Unpleasant conversations between atheists and theists


Sorry, I guess that is more the Hollywood view. I shouldn’t use general terms because there are so many generalities out there. Many mostly don’t care, but just think that because their parents went to church they are a Christian, like it is inherited, or because they go to church often or do good deeds. Basically that good deeds earn you an eternal reward. Many who believe that call themselves Christians.

I would argue that by it’s very definition, a Christian is one who follows Jesus. Jesus didn’t say any of that reward narrative. He focused on us knowing and being reconciled to God and showing others God through the way we live. Not about going to heaven, but about bringing heaven to earth. Thy will be done on earth…as it is already being done in heaven.

Whoops, my fault. Yes, I mostly agree that there is little connection to our earthly deeds and afterlife treatment.

Let’s say you lived a morally good life, but still rejected God and claim you are the reason you lived morally (which is impossible, as goodness comes from God). At the end of times, you go away from God, but the hints of this world of Him, the broken image bearer of God you were on this earth ceases to exist. There will be no God in hell, no love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control. And when lacking all of those things, it will be terrible, full of fear, hatred, sadness.

It’s possible with seeing how terrible a life void of God is, you turn to Him and allow Jesus to save you. I don’t know. I wonder if it isn’t an eternity because in hell the hardness if heart all have will result in pride and further rejection.

Luke 16:19-31. Namely vs 31. If you didn’t want God in this life when you had glimpses of Him, why would you want Him when He is void?

I wonder if eternity isn’t self induced?

Or I wonder if an annihilation view wouldn’t come about, where they just cease to exist. Because God is life, and being apart from Him is death, death is eternal, you eternally cease to exist which is also eternally separated.

Satan knew God, was his 2nd in command, and rejected Him. Satan knows his destiny, He still rejects God. Eternity in hell is his choice, self induced.

Questions I can’t answer with certainty, just guess about…but more importantly, trust Him in.

Ok. The best I can explain, the standard is holiness is required to be in God’s presence. None of us achieve that, it is therefor just for us to not be able to be in His presence.

Until the gospel comes in, and allows us to be in His presence again, because He achieved what we could not.

Fair enough. I was intending “you” in the general sense, not at @John_Dalton.

I forget who posted these videos

But I really like them. It basically says, you might not be serving the One true God of the Bible, but you are seeking to honor your creator, and realize life isn’t about you and you are not in control of the work or the ends. But live in the means to best honor your Creator you will be in heaven…

Now that needs to have the very very strong caveat, that it is still not your works that is saving you, rather your faith in your creator, trying to honor Him in your means, regardless of the ends. Having faith that He loves you and will save you, even if you do t know how.

The Bible says Abraham’s faith in God, was credited to him as righteousness. Jesus hasn’t come in human form yet, Abraham’s deeds didn’t make him righteous (our deeds, including Abraham was like filthy rags to a holy God), but his FAITH made him righteous. His living to honor his creator.

But God spent a hugely high price in His Son, a massive sacrifice for Him. He did this so we can see and know God. God is unseeable, unknowable, but Jesus was the greatest glimpse of God that we can fathom. He paid that high price so we can know Him better, and love Him more.

So He wants us all to know Him and to live in us. But that can only be done through what He did for us. Our faith in our Creators goodness was manifested in Jesus.

So now our faith in Him that was credited as righteous, is now faith in Jesus, which is credited to us as eternal righteousness, so much so, that God is now able to live inside us and we are now again to exude God from our pours, His goodness should overflow from us so that others can see who the unseeable God is who we all long to know, who gave us purpose and meaning and existence.

But to put it in quantifiable terms, those who have faith in Jesus, can glorify God more than those who just have faith in their Creator. And that is the ultimate purpose in our existence, is to glorify Him. So will proclaim Jesus to the ends of the earth. But in love, and to show God through me, not in pride that “I have the right answer to life’s questions and all else are wrong and doomed to eternal suffering.”

I feel many Christians get wrapped up in pride that God revealed Jesus to them and they are right and want everyone to be correct like them. Rather than give glory to God who had mercy on them and extended His grace to them and they can now be the rightful image bearers we were intended to be to reveal God to the rest of the world.

