Across all cultures religion has been an infectious concept and has flowed from generation to generation with seeming ease. Even more interesting is the common ends of a proverbial “heaven” – an enticing provision awarded to those who pledge allegiance to religious deities and live in satisfactory subordination to the hierarchy and regulations of their chosen cult. Being that all of these lifestyle-memberships are generally sold on the basis of providing a product such as heaven, which cannot exist in reality, and would therefore seem difficult to believe, I find heaven to be conceptually fascinating.
What is heaven?
While the particulars of heavens differ not only from cult to cult, but from individual to individual, particular themes are abundant. In my experience and research, heavens are conceptually described by the majority of cult-members (most commonly, and not in so many words) as existing within the bounds of these three fundamental codes:
– Destinations at which interdimensional, conscious versions of humans posthumously reside.
– Regions of respective utopian ideals subject to cultural values and relevant to individual preferences.
– Paradises in which all needs germane to reality are either removed from the equation or fulfilled to a degree of hyperbolic contentment.
Some aspects of religious heavens are described in great, varying detail within their corresponding religious texts; however, these three requirements are generally accomplished within the official written descriptions. When assembled, these theoretical codes provide a portentous look at the projections of humans’ first impressions of their environments onto the reality of natural life. This starts the generation of the utmost fantasy of nanny-statism and, if we look closely, allows us to understand the infantile thought process from which our consciousness evolves.
What’s more fascinating than the portrayals themselves is that these concepts were derived in common cross-culturally by humans living very much apart from one another geographically, socially and, in most cases, in time without much (if any) transcultural interaction. So how can this be? Is the concept of heavens’ existence innate?
How are “Heavens” Conceivable, and Why?
As I alluded to above, there are too many parallels between the concept of “heaven” and the infantile consciousness of newborns to ignore. Furthermore, there are too many parallels between the evolution of the human psyche throughout natural life and the evolution of “heaven’s” rewards to overlook, however in the interest of brevity, but without discounting the importance of these complementary developments, I’ll stick to those occurring near infancy. Also, for the record, the following is my response to the above prompt based on some light reading and thought on the matter.
From the moment a baby exits the womb it is for the first time uncomfortable; it needs. A newborn baby has no understanding of the world around it. It has no intelligible appreciation for its environment; therefore, a baby is filled with the most sensational instinct it will ever feel at birth – responses to inexplicable negative stimuli in its environment. At this point a baby has never had a need go unmet, it has never been cold or hot, and it’s never been hungry or full without sufficient pacification of these needs being addressed instantaneous to their onset. Once in the natural world, the baby doesn’t misunderstand anything presented before it; the baby has no knowledge of depth perception, texture, light, shade, functionality, nor does it have the ability to draw distinctions between itself and its surroundings, therefore it cannot understand, nor misunderstand. At the moment after birth a baby must feel completely altered in the most absolute, yet ambivalent, way. It is suddenly cooler than usual, hungrier than usual, in pain as its umbilical-cord is severed and its butt is given a solid “whack”. Its skin is in contact with dry air for the first time, and its lungs are sucking it into themselves – what a sensation it must be to so suddenly be awakened from initial sleep to the full array of life’s most challenging and awe-inspiring sensations.
It’s terrifically difficult to fathom the gravity of this terse and offensive delivery into the natural world. A baby so abruptly travels the spectrum from living in a heaven-like environment in which every need is satisfied before the baby even feels an insufficiency, where all is well, warm, and entirely comfortable mentally and physically… to experiencing pressure, cold, stinging pain (“whack”), slicing pain (cord), fresh air expanding inside unused lungs, smells, tastes, textures, a bewildering display of colors and lights and shadows – a visual representation of three dimensions, and the ability to stretch out largely unused muscles. I mean, this is the moment in which a baby first feels its own weight bearing down on whatever surface it is laid. I assert that human birth has evolved into the unforgiving ordeal we know, because this experience becomes the most fundamental, foundational learning process that we ever endure, and its impressions and lessons are the roots on which we stand to strive throughout our entire lives.
From infancy onward the human experience is one of curiosity and instigation. We are all searching to get back to the place from whence we came, probing to find the paradise we were torn from. We long for a situation in which our every need is met. Of course, throughout our lives we develop desires superfluous to our necessities as well; this is why heavens are often purported to consist of buildings and streets made of precious metals and polished rocks, and to house young women with unused vaginas.
