Friday, August 23, 2013

Desires and beliefs

There are things that we want, and there things that are true. But we mustn't fool ourselves... Just wanting something to be so, doesn't make it so. Yet this is an issue I face surprisingly often when facing a theist in debate.

At some point they will be talking about Heaven, eternal life, eternal reward, and state how they can't wait for the day they punch their ticket for that never ending buffet in the sky. Then they will comment on my belief that there is nothing after death. They will say that the though saddens them, and that it can't be so... rather, they don't want it to be so. They want eternal life, and dammit, they've convinced themselves they're get it!

And then the questions come. Don't you want to live forever? Don't you want to go to Heaven instead of Hell? Why do you want death to be the absolute end? I have different answers to these questions, but they highlight an error in thinking. These are all questions about what i want, in regards to a topic of belief. But desire has no effect on if something to true or not.

Would I like to live forever? In a way, I suppose it would be nice. Do I want to go to Heaven? Honestly, if the Bible is accurate about Heaven and the nature of the afterlife, I do not. Non-existence sounds more appealing to me than a never-ending sameness. Do I want death to be the end? Well, the answer to that depends. In general I'd prefer life to death, but have made peace with my ultimate demise. But framed as a choice between the Christian afterlife, and simply flashing out of existance, I'd prefer the latter.

But after those honest answers, believers sometimes proclaim, "Ah ha! You just don't believe in an afterlife (or God) because you don't want there to be an afterlife." No... that's not what I said. And even if it were true, it wouldn't make a difference. Given only the two options mentioned before, do I find nonexistence the more desirable option. For some reason, some Christians seem to have trouble grasping the fact that the only choices aren't 'Christian' and anti-Christian'.

You see, I don't disbelieve in an afterlife because of some strange desire for annihilation. But because there simply isn't any evidence that points toward death being anything different from the same conditions as years before we were ever born. If I was like the believer that believes in Heaven because of their desire for Heaven, then I wouldn't hold that death is the most final of final acts.

No, if I believed in what I found the most appealing, then I would actually believe in some sort of Shinto/Buddhist reincarnation. To me, this is the most desirable form of afterlife for me. No never-ending tedium of the Christian afterlife, but several brand new lives, one after another.

And if I don't quite remember my previous lives, all the better. Think of the feeling of making your first friends again... finding your first girlfriend/boyfriend... having your first kiss... making love for the very first time... your first car... graduation... landing your dream job... getting married... buying a house you love... starting a family... etc. All big and often meaningful life events that you'd get to relive over and over in a wide myriad of ways.

Heck, I'd even find it interesting to turn a stint as a squirrel, otter, eagle, or other animals. Imagine living one life with the exhilarating power of flight. Another living in the trees , and another swimming the rivers and lakes with playful exuberance. What about being a lazy cat that gets waited on like a king? How could anyone not find that prospect interesting and exciting?

But remember, even though I love the idea of all that in principle, I still don't believe it is true. That is
because there is also no proof that reincarnation is a real thing. If I am to remain honest to myself and everyone else, I can't believe in something I want to be true, just because I want it. That desire changes nothing about the truth of the matter. I want there to be a million dollars in cash in my desk drawer. Sadly, I look and find it empty. I want my home and my car to be powered exclusively by solar energy. Alas, I have to fill up my car once a week, and still get an electric bill every month. I want many things to be true, but here I am facing the truth that simply wanting what I want, doesn't magically make those things come true.

So why is it that so many believers fall into the trap of believing out of desire? Perhaps those that do, do so out of fear. But why is it also so hard to understand that I can desire a different outcome than the one I believe to be true? I would live it if reincarnation were true, but the evidence says otherwise. So until the evidence points in in another direction, i shall operate as if I only have this one life, and try to make the very most of it... and I hope you will too.

 -Brain Hulk

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