One of my blogging BFFs recently posted his feelings on his Catholic upbringing. You can read all about it here. Although, now that I think about it the five people that read this have probably already read that. Whatever, it’s good stuff, so read it if you haven’t already.
That entry, along with my advanced age, have kicked off some thoughts on what my afterlife would be like.
For the record, I don’t believe there is anything after this life. Before you feel sorry for me or consider that a depressing thought, keep in mind that while I think this is our only life it’s also spurred me into making the most of it. Not money wise (don’t really care about that as long as I’m comfortable and my family doesn’t starve), but experience wise. I like meeting new people, trying new things, being outdoors, and generally having a good time. I treat people as well as they should expect (so many disclaimers here that I don’t have time to get into all of them right now) and try to eke out as much enjoyment per day as I can (please refer to Beer O'Clock).
In fact, my average day is what I hope any actual afterlife is like. Minus the work and aggravation.
For now, let’s check out possible options as dictated by common beliefs.
HEAVEN AND HELL
Summary: By far the most common belief system. Even Muslim terrorists are convinced they’ll spend eternity with their own assigned virgins after they kill thousands of people in cold blood. The terminology may be different, but it means the same thing.
If you meet a certain (and often arbitrary) set of criteria, you go to Heaven where all your dead loved ones are awaiting your arrival. There are clouds and angels and lovely people who would probably bore you to death if you weren’t already dead. I have no idea what people do in Heaven, but I strongly suspect there is no sex and a never ending game of badminton.
If you meet another (and more entertaining) set of criteria or offend one of the main ‘Free Pass Into Heaven’ rules you wind up in Hell. The general assumption is fire, brimstone, a horny dude with a bad disposition and penchant for making your worst nightmares your eternal reality.
Depending on some religions, there may even be a middle level here: Purgatory. Here people on some waiting list hang out while God and Satan argue about who should have you.
- The set of rules on how to get to Heaven vary and are so strict in some cultures it seems fairly evident that if this were true there would be a total of 5 people in Heaven. Two of those would be God and Jesus. By Catholicism’s set of rules, not even Mary Magdalene would make it in unless Jesus pulled some strings. According to the Ten Commandments, just uttering Jesus after you accidentally cut off three of your fingers with a circular saw would bar you from entering.
Unless you begged forgiveness from a guy that probably molested your brother when you were kids, of course. But that aspect may have to wait for another post or my next 1000 page thesis on how fucked up the Catholic church is.
- For shits and giggles, let’s assume all dead people go to either Heaven or Hell. Consider the amount of people that have died over the course of human history. Where would they all go? There are over six billion people on the planet this very minute. God and Satan must be sweating (pun intended for Satan) the fire codes for their particular room capacity. Do they expand? Is the space unlimited? Is there a huge line forming by the Pearly Gates? Is there some sort of project manager over seeing everything?
- Consider the list of offenses that would merit you going to Hell. Now take stock of all the people you enjoy spending time with. Would they go to Heaven or Hell? Now then, once you’ve figured out where those people would go after they died, where would you rather spend the rest of eternity? Exactly! The entire baseline for people going to Heaven is skewed so drastically, I really think Hell would be much more fun! Hendrix is probably jamming with Keith Moon and Bon Scott right now while Charlie Parker is bringing them to an entirely new level of music never heard before.
Now consider where most of the smoking hot chicks you know are going. Natalie Wood, Marilyn Munroe and Grace Kelly are probably there already!
- Technically, Satan opened Hell because he was cast out of Heaven. He used to be an angel, you know. He and God had a falling out (as can happen with brothers), God kicked his ass out so Lucifer started his own company. Now, since God created Satan and everything God created is inherently good, how could Satan really be as bad as everyone thinks? Maybe he’s just misunderstood.
Bottom Line: If you consider the never ending list of Dos and Don’ts, the loopholes to get out of obeying those same rules (repent on your deathbed and it's all good), and the staggering amount of space needed to accommodate all those dead souls I just don’t see how this is logistically possible.
WORLD TO COME
Summary: Based on Judaism’s Talmud (book of rules rabbis made up, I think), all souls to the same place to be judged. If you’ve been a good boy or girl you go directly into ‘The World to Come’. If not, you spend a year or so being judged, criticized for all of your life’s mistakes, shown the error of your ways, punished (if necessary) then allowed into the ‘World to Come’. Some scholars view this as a re-education center for the dead, others as a punishment for past wrongs zone. Either way it doesn’t sound pleasant.
The difference here is there is no place like Hell. If you are truly evil – generally defined as leading others to do evil things or being a major douchebag like Jeffrey Dahmer – you simply cease to exist.
- This basically sums up the afterlife as a brain washing center for anyone who did anything questionable during their lives. Isn’t that everyone? We were all teenagers, no?
- Leave it to rabbis to invent an eternity that involves a year’s worth of nagging about all the things you did wrong when you were actually alive.
- Who’s in charge of this ‘re-education’? Are Jewish mothers everywhere automatically enlisted upon death?