I would assert that this function of birth was naturally selected as it provides a most basic, intuition within us that something better exists, thereby making us constantly, subconsciously aware of our uncomfortable circumstances relative to what once was. This serves to inspire us to incessantly endeavor to achieve better circumstances for ourselves. It would seem that a pleasant and comfortable birth spent gently weaning us off of our heavenly situations within the womb would serve to cause weaker-willed offspring. Whereas, the ruder the awakening – the more urgent our motivation to get back to paradise. This instinct provides an ideal mental state for surviving, planning for the future to survive, and creating a posh environment to aid in providing for and protecting offspring in the future…so they can survive.
Obviously you can see where every decision a person makes throughout their entire life is for the betterment of their situation (until they produce their own offspring). Unfortunately, the side-effect of this natural stimulus is that we are susceptible to delusions of grandeur. When modern Homo sapiens use language to communicate (language which was not in existence, hundreds of thousands of years ago, when this birth-process modification began producing stronger specimens outlasting their lazier counterparts) we are inclined to follow the information which leads us to the ultimate nanny-state. We long to be taken care of and made perfectly comfortable at all times. We want all of our wishes met, etc. Thus, when sociopaths developed in the modern age (geologically speaking), illusions of heavens in which poor people live like kings and everyone sucks down nectar and ambrosia like Zeus-squared sold like hot-cakes; humans became entirely moldable, willing to do whatever it took to make it back to the ignorant bliss of the womb.
This is how we are able to conceive of a place such as heaven when it is spoken of, why we believe it might truly exist; we’ve been there before, and we were divorced from it terribly. Today, people hate each other for chasing the wrong womb-dream or no womb-dream. They offend one another with extreme bigotry in the name of their gods. More unfortunately still, are the ill-fated attempts to be accepted into the heavens via explosive-ordnance-strapped-to-crotch-in-crowded-area. Indeed, modern humans will do pretty much anything to get back into the embryonic sack. Granted, many a malicious threat has been dealt to aid in the rookery of religion; after all, without a disgusting amount of violence the church would fall apart as people would go about seeking genuine solutions to their needs.
Are you living in reality or have you succumbed to the temptation of chasing a womb-dream?
A reader brought this Facebook post to my attention this evening. I’ve altered it slightly to adjust punctuation and tense for the sake of fluidity. Regardless of my changes, this line of thought is one I hope all parents consider at one time or another. Below the quoted post are my interpretations of the questions and my immediate responses to each.
“I’ve often questioned the merits of religion; in fact, I think about it daily. I wonder how [much] better a person I [would] be if I feared my eternal soul’s destiny [and chose] the path of righteousness compared to how much I love my fellow beings now. And, I also wonder what I should teach my own son – my son who already has so much compassion in him as a toddler that he [would] put his own needs aside to ask if you’re okay if you show the slightest bit of agony. Why would/should I add fear to [his world]?” – Facebook User
Here’s my stab at it:
Question: Would fear for eternal damnation of your soul motivate you to be a better person?
Response: This is an easy one. If you are easily motivated by intimidation, the answer may be yes. Look at your lifestyle now, and think about your behaviors and actions and the things that compel you to behave and act in those ways. If you only show up to work because you’re afraid of getting in trouble, than your motivated by fear; if you show up because you’re a part of a team and enjoy supporting the collective efforts of your peers and superiors then fear is not your primary motivator.
Likewise, if you pay your taxes on time out of fear for future financial hardship and imprisonment, then again motivation by fear may be for you; if you find yourself feeling compelled to pay your taxes for the betterment of your fellow man and your country, then, again, fear may not be your best motivator.
After analyzing a few of these sorts of lifestyle choices, it should be plain to see whether or not you’d benefit from being frightened of a cosmic bully in your day to day life.
Question: Should you lie to your child about the existence of a trio of celestial jewish zombies, each existing in parallel dimensions and in different, inexplicable forms? And, further, should you threaten your child with truly egregious and unimaginable torments and eternal injuries in order to destroy your child’s innate sense of rationality and logic as a means to control him/her?
Response: Well, this one seems rhetorical, doesn’t it? Let’s pretend it’s not.
When a child is in its most formative, most impressionable years, it would be absolutely devastating for the child to realize that their parent is liar. Therefore, children excuse parents’ lies without a second thought and justify those lies in their minds as a defense mechanism warding off insecurity in their uncontrollable life situations.