The best I can guesstimate an explanation to this is that God is so holy, it is good for those not in His holiness to suffer.

Like a sadomasochistic, where pain brings pleasure. His holyiness is so great and incomprehendable, that anything that rejects it, is good to suffer?

I don’t think God does want people to suffer for eternity, and might not even allow it (depending on how one interprets scripture) But if He did, it would be a good way, more than I can understand.

That is all I’m getting at.

But there are other faithful interpretations of the scripture that don’t have to go that way. If you can come to God believing those, may He ever be glorified! Maybe after knowing Him and Him living inside you, you begin to slightly comprehend glimpses of who Ge is, then maybe you can ‘switch’ your logic to give the other interpretations a possibility, knowing and trusting God is good.

If Adam and Eve were real, how are we to explain the ANE parallels?
(Mervin Bitikofer) #162

You’re welcome! That was me. I’m glad somebody else here got a lot out of this series too. Every one of those six homilies makes for an interesting and informative listen to those interested in heaven/hell/pluralism topics. Thanks for linking them again.

(John Dalton) #163

Alright, thanks SL. I appreciate you taking the time to explain things so clearly. One last (potential) nitpick:

Is that strictly true? I don’t know, maybe it is. A couple of things are coming to mind though. I’m glad you mentioned it, as I think some Gospel reading is in order for me here, and maybe I can tie everything together! Cheers.

(Wayne Dawson) #164

Mainly keyboard now. I used to play a number of instruments, but economics and a 24 hr day/70-90 years limit a lot of options, unfortunately. It is clear that there are too many books I will never read, too many languages I will never learn … Keyboard and electronic music methods are central to writing music for all the instruments in a band or orchestra (for most music enthusiasts), so it is the best I can do.

Confucius did say in effect that he would worry about the ethics of heaven when he was in heaven. (The word “heaven” here [probably 「天堂」] should be understood as a Chinese picture of the concept in 250 BC, not our current Judeo-Christian picture. Somewhat interestingly, the first character [天] does mean “sky”. Maybe the reason so many cultures have this notion of “sky” as a “heavenly place” is because there is so much dirt and grim is here in our earthly quarters. Whatever heaven is, assuming it exists, it surely isn’t just “the sky”, but we seem to understand it as otherworldly and certainly a lot fairer place than our lot on earth.)

I gather that you are interested in the difference between (the best) justice that we do in this world (not what actually happens) compared to the justice that God might achieve in heaven after we cross that great river (again presuming that such a God exists and is good and not some evil, self-serving dictator like some we are familiar with in this worldly kingdom).

I greatly admire Confucius for keeping his mouth shut about the things of heaven. It might behoove us to consider that one of the world’s great ethical philosophers had the good sense to demur on things he could say little about. We don’t know a lot about it, and anyone who claims they do should be viewed with severe skepticism. Granted, the Pharisees were (in some ways rightly) skeptical of Jesus; so we can take it too far. In general, however, if you are promised 71 virgins for flying a plane into a building, you probably should consider asking a few more questions.

By 300 AD, China’s population was about the same size as the current US. Moreover, people lived in much closer quarters than we USAians are comfortable with. Your neighbor might be someone that you really hate intensely, and maybe even for good reason, but Asian culture has found a way to avoid murder and mayhem on a typical scale as we see in the US. It’s not that it doesn’t happen, but perhaps largely because of the ethical philosophy of Confucius and some 2250 years of reinforcement (with obvious upheavals), people generally (and by now in a culturally instinctive way) have found civil ways to coexist together with a minimum of strife. Even with two major Mongol occupations of China, most of their cultural artifacts were not lost by war and subsequent trash-and-loot policies, but simple mundane negligence. Vast amounts of history are preserved. So by some measure, Chinese culture has done very well in that respect, despite its many failings, and this is a rather core influence in the underlying structure of Korean, Japanese and many other southeast Asian countries. The size of a typical population in Asia is often 3 fold larger than we might mentally expect for an area of similar size in the US.

