Have you ever thought about how you’ll spend eternity? I don’t mean Heaven or Hell, but rather how you’d spend your time in Heaven? Eternity is an awfully long time. I’ve been thinking back to some of the descriptions I was given of Heaven when I was a kid and also of what others have said about it as time has gone by.
Some say that they’ll spend eternity singing the praises of the Lord along with the angels. Others have described pastoral scenarios with green meadows and shady groves and gentle breezes. Some describe living in great mansions while others envision small cottages. And of course there are the joyous reunions with long-dead parents and aunts and uncles. But always without exception they’re “with God.”
According to the Bible, at some point God will just tear it all down and create a new Heaven. Apparently this isn’t a big deal to most believers. I mean, if He’s God then why didn’t He get it right the first time? Why start over? Can’t He just remodel?
I have a question or two about all this. Do you really want to spend eternity with God or roaming around a meadow or chillin’ in your mansion? Think about it. Ten thousand years from now you are no closer to the end of it than you were on day one of being dead. How long will it be before you get tired of listening to angels? Don’t get me wrong. I love an angelic voice lifted in song. If ever there was anyone gifted with the voice of an angel, it’s Joss Stone. I love listening to her sing… you know, for an hour or two. But after that? It’s time for something else. And my impression is that we would not be able to attend a ZZ Top or Rolling Stones concert in Heaven. Bummer, that.
And hey I love those grassy meadows and the shade of an ancient oak tree. Pack a picnic lunch and hang out with someone special and it’s all lovely and nice and maybe even romantic. You know… for a few hours. But then? Go back to the mansion? Go sing with the angels? Can I just take a nap, or does sleep even happen in the afterlife? Imagine never dreaming again. Ever.
Do they play Gin Rummy or Uno in Heaven? Is there a bingo parlor? I mean c’mon, we’re talking about eternity here. And it is human nature to seek new challenges and to overcome them. Are there challenges in Heaven? Mountains to climb (metaphorically and literally)? New things to learn and discoveries to make? Can I at least build a model railroad?
People, everything about the various descriptions of eternal life go against our nature. And where does this idea come from?
The idea of an afterlife predates Biblical myth by thousands of years. Many scholars agree that it is rooted in fear of death. Primitive people came up with all these stories of dwelling in the hereafter simply because death was a frightening and mysterious concept (still is). This led to belief in spirits, and of course those spirits would become mixed up with the various gods of the harvest, the forest, the oceans, etc.
Denying the reality of one’s finite existence is a major defense against death anxiety. It manifests in two forms: in the pursuit of literal immortality and symbolic immortality. Literal immortality is sought in religion or religiosity and is the key defense that negates the obvious scientific conclusion that human beings die like other species and that there is no proof of an afterlife. Monotheistic religious beliefs as well as some pantheistic or monistic spiritual traditions offer their followers a creation myth and version of life after death, which relieve the death anxiety that is caused by the unknowable.
— Robert W Firestone Ph.D.
So what does Yours Truly see in this regard? Blessed oblivion. At some point in time, whether it’s old age, disease, an accident or a jealous husband, I’m going to die. The idea of being dead doesn’t bother me in the least. Becoming dead will likely be unpleasant but I choose not to dwell upon it. But after I’m dead? Nothing. I’m gone. Like I had never existed. No pain. No fear. No consciousness of any kind. The mind is a process. It’s gazillions of electro-chemical impulses zinging around inside the brain. Once the heart stops, the brain shuts down. The impulses stop. And you’re gone. Game over. There is no legitimate evidence that one’s consciousness exits the body and goes elsewhere. We do not continue. We’re not special. We’re no better than dogs, cats or monkeys. Once we’re dead, we’re just meat.
There is no God, no Devil, no Heaven and no Hell. And when we’re dead, we’re done. Perhaps that’s not a comforting thought. But it’s far more realistic than some charming bullshit story about golden streets in some nebulous Other Place inhabited by an eternal creature who spoke the universe into existence.
Reality isn’t always pretty. But it’s always real. This life is precious because it’s the only one you have. Embrace it. Revel in it and leave a memorable legacy behind. That’s as close to immortality as you’ll ever get.
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