Life, Death, and Afterlife
I’m told that much of what I believe about religion, God, life, death, and the afterlife must stem from my extensive reading of the theories and books of Richard Dawkins. Unfortunately, I must say, I’ve never actually read any of his works. An oversight I intend to rectify quickly thanks to my Amazon Prime account and my insatiable need for further enlightenment.
Contrary to what most people who know me think, I am far more spiritual than I let on. Admittedly, I often question the influence of “God” but I believe the Deists had the right idea: God “exists” but doesn’t interfere. I know many people who do not believe in an all-powerful deity watching over us. Many of them question how we can have the strife and turmoil present in the world if an “almighty” truly exists.
Stephen Fry recently intimated a question of why children get bone cancer if the “almighty” is so benevolent. Truly the tip of the iceberg if you ask me. One I particularly find interesting is why, in the course of human history, have so many people died in “His” name if all he really wants is for us to love one another?
Here’s another I recently presented at a workshop about religious diversity: Identify these two passages: John 3:16 and Matthew 7:12.
QUICKLY, the room (about 40 people) recognized and quoted John 3:16. For those of you who may be less aware, here it is: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish and have eternal life.” (No particular version of The Bible is quoted here.)
We discussed at length this passage and what it means. Using their words, I summarized what I heard them say: “God” sent his only kid off into the world to die for all the crappy shit people of the time had done and all the other shit the human race was going to do, just so that we can sit around kiss his feet in gratitude for eternity. Sounds like some passive-aggressive, “I’m-the-father-that’s-why” crap to me.
Okay, so maybe I used a little creative license and added a little “color”. It surely irritated some in the room. But then I turned the discussion around to the second passage — Matthew 7:12. Not one person in the room could tell me what it was or says. No one could tell me that they even saw it written anywhere like the pervasive John 3:16. So I read it to them.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
The room initially looked surprised, then ashamed. There was far less conversation about Matthew than John. There was less ambiguity and interpretation. The passage was, and is, clear. Don’t be a jerk unless you want to get treated like one. Instead of buying in to a pile of passive-aggressive guilt trips, why not just live a life of truth and virtue?
So that brings me to the first “question”. What is the meaning of life? Believe it or not, it is simpler than “42”. I discovered the meaning many years ago. Are you ready? The meaning of life is TO LIVE. It’s that simple.
I know you’re sitting there saying, “that doesn’t tell me anything.” You’re right. Because you’re not looking at question correctly. I’ll cut to the chase. Take the word “meaning”. What does it mean? (I know, using a word to explain that word breaks the rules, but follow me on this.) Can we agree that the word *meaning* can be explained with the word *definition*? Definition is the “exact statement of meaning that explains a word or phrase” or the parameters, shape, or boundaries of an object.
So let me ask this: what DEFINES you? What EXPLAINS you? The choices you make in your life, your goals and desires, who you make yourself to become is the definition or meaning of YOUR life. The point here is that YOU get to CHOOSE the meaning of YOUR life. In other words, the meaning of life is not the same for everyone. You must figure that out for yourself.
On the other side of the coin is what? Death? Maybe it isn’t death but lack of definition. But let’s tackle death for a moment in terms of life. You know how people say that just before your death, your life flashes before your eyes? I am WHOLLY convinced that this, RIGHT NOW, is your flash. Your whole life is a flash. It goes by so quickly that often we take it for granted, only to reach the end and regret the things we didn’t do while trying to rejoice in the things we did do. You cannot go back and change the past. The present is your flash. Make it what you want it to be. Make it what you want to remember.
For those that believe in Judgment Day, I think they have it slightly wrong. I don’t think Judgment Day is specific date on a calendar. I don’t believe it will arrive by the trumpeting of angels to welcome any monsters, Son’s, or Almighty beings who will sit behind a bench and judge each of us in turn. No. Judgment Day is every day. Judgment Day occurs on the date of your death. Judgment Day is an assessment by not just one entity but by the collective. Judgment Day determines your afterlife.
The Afterlife. Where we get to either sit at the feet of “God” and enjoy some unclear or undefined perks and benefits for all eternity or be damned to a particular level of Hades and suffer some well-detailed and illustrated torment until the end of infinite. (Yes. I know infinite has no end.)
What would you say if I said there is no “actual” afterlife? There is no “place” you go when you die? Well, other than in the ground or up in smoke. What if I told you that the afterlife is how you are remembered, if you are remembered at all?
Consider this: George Washington, the First President of the United States, is remembered for his principles, his ideals, and his glorified role in the formation of this country. We remember him because of the lasting impression he made. We remember him because that impression is held up as something to aspire to. He’s been dead for over 200 years, but his deeds and actions live on. He lives on. He lives on in us after his life ended. We maintain his afterlife. We remember him fondly so we think of him as being in paradise. But what about those who have died that we remember that we don’t think of fondly? Adolf Hitler.
In much the same way as we remember Washington, we remember Hitler. We remember his deeds and actions, the things he said and stood for, and his role in history. However, we remember him as a bad person and therefore relegate him to the fiery depths of Purgatory. Hitler has an afterlife.
So what about your afterlife? How will you be remembered? Will you be remembered fondly with reverence? Or will you be hated and damned? How are you planning for your afterlife?
Let me give you a couple pieces of advice:
1) Stop waiting for a personalized message written between the lines of a book or from a voice in the great beyond to tell you what to do in life.
2) LIVE NOW: Make the choices that will exemplify the definition of you want for your life.
3) Matthew 7:12: Be a good person. Don’t be a dick and hopefully people won’t be a dick to you.
Contemplate these ideas and make them your own so that when your Judgment Day comes and your afterlife is decided, those making the decisions will elevate you to paradise.
Originally published at jeevisms.tumblr.com.