Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Oceanfront property

CM: I don't know who apologists think they're fooling when they step forward and try to solemnly, double dog declare that imagining living forever surrounded by the ones they love is so much more chilling than their existence ending in a universe that doesn't seem to care. Because I sure as heck don't buy that one.

VR: But the doctrine of heaven isn't all there is to it, is there? First off, the belief that there is a heaven doesn't guarantee that we are sure to enjoy it. Admittedly there are some Christians who think they are eternally secure, but a lot of them think they could end up being lost eternally. 

Second, most people, especially the younger among us, deal with death by not thinking about it. Christianity tells you that you have a chance to live forever with God, but that's going to be a long time in the future. It also tells you that if you want to get laid tonight you can't (if you want to remain in God's will), unless you are married to your prospective bed partner. If you have done wrong, you have to repent of that wrong, which means you have to reverse your course of action and accept consequences for having done wrong. Forgiveness doesn't imply that your actions lack consequences, and that there won't be a painful process you have to go through to reverse the effects of sin in your life. That isn't fun at all, and it isn't supposed to be. It means that someone in control of the universe has laid down rules of proper conduct which you have almost certainly broken, and as your maker he has the right to lay those rules down and expect you to obey them. You don't own yourself. Whose life is it anyway? Not yours! If you go to heaven, you don't reign there, God does. Milton's Satan said that it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven, or was that Christopher Hitchens? Do you never have thoughts like that? Really???? You don't have any of what Nagel called the Fear of Religion? 

I sure as heck don't buy THAT one. If you'll buy that, I've got some oceanfront property in Arizona, from my front porch you can see the sea.

10 comments:

Cal Metzger said...

VR: "But the doctrine of heaven isn't all there is to it, is there? First off, the belief that there is a heaven doesn't guarantee that we are sure to enjoy it. Admittedly there are some Christians who think they are eternally secure, but a lot of them think they could end up being lost eternally. "

I don't know of anyone who has religious beliefs who isn't driven there by the fear that death is the end of all they will know. The may come to find Christian or other beliefs to be monstrous and incredible for other reasons, but they all share that fear. To say otherwise is to try to sell something I think no one will buy.

VR: "Second, most people, especially the younger among us, deal with death by not thinking about it. Christianity tells you that you have a chance to live forever with God, but that's going to be a long time in the future. It also tells you that if you want to get laid tonight you can't (if you want to remain in God's will), unless you are married to your prospective bed partner."

Hogwash. Christianity sells forgiveness, and forgiveness means being able to do as you want, and be granted freedom from what you fear later if you come to some sort of later agreement. Who do you think you're talking to?

VR: "If you have done wrong, you have to repent of that wrong, which means you have to reverse your course of action and accept consequences for having done wrong. Forgiveness doesn't imply that your actions lack consequences, and that there won't be a painful process you have to go through to reverse the effects of sin in your life."

Again, pure and simple hogwash. Christians know that accepting Jesus as their personal savior at some later time is enough, and that's all they need to buy into the hope that all their fears won't come true. People like you are trying to score brownie points against your fears, but you're all in the same game.

VR: "That isn't fun at all, and it isn't supposed to be. It means that someone in control of the universe has laid down rules of proper conduct which you have almost certainly broken, and as your maker he has the right to lay those rules down and expect you to obey them. You don't own yourself. Whose life is it anyway? Not yours! If you go to heaven, you don't reign there, God does. Milton's Satan said that it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven, or was that Christopher Hitchens? Do you never have thoughts like that? Really???? You don't have any of what Nagel called the Fear of Religion? I sure as heck don't buy THAT one. If you'll buy that, I've got some oceanfront property in Arizona, from my front porch you can see the sea." "

Who are you trying to convince here? What kind of fantasy land do you think skeptics live in where we run amok in a world without rules and laws we don't have to obey? What kind of arrogance do you have to possess that imagining a bearded sky god is the only way that one would be compelled to live a moral and examined life?

You live so afraid of death and meaninglessness that you have persuaded yourself to adopt and defend a preposterous stew of gobbledygook. To proclaim yourself as somehow courageous in your fears is a lie that I think you can only persuade yourself to believe.

