Having demonstrated a complete apostasy from Christianity, it is apparent that I am bound for a "Christ-less" grave. My purposeless, meaningless, hedonistic life will be snuffed out one day soon where I will be subject to the dark cold oblivion of death. Everything I have built on this Earth will crumble and fall. All the goals and ambitions I thought worth my time will amount to nothing after I am gone. All memory of me will be erased from history all too soon. Any possessions accumulated will be dissipated as those who come afterwards divvy them up between themselves, and I will return to the dust from which I came, rarely to be thought of again. My existential world view offers me no hope of continued conscious existence, no escape from the Grim Reaper's sickle, and no assurance of a higher purpose beyond that shared by the plants and animals. The law of the jungle is the rule of life, and the vain pursuit of pleasure is the only motivation to continue breathing.
In contrast, the Christian has an everlasting purpose, thick with meaning that will never be overcome by the darkness of temporary flesh's demise. The heavenly treasures amassed will not rust nor be destroyed throughout all the never ending encroaching years of eternity. The law of Grace is the rule of life, and the pleasure derived from glorifying God and enjoying HIM forever is the only real stimulus to go on fighting the good fight.
When I was a Christian, I mindlessly nodded my head in agreement to the previous paragraphs, sadly contemplating the worthless lives of those outside the faith while silently meditating on my good fortune to be part of the Elect of God, chosen before the foundation of the world. A management philosophy I learned some years ago while still in the military states concisely that "perception is reality." The conclusions that can be drawn from understanding this simple three-word-truth are far reaching, if someone is interested in understanding one major aspect of how people comprehend reality. For instance, before Hitler came to power in Germany, the Fascists preached their gospel of Antisemitism continuously and persuasively. Over time, the bulk of the population became convinced that the ills in their society could be directly attributed to the Jewish influence in politics, economics, etc. Although this idea may seem incomprehensible to most of us today, many people in pre-WWII Germany, as well as most of the rest of Europe, had that perception firmly planted in their minds. To them, the "Jewish problem," and the need to erase it from existence, was an unarguable reality. History is indelibly marked with other examples like this of the consequences brought about through misguided political ideologies. Closer to home, in the work place, if employees have the opinion that management is evil, ever seeking out new ways to aggressively squeeze more labor out of them without compensation, the general morale will decline, confrontations will escalate, and productivity will suffer. If, however, employees are of the opinion that their employer is an ally, looking out to protect their personal best interests while still attaining business goals, the atmosphere will tend to be one of positive cooperation where people want to come to work. Close personal relationships are deeply affected by the "perception is reality" model. The pathologically jealous husband or wife will virtually tear a love affair to shreds with their suspicions of spousal infidelity, regardless of the actual innocence or guilt of the spouse. It many ways it doesn't matter what the truth is in any of these scenarios. What really matters is what the people involved believe to be true.
Christians believe their lives will go on forever. Christians believe that they have a higher, more meaningful purpose than the rest of humanity, partly from the belief that they serve the one true GOD and partly because they believe their efforts will be rewarded and never taken away from them. As Christians we were all told this — or something similar — so many times that we just came to accept it without thinking. To imagine being doomed to a Christ-less grave was to be stripped of any reason to live. If this life is all we have, say some Christians, then suicide might be preferable to mindlessly struggling against the unconquerable adversary of mortality. One Christian actually said he expected me to commit suicide very soon, since I now had no reason to live. That was three years ago.
Whatever people believe to be true, for them it becomes reality. As the Fascists demonstrated, if you repeat something often enough, people will accept it as true. Generations of propagandists around the world have profited from that very practice. Perceived reality and actual reality are often not in agreement, but it is the perceived version which gives people the impetus for their behavior.
