Absurdity of Life

Scientists draw conclusions from evidence and facts, a posteriori, while religious teachers rely on faith and imagination, a priori.  Both believe they know the truth about life, but it is more likely than not that neither of them know the truth.  The truth is only known by the Creator, and He is not talking.  Thus, life is absurd because we cannot make sense of it.

Why do we live?  Why do we have free will?  Why do we have a conscience?  Why do we make choices if there are no consequences?  What happens after we die?

After admitting that life is absurd and still puzzling over it, we must logically conclude that life is quite absurd without something after life.  In other words if life were our only appearance in this play, then the play would have no denouement or ending.  This is because if life is to have any meaning at all, then all the choices made during our lives must be analyzed for a full accounting at the end.  Life, which is a test, is nonsensical without death and a grading of our work.  Of course, consequences complete the course.  This completes a design for life in our universe.

And life is absurd for all of us, whether atheists or Christians or agnostics.  We all are tested daily and we all fall short of making good grades.  Christians believe that they are making A’s and B’s, while atheists and agnostics are failing.  The truth is that all of us are failing.  However, the significant advantage for the Christians is that they may lead a better life by following the teachings of Christ.  Unfortunately, there are no guarantees for anybody.  The consequences for our poor choices during life may be dreadful, disastrous for all of us.

I have seen Christians acting as bad or worse than atheists.  There will be no religious shield to protect those who have made bad choices during life.  We must accept our failings and step up to take our punishment, whatever that might be.  By accepting Jesus as our savior, we are in a better position to make good decisions.  But if you read the Bible closely, you will find that there will be consequences for our sins.

I have seen Christians repent of their sins on Sunday and then return to the den of iniquity for the next six days.  Then they return to church on the Sabbath to repent again.  This type of activity shows no true remorse.  It is merely a hope that God will overlook all the misdeeds and erase them because of one hour on Sunday.  This doesn’t even make sense.  It is another absurd myth of Christianity.

So, if there are going to be severe consequences for all of us, what can we do?  Even as a Christian existentialist, I honestly don’t know.  I suppose we can start by doing our best every day that we have left to do the right thing.  Each of us should try to be a better person.  I don’t believe that our judgment day will have a scale with good deeds on one side and bad choices on the other.  I think it will be much more sophisticated and complex than that.

My imagination tells me that we will probably enter a darkness that eliminates our senses.  Our own minds will probably punish us for all the bad decisions we made during life.  The denial of entry into God’s third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2) may be the worst penalty of all.  My guess is that those of us who have made a half-way decent attempt to make good decision will enter the first heaven.  But the subsequent heavens will be exponentially more difficult to reach.

And even though my musings may seem quite absurd, believe me it is much more absurd that we could live in a world of choices without any consequences.

 

 

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

One of the major complaints from atheists, agnostics, and even religious people is that God should not allow bad things to happen to people, especially good people.

Now, I would like to start our investigation into why this is a ridiculous complaint.  First of all, bad things happen to everybody, whether they consider themselves as good or bad.  And why do you believe that you are a “good” person, anyway?  If you consider yourself as being a “good” person, you are certainly less than humble, and most likely your pride has taken you to the “bad” side.  In other words, there may be no “good” person on our planet.

Perhaps, you would like to change the title of this article to “Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen, At All?”  This certainly avoids the difficult proof that you are a good person.  It focuses on God as being the culprit who allows bad things to happen to all of us.  We certainly cannot accept any of that blame!

Well, this takes me to my second point.  God, the Creator, more than likely, does not exist in His creation.  One of the few scientific laws is that matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed in our universe.  In other words, creation occurred outside the boundary of our closed universe.  If all this is true, God can only create outside His creation.  And it is likely that God does not want to intervene or interfere in the evolution of His creation.

And my third and final point is that there should be consequences for “bad” people.  Why would God need to change that?  My guess is that God created the universe with “free will” and He allows us to make poor choices every day.  He does not prevent us from making bad decisions and also experiencing “bad things” because of those decisions, and most likely God will provide additional consequences outside the universe, if we are lucky enough to enter His kingdom.

