Afterlife, count me out!


Friends, your good host is feeling lazy today but that does not mean he doesn’t have gems to share. I like this one on the afterlife and if you still want an afterlife, I wish you well and I hope that you get a good choirmaster in heaven and that the people who never attempt to sing in church but are headed to heaven will have heavenly and musical voices or you will wish you died once and it ended there.

The past week, the pope announced we[atheists] if we did ‘good’ were going to heaven. A statement which one spokesman for the Vatican clarified and said something to the effect you must be catholic to go to this heaven. Well, first I don’t think there is another life. I have no proof  for it, and since it didn’t bother me before I was born, I don’t see why it should bother me when am gone. The pope and his minions must know, if they are intelligent, that atheists, speaking for myself, have no belief in heaven and hell. That we wish that people live their lives here fully and as the great Marcus Aurelius said,

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

I wish there was an afterlife sometimes, I wish my mum who went before me would see what have become. I wish she would be happy that am trying to make the life of our lot better by killing gods and dealing with superstition. That she would be happy that I managed to get out of the shackles imposed on us by religion.

I share with you some thoughts of Jean Meslier on the afterlife.

But, it will be said, is not the dogma of the immortality of the soul consoling for beings who often find themselves very unhappy here below? If this should be an illusion, is it not a sweet and agreeable one? Is it not a benefit for man to believe that he can live again and enjoy, sometime, the happiness which is refused to him on earth? Thus, poor mortals! you make your wishes the measure of the truth! Because you desire to live forever, and to be happier, you conclude from thence that you will live forever, and that you will be more fortunate in an unknown world than in the known world, in which you so often suffer! Consent, then, to leave without regret this world, which causes more trouble than pleasure to the majority of you. Resign yourselves to the order of destiny, which decrees that you, like all other beings, should not endure forever. But what will become of me? you ask! What you were several millions of years ago. You were then, I do not know what; resign yourselves, then, to become again in an instant, I do not know what; what you were then; return peaceably to the universal home from which you came without your knowledge into your material form, and pass by without murmuring, like all the beings which surround you!

We are repeatedly told that religious ideas offer infinite consolation to the unfortunate; it is pretended that the idea of the immortality of the soul and of a happier life has a tendency to lift up the heart of man and to sustain him in the midst of the adversities with which he is assailed in this life. Materialism, on the contrary, is, we are told, an afflicting system, tending to degrade man, which ranks him among brutes; which destroys his courage, whose only hope is complete annihilation, tending to lead him to despair, and inducing him to commit suicide as soon as he suffers in this world. The grand policy of theologians is to blow hot and to blow cold, to afflict and to console, to frighten and to reassure.

According to the fictions of theology, the regions of the other life are happy and unhappy. Nothing more difficult than to render one worthy of the abode of felicity; nothing easier than to obtain a place in the abode of torments that Divinity prepares for the unfortunate victims of His eternal fury. Those who find the idea of another life so flattering and so sweet, have they then forgotten that this other life, according to them, is to be accompanied by torments for the majority of mortals? Is not the idea of total annihilation infinitely preferable to the idea of an eternal existence accompanied with suffering and gnashing of teeth? The fear of ceasing to exist, is it more afflicting than the thought of having not always been? The fear of ceasing to be is but an evil for the imagination, which alone brought forth the dogma of another life.

You say, O Christian philosophers, that the idea of a happier life is delightful; we agree; there is no one who would not desire a more agreeable and a more durable existence than the one we enjoy here below. But, if Paradise is tempting, you will admit, also, that hell is frightful. It is very difficult to merit heaven, and very easy to gain hell. Do you not say that one straight and narrow path leads to the happy regions, and that a broad road leads to the regions of the unhappy? Do you not constantly tell us that the number of the chosen ones is very small, and that of the damned is very large? Do we not need, in order to be saved, such grace as your God grants to but few? Well! I tell you that these ideas are by no means consoling; I prefer to be annihilated at once rather than to burn forever; I will tell you that the fate of beasts appears to me more desirable than the fate of the damned; I will tell you that the belief which delivers me from overwhelming fears in this world, appears to me more desirable than the uncertainty in which I am left through belief in a God who, master of His favors, gives them but to His favorites, and who permits all the others to render themselves worthy of eternal punishments. It can be but blind enthusiasm or folly that can prefer a system which evidently encourages improbable conjectures, accompanied by uncertainty and desolating fear.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

46 thoughts on “Afterlife, count me out!

  1. Mordanicus says:

    As a religious naturalist I believe that life can only be meaningful because it is finite.

