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Fri, Mar. 27th, 2009, 12:59 pm

Has there ever been a religion that people accepted that said that there was absolutely no way for them to attain, for lack of a better term, the Big Prize (R) at the end? That there was a group of people who would get it, but that most people never would, and that one's chances were extremely low? Or that, regardless of what they did, they were destined for the Ultimate Suckitude (R) instead?

Pretty much every religion I've ever seen that promised eternal salvation or, well, the Big Prize (R) has either laid out that it's within one's grasp if one is willing to do what's necessary for it. In other words, it's yours if you can just manage this. (In the minds of some, they've already by definition done what's necessary for it, even if they know what is necessary for it and haven't yet admitted to themselves that they really haven't done anything for it and are actually working quite well against it. But that's beside the point.) Things like confessions and repenting and penance are means of giving someone who has done something to screw it up another chance.

Doesn't seem to me like anyone else has picked up on that. I wonder why.

Fri, Mar. 27th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)


Fri, Mar. 27th, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)

Meaning not that there's no way to achieve Nirvana, but in general most people won't ever, and almost no one will this time around.

Fri, Mar. 27th, 2009 10:44 pm (UTC)

I had that and other beliefs (I want to say "existential", but I'm probably just horribly misusing that) in mind when I started, but I forgot to add something about it. I guess it really started out more as "gee, has there ever been a religion telling you you're going to hell and there's nothing you can do about it, and did people buy into it?"

Sun, Mar. 29th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)

Satanism, AFAIK...

Fri, Mar. 27th, 2009 10:43 pm (UTC)

AFAIK, Calvinists, who are a form of Protestant, do believe that only SOME people get into Heaven and it's predestined and nobody has free will, so by believing, you're just doing service to the God who MIGHT have decided you can go to Heaven.

I think the point of The Big Prize is to encourage people to live better lives, though. If a religion said "You may go to Heaven or you may not and you can't do anything about it," why care at all?

Fri, Mar. 27th, 2009 10:45 pm (UTC)

I think of it more as a hook to keep people interested. The carrot just dangles out of reach. That kind of thing.

Fri, Mar. 27th, 2009 10:49 pm (UTC)

That too. I've been doing a lot of reading lately on the topics of religion and philosophy, and what I've found is that there are a lot of good messages out there but most of them are completely immersed in either dogma or the clearly false. It's kind of depressing.

Sat, Mar. 28th, 2009 08:11 am (UTC)

I subscribe to the idea that the messages of most religions in general serve two purposes: (1) To try to answer impossible questions, to try to define the things we do not have the capacity to understand; and (2) to further their own agendas. I agree that many religions have plenty of good messages and do genuinely help people lead better lives than they might otherwise have, but in all the various churches and church groups I'd been a part of, two things were quite consistent: You had to support the church, monetarily or otherwise (basically throwing yourself into whatever you or they thought was "God's Will"), and you had to believe like they did. If you didn't, you were doing it wrong, and each church reacted to that in different ways, ranging from apathy to being downright dirisive.

Since I decided to adopt a more skeptical view on life and the world, I've become content with the idea that perhaps there is no God, no supreme being up there. If there is, I certainly have no way of comprehending it, and trying to define it in my own terms or by some group-think isn't going to answer any of my questions. Religion, in my opinion, is a crutch for people who can't handle the concept that we aren't advanced enough as human beings to comprehend the magnitude of the universe. I know it's beyond my grasp, and I'm fine with that - I see no need to invent and worship an image of a supreme creator to help me cope with that reality.

Sun, Mar. 29th, 2009 10:35 am (UTC)

How on earth anyone finds serenity with the concept that there might be no afterlife, no divine will, no point, I will never know.

I don't have any set beliefs myself, and I am always unsettled when I think about it.

Sun, Mar. 29th, 2009 04:18 pm (UTC)

Well, just because I don't believe there is a supreme being doesn't mean I'm completely settled on the concept of an afterlife or there being some overarching point to my life. But I think of my life in the same frame of mind as I think of the lives of animals: They are born, they live for a while, and they die. Meaningful as animals are to us, once they die, all that remains of them are their bodies and the memories we choose to hold onto. Their lives are temporary fixtures in the grand scheme of things, and in order for the species as a whole to continue, they have to reproduce.

Do we extend to them the same concept of a soul that goes to a Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, etc. as we do ourselves? Some do, but then that begs the question: Do all animals have souls? Or do just some of them? Do cats have souls? Do dogs? Do cockroaches? Ants? Do the worms that bore holes in the eyes of African children have souls as well? (I'm making a subtle reference to a statement by Sir David Attenborough on the subject.)

I've found it's difficult to keep a consistent story on the concept of souls - who has them and who doesn't - because I, like many people I've talked to, tended to believe that God was merciful and beautiful to just the things I tended to like, but would discount the things I found repulsive. In addition, I constantly stumble over two big questions: (1) If God is so kind, loving and merciful to all of his people, why are we constantly fighting wars, killing each other, suffering from terrible diseases (my foster brother is suffering from complications due to diabetes, and he lost use of his right leg for unknown reasons), etc.? And, as my wife sometimes mentions: (2) If we're all ending up in Heaven after we die, wouldn't we want to get there as fast as possible? It seems that often, our "goal" of life is at conflict with our will and instinct to survive, and I just find that really confusing.

The reason I find serenity with the concept of there being no God is that, frankly, it makes my life a lot simpler. I accept the fact that I can make a difference to the human race in my own way, I can leave behind a legacy, and that it's in terms of the human race and the people whose lives I've touched. But frankly, that only matters to me while I'm alive - once I'm gone, I'm gone. So I'd better make the most of the time I have. :)

Edited at 2009-03-29 06:45 pm (UTC)

Mon, Mar. 30th, 2009 06:05 pm (UTC)

I pretty much feel the way you describe in the last paragraph. The way I see it, even if some evidence there was a god turned up, my human senses would not be capable of distinguishing between that from a good god and that from an evil god (or devil or whatever you want to call it). I also have completely subscribed to the realization that our concepts of good and evil aren't absolutes and do tend to wander all over the place, which makes it even harder to think of there being an absolute deity (or group of them) representing the cardinal points.

So, yeah. This is all the life I get that I know about. Now the only question is what it feels like to be dead...