This is sub-chapter #7, of Chapter 2, Philosophy, of my ongoing rewrite and open editing process Random Rationality: A Rational Guide to an Irrational World.
Would greatly appreciate any feedback, corrections, criticisms, and comments. If you want the MOBI, ePub, or PDF, then please let me know in the comments—if you provide constructive criticisms in return, and live in the US, UK, or EU, then I’ll ship you a paperback copy of the book free of charge when it’s published.
For a moment, let’s say the Abrahamic god exists, and that depending upon your earthly actions you will be met with a heavenly eternity. You lead a good life; you help the poor, you follow the 613 commandments, you love thy neighbor, and upon your fortunate death, you are received at the pearly gates.
How will you spend your first year in heaven? Re-connecting with loved ones, perhaps? How about your first decade? Long walks on Cloud Nine, picking the brains of Jesus, Abraham, Mohammed, Elvis, perhaps even the big G himself, exploring the vast sanctum of his infinite knowledge using the heavenly version of our own Big G: Google (God = Gòógle?)
How about the first century? Trying all the experiences you were too scared to do while you were a lowly mortal, only to find the thrill is gone now that Death no longer lingers close by.
What about the next thousand years, and the million thereafter? And then the billion after, and the next trillion? Then what? I guarantee you one day, you’re going to want to not be there. What could possibly make eternity fun?
If you have ever eaten more than five chocolate bars in a row—like I foolishly have—then you probably know what heaven will be like. The first one tastes amazing. By the second, your taste buds are a bit desensitized, but it still tastes good. Ditto with the third and ditto a little more with the fourth. Finally you try a fifth one on for size, and it tastes like nothing. Just a bland paste as your mouth goes through the motions—add a sixth and you’ll want to vomit.
We all had this feeling as kids, and perhaps as teens for the sweeter-toothed among us, and even now for myself. But take that feeling, multiply it by a really, really large number, and you’ll get a taste as to how boring heaven would become. One day, it will be no different from death. Does the eternal darkness seem so scary now?
Many hold up the Near-Death-Experiences (NDE) as proof of an afterlife, but they are anything but. All they are proof of is the funny things that happen when a person’s brain receives faulty sensory information, or, embarks on the road to anoxia (oxygen death), as carbon dioxide creeps upwards, triggering dopamine-induced euphoric hallucinations.
There have also been several recent studies that have shown the rejection of evolution, and likewise, acceptance of Intelligent Design (ID) is closely correlated with existential angst. Namely, the fear of one’s mortality. In four studies, groups of people from all walks of life (including atheists and theists), were reminded of their own mortality and asked questions related to evolutionary theory and ID. After such reminders, all groups (even the most godless heathens) showed a tendency towards ID, and thus an afterlife. It was theorized this occurred due to a desire to find greater meaning and purpose, and evolution at first glance, seemingly provides very little. So belief in an afterlife is not at all correlated with its truth or validity, but rather in the hope it brings. That despair changed once people were told various ways of deriving meaning from what at first glance, appears to be evolutions nihilistic drive. It seems to me that people are only driven to such despair as they move from an edifice of externally derived purpose and hope, toward a self-derived edifice of meaning. Most people naturally pause in the chasm between these two separate cliff-faces, often looking back toward the safety and familiarity of ID instead of advancing into the indifference of evolution, little knowing that meaning would be theres to make as they will.
In another study, by the University of England, it was shown that belief in ID was highly correlated with one’s need of cognitive closure. That is, the need for definitive information no longer amiable to revision, as is ID, where the buck stops at God.
Heaven, at least as we have come to understand it in the West, seems as boring and unimaginative a concept as it is possible to conjure up, and seems to correlate highly with mortality, existential angst, and cognitive closure. I value the eternal darkness that is coming, for it reminds me to do all that I wish to do in this life here and now. (I also may never ever see that eternal darkness, but more on that in Future of Tech.)
“Yet if the transcendental world is vaguely assumed to be ‘timeless’ then we have to ask if we understand the difference between timeless existence and extinction, and I think the answer has to be that there is none.” ~ Simon Blackburn (Philosopher)