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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Post 20, impressive

I'd set my alarm to go off at this time so I could text Trisha to go to work. I'd forgotten why I was texting her, so the text kind of just said "uh, I'm supposed to text you, I forget why, bye." Apparently I'd sent the text an hour late as I was supposed to send it at 5 rather than 6. Sadly I got back into bed and, I'm not tired.

I've taken some Nyquil to both curb my headache and hopefully get me back to sleep, but in the 20 or so minutes before it kicks in I thought I'd write.

So I have this irrational fear that I'm going to fall asleep and never wake up. That I'll just die in my sleep. Sounds peaceful I guess, but it scares the hell out of me. I don't want to stop existing. I don't ever want to stop existing. I got to thinking tonight while laying there, just about every religion in the world teaches a form of immortality for us whether it be resurrection, reincarnation or an experience like rebirth into a new world, they all kind of seem to teach that we go on. They are all frighteningly similar:

Islam believes in an afterlife where there are seperate levels of heavan and hell which you can attain based on your deeds in life, sound familiar? I suppose it makes sense for an Abrahamic religion founded by a man called by many a prophet who found some texts in a mountain long after the departure of Jesus Christ to sound similar to another Abrahamic religion founded under similar circumstances.
Hinduism believes that we do things in life and accumulate karma. Based on the goodness or badness of this karma we are brought back to Earth in a situation that could be quite pleasant, or rather terrible. So terrible that you may come back as a chicken.
Buddhism believes nearly the same as Hinduism. You accumulate karma and based upon your karma you can come back as the next Steve Jobs or possibly in a "hell realm" where you would live a life in which you'd attempt to improve. (Maybe Earth is "hell realm, wonder who I pissed off in my last life?) They have a fascinating belief of what happens between life where you are confronted by a light and thoughts of deeds of your life and these thoughts try to keep you from the light which is immortal salvation. If you lived a poor life the light is impossibly to confront, but if you lived one of goodness and service you can follow this path. Many of us are unable to confront the light will be helped by Buddah's to choose a life where we are able to help others so we may have a better chance next time.
Sikhs believe that our soul belongs to a spiritual universe where we reincarnate and store up goodness until we have filled up enough good deeds to meet with God. At this point we can choose to stay with God or to choose to accept a lower class and continue serving our fellow man. There are also lower classes such as plants and even microscopic life, but it's unclear to me how one attains these, I would suppose they'd be a punishment of too many poor lives.
Christianity is where it gets complicated, every Christian sect seems to have their own twist on the afterlife, but the main point is that Christ died and saved us from our sins and we are here to prove that we are worthy to accept his sacrifice. Our life accumulates.. for the lack of a better word.. karma and on judgment day we are assigned a new home based on our works. Some sects of Christianity, Universalists for example believe salvation is for all, you simply start with more in the afterlife based on how you conducted yourself on Earth. Then there are seventh day Adventists, which I won't pretend to understand, but are far more strict than even Mormons on who is and is not saved and basically you and I and everyone we know will burn in fire and brimstone when Satan comes to reclaim the rest of us. Christian Science (whatever that is) believes that there is no eternal judgment of heaven and hell and that we move freely between different states in another plane of consciousness. Honestly that sounds somewhat sci-fi to me, but I can't tell them they're wrong. They teach that we can experience heaven here if we so try enough. All that has to be done is to conquer sin through Christ.

Even looking back at ancient religions in Greece and Rome say that we are judged after death and sent to heaven or hell. After a period in hell we can be reincarnated to try again. Zoroastrian beliefs state that after you die you stay on Earth for 3 days with your corpse chanting some prayer. Then after this you are judged using scales (a term of any measurement, not simply weight) to see if your good deeds outweighted the bad, or if they were more or less equal. Then you are sentenced to one of 3 afterlives.

So extremist beliefs and slight differences aside, those all sound almost exactly the same to me. There is an afterlife, if we don't quite get the afterlife we want, we may choose to continue learning and try to achieve this ideal afterlife. The major differences I believe between religions are more ethical than metaphysical. What is good and what is bad? In India killing cows is bad karma, in America telling your neighbor you won't come to their BBQ and eat a burger is not thought of very highly.

It's comforting to think that all these billions of people who can't seem to agree on anything happen to agree, in a loose sort of way, that the afterlife is basically the same. Our existence continues and it continues in a way that a life of good deeds is rewarded with a pleasurable afterlife and a life of bad deeds is punished with a not so fantastic afterlife. That seems incredibly convincing to me. It makes me want to be a good person. It makes me want to give my peanuts to a homeless guy begging for money and makes me feel good about it for the next week because of the friendship him and I will have now, even if we never see each other again as mortals, and because of the overwhelming good feeling that I had inside me. Good karma feels nice!

Now if people could simply quit arguing about what's good and what's bad. If we could just accept each others differences and share an idea of a God who is smart enough (and he IS smart enough, trust me, he's God.. or they're God.. or she's God, whatever) to differentiate between who was trying to be good and who didn't give a damn, then all 7 billion of us (minus a few scientists who are absolutely convinced that nothing happens at all after death) could agree and get along just fine.

The only problem with this is that it would create a somewhat xenophobic society. We value civil rights and universal suffrage in western society, middle-eastern society will never see this viewpoint and if we concentrate on that, we will fight. Fighting over who's God is tougher, when in all likelihood it's the same God, seems like an incredibly fast way to get bad karma. If we simply accept that we're all trying to just be good people and serve the people most dear to us in the best way we know how, why can't we all end up in the afterlife together? The God that I know exists would be accepting of Christains, Jews, Muslims, Taoists and Buddhists alike, as long as we all gave it all, whenever we could on Earth. He would reward us accordingly. Whether this be with a world of my own or another life on another world where I am someone of power or with some reward I can't comprehend with my human mind in the ensuing rebirth as something greater, I can't say for sure. I like to believe the first, but I can't say that IS how it is. Only that an afterlife must exist, and it must be based on rewards I earned as a human.

I guess I figured after my last blog a nice pacifying "can't we all just get along" blog was a good followup. I really want to believe that when I talk to my grandma she acknowledges it in a way I just don't quite understand. I want to believe those hundreds of funky stories where a dead person is revived and can describe stuff that would have been impossible for them to know because they perceived it through some extrasensory means in the "afterlife." Such a happy thought. I miss my Grandma dearly. I want to be her friend again.

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