Thursday, September 1, 2011

Non fui, fui, non sum, non curo; On Eternity.

As child, I distinctly remember the fear that was harbored and implanted into my mind on Sunday mornings. I can still hear our priest proclaiming that hell is a very real place and a very real threat to nonbelievers.

The Bible is very clear as to what will happen to unbelievers. I promised to write this entry today for someone who's mother is a Buddhist, and obviously, not a believer in Christianity. This person told me, sincerely, that he is worried about the future of his mother's soul; that she will be damned.

There are a list of things that the best theologians cannot make work- the problem of evil is the main one (this goes for all religions, not Christianity in specific.) However, a glaring problem with Christianity is the conflict of an all loving god and eternal damnation. This sums it up nicely:

I read about an Eskimo hunter who 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 Eskimo earnestly, 'did you tell me?'
- Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1974
Or, more formally;

1. An all-loving, all- wise, all- powerful, god exists.

2. Hell, an eternal damnation of incomprehensible pain and suffering exists.

3. This all-loving god sends unbelievers to this damnation.

As a child, I wrestled with this. How could people I know and be subjected to this because they weren't sincere enough? Who could possibly answer this question?

Well as it turns out, I wasn't satisfied with what were considered answers. Any thinking person can conclude that these answers are complete bullshit:

I came to the conclusion that an all- loving god and the existence of hell are mutually exclusive. A god that allows ethical people to burn in hell for the simple reason they do not believe is the most evil and unjust idea that has ever been spread. This god is worse than Hitler. This god causes eternal suffering for something so trivial as non-belief. If this being exists, it is a monster- a tyrant; unworthy of devotion. I came to the conclusion that the idea of a Christian god is self-defeating; I lost my belief partially due to this. But what if you still believe in that god? What if you are worried about your loved ones?

This is probably the best response I have ever read on the subject:

Spoiler alert: The answer is "I don't know." And he is honest. You simply do not know. You cannot know. Postulating what will happen to you when in front of the master of the universe is just absurd. In order to resolve any fear that you have for your mother, you will have to generate beliefs that are not part of the Christian teaching. You will have to develop your own ways of thinking- and chances are they will separate you from the majority of Christian thought.

 So let's talk about what we, as humans know, and why I find comfort in death:

Knowing what we know about the brain and consciousness, I release myself from the fear that priests and preachers have levied upon mankind for centuries. Knowledge of the universe is liberating- it teaches us not to fear. Epicurus famously proclaimed:

"Death is nothing to us.  When we exist death is not, and when death exists we are not.  All sensation and consciousness ends with death and therefore in death there is neither pleasure nor pain. The fear of death arises from the belief that in death there is awareness."
Our minds and consciousness are the result of the arrangement of our brains. It is an emergent property of the chemistry that makes us up. When we die, our awareness goes too. We had no recollection of 'pre-birth'. I am willing to bet that we will not survive this lifetime.

For the believer, this is hard to handle; that all we have is a few good decades. But, Dale, this is the truth. We live and we die. This means that emphasis must be taken from the afterlife and placed on this life we currently have- for that is all we have. Love your mother, show her compassion. The worst thing you can do to her is use what little time she may have left and try to convert her.

Mortality is something we all face, and religion eases us into thinking that we are immortal- that a part of us will carry on. It is discomforting to know that I will never see my grandparents, friends, or relatives again. But the best thing that has ever happened to me was realize that the beauty and importance that is our mortal life.

I am sorry if I couldn't provide any answers to you. I really just wanted to give you perspective on how these problems and dilemmas can be worked out from a non-Christian worldview. I hope all goes well with you and your mom.



  1. Oh wow.

    Anyways Ill debate you on this too.

    "I came to the conclusion that an all- loving god and the existence of hell are mutually exclusive. A god that allows ethical people to burn in hell for the simple reason they do not believe is the most evil and unjust idea that has ever been spread. This god is worse than Hitler. This god causes eternal suffering for something so trivial as non-belief. If this being exists, it is a monster- a tyrant; unworthy of devotion. I came to the conclusion that the idea of a Christian god is self-defeating; I lost my belief partially due to this. But what if you still believe in that god? What if you are worried about your loved ones?"

    You are a great example of someone who even through all those years of being catholic, who never once read the bible. No offense. You need to understand that we are all inherently sinful (If you have children, notice how even though they are born as a pure baby, when they grow up they always seem to lie and steal and do things they shouldn't?). We are all born as atheists. Why? Because it is a walk to God. We cannot reach God because to live a sinless life is 99.9999% impossible. We always seem to choose it. But the debt is already paid to get to God. Perfection chooses not to reside with imperfection... So to reach that, someone about 2000 years ago made a decision that honestly he truly did not have to. much less ALL of humanity. He wanted to fix the problem with evil so he decided to OVERCOME it and allow everyone a place with him and the Father. But what about the people who CHOSE not to love God? Heaven couldnt have haters(would you want someone who hates you in your home?) so He decided to leave the money for anyone who wanted it. And the hardest part about getting it is to just accept youre wrong with your lifestyle? Wow, youd think that would be easy, but for some its the hardest thing in this world.