B. Prokop said...

I can't speak for other Christians, but "Heaven" plays little part in what draws me to my Faith. To speak bluntly and frankly, it is the Person of Christ which pulls me in. Not any promise of reward nor threat of punishment, but rather a burning desire to see Him, to Know Him, and to Love and be Loved by Him. I care not how odd this language strikes those who have not experienced a genuine encounter with Him, nor what snickers it may draw from those who cannot comprehend.

There's a homeless man (Dennis) who "lives" not far from me. Every time we meet, I stop whatever I'm doing and delay wherever I'm going to spend some time with him. We ask each other how we're doing and discuss the Ravens, or whatever. Yes, I inevitably slip a few bucks his way before we part, or perhaps treat him to lunch, but that's not the essence of our encounter. I see in Dennis the face of Our Lord made concrete and visible to me, and we each go our own ways better for our meeting.

In the same way, I make a point every Friday afternoon to drop into my local church, (Holy Rosary in Baltimore, where we have Eucharistic Adoration each week from 3 until 7 PM. I spend an hour or so in the physical presence of Christ, not asking for anything in particular, but just silently listening for His word to me.

My time on sites like this is mainly just a bad habit, which I really ought to rid myself of. (I try every now and again. Long time contributors here would be familiar with my occasional "internet fasts". In fact, I feel another one coming on soon.) I do enjoy the intellectual give and take, but must admit I get no "spiritual" benefit from such discussions. It all seems so damned irrelevant to the Main Issues. Hell, no one (well, almost no one) comes to the Faith by being argued into it - it was a Jewish Rabbi of all people who said it best. "God is not a proposition to be debated, He is a person to be encountered."

The atheists on this and other sites can nitpick away until they're blue in the face. In the end, all their artillery is facing in the wrong direction, and they're firing into the void. The arguments of both "sides" ultimately fail because they're beside the point. The Real Issue is a choice between a blazing encounter with the unveiled face of Love Himself, or a blank stare into a nihilistic emptiness, an infinity of purposeless meaninglessness, into the stark nothingness of non-being.

Now that does play a part in my choice - and Faith is a choice.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Cal Metzger said...

Prokop: "There's a homeless man (Dennis) who "lives" not far from me. Every time we meet, I stop whatever I'm doing and delay wherever I'm going to spend some time with him. We ask each other how we're doing and discuss the Ravens, or whatever. Yes, I inevitably slip a few bucks his way before we part, or perhaps treat him to lunch, but that's not the essence of our encounter. I see in Dennis the face of Our Lord made concrete and visible to me, and we each go our own ways better for our meeting."

Stories like these always make me roll my eyes. "Oh, how humbled I am by the poor, fallen fellow whose name I utter, and how I blessed I must be to show my discreet kindness and generosity to him, and to utter these facts to no one at all, but you who stumble on these words that no one was meant to see."

Sigh.

B. Prokop said...

Huh?

Chris said...

I recall that when I was an atheo-materialist, my biggest concern was simply being wrong about the true nature of reality. I was certain, at the time, that my rejection of religion was plain old sanity. If one can choose not to be a materialist, then it's deuces wild, and you can believe anything at all. I though that this was a logical fear- a fear of illusions and a healthy skepticism. However, I now realize that it wasn't just dispassionate reason that was informing my worldview, it was also a psychological fear, a fear of being out of control.

But, at the end of the day, psychological motives do not seem to be all that helpful in understanding the true nature of reality.

Legion of Logic said...

Cal treats none of you respectfully. He not only trashes your beliefs, he trashes you by criticizing your motives and calling you liars when you say otherwise. Why do you deal with such a juvenile fool who obviously isn't here for honest dialogue, but instead to make idiotic talking points and get in his tired, easily refuted cheap shot atheist talking points?

Cal Metzger said...

Legion: "Cal treats none of you respectfully. He not only trashes your beliefs, he trashes you by criticizing your motives and calling you liars when you say otherwise."

