Eternity, the Afterlife, and Civilization
The Myth of Eternal Life
You and everyone you know will be dust within a hundred years. It might even be a little bit more, if the life expectancy increases with growing medical technology. Even then, given a hundred years, or maybe a little more, every person you have made an attachment to will be dirt -- or, at least, decomposing and on their way to becoming the lint of the Earth. This will be true even of you. The greatest emperor to the lowliest slave all ultimately share the common fate. In death, there is equality; the equality of dust.
Some religions may disagree. "This lump of dirt is bound for heaven, and that one for hell," Christians and Muslims assert together. "The debris that was once your body shall make up other bodies eternally," the Hindu rationalizes somewhat more. "Your mind can escape the body and exist in perfect harmony outside of the world upon your death," the Buddhist argues. These religions offer the ideal of inequality of dust.
Their missionaries stress, "Yes, even though I may yet die and decompose in my bodily form, I shall have some quality that guarantees my continuance in another existence. The pile of dust that was my body shall be worth infinitely more than the pile of dust that was your body!" Flowers can still bloom after being rooted in any corpse.
It is because of a "soul" or a "spirit" that these religions claim that something in the mind continues after death. The reason why it cannot be proven objectively in a way that convinces everyone, like any other fact of science, is because it is not a fact, but a myth. Even if such people did make it to heaven, they'd probably be easily convinced there that eternity must end somehow -- simply because there would be no proof for it and it would be the only thing they could have faith in. Let us concern ourselves with the observed fact of the issue, and not mystical, unproven assertions about immortality.
Atheism Means Universal Equality
There is a true equality of the dust in Atheism. The common fate to each and every person leads to no preconceptions. Religion taught that woman was inferior to man. The spiritual substance of the woman's heart and mind are less valuable, less trustworthy, less meaningful, than the same of a man; this has been the testament of many of the world's religions today, from Christianity to Hinduism. Even in the end here, though, there is still an equality of dust, as both man and woman must fertilize the same fields eventually.
Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Native American Paganism, Hinduism, and Shinto have given humanity the idea of a chosen or saved people. One people, by race, culture, nationality, or all of these, is exclusively dominant over all others. In these racist cultures, there are individual graves for the selected people, but only mass graves for god's inferiors. Even the dust itself must be segregated! "We all die," says the religionist, "But you are nothing in the eyes of eternity, while I am everything."
Religions tell people that they must acknowledge their place in society. The Hindu system of castes is particularly excessive in this point. "Your decomposed body, once it regenerates into another life form, will be just as servile and submissive as you are in this lifetime, no matter what form you take," the Hindu priest says, "Even if your dust were to rise up with the wind, settle in a new continent, and to become part of that world, you'd still have the same fate. Even if the dirt that was your body grew into corn out of the ground, and was consumed by a mother carrying a child, and the essence of your body become another body -- even then, that child would have to be a miserable servant, like you were. Your next life, again, will have to be as insufferable as your previous. This is the legacy of your dust!"
Christianity produces a similar mindset. The theory of Predestination from Calvinism is its most developed form. A human being is saved before they born, when they are mere nutrients and vitamins in the food to be consumed by their to-be parents; it is at a primitive point when these nutrients were mere dirt in the ground of a farm, when god decides whether you are going to heaven or hell. Why would god even judge a human being on whether they are good or evil, as a human being? Since the soul is eternal, it is just as good or evil when it is dust compared to when it is living.
Catholicism expects the laboring poor to know their place as servile footstools for their masters, while it places a half-hearted obligation to charity on the budget of the rich. Besides the right to work hard for the poor, and the right to be generous for the rich, the Catholic Church considers it unChristian for either of these classes to change their place in society. Throughout the Bible and all various sects, there is an urging for the laboring poor to "know their place." Socialism is the new Satan, teaching people to act like human beings and not like the soil beneath everyone's feet.
In the end, god may look at your remains and say, "Ah, what a lovely little pile of grime and dust! It so dutifully fulfilled its obligations toward subservience and obedience." The ordinary dirt that's swept out of houses gains a magical, religious quality, either living within the house of god or a guest to the dwelling of Satan. Even the chains that held you to your spot in life will rust and rot, though retaining the blessings that the church gave to them. Perhaps, if you are lucky, you can be buried side-by-side and decompose together.
To all of these claims, from one preacher to the next, Atheism boldly declares, it's just a pile of dirt!! The idea of eternal life might have sounded appealing to me at one time. Now that I hear all of the ridiculous properties they give to simple dust, I feel relieved that once I die, I may at last be no more! I do not want to worry for eternity that the ashes and grit that made up my body must be concerned with maintaining its virtue and integrity for eternity. Let me escape all of those pathetic, unbelievable expectations that they're holding up for me once I'm dead!
Revolting Against the Dead Ideas
In the end, everything alive will decompose into the same heap of primitive, organic material; everyone will be equalized to the position of fertilizer for the growing plants. No matter the differences of class, race, culture, religion, ideas, or even species, everyone returns to the basic, carbon-based molecules, freely interchanged with others, to make new life. Literally, we all return to the unmolded clay.
There are no preconceived ideas about right or wrong. There is no "inherent place" for anyone. There is nothing particular about any group of living beings that makes them either superior or inferior to anyone else. Women revolting against patriarchy, workers on strike, or slaves overthrowing their masters -- these are not people acting outside of some prescribed role given to them. These acts are made by individuals, and that necessarily defines them for the individuals they are. We all turn to dirt in the end, so the only meaning we create can be done while we are alive. We have no control of it when we are physically dust, whether it is before or after we have become conscious beings.
The nature of a single person is not what we want it to be, but what it is. Given the history of mankind, that nature is intimately bound up with the revolt against oppression. There is no revolution that will sanction the Revolution, except the equality of dust.