Getting back up to speed...
In any case, I find that much has transpired in my absence- particularly that the army has somehow "lost" three soldiers in Iraq and that Jerry Falwell has died. In response to the former I can only express my deepest hopes that these men are found and returned safely to their families.
In response to the latter I could say a lot more. It will probably not surprise any of you that I didn't much care for Jerry Falwell. He founded the so-called Liberty University, an organization which has helped advance the idea that knowledge can simply be rejected if it conflicts with religious doctrine. He has produced deliberate libel about an ex-President, has insulted homosexuals, and has become famous for his varied remarks including, in reference to the September 11th attacks: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'" Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's true: Jerry Falwell was not my sort of guy.
How should I react, however, to news of his death? Should I celebrate his passing, virtually dancing on his grave? I think not- however much I disliked him, he was still a man and is doubtless mourned by his family. Were I religious I might simply remark that he is now getting his just desserts but, as an atheist, I believe no such thing. In the end, I think I will employ a tried and true method of reacting to someone's death- the editorial cartoon. Following the death of almost any major figure, there are always a spate of cartoons trying to sum up the experience. For example, following the loss of the space shuttle Columbia there was this cartoon:
A relatively tasteful effort to be sure, although often such cartoons are somewhat objectionable. Frequently the depiction features the deceased person as they are following their death. For example, there's this cartoon that followed the death of Rosa Parks:
As an atheist I don't believe that some grand fate awaits Jerry Falwell or anyone else. There is no paradise sitting on god's right hand* but, also, there is no eternal hellfire awaiting those who failed to engage in sufficient ritual cannibalism. Thus if I were to depict Jerry Falwell's afterlife, this is the best I could do:
Perhaps there is no glory in death for an atheist but, at the very least, there is also no need to inflict suffering on those with whom we disagree. In atheism there is mercy.
* It's always seemed odd to me that being good earns you a place on god's right hand. Partly because I always assumed that god would want the hand back but also, to be honest, because it sounds boring as all hell. Really.