I thought for a long time about what I was going to say on this topic, but you know what I realized? No one gives a shit about what I think about the afterlife.
Everyone is territorial of their view of the afterlife. Humans are the only species who realize death is inevitable, and that’s a scary thing to come to terms with. Afterlife is that solace you create to make it seem not so terrible. We are all vain creatures, we want to believe that some part of us will live on for all eternity, and we want it to be the best form of existence possible.
Have you ever asked a room full of people who believe in an afterlife what they think it is? Even if all of them come from a similar religious background- even if all of them come from the same family- you will never get two answers that are the same (yeah yeah, I’m sure there are exceptions. This is my experience asking people, but even if you do come across people with the same answers I doubt it will happen frequently). Our idea of utopia is going to be different, and, damn it, even if you are the most devout member of your church and a priest is up there telling you exactly what heaven is like, some part of your subconscious is going to put its own spin on it because you want it to be your paradise.
I’ve never seen people argue too much over perceptions of the afterlife. I think we’re all so happy with our own interpretations that we’re okay if others have their own. No one knows for sure, and we’ll just believe in our own vision, with gradual changes from external influences, until we die. Nothing can change that.
But some asshole had to go and invent the concept of hell and suddenly everybody’s all up in arms and the world has a big problem.
(And by invented, I mean adapted over several years from previous cultures that developed concepts similar to hell. And by some asshole I mean… bla bla bla, you know what I mean.)
I don’t usually say that one aspect of religion is a straight lie, but I’ll say it about Hell. Hell is one of the worst, most despicable, backwards, fucked up, petty, evil lies ever invented by man.
Hell is fear mongering. Hell is a childish desire to make the universe seem fair. Hell doesn’t even make any fucking sense! You’re already dead! How can you suffer if you’re already dead!?
I asked a teacher than in Catholic school once. To her credit, she didn’t give me an answer that tried to scare me into believing. She said, “The punishment of hell is that you’ll never get to know god.”
That’s not so bad. At the worst that’s unfulfilled curiosity. I felt okay with that answer.
Ten years of development later, I read “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God,” see whackos waving signs saying nearly everybody is going to hell, and watch snobs take delight in talking about how people they dislike will burn for eternity- now I’m not so okay with the concept of hell.
How is it that people took a concept that was supposed to bring them comfort and turned it into something that scares them?
Oh right. Revenge.
That’s what hell really represents. It’s our desire to think that bad people will get what’s coming to them.
Are we really much better than the people who hurt and torture people on Earth if we take comfort from the idea that they’ll live the rest of eternity in agony?
Even the worst of us have some aspect that deserves sympathy. I certainly don’t want to belittle the evil things some people do, but I don’t think it’s healthy to find our solace some sadistic fantasy. It happened, maybe they’ll never have their comeuppance, but that shouldn’t affect how you live your life.
And yeah, hell is also used to scare people into believing, but I think a lot of people can grow out of that. It’s a lot harder to distance ourselves from that desire for revenge.
Even though no one cares, I’ll delve a little into what I think of the afterlife. Like many nonreligious, I do not believe in an afterlife. I believe an afterlife is detrimental to our overall development as it forces a focus on what comes after instead of the now. I have attended a number of funerals in my time, and one thing I can’t stand is being told that the departed is now walking with god and watching over us.
When I die, I don’t want the last words said about me to be some fantasy land where I spend the rest of eternity stalking my relatives. When I die I want people to talk about what I did, not fantasizing about what I might be doing now.
Traditional Christian funerals, at least in my experience, spend far too much time talking about how this is god’s plan and he decided it was time to call the departed by his side (We know how I feel about that). I don’t want to hear that. Hearing that someone died because god decided it was time infuriates me. Let’s not focus on god during someone’s death, let’s focus on the person who died. Let’s celebrate them, not our hypothesis on why they died and what they’re doing now.
I know that when we lose someone, it’s nice to think we’ll see them again. I can’t tell you that’s wrong. Personally, however, I find it far more satisfying to see what they did in the world and how they influenced the people around them and live in our memories than to think when I die I’ll meet them again and have a reunion that probably won’t live up to expectation.
Many find comfort in the idea of an afterlife. I find it horrifying.
Eternal consciousness? No thank you. When I die I want it to be over. Done. Nothing. If I lived right then I will live on in the way I influenced others and helped advance the human race. It makes me want to do more with my life. It contents me with the idea of oblivion afterward.
As I said, my belief is my personal comfort, and I see no reason to force it on others. Most people find my idea of oblivion horrid, that’s fine too. I don’t even care, because it makes happy.
My only advice on belief in afterlife is this: Don’t be good because you think there’s a reward waiting afterward. Don’t be scared into being good because you think there’s a punishment. Don’t let the afterlife be a petty way to believe people will get what’s coming to them. Don’t let a focus on what comes next distract you from what’s here. The world we live in is what you need to focus on. Help it move forward because it feels good.
Whatever is after this… let that be a fantasy. No one can tell you it’s wrong, so who cares?
Heaven is For Real. So a four year old kid in a coma says he saw Jesus riding a rainbow colored horse (Seriously, look it up) and I guess everyone should get on their knees and believe in a childish, superficial, and downright ridiculous vision of god and heaven. Yeesh…