Unfortunately, Western culture does not have such an impressive track record, and I fear that the influence of our Western culture is partly to blame for Japan’s mischief leading through WWII and has contributed to the inability to resolve matters in the South China Sea. Hmmmmm. That was not directly because of religion; I don’t see following Jesus to mean building an opium trade in China, getting people addicted to it, and then enforcing it when the Chinese protested. The list is long… There appears to be a large gap between the religion preached and the religion followed, for which I presume some people will have to answer for at those pearly gates.

All this is to say that the matter of “justice” here on earth is quite complicated. Is it rule-based with shame and honor? Will it operate better on guilt? Is the measure the survival of the population?

If “survival” or “the continuance of civil society” is the measuring stick for justice, then I would say that Asia wins. On the practical side, however, it puts great emphasis on conformity. To preserve civil society, surely conformity is a critical part of it, but I observe that it can have adverse effects on the individual who cannot be hacked and stretched to fit the Procrustean bed of its cultural milieu. On the other hand, the incidents of murder and mayhem are hardly comparable to the US – even merely correcting for population size.

Western Civilization has for a long time recognized individual responsibility. You can find that, although the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Old Testament) speaks sometimes of “collective responsibility” (and punishment, which is still common in Asia), Ezekiel 18 (written around 550 BC) already recognizes individual responsibility; long before Confucius. I also observe the kind of people who are most likely to end up in a church here in Japan are people who didn’t fit in that mold they are expected to match here. So conformity is basically good for the majority, but very destructive for some individuals.

From the evolutionary side of things, the only thing that matters is having a selective advantage and being able to propagate that into the dominant form in the population. Bees (in some form) have been around since the time of flowering plants appeared, some 130 million years ago. Many of these species are loners, but there are wasps that have long lived in collective communities that have been around for quite some time. The famous honey-bee is a bit more recent, arriving in Western Europe from Asia around 300 kyr ago. In evolutionary terms, there is nothing wrong with the monarchy system that has persisted in the honey-bee population; even the genetic modifications that had to occur. It simply is. For much of history, monarchs have been the system of government. Liberal democracies have been comparatively a rare occurrence in history. That’s “survival”, that’s “selective advantage”.

I am not sure, but I even wonder if a liberal democracy is actually all that able to compete with a monarchy when viewed from the viewpoint of “selective advantage”. Bertrand Russell wrote in his unpopular essays that “all the wars of the 20th century were won by democracies”, which was very impressionable to me at the time, but I am starting to feel some reservations about his crowing. Nevertheless, I still see the individual and the notion that all people are created equal as the right picture to have. At least I think people should not be apriori denied access to what opportunities they may excel at simply because they don’t match some preconceived pedigree or don’t exactly fit some stupid mold.

These are just three examples of how three different worldviews might look at justice in this world. In many ways, I think they are rather incompatible at present. Asia does not typically appreciate non-conformity, conformity is somewhat of a curse in the West, though everyone who says he is different is wearing the same black teeshirt and jeans with a cut at the knee. To be “different”, you may do better to wear a gray flannel suit and tie. Those culturally derived patterns are not particularly agreeable to an all-out, hardcore evolutionary model. It reminds me of the Japanese rock-paper-scissors situation.

Hence, I think one thing is that would have to be worked out is exactly what framework justice is built around.

I don’t have a lot of clear ideas either. I was partly drawn to science because I thought that this was the way to address my questions. Science was very impressive and it seemed to have a monopoly on all the answers to the mind of a musician in front of (what seems to have been) positivist philosophy professors (viewed in retrospect). I’m not sure if positivism always leads to scientism, but it seems like it: even for philosophy professors who should look beyond the pale, unlike the people who learn science and then try to use it indiscriminately to philosophize. It conflicted with my perception, so I got angry and wanted to find out for myself before I would agree with such a tortured notion of reality.

Over many course corrections, I came largely to the conclusion that we probably cannot access that sort of reality. I know that can be arguably a cop out. However, I see it a little differently. Viewed in terms of history, when I consider what would probably happen if we gained access to that reality, it seems very probably that it would not be so long a time before we were destroying whole worlds or even universes of sentient beings with our indifference, greed, arrogance, and hubris. It takes only a single fly in the ointment to ruin the whole perfume. He who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much. If we cannot manage the comparatively small time power here on this earth (with which we can already destroy ourselves), what God would ever give us the keys to the heavenly kingdom?

