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And Christ, under the illusion that we were penguins, was crouching down for snapshots...

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Apr. 12th, 2005 | 03:39 am
posted by: sanslimites in casual_order

The People

Why do we people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? ...

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, entirely sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.

The eighteenth-century Hasidic Jews had more sense, and more belief. One Hasidic slaughterer, whose work required invoking the Lord, bade a tearful farewell to his wife and children every morning before he set out for the slaughterhouse. He felt, every morning, that he would never see any of them again. For every day, as he himself stood with his knife in his hand, the words of his prayer carried him into danger. After he called on God, God might notive and destroy him before he had time to utter the rest, "Have mercy."

Another Hasid, a rabbi, refused to promise a friend to visit him the next day: "How can you ask me to make such a promise? This evening I must pray and recite 'Hear, O Isreal.' When I say these words, my soul goes out to the utmost rim of my life... Perhaps I should not die this time either, but how can i now promise to do something at a time after prayer?"

Annie Dillard

"An Expedition to the Pole," Teaching a Stone to Talk


I have never given much thought to the afterlife. The eternal, yes- but the eternal has always been, for me, rather inseperable with the divine in its very nature; not so much representing timeless continuation or unearthly being, but the sheer plausible existance to those things between the lines we see.

Maybe it's just me, either being hypersensitive or typically delusionary in thinking I'm sensitive. But it seems to me that the world is unfinished. That's what the thought of eternity is to me; not a promise, oh look, things are better on the other side, really; not a goal. Just a realisation- there is a completion to this. This is not the entirety of the definition. It seems to be what everyone is looking for when they speak of unfairness- because that seems to be a unifying theme, really, not that anyone's done bloody anything to deserve justification in this world, but in our guts we all seem to expect it- to me, eternity is the space between the sky, the answers we do not know, the justification of our lives and the completed existance.

With that in mind, beyond the thought of an afterlife- the general opinion there is a heaven, there is a hell, even if it seems strange and wrong to put it in such terms- the specifics never bothered me because such an eternity answered any questions i might have that have currently coherent answers to.

Most preachers never seem to tire of bringing reminders of the afterlife & all of its wonderful things into the sermons. I never understood entirely why, if it was meant to be encouragement, that fate we can neither yet reach nor understand, some feel-good comfort, or i don't really know why they bring it in so often. It never seemed to be the point to me, not the whole heaven & hell after effects but the actual foundations of our religion instead that ought to be looked to for comfort. And so I've always found it maybe cutely reassuring but otherwise pointless, at least until we get there to actually find out. I have no problem trying to make logical conclusions or guesses we might have some idea about, but as the foundation of its nature is that we are unable to understand it, any debate over the matter strikes me as being a bit silly. Entertaining, yes, but... There is certainly enough about it, from countless references & hopes written in the Bible to pervading ideas in comparative religions. Much of it is left to speculation or subjective interpretation. Especially with the Bible written with its cryptic ambiguity, delivering straightforwardly things that we can read into any bloody way we like- the amount of ways to misinterpret it has always shied me away from trying to read anything into it.

I'll admit I'm remarkably unlearned on the topic specifically. I never studied it in depth myself, and I went through a Christian school where the only opinions on the afterlife were of some bizarre transcendentalism taught by one of the teachers, a self-interpretive study of the book of Revelation by another, and the general belief through most of the graduating classes that heaven means dressing in white and singing all day.

I heard, once, someone argue against christianity, because it professes to be a religion based on free will when the entire point is to submit oneself to another entity's guidance without understanding reason, in order to gain eternal mindless oblivion worshipping something you cannot naysay.

And there, finally, was an argument that I could understand, and empathize with. Because many times I cannot help but to think that it ultimately does not matter if our God is the epitomy of love or not. It may sound sacriligeous. I would prefer to think that God personifies reason instead. Take the love on top of that to create an entirely new set, aye, but my comfort now rests not so much in promises of love but hopes of rationality.

But to some degree I digress. Christians, as a whole, don't seem to have a cohesive view on the afterlife, besides the general heaven/hell bit. I'm fine with that and expect no differently. No matter all the different takes on the theology, though, there always seems to be the one consistant idea- we will be raised up. Christians seem to count on becoming something more than themselves. What, I wonder, should we be expecting?

It struck me, then, whenever my pastor mentioned something- I wish I could remember now, some months later, what the sermon was actually about, it might yet come to me- but he made a rather simple statement that blocked out the rest of the delivery for me. He merely pointed out how, scientifically speaking, how the advancement of a creature is measured in terms of how biologically complex it is. And quite honestly, whatever his point was after that was lost on me, because i was too busy considering the afterlife from there.

I realise know that the most well-used answers from the Bible are immensely vague. Glorified bodies, no more sorrow, the light of God, etc. Lifted up, though, to where? There is no sorrow, the unredeemed are on the other side, thus we do not know sin?

I wonder at what this could define, to be more biologically complex, and how it could be to be blameless in the process.

It did not strike me so much in the Biblical, religious expectations so much as the scientific and psychological. Just questioning- what can this be taken to next? Not the mindless white-gowned harping, then, that so many seem content to picture. Where are the decisions, the rationality, the reasoning, that justify what we see ourselves as, and what would they become? How much could intelligence be raised to exist an eternity without fail.

Human nature is such right now that, without experience & rational decision behind us, I do not believe we would understand truth if it hit us upside the head. And even then, if we would recognise it as truth, the full depth of meaning as such would be lost on us, because we learn by relatives & comparisons & extremes.

Take it, then, to a more developped understanding, this glorified, more complex being. Perhaps, then, we would be able to understand truth when it hits us. Perhaps we would have reasoning enough not to need proof and justification to every idea we might find. So we understand truth, at least enough to know it as such even if we still cannot fully comprehend its depth; say, then, we know no sin nor sorrow. The nature of godhead by definition is, essentially, to be above us. But with truth, and with power, blamelessness, and with what could only assume might be a heightened free will come from heightened complexity of understanding and intelligence- what, then, would keep the glorified from thinking them gods themselves?

I wonder where the line is, how we could be perfected but somehow not perfected enough, and how our rationality will understand it.

Perhaps, though, with this glorification will come more of the fear & awe that Annie Dillard mentions in her essay. That, come given the understanding of truth, of divinity, and having seen before what it was not and what we were not, perhaps we also realise the utter depth of the power we are surrounded with, and do not take it so lightly as the blind who have no sense of the colour around them. Perhaps these things are written into the definitions more than we can hope to understand yet.

No new considerations here, certainly, but while i've heard them all before, somehow they had never occured to me in a more scientific light before. I would be interested in researching the idea- not necessarily from a religious background but in psychology, and see what human analysis has to say. Somehow even though I'd never bothered the afterlife specifically before, i keep turning back to it now. I thought that I would open the general idea up to more discussion.

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from: sanslimites
date: Jul. 21st, 2005 07:07 am (UTC)

I'm sorry; I didn't realise that it's screening your comments. I'll try to fix that, and poke me if it doesn't work.

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