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Heaven, Hell and My Bodhisattva Vow


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by Astreja

 

My name is Astreja Kaéren Odinsdóttir, and I am a Heaven refusenik. I have made a conscious decision to deliberately choose Hell over Heaven, in the unlikely event that these places actually exist.

 

Somewhere between age five and seven I read the Bible for the first time. My parents' library included an illustrated volume with some rather striking lithographs, and one of those illustrations still haunts me forty-five years later. I remember a mass of humanity standing in a pit, hands aloft, pleading for mercy.

 

Fortunately for my sanity, neither of my parents are overtly religious. Although I was baptized without my consent at the age of three months, I somehow managed to avoid the standard indoctrination into Christian mythology. Imagine a seven-year-old girl commenting to the boy next door that threats of eternal punishment are useful for controlling the masses, and you'll get a good picture of my skeptical fascination with religion.

 

I've tried to approach philosophy, mysticism and theology with an open mind, but everything ultimately gets filtered through that religion-as-societal-tool epiphany that I had on the neighbours' front steps. At age 11, I could "see" time as a finite line, and grasped the inherent meaninglessness of all time-dependent events. A year later I had recovered from my brush with nihilism and had adopted Athena as my patron. I wrote a novella about a saviour-ish mystic with stigmata on his hands; researched Hinduism for a history project on India; and hung out with science geeks who made "velocity vectors" away from annoying evangelists. By the end of high school I self-described as an atheist, but only because I had yet to hear the word "agnostic".

 

Somewhere between high school and the working world I did have a rather close call. A born-again Christian in the laundromat across the street did try to convert me. However, when he asked me to recite the Sinner's Prayer, I balked. I do not believe in sin, let alone the involuntary and indelible Original Sin. I find the very idea disgusting. I believe in Original Neutrality, with value found only in conscious action.

 

On top of that, I did not care much for the god of the Bible. The concept of one and only one god is illogical to me, and I kept seeing that pit full of scared, suffering people. Jesus was a bit more interesting, and I did like what he had to say about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, but to me he was just another victim in the same sad story.

 

Then (after several decks of Tarot cards, some do-it-yourself magick, and visits to a synagogue and a Christian Science church), I discovered Buddhism. More specifically, I discovered the concept of the bodhisattva: Someone who wins the struggle for personal enlightenment, but stays behind to help everyone else climb out of the pit. That, to me, sounded honourable and worth pursuing.

 

Finally, I rediscovered my Scandinavian roots and became an Ásatrúar. The mythology, where even the gods can die, agreed with my love of polytheism and with my Life, the Universe and Everything vision from age eleven. The Norse heiðinn ethics (the Nine Noble Virtues of courage, truth, honour, fidelity, discipline, hospitality, industry, self-reliance, and perseverance) are reasonably compatible with Buddhist ethics. With the possible exception of the admonition against intoxicating substances, that is.

 

Accordingly...

 

...If there is an afterlife (Which I rather doubt)...

 

...With a place of reward (Anything is possible, I suppose)...

 

...And a place of eternal punishment (Oh, please; stop insulting the gods with such a barbaric idea)...

 

...I vow to go there and stay there until every other sentient being is released from torment.

 

In the meantime, I'm going to hang out with the Æsir and Vanir, brew me some mead, and perhaps translate the Prajñāpāramitā Hridaya Sūtra into Old Norse. Just call me the Zen Valkyrie.http://exchristian.net/testimonies/2007/05...sattva-vow.html

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Welcome to the forums, assuming you'll be posting in the future. ^_^

 

I'm not a scientist, but my knowledge of Science leaves me skeptical of all 'spiritual' views. I personally don't believe in spirits or ghosts of any sort. [Mostly because of brain chemistry and memory loss. If who you are is an etherial energy being, neurological disorders, and memory loss wouldn't be caused by physical changes to the brain.]

 

I do like the idea of 'staying behind to end torment'. It sounds nice, and seems like a noble cause. My views are similar, but for different reasons. I think spiritualism beyond personal improvement and sorting out your own thoughts is pretty useless. In fact, most theistic practices are more harmful than benificial to the world in general.

 

Budism is one of the lesser evils in my view. Like you, I was skeptical at a young age, unlike you, I had to hide my views from a very religious family for a long time.

 

We welcome all stripes, and you'll find little in the way of hellfire and postulization here. We get a bit cynical, and there are more than a few bitter converts. Overall, it's a good place to cool our heels outside of normal society's predominantly theistic views.

 

Overall, you'll have the most fun if you take this place with a bit of good humor, and an interest in discussing theism. It's the best place I've found for discussing religion in general on line. Discussions here rarely turn into flame wars and tend to be rational, with lots of links to all sorts of interesting things. There are a lot of different views here as well, more so than other sites I've seen that focus more on a particular belief, rather than being an ex member of one.

 

There are a few Budist here already, and another never hurts.

 

One thing confuses me about some people here. Why the need to worship anything? The Norse Gods don't seem any more likely than the Christian one. Most of the time, it just sounds like the person involved doesn't really believe in either.