– by Grace we proceed

(Wayne Dawson) #165

That is one thing that is a bit curious to me. When Jesus was in the desert, one of the temptations was to rule the kingdoms. When we consider how the world works, how much suffering is there, and how we would just love to see that miserable swamp drained, it doesn’t seem so hard to see how that would be a temptation. We might think we can do better. Why not alleviate some of the suffering and bring some of the clowns to the justice they very thoroughly deserve? It seems like obviously the right thing to do. Yet apart from God, even if we could do them, we are less help than nothing to God. It is a really hard thing to get my head around, but I see the point.

hmm, maybe “wise guy”. :wink:

I am not necessarily saying that some sort of eye-for-an-eye/tooth-for-tooth suffering is the answer to justice when our journey is done. The thing I trust is that what we will see God do there will comfort us. It will wipe our tears away. I trust that what we simply cannot offer, no matter what we did here in this earthly kingdom even if we could ever all agree on it, cannot be compared to what God will do. It doesn’t matter to me what God does, it will be right and I can take comfort in that.

What gives me no peace is the thought that this “stuff” is all that is, the universe simply popped into existence all of itself as some chance event (in the purported vacuum that is not actually so), and therefore, there is no meaning in any of it so you’d might as well be a Ghengis Khan if you have the temperament to be so, or find some way to eke out a living in some way around that. In such a worldview, I would see resisting evil as basically futile and maybe even stupid.

In that sense, better someone repent on the deathbed, if that be finally the case, than not to at all – my cynical impressions about such things aside.

That God remembers us might be enough to fix that quandary.

We certainly should not think too highly of ourselves. However, it says “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Rev 21:4). There is also the ominous point in Mt 25:31ff ("… when you refused to help the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me." Mt25:45) If a life lived doesn’t matter, why would these things be said? Some suffering seems like it would be unbearable without the hope that there is a future kingdom where we will receive that comfort from God.

Why would we find comfort in hymns like “when we all get to heaven” or “because he lives, I can face tomorrow” if there were nothing to the journey we walk in this life?

Even you say “Loving our neighbors is great, God is glorified through that, because He is love, and we can only love because of who He is. There will be no love or a God in hell.”

I agree that it is God’s glory that matters. We don’t earn a ticket to heaven by works; we cannot earn our salvation. Nevertheless, the evidence of a heart changed is shown in the fruits of righteousness we do in this life. As the word of God slowly becomes reinforced in our hearts in this life, we grow more attuned to God’s ways, our hope is that we will become better, that God will help us get better, and that we will do right (sometimes in spite of ourselves) by following Jesus.

I trust that God can bring that peace to my troubled heart that cannot come from this earthly kingdom. I trust that there is an answer at the end of the road.

– Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.

(John Dalton) #166

Interesting. I have something somewhat in common with you here: I live in Taiwan and have for almost 30 years (coming to a close soon!) I haven’t delved deep into Chinese classics, Buddhism etc. I can speak and read however and am not totally oblivious :slight_smile: In traditional Chinese folk religion people here seem to have a different perception of the afterlife. It’s not a paradise, but a reflection of earthly society with its own bureaucracy and travails. Buddhism seems different but I know very little. What I hear about it tends to confuse me more than anything. I guess the sky is limitless and seemingly pure, obviously separate from the earth, and does tend to lend itself to such ideas.

In as much as I would like to understand the possible character of the afterlife, yes.

That would seem logical to me.

They still do in these parts :slight_smile:

It’s perhaps a little different here. Taiwanese people often express their admiration of this aspect of Japanese culture. Certainly the streets are really safe here (if you keep your eyes open for the traffic!) Coming from 1980’s New York City I was immediately struck by it. You can walk around the seediest neighborhood in this city in the middle of the night staring at the stars without a care in the world. That’s still true. But bad things happen–they just happen in private or behind the scenes. Not in public. I could go on but the point is things are different, but not perfect. But I definitely appreciate that aspect of living here. In a nutshell, if you don’t go looking for trouble, it’s not likely going to come looking for you.