Asking for relief from “bad” things that will happen to you is the same thing as asking for forgiveness for future bad acts.  It is a bit premature to request avoiding consequences in advance of your committing sins.  It is a much better act to thank God for the “bad” things that happened to you, hopefully making you a better person.  And also thank God for the “bad” things that will happen to you, reminding you to avoid those bad choices.

All this is the preliminary stage during your life, leading to the final judgment.  And again if “bad” things happen in the afterlife, then I will accept that as my fate because I was a “bad” person during my lifetime.

Now, many Christians will say that I am not a Christian because I believe that we all will face a day of consequences for our poor choices.  Christians say that Jesus died for our sins forgiving the bad decisions that we made during our lives, giving us safe passage to heaven.  I believe that too, except I must add an adjective… “…giving us safe passage to the first heaven.”

I am a Christian existentialist.  I believe that Jesus died for our sins so that we could enter the first heaven, which probably separates the believers from the non-believers.  Unfortunately, as Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 12:2, there are three heavens.  The Bible is very clear about there being a Judgment Day with consequences, which probably will be associated with one or both of the other two heavens.

Third Heaven and Second Death

I have been attending church for over six decades and have never heard a minister mention the “third heaven” as discussed in 2 Corinthians 12:2  or the “second death” as foretold in Chapters 2 and 20 of Revelation.  Since the Bible discusses “heavens” in many parts of the Bible from Genesis forward, I briefly wondered why preachers never brought this subject up. But then I realized that it would be controversial, perhaps even causing a loss of membership at that church.

Most Christians believe that Jesus died for their sins, so that they will have no consequences awaiting them in the afterlife.  Unfortunately for them, this is only part of the Bible’s story.  The Bible makes it clear that the first heaven is very accessible to believers through the sacrifice of Jesus and the grace of God.  But what is the second heaven?

There is no second heaven discussed in the Bible, but the second death is mentioned in Revelation four times (Rev 2:11, 20:6, 20-14, and 21:8).  Revelation is not easy reading, but it states that the second death is into the lake of fire based on the things you have done during life, Rev 20:13-15.  The Bible merely provides consequences for bad decisions.  It seems to state that if you were not deceived by the Devil and you did well, you would have a “first resurrection” (Rev 20:6); but if you were deceived and did not do so well, then you would be tossed into the lake of fire along with Satan (Rev 20:14).  The first resurrection should be into the new or second heaven since Revelation 21:1 describes the first heaven passing away at this point in time, leading to the second heaven.

In effect, the first death is not fixed in stone as the believers and nonbelievers are separated by a chasm.  The Devil will have an opportunity to deceive the believers until the second death becomes permanent, when all those who have been adjudged as deficient will fall into the lake of fire, Sheol.  The Bible also mentions the destruction of the heavens by fire before reaching a new or second heaven.  2 Peter 3:12-13.

The third heaven is probably not a place.  Paul describes it as possibly an “out of the body” experience.  2 Corinthians 12:3.  The Bible also says that the kingdom of God, probably the third heaven, is “within you.”  Luke 17:21.

In conclusion, the first heaven is probably the one that all Christians believe they will reach through God’s grace and the sacrifice of Jesus.  Then we undergo a more difficult test with a judgment being rendered based on our works during life.  It is a pass-fail test.  If you fail, you receive a second death in the bowels of Hell.  If you pass, you go to the second heaven where the final test is taken.

One of my ministers, who agreed to talk with me about the third heaven privately, told me that the third heaven is a final goal of returning to the Garden of Eden. The final test provides an opportunity for us to improve ourselves even more as we attempt to reach the last heaven, which is God’s kingdom.  The Bible is not specific about the requirements for the final exam.

Multiculturalism

President Obama recently reminded us that Islamic extremism should not be criticized since it is no different than the barbaric acts committed during the Crusades or Inquisition in the name of Christ.  This is multiculturalism carried to the extreme.  In other words, we should accept barbaric acts committed by other cultures since we also committed them.

One of the more interesting aspects of humanity is its inability to remain moderate during difficult times.  It seems that we can remain civilized and follow a middle-of-the-road approach as long as the extremists are controlled.  But when the extremists have no consequences, then all hell breaks loose.

