Friday, July 25, 2008

More from beyond the grave

My last post received some criticism about context. I hope this shows the fullness of fear of death that I have proposed as perhaps the single most important driving factor towards theistic, supernatural answers.

First, here's a knee-slapper of an answer from "Cindy". You'd think I was asking about her first sexual experience or what are the last four of her social security number! I thought the question was rather straight-forward and, one would think, non-threatening to a theist. Unless she senses the absurdity of the answers she would provide.

"I got your message on my blog Supernatural Christian. Before I answer, would you tell me what it is you are doing. I get strange request now and then and some are inappropriate or way out there. If your purpose is genuine, then I may post your request on my blog and maybe you will get more answers to your question. I have a lot of readers, but few saying anything. But, you might get what you are asking for.

Then "Dave" starts out, on a rather lengthy response:

"Hello, John. Where to start? From early childhood, I sensed there is a mystery about life and all its "whys" that I wanted to explore. I think this is present in almost everybody, but usually gets stifled with the cares of life. In time, I did get saved, but was so naive that it was merely a religion I believed and didn't really know why, beyond fire insurance from hell. Much time went by before I had no choice but to acknowledge God, and find that there is a relationship we can have with Him. One that is as close as is possible, within. (Before you read further, know that usually God's voice comes as a thought to us, and our mind forms it into words.)"

He goes on to tell me that he found out that while the "fire insurance" is important, it's really all about a personal relationship with Jesus.

Finally, there was this from "Aaron". I think it sums up the thinking of most Christians and, with different wording and invisible friends, people of all religions.

"I would say the single greatest thing my faith gives me now is the assurance that I have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. But let me explain what all this means. It means my sins have been forgiven, that I have been adopted as a child of God, that the threat of God's wrath that loomed over me and would have sent me to Hell forever has been removed because Christ endured it in my place. It means that I stand to inherit a new creation with Christ, which means that I have hope for life beyond death, that is, the life of resurrection, just as Christ was raised from the dead."

(All emphasis in bold is mine, and not the authors).

Finally, let me ask a question of all readers, religious or secular - what's with the burial customs of nearly all societies? Personally, I want to be cremated with no urn or special place for the ashes. Why do we have tombs and burial plots with fancy stones, crosses, families "resting" together, biblical quotations engraved, etc? What is it that most people think they are getting from the wasteful and costly burials described? Do you think the predominance of such burial is indicative of a concern with the "hereafter"?

I'll give my answer. I think it most definitely is. In fact, there is no belief involved here - it's self-evident. People want to be buried near their loved ones because they think they will have contact with them after death. They inscribe their grave stones with religious words to help convince their god they are worthy to enter paradise. They have refused to accept that the closest thing they will ever have to paradise is the life they are living right now.

If my theory about death is incorrect, how to explain the societal customs for handling the dead? I'm sure some will claim that it all has to do with the still living and bereaved relatives and loved ones. But that still leaves the question - what is it about these ceremonies and resting places that comforts them?

16 comments:

NIggardly Phil said...

John,

It all has to do with the still living and bereaved relatives and loved ones.

But seriously, begging the question is a fallacy, petitio principi, and it shouldn't be used in the sense of makes us ask another question. If you use it that way, you sound as ignorant as Rush Limbaugh.

Now you know where I got my name.

PhillyChief said...

I would agree that burial rituals are primarily for those still alive. I've never understood visiting graves, and I certainly never understood talking to your dead loved on at the grave, like they'll hear you better. It's ridiculous.

To some degree it's for the dead. Some have and perhaps still believe that in order for them to go on to their special place, their bodies have to be attended to a certain way. Some might plan for some show of importance, something substantial which will let the world know they existed. No one has the ability to erect a pyramid anymore, but I think tombstones serve that, although in my experience it's not the dead who pre-order their stones but the living wanting to honor them.

I have one aunt and uncle who did cremation. A bit scandalous in my family. What I find odd though is still having graves. Wtf?

John Evo said...

Niggardly, you are right. I'll change that to "leaves the question".
I wouldn't want to sound like Rush. More importantly, I like precision where possible.

