And if you don’t believe in a god, is it possible to believe in a life after (physical) death?
First though, the results of the atheist/agnostic poll, and many thanks to everyone who answered, and commented of course.
Total votes cast: 38.
Don’t forget it was a multi poll so people could vote in more than one category.
As a reminder, here’s the official study results.
In comparison, my poll had higher percentages of seekers and non-theists, and activists were the same percentage as the intellectual/academics.
Before anyone says anything, yes my poll was a very small sample size, so no, you can’t draw anything statistically meaningful out of it except that a number of people voted, some in more than one category, as how they self identified based on my summary of the categories.
That doesn’t stop it being interesting to people like me who like playing with numbers and putting people into boxes. 😉
I didn’t vote, I self-identify as a non-theist, but like others I have flitted in and out of most categories, including ritualist. Second after non-theist currently for me, would be activist.
First prize for correctly guessing me without hesitation (deviation or repetition), goes to violetwisp, quickly followed by Mak. So if you comment on their blogs, be careful what you say as they are clearly sharp on the character analysis.
Special prize goes to David for being the first to guess, (intellectual) even if it wasn’t the right answer. At the time I was studying Ancient and Medieval History and Archaeology (approx 33BC to 1500AD) with heavy emphasis on the Holy Roman Empire, it would have been a pretty accurate guess as I was quite up on the Council of Nicea and other such riveting snippets of the past.
The topic of atheism leads me nicely into a review of:
Death Never Sleeps, by EJ Simon
This is a cracking read. One of those unputdownable, page turning, don’t-want-it-to-end reads.
Two brothers take different paths in life. One becomes a respectable CEO and Alex, the elder brother, runs a mega loan shark and bookmaking business.
In the first few chapters, Alex is shot dead, and his nice respectable brother becomes involved in his dubious underworld business as he tries to sort out his affairs and find the odd few million Alex stashed away in cash. But where? and how? as Alex never told anyone where he hid it. Then, there’s the question of who killed Alex and why? Because, for all he was involved in shady dealings, it seems everyone thought he was a nice guy.
And, perhaps most important, what was Alex doing spending millions of pounds on fancy software for his souped-up Apple? Now, this is Hal and then some.
Is Alex dead as we know it, or has he truly found a way to communicate with his brother from … well, wherever?
No more about the plot, as it would be a shame to give away spoilers.
This is Simon’s first novel, and it is a very good one. Getting a first novel right isn’t easy, many people make a total botch of it, but Simon hit the ground running with this one.
How? Pacing is spot-on, the storyline is imaginative, the characters are well-drawn and credible, there is no flowery pretentious language, it’s just a good story well-told, with an interesting twist in it.
At around 380 pages, it’s an easy read with short chapters and plenty of white space, so I finished it off in around five hours. And, an added bonus, no errors! Yes, picky roughseas could find no spelling errors or poor dialogue or anything. Damn! OK I did find one quotation mark that I didn’t think should have closed the dialogue. And in the print version, there were four “s that had crept in to non-dialogue pars, but they’d been taken out of the ebook. Pretty good huh?
While it’s basically an enjoyable read for anyone who likes a good mystery/crime story, it does raise some interesting questions.
- Do we really know how far and how fast artificial intelligence is developing? When does virtual reality and perceived reality overlap?
- Can we connect with people after their death? How can they guide us in our life? Or can they?
- And what’s the Vatican doing in there? Up to no good as usual …
- How similar are siblings who have pursued very different paths in lives? Do they ultimately share the same characteristics? Younger brother Michael finds himself becoming interested in his brother’s business operation, leaving his corporate finance world looking bland, uninteresting, and equally as ruthless and immoral, if not moreso than the loan-sharking gambling business he takes over.
I was left reminded of The Godfather, when older brother Sonny was gunned down, and nice boy Michael Corleone (coincidentally the same first name) ended up taking over the family business.
Plus, as a self-avowed food enthusiast, Simon has his characters eat in Italian restaurants, so don’t read this book when you are hungry if you like Italian food.
Death Never Sleeps is the first one in a series, with Death Logs In published last month (October), and the third book, Death Logs Out, due next autumn (2015).
Next week, I’ll be reviewing Death Logs In and it will be interesting to see if it lives up to the promise shown in this book.
He is a consultant to many leading private equity firms and has held senior level positions at prominent financial services companies. Simon describes himself as a world traveller, food enthusiast and lives in Connecticut.
And after reading this book, I was curious enough to want to ask EJ some nosy questions, which were answered suitably quickly (just as well, us journos have deadlines).
Q1 Looking at your career, it’s easy to see how you could develop the character of the ‘good brother’ Michael. But how did you manage to research the background for Alex, who was immersed in illegal betting and loansharking?
- The short answer is that I grew up in Queens, NY. I have been surrounded by interesting “characters” all my life. A successful bookie lived two houses down from me as a child. He would buy a new Cadillac each year – and occasionally have it painted a different color after a short time, for no apparent reason. Now I know why. He described himself as an “inventor.” Our own family was Greek – and they generally love to gamble and enjoy life, it’s part of the culture. I was exposed from an early age to a diverse and interesting cast of characters. I see a lot of these same types of people when I travel back to Queens. I’ll go to one of my favorite restaurants, Piccola Venezia in Astoria, Queens, and it brings back colorful memories. I still have people to call when I need more specific information on bookmaking, loan-sharking and other illegal activities.
Q2 Your writing style is sparse and succinct, which really fits a crime/mystery/suspense novel. Are there any authors in particular who have influenced your style?
- I was influenced by Stuart Woods. He keeps everything moving and relatively simple. He has short chapters which I appreciate. It’s an uncomplicated style that seems like it should be easy to emulate. It isn’t.
- I like to refer to myself as a “Blue Collar” writer. I don’t write literary fiction. I don’t nurse my manuscript for years. I write commercial fiction. I think of myself to be more of a craftsman or an entertainer. I also try to write for people who often don’t read books. That’s a high hurdle to overcome – and by far the largest market in the world.
Q3 Alex and Michael took very different paths in life. Yet Michael adapts to his brother’s business very quickly. To what extent do you think genes are the defining factor that enable someone to adapt to a new and alien environment, and make a success of it as Michael does?
- I can’t separate the influence of genetics as opposed to upbringing. In the books, Michael and Alex had the same parents and grew up in the same home. Clearly, the combination of the two factors gives Michael a predisposition – even if just from the exposure – to be able to handle and succeed at his brother’s business. I believe that Michael has begun to look at himself and ask the same question. The answer may be a bit disturbing to him.
Q4 Do you believe in any of these: a life after death, a life outside our physical bodies, life elsewhere in the universe?
- I struggle with things where there is no physical proof – yet I’ve seen people – psychics – who appear to have the ability to know things that baffle me. I believe that our minds play conveniently comfortable tricks on us. I believe in a lot of coincidences.
- Mostly, however, I believe that no one here on earth has these answers. There may or many not be anything after we die – but I don’t believe that any living human being has any inside information. This isn’t Wall Street.
- I do believe there is life on other planets – but only when we have sent astronauts there.
I’ve read and reviewed this book courtesy of iRead Book Tours. Book (hard copy) supplied by S/Z publishing. Q&A arranged via Laura Fabiani of iRead Book Tours, with EJ Simon and publicist Donald Allen.