Posts Tagged ‘christianity’

Death Of An Afterlife

One of the greatest lures of religion is the ability to achieve the magical – an afterlife.  As a species we have imagined our superiority to include a fate beyond what the rest of the animal kingdom faces. Many people would be paralyzed if they did not get to believe in their version of eternity, instead of having to face the banal finality of death.

 For those who have deconverted from believing in a personal god, the death of an afterlife is a right of passage. Whether it is mourned like the loss of a close friend or celebrated like the death of a villain in the theatre, there is no denying it has a place in the process. Some find release and some struggle with losing the compelling picture of an afterlife constructed during belief.

I have been encouraged to believe in god, simply on the possibility of an afterlife.  The “What if you are wrong? Are you willing to take that risk?” argument makes me sigh with futility, although there was a time when I gave it some space.

During my deconversion I suffered a protracted phase of denial simply because I didn’t want to risk being wrong. In the end, I argued (with myself) that denying the giant tsunami-size force of logic in my own head was not going to fool the Christian god anyway – as he was all-knowing. I might as well stop fighting it. I was using a lot of energy trying NOT to THINK so that I could still “believe” in god and an afterlife.

* I’ve heard statements from deconverts who feel wonderfully liberated from the idea of eternity. The pressures to perform in order to get into heaven are heavy, and the consequences of not getting the formula right (fire, brimstone and gnashing of teeth) can be terrifying. And every religion has a different prescription to get there – some include arbitrary tasks like baptism, confession, saying a prayer correctly or joining just the right denomination.

* Others tell me that life is richer now that they can focus on this life and stop delaying gratification to some unknown eternity.

* And still others tell me they are relieved that there is no eternity because it’s just to long anyway!

Personally, when I look at my children, I still miss the comfort of thinking something could be there when we die. Just being honest here.  But yes, I also know that we have all gained much more in non-belief.

My mourning of an afterlife may have been born of my religious past. In my family we went through various Christian religions including: fundamentalism, Jehovah’s Witness and Catholicism. These traditions offer very vivid descriptions of what awaits you after death. They are not metaphoric either. People who practice these faiths really believe that streets will be gold, there will be gates to heaven, a big book with your name, etc. And Hell really does resemble Dante’s Inferno. It’s very important to be on “god’s side” if you want to enjoy true happiness. To my child-self, this was more than I could process, and like any foolish excess it left a big hangover. 

In my research study, the participants widely suggested that losing the afterlife was a point of discomfort and contributed to their want to “make religion fit”. But like myself, they got over it eventually and moved  on to the things we can control about life. I haven’t met an Atheist yet who is not happier without religion, despite or because of the death of an afterlife.

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Atheists Don’t Hate Like This

A friend recently made me aware of a potential type of “genocide” brewing in Uganda. I thought, “well it is Uganda and haven’t they been embroiled in all sorts of conflict over the years?” 

 However, this is a new twist involving human rights, and it appears that this death march for gays was instigated by Christians. I am not bashing an entire group here.  Many Christians are good people and have already spoken out against this policy abroad.

Instead of being negative about Christians, I am attempting to point out something positive about non-believers. I am simply saying that such deafening hate and murder rarely comes from us Atheists (at least not as a movement), who are often marred with a reputation for being amoral. While of course, I won’t claim we are the victims here. I offer this as an example that there needs to be  more acknowledgement that Atheists are often the opposite of hate in these types of religiously-based, fear mongering scenarios, as we have no reason to assign morality to personal characteristics. 

Ok, enough rant. I promised an approach to making Atheism positive here.

**If you would like to condemn these outrageous violations contact your legislatures and tell them that we have an obligation to stand up for human rights before the killing continues and people are imprisoned from such hate.  If you need to find your congressperson click here: Contact Your Senators

Contacting your congressperson is not a futile act since congress doesn’t take up any issue until voices become numerous enough. Take Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for instance. He first said he was “to busy” to deal with the issue, but later capitulated after he heard from enough Americans. See this  Think Progress Article for an explanation of why Chuck Grassley is a salient figure here. 

If you would like to know more about the evolution of this check out this video: