Mass murderer Timothy McVeigh handed over a copy of the poem "Invictus" to his executioners just before he died. The poem served as McVeigh's "last word." It reads:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
McVeigh was, arguably, an atheist, and this poem serves him well. (Of course from this it does not follow that if one is an atheist one will do what McVeigh did.)
Today, as I taught a class of students at Monroe High School about worldview and religious diversity and how it relates to healthcare, I thought of the following worldviews and how they relate to the soul, if the soul is thought of as a ship.
- Theism - God is captain of the ship
- Atheism - I am captain of the ship
- Agnosticism - We can't know if the ship is being captained
- Deism - God has abandoned the ship
- Polytheism - the ship has 330 million captains
- Pantheism - The captain is the ship
- Monism - There is no ship