Why Heaven Makes Sense

I wouldn’t mind not believing in Heaven. The ancient Jews managed to do it, which is in itself a testimony to the validity of their religion: The most strict, most terrifying moral code in human history was followed without any promise of eternal reward. (If religion is the opium of the people, we are a masochistic people smoking some godawful opium.)

But no matter how hard I try to conceptualize a merely finite life — a life without Heaven — I find myself contradicting human experience. If I deny heaven, a plausible denial in the scientific age, I seem to end up denying myself.

Take the death of a loved one. It seems reasonable to claim that love — to be love — requires an object. Love is an action upon the beloved. It is a verb orientated towards a direct object. So a man may say “I love apples,” or “I love r/atheism”, but if he says “I love…” we have every right to ask, “You love…what?” Love requires an object.

Now if there is no Heaven, then the death of our beloved is the end of that person’s existence. That person is no longer. The verb “to be” cannot be applied to her. But we have all experienced this reality — atheist and theist alike — that when a loved one dies we continue to love her. In fact, in the contemplation of her physical absence, we may even love her more.

Now this isn’t merely odd — this is impossible. If love requires an object, then the non-existence of that object should negate that love. To love someone who no longer exists is to say “I love nothing” — for they are nothing. And to say “I love nothing” is simply to say “I do not love”. And yet we do love our dead. If there is no afterlife — that is, if the beloved does not continue to exist after death — then this natural love for our dead is unnatural.

Now it could be argued that we do not actually love the non-existent beloved — we only love our memories of her. This isn’t a bad alternative — a memory could be that object love needs in order to be love — but it makes us idiots.

If memory-love is real, and non-existent-person-love is unreal, then we are idiots in that we experience the exact opposite. We do not experience the mere love of memory after our beloved’s death. We experience the love of our beloved — we love our dead.

This idiocy — for it makes the radical claim that our natural experience of reality does not correspond to what reality actually is — calls into question all our experience as faulty, and all our convictions of truth as potential acts of stupidity. We are lead to an incredible depth of self-skepticism. But that’s fine — perhaps we should doubt our experience of reality. There is a deeper problem with memory-love.

What is a memory? A memory is an image stored against time. A memory is entirely personal — uniquely mine and none other’s. Even if I were to “share” a memory with a loved one, this “sharing” could only be understood in the metaphorical sense. Were I to love a girl to the point of unity in heart, mind, and flesh, we would still experience our honeymoon from our own perspective. Our memories, though they might contain images of our beloved, are entirely our own.

What is it to love a memory then? Simply put, it is to attempt to love the self. If we merely love memory, than we are loving images perceived by ourselves, stored by ourselves, even altered over time or falsified by ourselves. We love images soaked entirely in our own perception, images of our beloved, yes, but totally not our beloved, rather totally part of our selves. For me to merely love the memory of my departed loved ones is to take their deaths as an opportunity to love myself.

This is first of all abhorrent. It is offensive. We naturally rebel against the statement that the death of a loved one leads to greater love of self. Any one confronted with the claim would rightfully and indignantly respond, “No, I love her! Her death does not lead me to love memories for their own sake, as if I merely loved my own impressions of her, and thereby loved myself. My memories lead me to remember her, and to love her, in and of herself! My love is not self-centered!”

But then we arrive back at the problem. If loving only memory is abhorrent, and loving our non-existent beloved is impossible, than we are left to conclude that the only natural state for a human being to consider death is as a state that does not remove our beloved from her ability to be loved. We are lead to conclude that, if human experience is valid, love conquers death. We naturally believe in the afterlife. We naturally suppose a state of existence in which our friends, cut off from us in every physical respect, can still be loved.

It is no idiocy to believe in an afterlife, but it certainly makes man an oddity if it turns out there isn’t one after all.

  • MrsF3

    Interestingly, upon contemplating this, I realize that I say “I loved my horse (or dog)” who have died, but I say “I LOVE my grandpa” who has passed away. The horse and dog may have ceased to exist, but my grandpa has not.

