Go to Hell, Go to Heaven….What’s the Difference?
The notion of an afterlife is one of continual intrigue and for many reasons. First off, we have no idea if it exists; we have only promises from forever ago pertaining to some hinted, usually convoluted and metaphorical, paradise or place of unforgivable torment. This belief has a very long history and it really doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. However, some of the arguments in favor of such a notion strike me as ass-backwards if I may be so blunt. I shall attempt to respond to this notion that the existence of an afterlife provides meaning to one’s life.
I have been told, on more than one occasion, that if this life was all that there was- what difference would it make what you did with it? What would it matter how you lived it? You live it and then it’s just gone! It is from this that the significance of life deriving from the existence of an afterlife comes into play. This so blatantly flies in the face of everything we hold dear!!
The reason that this life matters at all is because it shall end, because of our finite time on this planet each second counts, each minute, each interaction, each tear, and each smile! I give you one of a million examples that I have formed in soliloquy fashion during my long bike rides. Even if you don’t give a damn about sports, we have all heard or seen that contest where some lucky fan gets a chance to win a million dollars by making a half court shot right? Now, upon this lucky sap realizing this amazing prize, will he no doubt practice long hours? On the day of will he not eat a ‘champion’s’ breakfast? Will he not perhaps even become superstitious by putting his lucky penny in his pocket, attaching his lucky rabbits foot keychain to his belt loop, do the most useless stretching (useless in the scope of this one activity he has to do)? Ok, now let’s take this same guy and the same prize except he gets to shoot 10,000 shots. Do you think he would exercise as much? Would he really practice such long hours and embrace all forms of superstition or would he simply go with the odds and figure that if he has the simple mechanics down, figures out the necessary force, etc. that within 10,000 shots he will eventually make it?
Now, in the above example, I used the number 10,000…..yet within the notions of the afterlife we are talking about Eternity!! Females statistically make it to about 76yrs and males go for about 73yrs- what the hell is that compared to eternity? It is this notion of an afterlife that denigrates this life to a mere ‘test,’ a mere ‘waiting room’ before going into see the Big Doctor, so to speak.
Why is even such a conceptual notion like ‘love’ even possible? It is because it is so fragile and finite. We buy pets knowing they will eventually die, we engage in relationships and friendships knowing that either participant could die at any minute. Thus, we have, some of us that is, this extreme passion to find ‘the one,’ to reach the extremes of nature, to get the ultimate rush……but why, because we may never get another chance. The notion of carpe diem is paradigmatic of this idea of our finite nature. For with the promise of paradise- why would I care about this life? In fact, why not go somewhere where I could be a martyr and get to this paradise faster?
Concerning this eternal heaven/hell option presented to us…..it just flies in the face of anything of importance to us. Regardless of the milk/honey flowing in heaven or the ultimate separation from God in heaven….eventually it would get really, really boring. Any sort of utopia- real or metaphysical, how long could one tolerate being in a perfect state of mind? If we lived forever on this planet for example- would you care as much when a relationship went sour? Would you care as much when you got fired from a job? Would you bother actively searching for ‘the one’? NO, you wouldn’t! For you have FOREVER and playing the odds appropriately…..you’re bound to find it. It is this life and this life alone we have and which we should make the most of it while keeping in mind that it is not a means to an end to get to this eternal hotel of happiness or to avoid the eternal motel of torture. But it is to look back on a life well-lived, the examined life, the lived life!
From → Philosophy