Show Notes - Episode 29
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” - H.D. Thoreau
Make no mistake about it: every person within the sound of my voice will eventually die. It's nature's rule not mine. Is there anything after? I don't know. Oh, and you don't have a soul either. Sorry.
"I believe in the doctrine of I Don't Know. To say 'I don't know' about the afterlife is the only reasonable, and also humble, opinion you can hold." - Bill Maher
No mention of an afterlife in the OT in anything but poetic and ambiguous terms – psalms and prophets predominantly, but there were two exceptions: Enoch and Elijah – YHWH hand picks people for immortality
The notion of resurrection appears in two OT sources, Daniel 12 andIsaiah 25-26.
Daniel 12:2 — “Many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, others to reproaches, to everlasting abhorrence” — implies that resurrection will be followed by a day of judgment. Those judged favorably will live forever and those judged to be wicked will be punished.
Sheol – Same place as Hell. EVERYONE, according to Fist Temple Judaism (prior to 70 AD) went here to await judgment. Even the righteous went to Sheol, but had a comfier way station known as Abraham's Bosom. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew Sheol is practically identical to the underworld of Greek mythology.
Four parts of Sheol (book of Enoch) The righteous, the good, the evil, and those beyond redemption. YHWH was the ultimate judge of who would be spared, who would be tormented, and who would simply perish and cease to be. Even if you were among the “righteous” there was no guarantee of eternal life, but there was a ray of hope, faint as it was.
There is Jewish doctrine that speaks of a time of judgment at the “End of Days” but no one will commit to what the End of Days will look like, when it will happen, or how the masses in Sheol will really be dealt with.
Only the Apocrypha goes into detail about an afterlife
The books of Enoch and Maccabees spoke in more specific terms of an afterlife
“Long life in the land the Lord is giving you” Ex. 20:12
Second Temple Judaism forward embraces more of an afterlife doctrine but that doctrine is fraught with ambiguity.
Extra-biblical sources like the Talmud and certain “rabbinical writings” offer conjectured views of what life after death would look like but all of these accounts are very subjective and seem to lean more toward the personal views of the writer with little to no concrete references to the TaNaKh (the Old Testament).
In short, the Hebrew concept of the afterlife is little more than wishful thinking and it had the same purpose as any other afterlife doctrine: to cushion the idea of death, make it less scary. It has as many interpretations as there are people to interpret it and there is NOTHING in any reputable document that allows for the foundation of any common belief about it. There is “hope” of an afterlife in the words of the psalmists but virtually every verse that talks about the afterlife reads like a daydream. There is nothing there upon which to base a concrete belief. It's the hope and dream of the psalmist framed in idyllic words, ideas, and notions.
These poetic daydreams then found a home in the Gospel (relate back to Daniel) and this concept became the focal selling point of the religion. All of a sudden, death is temporary, so demonstrated by Jesus raising people from the dead, promising eternal life to the thief on the cross, and proclaiming himself “the resurrection and the life.” Jn. 11:25
“We will not all sleep...” I Cor. 15:51
“Sleep” is a common term for death in the NT.
It was nothing but a hook. Jesus was basically selling tickets out of Sheol if you joined his club. It provided a largely uneducated and impoverished populace with something they desperately needed: hope.
“Hope is a dangerous thing.”
What is the point in living a specific way, by a specific set of very confining, very self-deprecating, self-denying, and nonsensically rigid rules when all you get in return is a shady promise of rewards you have to die to access and zero proof that you'll ever even get to enjoy them?
Evangelical Christianity literally teaches people that they should be sitting around waiting to die or for Jesus to come back, whichever happens first. It starts with concepts like the death of the self life, decreasing so Christ in you can increase and taking up your cross daily. It continues with notions like being crucified with Christ and confessions like “it is no longer I that liveth.” For a religion that tries so hard to sell the concept of eternal life, their doctrine sure is fraught with images of death. But enough about that. Let's talk about you for a minute.
Enough about you, let's talk about life for a while. Sorry, had to. But I'm actually serious. Thank you, Alanis, BTW...
Let's talk about life for a while. You know, the place where you find yourself right now. Right now, you have your senses, you have your perception of the universe, you have you. And you is a pretty awesome thing to have. The odds of you having it are beyond astronomical. That said, I don't mean to be rude, but, your life really doesn't have a purpose.You are not fearfully and wonderfully made. No deity knew you when you were formed in your mother's womb. You ARE, however, the product of magnificent randomness and a survivor of the sheer chaos that makes life happen in the first place. And if it makes you feel better, you ARE here for a reason. And that reason is simple. Ready for it? Are ya sittin' down? Here it comes: your parents had sex. Sorry for being so anticlimactic, but it really doesn't go any further than that.
All right, Spider, so if my life has no purpose, what's the point? The point is that purpose is not something you're born with, it's something that you and your actions determine. Do you want your life to have purpose? Then purpose to live. Purpose to experience everything this life can offer you. Do what makes you feel good. Do whatever you want, for that matter, as long as it harms none (I was a good Wiccan too). Purpose to get to know you. Fuck decreasing so some fake god can increase in you. Fuck dying to yourself. You are ALIVE. Do you get just how crazy and improbable that is? You deserve to be you. You deserve to WANT to live. Stop storing up treasures in heaven. You'll never see them. Find things to treasure here. No, not just material things. Store up good relationships. Store up love. Store up interests, hobbies, and passions. Store up experiences. Try escargot sometime. It's really good. So is alligator.
Purpose to do what makes you happy. Purpose to be a good person. Purpose to treat people with respect. Purpose to never stop learning. Purpose to keep an open mind about things, even if you already KNOW you disagree. I believed in god for years and KNEW I disagreed with atheists. Stop worrying about dying and get busy living (the second most important lesson the Shawshank redemption taught us).
You want to live beyond your years? Then leave a good impression on people. Be missed when you're gone. Be remembered fondly. Accept people as they are, with all their baggage intact. Accept your own imperfections. Celebrate the things that make you unique, deal with the ones keeping you from being happy or satisfied with your life. Just because you're going to die is no reason to stop living, no matter what some self-proclaimed holy book or pastor wants to tell you. Suck the marrow out of life. Seize every day, stop worrying about how many more you have to live, and stop worrying about what will happen after you've breathed your last. Right now, start releasing your mind of the fear of death. It's pointless to fear the inevitable. Deal with the inevitability of death by simply experiencing life. As a wise sage from the 1980s named Ferris Bueller once taught us, Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Keep your focus on living and stop worrying about dying. It's a huge and very important step toward getting and staying unbound.