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Posted by on Apr 9, 2013 in death, depression | 18 comments

An Atheist’s Thoughts On Matthew Warren

Over the weekend, Matthew Warren, the son of mega-church pastor Rick Warren tragically died as a result of suicide brought about by mental illness. It truly does sadden me when anyone dies, so my heart goes out to Rick Warren, the rest of his family, and those who knew Matt and called him a friend.

I’m saddened because I think Matt is dead. I think that everything he was as a person is gone and that he now only lives on in the memories of those who knew him. But Rick Warren doesn’t agree with me on this one. He believes that Matt had a purpose driven life and that the purpose of Matt’s life was Jesus. Rick Warren believes that Matt is not gone forever, but actually went on to a “better place.” In fact, Rick Warren believes he will see his son again when he dies. So why is he grieving?

Rick Warren is a popular author and mega-church pastor. He travels the country on occasion either to give speeches or to go on a book tour. Does he grieve for his family before he leaves? Okay, that isn’t fair – speaking engagements and book tours aren’t better places.

What if Rick’s family were to go on vacation to Disney World? Would Rick grieve for them? He would certainly miss them, but he would know that they went on to a better place and that he would see them again soon. So it would be pretty silly to grieve for his family if they went to Disney World, right?

But maybe Rick Warren realizes that suicide is a sin and that his son Matthew who has struggled all his life with mental illness will not be going to a better place after all. Maybe he will be going to “the other place.” You know the place where Matt is expected to be tortured for all eternity (which I should remind people, eternity is kind of a very long time). I do believe that pastor Warren does hold a belief in Hell. So that might be why he is grieving and that would certainly be understandable to grieve in that situation. Does Rick Warren really believe that the purpose driven life of Matt Warren is to be tortured for all eternity?

The way I see it, this life is the only life we have. When it is over, it is over. There are no “do overs.” If you have a mental illness, get help! Make the most out of your life. Make the world a better place for others. Live well and be remembered. Ben Franklin put it best when he said:

“If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth the reading, or do things worth the writing.”

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  • Andrew

    It’s human nature to grieve because we do not have the physical presence of a loved one with us and we miss that contact. It’s not only at death, but also when a loved one travels far away and we won’t be seeing them and enjoying their presence here with us in a physical way. Back in the day, when we were kids, my brother and me grew up separately and he lived with my mum in a different state far away. There was no internet then and our family did not have a phone line. Yup, we were that dirt poor. We did not see each other except at the year end holidays and parting, at the train station, was always a moment of great sorrow, after all the fun and games and camaraderie and fellowship which we enjoyed during the holidays. Though we would be seeing each other again the next year, the grief of parting was real and deep.

    What more when a death occurs, when a parting that’s permanent in this life happens. Surely even one who hopes in the resurrection can grieve?

  • Zack Taylor

    One thing that most people over look and the commercial media is totally ignoring is the possibility that Mathew Warren might be part of a pattern of behavior for preachers sons. Several researchers including Alic Miller and Philip Greven have recognized this and provided some applicable explanations before he killed himself and this might be part of a trend. In Philip Greven’s Book “Spare the Child” he wrote about how the sons of several preachers often had problems with violence and depression and he traced it to the way they were raised by their fathers and the fact that many preachers like James Dobson teach strict disciplinarian tactics which routinely backfire. They lead to excessive violence later in life and authoritarian thinking or indoctrination into the religion or cult. After reading about this I was able to recognize this trend in quite a few other sons of preachers including additional information about James Dobson’s son that came after he wrote his book.

    I haven’t been able to look into Mathew Warren’s son but I wouldn’t be surprised if this continues this trend. By ignoring this they pass up on opportunities to solve an enormous amount of social problems. this would be part of the reason why many religious people won’t even consider the possibility that they don’t have an eternal life. Once they recognize it comes from an ateist they decide they won’t even listen.

  • Tori

    Really! You are reaching to compare death to going to disneyworld, and missing your family member. Even though we know that the one we love is going to be with the Lord and that they are no longer suffering, as Matthew was, does not stop the pain of death. I just lost my brother to cancer. I know he is with the Lord. I would be thrilled if he were at Disney World opposed to heaven, because that would mean I could just pick up my phone and call him to see how he is doing. We don’t the phone number to heaven. We were never meant to seperated by death. God designed us for eternity. I would think as an atheist the death of a loved one would be excurciating.

    • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      So the difference between Heaven and Disney World is just a phone call? Interesting.

