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Having been forced to play accordion as a kid, I can relate.
Replacing the harp with a guitar will instantly eliminate the dunce cap, and make you forever “cool”. Proof that Heaven is a relative state of mind. (At least from a 12 year old’s point-of-view). Traumatic experience, playing an according in front of your 6th grade class. Annihilation would be preferable.
I rather think that standing around on clouds forever playing harps would qualify quite well enough as damnation, even without the dunce cap and accordion.
See Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth, II where Satan describes how unattractive heaven is: for example, “Meantime, every person is playing on a harp … not more than twenty in the thousand of them could play an instrument in the earth, or ever wanted to.”
Read it – it’s quite funny!
It reminds me of: I believe in Gosh! And you must believe in Gosh also, otherwise you will be darned to heck! 🙂
At the risk of going all serious on a funny post, I’ve always found this idea of gradations of suffering and pleasure to be.. odd. I suppose an eternity with the cloud by the noisy ice machine is better than an eternity of breaking of bones and gnashing of teeth, but surely if it lasts for eternity, even a small amount of suffering over infinite time still works out to infinite suffering.
(Though arguably a smaller infinity than if you had intense suffering for all eternity. It’s midnight so I’ll spare you the details on set cardinality, but think about it this way: even if “‘all the positive numbers” and “all the positive + even numbers” both include an infinite amount of numbers, there should still be twice as many in the first group as the second. Not all infinities are created equal. 😉 )
Even so, it’s always struck me as bizarre to talk about small sufferings in hell for minimally bad lives, or small blessings in heaven for minimally good ones – surely it’s unjust either way, which is the whole point of heaven and hell not being rewards/punishments for living a good way – there’s simply nothing I can do in my finite lifespan to earn an eternity of suffering, even if I do as much damage as Hitler or Stalin, which is why hell isn’t supposed to be about that.
I did contemplate trying to offer some serious reflections on the cartoon, so your thoughts along these lines are welcome.
I’m tempted to ask what you’d think if the person is allowed to trade their accordion for a harp and their dunce cap for a halo after a thousand years. 🙂
Eternal conscious punishment seems to be a problematic idea no matter what one thinks causes ome to get there. Arguably the notion that one will be tormented forever for not accepting a generous free gift is even more problematic.
I would also be interested to hear your take on the New Testament texts that depict people being judged according to what they have done, e.g. in the Book of Revelation or Matthew’s parable of the sheep and the goats.
I like funny cartoons, but always welcome serious conversation about them!
There are some thoughts about this in the RationalWiki article on “Pascal’s wager” under the topic “Infinite utility”: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_wager#Infinite_utility
BTW, while I certainly agree that not all infinities are equal, the infinity of all even positive integers is equal to the infinity of all positive integers, as well as the infinity of all prime integers, and the infinity of all rational numbers (that is, all fractions, n/m, of integers n and m).
A journal entry from Dec. 15th 2014:
I get the sense that Progressive Christianity is sometimes “hedging its bet” with “Heaven on Earth” because it doesn’t believe in Heaven. It would like to, but the invisible reverent of scientism is always there, calling our bet.
My concern is that we’re cutting ourselves off from one of the greatest sources of strength for the hallowing of this Life & the creative transformation of this World: Heaven. By Heaven, I don’t mean the popular descriptions of streets of gold and a hyperliteral Jesus walking around in his white toga. I DO mean a qualitatively superior mode or state of Being, from which we arrive at birth, and to which we return at some point in our spiritual journey after death (and I can hear the Progressive recoil at “qualitatively superior,” as if saying there is presently something better than this World devalues this World. Not in the prophetic Jesus Tradition, it doesn’t. The Spirit is intent on downward mobility, and Beloved Community is what the Infinite “is after” with Creation: “That where we are, they may be also; thy will be done, on Earth, as it (already is) in Heaven.”
