Life is meaningful because it’s finite

An immortal life would hold no urgency, no need to put effort into accomplishing anything and little need for engagement and participation – but rather only patience and gentle prodding or manipulations to accomplish anything. Immortality would lack purpose as any goal can be accomplished given endless time to complete or achieve.

Aside: It occurs to me that immortality could be a function of our perception of time rather than existing minute by minute of infinite time – that by mastering our awareness of time, we alter our relationship with it, if we can manipulate time, time loses meaning and power over us. In a way, being able to like how time is presented in movies through montages, flashbacks and even flash forwards, be able to move along the timeline but not be subjected to a single timeline but rather, one that you experience in conjunction with everyone else and another that you experience alone and are able to in that solitary time line, control or manipulate the shared timeline. The idea of being immortal and having to endure awareness of days, never mind hours and minutes, seems to me to be torturous.

Immortality removes from concern or consideration the workaday world, relationships and morals and values. To an immortal subjected to the same time concepts as mortals – seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, centuries – what mortals value becomes of little consequence because mortals would be of little consequence given their short overlap of life span. Morals and values are all a matter of perspective and relationship/context determines the perspective.

For a mortal to be subjected to a wrong where the impact lasts a period of time, even if it’s their lifetime, this is a serious wrong – but for an immortal, that same wrong becomes an inconvenience that they will spend a small portion of their existence to resolve or outlive the effect/outcome. From an immortal perspective, any mortal wrong – no matter how grave to a mortal – becomes a matter of no special consequence or significance, given the enormity of time to recoup losses or recover.

The significance of this should not be lost on any supernaturalists who believe that there is a hell or similar punitive eternal afterlife, because any immoral or even evil action, when put in the context of the grand scheme of the universe, is limited in scope and significance – making eternal punishment utterly pointless – and on the flip side, making eternal reward equally pointless – for what can any mortal in their finite time really do to merit either end of the scale?

There are three post-death possibilities: oblivion, eternal reward/punishment or reincarnation.

Oblivion

You’re born, you live, you die and then cease to exist.

Elegant, simple and logical. Because our lives are finite, what we do with them is of utmost importance, because it’s the only life we can know that we have, so we have to make the best of what we have, no matter what it is that we have.  Whether we chose to make our lives about ourselves at the expense of others or live in a co-operative/harmonious way with other – and what we determine “others” means – is down to the individual.

We are all our own moral centre, whether we can make moral distinctions ourselves or select an external system to make them for us.

Eternal Reward/Punishment

You’re born, you live and depending on how, where, when you lived, you die and go to an eternal place of reward or punishment.

The problem inherent in this system is that this requires some gatekeeper to determine your eternal destination, and some means to operate/administer the gatekeeping and the separate places where the rewarded and punished continue to exist. But it raises several questions and a certain level of bureaucratic finesse – what if you earned eternal reward, but the person you love had earned eternal punishment – it would not be rewarding for you to be without your loved one, but they are being punished – so does the reward afterlife include copies of the people in the punishment afterlife in order for the rewarded ones to be sufficiently happy?

More than that, does anyone actually deserve to be eternally rewarded when they are happy being rewarded full well knowing that others are being eternally punished?  What if someone cannot be happy in the reward afterlife unless they know for certain that other individuals are being punished? And, if you cannot be happy with being rewarded knowing that others – even people known to you – are being eternally punished, how can you exist in a blissfully rewarded state? Especially when the mechanism for determining who goes where are rather murky, arbitrary, culturally/socially determined and decided based an exceptionally small data set, given our finite lifespan.

Reincarnation

You are born, live, die and are born again in a repetitious cycle of learning and experience all that there is to experience, with successive cycles being dependant on what you experienced in the previous cycles.

Some religions have the cycles eventually end in oblivion or nirvana, and others have layovers of indeterminate time and bliss/punishment states between life cycles.

