The greatest con of all time?
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16).
Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life (John 5:24).
The Apostles’ Creed testifies: “I believe… the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting”.
Such a simple commitment for a magnificent payoff. But is it really something to aspire to?
Eternal Life – What is it actually?
John 5:24 above indicates that eternal life can commence prior to physical death. The scholars meanwhile are in disagreement as to what ‘eternal life’ means, and this largely tells us all we need to know – if nobody can agree, surely it should not be something the Church offers to followers until they can be clear about what it is they are offering!
Now, most people of faith believe that their eternal life will be spent in Heaven. It is noted however that the Bible does not make a strong connection at all between these concepts – it is a modern construct to assume that Heaven is the destination of the after-life.
Wikipedia’s reference for example to Eternal Life shows the disparate views on whether it is an elevation to a sentient metaphysical existence commencing with physical death, whether it just one’s soul being elevated to communion with God, or whether it is a temporary spiritual state awaiting a physical reparation at the rapture. Whatever the truth is, it must be strongly considered that had the Bible truly been the act of men writing under the direct guidance of God, sure he would not have been so vague in his intentions on this (and other) matters! One can only conclude that the multitude of differing positions take by scholars and theologians demonstrates that ALL of it is probably the work of man and man alone!
The first red flag here is the under-stated requirement merely to believe in God. No need for duty, for subjugation, for worship, for witnessing. Nothing more than to believe in God, and be rewarded. Satan believes in God. Some people believe in God without actively worshipping him. One might dare say that the majority of the faithful were taught as children that there was a God who loved them, and they never spent the slightest amount of time thinking otherwise. ALL of these people, whether engaged or otherwise, by this simple proclamation, are entitled to eternal life. Not such a difficult club to get into you might say!
The second red flag is the inability for the promise of eternal life to be verified. It’s like a salesman approaching retirement – he can give any verbal assurance or promises about the service he is selling to get the order knowing he will never have to answer for his claims.
But eternal life would be cool. Right?
Let’s consider the proposition that the Church promotes in its ‘marketing communications’, that upon death, those of faith will not die but ascend into heaven and be reunited with their loved ones – to be close again, to show one’s love, to spend eternity with them. Is this as good as it may appear? Given God didn’t leave behind a reliable account, and the scriptures are vague, one has to imagine what it may be like………
Eternity is a VERY LONG TIME. Let’s just remember that for the rest of this essay!
Eternity is a very long time to spend as disembodied ectoplasm, floating in a featureless infinite space devoid of the sensory stimulation that real life provides.
There is no music, there is no singing, there is no voice, there is nothing to hear. Maybe there is telepathy.
The joy of food – the smells, the taste, the sating of hunger, the indulgence; all a memory.
There is no touch, no hugging, no warmth, no hands to hold. Let’s go further; no balls to kick, to throw, to catch, to chase. But it gets worse; no dancing, no sport to watch, no sport to participate in, no tv, no entertainment. Let’s go further still; no kissing, no intimacy, no sex!
Again! Eternity is a very long to hang around as ectoplasm! One only has to spend such a little time thinking about it to wonder if ‘eternal life’ would actually be so grand, if as an aspiration it’s actually better avoided!
Could the grief be worse that the original loss?
Assuming we can locate a loved one, are they in the form we remember them when they passed? If the loved one was lost as an infant, without the senses of sight and smell, will the infant be able to reciprocate the joy that one feels in the reunion. Might it actually be devastating to find that the infant can not return the affection, having developed no telepathic ability for recognition. Could it be that eternity mourning the emptiness of an unresponsive child would be ANOTHER lifetime of suffering, but one with no end?
What if a loved one died of dementia for example. Are they healed and their soul returned to some convenient pre-illness restoration point, or are they too unable to respond, condemming those that love them to revisit the pain of loss that they thought had ended when the patient had died.
A con? A hoax?
We just don’t know any of this. Again, God chose to give a headline and nothing more. He left it to men to create, to imagine, to speculate. And that’s why, as part of the Christian sales literature, everlasting life has to be considered as the greatest con of them all, a hoax to add to the list of promises that are impossible to verify, and impossible to be held accountable for. On that basis, who could possibly, rationally, realistically believe in it, and if one DID, how could they not fear the reality of an eternity doing nothing with nothing, and revisiting the pain of earthly loss every day for ever and ever?