      “I would think as an atheist the death of a loved one would be excruciating” It is and that is why we grieve. I still don’t understand why you grieve though. as an atheist, I am well aware that this life is it. I have no delusions of an afterlife. So I live each day to the fullest because I know there are no do overs. When I die, I will die happy knowing that I lived well and that I will be remembered by my loved ones. I will die knowing that I tried to make the world a better place. That I am a link in the chain of humanity which in merely a link the the chain of the universe.

      Sure, I could make up a nice fairy tale and make the concept of death less scary, but it is what it is. I accept that I it makes my life better. As Captain Kirk once said, “How we face death is at least as important as how we face life.”

      • VonMagnum

        If you thought about it logically, what you say makes zero sense. When you die, you won’t exist according to your thinking and thus ANYTHING you do in your life is completely futile. It will be as if you NEVER existed since there won’t be ANYONE in all the Universe to remember you since eventually the Universe itself too will no longer exist, at least with any life in it. There will be no one to remember anything. It will be as if life itself never existed and thus how could it possibly happening now? Think about it.

        For the sake of argument, if I had a past life and I am not allowed to remember it in this one, how could I possibly know if I had one or not? I couldn’t, but that would appear to be the same as coming into existence for the first time. The problem is that if it happened again, I could be sitting at another computer terminal 100 years from now saying the same thing. So how does this MOMENT play across eternity if you can’t remember a previous life. It doesn’t. It’s the same as never existing or ever existing. You would have endless lives with no memory of the previous one. That solves one problem (i.e. boredom), but again it makes no real logical sense. Who created this loop of endless life?

        But your idea of coming into existence and then going out again makes equally little sense. How did you come to be out of nothing? If you only came out of matter, where did you consciousness come from? Entropy? It’s odd but I don’t see entropy working to create things in the Universe, but rather it results in decay. If I could sit here for 2 BILLION years, I’m reasonably certain a 747 jet liner would not randomly occur through entropy and yet DNA is far more complex than that. It’s ludicrous as is consciousness out of essentially nothing. And even if you want to argue it could, I still don’t see where the Universe came from. The Big Bang? Well where did the Big Bang come from? Another Big Bang? Ultimately, temporally, it all falls apart at some point because there is no starting point for EVERYTHING.

        I fully admit, however, the idea of a God always existing is equally perplexing since everything we know in this life is temporal in nature. It’s hard to even imagine a sequence of events without time. And without a sequence, you just have random noise. If you asked God what he was doing 10 billion years ago, you might get an answer, but what about 10 TRILLION years ago….100 TRILLION GOOGLEPLEXES ago? Once again, the idea that God could give a daily hour by hour, minute by minute report of exactly what he was doing in the past to INFINITY makes no logical sense what-so-ever since at some point, God would just be making things up (kind of like a virtual reality 3D game where the mountains in the distance are ONLY drawn IF you walk far enough towards where they are supposed to be that you could see them. Otherwise, why waste the CPU power? But all things “infinite” have this dilemma, even PI. You can supposedly compute it forever. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, but there it is. The problem is one of limited dimensional thinking, like trying to imagine a new color. You can imagine the concept of a new color, but try to actually SEE it without a visual reference. It’s not really possible.

        I’m sure I’ve lost most people at this point, but my point is that to conclude one way or another an ABSOLUTE statement that there is a God and He just happens to be exactly like THIS particular religion says (e.g. the others are all poppycock, of course and their believers…well it’s sad but they will all burn in hell for believing the wrong thing!) is equally illogical as is having a “loving God” torture someone for all eternity for a temporal temporary “mistake” (aka sin). Yeah, I’m sorry, but if God really is like that, I don’t want to be around Him anyway since he’s apparently crazy/evil.

        All my research into NDEs (i.e. near death experiences) suggest that either culturally we ALL suffer from the same basic mass delusion at the point of dying (which oddly enough matches NONE of the world religions exactly but seems to contain tidbits of several with the Gnostics being perhaps the closest, but still wrong just the same) and in which the being of Light they are talking to always says that NO religion is right and that “God” doesn’t prescribe to a single religion usually makes more sense. The idea of endless Universes and “time” being simply a tool to make understanding connections easier makes more sense and comes closer to agreeing with science’s ideas of a Multiverse than I ever would have thought, but there it is.