Reincarnation has the appeal of not only energy recycling but consciousness recycling – in addition to death not being an end, but only a transformation, but also a sense of cosmic justice, that life is not merely short and arbitrary, but that it is a series of experiences, and good and bad not being meaningful terms, but rather mere description of a state in the current or other cycles, to be corrected or reaffirmed according to what you are experiencing next.

The stumbling block is that reincarnation is an awful lot of energy, effort and time if it only ends in oblivion/nirvana, because each is a state of being perhaps in but not of the universe.

Ultimately, reincarnation results in being in a solitary state of either oblivion or transcendent happiness without wanting – and life is ultimately about that wanting and the struggle to strive.

Which in the end, leaves the only sensible and natural option to be oblivion to immediately follow death, since this is essentially where reincarnation cycles complete.

Conclusion

Occam’s Razor, not to mention the path of least resistance, leads towards one short life to experience, learn and cram in what you can and then oblivion, same as before birth so is after death.

__________

Tip o the nib to Bhaga for inspiring me to stretch

Inequality begins with hell and heaven

Aside

heaven and hell is the source of their love of inequality

what more dramatic inequality is there?

here can be no heaven without a hell – otherwise, they have no one to lord it over – so their job is to make sure people know about their god expecting and wanting them to not believe to ensure a steady stream of people to be in hell

if they really believed that their god would let people into heaven who simply hadn’t gotten the memo and they really wanted everyone to go to heaven

then they would never have become missionaries, since people would get heaven if they hadn’t known about it

and they don’t stop to consider that if their god was really omnipotent, then everyone would have heard about it and again, no need for missionaries

so they set about proclaiming the words as an apologist thing that god didn’t do the heavy lifting because missionary work is part of the believer’s job

but really, it’s to make sure people know just enough to go to hell and they keep heaven pure and to themselves

Winning and Losing

I am uncertain what believers are referring to when they refer to winning and losing in religion vs atheism – for lack of a better word – debates; recognizing that online forum discussions between non-professional debaters, are more accurately, pissing contests and name calling fests.

I wonder how much is really owing to the anonymity vs the animosity of the participants. Not that I want to assert that atheists are blameless in rudeness, name calling and even malicious behaviors – but the percentage of atheists who thusly engage is anecdotally lower than the percentage of religious believers who often start out the gate with threats of hell and eternal damnation.

I’ve tends towards a live and let live attitude, but that become difficult when dealing with people who are not content to let you live in kind. The idea that beliefs are private and should be respected falls apart on many fronts; not the least of which is many beliefs require the believers to spread them by the word or the sword:

An Inuit hunter asked the local missionary priest: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”

“No,” said the priest, “not if you did not know.”

“Then why,” asked the Inuit earnestly, “did you tell me?”

~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

 The simple answer is that the priest aka believer is unwilling to share heaven with those whom they deem have not earned it by believing and the idea that people who hadn’t heard the word would be forgiven by the omnipotent god who was unable to effectively market and promote the word on his own is just illogical apologetics to make the religion seem less harsh than it actually is and to make their alleged omnipotent god forgiving, when it categorically is not at all forgiving given that the punishment for minor offences and major offences is the same being cast into eternal damnation without parole or time off for good behaviour.

Worse, that the believer cannot even imagine enjoying heaven unless there’s people who are cast into hell. Which also explains the insistence that only their god is preventing people from being serial murderer and rapists, rather than that these are self evidently anti-social behaviours that no person able to make moral distinctions could justify engaging in, without need to resort to punishment disincentives. The act of murder or rape, in and of themselves, are not enticing to a person capable of moral conduct. So punishment as a disincentive is only a deterrent to those people who are not moral to begin with and who need these matters clearly spelled out for them, in which case, by refraining, they are merely avoiding punishment in their own self interest rather than acting morally and for any social good.

