Sunday, June 5, 2011

Heaven Is Silly

So I'm rusty writing wise, but I've been itching to get this idea out of my brain. Debate amongst yourselves! Or with me. Or with yourself. It's all good.


"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," -Stephen Hawking

“Over the course of human evolution, as each group of people became gradually aware of the enormity of its isolation in the cosmos and of the precariousness of its hold on survival, it developed myths and beliefs to transform the random, crushing forces of the universe into manageable, or at least understandable, patterns. One of the major functions of every culture has been to shield its members from chaos, to reassure them of their importance and ultimate success.” - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

It is in our nature to question, and that makes us different from every other organism on the planet (that we know of). That may be a good case for divine intervention having a hand in our creation, but disproving the existence of god and/or an afterlife is a fruitless task and not what I’m concerned with. Despite our inquisitive natures it seems we are often reluctant to question our cultural traditions and beliefs and instead rationalize them to a comical level. When I was a kid, I believed in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. On my way to adulthood I stopped believing in them because, well, they're NOT REAL (though I was thoroughly disappointed. I mean, a fairy that pays you for a naturally occurring process you have no control over? How about a period fairy? Hell to the yes.) I think we would do well to question our beliefs a little more often, specifically the belief in an afterlife. But then, Santa Claus isn’t the last bastion between the tiny speck of dust in the cosmos that is humanity and nothingness. Belief in an afterlife can be that cozy warm blanket keeping the never-ending night at bay. What people may not realize is that such a belief, while heartening, can also reinforce negative patterns.

We are taught that many shitty things are simply “a part of life.” And that’s that. Of course, there’s not a whole lot you can do about your taxes and that sort of outside circumstance, but it seems like people just sort of accept the status quo of life without ANY challenge. Perhaps our complacency is in part due to the ingrained belief that one day, somehow, everything will be alright. One day, when we die, God/whoever will welcome us into heaven and all the parking tickets and traffic and bad sex and unfulfilling jobs and hunger and disease and war and all the shit we put up with in our corporeal lives will have been worth it. If it were true, it would be AWESOME. Seventy odd years of on-off suffering with occasional sparkly moments of joy in exchange for a never-ending Ecstasy trip when I kick the bucket? Sign. Me. Up.

(More after the JUMP. JUMP! JUMP, YOU FOOLS!)

But, I am a little baffled by the absolute faith thing. I’m baffled by mature, responsible, rational, intelligent adults believing in a magical sky kingdom for dead people. Not that it’s not possible, but it seems foolish to bet your entire existence on it. And I used to be Pretty Damn Catholic, so I sort of get it, it feels good. I guess it makes sense that Christianity (the religion with probably the most influence on American life), a religion based on enforcing its beliefs through fear mongering (Don’t Touch Yourself There, You’ll Go to Hell!) would base one of its central tenants on one of humanity’s greatest fears: that of the big bad unknown. Belief in Heaven is the ultimate coping mechanism.

We are the tiniest of krill in the cosmos. So tiny sometimes my brain just starts hurting thinking about it and I drown my existential sorrows in Netflix Instant Watch. We are terrified by our completely inconsequential nature in the grand scheme of the universe and thus have to make up a story that features us as the protagonist. We desperately cling to our ideas of a god and an afterlife in part because it makes humanity inherently worth something (ie, there is a place made only for humans after death) and makes us something more than every other organism on the planet. The alternative being that being human means nothing more than being a butterfly; we simply are. We are not better, we are not chosen, we are not the favorite. If we have been granted specialness by an outside force, then we do not need to do anything to make us worthwhile, we are important for simply existing. But this does not bring true enjoyment of life, true happiness. I will not pretend to know exactly what “true happiness” is, but the system as it exists encourages us to be lazy, arrogant, wasteful, ungrateful and does nothing to bring real enjoyment or appreciation to our lives. It cripples us and keeps us from pursuing things that might actually make us happy.