    One problem with the theist idea of the afterlife, and especially with predestination, is: if god wants people to live for ever, why not abolish death? Some theists object that otherwise earth will be overpopulated, although if humans are immortal there is no need for reproduction so god can make people both immortal and infertile.

    If god, as calvinists believe, has already determined who goes to heaven or hell irrespective for their deeds, why bother with creating this worldly life? If you want some people to suffer in hell or heaven, why should not place them there directly? Conclusion: predestination is absurd.

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    • makagutu says:

      The idea of an afterlife is absurd no matter who is selling it. The muslims heaven have wine and alcohol, things they don’t take here. The christians foresee a heaven where they will be singing hallelujah chorus all eternity whilst majority of them can’t sing to save themselves here. They talk of unending love and a host of grandiose things they seem not to have here.

      If the bible is to believed, then Revelations paints a very grim picture of the numbers approved by the celestial dictator. The people who preach about the afterlife have failed to define a coherent god leave alone showing that this god who they say is in charge of the next life exists.

      There is the group of theists who argue their god gives people free will so they can choose and some have chosen to go to hell. One is left wondering why their god needed to populate hell in the first place. And as others before have written, if what we are told their god intends to do to a big percentage of men, what is the worst that the devil we are told is bad would do?

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  2. themodernidiot says:

    Yeah, I’m okay with just being worm food. A heck of a lot less stressful 🙂

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    • makagutu says:

      I agree with you my friend, complete and total annihilation. Giving back to nature by being food to others :-P. This is I think is even more meaningful than singing hallelujah chorus on end!

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      • Mordanicus says:

        Yes, indeed. If heaven is singing for ever, then I am not surprised that Machiavelli said he would prefer hell.

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        • makagutu says:

          Machiavelli was right on the money. It seems to me, it would be quite a boring place. There will be no thinking required. If people are dumb here, they will be worse than automatons in heaven, a really useless existence for eternity!

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      • themodernidiot says:

        Is it annihilation if you’re recycled?

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        • makagutu says:

          Will you know that you have been recycled or rather will you care to what use you have been put to?

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          • themodernidiot says:

            Not likely haha

            I ask because I our recycling is kind of and afterlife. I wonder if that’s what the bible actually meant. Not all this heaven/angel cartoon idea, but rather our decomposition as a fertilizer for new life, which leads to a new paradise of: abundant food; happy, busy lives; environmental balance; low disease or none-maybe just a spider bite here or there…

            That sounds way better than sittin’ on a cloud bein bored all day

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            • Mordanicus says:

              This is a good one. I have thought of it before, this recycling might be closer to the Buddhist idea of rebirth than reincarnation. (Buddhism does not believe in the immortality of the soul, if such concept exist at all in Buddhism.)

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              • john zande says:

                You’re right. A Buddhist does not believe an individual’s entire conscious self (their memories) gets remade into a tree, a hedgehog, or another human being rather a core – an element – of it goes on to inhabit another life form on the next phase in a wheel of existence. Over time and with right actions that core acquires greater and greater spiritual mass, or karma (literally meaning ‘action’ which includes the fruits and the consequences of those actions), elevating itself with each rebirth higher and higher up the forever turning wheel of life: samsara. It’s a beautiful notion, unquestionably poetic, but regretfully burdened by the awkward reality that there is absolutely no way of testing it for accuracy. It is bewitching and charming and graceful and wonder-full, but in the end the promise of spiritual reincarnation is no different than the Mormon imaginings of a sexed-up Celestial Kingdom where making spirit babies is the order of the day: a promise based on nothing other than someone at one time thought it sounded pretty good and had the added value of helping alleviate people’s fear of total conscious annihilation.

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                • makagutu says:

                  I think the Buddhist idea is far much better than the abrahamic religions idea of torment even if the orients idea is still steeped in superstition.

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                  • john zande says:

                    Its better in one respect as a working social system because it places the onus of right behaviour on the individual who is ultimately responsible for his or her own reward. They’re testing and rewarding themselves.

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                • Mordanicus says:

                  This is an excellent review! However, Buddhism also preach that people should be more concerned about this life, than with a possible later life. This because Buddhism believes that enlightenment can be reached in this life.

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                  • makagutu says:

                    indeed, they believe enlightenment is to be achieved in this life. The idea of reincarnation is so that one reaches that state of transcendence while here, not elsewhere.

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                    • Mordanicus says:

                      The Buddhist idea of enlightenment is close to annihilation. According to Buddhism both the idea of the self as the soul are illusions.

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                  • john zande says:

                    Yeah, that’s kinda what i just replied to Maka about (before i saw your comment). If we “must” have a superstition then Buddhism is one of the better one’s on the shelf. No, “Gods going to smite you ass!” rather, “Oh, you sooo smote yourself, dickhead!” 🙂

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                    • Mordanicus says:

                      And also Buddhism teaches that religion should not be infused with politics (whether Buddhist are actually following this, is another issue).