    • Vision_From_Afar

      How do you arrive at the conclusion that the horse and dog have ceased to exist, where your relative has not? They are all living creatures who had interactions with you on both an intellectual and physical level (you can touch them, hug them, etc.), and then they died.

      Is it simply that you love your grandfather more? That doesn’t quite work within the context of Marc’s logical tap-dance above.

      • McG

        MrsF3 may not be thinking this specifically, but it’s a consequence of the fact that the souls of animals and of people are metaphysically different. Because the souls of animals are completely tied to their bodies, he souls of animals disappear after they die, but, since humans have rational capacities (which are immaterial and hence can persist) that animals don’t have, human souls persist after death. If you would like a defense of this claim, I suggest you pick up some Aquinas or read this blog post: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-is-soul.html :)

        • Monimonika

          Went to read the linked blog post. Beginning by trying to define what is meant by the nature of being “human” as opposed to the nature of being a “dog” etc. seemed like a good starting point in order to understand what is meant by a (human) soul.

          But then the argument totally fell apart for me when Edward Feser (the poster) introduced the completely unsupported and made-up notion of “angels” defined as “a creature of pure intellect, which entails — given that, as Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophers argue, intellect is necessarily immaterial — that an angel is essentially immaterial.”

          Edward assumes that intellect somehow exists separate from the material (i.e. a brain, or gathering of multiple interacting cells) to make his completely arbitrary distinction between so-called “animal” souls and “human” souls by assigning only humans as having this angel-like intellect that persists after death.

          The multiple unsupported assumptions just killed it for me. What a disappointment.

  • Obliged_Cornball

    I enjoyed the article as usual, but I have two important points I feel I ought to make:

    “I wouldn’t mind not believing in Heaven. The ancient Jews managed to do it,
    which is in itself a testimony to the validity of their religion: The
    most strict, most terrifying moral code in human history was followed
    without any promise of eternal reward.”

    This is a very good point, though it’s worth noting that there was in essence a reward for obeying the moral code. Obeying the Mosaic Law and keeping God’s covenant in this life supposedly led to gains in the here and now. God would protect their people for their faithfulness, and place their descendants in a position of prosperity. It’s not the same kind of “opiate,” but believing that righteousness will lead to tangible gains certainly takes the edge off of obedience.

    “Now this isn’t merely odd — this is impossible. If love requires an object, then the non-existence of that object should negate that love. To love someone who no longer exists is to say ‘I love nothing’ — for they are nothing. And to say ‘I love nothing’ is simply to say ‘I do not love’. And yet we do love our dead. If there is no afterlife — that is, if the beloved does not continue to exist after death — then this natural love for our dead is unnatural.”

    Though we might be fools to continue to love that which does not exist, you ought to consider that it might be impossible to do otherwise. Even for the naturalist, love is something that simply cannot be terminated the second that it ceases to make sense. All the neurons within a certain pathway don’t just pack up shop and say “well, our job is done here!” when they become unnecessary. Changes within the brain take time, much to the frustration of philosophers who wish to ground all thinking in reason. Perhaps this is why certain animals which are not attributed “souls” by classical theists have nonetheless been observed grieving their dead. Their love might not serve a “purpose” anymore, but it cannot vanish simply because it is no longer rational.

  • http://twitter.com/PaigeKellerman Paige Kellerman

    Great post, Marc!

  • Leanne

    Too bad you’ll never see it, you evil little piece of shit.

    • Cordelia

      Leanne is always so full of kindness and wit. An example to us all, don’t you think?

      • ecmjr

        I wish I had her way with words.

      • Leanne

        Well, when Marc and Scot (could they be a gayer couple…?) are all elated and happy about my family’s suffering, what do you expect? If Marc thinks it’s so hilarious that my 80 year old, cancer-stricken, undergoing-chemo stepmother is being adversely affected by Hurricane Sandy, does he really think he’s going to Heaven? Do you? Seriously? What the hell is wrong with you?

