(About a 4 minute read)
When I was younger, I thought an afterlife was a great idea. I was told that you get what you want in heaven. I guess that’s what sold me on it. It seemed like being able to do whatever I wanted to do was a small price to pay for all the hoops that I would need to jump through.
But as usual, with age came wisdom, and wisdom has given me doubts about how good eternal bliss would be. I nowadays ask a few questions about the practicalities of such a location.
Different folks have different heavens, but let’s start with the Christian one. If I die now whilst writing this, do I go to heaven in the state I am in now? If I die when I am a mere bag of flesh and bones at age 100, do I stay like that? Forever?
This carrot offered for a lifetime of submission does seem like a trick to get me to live by someone else’s values. There are so many ‘what if’ questions that could be asked when it comes to the afterlife that it seems to me very unfair in debates to those trying to defend it.
Wouldn’t we eventually get bored of heaven?
We all know retired people get bored and go back to work. You don’t have the highs without the lows, and in heaven, there are no lows, so how can you be happy? Unless we get entirely re-wired, so we are continually waking up on Christmas morning — but then if we get re-wired, we will be different people?
For those of you out there who are deep thinkers, do you think eternal life in heaven would be a good thing? If you have ruminated on it for more than a ten-minutes, I will wager that you have your doubts.
The idea of an afterlife will be entirely different depending on what time and location you were born in. I don’t imagine the kings, queens, tribal war chiefs, and pharaohs will be too pleased you’re their equal when you arrive. If I know humans, there will be a hierarchy.
In our 300,000 year existence, we are yet to experience an absence of expiration: We all die. In light of this, we have always wondered what happens when we die, since we cannot gather any data on how consciousness changes when we die. But I suspect it is somewhat similar to the period before we were born.
Another thought I have is that we are so desperate to cling onto the life we have, with all our medical advances and fascination with fitness; it may be a sign we are not entirely convinced there is something else.
If we had lived in ancient Greece or Israel around the seventh century BC, we would not have believed in heaven and hell. Instead, we would have believed in a middle ground type situation beneath the earth with Hades or Sheol.
The Christian era seems to be where the idea of heaven and hell took its final form. Those that are good go to heaven and those that are bad go to hell. Neither of which can you leave of your own volition. Both are eternal prisons with no possibility of escape – not even through death⃰.
Is it not like us in the west to design a system of worship with the ultimate reward being a manifestation of our materialistic desires? You only need to observe how the formerly religious holiday of Christmas has been overtaken by materialism to know who is in the lead. The eternal bliss that is associated with heaven suggests that hedonism is the one true ethical theory.
“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca (c. 4 BC – A.D. 65).
I can’t think of any bigger, juicer, more satisfying carrot than heaven, nor any bigger, spikier stick than hell.
I do feel for those “common people” who take it hook, line and sinker, or even for those who take it coated in sugar with their coffee in the morning. I think that because the universe can often seem unjust, many people hope that “on the other-side” everything is just and all the wrongs that have been dealt onto someone will be made right. I guess, in certain situations thinking like this is the only way one can continue. I suspect this is the basis behind many religious ideas.
For better or for worse, the idea of an afterlife has shaped society and continues to do so, although I would argue, in a diminishing capacity. I also have a suspicion that if people did not believe in an afterlife, they would be slightly less intent on bringing it to everyone by destroying the planet on many fronts.
Thank you for being so kind as to read this. I blog at “Learning to Write”, and am grateful to Paul for inviting me to post as a guest author on his blog. Please feel invited to visit me at my own blog! Everyone welcome!