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Winston

A Better Place, Revisited

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I've always seen that phrase masquerading as a refuge for the shallow minded and dismissive. When someone in your life dies, the impulse for most people is to tell you that your loved one is "...in a better place" now. This paper-thin logic assumes two unproveable points: Where we are now sucks, and where we go from here is somehow better.

Second point first. The frail human condition predisposes us toward a belief in Nirvana, Valhalla, or some other higher realm. That innate desire is used by some to manipulate the masses. I actually have nothing against social control and manipulation, per se. I do dislike the groupthink that Heaven is the final goal, and all actions in this realm are simply to move us toward that celestial end. If we can get people to behave by promising them The Deluxe Apartment in The Sky, let's do it. My problem is that I ain't putting in for a lease on a place I ain't seen. You want an eternal contract based on conflicting data, hearsay and promises? I want pictures, a floorplan and testimonials from my future neighbors. I mean, is this really "a better place", or just another place?

You see, I got some skin in the game. My parents, grandparents, in-laws are all gone. Are their souls in some "better place"? Oh, we want to believe. We need to believe. I miss them all. If there is some chance we can be together again, I would do whatever it takes to make that happen. But it isn't all about me. There's that whole Cosmic Justice thing. Maybe I was "good" and they were "bad", or vice a versa. Maybe a couple of us get the Deluxe Apartment, and the others get a "less better place".
Perhaps Oscar Wilde said it best: "I don't want to go to Heaven. None of my friends are there."
If my parents and grandparents are not waiting for me in heaven, I'd rather not spend eternity without them.

What we do have, and know, is the here-and-now. Maybe this existence really does suck in comparison to what waits for us "on the other side".
Or maybe here-and-now really ain't that bad. We have nothing else to fairly compare it to.
This could be a lower ring of celestial existence, perhaps the lowest. In which case, I'm with Milton and that quote from Paradise Lost:
"It is better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven."

I have what's left of my family; my wife and two kids. I really don't know what place any of us will end up in. I will be there for them, in this plane. They are all good people (totally unbiased) that don't need the promise of everlasting joy, nor the fear of eternal fire to do the right thing. We take each win as it is earned, and support one another when we stumble.
I believe in the God of Abraham. I believe in a Heaven. I also believe that Mankind has gotten both wrong for thousands of years. Well, at least not all right. Some of what we got wrong was incompetence and frail human bookkeeping. Some has been malicious and manipulative.

I do know that God wants us to make the place we are right now "a better place". Maybe I'll see Him later and He can grade me.
Maybe not.

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  1. Stygian's Avatar
    I was raised catholic, but I changed to agnostic as I got older. IMO, there is only two possibilities: God exists, but has gone to great lengths to remain invisible, or he does not exist and was created from the imaginations of a select few individuals. In either case, the only thing we know for certain is that we will never know for certain.

    My own philosophy has been to live a good life and don't sweat the small stuff. If there is a God, then he created us to be fully self sufficient and is watching us make the most of the gifts He gave us. Praying to Him to lessen our daily burdens must feel like complaining, since he has given you the ability to overcome everything he challenges you with. Personally, I've always love the community aspect of church, but I just don't see it as anything other than age old social engineering (ie confessionals).

    All that said, if you live a good life, you will live on in the memories of your loved ones. That in itself is a worthwhile goal. I highly doubt that God will ban you from heaven for not praying enough when you have lived a life full of virtue and goodness.
  2. escorial's Avatar
    People are just scared of death and nothing after...
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