That’s interesting. Clearly it’s cultural. I understand some of those reasons but not sure of the exact historical dynamic etc.

Certainly here there’s a cultural focus on their shared history and preserving it in every sense. That can get a little tricky here for political reasons but it still holds true on a cultural level.

Yep. Not too many wide open spaces over here!

This history (of the war and events leading up to it) I am fairly familiar with. That’s an interesting way of looking at it. Certainly being dragged out of their isolation not least by the US was a shock. But political conflict and even warfare were not unknown in Japan, were they? And their own particular brand of military hubris, I find it a bit hard to imagine as coming substantially from foreign influence. Something to think about though.

Not one of the nicer parts of our history, and certainly not forgotten. One can’t see the “Christian” influence there, certainly, but history is complicated. The Chinese though are not without their own hubris historically. You can go back as far as you want, but China seems to be the ones causing must of the trouble today in the SCS for example, with other Asian nations bearing the brunt and Western nations not even being directly affected.

Certainly. There are definitely different outlooks in different cultures and times, but there are important common themes. I think we could look at the entire picture and reach some conclusions.

Interesting. Probably about 5 or 10 percent of people here are Christian, and it’s not generally considered very remarkable. I noticed your previous post where you mentioned how “foreign” it’s seen in Japan. That’s not so here, except maybe among the real old-timers. In general though, conformity is more a value here too, as can be seen in a lot of ways. In my understanding that’s definitely part of Confucian thought.

You only need to look at us today to see the potential evolutionary advantage of collective behavior.

Things do seem to possibly be changing.

Certainly I agree!

That’s a broad view of “justice” though. I think we could narrow things down to the basics of, for example, how offenses against public order and individuals are handled, and find a lot of common ground.

Sorry, what sort of reality exactly? I think I follow you though. I don’t think we can either, and I doubt we’ll ever be able to.

That’s not exactly unimaginable :slight_smile:

(Ryan weatherly) #167

I’m quite late to the topic , but I have talked to a wide variety of atheists and have found most to be uninterested in debate .
Online , I think we get a more aggressive interaction simply because those online debating are often more troll than atheist.
That being said :
I have an oldest brother who is an atheist , if I begin a conversation about Evolution , he is all ears , the moment I mention even the possibility that it is of God , he shuts down .

I recently was requested to " prove God exists " , a regular theme .

I admit I deflected the question , but with purpose :
I asked " why do we love the dead ?"
It serves no survival purpose , and it seems counter productive to survival .
Yet we do often still love those that died years later with no loss of intensity .
"Can you prove love exists ?“
We all generally know love exists , we birth it , cherish it , often treat it as sacred or holy , and we love against logic and reason , expend a great deal of resources to maintenance of love …
Sure , love for the living has it’s survival advantages in context , but why do we love those that have passed ?
After several rounds of his half attempts to validate love for the dead , he seemed stumped …
It appeared he gave up …so I left him with .
” He that loveth not ,knoweth not God,for God is love " …God still loves the dead .

I don’t know that this convinced him of anything ,but it did stop the badgering of " prove it " .

I think most Christians agree ,that when we selflessly love others we are doing spiritual push ups , strengthening our spirit , feeding the holy ghost .
That each time we forgive out of selfless love , it becomes easier , we lose our anger and spite over offenses .
In opposition , when we fail to love others , we tend to become cold , bitter , hardened , stone hearted .
It becomes easier to be spiteful and hurtful .

It would be difficult to love God if we can’t love anyone else .

I don’t know if you will find this useful , and perhaps you can find the flaw in it I have missed .

One love (agape) God bless

(Mervin Bitikofer) #168

Amen … although I suggest it is the Holy Ghost feeding us, rather. But there is little doubt that God is blessed when his love shines through us.

(George Brooks) #169

Before Zoroastrian metaphysics came into vogue with the rise of the Persian Empire, the notion of an afterlife for humans was not in any “heaven” … but in the underworld. The average person was in a shadowy realm, covered in mud or dust.

It would be interesting to answer the question, where did Zoroaster get his notion of heaven? Did he get it from the far east?

(Wayne Dawson) #170

Sheol is mentioned in several psalms and some of the older books of the Old Testament.