I am by no means under the impression that believing in a heaven means you won’t do anything with your life. There are plenty of folk who are motivated by what they believe and that is well and dandy. But I think it’s important that if you do believe in a Next World, you examine how/if it affects the way you deal with things. Whereas long ago our beliefs may have provided us with a sense of purpose, a driving force against the wilderness, now they are often a plan B. Regarding pursuing a career in acting, David Mamet said that “Those with ‘something to fall back on’ invariably fall back on it.” That life’s escape plans are only thought up by those who plan to use them. The belief in an afterlife is one that soothes and tells us that no matter how bad things are now, one day it will be worth it; that we will be rewarded with ultimate joy if we just toe the moral line and turn the other cheek. This may be a comfort to those in unfavorable circumstances, but it does not encourage them to change or try to enjoy themselves where and when they can. It’s a belief that enables complacency; with your job, with your relationships, with everything. It’s a belief that can keep us stumbling somnolently through life, rarely changing, rarely seeking to better our minds or our behavior in a substantial way, because, hey, it doesn’t matter! One day everything will be clouds and harps and trombones and shit. To acknowledge that this existence is it, that we are living the endgame, is to acknowledge that what we do with our lives is the only thing that actually matters. We might as well be true to our desires and emotions here and now, and not on some far-off date. It’s time humanity grew up and stopped being afraid of the dark; maybe the dark has a lot more to offer. Plus, clouds are wet and cold and whose idea of paradise is that anyway? Stupid thirteenth century artists.


  1. You know me too well C.B... I believe in an afterlife, I think you know full well what I believe in though... That said, I think most people choose to believe in poncy religious after lives such as heaven and hell to have some sort of self justice. In their head, it gives them some sort of strange satisfaction having some spoon fed "knowledge" that if they are good, they'll be paid off with that.
    Also, we as people love mystery, however, we also love to solve it. It may be such a big topic as we don't know what happens, it must drive some people mad, the sane ones stil wonder too though. We all want to know, but then it's annoying as most don't want to die too... That's a shitty making of an ultimatum if I ever did hear of one.

    Even with what I do believe, I still struggle with it... You have seen me struggle with it... Yet I still doubt it too, like everyone else.

  2. @ Melliford

    I think it's a bit puzzling that people spend so much time wondering if these things exist or not when they could be putting that energy to better use; dealing with real problems rather than imaginary ones. That isn't to say that there is no benefit in asking questions about our nature, existence, etc, but I think people are looking in the wrong places and coming up with stuff 'n nonsense to distract from the harsher realities of, well, reality.

  3. That's my point. They CHOOSE to believe in certain afterlives for slight satisfaction. It's either too scary or they really just cannot be bothered to go looking for it. We'll never really know though until we experience certain things that give us little clues of certain things and/or die ourselves.

    I don't agree with most peoples approach to this subject... Hell, I don't even know if I agree with my own. However, you say they should use their effort in some other way toward it... Why not forget about it and concentrate full heartedly on their life their living, and really leave the mystery down the end of the beginning? Or is that what you mean?

  4. ** They choose, in order to distract themselves from reality itself... as society grows, so does it's fear for growing in it.

  5. Yeah, we're agreeing. I mean it's a worthwhile endeavor to "ask the big questions" because I think the more you know about -yourself- the more fulfilling a life you can lead. And I don't think you need religion to do that; I think it's more likely to be a distraction than anything else.

  6. Thing is, at the end of the day, it's not distracting, surely it's more of an acknowledgment? By purposely negating it, they'll drive themselves more crazy...

    I'm still for the whole live life by the moment... Regret nothing.
    This past year, I've been someone I am unsure of, and I stopped asking questions, and just got caught in a loop of things... It's driving me crazy. I need to go back to being spontaneous but finding conclusions to them. It seemed to work.

    Back to other people in general. I generally feel it comes down to most being scared to try questioning things. It's like the rule of acting with how Actors are crazy because the question things and act differently, different personalities etc... Growing up people are taught and told off for doing crazy things like that... Kids playing in the living room while mummy and daddy are chatting to the neighbours that dropped off misplaced post, "Children, be quiet" what's wrong with being loud whilst playing? Actors bring out human beings urges... laughter, tears... punches... We get to do it all... "Normal" people can't do that... How'd you expect them to form much else. Obviously this isn't a bias opinion and I'm not saying this as strict as it sounds... I expect c.b, you understand my run on thoughts... you tend to.

    There's three types of people:
    1) They hear noises in their house in the dark, they hide under the covers.
    2) They hear the noises and go and find it, having no clue what could happen
    3) Lucky sons of bitches who sleep comfortably with no noises and get out of most scott free no questions but always with answers.