Saturday 1 November 2014

What's So Great About Eternal Life?

The problem for theists of the Abrahamic varieties is that all they really have is a promise of jam tomorrow. All they really have to offer is the hope of an eternal life but you have to die first and spend your life as though its a preparation for this eternal life and for which, to qualify, you have to live to strict rules.

Needless to say, the rules are conveniently made and interpreted by the same people who sell you the promise of jam tomorrow...

But let's suppose for a moment that these unctuous bazaar traders with their ingratiating smirks and open hands are not really selling a pig in a poke but that there really is an eternal afterlife and that you've somehow managed to qualify for it. What should you expect?

This afterlife supposedly takes place in some assumed spirit realm where it's not you in your earthly body which is going to be living it. Your earthly body is going to remain behind - at least that what all the mainstream religions teach and I know of none which promise that you can take your body with you. In fact that would rather defeat the object because it would mean you actually didn't die, so no life after death, as such. So let's assume they are right about that too and this afterlife is going to be spent without a body. Whatever it is that's going to be living this eternal life, it's not going to have the body you've had so far in this one.

But isn't your body the very thing you experience everything with? Don't you see, hear, taste, smell, feel and make love with it? And isn't it to maintain this body and keep it seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling and making love that you breathe, eat and drink and excrete waste?

And of course, all this sensing of stuff is what we call experiencing things. It's how we experience life, in fact. For that we need a functioning nervous system consisting of sensory nerves and a central nervous system or brain and spinal cord. We know this is so because damage to our nerves and central nervous system reduces or abolishes our senses altogether. We can do this with chemicals or injury so this can't really be doubted. Without a nervous system we can't sense anything.

So, in this eternal life, we won't be able to experience anything. We won't hear the supposed heavenly choir or see the wonderful things that are supposed to be there for our eternal delight. We won't need to eat or drink, and even if we could we couldn't taste whatever it is we were eating and drinking. We wouldn't be able to make love even if that were allowed; not even so much as a kiss and a cuddle let alone a gentle fumble or little horizontal jogging. And even if we could we wouldn't actually feel anything.

But let's put all that practical stuff aside and assume that somehow we are going to be provided with a replacement nervous system and some sort of functioning body to replace our earthly one which, for all practical purposes is the same as our earthly one and it's not going to be like living inside someone else's body and experience someone else eating, drinking, touching, making love and excreting waste - imagine coughing up someone else's phlegm! Let's assume we are going to be, for all practical purposes, alive just like being alive on Earth. What then is this eternal life going to be like?

Firstly, of course, we are going to have a grandstand view of all those people we ever loved but who never managed to make it through the obstacle course of life without falling a time or two, being tortured for eternity. We will live for eternity knowing that they are going to suffer unimaginable pain for eternity and there is not a thing we can do about it - if the people who sell us the hopes and fears of life after death in return for control over our lives are to be believed.

We will live for eternity doing one thing after another until we become utterly bored to death with it but will not even have the release of death. We will have to endure the company of people we would never have chosen as friends when alive. And can you imagine an eternity spent in the presence of smugly sanctimonious, self-satisfied religious bigots free from even the small amount of self-doubt they might have had when alive?

We will have no motivation to achieve because we will not have any needs. We will not need food, warmth and shelter; we will not need to earn either self esteem or the esteem of others because who could doubt our virtuousness? We will not need to impress others because we will not need the love and affection of others and how could we self-actualise in any better way than by knowing we made it to Paradise and that God loves us? No motivation; not even a reason to get out of bed, assuming we ever needed to sleep.

What eternal life would have to offer, even if we could somehow overcome the problem of not having a body, is a life of inevitable, inescapable boredom, relieved only by watching those we loved suffering unimaginable horrors and beyond our help. That might appeal to psychopaths and the sort of people who actually look forward to the 'Rapture' or Armageddon, but normal people might think that a definition of Hell. You might even consider it better to not have a brain to crave unavailable stimulation and so endure unutterable, inescapable boredom with.

But in all probability, if we believe what the frauds who sell us this primitive notion tell us, it will be a life with no feelings, no thoughts, no ability to sense and experience anything and devoid of love and human contact. In fact, it would be a life indistinguishable from the oblivion that those of us who don't fall for the bazaar trader's smirking promises believe awaits us.

So, what's it to be: oblivion following a life lived as though it's the only one you're ever going to have and where you need to pack as much experience in as you can, or oblivion following a life given over to the control of others and lived according to their false promises, as though it's a preparation for something better later?

So much for Pascal's Wager.

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1 comment :

  1. If a person can be compassionate and remain indifferent to suffering then there will be no compassion in heaven. If there is compassion in heaven, then there is suffering too.
    As I like to remind my devout aunt, if the cries and anguish that reach her in heaven don't move her as I suffer in that fiery place below, then whatever it is that is observing my fate will be unrecognizable as her, because she is a loving and caring woman and she has loved and cared for me all her life.
    So I tell her "It won't be YOU in heaven."


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