 

Is it just so you can say 'At least I worship something', or some sort of need to put a face on a precieved 'higher power'? I don't believe in gods or spiritualism at all, so it's kind of a confusing practice in my view. I'm not trying to downplay your faith, but I'm really curious about the reasoning behind it.

 

As for Agnostisism, well, it seems a bit wishy washy to me. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, If there is a god, and he's really impressed with that sort of cross your fingers behind your back kind of reasoning, why should I worship him anyway? Seems a bit silly, but maybe it's just me.

 

If the rapture comes, maybe we'll get a bunch of us together and have ourselves a toast to those left behind. Mead would seem appropriate for it. ^_^

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"If the rapture comes, maybe we'll get a bunch of us together and have ourselves a toast to those left behind."

 

Bugger a toast... I want a 104 inch flat screen and a Bentley....

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"If the rapture comes, maybe we'll get a bunch of us together and have ourselves a toast to those left behind."

 

Bugger a toast... I want a 104 inch flat screen and a Bentley....

:lmao::funny::lmao:

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Welcome to the forums, assuming you'll be posting in the future. ^_^

:lmao: Já, I think I'll stay for a while.

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Well, I haven't been here that long. :)

 

Sue me for not noticing. ;) From what I've seen testimonials is usually new blood. Heh. Seems like the place for 'first post' and then move on to the other topics in the forums. Oops, my bad. Though, thinking on it, I should have noticed.

 

At any rate, I do wonder why people dump one crazy god, for an even crazier set. Seems weird, either you're just exchanging one set of crazy for another, or you're just doing it to screw with people who still haven't discovered how to use their brain for critical thinking.

 

Maybe I'm just experiencing a bit of regression here. No more posting whle recovering from a hangover just before rushing to work...

 

On a related topic, I don't think I've ever been on a forum where I'v accumulated so many posts so quickly. I like this place.

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At any rate, I do wonder why people dump one crazy god, for an even crazier set. Seems weird, either you're just exchanging one set of crazy for another, or you're just doing it to screw with people who still haven't discovered how to use their brain for critical thinking.

Well, in my case there are a lot of reasons.

 

- My theory is that "the gods" are actually my own mortal forebears... In other words, that I have a genuine DNA link to the various men and women who were apotheosized as Odin, Freyja, Frigga, Thor, et al. If they happen to be anything more than archetypes in my own subjective mind, that's nice; but it's also totally unnecessary. I consider the Ásatrú way of life, and my own behaviour in the real world, to be the important part of it all.

 

- I enjoy the mythology. It's full of extremely useful metaphors, ones that that strengthen my resolve to do the right thing in difficult situations.

 

- And, for me, being a Valhalla kidlet just feels right.

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Welcome to the forums, assuming you'll be posting in the future. ^_^

:lmao: Já, I think I'll stay for a while.

 

 

I thought it was you but then I wasn't sure. I really, really like your story. If you were five years old 45 years ago we must be the same age. :)

 

I think I have some German roots and sometime I'd like to learn more about pre-Christian Germananic peoples and their religion. Imight be related to Thurisaz through religion. I'm probably the reincarnation of some witch who got burned back in the Middle Ages. :shrug:

 

Just kidding, DarthOkatta. Don't go into convulsions. Well, okay if you want to convulse in laughter go ahead. I just know that if this were Medieval Europe I'd get burned as a witch because my perception of reality is significantly different from the people I was supposed to conform to.

 

In case you didn't know, some humans do get spiritual experiences. In other words, some people do experience things (visual, auditory, sensory, etc) that cannot be accounted for by the material world. Maybe it could be called a waking dream--you're fully conscious and you can choose whether or not to go with it.

 

Some people can even choose to have such an experience because it is under fairly direct control of their will. I believe, however, that this originates from the psyche itself. I also believe that only a small portion of humanity has such direct control over this part of the brain. I believe this is why there were only a select few medicine men and women, shamans, and other mystical/spiritual leaders of aboriginal peoples.

 

It seems most humans can bring it on via indirect control of the will such as dance, music, sex, prayer, ritual involving pain, etc. I need not mention the imbibing of certain substances.

 

Darth, if you're still reading, I am fairly certain that this kind of thing is what convinces so many people of the reality of supernatural entities. Does that answer your questions?

 

PS Church does it for some people, too. Does that resonate in any way with your former experience???

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Of course, that means a subjective experience is accounted the same 'weight' of reality as an objective one.
Only internally, IMO. What happens on the "outside" still has to make sense objectively if it is to be accepted as "reality" by other people.

 

Example: I decide to write a story. I can use my imagination or I can do some research, or a little bit of both. Either way, a story gets written. However, if my imagination differs radically from other people's perception of reality, there may be a problem. Things of my own invention (e.g. Xiltharp, the home planet of the Purple Mouse People) will clearly be seen as fantasy. Things that are common knowledge, such as an Abrams tank, will seem real if my description agrees to verifiable details about this device. And, if one of the Mouse People is seen driving the tank through downtown Rome in the year 2152 BCE, I have a *lot* of explaining to do.

