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The concept of eternal life frightens me


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Initial post: May 4, 2012 12:12:39 AM PDT
So lets start out by stating that I'm an ex lay preacher who became atheist a couple of decades ago. Even when religious I had the same concern so here goes:

As I always understood Christian heaven, in a nutshel,l to be an eternal paradise of unending bliss

You may want to disagree with that argument but what I write here is based on that assumption. Ignore whether you think heaven exists as my point is that heaven, as described, scares me

Eternity is a long time. Longer than any of us can imagine.

I don't know about you all but I eventually get bored. I cannot think of anything that would occupy me for eternity. I can't think of anything I recognize now, or anybody that would not irritate me after some period of time.

Now, permanent happiness means I cannot get bored, or irritated, or even a bit miffed.

Happiness/bliss is another interesting concept. As humans we can argue that happiness is any time we're not miserable. This somewhat trite statement is my way of saying that you need something to contrast with to understand when you are happy. At the very least you would need memories of past unhappiness - which in themselves could make you unhappy in order to understand them

What I am clumsily trying to say is you cannot truly know you are happy without having some unhappiness so being in a bliss-only state makes no sense.... how would you know?

My two threads here (happiness requires unhappiness as contrast + boredom is unhappiness so I can't get bored for eternity) seems to me to make heaven an impossible concept.

There is one exception - what I like to call the 'stoner' heaven. In this just an essence of you continues forever. Your unrealized ambitions, desires, hates, needs, memories, relationships are all missing. It's like you are so stoned everything is just... cool man....

In this case the eternal bliss heaven would be possible and I can cease worrying about being bored, but to be frank, heaven doesnt really contain me, it contains a fraction of me that spiritually gives a grin with glazed eyes and comprehends nothing.... a sort of persistent vegitative state.... you are 1% of what you were.

So, in trying to square the circle of what heaven means as a concept I either face trillions of years trying to occupy myself, or I face a spiritual coma

Neither option seems worth the effort and both seem more of a punishment.

Does it scare you? How do you visualize spending billions of years? How do you expect to be able to maintain permanent happiness?

This is not a religion bash - it always nagged at me both when religious and when not.

BTW people ask what an atheist death is like.... well when you are dead, for you, it is like it was before you were born. nada.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 12:26:57 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2012 12:29:37 AM PDT
I agree entirely. I put a similar thread to yours on the Christianity forum once.

The older I get, the more I worry about Heaven, actually, especially the idea of Eternity.

The only occupation I could enjoy there would be crossword puzzles based on the Bible. It would take
an "eternity" to answer all the questions in all the permutations of crossword layouts. Yes, I would
have to concentrate my thoughts on these and try to forget about the billions of years ahead.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 1:10:05 AM PDT
tokolosi says:
"The only occupation I could enjoy there would be crossword puzzles based on the Bible. It would take an "eternity" to answer all the questions in all the permutations of crossword layouts. Yes, I would have to concentrate my thoughts on these and try to forget about the billions of years ahead."

Now *that* is incredibly lame...

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 1:14:09 AM PDT
Have you a better idea, tokolosi? I infer you don't like crossword puzzles.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 1:14:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 7, 2012 12:27:27 PM PDT
tokolosi says:
You are right -- and IMO no Christian has any real understanding of the eternity they so desperately anticipate: Being *yourself* (not to mention being with your "loved ones") FOREVER.

What is it that makes "you"? Genetics, life experience, memories, electro-bio-chemical processes in your brain perhaps? Take that all away and what's left? Your "soul"? A non-thinking "entity" of some sort? Like you said:1% of what you were.

Or "fix" all the physical and psychological quirks and flaws that we all have and that makes us unique individuals and what's left? Some sort of blandly generic "perfect" humanoid virtually devoid of any redeeming characteristics. It's our "quirks and flaws" that make us who we are.

Without the human life experience part of "you" the Christian Heaven and Hell have no meaning. Period.

I certainly have no desire to be me forever...