Religious Belief is then a guideline for behaviour that the believer is not capable of working out on their own or spelling out that which should be self-evident. Except that the number of religious leaders and hierarchy members who have engaged in a variety of criminal, anti-social and immoral behaviors and conduct – from actually immoral or illegal actions such as molesting children, adultery, embezzlement, fraud, bigamy and bigotry to actions that are violations of the rules of the given religion such as non-marital sex, gay sex, sex generally, lying, stealing, coveting – it is clear that religious belief is not a sufficient system of behavioral codes and punishments to force believers to act within the apparent rules of the religion or within secular law or social moral norms.

But when you consider that religion isn’t that keen on humans being good are actually predicated on the idea that humans are unworthy and crapulent to start with and must repent, worship and sacrifice in order to redeem themselves to their chosen god’s good graces and esteem –  you have to kind of wonder, why, when we have an understanding about battered wives standing by their abusive partners, can we not recognize this same malfunctioning relationship pattern exists between humans and their deities?

Humans abase and genuflect, but the deities never call, never respond positivity or clearly to prayers or need for assistance. This absence of impact is excused by apologists with “Sometimes the answer is no”, “god’s will or purpose is unknowable, but we have to believe that there’s a plan or grand design.”

If god’s answer to prayers is no and no is indistinguishable with no god to hear the prayers, then what good is the god or the effort of worship?

Worse, some unknowable grand design is cold comfort to those who are suffering without apparent purpose – and if this grand design is so unknowable, then why do so many people claim to know what their god thinks about anything, while cherry picking their sacred texts to support their pet bigotry and causing much suffering in the world?

The plethora of religions in terms of both unique versions and the high number of sects within each version shows that religion isn’t winning by any meaningful measure- as it only splinters and not unites people; driving so much intolerance and violence, that religions are a death march towards our extinction in which everyone actually loses; but which religionists can claim victory by calling it the rapture – self fulfilling prophesy as it will be. In terms of the destruction of humans with few if anyone left to say or hear the inevitable “I told you so.”

There is something in the religious conservative mindset that makes self-destruction preferable to compromise or social change. Or maybe it’s something that makes them wanting so badly to be right, that they are willing to self-destruct in order to achieve it – which, I think we can put down to the belief in the afterlife. Maybe it’s just delusional self-righteousness and outright denial of consequences – after all, the rapture is supposed to restore the earth to the factory garden of Eden original settings. So, what need do we have of environmental protection laws with a god-backed warrantee?

For non-Abrahamic religions, what need is there for the same environmental protections or human rights when we are clearly working out our own bad karma and are deserving of all the badness and suffering – so should not interfere with this suffering so we can move onto to the next experience or cycle of learning.

If a person considers this life a dress rehearsal for the eternal or repeated cycles of experience, then it becomes easy to understand the willingness to die for ideas. There’s a certain romance of dying in a cause, strong enough to override our individual and even collective survival instincts. It’s not really dying if you expect an eternal afterlife, it’s just…. exit, stage right.

Book Review: Pocket Guide to the Afterlife

Pocket Guide to the Afterlife

Seriously, how could I possibly resist?

Sadly, I did find this in the humour section – and I objected very strenuously to the book store clerk – yes, I bought it in a bricks and mortar store, even though I put links to online book shopping sites.

Now, I am not totally endorsing on line instead of in store book buy – after all, on line is great for a lot of shopping, but I just prefer my book experience to be a sensual journey of touch and smell.

Sorry, drooled a moment there.

The Pocket Guide to the Afterlife – 91 Places Death Might Take You was written by Augusta Moore and Elizabeth Ripley.

The 91 religions are all in the tags – sorry, couldn’t do all the funky international symbols.

What struck me the most – well, right after all these religions being able to be condensed into 2 or 3 pages of a slightly larger than a pocket book – nice to have the high level overview and not bog down in details.

What struck me the most was that a lot more religions than I realized expect to reincarnate. Some you can come back as anything, any other animal, plant or rocks even. In others, you are human and human alone, and your journey is being different kinds of humans. In others, what and how you reincarnate depends on how you behaved now and in past lives.

