Sunday, September 17, 2006

Burnin' Hell

After wasting some time this morning trying to upgrade iTunes to version 7, I gave up and started to listen to music instead. John Lee Hooker is my choice this morning. Hooker's Burnin' Hell, it is perhaps the best atheist themed song ever written - "I don't believe in no heaven, I don't believe in no burning hell". It just so happens that I am reading Daylight Atheism as part of the CotG this morning. His post, No Heavens, is a perfect complement to Hooker's epic song.
What all these heavens have in common, though, is that they are far off, hidden from our sight. Preachers and scriptures tell us that this life is a vale of tears and none can change that, but if we bear suffering with good cheer and humbly obey the religious authorities, we will receive pie in the sky by and by. Although most religions have edicts commanding their followers to aid the poor, none have any expectation that their followers will succeed at alleviating want, or even that such success is even possible. Jesus, for example, is reported as saying that the poor will be with us always (Matthew 26:11). Instead, most religions teach that misery and suffering will persist until God returns to establish his kingdom on Earth, and of course they all teach that converting the poor is a higher priority than supplying material needs. ("For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
The concept of Heaven and Hell has always posed a problem for me. I once heard heaven described as "being in the presence of God". I understand the concept. If there were a god, being in his presence would be the ultimate reward for faith. Reality intrudes - Heaven and Hell do not exist, nor does god. The only heaven (or hell) we have is the one we experience here and now while we live. In the immortal words of Bradley Nowell, "love is what I got". We make the best of what we have, we strive to be better, or we descend into the abyss of drugs or despair. The choices are ours alone to make. Without the reward of an afterlife, life itself becomes our precious reward.

John Coltrane is playing Syeeda's Song Flute at the moment. My wife and son are relaxing on the couch. I am in heaven.

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vjack said...

Good post. I say heaven and hell are simply states of mind with no supernatural garbage necessary.

brad said...

Interesting post...too bad it is a total misunderstanding of Christianity but whatever. The Christian message is that the Kingdom of Heaven is in reach today. The model for Christian prayer is "your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". When Christians say Jesus is the Christ, this means that our king is reigning in us and through us today. There certainly is a reward at His return no doubt but that is only one element of the faith. It seems your understanding comes from like Homer Simpson or something.

Mojoey said...

Well Ned Flanders - er, I mean Brad, legions of Christians do hold that heaven and hell are real places and can be attained in the afterlife. Time and again we have established that your version of Christianity differs greatly from that of the great unwashed masses of Christian America. Few Christians possess your theological prowess. Many Christians are spoon fed their beliefs by televangelists, talking-head pastors, popular fiction, and well meaning but corrupt figureheads – like James Dobson. Too many Christians believe their reward for a life of toil in the fields of their lord is heaven, or their punishment for a life of sin is hell. I hear it and read it every day. These are the same people that will line up to sacrifice themselves in the name of God when properly motivated. But… you know this already.

MichaelBains said...

I said remember this
love is
It's what I got

Brilliant song!

Brad is one of many who miss the point: Jesus was a human. He's dead. He is evidence against the existence of any God.

Not that it's need since there is none for it.

Still, the idea of bringing perfection into the world is a noble one. Folks just need to realize that such can not be done via "the prophets". Those were just some ancient folks who had timely advice for their peoples. Nothing more. Nothing less.

The ending to the post was especially nice, Mojoey. That does sound like heaven...