07 April 2010

a deliberate attempt to become offensive to

Religious types

Unlike the "some atheists" named in the story, I find the concept of an afterlife, either heaven or hell, to be one of religion's more pernicious belief structures. I don't find it comforting. I don't care if other people find it so, and I don't try to talk them out of their comforts. I accept that people find the rituals of their religious faiths comforting when dealing with grief and pain. I don't think they find the concept of heaven or hell so comforting. For one thing, it's hard to find anyone who actively believes a loved one is going to hell upon the event of their death, which suggests to me that few people truly grapple with the theological implications of their thinking. To me the idea that you would find peace, grace, or whatever it is promised through this concept, often granted solely through your faith, upon the event of your death, is insulting. It suggests to the mind that your actual life, at least the one you can be reasonably sure you are living and interacting within the confines of right now, in your past experience, and hopefully some time into the future, is meaningless. Of the two, I find the concept of believing in hell the least bad option, because it at least implies that people would be penalized in some manner for their choices and actions in this life; that this life has some quantifiable or quality of value and that one should take care to use it well and wisely for methods of advancing good and decent lives rather than to destroy, defame, and harm others. Hell to me is like Santa Claus for adults. Heaven is just the toys they ask for. It's a little less reflective of how people should behave or what value they place on their lives.

The afterlife is also incredibly lazy thinking. It looks like a narcotic effect, a mind-altering sensibility. It grants license for a great many offenses against other peoples, other faiths, through the notion that they do not share our consensus vision of paradise. Most pernicious of all, it presents the idea that there is time enough in eternity to make up for our lacks in life, anything from things left unsaid to loves left unrequited to desires un-sated. This conception of afterlife is so pernicious and unhealthy a notion that it leaves us only with the unfortunate task of actually being alive and experiencing whatever joys and pains that this provides us, of the duty to satisfy our passions or to recognize our suffering. Maybe people think it is safer to live in a cocoon, sheltered away from their memories on the logic that they will be returned to them a thousandfold in some other way or time or place. But I think they're being silly at best to avoid their fear of death by absolving themselves of the privilege of being alive in the first place.
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