X: You need to be ready for death. It comes for all of us. Everyone has to die and then after that, go to either heaven or hell. Where will you spend eternity?

A: Well, that's not how I see it.

X: Oh? How do you see it?

A: I doubt it will make any sense to you.

X: Try me.

A: Okay... I have no idea where the universe came from, and I don't see any reason to believe there's an intelligence behind it. I think "It just happened" is as good a story as any to explain the origin of the universe.

X: But if there's a creation, doesn't there have to be a creator who created it?

A: I don't think so. If there's a tree in the forest, does there have to be a planter who planted it? I think trees get planted by seeds falling randomly off adult trees and sprouting where they are. I don't think there's an intelligence behind the planting of each individual tree.

I don't know where the universe came from and I don't know where I came from. I've been told stories -- God created me, my parents had sex, the stork brought me -- but I don't know from my own experience where I came from because that is not part of the experience I remember. As far as I can remember, I've always been here.

X: But I remember times before you were born.

A: That's your experience. I'm talking about my experience. Can you remember a time before you were here? Based on your experience doesn't it seem like you've always been here? Can you remember a time when you weren't?

X: No.

A: That's what I'm saying. Based on my experience, not the stories I've been told, I've always been here.

X: But you know that's not true.

A: No, what I know is what I've experienced. Trusting a story I've been told over my own experience seems like craziness to me.

X: But what about stuff that happens outside your experience?

A: What about it? As far as I can tell, it's imaginary for me. All I have is my experience. All you have is your experience plus the stories you've been told, which you trust more than your own experience. I discount the stories and look to see what I can know from my experience.

X: Isn't that limiting?

A: I guess you think so. I don't find it so. I find it liberating. Looking at my experience, what I discover is that what I am seems to be a field of awareness that receives and processes sensations. Thoughts and emotions arise within that awareness. Looking closely at them, they turn out to be specialized sensations that have been given meaning. Most of my thoughts are spoken internally by an imaginary voice. So they are virtual sounds. Some thoughts are images seen in the mind's eye. So they are virtual vision. Most of my emotions are kinesthetic sensations in the body coupled with a thought about what the sensation means.

The sensations seem to tell me about an external world which contains other body/mind apparatuses like myself that I can talk to and interact with. So here we are.

So there's the awareness and there are the sensations, thoughts, and emotions. Memories seems to be thoughts that tell a story about what happened in the past. Some of them are accurate and some are not. Sometimes I want to recall a thought and it's elusive. I can't remember someone's name or birthday or some other detail about them.

It seems that most human beings identify with their memories and personal identity. I think the personal identity is just another thought. I think what I really am is the awareness that processes the thoughts. The idea of "who I am" is a thought being processed by awareness.

X: So you think you're awareness. Who do you think I am?

A: I think you're awareness, too. I think you think you're your personal identity -- your memories and preferences and desires with a personal name attached.

X: But if you're awareness and I'm awareness, why don't we have access to each other's experience?

A: We're different instances of awareness. In a computer, the same program can run in different processes. The e-mail program running over here won't see the messages handled by the same program running in a different process over there. It's the same sort of thing going on in bodies. Awareness is the program. Personal identity is the data being processed by the program. We can identify with the program or with the data.

I identify with the program. When this instance terminates, i.e., dies, the personal data will disappear. The program will continue running in all the other brains everywhere.

You're hoping to save your personal data by having Jesus back it up on the server in the sky. I don't think that's possible because I don't think there is a server in the sky other than the reality we live it. And because I identify with the program rather than the data, I don't think it's important that the personal data be saved. When this particular instance of personal data disappears, I as the program won't. I'll still be running in you and her and him and everyone else.

X: What if you're wrong? What if reality is just as the Bible says?

A: What if it is? What if you're wrong? What if God is as the Muslims think? Or what if God is really Odin and only the warriors who die in battle are admitted to the feasthall at the end of time? We can play that game all day. We each have to decide what we think makes sense and go on with that. Based on my experience, what makes sense to me is that I am awareness running in a particular body/mind and I'm not separate from all that is. From my perspective, "God" is a concept that was invented by people who couldn't get their heads around how awareness works.

So, does that make sense to you?

X: No, it really doesn't.

A: Told you so.


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