Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Afterlife Concept Devalues Earthly Existence; Celebrates Death

No surprise here. I've been saying this since I started this blog, but it’s nice to have someone else say so. In this case, John Bice from has an article with the same name of this post. You can find it here.

Lets look at some of the things Mr. Bice says:

If no afterlife exists, our lives are finite, unique and precious. There are no second chances or rewards; when we die, we're dead.

Alternatively, if an eternal and infinitely preferable life exists subsequent to this one, human life is diminished. An everlasting and flawlessly idyllic afterlife, overflowing with ineffable delights, means that our earthly existence — no matter how long it lasts or relatively good it might be — is insignificant and less desirable in comparison.

More than one Christian, when pressed, has admitted to me that they're essentially "biding their time," avoiding sin and waiting for their eternal reward. How sad.

This is music to my mind. Why isn't Mr. Bice writing editorials for the New York Times? I have become an instant fan of him. And he continues:

Perhaps this explains why many religions regard suicide as a grave mortal sin. Without such prohibition, certainty of belief in heaven could prompt highly faithful people to shorten their earthly lives and hasten their trip to paradise, which would translate into fewer congregants.

Viewing the evolution of religion from a Darwinian perspective, as a meme, one would expect successful modern faiths to discourage suicide and promote sexual reproduction, which is precisely what we see. Suicidal cults, or faiths that discourage procreation, are at a tremendous competitive disadvantage for passing on their beliefs.

Look! He's even talking about memes! And he's right about suicidal cults vs. non-suicidal cults. Where is Heaven's Gate now?

And now I'm going to compare suicidal Jihadists to Rapture Ready forum members. Check this out:

A fascinating Time magazine article, "Inside the Mind of an Iraqi Suicide Bomber," offered a glimpse at the mentality behind such attacks. "The happiest day of my life," was how Iraqi Jihadist Marwan Abu Ubeida described feeling after being added to a long list of suicide bomber volunteers. Marwan enthusiastically declared, "I can't wait … I am ready to die now." Only blind religious faith, or insanity, can provide such joyful excitement to kill and die.

Marwan Abu Ubeida says he can’t wait to die. Boy does this sound familiar. Where have I heard this kind of talk before?

I pray that it was a sign to you because I'm ready for Jesus to come get us. Today would be fine with me.

That's Rapture Ready-speak for, "I can't wait ... I am ready to die now," just like the Jihadist said.

Some of you may not like this comparison, for the Jihadist wants to kill himself while simultaneously killing enemy infidels, and the Rapture Ready person just wants to die, period. But to focus on this is to miss the point. It doesn't matter if the Christoid or Jihadist wants to die in the act of killing people, or just die, plain and simple. The point here is the same one that both Mr. Bice and myself have been stating. That the afterlife devalues Earthly existence and celebrates death. Both the Rapture Ready Christoid and the Jihadist want to die. And they want to die because both of their superstitions champion a dimension that doesn't exist. To top it off, they champion an imaginary dimension in which the only way to get there is to have your very existence exterminated!

For all their talk about values, these fundamentalists (Christoid or otherwise) sure don't know what the fuck they are talking about. They obviously need help, so let's give them a hand. Let's tell them that instead of killing themselves, they should kill the afterlife.


Anonymous said...

“Alternatively, if an eternal and infinitely preferable life exists subsequent to this one, human life is diminished.”

As I’ve said before, I completely disagree with this sentiment. The eternal vision is a launching pad for exploring a spirituality of creation, keeping us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.

I’ll add the caveat that some Christians are entirely off-base in their concept of the afterlife. Personally, I don’t like the term ‘afterlife’ because it implies the dispensationalist/fundamentalist attitude of waiting for that pie in the sky world after death. In short, the Kingdom of God is at hand so I’m not sitting around praying for the world to end or nervous that I’ll be “left behind”. Instead I'm interested in trying to see the Kingdom of God manifest itself here on earth, by helping the poor, the helpless, and the hopeless find greater hope than they could ever imagine.

Aaron Kinney said...

Hi chad, thanx for the comment!

While I understand where you are coming from, I do think that many, if not most, theists (not just Christians) see it the same way that Mr. Bice and I do. By their own admission no less.

scott jackson said...

i would really have to question the christians who say they are "biding their time" here on earth if they really are christians... that thought is not in any way christian.. i would argue that if what we do here on earth affects our eternity.. then this makes life here on earth even more important... belief in the afterlife does influence the way lives are lived here on earth.. as you point out with the suicide bombers.. that is a radical way to live, but not so radical given the belief they have in the afterlife.. so i dont see how you can say that belief in the afterlife makes life insignificant on earth..

Aaron Kinney said...

