Sunday, April 29, 2018

And life, as well

Which fork to take?
Economist John Kenneth Galbraith died on this day in 2006.

"If all else fails, "Galbriath said, "immortality can always be assured by spectacular error."

Some thoughts on immortality:

The truth about hell is that there is no hell. The hell of one’s imagination is a phantom, a will-o’-the-wisp that can dissolve in the light of reason.

Hell is surely one of the vilest and cruelest inventions of man. The idea of hell has been deployed to subjugate millions, and to promulgate the worst kind of religion, one that postulates a God of wrath and everlasting spite, a torturer and a sadist. In the “Christian” scheme of things God reserves a place in hell for all those who disobey His laws or don’t love Him sufficiently.

Hell is either a roaring furnace or a colossal barbecue pit, in this fairy tale at the center of eschatological conjecture. Its consignees will, alternately, roast on a spit, boil in a sea of piping hot sulfur, or cook in the ovens tended by devilish bakers. These torments will last forever, affording no hope of a second death to end them.

Besides the conundrum of what kind of a benevolent God would consent to such an arrangement, there is the equally confounding question as to what sort of individual, other than a child, would believe in it. How can one reconcile the faith in a perfectly good God with the doctrine of eternal damnation?

The answer may lie in the universal fear of death or, to put it another way, the universal love of life. 

Human beings, taken as a whole, find it almost impossible to imagine their non-existence. No matter how paltry or miserable their circumstances, they can’t conceive of the end of their own consciousness. In fact, the more paltry and miserable one’s life is, the more greedily one may thirst for another.      

Naturally, since man could not accept oblivion, he established an afterlife that would go on indefinitely. Having concocted the existence of heaven, he needed a hell to counter it—somewhere to send the riffraff. Along the way, he found that the construction would be useful in helping to keep the masses in line. Gradually, the fear of non-existence was converted to the terror of another kind of existence—agonizing, malevolent, and never-ending.

The belief in hell—and its counterpart, heaven—is infantile and demoralizing, and has done an immense amount of mischief in the world. Anyone seeking the “truth” about it should begin by reflecting that the idea of hell is inconsistent with, and unworthy of, faith in a loving God.