Extremists create more extremists.  Moderates have a difficult time existing during these times.  The extremist acts of Sunnis against Shiites and vice versa has been going on for decades without any hope for peace.  They will be seeking revenge against each other for the next hundred years.  And they want to drag the civilized countries into this environment.  Why?

Do you remember the story about the poor man who lived on the wrong side of the tracks who got in a fight with a rich man on the other side?  The poor man had nothing to lose, but the rich man lost everything when he was brought down to the poor man’s level when they both were incarcerated.

It certainly makes sense to respect all cultures, but it makes no sense to give cultures a free pass to behead others in the name of multiculturalism.  The beheading of Christians by Muslim extremists will create Christian extremists.

So what is the answer to extremism?  Well, all the civilized countries of the world, including those in the Middle East and Africa, should unite to form international anti-extremist cells that will arrest and bring to justice in a World Court all the extremists in the world.  These extremists typically are not fighting for a country, so these are not acts of war.  They are simply criminal acts, requiring arrests and criminal trials.  Since we are experiencing more international crimes, it might be beneficial to create a world-wide justice system to deal with these extremists.

If we allow the extremists to continue on without consequences, they eventually will obtain nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction and it will be too late.

Multiculturalism is perfectly acceptable as long as those from other cultures who commit crimes are held accountable by world police and international courts.  The downside is that this could play into the hands of totalitarian governments who would misuse this system to create a police state.  But as long as moderates are in control of this system, it will not only work, but it will provide fair consequences to extremists who break the law.

Existentialism of Ecclesiastes

The book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, which may have been written by King Solomon, was a forerunner for Soren Kierkegaard, the Father of Existentialism.  Most existentialists believed that man was abandoned in a meaningless, godless universe, but Kierkegaard would have said that life was meaningless without God.

Ecclesiastes states that everything is meaningless… “utterly meaningless.”  The word “meaningless” is used 35 times in this book, but only one other time in the Bible.  Ecclesiastes also emphasizes that life is meaningless without God.

We are trapped in a world that has no meaning.  And we are locked in a world where nothing is new under the sun.  We are doomed to live in a world of repetitiveness and sameness.  Ecclesiastes 1:11 sounds like existential angst.

Book 2 of Ecclesiastes explains that wisdom, pleasure, and work are also meaningless.  So after this wonderful negative start, what in life is worth living?  One of the dilemmas of an existentialist is if life is meaningless, why endure it?  Why not just commit suicide in a life that has no meaning?  If life is not worth living, why live it?

Ecclesiastes in Book 3 makes life even more depressing.  In this section, God will judge both the righteous and the wicked equally.  All will go to the same destination.  All came from dust and will return to dust.  In Book 9, all humans, good and bad, will share a common destiny.  “This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: the same destiny overtakes all.  The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.”  Ecclesiastes 9:3.

But it even gets worse as you age.  Chapter 12 paints a very depressing picture of the aging process.  Old people will find no pleasure in anything as the days pass in their jail cells waiting for their death sentence to be carried out.  “Everything is meaningless!”  Ecclesiastes 12:8.

So how can we have goals in this depressing and meaningless state?  Well, it all goes back to what Ecclesiastes and Kierkegaard were saying:  only in God does life have meaning.  It is true that God cannot be proven or even shown to be probable through objective reasoning.  None of us knows the explanation of things, Ecclesiastes 8:1.  The inductive method of “adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things” will fail, Ecclesiastes 7:27.

It is only through subjective thought or “inwardness” that we encounter God.  Life can be considered to be so meaningless as to be absurd unless there were a cause and a reason for that creation.  In other words, if we were created, then we can infer a creator.

Kierkegaard goes so far as to say in Christian Discourses that being a human being is nothing, but to become something, we must exist before God.  In other words, our lives are meaningless without the creator.  Kierkegaard searches for a goal in this meaningless universe and finds two: (1) a temporal goal of satisfying your desires and (2) an eternal goal of reaching the creator.

