The fear of death is the primary means of control that Christianity uses to capture the minds and emotions of thousands of followers around the world. Without the fear of death, there is absolutely no motivation for a person to indenture themselves to the life robbing and mind numbing slavery of the Christ cult. Even Paul the Apostle admits that if there is no resurrection then following the path of Christ makes a person miserable. Take away the fear of death and the promise of some future pie in the sky and the premise of loving GOD just because he is god, is thrown right out the window.
Christianity continually makes the unfounded promise of eternal life to believers, but it also promises eternal life to non-believers. Think about it: the lambs of god go straight to heaven for an eternal life with their god while the infidels reside in hell forever and ever. It seems to me that everyone is destined to live forever in Christian theology. There is no annihilation in any mainline Christian teachings. Everyone lives forever.
Those who reject Christ have to spend their eternal life in hell though. Until recent history, hell was always portrayed as a variation on Dante's Inferno with burning flames, sulfurous gases, horrific screaming in agony, and so on. Now, evangelical Christianity leads us to believe that hell is merely separation from god. As such the descriptions in the Bible are reduced to an anthropomorphic way to help us poor small-minded mortals understand a state of being we cannot fully comprehend. I won't belabor the attempt on the part of Christianity to distance themselves from the lake of fire visualization; it is just that according to Christian theology, GOD is omnipresent. He is everywhere all the time. Where would this place be that is separated from GOD? If god is everywhere, then he is in whatever hell is. If God is in hell then hell cannot be a separation from GOD now can it?
If you want to hold on to the Christian afterlife worldview, then you must realize that you will live forever regardless of your faith or lack of faith and there is nowhere in the universe that you can be separated from GOD. Since GOD is love, you cannot be separated from the love of GOD.
Christianity is so full of logical errors that it astounds me sometimes at how I was able to swallow the load of crap for so many long wasted years.
I read Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. many years ago and it made a big impression on me. The hero of the story has the interesting experience of getting "unstuck in time'" One minute he is walking on the beach as a middle aged man and the next he is a young man on a war torn battlefield. As the plot unfolds we see his life from one end to the other, but not in a traditionally linear order. He learns how to go to different times in his life that are pleasant and avoid the painful or traumatic times.
So what's the point?
I want to suggest that all of us really do live forever even without the illusions of complicated religion. So much of our lives and the way we understand the world is a matter of perception. If I believe other people like me, that I am good looking and a very luck guy, then in truth, I am. If however I believe I am ugly, disliked, hated, and very unlucky, then that is the truth. I am really the same either way, but my self-perception greatly alters the way I view my personal reality. I want to suggest that if we alter the way we view time, then much of our fear of death will vanish. If it were possible to travel back in time we would be able to meet our favorite historical figures. While we were there, would those people be alive or dead? Naturally if we were in the past with them, they would be alive. In 1960 I am two years old. In 1960 I will always be 2 years old. I will never cease to be 2 years old in 1960. In fact I am eternally 2 back then. Nothing can ever change that. On the day of my death I will stop accumulating experiences, but those that I have experienced will forever reside somewhere in the fabric of time.
Whenever I remember family and friends that have passed from life as I know it, I visualize times and places we spent together. In my memory they are still alive, still laughing, still having fun. They live in my memory and they live in the past. I too live in the past with them. A younger version of myself lives in the past doing exactly what I did then.
Now maybe I am really reaching with this one. It is likely that my fascination for science fiction has gotten the better of me here. I can admit that my version of a naturalistic afterlife is inventive to the point of complete fantasy. I think the senario I present here is no less fantastic than the one which says there is an angry god bent on burning infidels in a fiery pit of infernal damnation so that they will endure an eternity of pain and suffering just because they used their brains and rejected a screwy religious cult.
As an addendum to this rant, I quote Vonnegut in Chapter 2 of Slaughterhouse 5, "'When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is 'So it goes'.''
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)