You see, a child is helpless. A child is at the most utter mercy of those who’ve had the fortune of deciding to produce one and raise it. The child cannot leave if its living conditions are poor, nor can a child fight back (physically, emotionally, verbally, etc). No, the child is stranded to the situation into which it is born. As such, it would seem that the most valuable information to share with a child would be truths and principled concepts.
To illustrate this point I submit this analogy:
Imagine one afternoon; you’re volunteering at a retirement home filled with really, really old people, most of whom have dementia. Now imagine you enter the room of an elderly woman with Alzheimer ’s disease. Her name is Hazel. She’s 5’2”, her short, curly hair is silver, and she looks perfectly content – perfectly comfortable as she rocks back and forth in her chair by the extra-tall window overlooking the courtyard between the retirement home and the building next door. Hazel smiles at you, and in a voice shockingly peppy she says, “Good morning!” and raises her cup of coffee as if to give you cheers.
Before you can respond, one of the hospice-workers brushes by you and confronts Hazel. He kneels down in front of her and says, “Hazel, are you allowed to drink coffee after Three O’clock?”
Hazel looks away from you, slowly making eye contact with the employee. She sheepishly responds to his question, “Uh…I think I can have some coffee.”
“No. You can’t!” the caregiver says raising his voice, “there’s an invisible, venomous snake on your head! You can’t see it, you can’t tough it, it has no smell, it doesn’t make a sound, but if you have even one sip of coffee after Three O’clock the invisible snake with bite you, and you’ll shrivel up into a little dried out ball and nothing will save you! You’ll live for only a few moments of excruciating pain throughout your entire body and then you’ll choke to death on your own blood and vomit!”
Hazel bursts into tears and mutters pathetically, “Alright! I’m sorry! Please, take it.” She moves the cup toward him in her quivering hand.
The caregiver gently takes the cup of coffee away from Hazel and pats her on the head. “Good girl,” he concludes. Then he walks past you and out of the room.
This sounds like a ridiculous, ludicrous line of behavior. It’s nearly unimaginable to any sane person. One would have to be so incredibly irresponsible, grotesquely controlling, and insidiously egocentric to stoop to such a shameful level in order to control a person so helpless – a person so dependent. A person would have to be absolutely, unapologetically mentally sick. Yet, when it comes to children, it happens every day.
Babies are born with instincts, and those reactive behaviors need to be guided and shaped by parents throughout their childhood in order to produce a clear-thinking, strong-willed, upstanding member of society. To purposely stray from this responsibility as a parent, and purposefully exploit a child’s trust with the intention of frightening the child into behaving unnaturally is despicable.
I know that some people subject their children to the abuse of religious indoctrination coming from a place of warped reality, and supposed love. Those people usually have been abused themselves, and have been, quite literally, brainwashed by their family, and/or peers. They are not clear thinkers; they’re conformists who make their decisions based first on intimidation from the state and their gods. A sane parent wants nothing like this for their child.
I suggest parents spend large amounts of time in quality thought in order to realize a set of guiding principles that they believe will truly lead to success (but what is successsssss???). Yeah – that type of thought. And, once a parent has found their own set of guiding principles, their own philosophy, they ought to apply it to their own life and make sure it’s effective and reasonable. Only then should a parent consider teaching their child about depth in life. By doing so prior to figuring it out for themselves, parents are apt to do more damage than good. And, of course, to take the easy route and resort to teaching ancient, mistranslated (hundreds of times over), ooky-spooky, crazy-ass-invisible-terrorist-with-a-list-of-demands-and-sorcerer-powers principles is certainly about the worst thing a parent can do to their child’s fresh, sponge-like mind.
This is getting a bit lengthy for a Facebook response, so I’ll leave it here. Like you, Mr. [Smith], I do not wish to offend anyone; however, I, on the other hand, am not opposed to it.
For a deeper look into the perils of religiosity I highly recommend you read my article, “Why Your Religion Matters To Me and Others” @ https://pcoastcompelled.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/why-your-religion-matters-to-me-and-others/
*This article may be offensive, but it’s worth the risk of offending if a single person is steered away from a life wasted chasing sky-ghosts of millennia past. Please feel free to share this perspective with loved ones who may be lost.
There is no reason to believe anything for which there is no proof. Even if something is thought to be true for a long time, even by lots and lots of people. For example, it turns out that the sun is not the center of the universe, Earth is round, hurricanes and tornados are the result of atmospheric disturbances, and recently the Catholic Church proclaimed that limbo doesn’t exist…so the unsaved babies are all in heaven already!! Hooray for the babies.