 

Internally, I can fantasize along this storyline all I want. But I wouldn't expect anyone to take me seriously. On the other hand, mashing these idioms around in my brain might inspire me to write a children's book and two serious novels (probably a modern-day military story and a speculative piece about prehistoric Rome).

 

So it is with me and religious idioms. They can be positively ludicrous on the inside, but they have to make sense on the outside.

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I understand on some level. I've nothing against it, even as an outward practice. I just have difficulty understanding those who take it seriously. Then again, I've got the same problem with Wicca as well. I don't dislike them, but I find myself often saying 'what are you kidding? That's just stupid!' a lot when in discussions with them. [Not often, but I know a few.]

 

I've been kicking around a few ideas for novels myself. I've done a lot of writing myself, but always playing with the property of others. Action/Humor is more my style. I've got that 'popcorn movie' style down. Heh.

 

Go to: http://www.fanfiction.net/u/17205/ If you're interested in finding out. A word of warning, it's a lot to read, near novel size some of them, and most of the stories aren't finished. Though, a few of the big ones are close. I should also add, this has been going on for several years, and I've only gotten better at it.

 

I've got an odd and cynical sense of humor, and I don't mind working a little blue. Some of the material I use was originally made for children, but I'm writing for an older crowd. [Nothing more than an R rating. I'm not as perverted as I should be considering my nerdom status. I rank quite high in the pantheons of Nerdom.]

 

I seem to have quite an ego speaking of it, but I've got enough reviews to back it up, and 99% of them are praise.

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Ahh, fanfics! :P My particular addiction is for Dragonlance, and my family and I wrote a lot of DL humour around the turn of the millenium.

 

More recently I've been doing NaNoWriMo, and won (> = 50,000 words in the month of November) two years in a row. Just signed up for Script Frenzy for this June (screenplay of at least 20,000 words before midnight on 06/30/2007). Near as I can figure, my style seems to be two parts serious stuff, one part Douglas Adams, lightly seasoned with Python and Pratchett.

 

Something about writing just makes the universe bigger (and more fun, too).

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Ahh, fanfics! :P My particular addiction is for Dragonlance, and my family and I wrote a lot of DL humour around the turn of the millenium.

 

More recently I've been doing NaNoWriMo, and won (> = 50,000 words in the month of November) two years in a row. Just signed up for Script Frenzy for this June (screenplay of at least 20,000 words before midnight on 06/30/2007). Near as I can figure, my style seems to be two parts serious stuff, one part Douglas Adams, lightly seasoned with Python and Pratchett.

 

Something about writing just makes the universe bigger (and more fun, too).

 

I've been writing more than ten years, and have nothing I can sell. My story and technical skills are strong enough I can, and I'm working on it slowly. My fanfics are a different story, irreverent parodies with lots of pop culture refferences. I get everything from Star Wars to Pirates of the Carabian. Anime fanfics yes, but with little knowledge required of the anime itself.

 

I'm really good at lampooning Self Insertion stories for some odd reason. The best of them are all those kinds of stories. 'Insertion', 'Gaijin', and 'Matter of Force', all huge, all incomplete, all better with a vast knowledge of US pop culture over the past ten years or so.

 

I can go to any anime convention and meet at least fifteen people who know who I am. I've done it three times, and I've been consistently surprised each time. Once in Boston, once in Denver, and once here in Florida. [Relatives in the other cities. Anime is a family thing for me.]

 

Insertion is the big reason why, it's a kitchen sink story with all sorts of things in it. I think I made it too long, but it's still entertaining. It's probably the largest, and funniest thing I've written.

 

Gaijin is a Sailor Moon thing that sort of morphed into a Spiderman story. Sounds weird, but it's a chocolate and peanutbutter thing. It's probably the best overall.

 

Matter of Force is new, and involves Harry Potter, Tenacious D, and Star Wars. It's going well, but too early to judge, even though it's more than 100,000 words

 

I don't know why I can make it good, but I can. Strange that. All of them are funny, and have a rather adult slant on the humor. You're just not going to get half of it if you're less than about 18-19 years old.

 

Though, if you're into Dragonlance, I'd reccomend checking out 'Dragon and Ghost'. It doesn't follow any sort of rule guide for RPGs, but is pretty much a D&D style story. It's also not finished, but works as a parody. There's an anime involved, but you don't really need to know anything about it as it's more a self contained world that uses little more than characters names and a few small quirks from the original series.

 

I'm thinking of rewriting it as an original property sometime soon. I'd like to get published, but unsure of whether or not I want a career doing it. It's a fun hobby that's gotten me through a few rough spots so far.

 

If you're interested in writing, I highly recommend you pick up Steven King's 'On Writing' which is exactly what the title sounds like. It's a good insite to the world of the professional writer.

 

Though, I don't care what he says, I'm not giving up my word processor.

 

Also, I can't stand Screenplay format. I've nothing against it, but I can barely read something that way, much less write something. Ugh. It irritates me for reasons I can't clearly explain, kind of like writing in first person, it's not bad for a chapter or so, but a whole book of it usually hurts my brain for some odd reason.

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