I have little reason to doubt that the reference in Job and the Psalms are talking about the underworld, but I find the reference to Ecclesiastes 9:2-3 rather vague and there is one particularly puzzling passage in Ecclesiastes that I am reminded of

Ecc 3:18-21
18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (emphasis added)

I know that there are arguments that Solomon didn’t write it and therefore it is debatable when it was written. Nevertheless, I have long noticed that Eccl seems often rather non-committal on where exactly the dead go, though it seems largely pessimistic about the afterlife in general – consistent with the Hebrew view that Sheol is a dark, uncertain place.

This is not to disagree with you, it’s just an observation that has long struck me for which I don’t have any answer myself.

That is a really interesting idea. It doesn’t seem beyond possibility that there was some cultural exchange at that time. Not so many people would have gone that far, but those who did probably stayed there for a while and got to know the culture before returning. So the thought that these ideas might resonate in other cultures seems reasonable.

Such “cultural exchange” might explain why Ecclesiastes sounds so vague and non-committal, yet dark.

It was interesting to learn from @John_Dalton the Chinese view of heaven is a place not so different from here on earth. I know mostly mainlanders who only seem to know the basic customs and formalities. Nevertheless, it sounds very Chinese to me, though I was surprised. Japan is different, but I note that whereas they use Shinto for birth and dedications in life, they turn to Buddhism in death. Maybe the animistic religion is good for the living, but there is a hunger for something more eternal and serious in death and dying.

I guess between China and the Middle East is the Indus valley. Those religions also have some sort of great gig in the sky, so perhaps the ideas that were exchanged and resonated best within the respective milieu eventually converged on some of the same themes.

To the atheists here, I realize that an “appealing idea of an afterlife” doesn’t make it true. However, an interesting paradox in all this (for whatever reason it is so) is that civil society has grown and prospered quite well under the faith that there is something to look forward to where there is no more of this suffering and the crooked deeds and cruelty we bear and endure in this life are not in vain. … and because we have long chosen to have that faith, we have been able to leave things to God that otherwise likely would tear civil society apart and have managed to rapidly advance in science, technology – even somewhat geometrically since “growth” is (with cautious qualifiers) proportional to the population – and increasing mean human lifetime substantially.

– by Grace we proceed

(George Brooks) #171

This is an area quite ripe for research. Which books of the Bible do we find “the sky” to be a general destination for the blessed? Pythagoras, a Greek who was certainly active when the Persians were vigorously influencing the region in general, believed bean shoots conveyed reincarnated souls from the underworld up into the mortal world. It is often proposed that his ideas are quite close to the Jains of India.

But when did India start locating the afterlife “in the sky”? Was it during a Persian occupation? Or was it after the collapse of the Persian empire and the Magi lost their official governmental livings?

Lots of interesting questions!

Thank you, @wkdawson, I had not noticed that Ecc. verse (ecc 3:18-21) !!!

(Luca) #172

I don’t know if this is a good reply though?

(Ryan weatherly) #173

Thank you for the link .

(Luca) #174

np! Otherwise on quora they are positive that science can’t prove love…though what do you think about the link?

(Ryan weatherly) #175

I question the windows example .
My son might say you could verify the program by it’s coding , but he codes video games , and it’s Greek to me .

Otherwise it brings up some interesting points …
I heard someone say that love releases specific chemicals in the brain ? and that could be tested .
Of course that leads to " is love just a chemical reaction " and by default , only " real" if those chemicals are active , but I’m no neuroscientist and somethings are beyond my current knowledge.

(Ryan weatherly) #176

I’m the last born of 8 children .
4 brothers , 3 sisters .
1 brother is an atheist , a fundamental atheist.
1 a YEC Pentecostal
1 a non denominational , general believer with no specific system
1 who changes his mind about once a month ,usually based on his sobriety .

My atheist brother says love is nothing more than a survival tool .
That morality is subjective based on society .
And that selfishness is our nature and is the only way to get ahead .

I disagreed , I say the Bible is correct , that love comes from God , is of God , and according to scripture , God is love .
Morality is from God via the holy ghost ,and other versions are knock offs .mimics .
And that selfishness is the base of sin , it is of the flesh and as such , is in conflict with the spirit

My YEC brother says I’m a heretic and my atheist brother is a reprobate, and God turned his back on him.

