Eternal Life: A Conversation and a Final Conclusion
By: J. Marlando
We’ve all heard that old piece of unfunny humor that tells us that life’s only two certainties are “death and taxes.” For most of us this sounds exactly right, we get skinned and then we die. Even for people most devoted to their religions, death remains at best a frightening mystery—after all, if heaven was assured to be what it is taught that it is people would be jumping over graveyard fences to get in. There are dozens of concepts offered by dozens of cults and other religious organizations. We’ll cover a few here.
Lots of Protestant Christianity teaches Adventism. Views from those old time religions such as the Seven-Day Adventists teach that only God is eternal and we have no soul or consciousness whatsoever when we die. We just lay in total unconsciousness and darkness until the final resurrection when the entire body is given renewed life. The final Resurrection occurs at the second coming of Christ when the “righteous” is taken to heaven to judge the world and fallen angels. At this time the earth becomes chaotic and Satan is destroyed.
The Catholics view of the hereafter is quite different and is based on the “insights” of Thomas Aquinas and more complex: To Aquinas heaven has locations. For example, there is Limbus Patrum (limbo of the father, where the “good” who died before Christ went and Limbus Infantum (limbo of the infants), where the children who die unbaptized go. There is also Purgatory, the place where all sinners go until they are purified or (now pay attention here) they are redeemed by the Church. Otherwise they have to wait until judgment day when the wicked are sent to hell and the righteous to heaven.
The Baptists are, in the least, an interesting lot: For Baptists an individual relationship with Jesus is crucial. Indeed, if you’ve ever been down to the Bible belt you will discover it’s difficult to ask where the nearest bar is without hearing quotes from the New Testament. The “good” Baptist needs to accept (fully) what the Gospel of Christ says in order to be saved and be in His presence after death. As for sinners and people disbelieving, they are punished by God and sent to hell.
Like other religions that arose in the 1800s, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—the Mormons—believe that Jesus will rule the earth for a thousand years and at the end of that period nature will be regenerated through the resurrection of the bodies of all beings.
The Mormon religion actually teaches of two resurrections. The first will be of those who lived according to God’s laws (if
one lived by God’s “known” laws a man would still be impregnating his dead brother’s wife—married or not—so a son could be named after the dead man. If a brother didn’t do this much for his dead kin, the Lord killed him—Genesis 38:.1-10). What I am getting at is the presumptuousness and arrogance of any religious to claim knowing and upholding God’s laws. Anyway, the second resurrection including everyone regardless of sex, age or virtue will be raised up and reunited with their bodies and be subject to the final judgment. This is why baptism for the dead is important to the Mormon reality. This is to save those who lived and died without knowing the gospel or doctrine and escape being condemned at the last judgment where the wicked is sent to eternal punishment.
There are also the Jewish and Islamic views of life, death and afterlife but like their distant cousins the Protestants and Catholics goodness is equated with obedience to the church’s or temple’s doctrines and dogmas. In the far reaches of this, those who follow are saved and those who don’t are damned.
And of course there are also the beliefs of indigenous peoples like Native Americans and the Yombe of northern Zambia. Most, like the others, base their view of the afterlife on a system of crime and punishment. There are also Buddhists and Hindus of course who share in the belief of reincarnation if nothing else.
In regard to all these religious cults and cultures we average human beings (that are not absolutely devout or fanatically devoted) would still like to know if there’s an afterlife or not. After all, the existential view is pretty grim: the philosophy of being and nothingness. Indeed, how depressing it would be to believe that the fallen bird will never fly again. Yet, most virtually countless people believe this about themselves and their children; that death has no awakening.
With the above in mind I thought it would be fun, entertaining and even informative to gather together a small group of known thinkers and scholars to help guide us to the truth. The truth, after all, is said to set us free.
Imagine now that you are in a beautiful room with a large oak conference table with big, comfortable leather chairs with a large, blazing fireplace giving even more warmth and comfort to the room. Imagine too that you are sitting at one end of the table invited to take notes but not participate in the discussion. Your job is only to observe and record. Now then, the small group enters and you are astonished by who you see: Dr. Eric Stone…Professor Pompel…Ms. Faith Blanko and John Christian.