But the goal of all the reincarnation, living lives and learning, is to get to oblivion.  And it seems to me that that is a lot of time and energy to get to a state, that on the balance, is pretty much were we go after death.

When you compare the religions that have clothing requirements, it’s almost like being a trend pimp in high school – plain clothes, over everything clothes, special hats, special hair styles – or no hair – and then there’s food.

Eat this, don’t eat that, you can eat that but not on magic days of the week.

eesh.

Worst of all there’s the constant having to achieve a behaviour code that basically is anything that our natural incline is bad – whether it really is bad or not.

As of the book’s publishing, there are only 4 Quakers left. Why? They don’t beleive in sex. At all. Ever. Not even missionary. Ever.

The other enlightening part is how many times religions have rolled into another. Vodoo and Vodun have both rolled into Catholicism by simply matching their plethora of spirits to the plethora of Saints that the CC has. And they do all match up.

It struck me too that Catholicism is not a monotheistic religion – you’ve got god, jesus and the holy ghost, who also combine a trinity – but then there’s Mary and all the saints who are also prayed to and worshiped. Pretty Pantheonic by any standard.

But, even it’s all read, compared and giggled over, there is one truth that rings loud and in a clear and unmistakeable tone.

The major function of religion is not to define us as groups of people, despite being largely geographically determined who’s in one versus another.

It’s not to to provide moral guidance through our lives, as, most of the requirements are nonsensical, impossible standards and make life rather joyless. (Seriously Quakers, you shoulda thought of that one). For most, the commandments and requirements are also about worship the deity and authority – there’s nothing moral about that – and in fact blind authority worship will result in a general worsening of society.

The theme that rings clear and loud is that religions are all designed to make people accept their lot in life – especially those in the poorer categories.

Oh, you have to work off your bad karma from your last life, oh you must learn the lesson of humility, harder for the rich to get into heaven so be glad you’re poor.

There is nothing noble about grinding poverty, nothing truthful about being working poor.

If rich people really beleive that being poor is the way to heaven, then why do they stay rich? I know politicians cost a lot, but if they really beleive, shouldn’t they be poor too?

The purpose of religion is to maintain the status quo, so the poor do not rise up and demand the equality we claim our society offers. So they do not share in the benefits of their labour in order to obtain education and bring themselves up the socio-economic ladder.

Especially all the ones who claim to be about Jesus – a guy who didn’t own a horse, wore long hair and sandals and hung out with 12 guys and never married.

Hmm, doesn’t sound like the Evangelical way of huge missions, universities, fleets of cars and planes, tv networks, theme parks with waterslides, expensive suits and, well, with all that money, they should be able to get better haircuts.

It’ exhausting.  If people sat down and read a book that provided just a short overview of what religions claim – their creation story, their god’s personality, the after death scenarios, you’d start to see that it’s all pretty random and a bit nutty.

I mean, as silly as a believer of one finds everyone else’s religion, so do they all find yours funny too.

So, why not enjoy them for the art works they inspired, as literature.

It’s not hard to be a good person – it’s the giving yourself persmission to be that good person.

It’s easy. Don’t kill except in defense of yourself or others.

Don’t assault or rape other people, especially children. You’d hope that this would be obvious, but it clearly isn’t to a lot of religions.

Don’t steal from people or businesses, it’s not yours until you pay for it.

Letting go of your gods will not turn you into a genocidal raping and pillaging crazed person, but there’s a lot of evidence that hanging onto a god will turn you into just that.

Buybull Cherry Picking II

Back to the subject of Cherry picking from the buybull.

It struck me that the cherry picking is generally done in support of oppressing or discriminating against whatever group that the cherry pickers don’t like and feel that they are capable of getting away with not liking publicly.

In America, the buybull was used to justify

  • second place status of women in not being allowed to vote, own land, etc.
  • third place status of black men and women – after all, the buybull supports slavery and genocide
  • holding back everything that stemmed from these changes to equal under the law – it was decades before women could drive, wear pants without criminal charges for cross dressing or later being sent home from school to change into skirts and decades before the law switched from instigating the beatings and lynchings to actually investigating and prosecuting them and that last frontier: interracial marriage.