        If anything, “God” appears to be “everything” (and yet a conscious intelligence as well) and like in Deep Space Nine, we humans appear to be similar to the “Changelings” in the sense that we are bits of light/life from a nearly endless ocean of light/life that is “God”. Separated and thus becoming individuals, we have lives, memories, etc. apart from the “collective whole” but at some point rejoin the ocean and we become “God” again and “God” becomes us at the same moment. Nothing is lost. But when separate, knowledge of our former state is veiled so that we can experience life as individuals (imagine God being alone and wanting to be an entire society…and entire Universe…kind of like a dream in a way). Well, here we are.

        Thus, choices, lives, reality, it’s all an experience. There is no true good or evil in that sense, but rather selfish and selfless, inward and outward turned “light”. What we call evil is selfish egotistical behavior and what we call good is selfless behavior to help and love others. Inward turned light appears dark and outward turned light appears light. Higher level beings are lighter/brighter and lower level (base self centered) are darker. All beings are still God’s creation. All “Creation” is a life-matrix. This is why life forms everywhere out of basic building blocks and we see it as something to measure in Science. BOTH are correct on their own way. The ERROR (“sin”) is in not recognizing both as they really are. Ultimately, they are interchangeable. Science describes how Creation works and Creation is structured to contain defined behaviors within that level/plane/Universe. Yes, you can have your personality “erased” (i.e. 2nd Death in the Bible) but the LIGHT within (consciousness) cannot be destroyed since God does not destroy Himself.

        In the Bible, Jesus gives a parable about he who is given much uses it to get more and is given more. He who doesn’t use what little he is given will have it taken away from him and given to another (money is used in the parable), but this is what is being said. You either grow until you reach your final “perfect” end-state (like the mustard seed becoming a tree) or you’re eaten by the birds or rot by the road (i.e. your personality never seeds and never grows and your light is moved on to another “life” matrix). The fallacy is in thinking of yourself as an individual in that sense. Souls are just personality matrices created by consciousness in a given DNA body. It can be “saved” (memories preserved in God forever) or destroyed (“forgotten” or “erased” as useless irrelevant experiences like a bad memory you’d rather forget). “Hell” is just a corrective “time out” for those that can change and learn. It exists outside of time so yes it is “eternal” in a sense since time isn’t involved. No soul is “tortured” forever, though (and I use the word as in a self-judgmental kind of way since people create their own images of hells and reside with beings of similar natures/frequencies until they move on. In other words, a murderer is placed with other murderers since they are of similar vibration/light frequency levels. I’m afraid the conventional right-wing “Hell” is more of a modification of the Greek “Hades” (and one must remember that HUMANS wrote down the events in the Bible, not God directly as some want to believe and any logical person can point out the inconsistencies and contradictions, especially in the Old Testament, but an intelligent person can ultimately recognize and deduce the truth when they see it in an ethical and logical context in regards to other information such as NDE) but even Plato recognized “The Wheel of Life” and that Hades and indeed “Heaven” as well are not permanent places of residence, but reflect LEARNING centers, negative and positive.

        It’s really not that complicated and people can read more on sites like near-death.com and the parables and relevant parts of the information in the Bible and other religions (Most of them seem to get parts of it right, but none get it all right) all agree with reality, but only when understood in context. So go ahead and believe in nothing. Nothing will be what you get…at first. Having learned nothing and grown not at all in a spiritual sense, you’ll eventually be recycled into another body and maybe this time the seed will take root. If not…well…God is nothing if patient. After all, He has all eternity.

        And I can tell you that what I said is right and wrong and perhaps nothing of the kind since there is no way to know anything for certain. But what I said is what I know to the best of my current level of understanding and having read the books of many religions and experiences (unlike those that blind themselves only to ONE thing they were brought up to believe). And unlike some of you, I do have some prior life memories that check out with the history books to the best of my research. So either I’m a really good liar (as some will conclude) or perhaps what I say is more legitimate than you might think. But all of you will conclude what you will and I cannot control that since all have free will and I have nothing to gain either way. I’m simply sharing some information. The truth is out there, but it’s not as easy to find as some (e.g. literal right-wing type Christians) think it is.

        • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

          Wow, I sort of lost interest somewhere in the fifth paragraph of your novel. But Let me address a few of the points I did manage to get through. I care about people right now. I am pretty sure that when I die, they will still be live the rest of their lives. Since I care about them, I want them to have a good life. My children will probably have children too and right now, I want to make sure that when I die, my grand children and my great grand children who have not yet been born will also live a good life. In fact, i feel a connection to humanity. So I want humanity to live on and live well for a long time to come. Will they all die in the distant future? yeah, so what? do you go to the movies? Why bother? You know that in roughly two hours the movie will be over. If you are like me, then you go to the movies for the experience. I live life for the experience.