        • Cal-J

          Well. Good faith can only go so far.

          Marc is not particularly thrilled with any individual’s suffering, and has never said so. He gave a reflection on awe in the face of destruction.

          You’ve taken a legitimate grievance (that Marc steps out of the bounds of good taste by violating the general principle of ‘too soon’) and used it to allow childish insults (did you really just gay-bait Marc? Really?) and general vulgarities against him (exactly how many vocabulary words have you substituted with expletives at this point, again?).

          You make gross misstatements of Marc’s point (fallacy: straw man), attack him personally (fallacy; ad hominem), and generally proceed with the bearing of a feral dog.

          Your inability to act decently only means you fail to serve the gravity of your own grievance. All anybody sees when they read your posts is an angry, irrational New Yorker. You behave like a Hollywood stereotype (and a mean-spirited one at that), and nobody’s going to listen.

          • Leanne

            I know none of you “listen” to anything that doesn’t stroke your respective, ah, egos. Duh. Anyone who reads this blog for five minutes understands that — that this entire blog is one big circle-jerk.

            If “I come back the next day”, it’s ’cause people’s (Scot’s) responses are in my inbox.

            There’s something almost sociopathic about you kids. You’re so disconnected from real humanity. Maybe it’s the home-schooling, maybe it’s the brainwashing you’re getting from these bogus “universities” y’all attend, maybe it’s because you all find each other after the normal people have given up on you. Dunno.

            But it’s just weird and creepy and speaks to something gone terribly, terribly wrong in the Catholic Church today.

            Oh, and for the record, since you seem to want this kind of response, Cal-J, you’re a tool. Get a fucking life already. Or get laid. Please, for the love of God…

          • Cal-J

            Madam, I never said your original point was wrong. In fact, I said you had an arguably legitimate complaint. You spat in my face.

            I have to imagine you’re a very lonely old lady.

          • Leanne

            Hardly. But I bet you have to imagine most of what passes for your life, so no surprises there. /rolleyes

          • Angelina Steiner

            You’re angry at life aren’t you? You are a very lonely old woman!

          • Angelina Steiner

            “…get laid…”? Woman you are a foul mouthed crude thing. Your parents failed to raise you! Your brain is undeveloped! Seriously, time for your medication.

          • Sophias_Favorite

            You’re right, Leanne, by replying to your laughable little tirades, they forcibly compel you to respond.

            I honestly agree with you about their mutual-admiration society, but your comments about homeschooling and Catholic universities are so much prejudiced ranting—as has been said of better decrepit-ass bigots than you, you sounded better in the original German.

            I’m giving you one warning. Step off, or I will start saying things that make Marc’s post look like a kitten poster. Given your reaction to that utter non-controversy, the things I will say will wreck you, so I advise you to back down.

          • Leanne

            Oh please. You’re not even a human being as far as I’m concerned. You’re code. 0s & 1s. Nothing more, nothing less.

        • http://twitter.com/dpmaldo Daniel Maldonado

          Marc writes about why we’re happy about Sandy. You’re disgusted by it, which is perfectly reasonable considering your situation. But then you come back the next day for more?

          Methinks there is something more happening there…

        • Anne

          Leanne, vulgarity is no substitute for wit, and venom never convinced anyone of anything. I get that the hurricane is horrible. Really. I rode it out in my tiny apartment worrying for my safety and that of my friends, many of whom were ordered to evacuate. I can’t imagine how much scarier it must be when you have family members who are sick and depending upon a faulty infrastructure.

          Yet somehow, I got what Marc was saying in that last post. It was clearly a meant to convey a larger philosophical point, neither personal nor sadistic. That mother nature is awe-inspiring is not even an original thesis. Even Hollywood realizes this with each action-packed “big storm” blockbuster.

          I *chose* not to be offended because I *get* that nature is awesomely fearful, even if the words used to convey that sentiment are not perfect prose. I’m sorry you’re hurting. Many, many people are. I’ll send kind thoughts your stepmother’s way. We all make mistakes, and magnanimity in the face of imperfectly expressed opinions is a halmark of maturity – even on the internet.