Bottom Line: Way too close to real life for this to be legit. I would guess the rabbis came up with this because they figured things have been this way their entire lives. Why should dying change anything?
Summary: Depending on which type of believer you ask, this can take on several options.
Option 1: Depending on how you live your life, you can pass on to other higher or lower forms of life. There is a judgment phase immediately after death during which it’s decided if you move up or down the food chain. Humans can reincarnate as animals in this option. I sort of like the idea of being a house cat in my next life. No kids, please.
Option 2: You live lives over and over to become a more altruistic and empathetic human being. When you’ve reached the apex of your human capacity for caring and understanding, you move on to a higher spiritual plane of existence. Sort of where Paula Abdul is right now.
Option 3: After you die you hang out in SummerLand (Oh BOY!!!) to recover from your recent life. This is a peaceful, sunny, hopefully bikini and beer laden land where experiences are shared, souls are rested and naked volleyball games are the norm. Again, hopefully. For reasons I don’t need to state, this is by far my favorite afterlife idea. Anyway, after you rest for a while you’re reincarnated with no memory of your previous life.
Problems: Not as many as other view points, but there are a few.
- Who’s in charge of what souls go where? Is there a huge factory that processes and returns the souls? Is this where Netflix got their business plan?
- Who judges you during the judgment phase of the afterlife? What if they’re a sucky judge? Is there an appeals process if you’re sentenced to start over at the cockroach level?
- Population explosion. Here’s my biggest problem. If everyone is a reincarnation of people who have already lived, then how do they explain all the new people in this world. Let’s say the world started with 100,000 people. They die and are reincarnated as new people. Wouldn’t there always be 100,000 people in the world? And if new souls can be created, then how does that work? Are they reincarnated from the monkeys that didn’t throw poop?
Bottom Line: Of all the after life scenarios, I would subscribe to this one. I really REALLY like the SummerLand idea. Take a few years off to recharge the batteries before going through the entire birth, life, death thing all over again. I just decided that I’m dubbing my house SummerLand. I’m getting a sign for the front door and everything!
Summary: Claims the afterlife is one big missionary service where ‘holy’ spirits counsel those spirits still in darkness. The intent is to reform those ‘dark’ spirits so they can enter Paradise.
Problems: See Heaven and Hell section. Only here it’s called Spirit Prison and Paradise. And you’re encouraged to talk away your sins for all eternity.
Bottom Line: Just send me straight to the fire pit. I’d rather endure never ending pain than to have to listen to holier than thou preachings from pompous dead people. I deal with enough of them on the subways. I don’t need them when I’m dead.
Summary: Interestingly, there is no official afterlife with these door knockers. They think dead is dead and there is no consciousness after life has ended. That said, they also believe that Judgment Day will arrive (no date, sorry) and all dead people will be resurrected. All people! Regardless of how you lived you life. Sinners and saints. Go figure.
- You still won’t be allowed to celebrate birthdays once you’ve been resurrected, which blows.
- There is also the little tidbit about all this resurrection occurring after Armageddon. So basically everyone will be dead. But then resurrected! So….yeah, not sure why that entire ‘world gets wiped out’ thing needs to take place.
- Not everyone will be resurrected. That’s right, even the Witnesses have loopholes. See you can be the biggest dick in the history of the world, but if you regret that you’ve been the biggest dick in the history of the world you’ll be brought back to life in a newly created Earth Paradise (currently accepting contracting bids) . If you actually enjoyed being a dick and all the money and pussy it got you then you’ll be dead forever. See, JW’s believe that death itself is your punishment for sinning (which, yes, means everyone but Dracula and Highlander are sinners). Therefore, if you have died, then you have already served your punishment.
Bottom Line: The major flaw in this argument is that death is not always a punishment. What if you’ve suffered through 5 years of horrible cancer? What if you’ve been trapped in a nightmarish mine shaft for the past three days? What if you’ve been married for 20 years? Yeah, see? Death can be a relief in some cases.
Still, at the very least this will make one hell of a zombie war if it comes true. Let’s hope someone’s got a video camera.
So where does this leave us?
The Heaven and Hell thing doesn’t make sense on a number of levels.
Reincarnation makes the most sense, but that’s probably because I’m hoping SummerLand is real. Plus it could explain a number of bizarre things that happen to nearly everyone. Ever click with someone you just met and become instant friends? You probably met in a previous life. One of you friends is a really good artist even though he’s had no formal training? He was probably an artist in one of his past lives. The chick you want to have sex with but can’t because you’re married? No worries, just look her up in your next lives.
Wow, I really like the idea of reincarnation.
Here's my personal fantasy about the afterlife: Everyone you've ever had fun with is hanging out in the same place (preferably a beach setting) and you spend eternity just hanging out, doing what you love to do, doing who you love to do, drinking and eating as much as you want and generally having the time of your life...er...death.
If not, then let's go with reincarnation. Always good to have a backup plan.
Today’s distraction: Some ghost stories about people that couldn’t find their way to SummerLand. Don’t be scared of them. Pity them. Then try to show them the way. Hey, maybe that’s what that bright light is! The beach!