“Don’t speak ill of the dead.” – a whole bunch of people.
Ever noticed how people are very respectful and reverend around dead people? It’s fine to say they are mean, vicious, bigoted and nasty while they’re alive, but once they are dead, then “ooo, don’t speak ill of them.” Where did this crazy mentality come from?
Image from findagrave.com
It’s possible that it comes from people simply showing respect to the grieving family, but so often it is still “enforced” by more than just assertive nose-up-in-the-air politeness freaks, when the grieving family isn’t around. So, I suspect that the belief in the afterlife may play a role here. Perhaps souls come back and take revenge when they hear nasty stuff. I’m probably wrong, but it was fun to point out anyway.
I’m not so concerned by where the idea came from anyway, but simply how absurd it is. The dead guy, yeah, he doesn’t care what you say, he’s dead, he knows nothing (I’m an atheist, but the Bible agrees, Ecc 9:5). But let’s for a moment assume the unlikely event that there is some kind of being out there that keeps souls functioning after death. This being gets to decide whether you go to Heaven or Hell, paradise or purgatory, or whatever you want to call it.
So the bloke dies, and goes to heaven, he’s in heaven, what are the chances he cares what you think or say? After all, he couldn’t possibly be upset in Heaven, or it wouldn’t be Heavenly. Nah, he was a bad bloke, which is why people are saying bad stuff about him, so he’s in Hell (bet few of you ever heard that from the pastor at a funeral). He probably doesn’t care much what you’re saying, he has enough of a more immediate problem, eternal fire and brimstone.
Perhaps you prefer reincarnation? Then the person is likely a tree, or a cockroach, or if you’re very good, you get to come back as a rat. Apart from the fact that none of these understand what you’re saying about the previous them, they probably also have more immediate problems, like bird shit, rattex and shoe soles.
So, the odds of anyone who is dead caring what you say about them are very slim. On the other hand, while they’re alive, your words can actually be very damaging. So, I think a good mantra to live by, is that we should just treat people as if we think they are dead, we’ll probably have a much more peaceful society.