        • Angelina Steiner

          Leanne: Look, you need to stop posting if it’s getting you angry. People cope with destruction by going to God, unlike you, you would prefer cussing everyone out. Your are a pure materialist! You are attached to the creatures and things more than God. Yes, everyone freakin suffers. Yes, everyone freakin dies, but as Christians we have hope of eternal life. This one thing reveals who we are. Are we pagans or are we Christians? If you are a Christian, then you need to shut up and pray and go assist people, this will calm your nerve down. Get off the internet if it is causing you distress. No one enjoys seeing people suffer, unless they are evil. You presume too much.

    • Cal-J

      Heaven hath spoken.

    • Alix

      You totally missed the point, yesterday. Marc was riffing on some Walker Percy; it was philosophy. It wasn’t personal. It wasn’t about you, or your family, or anyone’s family, it was a clinical look at the human condition. It may not have struck you as tasteful, or appropriate, or done with good timing, but to *relentlessly* beat the dead horse of what you suppose to be Marc’s callous indifference (refusing to believe all protestations to the contrary) makes you seem unhinged. Perhaps this horrible disaster had unhinged you a bit; if so, I can understand that. I hope things get better for you and your family.

      • Leanne

        Marc is callously indifferent. He’s fucking psychotically callously indifferent to everyone and everything around him. That he is held up by this site as something we’re all to aspire to as good Catholics is ridiculous. He’s a stupid, arrogant boy who was raised to think he shits gold, but who is, in reality, a rather mediocre student at a notoriously crappy low-tier university.

        A clinical look at the human condition based on a horrific event that is still unfolding is a pretty sick thing to get into, especially since it was done ONLY as his particular way of childishly crowing over how special he thinks he is.

        It was in incredibly poor taste, done at the wrong time, and was as thoughtless as thoughtless can be. Fuck him.

        • http://twitter.com/dpmaldo Daniel Maldonado

          Okay, what’s really going on here?

        • http://twitter.com/dpmaldo Daniel Maldonado

          Are you his archenemy?

        • Angelina Steiner

          Have you been abused? You mouth is sick! What is your psychosis?
          Time to take some medications!

    • Sagrav

      Whew! Your post is one of the funniest and most unexpected reactions that I’ve seen on Patheos in a long time! Well done, and please continue!

  • RA

    I am reminded of Sheldon Vanauken’s reflections in A Severe Mercy concerning “creeping separateness”: the more time Van and Jean spent apart, the more they replaced each other in their minds with idealizations distinct from the other person and there was a period of disconnect after any separation while they both reset their internal perceptions of each other. But the point is, they loved one another as opposed to their internal images of one another.

    • Vision_From_Afar

      And how do you argue successfully for those who never manage to “reset their internal perceptions”? That requires a lot of maturity and self-awareness that I consider lacking in most relationships today.

      • Sophias_Favorite

        The internal images are being reset by reference to a real-life object, actually present before the immediate perceptions. It requires no maturity whatsoever to correct a picture by reference to its model, merely a lack of deliberate self-deception.

  • http://twitter.com/thomasmward Thomas M Ward

    This is interesting, but I see two problems. First, your argument implies that anything that I love and that dies or is destroyed still continues to exist. So all dogs go to heaven after all–or at least the loved dogs. Second, suppose I pretend to be the girl of your dreams and we “meet” online, exchange letters, and so on. I think it’d be possible for you to fall in love. But you’re not falling in love with her, because she doesn’t exist. And you’re not falling in love with me, either. Does your love have an object? Either you have to say that it does and this object is some sort of mental entity–an idea, a projection, a fantasy, whatever–or you have to say that it’s not really love. I’d be inclined toward the latter, but I don’t have an argument for this. But in any case you need to address this problem of the qualitative indiscernibility between loving a person and “loving” a fantasy.