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 1:15:29 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Oct 7, 2012 3:10:06 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 1:16:32 AM PDT
tokolosi says:
I guess I just took your comment too seriously... ;-)

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 3:41:56 AM PDT
I think your fears say more about you than they do about the idea of heaven.

If heaven were real, it would be like the experience you have of reading a book that so grips you that you wish it would never end. In heaven, you would get your wish. The story would never end, and you'd be living it.

>What I am clumsily trying to say is you cannot truly know you are happy without having some unhappiness so being in a bliss-only state makes no sense.... how would you know?

You are confusing present unhappiness with past unhappiness. If I go to an opera performance, I don't need for someone to sing one of the pieces out of tune to know how good the rest of the performance is; in fact, I enjoy it the more if I am confident that I can rely on the performers not to make mistakes.

As to past unhappiness, everyone has it so yes, that alone would supply a ready contrast to the present happiness of heaven. If you had lived with an abusive spouse in life and were free of that in heaven, you would not need someone up there to give you the occasional slap to remind you of how good you had it, unless you just had a poor memory.

Hate to say it, but your thinking seems quite shallow and badly confused. I'm an atheist too, but if there really were a heaven, and if the most noticeable thing there were God, and if God truly embodied everything that was lovable and admirable, the Being that was such that nothing could be better than He was, then of course it would be bliss to be with him except, perhaps, for the perpetually immature.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 6:06:40 AM PDT
Micheal Huggins: Thanks for the response, but i think you missed my point.

The principle is that to cope with eternity you have to turn off your conscious self. Your opera example is a good example or that. If you do this thought you are not truly you. You lose the ability for creative thought and what you describe is really a retelling of my stoner heaven,... a half-existence

You also pick up on my point about past unhappiness. As I sad you may not be experiencing unhappy events in a heaven like this but you may have memories of past events (such as your spousal abuse example). The problem is that remembering a past unhappy event in detail - actually recalling it - will usually stir similar emotions. e.g. you wouldnt look back at the death of a parent and grin. This implies your heavenly self having no memories... and what are we if not our memories - again back to the stoner heaven where you live a half-existence

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 6:13:09 AM PDT
Hi Clarissa:

I cannot imagine living forever. First off, I would be alone among the darkness, for even the stars' light will eventually punch out. It will be almost absolute zero. Black holes are not that fun. Also, I sometimes get lonely, even though I am living on such a nice planet with so much to do. I would much prefer death and this one beautiful life. This life is my eternity.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 6:20:27 AM PDT
Hi Lawrence:

I must say I found your last sentence moving. It also gives a new twist to the thread by putting a different slant on the meaning of the word "eternity".

Posted on May 4, 2012 6:22:40 AM PDT
Eternity is an Angel's cloak in Paradise.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 7:47:24 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2012 8:40:59 AM PDT
When I go to the opera, I am not in stoner heaven, I don't lose my ability for creative thought, and I don't have half an existence. All those are very strange things to say and tend to confirm what I thought about the level of your thinking, which is sadly rather simplistic and immature.

>The problem is that remembering a past unhappy event in detail - actually recalling it - will usually stir similar emotions. e.g. you wouldnt look back at the death of a parent and grin.

Friend, I'm sorry, but you really think on the level of a child. This is all utter nonsense. I remember my father's deathbed quite well. I was awakened by his gasping for breath as he slowly drowned in his own fluids. A friend of mine endured something worse than that, listening to her father scream for three days as he died of cancer.

If there were a heaven, and if we met our fathers once more, now in states of "heavenly health," yes, of course we would remember their death ordeals, and those very memories would be hugely tempered by the joy and relief we would feel to encounter them no longer suffering. The memories would provide a contrast, yes, but not one that would detract from the joy, and if you honestly can't realize that, you can't have lived very long or reflected very deeply on your life experience.