That is a No True Scotsman fallacy, Scott.

I wonder how the Rapture Ready crowd would react to your charge that they arent Christian.

Since we are in fallacy land, I would like to counter your comment Scott and claim that any Christian who ISNT "biding their time" is not a true Christian.

Anonymous said...

"I would really have to question the christians who say they are "biding their time" here on earth if they really are christians..."


'Perhaps this explains why many religions regard suicide as a grave mortal sin. Without such prohibition, certainty of belief in heaven could prompt highly faithful people to shorten their earthly lives and hasten their trip to paradise, which would translate into fewer congregants."

This reminds me of something one of my philosophical heroes, Arthur Schopenhauer, wrote on suicide:

"Christianity carries in its innermost heart the the truth that suffering (the Cross) is the true aim of life: that is why it repudiates suicide, which is opposed to this aim, while antiquity from a lower viewpoint approved of and indeed honored it. This argument against suicide is however an ascetic one, and is therefore valid only from a far higher ethical standpoint than any which European moral philosophers have ever assumed. If we descend from this very high standpoint there no longer remains any tenable moral reason for damning suicide. It therefore seems that the extraordinary zeal in opposing it displayed by the clergy of the monotheistic religions -- a zeal which is not supported by the Bible or any cogent reasons -- must have some hidden reason behind it: may this not be that the voluntary surrender of life is an ill compliment to him who said that all things were very good? If so, it is another instance of the obligatory optimism of these relgions, which denounces self-destruction so as not to be denounced by it."

Aaron Kinney said...

Wow, Arthur Schopenhauer has some pretty intelligent things to say on the topic. Thanks Tanooki Joe :)

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David N. Scott said...

Huh. So you see no difference between suicide and multiple murders. Different.

Aaron Kinney said...

David, you misunderstood the subject of my post, even after I warned against focusing on the wrong thing and missing the point of this post. What are you, trolling?

The murder part is a red herring. I am focusing here on the desire for oneself to die. "Normal" mass-murderers (if there is such a thing) dont usually want themselves to die first and foremost. Jihadists and Muslim suicide bombers do.

And to reply more directly to your statement: Actually, I DO differentiate between suicide and murder. But the "murder" you describe is not the focus of my blog post. I am focusing on the similaries in death-worship and desire to leave this existence between two Abrahamic religious groups. Again, the murder part is a red herring.

So basically your statement is full of ignorance. You think Im comparing murderers to suicidal people, but Im not. Im comparing suicidal people to suicidal people. Period.

noroomonthemothership said...

Juvenile man has found his way over here from your post over at Vox. I read stuff there, but I make a point of not posting over there. I should be doing other things anyway. Too much traffic over there.

I'll leave radicallibertarian alone now, not that I was probably much of a pain. I was just ticked off that the tyrant freaked out over people doing what people do on a blog that's open for comments: posting comments that are on-topic.

If I dissed you over at radicallibertarian, maybe you'll overlook that. You're even welcome to throw in a few insults my way. Of course, if you diss me too much, I'll probably go off on some juvenile tirade.

If no afterlife exists, our lives are finite, unique and precious. There are no second chances or rewards; when we die, we're dead.

It's amazing how two people can come to totally different conclusions about what it would mean if there's no afterlife. Me? Life has no purpose if there is nothing but death to look for.

There's two tons of stuff here on your blog to hash out (and rehash for you), but I was wanting to hash out that little phrase "self-appointed creator/God." We must be thinking of two different concepts.

I don't know what your background is. But it doesn't seem you have very good insight into how a Christian thinks. I'll elaborate if you care.

I think it's good for a person to have their arguments attacked. That's what helps refine our logic. It also stirs up the creative juices. Pass that on to the tyrant.

Anonymous said...

::waves:: Hey, thought I'd drop my two cents in. I'm a spiritualist practicing through the Catholic tradition and I was raised in a multi-religious household (agnostic, Baptist, Pagan, Wiccan, Jewish and Catholic).

If you ask me if God is sitting on His throne waiting to judge me at the End of Times, I'd say no way. There ain't no such animal. It's not logical. It's not ratioanl. It's not scientific. It's not Biblical.

What I WILL admit to believing in is a greater Cosmic Consciousness that can best be thought of as God, and that everything, down to the tiniest atom, is a part of that God. See, I believe that Christian de Quincey (a non-Christian scientist) has the right idea - you can't get something from nothing. Consciousness can't emerge from matter because that's creating something out of nothing, and that's impossible under the laws of physics, which means it would have to be a miracle (something materialists don't belive in). And dualism is wrong, too, because having mind and matter interact is a kind of miracle that doesn't work in science. What *does* work is the notion that everything starts off conscious. No messy miracle needed in either case.