    • http://twitter.com/dpmaldo Daniel Maldonado

      I appreciate Marc’s musings on the subject, though I’m not so sure how much it could “prove” an afterlife. I think his point is rather that it makes sense, considering the alternative.

      With regard to pretending to be a girl and sending nice letters – the source of those letters still has an agent that exists and assumes the person-hood of the person sending the letters. Even still, I doubt anyone can truly fall in love through letters. I think it still requires that someone beholds the object in order to love it.

  • http://twitter.com/dpmaldo Daniel Maldonado

    Sounds like fertile ground to discuss theories of knowledge. Call up the homie Aquinas and see how we can fit it into his model.

  • theevangelista

    So great, Marc! And very timely. I’ll have to figure out a way to break this down into more digestible parts for my students.

  • http://twitter.com/stettkt Kevin Stetter

    This sounds a lot like a ideas for a recent Metaphysics paper….

  • Joseph Calvano

    Why is it not possible to love someone in the past or the future for that matter. Why is love reserved to the present. For example, I would imagine many fathers(I’m male so I will address this issue from the male perspective) love their future children even before they are conceived. And how many people love a friend, do not see them for a long time, continue to love them, then see them again and find that they no longer love them. During that time when they did not know them, did they love a memory, or the person that they were in the past. (I’m sure this is not as clear as I would like. I encourage questions for clarification.)

    • http://twitter.com/dpmaldo Daniel Maldonado

      I don’t know that fathers do love their future children. It’s not that they won’t love them, but it’s when they come into existence that the children become the beloved. Usually when you find out that your wife is pregnant, the baby becomes an object of love. You start rubbing the belly, talking to him or her, etc. These are things you do because you have come to love a person in existence, not just an idea.

      You might be hard pressed to convince a father that the love he has for his current child in existence is the same exact love he has for a possible future unborn child.

      • Joseph Calvano

        I did not say the loves were identical, but I didn’t see Marc claiming that the love one has for a deceased loved one is identical to the love you have for a live one. I would claim any father that deliberately brings a child into the world loved that child before it’s conception. If a father loves his future child in any way, then according to Marc’s formulation he is loving an idea which stems from himself and this is then self-love and abhorrent, at least as far as I understand it.

        Furthermore I would say that the difference in the love the father has for the child before conception and after birth is actually a change in the father and not the child. The development of the zygote into the beloved child does not change the beloved child that was anticipated, but rather works a change in the father throughout the development that prepares the father to love the child in a different manner. While I am not a father it has been my experience that whenever I come to love anything, it is not because the object has changed, but because I have changed.

  • Reluctant Liberal

    Seriously, where do you come up with this stuff? What is your authority for saying loving a memory is abhorrent? What saint or psychological study ever spouted such nonsense? Why do you constantly make stuff up about how people function, and then call that functioning evil or sublime? I could tolerate your pretentious hyperbole, but it really grates on me that it’s hyperbole about completely made up things.

    • Sophias_Favorite

      A memory is, at best, your mind’s imperfect conception of a thing, not the thing itself, therefore it is not the proper object of love.

      You are making what analytic philosophers call a map-territory error.

      And why are you freaking out about this?

  • Ben @ Two Catholic Men

    If we define love as the highest act of the will (not a feeling) I think it changes this post quite a bit.

  • Salmantica

    - First the church convinces you that dead people aren’t really dead, but alive in a better place.
    - Since they’re alive, you treat them as if they were alive.
    - Since you treat them as if they were alive, they must really be alive!

    The problem here is clear.

  • TKDB

    An interesting train of thought, but I’m not sure that it holds much water. For one thing, it seems that this argument would also lead to the conclusion that fictional characters also must exist somewhere. It’s not at all common (and unless you spend time in certain corners of the internet, it’s understandable if you’ve never heard of the phenomenon), but some do claim to love fictional characters. And while for most this claim is merely in jest, there are at least a few who make this claim with all the passion and sincerity with which one might claim to love a real person.
    Of course, one could counter that this is not truly love, but rather infatuation, but still the argument stands — infatuation, just like love, requires an object. The same argument you use to prove the existence of an afterlife based on love for the dead applies here as well.