There’s a word that NeoPaganism uses to describe Heaven, that I rather like: the Summerlands. Imagine never going on vacation as a kid over summer, and that’s what it’s like trying to Live as a child of G-d without Heaven. When we lose Heaven we can waffle between an ego-driven Life that encourages us to “grab all we can because we just Live once,” and a Spirit-infused Life that encourages us to Live on sacred time. The Sacred happens in the World of space-time, but is not exhausted by it.
This is all so ironic, because we have more empirical evidence than we have ever had that death is not a simple annihilation. See the hefty work “Irreducible Mind” for one such scientific overview. How much anxiety could we overcome, and, more importantly, how much energy could Progressives unleash in the here and now, for the here and now, if we simply allowed ourselves to believe in the truth of Heaven?
I don’t understand why very few Christians are universalists as I agree with many universalists when they say that universalism perfectly represents love of God as fully revealed in Jesus Christ who loved even the gravest of sinners. Maybe because it has less Biblical support compared to say, Annihiliationism. This is a defense of Robin Parry for universalism:
Some of the early church fathers like Gregory of Nyssa were indeed universalists. What they are arguing for is some form of purgatory. So if there is a state of purgatory where every soul is tested by fire, made aware of their actions, made known the glory of God and since every soul is from God and was originally good when they were conceived, eventually every soul through their free choice will acknowledge their wrong actions and recognize the glory and love of God and thereby reach the state of heaven or eternal life with God after which purgatory will be abolished. In that way both justice and mercy of God is equally accomplished.
“I don’t understand why very few Christians are universalists”
Because we’re beholden to the little voice inside that says “it’s too Good to be true,” and because we’re afraid of God.
As Richard Rohr said, when you look at all the mystics, from all the traditions, you find that NONE of them are afraid of God.
Some present day universalists argue no one will be going to hell and that everyone will find their way to heaven eventually, pointing to passages like this: “6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke 3:6).” Universalist Catholic scholar Dr.David L. Goicoechea says we need to pray for Hitler.
Here is an interesting blog post about what Jesus taught about hell: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2014/05/08/what-did-jesus-say-or-teach-about-hell/
Personally, if I went to heaven after I died, I would be miserable thinking about friends and relatives who never made it to heaven being tortured in hell. I guess if heaven exists, it is a place of endless tears where people mourn friends and loved ones undergoing an eternity of torture because those friends and loved ones never made it to heaven.
It sounds like you would be doing the authentically Christian thing, and leaving the 99 for the sake of the one that is lost. That’s Jesus.
Matthew is my favorite Gospel, but you should know that its author was more of a hardass than Jesus was. For example, it’s tough to square “not one jot or tittle will pass away” with Jesus’ laid-back attitude to the ritual commandments of the Torah.
I think I have never seen anyone face this issue so squarely.
It’s almost a case of (in Huxley’s words) “How stupid of me not to have thought of that!” Havng been that stupid, and noting that everyone else appears to be that stupid, I’m impressed by the insight.
Conversely, I have seen many times, and always with the same revulsion and almost the same shock as when I first ran into it in my teens, the opposite view: that watching the righteous eternal torment of the bad people is one of the joys of Heaven. On this point, at least, there have been many people, who mostly seem to have been Quakers, whose reaction was, “If this is your stinkin’ Heaven, I want no part of it.”
[That last paragraph is in a commatose condition. Sorry. It’s too late at night for fixing it.]
Hi. Sorry it took so long to reply. Christian apologists say there will be no one in heaven crying for their loved ones being tortured in hell because God will erase the memories of those loved ones in hell. The bible says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4).” I’m not sure how God would erase a loved one from the memory of someone in heaven: What if, or example, you are remembering a time at a coffee shop sitting down with a few friends, and one of those friends has been erased from memory. That would be an odd conversation being remembered with one person missing from the table.
It’s kind of like marriage. Say a Christian woman’s husband dies and she remarries. When she dies, will she be with the first or the second husband in heaven? The bible’s answer is neither, because there is no marriage in heaven: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven (Matthew 22:30).” So all the dedication of cultivating a loving marriage in this life means nothing in the afterlife.
that should have read “for example,” lol –terrible spelling