You watch them as they seat themselves but then, you are surprised by another person entering. It’s Woody Allen, you say. No, but granted there’s some resemblance. The last person to join the conversation is…God.
He takes His seat across from you at the other end of the table:
GOD: Well, here I am, right on time!
PROF. POMPEL: You know, this is such a surprise, I’ve been a fan of yours for years—I’ve seen all your movies, Annie Hall…Manhattan…but…but what are you doing here?
GOD: I’m not who you think I am but I can be if you insist; there’s nothing I can’t do when it comes down to it.
MS. BLANKO: Oh dear, I only had four on my list when I ordered lunch from the caterers.
GOD: Perhaps we can share?
MS. BLANKO: I didn’t order enough to share.
DR. STONE: Can we get on with this debate or dialectic or whatever. I can’t spend all day here.
MR. CHRISTIAN: We are here to discuss eternal life and settle the question once and for all—do we survive death or do we not?
DR. STONE: How do I get involved in these things? Mr. Christian, I will answer your question as briefly as possible—No!
MR. CHRISTIAN: Of course we do…
MS. BLANKO: It’s in the book!
DR. STONE: My dears—that is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard. What do you say Woody?
GOD: I like the Bible it tells the story of how I was created in the image of man.
DR. STONE: (Chuckling) I don’t know what that means but that’s funny, Woody—that’s funny!
PROF. POMPEL: Look, here’s the bottom line: When you’re dead, you’re dead, so face it. You are nothing but, as Richard Dawkins said, mere survival machine. Really, everything including Homo sapiens that appear to be alive is nothing more than the totality of their parts. When our “parts” dissemble and become nothing but…but ash…we’re gone like…a…daisy in winter.
MS. BLANKO: Daisies come back to life in the spring, Professor Pompel.
PROF. POMPEL: Please, don’t tell me that you’re now advocating reincarnation.
MS. BLANKO: I am not. I am advocating eternal life.
GOD: Perhaps reincarnation is worth considering?
DR. STONE: You’re a Jew, Woody, what would you know about reincarnation?
GOD: I read the Cabbala! Anyway, go on, I was just thinking out loud.
PROF. POMPEL: Now there’s a point. Jews, Muslims, Baptists and Catholics all are claiming the same God…
GOD: And the same origins!
PROF. POMPEL: Meaning?
GOD: The big-three…That is, Christianity, Judaism and Islam all trace their beginning back to Abraham and yet have remained at odds for thousands of years.
PROF. POMPEL: You’d think they’d get along wouldn’t you…anyway, I was about to make a point—Oh drad, I can’t recall what it was.
MS. BLANKO: I believe you were about to ask, how can so many different religions hold to their beliefs that they have the truth.
PROF. POMPEL: Yes, yes, that is close enough—my point is, if there is but one God as most religions believe, doesn’t it follow, there can only be one truth?
MR. CHRISTIAN: Yes, and that is precisely whyI believe that the day will come when there is only Christianity—when the word of Christ is known and accepted globally. This is what God wants and what God is waiting for before he returns his beloved son to us.
GOD: How do you know this?
MR. CHRISTIAN: Well, Woody, Jesus said: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. That’s Mathew 24:12-14. If Jesus said it, that’s good enough for me!
MS. BLANKO: It’s in the book!
GOD: And so when the end comes, Jesus returns to reward the righteous and punish the wicked is that how it works?
MR. CHIRSTIAN: Yes, he will return in all his power and glory and take up all those who have accepted him and leave all those who haven’t behind. Halleluiah, what a glorious day that will be! Jesus, is our savior, Woody, and he’ll save you too if you will only take him into your heart.
GOD: From what? What is he saving us from?
MR. CHRISTIAN: I know that you can’t understand what I’m saying, Woody but the time will come when you will choose to be Christian. At least I hope that time comes—I love you brother and I want to share the hereafter with you. I would not like to see you walking up to those Golden Gates only to find God’s sign: Christian Members Only. Heaven has no back door you know.