  • Tom

    The whole “memory-love is self-love and thats abhorrent” bit isn’t really a great argument. I usually really like this blog but this post is pretty weak. One could pretty clearly argue that we love the memories of our loved-ones. If memories are just internal ideas that we perceive then you could argue thats what all experience and perception is. At which point love of anything outside of yourself is impossible. You don’t love your wife, you love what your senses have experienced as your wife up to this moment. For example, if you’re not with your wife right now and you think about her fondly aren’t you just thinking about the memory of her?
    Also, you seem to be claiming that loving objective ideas is impossible or that its really just a form of self-love. Can’t someone say he loves apples without pointing out which ones? Can’t I say I love freedom without clarifying that I love what I internally perceive as the notion of freedom? And if I can say these things does it really mean I’m just loving myself?
    You’re really just participating in some wordplay that doesn’t prove anything. I think you realize this too which is why you refer to detracting arguments as “idiocy” and “abhorrent” as a way to stop the conversation.
    Now I’m not saying heaven can’t be intuitive but it definitely isn’t intuitive for the reasons you’ve pointed out.

    • Sophias_Favorite

      Have you read Mortimer Adler’s “Ten Philosophical Mistakes”? Memories, or any other ideas, are not that which our minds interact with, but that by which our minds interact with the real things that they’re the ideas of.

      That is, we do not love our memories. We love by means of our memories. As the analytical philosophers put it, “the map is not the territory”.

      • avalpert

        So that unicorn I love in my mind is a real thing in heaven?

        Using fancy philosophical terminology doesn’t make what you say fancy philosophy.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I still want to know why any self-respecting atheist would want to go to Heaven instead of Hell. If Heaven is, as the description in the Mass provides us and as an atheist once described to me as “being converted into an eternal mindless praisebot sentenced to Church for all of eternity” and Hell is “separation from God and all who believe in him for eternity”, isn’t Hell exactly what the Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking for?

    • Obliged_Cornball

      Potentially. In fact, that argument is reflected in the writings of C.S. Lewis (which I know for a fact have influenced Marc’s own writing to a degree):

      “Though our Lord often speaks of Hell as a sentence inflicted
      by a tribunal, He also says elsewhere that the judgment consists in the
      very fact that men prefer darkness to light…”

      If you go back into this blog’s archives you might actually find something arguing this point.

    • Sophias_Favorite

      Heaven is nothing like that, though. Heaven is perfect awareness of and union with Existence (which is what God is). Hell is a permanent, total, existential crisis—because awareness of and union with existence, which for the saved is bliss, is, for the unsaved, agony, since for them it is nothing but perfect awareness of their own foulness. Fortunately for atheists, whether you actually make the historical connection between the thing you accept or reject union with, and the God of Israel, is moot to the question.

      The most fervent school of theology in the twentieth century, the one most concerned with a thing named “I am”, was founded by a couple of atheists named Heidegger and Camus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.fish1 Joshua Fish

    Outstanding! I feel like I’m getting a hint of C.S. Lewis in here. I notice many people commenting on the fact that not everything loved goes to heaven. However, I would argue that this topic goes well beyond the scope of simply loving an individual person (or thing). There are in fact different types of love. We do not love a spouse the same way we love a dog or the same way we love apple pie. But all these loves share in common a reality: we do love! This is a truth that every person who has lived shares. Whats more, this love transcends this life (as pointed out in this article). We were born with a need to love and be loved, but nothing in the world can fully satisfy this need. Only God can fill this void, and it is not until we pass into the next life that we can fully experience this love.

  • Micahpm

    What an odd argument. I find your labeling of “memory love” as abhorrent especially puzzling. Love is a chemical reaction in the brain–a wonderful chemical reaction, but a chemical reaction all the same. Your brain’s ability to maintain the neural pathways that associate the feeling ‘love’ with its object after the object’s destruction is completely unremarkable and imminently explainable by science. No, by this explanation, heaven still doesn’t make much sense.

