Sunday, July 10, 2016

Heaven: The Eternal Myth

Every so often, I see posts on Facebook commemorating the  birthday of a deceased loved one or friend that begins ''Happy Birthday in Heaven to (name of decedent)''. This sentiment reflects at best a childish yet typical faith-based misunderstanding on the part of many (most?) theists about death and a refusal to face the fact that there is no scientific evidence for an afterlife and that death means total oblivion of our mind and senses. Yet, while belief in God is on the decline in the U.S. belief in an afterlife is increasing.

But for the sake of argument, let's examine some of the popular beliefs about life after death, starting with the above birthday greeting. Isn't that normally a salutation by which we mark the beginning of another year in a person's life and add a number to their age? How can we do so when they're already dead?  Moreover,  inasmuch as the departed will be in Heaven for eternity according to religious folklore, wouldn't time itself must be a non-existent phenomenon there anyway?

Then, for the typical believers, ''going to heaven'' seems to be just some kind  relocation, sort of  like moving to a better neighborhood, and one where they will be reunited with their beloved deceased family members who they picture as remaining the same in age and physical appearance as at the time of  their death (despite their birthdays in heaven). But if, say, one has a parent who died at a relatively young age in their adulthood, and the son / daughter lived on into his / her senior years before his / her own death, then of course the child will become older than than the parent. That has to be an interesting encounter when the two meet in Heaven.

Speaking of  relocating to Heaven, that place is popularly depicted as being up in the sky  from which angels are ''looking down'' on their beloved living relatives.  In fact at one time stars were thought to be the lights of Heaven. We now know the true nature of these and other celestial phenomena, and that they are nothing like what they appear to be to the naked eye, which of course until about 400 years ago, that's all that humankind, including the writers of the bible, had in order to gauge the world around and the sky above them.  In fact cosmologists learn more about the wonders of the universe everyday (ditto with the findings of geologists in confirming no Hell at the Earth's center). Their findings of course refute the tales of the bible and leave no basis for a rational  belief that there's a place such as Heaven as described in that book. Yet theists still refuse to accept this, or at best they  resort to compartmentalization when confronted with irrefutable facts about the physical  composition and scope of the universe.  

Finally, when it comes to a portrayal of what the afterlife must be like, leave it to country music writers to picture Heaven as an extension of this world.  In one such C and W song, a mother pleads with God to spare the life of her dying child.  In her prayer she asks that if the little girl dies, ''who will hold her hand when she crosses the Streets of Heaven''? What, she might get run over by a truck there and killed?  This is not to mock or belittle the grief of  parents whose children predecease them.  I can only imagine what a horror such an event must be. Aside from the loss itself, it defies a kind of' natural order in which children are supposed to be able to thrive to adulthood and outlive their mothers  and fathers.  But perpetuating God-belief based fantasy tales, especially ones involving bereaved parents,  no matter how appealing such stories may appear to be is not the way to help them cope. The excuse that there's no harm in doing so because it comforts the bereaved is lame at best because foisting such nonsense on religious believers no matter whom they've lost subverts their human dignity by keeping them from dealing with the overwhelming evidence that death is the end of life. It is not a new chapter. 

In short, it's a waste of time to pin our hopes for ourselves and our loved ones on the foolish notion that we will be taken to a better place when we die. Once we accept this reality we can better value the one life that we have and live it to the fullest accordingly. 


TUCHARV said...

As you may have noted on the other blog (AtheistRev) on which both of us have posted regularly, I am, like you, born Jewish and now an Atheist comfortable with the fact that when we die we may return to whatever existence or lack thereof we may have had before our parents' sperm and ovum
united to bring us into the present reality. Believers, in general, and Christians, in particular, uniformly are unable or unwilling to accept the fact that "this life is all there is". None of their ritual or changes in personal behavior resulting from their "beliefs" in an afterlife make any sense otherwise.

Secular Guy said...


Thanks for your response. Yes, I've read your posts in AR and usually agree with them.

My wife speculates that many theists who claim to believe in an afterlife deep down inside know there very likely is none, and that's what frightens them into the illusion of heaven.