of belief in a deity, and its attendant rancorous impotence; which necessarily is the only thing that unifies its adherents.

    Surely, it would be the reason why they infest all religious forums so copiously. As a single, negative position hardly makes for intellectual stimulation, never mind moderate interest.

  13. 13
    groovamos says:


    What a repulsive thought. To confront someone at their very last moment, when they are most vulnerable, and try to show them that their whole life was a lie. Ugh.

    Yeah Graham I suppose you were there to verify confrontational stance on the part of Barry, and then to come here and insinuate, to presume Barry’s wording to this old man. No the truth is you materialists are the confrontation to the majority on the planet. You guys are the smart ones with it all figured out, and the majority on the planet are the dunces. Except guess what – you know nothing of the field of study known as consciousness research, a non-reductionist project. If you did you would be familiar with the extensive studies of non-ordinary states of consciousness and the reality that none of it comports with your worldview. None of the extensive roster of researchers, some of them famous, like Maslow and Campbell, buy into your collapsing materialist paradigm which ultimately is the selfish paradigm.

    Come out and admit it. You have disdain for us and you want to express it in insulting fashion and you picked a great season in which to do it, quite a didactic aspect in itself. Your obsession with this board gives it all away as does your confrontational stance. Advice: why don’t you grow a little happiness in that dark space.

  14. 14
    redwave says:

    “The precipice is real” comments are subjective and personal, a story concerning the mortality of the human which can be as deeply troubling for atheists as for theists. The story would lose very little if one substitutes ‘atheists’ with ‘theists’. The reasons Barry Arrington re-posted my comments have not been explicitly stated.

    The story is about death.

    The generalized statements addressing ‘the atheists’ concern the group of scientists exhibiting interpersonal conflict, PZ Myers, et al. (, and I have known and do know many atheists, many of which would express opposition to my generalizations. Again, the story is about death. With that in view, picture yourself at or near the moment of breath, the moment when you will no longer exist in this flesh and blood reality, that is as you exist from birth to those final moments and talk with me about life.

    So how does one treat the story is about death and talk with me about life?

    Graham2. You raise an excellent point … “What a repulsive thought.” I had thought the comments which followed the question, “Did I convert him on his death bed?”, were sufficiently indicative of a “no” answer. I will admit, the thoughts could be obscure or misleading, which would not represent my intention. The question was asked of me, many times.

    And I did state rather bluntly, “the precipice is real”, in this post. For me, the precipice, the steepness of the unknown, is a sacred moment of breath at which we come nearer the Presence. We approach, not unlike our descent in birth, except in time’s direction. This is not a moment to become juridical. The moment is emotionally rich and life filled.

    If anyone is converted at any time, during any life transforming experience, the time and moment belongs uniquely with the one in the moment of breath. This is not a moment of intellectual assent, not a moment of proving logical propositions, not a moment for correctness of opinions. The atheists, I have known living and at the precipice of life, want to believe there is something beyond the ephemeral, something that extends the natural into the unknown and grasps a pristine and pure reality. But this something appears highly unlikely to their thinking and feeling … Jesus is either irrecoverably sullied by corruptible humans or a myth without ontological reality.

    An hospice chaplain does not enter a room, with family full of anxiety from death’s appearing, to win a lifelong argument, but to stand, sit, and walk with someone teetering at ultimacy, at any moment the uncertainty of life dissappears into an irrevocable silence. Moments like this are sensible for God in us, from birth through life to death, and if not in us, God with us. The natural functions of religion are during these moments and have nothing exceptional to offer if stripped of this humanness.

    The ninty six year old man asked for prayer, in the days leading to his death and near the moment of breath. When I pray, I speak as a man, flesh and blood, impoverished at these moments, and, leaving death … living is transfixed to life. Did he convert or did he finally accept the moment as a truth of his humanness? I leave that to God as I leave death.

    What does it mean, “I leave that to God as I leave death”? Am I abrogating responsibility over my life and death? Am I admitting there is at least one moment, irreversible and irrecoverable, in which I have no force, no power, no ability, to return life to an initial state? A state of living in which death is far removed from view?

    Facing the answers to these questions and so many other questions is integral for faith. And faith is not the spooky action from a distance, not blind and devoid of logic, not a set of dogma, not a ritual. Faith is the substance and evidence of our humanness as we face an ultimate, a precipice. Faith is the criterion through which we approach God. Jesus presented it in this way, paraphrased, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can say to a mountain, be removed and the mountain will move”. Jesus’ teaching concerns the size of the mustard seed in relation with the size of the mountain and our acceptance of the movability for those things set before us.

    But now we stand on the precipice of life and the mustard seed size faith can not remove the mountain. Death has an unmovable inevitability. Even Jesus, who raised the dead and healed the sick, faced his inevitable death. So where is faith now? The answer to that question is related to the statement, “The atheists have nothing else.” Remember?

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