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This could be heaven for everyone.

I tend not to get involved in the assorted debates on LJ about religion or beliefs because my own are rather contradictory. But the recent selections have made me sit down and think long-hand about my own and so I'm going to present them. I hope no-one is offended by them, I suspect some will be surprised.

I feel long comments in ongoing debates often get lost once the threading starts and a short précis of my beliefs could confuse. Observe:

I am an atheist/apatheist who believes in heaven and hell.

So I need to start defining some terms, eh?

First off, let me apologise for the fact that I'm going to use the word 'we' when talking about what happens after we die. I know it means that I'm saying that I don't subscribe to the view of the afterlife some of you have. Take it as a philosophical standpoint and not an attack on yourselves personally. I'm perfectly happy for you to believe I'm wrong. Furthermore, is my view of the afterlife actually incompatible with yours? (c;

I am an atheist, not an agnostic. I don't believe god exists. I'm a soft atheist - I don't really mind if other people believe in god(s) provided their belief doesn't negatively impact my life. People can believe in Jesus as Messiah, the Earth Goddess, or that they're descended from dragons from Betelgeuse 3 for all I care provided they don't want me to change what I'm doing to suit them. I loathe evangelical activities regardless of where they come from - I don't need to visit church, read the pamphlet or try to contact my past life to see if it 'suits' me. Leave my beliefs alone and I won't start to look for flaws I could perceive in yours.

I am an apatheist. I honestly don't care if there is a god. It's an irrelevant question. I'm not interested in 'proofs' one way or another. There's better things to worry about. My life would be the same if I believed in god.

I believe in Heaven and Hell. This is the tricky one.

Death comes for everyone and it's nice to think we could just not think about it but of course, we do. The traditional atheist belief is that when we die that's it. One can never experience what it is like to be dead because, well, we'd be dead and consequently our capacity for noticing things would be nil.

I believe that. Told you it was tricky.

I believe in a Heaven where we go after we die. I don't think of it as a place where we can walk around or chat to dead people. After all, legs and mouths are part of the physical body and those get left behind. Nor is it a place where we can make decisions, interact or think - those are all functions of the brain.

Heaven is somewhere we stay in for a while and then fade - but while we burn brightly we can affect the living. You see, the afterlife I am talking about is the memory of those we leave behind. People do really live on in our memories.

For when I'm gone:
What would Marcus do?
Ones I have had:
Oh, Grandma always liked chutney, I remember her making it. Must get some soon.
Mickey hated noisy children. I think he'd have liked how contented our baby is.
And conversely (though stereotypical and not one of my own):
Harold Shipman ruined my life, I'll never stop hating him.

While our memory lives on in the minds of those that love us, we are in heaven. While it lives on in the minds of those who hate us we are in hell. Yes, that means that when someone famous dies, like the late Princess of Wales, they arrive in a million different heavens and hells depending on how they're remembered. One of the reassuring things for me is that while a spiritual afterlife is a great unknowable, a memorial afterlife can be a certainty. You may get both, you may get one, but you won't get neither.

So there you have it. Both Heaven and Hell really are other people.

I'm confident I'm going to many Heavens, though I'm aware I'm probably going to at least one Hell. Not a bad balance, I feel. I'll never be conscious of being there, but I draw great strength from knowing it awaits me.

Which is, after all, the whole point of an afterlife - yes?

ETA: See also: This Post for my maybe more pretty version!


Mar. 24th, 2004 03:56 am (UTC)
I'll lend you it no problem. Fancy arranging a lunch/dinner date sometime so I can pass it on we can chat about such things? :-)
Mar. 24th, 2004 04:01 am (UTC)
What an excelelnt idea. Are you in the (guest) pub Friday, we could compare calendars?
Mar. 24th, 2004 04:07 am (UTC)
Probably not coz werenerd gets here today and we haven't got a great deal of one-to-one time this visit. But I'm at the massage party and God is so we can compare then. Look forward to it.