What is it that we’re really searching for in an afterlife?
A man moves through life with the sole goal of attaining the level of pious enlightenment and fullness of spirit necessary to enter the pearly gates. He’s a devout Christian, prays to God every day, attends church with his family every week, and lives a moral, if restricted, life of complete fundamentalist adherence. His whole existence is spent trying to stick to that moral code, to get to Heaven.
Another man moves through life without believing in a God, instead choosing to dwell on what we have here. He tries out some illegal substances, has premarital sex with a few different women, engages in violent gaming and drinking contests and has absolutely no worries about possibly ending up in a world where you eat hellfire for breakfast and are just another member of Satan’s army of gofers, because he doesn’t believe in that world. He chooses instead to live a life where he is happy, rather than making an omnipotent shepherd appeased.
Which man leads the better existence?
Religious debate is almost always centred around two main parties: the believers and the faithless. The former believe the world needs the spiritual guidance afforded to them by mighty Jehovah, while the latter are more into enjoying the time you’ve got here because they know that nothing lies beyond, so why bother? This argument has been the basis of a plethora of disagreements, from tiny barroom brawls to massive, county-shaking battles. It is one of the most prevalent conflicts in human history, going as far back as the Dark Ages where those without belief were nailed to crosses and labelled heretics.
When you get to the bottom of it, no one answer is one hundred percent correct.
Let me be subjective for a moment: I believe there is a God, but that is as far as my Christianity extends. I wear a cross, I believe there’s a guy up there helping to run the show like Gerry Anderson and his pre-American Thunderbirds marionettes. That’s it. I don’t go to church, haven’t read every passage in the Bible, and do loads of (relatively harmless) things that go against religious doctrine. I live life how I want, while being reticent of there possible being a celestial supervisor up above (or down below, if Evangelion is to be believed).
Does that mean I’m going to Hell?
I believe part of the purpose of life is free will and the necessity of personal evolution on our own, rather than being steered by a cosmic cab driver. Things like the Ten Commandments should be seen as guidelines rather than clear-cut rules, because putting too firm a stranglehold on any society is only going to cause problems. Look at the Muslims – they believe so fiercely in the Qu’ran’s words that they have started wars, toppled national landmarks and brought their countries to a state of near-permanent unrest that has lasted decades. The Islamic extremists, in part, do what they do because of a religious belief, and because they believe this behaviour will lead them to Heaven.
What do you think their God would think of that? The willful destruction of land and ending of lives, all in the good name of religious pursuits?
This is, of course, an extreme example – most fundamentalist Christians and hardcore atheists aren’t as likely to commit arson, but what if one day that’s what we lead to? What if the debate over religion becomes so zealous that we end up throwing bombs at each other just because one particular sect doesn’t believe in contraception? What if our pursuit for the perfect life or the afterlife leaves everybody without a life?
Would it be too wrong to say that every religion is right?
Seriously, every single one (with the exception of scientology, though I hazard to call a multi-million dollar penny-pinching scam a religion per se) contains a grain of truth in them. The Qa’bah is most likely a holy place because Muhammad walked there in deference to Allah. It is a good idea not to kill people and not make Jesus angry. Peace and serenity through yoga and Buddhist meditation leads to better physical and spiritual living. And where would we all be without midichlorians? (The answer to that last one is “in a better world where George Lucas isn’t a hamfisted idiot)
My belief is that beyond my own personal ideology behind who and why the Creator is what He is, there was once a magnificent super-religion that deftly wove together all the seemingly disparate elements we see in doctrines today into one glorious, harmonious tapestry of personal belief and acceptance. Then maybe there was a fight between some adherents during a drunken night at the orchard, or some off-colour remark was made about someone’s girlfriend and Moses’ burning bush being a metaphor for chlamydia, and they all had to take a piece of their megabelief away with them like a fundamentalist souvenir.
Not to sound too much like an anvilicious hippy, but this world would be so much better if everyone merged all religions into one, cherry picked the good bits and functioned as one belief-driven entity. There is no entirely right or entirely wrong way to live, and it all comes down to personal choice and what won’t hurt those around you – and once some of the more extreme religious groups understand that, we can all finally unite and take down the bitches of Xenu.
Unless Chuck Norris deals with them first.