We all change our beliefs over the course of our lives, but the beliefs we once held remain part of us in the sense that they are part of our story, and helped shape the people we have become. They are, therefore, worthy of an occasional blog post.
I was raised in a Christian family (liberal Protestant), and during the period corresponding roughly with my teens, held a strong Christian faith of my own. I was also interested in theology, especially in how the more challenging parts of the Bible could be harmonised with what I knew to be true on other grounds (be that intellectual or moral).
Listed below are ten beliefs I held, or conclusions I came to, on the subject of the afterlife: Heaven and Hell, etc. They are not presented as a comprehensive overview (for example, they don’t specifically mention Christ), but they do summarise a lot of my thinking on these matters.
I may write about other aspects of my former faith in the future, in which case the following points will serve as groundwork. I have occasionally written about religion in the past.
- That among the essential attributes of God is complete moral perfection, implying both unlimited compassion and infallable knowledge of what is morally right in any given situation.
- That God’s plan for reality is one in which everyone finds complete perfection and happiness in Heaven, a place entirely seperate from the universe we know.
- That if any morally fallible being were to enter Heaven, it wouldn’t be Heaven any more, because even a trace of evil would render the place imperfect. It follows that only morally perfect beings can be allowed to enter Heaven.
- That while all human beings are morally fallible, God is capable of transforming individuals into morally perfect beings. Being allowed into Heaven boils down to consenting to this spiritual operation. (See points 7 and 8 for some implied prerequisites).
- That said sinectomy leaves intact the person’s individual personality. How long the process takes is not revealed — one can speculate on something akin to a liberal version of the Catholic Purgatory, but such a thing would be more akin to a recovery ward than a prison, and pleasant in comparison to life on Earth.
- That because God’s plan involves everyone who exists being in Heaven, the only alternative to Heaven is the cessation of existence. There is no Hell in the sense of everlasting punishment, but there may well be a temporary state of torment pending the total destruction of the soul. Perhaps the torment of Hell consists of life’s comfortable illusions being stripped away (c.f. “knurd” in the Discworld sense).
- That in order to grow towards its intended destiny, a soul must experience the yearning for moral perfection. The experience of this yearning is itself food for a growing soul. The fact that such yearning can only be experienced in an imperfect world might help to explain why we’re in one.
- That when the Bible says “seek and ye shall find“, it means that anyone who yearns for moral perfection — and is willing to accept divine assistance on God’s terms — has begun that spiritual journey and is on route to Heaven.
- That as implied by point 8 above, at the beginning of the spiritual journey it isn’t necessary to accept a particular religion. But because it is a journey (i.e. a process), it inevitably leads to an increasing awareness of God. The roadmap to be found in explicit knowledge of the Christian faith is not essential to salvation, but of enormous value nonetheless.
- That because the spiritual journey doesn’t end at death, there are no grounds for assuming that death is the “deadline” for deciding one’s spiritual destiny. (In fact, given that people obviously do not receive the same spiritual opportunities in life, it plainly cannot be, at least not always.)
I ask that comments remain pertinent to the specific beliefs I’ve mentioned, as I don’t wish to host a general discussion about religious faith. Also discouraged are comments that attempt to argue that any particular viewpoint is correct. Thoughtful and pertinent reflection is welcome, however.