The Afterlife Of The Party

29 05 2008

Mr President sincerely regrets that there might possibly have been a minor delay in delivering today’s dose of Textual Relations. Some of you may have found today’s post only in the afternoon, but as we all know, he always posts every morning. Any inconvenience caused was neither desirable nor intended, and is clearly regrettable. He hopes you will forgive those responsible.

Following the overwhelming success (17 comments is the new Textual Relations record) of his last post on religion, Mr President thought he might return to the topic. Not least of all because the discussion in the comments section only served to make him think even more about where he stands on several theological and philosophical issues.

What was particularly spooky was that one of the commentators hit upon the topic he planned to discuss today, pretty much on the nail. Having asked whether one needs God to be good, he turns now to the big issue; the afterlife. There are a few issues with regards to the afterlife that he’d like to touch upon, but lets start at the beginning.

Unfortunately the first issue is the big one, the one that will probably lead to a dead end (pardon the pun) because it’s something that’s very personal to each individual. Just as the big question behind the last question, does one need God to be good, is whether God exists, the big question about the afterlife is whether there is one. Unfortunately there can be no conclusive answer on this, and Mr President won’t purport to give you one; he personally doesn’t believe in one, but there’s no evidence to back this up.

What he will do is put forward some reasons why he’s chosen not to believe in one, and those in turn raise other issues he wishes to discuss. The first, and possibly most pressing one, is whether the very concept of an eternal afterlife in Heaven reduces the value of the life we lead here on Earth. Think about it. If there’s an afterlife, then earthly life is really just a dress rehearsal for the real thing. What’s that really worth?

What value does our mortal life have if there’s an eternity to come after it? We don’t, on average, even live to a hundred years. What’s that compared to eternity? Even the phrase “drop in the ocean” doesn’t do justice to it, as the ocean has a finite volume, yet eternity is, by definition, infinite. Why really make something of your earthly life if you’re going to have an eternal one after? Where’s the motivation to achieve something?

According to the Bible if we embrace Jesus, we go to Heaven, so anything else we do is pretty moot. Is it really worthwhile getting a good job? Why? Why not work a job that’ll pay the bills, but no more, and spend all that extra free time worshipping, whether it be in church or reading the Bible? Surely that’d be a more fruitful use for your time?

Interestingly if you, as some Christians may, choose to answer that the earthly life is devalued by the afterlife, and that this isn’t a bad thing, and may even have been what God intended (that this life serve as a “test” for the real thing), that simply serves to make the church’s pro-life stance ironic, at the very least, and arguably hypocritical.

Moving on to the second issue, which is whether we really need an afterlife to be good, and this is really just an extension of whether we need a God to be good. There the question is whether we needed a paternal figure to make us good, the “stick” if you will, whereas here the issue is more why we require a reward, the “carrot”, of Heaven.

Would Christians still be good if God told them that there was no afterlife? Why do they embrace Jesus? It can’t be because they need God to be good, we’ve already established that nobody does. It must, then, be in order to go to Heaven, right? Let him make clear at this point that he’s not trying to offend Christians, nor is he attacking them or singling them out. The last debate just happened to centre on Christianity.

Is it merely the hope of salvation that drives Christians to be good? He doesn’t think so, but rather thinks it’s their own internal moral compasses that do that, so why do we need Heaven? Why are so many Christians (and not all are like this, to be fair) willing to condemn people, such as homosexuals, just because they believe they’ll go to Hell?

Playing devil’s advocate here for a moment, if Christians only embrace Jesus as their path into Heaven, is their “goodness” really genuine? Do they really deserve that place beside God, when there are people who have been truly good without asking for anything in return? If God is good, why does he not reward those whose “goodness” is, arguably, more sincere? Far be it, though, for Mr President to judge anyone’s sincerity.

Mr President doesn’t believe that we need an afterlife to be good in this one, and actually goes further to say that the afterlife, as a concept, makes our earthly one seem worthless. He, however, values life, he prefers to see each day as potentially his last, and his last to actually be his last. This way he squeezes more juice from the orange.


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2 responses

31 05 2008
DB

Ok, I’ll bite. No afterlife. Period. Even if there was one, why would it be the Christian one? Only 32% of the world’s population is Christian, or accepts that salvation is through Christ. Why would the only standards to heaven be via the Christian method? Would the gods, in all their power and knowledge doom 68% of mankind simply because they do not live in Christian countries? And this assumes that all 32% are even worthy of going to heaven. I doubt the afterlife of 68% of people is going to be hell. With those percentages, it doesn’t seem like the Christian god loves his creation too much. Heck, even Christians don’t agree on the route to heaven. Granted, one could argue that the gods makes the choice of who enters heaven and not religion, but then I ask, why would it matter what religion you are then? Still assuming there is an afterlife or heaven independently of Christianity, would it not be how you act in this life that determines your fate in the next, and not what you believe?

2 06 2008
Mr President

Exactly. For me it just doesn’t all add up. I don’t buy it.

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