But to me that's very important. Yeah, I believe in an... afterlife? I don't believe in Heaven or Hell or Purgatory. Those are bullshit ideas created by narrow-minded fundamentalists to scare the bejezus out of people so they'll straighten up and fly right.

There's no "afterlife." Consciousness just *is.* And it's perpetual because all the atoms, sub-atomic particles, and light waves in your body are perpetual, even if they change form when one dies. There's only one consciousness, divided infinitely among all things in the universe, both living and non-living, in order to have unique experiences.

So, yes, I believe that I have a "soul" so to speak. I can't just up and stop. That's not obeying the laws of conservation. I think probably I'll retain my personality becaue my experience as an individual is important, but if I don't want to I don't have to.

But see, this is where it gets important. This is why this "afterlife" or whatever the hell it really is, is so important.

You say that the afterlife is inhumane and immoral. Right, the fundamentalist idea *is* inhumane and immoral. But look at it from this perspective - if we really are only one consciousness tied in to different experiences, given the freedom to act however we choose in this physical form, then it become *imperrative* to not only live your life as fully as possible, but to respect all other life forms and non-living systems. The spear in your heart is the spear in mine. You and I are two unique expressions of the same Soul, and to do harm unto you would be to rip the heart out of myself. It's necessary to live well and love deeply, because we are the only manifestation of this one unique experience that the Universe needs to grow and evolve - I don't believe in a stagnant God sitting around waiting to end the world. God evolves just as we Humans do. To hate, to fear, to deny the humanity of the life forms around you, that's beyond cruel. That's the only real sin I believe in, because denying our humanity is denial of our Divinity. Those who have no respect for the precious gift that life is, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be this special creature that has these unique experiences and eventually brings them back to God (the Cosmic Consciousness) is evil, cruel, hateful, sinful.

There's a lot of valid Near Death Experience research out there, and in almost every case I see the same thing - religion doesn't mean shit. Love means everything. Everyone is a part of everyone else. It's no wonder to me that so many NDErs leave their original religious setting and become more spiritual but non-religious. I managed to find a way to integrate my spirituality within the religion I was born to and I think I'm very lucky in that fact.

But I think that you do spirituality and the afterlife a disservice. There are so many ways of looking at "life after death," including the Buddhist view of Nirvana (and even Susan Blackmore has said that Buddhism is not a meme, since it flushes your mind of all meme-thoughts). And what about the Hindu belief that the Soul Seeks God (I can't spell the actual Hindu words, I apologize for that)?

I've discovered that most atheism is directed against Christianity, particularly fundamentalist. I think that before you go knocking the afterlife you look into all the various religions and what they report for their views - you probably will find the Buddhist view to be quite acceptable. And many branches of Buddhism are atheistic.

Of course, I don't want to convert you. Believe me, I got lucky in that I was raised with an open mind - I do NOT suggest that any atheist (unless he has a *very* open mind and is willing to filter out the bullshit while trying to get the cream) look into Christianity, except possibly Unitarian Universalism. I highly recommend Buddhism. It is logical, rational, and makes a lot more sense to someone who doesn't have the patience to shuffle through Christianity.

All I'm saying is that there are a lot of variations on the theme of the Afterlife. Most of them aren't worth anything, but there are a few that make a lot of logical sense and actually do more to emphasise the human experience of life than to put emphasis on where you're going to end up. It's always good to keep an open mind.

Finally, I apologize on behalf of the assholes in Christianity who probably have driven you crazy with their holier-than-thou attitudes and the assertion that you're going to burn in hell (the majority of NDErs had beautiful experiences, atheists included, and the few who have had hellish experiences usually created their own hells within their own souls, and even then there is nothing to indicate such a state is permenant).

Any religion that doesn't support the idea that we should love everybody fully and live life fully while here on earth isn't much of a religion.

Anonymous said...

While it is not quite "murder" in the eyes of the Rapture-ready, isn't part of the draw that all the sinners/nonbelievers will be sent to Hell when Jesus returns? If so, they are not all that different from the suicide bombers who want to kill infidels as they buy their way into paradise.

Anonymous said...

To comment on the idea that an afterlife devalues this life, I agree with the post above.

If I knew I would truly be dead when I die, I'd probably at some point just take a gun to my head and end it all now, because seriously, why toil for another few decades? Might as well spare myself the misery, afterall, I obviously won't care, and ultimately niether will anyone I know.

And if the universe is truly billions of years old, my little life that spans maybe a mere century would have to be called insignificant--nay, the word insignificant would be too generous.

Obviously I am not the happiest of people, buts that's how I would feel if this were indeed true.