DR. STONE: Can we get back on track? I want to clear this thing up about life and death and get on with it. I have other appointments.
PROF. POMPEL: Intelligent as we all are—I’m a Harvard man, myself—it appears absolutely obvious that nothing survives death and to think it does is only to wish or hope that it does. No one enjoys the idea of being erased from existence but, come on intellectually can you really believe that once your brain shuts down you’ll somehow remain a thinking, feeling entity? No, you can’t believe that utter nonsense—well, unless you’re slow-witted! We are machines my friends, so let us live with that and…and get on with it.
DR. STONE: As the Professor indicates there is a certain absurdity to the very concept of eternal life. Every so-called living thing is given a certain amount of time to live in and when that time is up—Poof, the magic dragon comes along and devours you like a McDonald’s hamburger.
MS. BLANKO: That’s a rather morbid way of thinking.
DR. STONE: Objective thinking, my dear, objective thinking.
PROF. POMPEL: And just what do you think Ms. Blanko.
MS. BLANKO: I do not think. I follow…I follow the word of God!
PROF. POMPEL: God speaks to you, I presume?
MS. BLANKO: Not directly to me but through my religion. My religion tells me what God says. It’s in the book!
PROF. POMPEL: Is that what you truly think?
MS. BLANKO: I just told you, I do not think. Didn’t I just say that? Think about it!
DR. STONE: Come on Folks—I don’t have all day. Let’s stay on track.
MR. CHRISTIAN: Just about everybody on the planet believes in the human soul or spirit!
MS. BLANKO: It’s in the book!
PROF.POMPEL: That’s an exaggeration, Mr. Christian—there is a world of objective, rational, educated human beings that do not believe in the nonsense of a soul or spirit and I assure you that I am one of them. And I am sure that Dr. Stone is one of them too.
DR. STONE: Hear ye, hear ye!
PROF. POMPEL: The truth is that the ancient leadership created the invisible gods to coerce the ignorant people into submission, obedience and finally allegiance to the city/state. Anyone who disobeyed was promised punishment in the afterlife and all those who bowed to authority was promised to be rewarded. The people, being superstitious and uneducated believed all that hook, line and sinker. The same demagoguery is being used today: look at the Muslims a perfect example of a statist nation wearing the robes of religion. The Vatican remains a kingdom. The Latter Day Saints are centralists and imperialistic; the Baptists are still shouting fire and brimstone…it’s all such apparent lunacy that I do not understand how people permit themselves to get swallowed up in it.
DR. STONE: The fear of death…the need for a supreme shepherd?
PROF. POMPEL: Yes indeed, that is all part of it. I can’t imagine where all those beliefs originated in the first place.
GOD: The spiritual was conceived of in the earliest times hundreds of thousands of years ago as a natural response to the mystery and movement of existence itself. This belief is apparent in the cave paintings which describe the spiritual world in most instances and not the symbolized hunt as people have been taught by scholars. Nearly all ancient shamans, witch doctors and medicine men and women traveled out of body into the spiritual realm…
DR. STONE: Or believed they did because of their altered states of mind!
GOD: ...and so, the “many spirits” or “many gods” theories evolved. It was not yet conceived that one-god-consciousness might permeate all things.
In any case and soon enough the Creator God was envisioned as, most basically, a king of heaven and earth and given all sorts of human qualities like jealousy and greed, anger and vengefulness. Above all else he was a warlord. Indeed, you will find in Numbers 31:13-18 that the lord orders Moses to raise an army and go off and attack the people of Milan. Moses does this and his army rapes and murders…all in the name of the lord of course.
Organized religion has such an immoral past that it is clearly the cornerstone of man’s inhumanity to man!
With the warmongering god aside, however, it was in Ancient Egypt where the notion of afterlife-judgment is rooted. The story of Seth and Osiris reveal to the Egyptians what awaited them all after death. Judgment was reserved for the common folk, however, because they believed that the pharaohs entered the divine realm and didn’t have to answer to anyone. Now is that extreme elitism or what?
