Apartment buildings can be rebuilt. So can hospitals, shopping centers, elder care homes, and all the other structures being destroyed by Russia's purposeful bombing of civilian areas, a clear war crime.
What can't be undone are the many thousands of deaths: soldiers on both sides, plus women, children, the elderly, and other Ukrainians unable to flee Putin's invasion.
After Russia started this war, I've had this thought whenever I feel like my day isn't going well: I do have some problems, but I'm alive, and I don't have to worry about a missile demolishing my home.
There's a stark divide between life and death. Nothing else is so clear-cut.
Often I wish that my life was better in this way or that way. But when death comes to us, as it will for everyone, there's no better or worse for us after we take our last breath.
Because there's nothing at all. At least, that's the most likely outcome. If you believe in life after death, great. Whatever works for you.
However, you must admit that this belief isn't proven reality. It's a hope, not a certainty, nor even a reasonable possibility.
So when I hear reports of, say, 56 people being killed at an elder care home by a Russian tank, I'm saddened by lives needlessly cut short. (I wrote about this yesterday on one of my other blogs.)
Yes, I understand that many or most Ukrainians would rather die fighting against Russia than surrender to Putin. Their courage is amazing. Along with most of the world, I admire Ukraine's determination to battle Russia's unprovoked invasion without any hint of surrender.
It's the death of innocents that disturbs me the most, not the death of those who choose to take up arms against Russia.
Life is tremendously precious. Nobody knows this better than us atheists. We don't have a belief in life after death to assuage the pain of someone dying much too soon, or much too horribly. Yet it also is true that most religious believers lack a confidence that death is a beginning, not the end.
Russia has become more religious in the past few decades. But I'm confident that when the parents of the thousands of Russian soldiers who have died in Ukraine so far learn the fate of their sons, they will be as grief-stricken as atheist parents would be.
Death is the great equalizer. Few people want to die. Almost everyone wants to live as long as possible, and as well as possible.
Thus if the Russian people really understood the horrors Putin has unleashed on Ukraine, almost certainly their approval of the war would be much less than it is now -- since Putin has squashed independent reporting on the war and has made it a crime to criticize the war, with a punishment of 15 years in prison.
I'd like it if the United States and our NATO allies would establish a peacekeeping force in Ukraine to minimize further civilian casualties. Probably this won't happen, but I can hope. Life and death shouldn't be left in the hands of politicians, especially tyrants like Vladimir Putin.