It's common for theists to say that those such as myself willingly deny the existence of a god we know exists. And I can't count the number of times commenters here baldly misrepresent atheist criticisms of religious beliefs. So get off your high horse.

Legion: "Why do you deal with such a juvenile fool who obviously isn't here for honest dialogue, but instead to make idiotic talking points and get in his tired, easily refuted cheap shot atheist talking points?"

I am here to offer honest criticism of ideas that are patently ridiculous, to challenge those who want to defend those beliefs, and to strip away the veneer of respectability that so many apologists use to try and protect their false beliefs. If that makes you uncomfortable I suppose you can imagine why I think that would be the case.

If Victor and the commenters on this blog can't handle the fact that I will call them as I see them, and that I think that to do otherwise is a kind of lying or pretending, then so be it. If you dislkie honest criticism, then I'd suggest you join a private bible study instead of participating in a blog that says it would like to invite discussion (including argument, criticism and disagreement from the likes of me).

B. Prokop said...

"[M]ost people, especially the younger among us, deal with death by not thinking about it."

That's probably true across all cultures and religions. Even young atheists (yes, I do know a few) generally do not spare much time in contemplating their own demise. Now in my own mid-60s, I can look back over a long life's evolving view about death.

As a young person (up to age 20 or so), I intellectually knew that someday I myself would die, but that "someday" seemed so inconceivably far in the future as to not be worth bothering about. So I didn't.

I didn't start getting serious about the subject until age 35. Being a fan of The Divine Comedy, I had that particular age fixed in my mind as the halfway point in one's life ("Midway this way of life we're bound upon" Inferno, Canto One, Line 1), so from then on I was aware that there likely was less time before me than behind. That was a major shift in attitude. I started wanting to leave behind some sort of legacy. I got more serious at my job, and took more risks. I actually started to enjoy life more, not less, knowing "the end was near" (or at least, nearing). It's when I did my best and most creative work.

Mortality struck me in square in the face with a violent blow at age 56, when my wife of 34 years quite suddenly died of cancer. The shock alone nearly felled me as well. I've lived every day since then with the feeling of being on "borrowed time". This feeling only increased when I became a grandparent almost 3 years ago. In some fashion, I felt that I had fulfilled my biological purpose, and was (am) serenely ready to move along without protest when my time came. Hobbies started becoming more important in my daily routine, and this is when I took up amateur astronomy in a big way.

Which brings me to last year, when I made the big move of selling my house, discarding 90% of my possessions, and moving into a one-bedroom apartment in the inner city (Baltimore). "Less is better" became my watchword as far as material things were concerned, and since then I've devoted nearly 100% of my free time to walking around the city and talking to people I've never met before (and no, I don't discuss religion), to going to Mass 3, maybe 4, times a week, and to private prayer in my apartment (which my younger daughter complains is starting to look more and more like a church).

I am now acutely aware of the fact that I have only a few years left, and watch in some bemusement as I reconcile myself to abandoning one long term goal after another. It no longer seems of any importance to me whether or not I finish any particular project. I remember the words of (of all things!) a Unitarian minister, Forrest Church: "We all die in act III of a five act play.") I never plan for anything more than a handful of months ahead, and next year is just not even a consideration.

The take away from all this? I guess, that one's age is a huge factor in one's attitude toward death.

I hardly ever speculate about the Next Life. I content myself with the words of Walt Whitman (especially the last line):

Away O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers - haul out - shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovel'd here long enough, eating and drinking, like mere brutes?
Have we not darken'd and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me,
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?

Cal Metzger said...

Bob, I disagree with most everything you write, but I enjoyed reading your last post. It was a very human and thoughtful piece.

Hugo Pelland said...

"Do you never have thoughts like that? Really???? You don't have any of what Nagel called the Fear of Religion?"
Honestly no... personally, the most I have are some internal dialogues, some deep meditation thinking, which sometimes that make me doubt; some pretty strong feelings of what I am doing right/wrong and why. Some sort of introspection that tells me that I know I am doing bad things sometimes and should improve, to be a better person. It never even gets close to something like a fear of post-death consequences.