          I have no idea what you are talking about when you refer to past lives. I don’t think there is any credible evidence to suggest that we live any lives except the one we are living right now.

          Then you get into cosmology… a subject you clearly don’t understand. So I suggest you check out Lawrence Krauss’s book, “The Universe From Nothing.” You can find the link in the Dangerous Talk bookstore.

          • VonMagnum

            What kind of evidence would you find credible? You find it more probable that you came from nothing and go to nothing. Why even have ANYTHING to begin with? Things come into being and go out of being just for the hell of it? Yeah, that makes sense. I mean seriously, what is the flipping point? It’s all just random crap, I guess. I’d read the book you mention (although why I should read a book when you can’t even read a few paragraphs is beyond me), but what would be the point? I won’t exist and you won’t exist and the Universe eventually won’t exist either so there’s no point to anything. Yeah, I don’t understand anything. But it doesn’t matter because you won’t exist once you die so I’ll have the last laugh since I know you’re full of it. The point is I HAVE past life memories. It’s no mystery to me. I can’t prove it, of course because there’s no evidence you would accept or believe.

  • Stephen D

    Surely you jest. Surely you would be aware of the pain at the death of a loved one and grief that they would no longer be part of your earthly life, which is then mixed with the hope of life beyond the grave that the Warrens would be feeling.

    The Warrens grieve because their son has died, and it’s not the normal order for parents to bury their children. Regardless of what someone believes, that is grief-inducing.

  • someone who cares

    I feel bad for you, to lead such a sad, unhappy life. And to poke at someone who’s child just died. Be careful how you treat people, you will reap what you sow. You are in my prayers.

    • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      Wow, did you even read what I wrote. It is sad that you would attack me and judge my life i the way you have. It is sadder still that you would misrepresent my comments to fit your hateful narrative.

  • twelve year old boy

    ‘am twelve years old and i know the difference between disney world and afterlife. well, just sayin’. ;)

    • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      Okay, I’ll bite. What’s the difference as it relates to grieving? btw, I don’t believe for a moment that you are 12.

  • LukeinNE

    I think it’s a couple of things. First, I think most religious people, really anybody who thinks about it, is going to have at least *some* doubt about the afterlife. Second, as you noted, many conservative Christian theologians would conclude that Matthew is not in Heaven right now, and I have no doubt that thought torments Warren.

    But really, I think it is, as other people noted, the prospect of not having a loved one if your life anymore. Most people, regardless of religion or lack thereof, love being alive. A big part of the joy in being alive is our loved ones and the experiences we share with them. I suspect that if say my brother sent me an email saying that he was moving to Antarctica and I would never see or hear from him again, I would grieve. I also suspect that if you took a poll, most people would rather be the first of their family/friends to die, than the last.

    And of course, there’s probably the sadness on Warren’s part that his son never got to live life fully. He never found happiness, life was a struggle. From a Christian perspective, though much of our theology is focused on the afterlife and getting there, God is pretty clear that it is his desire that we find fulfillment/happiness on earth. So we mourn when young people never find that.

  • Noname

    As someone who lives in a military community, I watch people say “goodbye” to their loved ones on a weekly basis. I’m actually living with someone whose husband is deployed, now. For the past week she has grieved just knowing that she won’t see him for the next 6 months. My point being: people grieve when someone they love deeply is far away. Death is an indefinite separation and I’d say that Christians grieve knowing they will not see their loved one for a prolonged period of time.

  • Too bad

    U can t speak of something u don t know or haven t experienced. But u will. Too bad idiots like myself give u the time of day. Ur an idiot. Wow. All my blessings to u and ur family. No meed to write intelligently. Not worth it

  • tardguy

    Dude, do you have kids? Probably not, because your are clearly too retarded to raise them. But let’s assume you do. Have any of them died? No? Than STFU about a situation you have absolutely no experience with.

    And by the way, for the purposes of debate, I consider myself an atheist but I don’t hide behind atheist apologetics while getting off on other peoples’ tragedies.

    • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      I think the ridiculousness of your comment speaks for itself. Thanks. Next time actually read my post before commenting on it. It will make you look smarter that way. At the very least, read the first two paragraphs.

  • Sam tallo

    Rick Warren believes that Matt is not gone forever, but actually went on to a “better place.” In fact, Rick Warren believes he will see his son again when he dies.

    Any proof he said this?