  • arthur1526

    What to say to an ill person who lacks patience!

    From Risalei Nur collection by
    Said Nursi.

    http://www.nur.gen.tr/en.html#leftmenu=Risale&maincontent=Risale&islem=read&KitapId=494&BolumId=8752&KitapAd=The+Flashes+(Revised+2009+edition)&Page=266

    Be patient, indeed, offer thanks! Your illness may transform each of the minutes of your life into the equivalent of an hour’s worship. For worship is of two kinds. One is positive like the well-known worship of supplication and the five daily prayers. The other are negative forms of worship like illness and calamities. By means of these, those afflicted realize their impotence and weakness; they beseech their All-Compassionate Creator and take refuge in Him; they manifest worship which is sincere and
    without hyprocrisy.
    Yes,
    there is a sound narration stating that a life passed in illness is counted as worship for the believer – on condition he does not complain about God. It is even established by sound narrations and by those who uncover the realities of creation that one minute’s illness of some people who are completely patient and thankful becomes the equivalent of an hour’s worship and a minute’s illness of certain perfected men the equivalent of a day’s worship. So you should not complain about an illness which as though transforms one minute of your life into a thousand minutes and gains for you long life; you should offer thanks.

    The capital given to man is his lifetime. Had there been no illness, good health and
    well-being would have caused heedlessness,
    for they show the
    world to be
    pleasant and make the hereafter forgotten. They do not want death and the grave to be thought of; they
    cause
    the capital of life to be wasted on trifles. Whereas illness suddenly opens the eyes, it says to the body: “You are not immortal. You have not been left to your own devices. You have a duty. Give up your pride, think of the One who created you. Know that you will enter the grave, so prepare yourself for it!” From this point of view,
    illness
    is an admonishing
    guide and adviser that
    never deceives. It should not be complained about in this respect, indeed, should be thanked for. And if it is not too severe, patience should be sought to endure it.

  • Brian

    “Heaven makes sense because otherwise I’d be sad.”

    There you go. Just saved you quite a lot of space.

  • westley

    “Now if there is no Heaven, then the death of our beloved is the end of that person’s existence.”

    Really? You’re trying to argue with an obvious false dichotomy? You’ve got some sort of ironclad proof against existence in hell and reincarnation?

  • Loud

    I agree, but one could argue that it is an aftertaste of some sort, that love is druglike, and your mind is fooled into loving even after the object of love is no longer able to recive it. Like sending letters to the Great Pumkin; he isn’t there(dont tell Linus). It’s not a convincing argument, but it would still have to be answered by a different argument than the one you used.

  • Shaun C

    “To love someone who no longer exists is to say ‘I love nothing’ To love someone who no longer exists is to say ‘I love nothing’ ” Really? Imagine if you were to love someone and have continued to love someone for say… five years, but have not spoken to them or seen them during that time period. You then later find out they’ve been dead for the past four years. Did you love “nothing” for the past four years? Did you love just the memory of that person for the past five years? I think you need to reexamine your false dichotomy?

    • Monimonika

      And what about love experienced for someone who turns out not to be who you thought they were (i.e. the “person” you love turned out to be imaginary/from your biased memories)?
      For example, would a wife’s love for her kind, loving, hard-working, loyal, husband have all been “self-love” if the husband had in reality been having multiple affairs, stealing money, and planning on eventually killing the wife for insurance? Would her feeling of love still be real if she has yet to find out about what her husband is really like? If not, how can we be sure we really truly love anyone if they are not exactly who you think you know they are?

  • Msironen

    Why Heaven actually doesn’t make sense: free will.

    If you don’t have free will in Heaven (keeping with the Free Will “solution” to theodicy which states that free will inevitably leads to sin), you’ll just be turned into a praise-bot upon entering. Your personality obviously won’t survive such a transition and this is not very desirable for most people.

