It is easy to be a fair-weather atheist. Anyone can do it with a tiny bit of laziness; you just don’t go to church, don’t pray and scoff at the notion Big Dude up above. But, inevitably, there comes a day when you have to face up to what it means to deny an eternal souls and an afterlife both.
To an atheist, a person comes from dirt, and lives out theirs lives in whatever goodness they may before they go back to it. Proverbial dirt, mind-we’re all made of starstuff. You pop into existence, do stuff, pop out of existence. It, to me, makes life special and precious: we’re all monkeys who climbed down from different branches of the same tree, albeit we are monkeys who can apply abstract concepts like beauty to the wider universe. A dumb deterministic universe ticked along nicely for seventeen billion years, before out birthed you, a conscious little mote who can appreciate beauty and irony.
And someday, for all of that, you’ll die. As far as you’re concerned the universe ends with a rather abrupt stop. Being an atheist does make life precious; I deeply appreciate all the twists and turns that brought Caira and Garrett and Eadaoin and all my friends intos my life, and that in the end they’ll be taken away too.
Mike passed away suddenly last week after a yearlong battle with lung cancer. As far as I understand it, Mike came down with pneumonia and his health snowballed. He was active on Facebook right up until the very end, delivering snark and jibes and jokes. And then, gone.
I remember one time when I had Caira in the hackerspace, Mike said something to her. I have no idea what was said, but she laughed for a solid five minutes.
Mike was the nicest mean bastard I had ever known, a true gentleman who took everything in stride with a joke a node and a smile. By the gods, you’ll be missed.
Michael O’Connor, 1991-2015