Somewhere the along the line—probably a concept of early Zoroastrianism—the idea of resurrection came about. That belief was adopted by Judaism and eventually by a Jewish sect called Christianity. It was in fact, apocalyptic Judaism that gave Christianity its ideas about resurrection. In the meantime, the Greek culture had conceived of the immortality of the soul so this too would be incorporated into both the Jewish and Christian cultures. The rest, one might say, is history!
PROF. POMPEL: Well, well, we are impressed Woody, who would have known you had collected all that knowledge.
GOD: Actually I simply tap into it!
PROF. POMPEL: That’s very humble of you.
GOD: If you say so.
DR. STONE: I think it is safe to say that what we’ve learned here is that the earliest concepts of a spiritual world arrived from the earliest pre-historic minds and upon the advent of civilization those earliest concepts were slowly expanded into the beliefs of religious traditions such as life after life, resurrections and so forth. As anyone with common sense can see it is all contrived nonsense—heaven, hell, angels, devils and all the rest of it. Conclusion: Birth is the prerequisite of death and death is the finale of life. End of story, end of conversation.
MR. CHRISTIAN: Not so fast. You can intellectualize anything you desire to but you are forgetting an important factor…the faith factor!
MS. BLANKO: Yes, faith…it’s in the book!
PROF. POMPEL: Faith is the mere price tag for justification. If a person has no concrete evidence faith becomes the necessary ingredient for belief. When the demagogues of politics and religion cannot deliver truth they command faith.
DR. STONE: Excellent point, Professor, excellent point!
PROF. POMPEL: Yes, thank you, and a historic point as well.
MR. CHRISTIAN: I ’m sorry, but I will never accept what you are saying—there is eternity!
MS. BLANKO: It’s in the book!
DR. STONE: Granted some people cannot digest that we are the result of a cosmic accident and not some creator’s handiwork. And yes, I suppose it takes some getting used to, to live in a world without meaning and purpose.
GOD: Everything has purpose! It is up to you to find its meaning.
DR. STONE: I can’t believe it, Woody, you’re a creationist?
GOD: I am?
MR. CHRISTIAN: Remember,Only God can make a tree!
GOD: That’s because it’s so hard to put on the bark.
DR. STONE: Now that’s funny, where in the world do all your great and funny lines come from?
GOD: From Woody Allen…He’s a funny guy!
DR. STONE: You are such a whiz! I might have known you’d say something like that.
PROF. POMPEL: Getting back to the subject, let’s face it—with all the mediums, clairvoyants, priests and preachers there is not one in human history who has ever come back from death and so if you ask me…
MR. CHRISTIAN: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead have you forgotten that and my Uncle George!
MS. BLANKO: And what of Jesus’s ascension?
PROP. POMPEL: You don’t really believe all the mythology do you?
MS. BLANKO: It’s in the book…of course I do.
DR. STONE: Go on Mr. Christian, I want to hear more about your uncle.
MR. CHRISTIAN: Well, scoff if you want to but he had a near death experience—he went through the tunnel and he saw the light!
DR. STONE: Oh, my poor boy, you are so ignorant—science knows that such hallucinations are caused by too much C02 in the bloodstream and are not experiences at all.
PROP. POMPEL: I wasn’t aware of the C02 theory but I have heard that when the brain begins to die its endorphins begin exploding which gives the person the illusion of seeing a bright light at the end of a tunnel like structure. I would like to point out that there has never been an established scientist who ever experienced the voodoo of a NDE.
GOD: What about the neurosurgeon, Eben Alexander?
DR. STONE: Who?
GOD: As I would think you already know, near death experiences go back thousands of years. Th e first we know of comes from Plato and the story of Er. Er it is said was wounded in battle and was thought to be dead for twelve days. Then he awoke and gave a detailed account of the afterlife—from that story the Hellenistic culture arose in the belief that common folks also reach heavenly states and the entire concepts of heaven and hell was born. Socrates, incidentally, was so assured of an afterlife that not only was he not afraid of death but was anxious for it.
MR. CHRISTIAN: Let us not overlook Jesus’s resurrection—the proof that the body as well as the soul are reunited after death. This was revelation—Gods only begotten son risen after the crucifixion.
