I woke up early today with a long list of problems to solve and chores to finish. I started the day off by breaking one of the 10 Commandments (I chose to work on the sabbath). I finished my list of chores and solved many of the problems I set out to solve, and then I came home and worked up an entire new set of chores and problems to solve. Indeed, writing this post is both a chore and a solvable problem (how do I word this correctly?). By reading this you are completing a chore and solving a problem (do I understand what he’s trying to say?). By completing chores (both good and bad) and solving problems, we enable ourselves to form memories of the experiences. These memories form the basis of our experience of time. They also serve as a list of our accomplishments and failures, both of which exist in our perception of time.
This reality creates a paradox when thinking about eternal life. Generally speaking in the religious context, eternal life is characterized by the conceptions of eternal bliss (heaven) and eternal suffering (hell). With a few exceptions (some branches of Buddhism and Hinduism, for example), there is no in between. In many religions we die and experience the totality of one extreme and a null of the other. Both concepts of eternal life are completely meaningless.
Within the concept of eternal bliss, by definition we can have no pains and no concerns. There are no lists of chores to accomplish and no lists of problems to solve. Everything is perfect, painless, and certain. We can develop no meaningful memories if everything is always the same and we are forever stationed on the premise of bliss. If everything is eternally blissful then when do we sit back and take stock of our accomplishments? When do we feel relieved that a chore or problem didn’t end in failure? Furthermore, if we are under the system of eternal bliss, at least one of two non-mutally exclusive realities is necessary: 1) Eternal bliss is quite boring, or 2) Because we have no basis on which to form meaningful memories, eternity will inhabit a period of time smaller than the smallest measurement of time. Time without end will inhabit the same “space” (for lack of a better word) as a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a nanosecond.
Eternity in a mind-numbing paradise might be better understood as a mind-numbing torture. Either way, the concept of eternal bliss is meaningless, and we might be better off not existing at all.
In some Christian canons, hell is either a place where the Israelites burn garbage or a place where human sinners go to die a second death. Other religious (including many Christian) canons view hell as a place of eternal punishment. (The correct answer, according to the bible, is hell is a place where people go to die a second death, not eternal punishment).
Either way, if our existence is an eternity of suffering, then it should be safe to assume we experience no success, but instead eternal failure. If every act we take represents a totality of pain and a totality of failure, then it’s completely meaningless. Objective pain needs to be subjective to our other experiences. So what’s the base line? Infinity again would inhabit a tiny speck of time.
No. I don’t think there’s one to offer. Believers should have a difficult time with this one outside of complete conjecture. To illustrate this point, there is not a single verse in the Christian holy book that describes life beyond this one. Not one. Some verses call heaven “a city,” which doesn’t tell us anything. Others refer to it as a place where god sits on a throne and makes “all things new.” And some refer to heaven as a giant mansion. But there is no verse that says anything about eternal bliss. The best the bible says is that do-gooders will receive everlasting life, which we can only conceptualize as a life filled with the same problems we already have — not a life of eternal bliss.
But that too would be rather tedious. If we have an eternity to complete our chores and solve our problems, there’s no problem too big to solve and no chore too complicated to finish. We would either have no incentive to complete chores and solve problems, or we would get no satisfaction from doing so because, even with minimum effort, it would be a given that we wouldn’t fail.
Instead death is the reality that makes our memories and accomplishments meaningful. Death is a compelling motivator.
Finitude, not infinity, gives us meaning.
Love your last two lines.
In regards to the Heaven thing, I think think philosophical argument (since we’re dealing with god and that means possibilities are literally endless in terms of what it could be) is that god could create a reality where you can feel the thrill of accomplishment and satisfaction without you ever having to do anything. First response: Well isn’t that hollow? Well not in an alternate state of existence where it wouldn’t be hollow. You would never even conceive of it as hollow.
But it’s all just a battle of make believe. You could argue anything to make Heaven sound appealing.
The real argument to be made is that afterlife on a whole sucks because it devalues real life, which is what I got from your last paragraph and full heartedly agree with.
Well said, and thanks for the response!
On a side note, at first I wanted to write about eternity (infinity) as a mathematical concept and compare it to the afterlife. For example, “as the afterlife reaches infinity” (As X reaches the “limit”)… This “limit” of the proposed afterlife is essentially meaningless, and therefore not something we should discuss. But then I started thinking about it in philosophical ways and abandoned my original plan. I might still write in mathematical/physics terms later on.
Reblogged this on myatheistlife and commented:
Yep, most Christians don’t read their book and don’t know what it says about heaven. You can find out: http://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/heaven-bible-verses/
It’s not much of a promised eternity…
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“The best the bible says is that do-gooders will receive everlasting life…”
While we can speculate about the configuration and workflow of eternity, one facet that needs no speculation is that your existence in eternity is not determined by your deeds. It’s determined by your choices.
