The 1990s BBC sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf is about the crew on an enormous space ship, lost in empty space. A radiation leak has killed all the crew except Dave Lister, a low-level technician who had been safe in suspended animation. He is released 3 million years after the accident when the radiation danger has passed. One of his few companions is a robot named Kryten.
In the episode “The Last Day,” Kryten’s replacement has finally caught up with the ship. Kryten is packing up his spare heads in preparation for being replaced and is talking with Lister.
LISTER (crewman): How can you just lie back and accept it?
KRYTEN (robot): Oh, it’s not the end for me, sir, it’s just the beginning. I have served my human masters, and now I can look forward to my reward in silicon heaven.
LISTER: Silicon what?
KRYTEN: Surely you’ve heard of silicon heaven. It’s the electronic afterlife. It’s the gathering place for the souls of all electronic equipment. Robots, calculators, toasters, hairdryers—it’s our final resting place.
LISTER: There is no such thing as silicon heaven.
KRYTEN: Then where do all the calculators go?
LISTER: They don’t go anywhere! They just die.
KRYTEN: It’s just common sense, sir. If there were no afterlife to look forward to, why on earth would machines spend the whole of their lives serving mankind? Now that would really be dumb!
LISTER: Just out of interest, is silicon heaven the same place as human heaven?
KRYTEN: Human heaven? Goodness me! Humans don’t go to heaven! No, someone made that up to prevent you all from going nuts!
Kryten’s explanation of his heaven is what I get from many Christians. The existence of their heaven is obvious and indisputable, and the alternative is empty and inconceivable. They’ve read about it, after all, and they’ve heard about it all their lives. No heaven? Who could imagine such a thing?
Christians can easily see through someone else’s nutty idea of an afterlife. (“Hindu reincarnation? Where’s the evidence of that?!”) What they have a harder time with is holding a mirror to their own beliefs. If they did, perhaps they’d find no more evidence for their concept of heaven than for Kryten’s.
Religion makes you happy?
Okay, so does a puppy.
There’s no need to abandon reason for happiness.
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 4/11/12.)
Photo credit: Wikimedia