Christians are fond of saying of former believers that they just never got it. Honestly, one is tempted to say that of you. What strange things you think: that one is doomed to either wallow in painful memories or be like a mindless stoner. Utter nonsense. Simplistic as religion is, your thoughts are even more so, which may explain why you found a home in religion for as long as you did.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 9:02:36 AM PDT
You would not be alone Lawrence, you would be surrounded by other spirits such as yourself.

You bring up a good point though, were you You BEFORE there was a sun?

Did the first life arise with the first suns?
If spirit is truly energy, that would make sense.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 9:04:30 AM PDT
It is also interesting how you limit the afterlife to Earth and its star.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 9:12:31 AM PDT
But we don't know what it was like BEFORE we were born. We cannot even remember the most FANTASTIC event in our life

BIRTH

If you cannot remember that most incredible event ~ being born ~ how can your memory remember BEFORE birth?

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 9:30:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2012 9:33:31 AM PDT
"How do you expect to be able to maintain permanent happiness?"

Despite what I just said in my last post, I am going to contradict it a bit by saying I have intuition of 2 past deaths.

So I believe life is a constant cycle. There is no "permanent happiness". We are *born* over and over again. You most likely have been born before, but your *physical* memory does not contain that information, only your soul memory does. I for some reason, at different life moments, however briefly, tapped into that knowledge, just enough to know that it is real. There is a spirit world around us.

Just because you cannot normally see it shows nothing but the limit of your physical eyesight. You cannot normally see germs either. But you believe they are there. With the right technology, ghost could be seen too.

I think the problem for atheist could be that they are *new born*. They have never been around the life block before and so do not share the insight, however limited, of their spiritual self. Those of us who are more spiritually self aware may have lived a few times before.

[Nam daed no em nrut]

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 1:33:46 PM PDT
IFeelFree says:
If some of my experiences in meditation are any indication, it is possible to dwell in states of bliss in which there is no boredom, desire, nor the need to manipulate experience in any way. As an analogy, imagine a sexual climax, only more peaceful, that continues for an hour or two. Perhaps more interesting is that, after nearly 40 years of meditation practice, I often experience less intense states of bodily bliss during my daily activity. There is often a lightness, an ease, a blissfulness, that permeates my body while I'm engaged in activity. As a result, I rarely feel bored or anxious. If I'm stuck having to wait somewhere with nothing to do, I just close my eyes and relax into blissful awareness.

I imagine that heaven is something like this, only more so.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 1:40:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2012 1:41:38 PM PDT
Your post is interesting, but I refer you to the timing you have told us: an hour or two is but a nano fraction of Eternity, which must be one of the most frightening words in the English language when thought about conceptually.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 1:50:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2012 1:51:43 PM PDT
IFeelFree says:
Clarissa,

The time limitation is due to the body. After an hour or two of deep meditation, my body starts to get restless, the desire to move it arises. The human body simply needs a certain amount of physical activity. Presumably, after death, this is no longer a problem.

In any case, the experience of bliss during normal activity suggests that a permanent state of bliss is possible.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 1:56:07 PM PDT
A still state of ecstasy for eternity doesn't seem desirable to me. I think I would rebel one hour into it!

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 2:02:56 PM PDT
I had forgotten this, but I used to say that the existence of my late mother-in-law disproved at least one verse of scripture: the one from Revelations that said there was silence in heaven for half an hour.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 2:10:02 PM PDT
reply to Mr. T. Pearce's post:

in our little slice of the universe everything is balanced

hot/cold up/down happy/sad ........

does not mean that heaven does not have different rules
where you would be happy to be happy all the time

Posted on May 4, 2012 2:11:18 PM PDT
perhaps
when you get bored of being happy
they ship you to some place like earth for a while
until you are happy to go back there again

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2012 2:22:57 PM PDT
Rubedo says:
Clarissa says:
A still state of ecstasy for eternity doesn't seem desirable to me. I think I would rebel one hour into it!

R:Perhaps it is not static but an unending diversity of ecstatic forms.
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Discussion in:  Religion forum
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Total posts:  241
Initial post:  May 4, 2012
Latest post:  May 21, 2012

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