While our culture continues to couple education, wealth and morality, Christianity includes these factors. Witness American cultures response to the assault of children and loved ones by multi millionaire athletes in the NFL. The “drama” of these events is our cultural presumptions that these behaviors are not a part of the lives of professional athletes. Seriously?
Of course we believe this. Why else would we express disbelief when, having attained ones life goals, a reasonable modicum of education (western societys solution to whatever ails us), and truckloads of money and endless fame would anyone STILL think bashing in a loved ones face our mutilating a child persist as choices and behaviors? Shouldn’t success, game, our fortune e extinguish or suppress those traits, improving the human condition. Unfortunately, we all know the answer.
Eternal life with Good our eternal separation from Him is not a function of “doing good”as you posit, but I’d determined by your assessment of the validity of the gospel as truth or fiction. Do you choose to believe what God has said about Himself? Do you believe what He has said about you? These are the choices.
Our Creator has given us the power of prerogative. Choose wisely and do good. Whether or not our eternal selves are in the presence of God or long for Him depends on it. “Do gooders”, you can’t be serious!
Fine, replace “do-gooders” with anything you like. It doesn’t change anything.
And no. I don’t “choose” any belief. It is totally impossible for anyone to choose to believe anything. If you don’t believe me, try it. Try to believe something you otherwise don’t believe. Try to believe Jesus lied, even for a minute. You’ll find that you can’t do it. Try to believe Zeus is the real god. Unless you already believe this, you’ll find it’s impossible to choose. Belief is not something we choose. Belief is a position we came to based on our observations, not an active choice.
This is a point I’ve always been making! Even though I disagree with your post on eternal life being meaningless and boring by definition, I wholly agree that the Christian notion of “choosing to believe” is absurd. I can choose to believe what someone tells me might be true, then go check it out. Otherwise “I don’t know” is the only honest position.
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I think this kind of prose can take the edge off death, but I’m not convinced it satisfies me. No, it think I’d prefer an option to live as long as I’d like, sleep as much as if like, party, write, play, talk to friends, watch kids do what they do… Which is why morons can sell religion: because people want what it has to offer…
But, since it is lie (eternal life), then I either kill myself or live.
Living is clearly the better option, and your post is for as good a reason as any.
Nicely written, and I agree in spirit. I’m not trying to damper the mood, just offer my own take.. The pessimists view! Haha
Eternal bliss is boring?! I bet you can’t say that when you’re coked-up.
@ Paul- Coked up (Like powdered white nose) or Cooked up, (as in referring to Cooking in hell)? If its Coked up, I don’t think anyone would mind anything, because they are in a drug induced bliss. If its cooked up as in cooking in Hell, ya, that would suck.
Hey Rayan, good post. I am still a young believer as you already know, and from what I gather about the promises of eternal life thus far, the vast majority of the Heaven/Hell duality concept isn’t really in the Bible, but rather a reformatted version of the Catholics view. That is to say, the Bible was translated in ways to help carry certain views.
No where have I found yet that it says we die, go to heaven and join the eternal band of harp players for example.
It really seems to indicate more, that the New Jerusalem will come, we rule and reign with Christ for a 1000 years, then Satan is release from the bottomless pit to gather the armies of the world one last time, God vanquishes them all, then the Heavens and Earth pass and we are restored to Eden like conditions.
Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d ever get tired of riding Lions, Rhinos, or Pterodactyl (Think like the move Avatar) horseback style. That sounds fun to me :). However the Bible also seems to indicate, all though yes he will wipe away all our tears and sorrow and such, there will be ranks, and differing levels of society even in the “eternal” life, but that life doesn’t seem to be in “Heaven” but rather a new existence here on Earth, or a new Earth, in which from that point Christ will rule and reign forever.
People will still have tasks to accomplish, we just wouldn’t have issues like, murder, theft, world hunger and the likes. But even in the Garden of Eden, our job was to take care of the plants and animals.
I guess from your standpoint that may eventually get tiring, but that’s where daily rest comes in handy. Who’s not to say in the “eternal” life of the new world, would we not still need to sleep. Just because its an eternal life, would we retain ever memory, thus it would all blur together over millennia and thus be meaningless, or would we still forget what we had to eat last Thursday for dinner? I think Eternal life will fit more the later, and mirror more what life is now, just without all the bad.
At least, this is what I gather from the scriptures, and not from peoples ideas of what Heaven, and Hell, are.
Take it easy man.
I think Eternal life will fit more the later, and mirror more what life is now, just without all the bad.
This is an excellent indictment against god. If god can create a place like earth without all the “bad” then he is a sadistic monster for creating the present earth that we now inhabit. The bible is straight forward about the majority of mankind being separated from god-ending up in hell. So what’s the point? god is an epic failure- so much for omnipotent!
Stop drinking the kool aid! I wasted ten years of my life believing in ancient christian garbage. Save yourself some time and walk away now…