Friday, April 2, 2010

Heavenly Visions II: The Re-whoa-ening

LarryNiven has cited some recent gasbaggery expounding on the nature of the heaven as they imagine it:

"The Qur'an describes heaven as a lovely garden, with clear springs flowing beneath laden fruit trees. Those who believed in God and did good works in their life will find ease and contentment, with beautiful abodes, good food, the service of beautiful young men and women, and the perpetual joy of knowing God is pleased with you. In heaven, the prophet tells us, we will be with our loved ones, those we hold near and dear, we will be young again, and never get old, nor will we suffer even for an instant. The blessings of Heaven, we are told, will be so great as to make even the worst suffering in this world seem trivial."
Whoa, Pamela Taylor, slow down there for just a second. Which "beautiful young men and women" will "service" us, exactly, and what will that "service" entail? I know my idea of perfection isn't serving as somebody else's butler (or, worse, concubine) - especially if all of my loved ones will be around to witness my servitude.
I have some more whoa! to add to Pamela Taylor's sunny characterization, beginning with the way it begs the large and open question of whether we can justifiably expect "our loved ones" to be there alongside us in the heavenly garden. Can we? I wouldn't think so, given the relish with which Allah tosses the dead into oblivion (at best) or eternal suffering (the crowd favorite for centuries).

Suppose Islam is the true floor beneath all the furniture of the universe. If Ned is a faithful, Koran-reciting, Mecca-pointing, grenade-vest-ready servant of Allah but his beloved friend Homer considers Islam to be a tangle of false fables, bad history, hazy twaddle, and bigoted tripe, I wouldn't expect Ned to join that "loved one" in heaven. It counts as small consolation, I grant, that he doesn't face the awkward question of how to explain to Homer why he's spending so much time receiving the "service" of beautiful young men and/or women, but his non-presence would likely strike Ned as a source of vexation, even pain, contrary to Pamela Taylor's cooing.

Which brings me to the most insipid piece of Taylor's cant: "[t]he blessings of Heaven, we are told, will be so great as to make even the worst suffering in this world seem trivial." No doubt "we are told" this, but will they? Will they really, Pam Taylor? Have you seen, heard of, read about, or experienced "even the worst suffering in this world"?* I have been fortunate enough to have lived only in its shadow, but judging from the sparks that have flown off and hit me over the years, I simply cannot believe that even the finest of gardens will let me forget it -- and I have been to Victoria BC's Butchart Gardens.**

No, human psychology is not sturdy enough to overcome some shocks; I am not even going to insult the reader's intelligence nor darken this light-hearted blog post by listing any examples that a human being just doesn't walk off, no matter how far they walk. If (by the way) the idea is that this imperfect carrying capacity for trauma and pain won't be a problem in heaven because Dear Leader will replace our earthly psychology with an improved model, then we're adding whole new weight-bearing storeys to this already ramshackle structure of easy-bake theodicy. Suffice to say I have had more patience to address the shortcomings of related slapdash in earlier posts, e.g., this one, this one, this one, this one, and probably most directly in this one.

Visions of heaven trivialize the staggering reality of human suffering. This wouldn't matter as much if theses fancies had some basis in reality, but since they do not, it is comparable to smearing shit on an open wound. Bullshit, to be exact.



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* Pavement's "No Life Singed Her" seems apt here. I have no clear idea of what the song is about, but the title fits.

** They were boring, as even the best gardens are, which does nothing for Pam Taylor's arguments in my case. They fare no better no matter what kind of destination I substitute.

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