Today, the buybull is used to justify discrimination and oppression of gays and lesbians.

From banning gay marriage or grudgingly allowing for the lesser civil union/domestic partnership, to blocking gay adoption – gays and lesbians individually and as family units are under attack by groups of people who claim to be an elite group (separate from all the other elite god-groups) who worship a loving and forgiving god (the same god as everyone else, but worshiped differently because ours is the secret real one and we’re paying lip service to the others) – yet they cherry pick the passages from the buybull that are opressive, discriminatory, violent and pure hate.

Truthfully, this isn’t much of a selective high intensity search to cherry pick, as most of the buybull is violent and hate driven – it seriously should bear a warning label and be rated X. This is something that children should be protected from – not only the sex and violence, but the bad messages of bowing blindly to authorities who are willing to torture and kill you if you don’t – and then torture you some more.

Aside 1: Funny how the buybull is basically worship authority and then the church groups use this as their platform to disobey the American laws that don’t suit them.

What I wonder though is how people who cherry pick passages to justify their hatred of other people can simultaneously maintain that theirs is a loving and forgiving religion.

It’s way beyond even Sado-Masochism Discipline Bondage Love. which at least comes with a safe word.

It is not loving to impose a set of behaviour on people and deny them full participation in society and equal citizenship.

It is not forgiving to gloat about eternal damnation for anyone not accepting their yoke.

If there is an afterlife, it would be part of the natural world and not at all dependent on our individual conduct in life – but rather on the basis of this is what happens after things die – and it wouldn’t be limited to humans, either. Life is Life.

But, let’s say for the moment that the afterlife is a humans only club – modern humans or does that include some of our ancestor humans – which apparently does include Neanderthals after all. Small world: http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Science/2010/05/06/13850161.html.

Aside 2 – it seems that so far, no one in Africa has any neanderthal genes – which means that Africans are actually the pure modern humans and the rest of us are a blended human and another species of sapiens.

And let’s say that the quality of the afterlife you get is dependent on how you lived.

Can the believers really believe that a person who has raped and murdered children for decades and has a death bed conversion gets to go to heaven, but an atheist lesbian who has never raped or murdered anyone, who maintains employment, pays taxes gladly, who has undertaken thousands of hours of volunteer work in several non-profit fields – but I go to a bad afterlife because I don’t get on my knees for Jesus or any man?

Where’s the love and forgiveness? Where’s the compassion and logic? Where’s the sense and fairness in that?

It seems to me that the heaven that these particular kinds of believers would have is full of repentant evil doers and people who couldn’t understand morality on their own, and so simply obeyed orders to gain reward and avoid punishment.

Aside 3: And we know what happens when people are just obeying orders.

While hell will be filled with people who lived good lives and could work out for themselves what was moral – and that morality is culturally and situationally dependent.

It makes sense, when you think about it – the line in Milton’s poem – Tis better to reign in hell than serve in Heaven.

After all, according to the buybull, Satan and the angels who rebelled were in heaven with gawd – and yet they rebelled.

Wouldn’t the angels, with their direct experience in heaven and their direct knowledge of gawd, be the best ones to know then that being anywhere else  is better than this “heaven”?

Think about it – according to their own materials – right up front – the story is angels in heaven rebel and get kicked out forever.

You don’t rebel if your leader is kind and loving without a secret agenda. You don’t get yourself kicked out a place if it’s a great place to be.

It seems to me that if a place is crappy, you do PR to make it seem exclusive – sort of like when Eric the Red was exiled from Iceland (partly called because the Vikings didn’t want a bunch of other people coming over and getting mud in the hot springs).

Eric sailed off and discovered Greenland – only it wasn’t green – it was a frozen rock – and he named it Greenland to attract people to settle there so he could be the boss.

Just saying, there’s a very clear reason to explain that angel story.