PROF. POMPEL: That is such…such apparent myth that I am surprised anyone buys it. Following the Pagan’s mythology Jesus came down from the heavens, is born of a virgin in a cave—saves mankind and ascends back into heaven. Poppycock, that’s what I say.
GOD: All of that, as you suggest, Professor, comes from ancient myths: Dionysus from the Greeks….Baal among the Babylonians…Mirtha among the Persians…Osiris, Isis and Horus from ancient Egypt and Hercules from the Romans were nearly all called saviors, were born to virgins on or close to Christmas Day and lived a difficult life of toil for mankind. They died and descended into the underworld only to rise again. Actually it’s a good story and I’ve always liked it but one would think that all the religions would give god a better plan than to create a son to take on the suffering of the world in order to save everyone from what…from his own wrath!
I never liked that part of the story, makes god look neurotic!
DR. STONE: Where did all that resurrection stuff come from anyway?
GOD: Well as I just indicated, the resurrection stories of the gods such as Dionysus began in very ancient times but actually the resurrection of ordinary people began with the myths of old Persian—called Iranian today—from the Zoroastrian religion. It was from ancient Persia that the ideas of a final judgment arose and that the entire human race would be resurrected and either rewarded or punished.
All this was adopted by the Jews and Christianity took the ideas of resurrection and final judgment from the Jews. As I think I mentioned before Christianity began as a Jewish cult.
MR. CHRISTIAN: Well, what we believe today is that as soon as a person dies he’s rewarded with heaven or punished in hell.
GOD: Yes, the ancient Greek view!
DR. STONE: Woody, I would have never dreamed you were such a historian.
GOD: Ah yes, history….Now my friend has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us….know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubborn persistent illusion.
PROF. POMPEL: What are you saying Woody? That is one of the most odd-ball things you’ve ever said!
GOD: I didn’t say it. Albert Einstein did at the passing of one of his friends. You know, I have enjoyed being here but I think we must reach a conclusion once and for all—does the spirit or soul survive death or is it all mere mythology?
A reason why you more scientific and would-be intellectuals cannot accept life everlasting is because you cannot grasp how consciousness can become immortal and gain a perpetual existence in time. But I tell you that it is time that is the illusion and not the immortality.
Your soul or your spirit—call it your mind or consciousness—continues on outside of time and space after death. Your mortal existence is limited by time but once out of your body you reside outside or above time completely. You have simply changed—in metaphor as the electron changes from particle to wave you have gone from body to mind.
PROF. POMPEL: You don’t know that for sure, Woody…who do you think you are, anyway, God
GOD: Recall professor, we are, at root level, energy and information. And energy cannot be destroyed…it simply is!
PROF. POMPEL: You don’t really expect me to believe you, do you?
MS. BLANKO: It’s in the book!
PROF. POMPEL: Madam, you are beginning to irritate me to no end. You keep saying everything is in the book. Have you ever actually read the book?
MS. BLANKO: No, but I know it’s in there.
Eternal life has baffled and interested our species probably before we stood on two feet—the concept certainly goes back to both Homo sapiens and those distant cousins, the Neanderthals. The illusion, I believe is in the belief that we are somehow subject to time and space as opposed to being in connectedness with it in our physical state of existence. Remember the tree outside your window exists only as an image inside the brain. Different brains hold different realities. You would not recognize the rose in your garden if you saw it through the eyes of a bee. Your pet pooch or cat is not living in the very same reality that you experience. Indeed, the universe itself can be said to be a brain state and not an objective reality. This is so even if our own minds tend to resist believing this.
In conclusion the question is left by the wayside that asks, is there life after life and only the answer remains: Anything that has ever lived CANNOT die.
Notes and Suggested reading:
Carpenter, Edward * The Origins of Pagan and Christian Beliefs *Senate
Davies, Paul * God & The New Physics *Touchstone
Lewis, James R. * The Death and Afterlife Book *Visible Ink
Reanney, Darryl * After Death *Morrow
A paper by Dr. Robert Lanza
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