Gods are the deified dead. We pretend they're immortal because we love the dead more than we do the living, more than we love ourselves. We always value what we’ve lost more than what we have.
The things we value most, whose possession seems to justify our valuing ourselves, often conceal from us who and what we are.
Private property always seemed to me an absurd idea at best; and at worst, if and when we mistake what we possess for who and what we are, it’s the original sin from which all others grow.
Slavery grows from private property. A god creates his people to serve and obey him, and he also creates other people to serve and obey his people. A god rewards those people who serve him loyally by making them masters of the godless.
The world was not created for us by our heavenly father. It is not the property of anyone in it. The world existed before we did, and will continue to exist when we no longer do.
When I was a child, another boy asked me if I was Jewish.
I was surprised because the difference between Christians and Jews, which was so important to others, meant less to me than the difference between the religious, whatever their religion, and atheists like myself; and the difference between the religious and atheists meant less to me than the difference between people who claimed to act in obedience to some power outside of themselves, whether that power was church or state, and people who took responsibility for their own actions.
He asked, he said, because most of my friends were Jews. I realized, to my surprise, that he was right.
I hadn’t chosen them because they were Jews any more than I would have rejected them because they were Jews. I chose them because they were secular Jews, aka atheists, as was I. Nevertheless I began to wonder if there wasn’t something unique about Jews - or at least intelligent Jews, secular Jews.
I realized that their lack of a heimat, which made Jews abhorrent to nationalists like Hitler, made them attractive to me because property ownership, whether by one person or a group, seemed to me absurd at best, and at worst a sin.
I wasn’t persuaded by the standard explanation for Hitler’s persecution of the Jews: that he considered them an inferior race which threatened to contaminate the Aryan race, the master race, through misgenation. I assumed Hitler was a Christian, albeit an extreme one: a fundamentalist Christian (believers become extreme in their protestations of belief as that belief fades) - and, like all Christians, he feared the Jews as rivals for their heavenly father's favor.
The Jews were the first master race (at least in Judeo-Christian mythology), god's chosen people. I believed Christians feared the Jews had been right to reject Christ as a false messiah because what, after all, had he changed?
Nazis didn’t persecute the Jews because they considered them inferior but, on the contrary, because they feared Jews are superior, just as patriarchal societies don’t subjugate women because they consider them inferior but, on the contrary, because they fear women are superior.
No matter how powerful they are, masters are always aware of their own weaknesses; and the more aware they are of those weaknesses, the more masters tell themselves, and their slaves, how powerful they are.
Masters are always aware of how much they depend on their slaves, and fear that, if they don’t keep them enslaved, they will be enslaved by them. But they need not fear. Slaves have their own reasons for pretending to believe in the myth of their masters’ natural superiority and their own equally natural inferiority
Masters imagine their slaves obey them because they're stupid and gullible enough to believe the myth of their masters' power. They don’t realize that slaves know their masters are weak; but they're even more aware aware of their own weaknesses.
it’s not because slaves trust in their masters that they obey them, but because they distrust themselves They would rather submit to a master, even a bad master - one they can despise - than govern themselves, and risk doing it badly, and end up despising themselves.
The way to free slaves is not to destroy their faith in their masters, for they have none. It's their lack of faith in themselves that keeps them enslaved; for when they do rebel and seize power, slaves invariably become bad masters.
I never gave much thought to this when I was younger - just enough to talk about it with others, on the rare occasions when I met someone I could talk with - and now that I have no one to talk with, I care about it even less. This is merely a mental exercise, a game for one player; and games change nothing.
I've always felt detached from others, as though I was observing them from a distance. I observed myself with the same detachment. I watched them, and myself, as though we were all playing a game; but I was the only one who knew it was a game. They took it seriously.
I used to play the game well when I was younger - no doubt because I didn't take it seriously - and enjoyed doing so. But gradually I found less and less satisfaction in doing well what shouldn’t be done at all.
As I near the end of my life as a member of a species that is nearing its end as well, my concern is not with understanding myself or my species, but with understanding life - not only my life, but all life - and what role it plays in the universe.
It seems to me that everything is alive in some way, although not in the same way we are; certainly not in the way that most people call being alive. Not only is what we call intelligent life (of which we are supposedly the primary, and perhaps the only, example) probably rare, but anything that we might recognize as life is rare.
I can't believe that I am eternal, as many people claim they believe, because beings like us are by definition temporary. If there is anything eternal, it would be death for beings like us.
The universe is therefore unlikely to be ordered in any way that we would call orderly. What we call order exists only for us and beings like us.
Like us, order is a local and temporary phenomenon, or what philosophers used to call an illusion, because they considered only the universal the eternal to be real. The distinction between what we call life and what we call death is therefore illusory, because nothing is universal and eternal.
If I still wanted to know anything, it would be the role that life plays in the universe. But I don’t want to know anything anymore. I want only to die as soon as possible, and as painlessly as possible.
I hope dying brings a release from, rather than an increase of, pain, although I’ve seen enough deaths to know that’s not likely. Otherwise I take no more interest in my own death than I do anyone else does; not only my own death, but the death of my species.