The entire point of religion, the reason for its existence, the promise it makes to convince you of its truth, is life after death. The promise is that if you believe in its claim of supernaturalism, you will be rewarded by a wonderful life after you die. In other words, when you die, either as an old man or woman after a life well lived, or early on as a result of a tragic accident or disease, you don’t really die, you just change form and continue to live. If you don’t think this is the point of religion, then ask yourself what the point of religion is, if you simply die at the end of your life? Should we bother with Sunday worship, tithing, pedophile priests, flying planes into skyscrapers, jihad, suicide bombers, Pat Robertson, and all the other outward manifestations of religion, if we will simply die and rot in the ground when our lives are over? Why bother believing in all that clap-trap, unless there’s a Kewpie doll at the end of the rainbow (if you’ll permit the occasional mixed metaphor)?
The bottom line is that we put up with all this to get the grand prize – eternal life. Most of your basic religions offer it. Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, they all promise a reward of some form of eternal life, but only if you follow the rules and regulations of their religion. This carrot on the stick is what keeps the faithful in line. It seems to me, however, that no one really thinks through this concept of an eternal reward. Exactly what is it we get if we believe to the end?
Is it even possible to wrap your mind around the concept of eternity? The human mind has limited experience with the term. In fact, we know it only in the abstract. It’s impossible to experience eternity. How long is it? By comparison, the universe is only about 12 billion years old. You could double, triple or even quadruple that number, and you wouldn’t even begin to come close to the number of years in eternity. OK, then. Let’s multiply it by a factor of 10100. Still not even getting close. 10100 is a drop in the temporal bucket compared to eternity. No, an atom in the temporal bucket would get closer, but still not be close to describing it.
Let’s look it at from another angle. Say you live 80 years. And during those 80 years, the one activity you’ve probably done the most is sleep. It’s doubtful you could find another activity that you participated in for a longer period of time. Now let’s assume that you slept, on average, 8 hours a night your whole life. That means that added all together, you’ve slept for a period of 26 2/3 years. Now compare this with the concept of eternity. Do you comprehend the vast space between your longest activity and that of eternity? You do? Well, you’re a better man than me, because that gaping chasm of time is incomprehensible to me.
Fundamentalist Christians tell us that if we are good boys and girls, and beleive in god, and keep his commandments (as silly as they are) we get to be with Christ in heaven for all eternity. I, for one, am not sure I want to spend eternity with a god I’ve never met, and who has really not done anything to make me feel all warm and fuzzy about being in his presence for such a long period of time. This is the same god that wiped out every living thing on this earth in a flood, who has sent countless number of people to a lake of fire just because they never heard of him, who created such horrors here on Earth as cancer, pedophilia and the Holocaust. What makes Christians think I would be compatible with this monster, and, for that matter, would want to spend all eternity in his presence? For all I know, he’s afflicted with halitosis, and you know what it’s like to be cornered at a cocktail party by someone with that problem.
Have you ever noticed that most religions seem to be very long on what we should do and be here on Earth, but very short on what to expect once we get to the afterlife? There is no real description of heaven in the Bible. Most artwork always depicts it as something floating on clouds, which seems moderately insubstantial to me, vague in a vague sort of vague way, if you get my drift. It’s as if the writers of the Bible really had no idea what Heaven was like, so they made it up out of thin air, which could explain all the clouds. Do I want to spend eternity floating on clouds? No. I want a better description before I’ll commit to that. Would you book a vacation for a week on such thin information, much less eternity? I think not.
OK, admittedly, I’m blabbering here, and need to get back to my point, which is who is their right mind would want to live forever? What would you do … forever? Play board games, make small talk with Jesus, rearrange your sock drawer an infinite number of times? (Please don’t tell me that one doesn’t need socks in heaven.)
Anything done repeatedly for eternity has to be the definition of Hell, not Heaven.