If the only so-called evidence for something a person believes is that lots of people raised in a mysterious fog of folklore have been deluded enough to be convinced of it, those “beliefs” are illegitimate. In the case of Christianity, people have been convinced, mostly through indoctrination of the youth, that an invisible trio of supernatural, cosmic, zombie-like aliens are responsible for everything positive and neutral in our lives, and that another, bad, alien is responsible for everything unfortunate in the world except some things which are the fault of the zombie-trio who tend to “work in mysterious ways”. Personally, I tend to steer clear of and question every opinion and decision made by those ppl – being that they’re in a constant state of slight hallucination at least.
Religion is a mental poison. It negatively affects everyone it touches. Whether a religion causes guilt or shame, or compels physical violence and verbal abuse, or just slightly affects a single decision, the effects are unnecessary and damaging. Imagine if you were told that peanut butter was guacamole as a youngster. Imagine going your whole life thinking that peanut butter was guacamole and vice versa. This would probably impact your decisions a few times, though, whether negatively or positively is speculative. So how much does being indoctrinated with religious teachings impact a person’s opinions and decisions? It stands to reason that a misunderstanding of physics, delusions of ethnocentricity and telekinetic correspondence with aliens from a different dimension, and subconsciously seeing virtue in subservience are all things that probably have a fairly significant amount of pull on the decision making strings within the heads of religious folk.
Religion is completely intolerant, although it’s almost always disguised as loving, caring, supportive, and all about spreading joy and peace, etc. Under that botoxed façade religion has nothing to do with any of these things.
I’m often offered a valid point when voicing these truths: as long as the “beliefs” of others cause no effects in my life, then I shouldn’t care. Of course, this is where the problem arises.
Public opinion shapes the rules by which we live. When the public is duped into rooting their individual values in fictional, morally flawed tales from the days when “WingDings” was a readily legible font on stone tablets, public opinion becomes vastly skewed toward the illogical.
This is why slavery was once lawful, why gays are not allowed to make the same public commitment to each other by law as their hetero counterparts, why 3000 people were crushed and burned to death on 9/11, why an army of Catholics and Protestants committed the Natzi holocaust, why hundreds of millions of Americans have been incarcerated in the war on drugs, etc, etc, etc. Self-righteous dicks everywhere just can’t help themselves from initiating violence in order to curb non-violent behaviors in there fellow man simply because they, themselves, aren’t “into” those behaviors. Overwhelming popular opinion heavily influenced by religious values caused the afore mentioned list of wretched violations to life and property (and uncountable others) to be executed more smoothly than if they’d have been carried out in a free-thinking, rational, secular society. Of course this has not been tried, so we can’t know for sure, but I think it’s worth some thought.
To the argument which suggests atheists who argue against religion are simply on the opposite side of the spectrum from proselytizing evangelists: Helping to normalize rationality and logic and belief in evidentiary claims is not the same as attempting to spread the indoctrination of societies into a highly gullible and easily moldable base of superstitious, complacent fools.
Hierarchy is not pyramidal; it is horizontal. In modern society, sociopaths drawn to power over their fellow humans are allowed to reign over populations because of horizontal ostracism waged between their subjects. Religion, which is false to begin with, is used as a tool with which people are conditioned into complacency and distractingly pitted against one another on the basis of unethical codes. This makes people susceptible to unwarranted trust, and unwarranted forgiveness. It dulls the senses, and when 90% of our peers allow this ridiculous storyline to serve as the foundation of their morality I find it irresponsible not to combat that line of thought when given the opportunity. It most certainly does affect my life, and yours, and your parents, and your future children, and my future children, and everybody else.
Lastly, when I was involved in the church (for 10 years) I remember thinking that non-belief sounded more reasonable than what I was so adamantly favoring at the time. Honestly, it teed me off when people spoke about how pleasant life is without religion, because I was living nearly “sin-free” under all sorts of constraints and restrictions, and they were having a better time than I was in general, so I understand the frustrations of those on the other side of the truth whole heartedly. Then again, I’m full of wonder rather than answers these days, and that curiosity and lack of introspective pressures is exquisitely freeing. Even though it is a sin punishable by eternal damnation and hellfire, I highly suggest throwing off the manacles of religion for a couple weeks (or forever) in the interest of seeing what living for yourself has to offer.