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Is Christian Heaven Really Preferable To Nothingness?


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Nonexistence is all-sufficient, and as Schopenhauer points out, the happiest moment of the happy man is his falling asleep, whereas the unhappiest moment of the unhappy man is his awakening. Dreamless sleep (the closest we come to nothingness while alive) is certainly nothing to be feared and is often something to be prized. In nothingness there is no frame of reference for either pain or pleasure. And everyone, regardless of their finite actions, beliefs, and differences in life, ends in this "place" eventually.

 

On the other hand, we have the Christian concept of the ideal afterlife (everyone's ultimate raison d'être)- Heaven. Even disregarding the absurdity of the alternative, which is Hell, would Heaven really be preferable to nonexistence? An eternity of pleasure is certainly an oxymoron from our current perspective and is an absolutely foreign concept to the human experience, in which happiness is always fleeting or merely an illusion- a dream, says Voltaire, while pain is real. At best it's something that fades with acclimation and boredom.

 

Christianity rests on the promise that God will make this impossibility an inevitability (that is, for those deemed worthy). Even then, few arguments are put forth as to why eternal pleasure would be preferable to eternal nothingness. It certainly plays into our evolutionary drive to exist, which I suspect accounts for a lot of Christianity's success. On the other hand, if reality would be so dismantled as to render it unrecognizable from what we know now, is it really preferable to, or even distinguishable from, the secular understanding of death? I would say the answer is no.

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I don't see how eternal pleasure is possible, because it seems to me that people will seek out flaws if they don't see anything wrong.  I think people are inherently perfectionists to a certain extent. 

 

So you are a good artist and everyone tells you your work is perfect. But is there anything you can do better?  Are their any flaws you can see that others miss? The same can be applied to any dicipline.

You got a perfect score in a game.  Is there something cooler that can be done as well. Any way the game can be tweeked harder or more extreme?  (Kaizu Mario for a video game version of this).  

You have a nice house, but maybe a patio or a deck could be added outside. People seek out more and more.

 

People seek out ways to take their skills to the next level, and improve their environment in general. Heck, it seems like every religion offers acknowledgement that humans are flawed, but if you follow their ways you can reach (or get close to) enlightenment/salvation/perfection/etc.  Heaven is the promise to Christian followers that if you follow their ways you will reach eternal bliss. But I don't see heaven as being feasible, without giving everyone a lobotomy and removing any desire for self-improvement.

 

On the other hand, following the Christian way throughout your life could be a preparation for this state of existence. Sacrificing your old self for something new and better.  The loss of individuality and your humanity is a price some are willing to pay for eternal bliss.

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seeker001-

 

Yep, the idea of eternal pleasure is totally incompatible with the current reality of human nature. The typical Christian line of reasoning is that "everything will be different" in Heaven- in other words, there will be a cessation of the reality we know. As I pointed out, though, this is very similar in concept to the secular understanding of death- that is, a cessation of our existence and the reality we experience as conscious individuals. The difference is that Christians believe there will be a NEW existence for us, whereas atheists like me and probably you acknowledge non-existence as our ultimate fate (which properly understood is not nearly so terrible as some Christians make it out to be).

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Is it an idea of eternal pleasure? Their God allows evil on a universal scale, and invented in the first place. He's been shown to disregard his own morality, lies, murders, and tortures innocents. Why would heaven be any different?

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Also, I'm not convinced that absolute "nothingness" is possible, either philosophically or in reality. It seems "nothingness" is often described in a way that implies it is a "something else" contrasted to existence. Doesn't physics teach that there is no such thing as no-thing-ness? I may be thinking in terms of what I learned in school back in the '60s. I'm aware now that it was only 4% of reality.

Nothingness, as in the loss of our individual conscious (I use it as a synonym for nonexistence in the OP). Of course the matter (e.g. our corpse) is still there but the proverbial clock has stopped clicking. Better to view conscious, at least in this context, as a process that has stopped rather than a thing that has "disappeared."

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As far as I understand it, it's almost 24/7 praising of god when the new earth comes. Everyone becomes as robots; something we really should have been from the start. All this needless suffering because of one goddamn tree of knowledge. God removes your ability to suffer by planting his divine gift of eternal bliss in your mind. Think of it, is it much different from a dystopian state where the citizens are drugged to feel good?

 

Everything comes too late, including the apocalypse and redemption for mankind. This bliss could have been with us from the start, easily. I feel like it's just a game where you are being tested. If god foresaw everything, then he purposed to make the world and heaven as it is. This relative state of freedom is bliss for me, but I really don't know if love and freedom can be squared together. I just don't know. I wish to be a good person, but can I be one without heaven or heavenly ideals?

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I dont think nor feel that spending eternity fawning over, praising, and blah blah blah, a genocidal, psychopathic, blood thirsty, baby/child murdering, temper tantrum throwing asshole to be preferable in any sense of the imagination. It would be like eternally praising hitler, or kim jong un. Id rather nothingness,hell, or anything else than to spend eternity with the abrahamic "god".

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The general belief is that those in Heaven would not even consider the choice of leaving, but would join a sort of robotic collective. Either way, it presumably comes at a loss of our individual consciousness- in which case, I think, no rational person should have reason to fear the implications of atheism, considering this obvious parallel between nonexistence and Christian Heaven.

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As far as that third "possibility"- Hell- if we or anyone ends up there, we'll know we've been the toys of a malevolent and evil god all along and can at least spend our eternity of torture with a clear conscience. :)

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Yeah, that's my point exactly. Christianity rests its laurels on the promise of "the life of the age to come." If analyzed, I think the concept behind that promise is muddy and unconvincing, and should not by any means lure rational people into irrational beliefs.

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Heaven is from  primitive man's limited imagination. But if there were an omnipotent, omniscient god who created a heaven for human's afterlife, we would not be capable of evaluating what it  would be like.  bill

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In response to your second post- I was a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy so I am very well acquainted with theologians from that tradition. Orthodox theologians, especially in the West, represent a very diverse range of beliefs when it comes to the afterlife. The only position I accepted when I was a Christian was universalism-that everyone will end up in Heaven, and Hell is only temporary if it exists at all. Kallistos Ware is a liberal Orthodox theologian who wrote a compelling article in favor of universalism, which I clung to while converting. Origen (later condemned as a heretic) was another universalist while CS Lewis was strongly opposed to it.

 

As far as Kierkegaard... I was either going to be a Christian all the way, in the full tradition of the Early Church (and I still believe Orthodoxy has been the most historically consistent denomination) or not at all. Nothing else made sense to me from a historical perspective, so I never really got into his writings or those of other modern Christian philosophers. I have heard a lot of good things about him, though.

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Heaven is from  primitive man's limited imagination. But if there were an omnipotent, omniscient god who created a heaven for human's afterlife, we would not be capable of evaluating what it  would be like.  bill

The irony is that Christians are quite willing to describe the afterlife. If Heaven exists and is anything like how it is described by Christianity, my previous evaluation stands. If it's anything otherwise, this is all a moot point. Suffice it to say that I'm entirely confident in the absence of any sort of afterlife.

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In response to your latest post, though- I think the field of evolutionary psychology is really interesting and no doubt it'll someday be able to explain the "religion" phenomenon in full.

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Sparky, so do you think that the biblegod's Heaven could actually be a hell?

 

Certainly - if it existed. Christians really do lose both ways here :) If you put Yahweh in human terms, and then consider everything he's done, how he's reacted, and treated his own children, why on earth would you trust him to be your father for eternity? I would feel sorry for anyone stuck in that kind of situation.

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