The verifiable reality of being human is that we are all mortal. We have life, given to us by the union of our parents, and we do the best we can with the opportunities presented by our individual circumstances. Every one of us will eventually take a final ride in our own funeral procession; nothing can change that for any of us. People naturally tend to think of the world and its history in relation to their own lives. We usually think of things in the past as "when I was younger" or "back in my day." Elderly people often remark on how things have changed over the years. Of course what they mean is how things have changed in their own lifetimes. When we think about the time before we were born, that's all murky and unreal. Distant historical figures and the details of their respective realities are stories we cannot easily relate to. Many people are bored to tears with reading or thinking about history prior to their own birth. Seeing no relevance to their lives, learning history seems a complete waste of time to many. That lack of interest is easily understandable. Before I was born, I did not exist. Since I did not exist back then, my life is unaffected, and whatever happened back then seems irrelevant, at least at first glance. Now, the outcome of history does affect our lives, to be sure, but what I am trying to draw attention to is something else. The actual experiences of those who came before me, I cannot really share. I wasn't there; I wasn't alive. I did not feel their pain, and I did not feel their joy. I was not excited while they had an adventure; I was not saddened by their tragedy. I did not rejoice with their triumphs; I did not mourn their deaths. I wasn't there, so I didn't know or feel anything at all. I feel no disappointment in that lack of experience. I don't feel anything at all about all the uncountable generations before I was born. Millions of people lived and died before I was born, and although I missed them all, I haven’t felt terribly deprived of missing out on it. Since an apparent eternity is spread out going backwards in time before I was ever born, totally bereft of my individuality and presence, is my life therefore pointless? After I am gone, another incomprehensible expanse of time will follow the point where my life intersected with history. I will miss all that comes after just as I missed all that came before. My contention is that I will suffer just as much from that lack of experience in the future as I have suffered from the lack of experience in the past. In other words, not at all. I won't know about it because I won't be there. I won't be sad about it; I won't be anything at all.
This is not hopelessly sad pessimism; it is just plain reality. Life is not empty because it is not eternal. Life is great, grand, fun, exciting, hard, easy, full, empty or whatever we make of it. As a former Christian I am told by my previous religion that life without Christ is nothing. That is one point of view; that is one "perception." I would tell the Christian that a life spent striving to please an unverifiable mythological being in the hopes of attaining personal survival beyond physical life is not necessarily a better way to spend an all too limited lifespan.
All of us face the same fate, not one of us as human beings will escape the clutches of our own death. Throughout history people have had a difficult time accepting this hard reality and have invented complex religions and rituals to cloud their minds and fool themselves into believing that others may die, but they will go on. The only difference between the Christian in death and everyone else is what the person believes happens when he, she, or they die. There is no evidence of anyone surviving beyond the grave. There is no evidence that humans are significantly different from any other form of life on Earth, except perhaps the capacity of our brains. In every other way we share the fate of every other creature on the planet. The DNA of chimpanzees is so close to that of human beings as to nearly make us close cousins. We are smarter than they are, and more able to adapt and survive both individually and corporately, but we are as mortal as they are. It is arrogance as a species that encourages us to believe we are much more special in the scheme of life.
Coming to grips with the idea of personal mortality does not necessarily lead to a destructive self-absorbed lifestyle devoid of compassion, love, giving, mercy, etc. The reason some Christians think that a life without Christ is empty is because they are so preoccupied with their own personal individual survival into eternity. They reason that if there is no individual continuance beyond death, people should just grab for all the selfish fun they can, no matter the consequences. They reason to themselves that if there is no final judgment, then there is no restraint on heinous behavior. This is a childish and overly simplistic idea. What Christians demonstrate when they posit this nonsense is that they are themselves so selfish that if they are not going to get a big fat reward for all their subservience to deity, then they want to break out and have an orgy of pleasure before they die. They reveal their own innermost and shallow motivations. The greatest humanitarians are not those who do good because they believe that eventually they will be rewarded. The real humanitarian heroes are those who do what they do for the rest of humanity just because they love life, love people, and love making things better for others and the future. Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and a host of other famous non-Christians have contributed immensely to the betterment of humanity in ways that two millennium of Christians have never even attempted.
There is one final destination for us all; there is no difference regardless of our "perception of reality." The Christian believes differently, but has absolutely no evidence to back up their viewpoint other than the hearsay report of a highly suspect, contradictory book of myths. A book, no less, which was written and complied for the stated purpose of keeping adherents in line by using threats of horrific damnation and promises of indistinct rewards.
What is your perception? What is your reality?