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                    • john zande says:

                      That’s a rule i can get behind! There is, however, a caste system in Buddhism, isn’t there?

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                    • makagutu says:

                      I don’t whether it is Buddhism that has a caste system or Hinduism. In Buddhism, they just have the nuns and monks and the laity or so I think.

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                    • Mordanicus says:

                      No, that’s Hinduism. Most Buddhist societies do not have castes.

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                    • john zande says:

                      True. I think a possible criticism of Buddhism (as a societal system) is that it’s emphasis on individual action could work against collective projects/progress. Why work for the common good? Why tune your brain to larger issues when communion with a nightingale is equally (if not more) important? Does this make sense? Is it a valid criticism?

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                    • Mordanicus says:

                      Maka, you are right, in Buddhism you have only laity and monks/nuns. However, every person who want can be ordained and does not depend on birth or social standing.

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                    • Mordanicus says:

                      John, your criticism is both valid as not. First, in Buddhism persons can only “safe” themselves (so the whole crucifixion story does not make any sense in Buddhist thought) and so is achieving enlightenment an individual affair. However, altruism is highly regarded in Buddhism, by helping others one will earn positive karma. Therefore people might been encouraged to work to the common good, since this would in their own benefit.

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                    • john zande says:

                      Even fight in wars, when war is unavoidable?

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                    • Mordanicus says:

                      Depends on the specific case, defensive war is acceptable outright. Offensive war only in very limited cases, such as disposing an oppressive tyrant but not for things as mere conquest.

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                    • john zande says:

                      OK, so the operation of a state isn’t impeded. Sounding better all the time.

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                    • makagutu says:

                      The question of war is the theme of Bhagavad Vita which I think is one of the texts of Buddhism unless am wrong and karma, is seen as action where the one acting does so with little regard to the rewards.

                      It is an interesting war epic.

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                    • john zande says:

                      The question of conflict is an interesting one. Mordanicus… when you get a chance a post on Buddhism and conflict would be great.

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                    • Mordanicus says:

                      Maka, the Baghva Gita is part of Mahabharatha which us part of Hinduism.

                      John, I will do a post on Buddhism and conflict, however it will be not sooner than next week, since I have to look up stuff.

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                    • john zande says:

                      Cool! Take your time. This is something we’ll explore slowly.

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                    • makagutu says:

                      Thanks for the correction. I think however the Buddha did interact a little with Brahmin priests or was aware of some of their teachings.

                      Looking forward to your post. Buddhism, from the little I have read on it, seems to me to be an interesting religion

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            • makagutu says:

              I think even if we were to do a metaphorical reading of the good book we would be hard pressed to come up with such an understanding unless we do a lot of theological language twisting!

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  3. mixedupmeme says:

    I am going to audition for the position of Choir Master. So not quite ready to completely give up an after life.
    I don’t want to be worm food. 😦
    I want to be the Star!
    I want to be the WormWood!

    Revelations 8:10-11
    10 And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters;

    11 And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.

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  4. john zande says:

    Violet nailed it the other day: I look forward to death… turning off will be restful.

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  5. aguywithoutboxers says:

    When I’m dead, I’m dead. That’s it. The earth is crowded enough as it is. If all the dead are in heaven, who wants the hassle of overcrowding? Excellent post, my Nairobi brother. One question. How does the pope know who goes to heaven and who doesn’t?

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    • makagutu says:

      maybe the pope had a conversation with god concerning the occupants of catholic heaven and was quickly reminded there are no atheists in that heaven.

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  6. Daniela says:

    The notion of after life is present in all major religions as we know them today, as it was before them. This is because it serves one simple but important purpose – it helps humans to come to terms with their own perishability. Admitting some need more help than others.

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    • john zande says:

      Just a minor correctION, Daniela… the Egyptains only had an afterlife for those embalmed and presented ready for the afterlife. Everyone else just rotted back into the earth. Saw a good doco on it once that traced the growing business of afterlife procurement; once the sole domain of the aristocracy, then the courts chief advisers, then slowly the advisers advisers (like scribes), then the architects, the architects tradesmen, the artists, and so on until anyone with a little extra money (or service to provide) could order up an afterlife. In the end (before the arrival of the Greeks) it was Egypt’s biggest industry.

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      • makagutu says:

        this is indeed very interesting. Imagine a stock market where the biggest traders with the largest turnover is afterlife :-P. Thanks for sharing. I have learnt something totally new.

        Like

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