    Honestly Michael, if could prove a God to you who says things like "thou shalt not lie, steal or commit immoral sexual acts", would it change your life any? Even if he appeared (floating down in a cloud, arms crossed, JUST like you want him to)before your very eyes and told you not to do those things, would you still do them?

    If not, then WHY DO YOU EXPECT GOD TO APPEAR BEFORE YOU? He clearly says he wants a relationship from you in the Bible, meaning he wont force your decisions. So for God's sake, what do you want from Him? For Him to fix all your problems then go back to heaven? Do you want God to be your fix-it man? It does not, will not, and never has worked that way. Think about it. You dont want someone you love to use you just to fix things in their life & then tells you to go away....I mean if this is what you expect from Him, its not love. And because you do not love Him, He'll stay away until you ask Him back.

    If you would change your life, then why aren't you praying to find out what He wants from you?? What are you running from? Why did you fall away from your faith because of what someone said about Him? What in you said "That cant be right, let me find out what this really is all about"

  2. Part 2/ You know i love writing you books Mikey

    I believe this didn't happen with you because you are a man of too much faith (too much of something is a bad thing ya know). You have a faith in things greater than I have seen in anyone truly. You believed what some priests in your old church said which is already lots of faith, to believing a theory with so many fallacies and no proof to ACTUALLY be science! You never question the age of the earth or how these people got to their conclusions on how they found out things like lizards producing birds, you just accept that because they are 'experts' they must be right. I just hope you come down to a healthy amount of faith and you have the spirit to question things that you hear.

    -Great post tho, I always enjoy reading the things that you ponder. And i encourage you to continue learning and growing as long as you live! Im sure you will, but some people shut themselves off :/

    "An unexamined life is a not one worth living"

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  4. Oh, wow. Gus, when reading the bible, did you not notice that the whole "You're inherently sinful--only we have the power remove the curse by saying the right magic words--just pay us and obey us and you'll be OK" is a classic Gypsy Curse scam? No? Maybe you should examine that while you're questioning things like goats looking at spotted sticks giving birth to spotted kids.

  5. By the way, while goats looking at spotted sticks giving birth to spotted kids is in the bible, lizards giving birth to birds is not in science. If you're going to argue against something, you must at least address what it actually is, and not your straw-man version.

  6. Well, Monado. Darwin's theory of evolution DOES say that birds evolved from reptiles, which in turn developed from fish/aquatic animals (which is actually backed by a colossal amount of genetic and fossil evidence). I'm a non-believer as well. It astonishes me that you're one too, yet you chose to criticize the argument without due consideration. Not expected of a man who claims to follow reason.
    And Gus, even if we were not to debate the existence of a sky-God, it still is plainly dumb of you to have believed promptly in the unbacked medieval tales people related to you. There IS a large amount of evidence that more than sufficiently backs the claims that science makes, available for an inquisitive and intelligent mind. The theories and laws of science have been applied and tested. (We landed on the moon in 69!). On the contrary, religious claims have largely been found to be false and self-contradictory. (That is the primary reason your religion branched into two). Not to mention the loss of life that religion-influenced cultures have caused - Jihad, the Holocaust, the Crusades, witch burning, human and animal sacrifices, custom of Sati, ... The list is endless. I believe that if any sane person was to hear both sides of the story (science and faith) without a bias, he would surely put his money on science. Even if a person admits that he is doubtful of both, I'd call him logical enough. Doubt is the least logical reaction. Anything behind that falls under the category of illogical. Ask yourself - would you still have been a Catholic/Christian if you were born into a fundamentalist muslim family in the Middle East? In that case, would your "God" have barred you an entry into the "Heaven"?
    I'm not sure but I'm guessing the blog post was written a few minutes into a Wikipedia read. Seems to be a beginner into philosophy. The paradox of an all-loving and all-powerful God was one of the first ancient logics proposed against belief. It's very unconvincing to a plain reading believer. Now we have so many ways of refuting the claims and exposing self-contradictions, that one would not know where to begin.
    I'm not a student of philosophy by the way. I'm deep into Engineering. But, I've read enough theology, philosophy, logic and religion. Still, my arguments might not have been as convincing as they could have if I was a student in that field.
    But it is really very funny to me that people, who readily believe all that preposterous bulls**t (pardon the expression) they are fed, suddenly equip themselves with logic (even if fallacious) when countering someone. Classic argument: "I admit you don't have evidence to believe, but there's not enough evidence to not believe either." That is what I'm saying. Even if you decide to turn a blind eye to 'the evidence to not believe', you should, at the very least, have been an agnostic. I don't usually draw analogies, but imagine you're charged with murder for no reason, and hanged because: "There was not much evidence to disprove his involvement."
    I'm sure you have some stories to relate about the miracles you heard about. But remember: EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS REQUIRE EXTRAORDINARY EVIDENCE.
    P.S.: I'm sorry for any typos or substandard vocabulary or sentence structure. I wrote this in a hurry, and English is not my first language. "Punjabi" is. I'm 'all-waits' if you still have queries/arguments in your pocket.