    If on the other hand Heaven does have free will but is also (by definition is) sin-free, it show that it is in fact possible to create a sin-free world which also has free will. That however means that THIS existence makes no sense.

    • Bernadette

      Well, you do have free will in heaven. But, the human will is such that it always chooses what it sees as the greatest good. Even when somebody makes a great sacrifice–say, gives up his life–he only does it because it seems BETTER to him than the alternative. Now, people in heaven have free will and never feel the slightest inclination to sin because they see clearly what the greatest good is. So they’d never choose sin.

      So, yes, this world could be such that nobody ever sinned, even though we all have free will. But then, we wouldn’t have to prove our faith and our love. We wouldn’t have to struggle to do the right thing. Which would be awfully nice–but then you’re asking why we aren’t in heaven right now. But heaven was posited as the reward for doing the right thing where we are right now….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Evans/1017276335 John Evans

    The author Douglas Hofsteader wrote quite a bit on the topic of death, the self, and love for the living and the dead from a materialistic perspective in his books Godel Esher Bach and I Am A Strange Loop. To briefly summarize his ideas, he posits that the self is a combination of memories and decision making processes, which run on the brain as a platform. Now, the second half of his idea is that we leave fragmentary copies of ourselves around. In our writings, in our works, and in the minds of others when they experience us, our writings, and our works. The better you know someone, the more experiences you share with them, the better a simulation – the better a copy of them – you can run inside your own head.

    So even when their primary self dies, some of them remains – grainy, blurred, incomplete, but here – in the world. There is still something to love. The only way they would be ‘gone’ is if they were entirely forgotten.

  • Name

    Your memories were caused by something real. In the same way a film starring a dead celebrity won’t have a hole in the lead role just because the person is dead, the memories of the person you love persist and inspire feelings of love even though the person you remember is dead. Yes, it’s irrational to continue loving someone who is gone, but feelings aren’t rational. Humans aren’t just rational, we’re sometimes illogical and dumb.

    The fact is, even when they are alive, the person you love can never be fully known to you. You might have talked for hours with them but you hear only what they choose to reveal about themselves and then your brain processes the information in your own special way. They can tell you about their 16th birthday but you will never actually experience it with them. People show different sides of themselves to different people.

    You love a bundle of sense impressions, you love a story your loved one tells about themselves, but the core of every person is unreachable.

  • RuQu

    This argument is remarkably weak.

    First, it argues that anything you love must then exist by virtue of loving it alone. You can say “I love God,” and suddenly God exists. Likewise, if a little girl says “I love unicorns” we now have an obligation for unicorns to exist.

    This is patently false. No one (except perhaps little girls) actually believes in unicorns or fairies, yet we do not deny that some people may love them. It is entirely possible to love an idea of something. You can dismiss this as a childish idea, but most people believe the religion they were raised in, regardless of how absurd. Christians “love” Jesus because they were told he was real while they were young and trusting. Most Christian children also “love” Santa Claus. The difference is that we are eventually told that one is fake while authority figures insist the other is real.

    Second, absence of a person does not negate love of them. You can love a person you are separated from for a long time, and then, upon meeting again, find that you have both changed in the intervening years. Neither of you are who you used to be. Neither are who the person loved in the interim. Did your love of them create an alternate version that stayed true to your memory? No, of course not. Likewise, after death, we love the person as they were when they died. This does not force reality to conform to our desire and preserve them in that state. The sad truth is that they are gone, they have changed into a lifeless shell, slowly decaying, with nothing left of the person we love. Yet we can still love them, even though they are gone.

  • vytas

    This is a load of nonsense. Normally we do not love the deceased in the sense that we love the living ones. We miss them. Surely, we keep them in our hearts and thoughts for a long time, sometimes forever. Whatever we feel, it has absolutely nothing to do with their being dead or somehow not really dead. Our feelings and their existence or non-existence have nothing in common. We remember them, and we miss them a lot. I even miss my first car, my first cat… So, does that mean they still exist… No.


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