We know that life is temporary, so if death is the end of your consciousness, then your temporal goals will be meaningless.  It will not matter how much gold and silver you collected, you will be leaving all that behind.  It will not matter how much you improved your house during your life since it will not be going with you.  When you are “dead” dead, none of your goals during life will matter.

However, if there is something after life, then the eternal goal is the better choice.  Kierkegaard, who was a maverick among Christian writers, expressed the goal to “continually become more and more Christian” in preparing for eternity.  In an August 1, 1935, journal entry, Kierkegaard made it clear, “What matters is to find my purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth that is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.”

Kierkegaard continued in that same 1935 letter, “One must first learn to know oneself before knowing anything else.  Not until a person has inwardly understood himself and then sees the course he is to take does his life gain peace and meaning; only then is he free of that irksome, sinister traveling companion – that irony of life that manifests itself in the sphere of knowledge and invites true knowledge to begin with a not-knowing Socrates, just as God created the world from nothing.”

The controversy surrounding Kierkegaard was his point that man can reach God through his individual effort and not through the church leaders.  Kierkegaard argued that he “sought to preserve my individuality” when his spirit reached toward God.

The centerpiece of existentialism is that we make choices every day and that there are consequences for those decisions.  If we die and there is nothing more, then these choices will only impact us temporarily and probably minimally during our lives.  But if there is an afterlife, then the consequences could become much more significant for both punishments and time frames.  “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”  Ecclesiastes 12:14.

Existentialism and religion fit together like a surgeon’s glove on a hand.

Why No Afterlife Is Best

It probably seems strange that a Christian, who truly believes in God, would say that no afterlife would be the best case for our species.  It’s really quite simple.  We all have sinned and have led something other than stellar lives, so there are consequences waiting for our poor choices.  If there is no afterlife, then there will be no punishment.  We will die and that will be the end.  This also would be the best ending for us since we would no longer be thinking.  And thinking without the distractions of our five senses could be a nightmare in and of itself.

However, the odds are significantly in favor of there being an afterlife.  The law of conservation of mass and energy states that nothing is created or destroyed in our universe.  Of course, there are many transfers from one form to another.  Water can be heated and turned into steam and energy.  Thus, it is very unlikely that our consciousness will be destroyed.  It is more likely that it will be transformed into something that is aware and thinking, but unlike anything we have been exposed to on earth.  But if we are still thinking, that is “the rub” that Shakespeare wrote about in Hamlet.  What “dreams may come” and what will we be thinking about?

Sensory deprivation is a form of punishment or torture that has been utilized by military and prisons for many years.  Typically, the prisoner starts to hallucinate and have horrible nightmares within minutes.  It would be the worst punishment imaginable to be suspended in this state for eternity.  You would be your own worst enemy.  Your thoughts would turn against you.  That’s why no afterlife is best for mankind, but like I said, “It is not likely.”  And since the consequences to you in that strange environment are significant, I would err on the side of having something to hold onto.

Now, that being said, it will not work for you to say: “Well, I will believe in God if I am placed in that environment.”  Your belief in God has to be unbelievably powerful.  It has to be a stronger faith than most Christians have.  Those Christians who go to church each Sunday and do nothing more probably will not have the belief that is required.  It must be a faith that is unshakeable by the chaotic underworld that awaits us.  If you initially believe in God and drop that faith as soon as the first demon arrives, then you will be lost.

God must be deeply entrenched inside you.  God must be so much a part of you that you are one with God.  Then your thoughts are also the thoughts of God, the creator.  Only He can guide you through the inky surrealistic world of death.  No matter how independent and powerful you think you are, you will not be equipped to handle the afterlife by yourself.  Only God can get you through it.  And that is not to say that it will be easy to navigate through the punishments of the underworld with God inside you.  It will be extremely difficult even with God.  But it will be impossible without Him.

Believing that Jesus died for our sins will give us a clean conscience, so that we will not carry guilt with us on our journey through the underworld.  But there will still be consequences for the choices we made during our lifetimes.  It is called “judgment day.”  Nobody knows what will happen, so it is best to prepare for anything and everything, including getting as close to God as you can.