Opinions vary …" Seek out thine own salvation"

(John Dalton) #177

The old ways still live on here :slight_smile: (though it seems fewer people are adhering to them with time). Similarly, by far most people here will have a Buddhist funeral rite when they pass. It’s read in a transliteration of Sanskrit I think and no one can understand a word of it. There are a good number of devout Buddhists here, but I don’t think the majority of people think about the implications too much. Traditional people seem more concerned that they have descendants to make offerings to them when they pass. I gather that spending time in the afterlife without such support is not a pleasant prospect. What’s sometimes termed “ancestor worship” seems more about the devotion of making such offerings than outright worship. This is stuff I’ve gleaned from the old timers and other relatives over time mostly; I haven’t studied it formally. So don’t go converting to Taoism or anything on my word :slight_smile:

(Jennifer Thomas) #178

It’s possible that Persians got their ideas about heaven from the experiences of anagogic mystics (who are drawn to the idea of spiritual ascent, where human beings can climb the ladder of perfection to get closer to God) and the experiences of apophatic mystics (who have a habit of climbing the ladder of spiritual ascent, discover they’re not getting close to God, then decide it’s a good idea to throw themselves off the metaphorical ladder in a desperate attempt to unite with the universal “cloud of knowing/unknowing”). These kinds of mystical experiences seem pretty universal (that is, they’re found in all cultures, religions, and historically recorded periods) so they must be linked in some way to the neuroscience of consciousness, trance states, dissociative states, and mystical states.

(George Brooks) #179


Your proposal would enjoy at least a small measure of credibility if you included with it some evidence of when the first anagogic mystics appeared!

The Wiki article above has only medieval references to such ideas.

The Hellenistic phase of Greek culture experienced considerable Zoroastrian influence by the diaspora of Magi who began to wander the ancient world in search of a good and praise-worthy living.

Here is a schematic of how Jains are supposed to have pictured Heaven and an afterlife…

But it is frequently difficult to know exactly when such ideas like this first appear in the Eastern philosophies. Many of them could have been influenced by other movements.

I am no expert on Jainism… and so I have no idea of knowing (or even beginning to know) whether Jains were influenced by the Zoroastrian views … or vice versa!

(Jennifer Thomas) #180

That’s interesting, George. I’m wondering how anyone would be able to do that?

The point I was making (though apparently I didn’t make it very well) is that the states of consciousness that give rise to mystical experiences are part of our neurophysiological wiring, which is why mystical experiences pop up everywhere on the planet.

Since our DNA has changed little over the past few thousand years, and since our DNA is responsible for the neurophysiological wiring of our brains, I would assume that mystical experiences have been taking place for quite some time. We haven’t changed much in the past 5,000 years, and I doubt very much that a genetic mutation allowing mystical experiences suddenly appeared all around the world only during more recent centuries. It’s a logical inference. But proof for the very first anagogic mystics will not be forthcoming any more than proof for who shot Otzi in the Swiss Alps 5,300 years ago – and why – will be forthcoming. Some things in the history of civilization will always be conjecture based on a least-squares-fit model. All we can do is look at the facts we have and work backwards from there.

When I look at the archeological record left behind by ancient civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia, with all those pyramids and ziggurats pointing to the heavens as part of their status-driven religious beliefs, it’s fair to surmise that the upward call of anagogic mysticism was already going strong, don’t you think?

If you want a biblical reference to anagogic mysticism, you need look no further than Paul’s claim about being taken up to the third heaven (2 Cor. 12: 1-7). Paul apparently only reached the third heaven of the seven heavens preached in important non-canonical early texts (see, for example, The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, with its description of the seven heavens in the Testament of Levi). But still, it’s pretty clear that some early Christians preached a hierarchy of heavens, with succeeding levels of admission open only to those who have demonstrated the requisite measures of perfection.

Since this is the very definition of anagogic mysticism (even if the description doesn’t come with the neat and tidy label of “anagogic mysticism”), it’s fair to say Paul may have been Christianity’s very first anagogic mystic.