Philly - little pyramids. I like that! Those pyramids, while serving as a memorial, were completely connected to the afterlife. I have no problem with people 4,000 years ago thinking that way. Just like I have no problem with them claiming god gave them 10 Commandments. Why are people still honoring those traditions? Shouldn't they have gone the way of slavery and domination of females? Oh, that's right, some people still engage in those activities too!

John Evo said...

@ Phil

By the way, I had assumed you took that moniker because you are a racist. :)

yunshui said...

I'm going out on a limb here, but I wonder whether the ritual of burial has anything to do with the idea of "resurrection of the body"? My instinct is to say probably not, but it's a thought.

Of course, the idea that your corpse will one day rise from the dead is a bit of a turn off to some people. Me, I'm playing it safe.

The average human body contains enough sulphur to kill all fleas on an average dog, enough carbon to make 900 pencils, potassium sufficient to fire a toy cannon, enough fat to make 7 bars of soap, enough phosphorus to make 2,200 match heads, and enough water to fill a ten gallon tank. So when I die, I'm going to have my body split into its component chemicals. Then at my funeral my friends and loved ones can bathe in my water, wash with my soap, write messages of condolence using my pencils, light candles with my matches and finally salute my departure by firing a small toy cannon. And deflea any passing dogs.

John Evo said...

You're too funny, Yunshui! And I like the way you can "go out on a limb" in one paragraph and "play it safe" in the very next.

Here's another one to think about:

Christianity has a bit of a rep as a "death cult" for their worship of Jesus' bloody sacrifice and his zombiish raising from the dead. Whether you want to go to all of the name-calling about it our not, you have to admit that the notion of death is awfully important to them. So try telling me that, at least for Christians, death does not have a primary place in their religion. What is Christianity without the blood and death and resurrection? Anything at all?

PhillyChief said...

Well it pretty much hinges on the resurrection. This is why the literalists are so anti-evolution. No original sin = no need to sacrifice.

Now it should be noted that Jefferson felt fine ripping out all the supernatural bits and having just a 48 page bible of Jesus saying nice things I guess. I don't know if the slave beating made it in. Maybe Jefferson edited that to love, which he took rather literally. ;)

grumpylion said...

There are alternatives to burial and cremation. I'm negotiating a deal with Starbucks so that after I die my body will be taxidermized and put into its favorite seat at the local Starbucks so all my coffee buddies can visit.

(Okay, I have no buddies. I just want to freak out the tourists.)

John Evo said...

Ric said: Okay, I have no buddies.

Thanks Pal. Nonetheless, you do that, I'll be there! And I don't even like Starbucks. That would be a fucking great story to be able to tell people later. I had coffee with my dead buddy, at Starbucks. Oh, hell yeah.

Philly - lot of black Jefferson families in the country...

I'm guessing he cut that out of his bible and was just being hypocritical. Kind of like us railing on superstition - but we still wear green for Packers games and cook barbecue for the Chiefs. Not that I'm equating slavery with being a football fan. Just the concept of hypocrisy. Jefferson knew slavery sucked. You KNOW he did.

the chaplain said...

Yunshui asked, I wonder whether the ritual of burial has anything to do with the idea of "resurrection of the body"?

I've actually heard Christians say exactly that. They are opposed to cremation because that means you won't a body left to be resurrected on that Glorious Day!

I can't say that all Christians believe that, but I know that some, at least, do.

the chaplain said...

You won't "have" a body, yada yada...

Niggardly Phil said...

@ John 8:53 AM
LOL - that's Cosmo Phil.

The Exterminator said...

I'd like to have poor people eat me when I die. That's why I'm keeping myself fat and juicy.

Of course, they'd have to cook me up pretty quickly, before my body began to stink. More than normal, I mean.

If someone decides to barbeque my remains, though, I'd like to state right now that consuming me won't be able to help any sports team win. So please, please, avoid the redneck sauce and serve me up covered in some decadent Gallic goo that goes well with a decent Cos d'Estournel or Gruaud-Larose.

Oh, and under no circumstances are you to even think of serving French-cut canned stringbeans on the side.

Now for the actual answer to Evo's question: The reason a "resting place" comforts surviving loved ones is that they can picture the corpse doing just that: resting, waiting patiently for that glorious day when Mom, Pop, and all the kids will join him or her for that eternal family outing in the sky. It'll be like National Lampoon's "Vacation," except forever.

John Evo said...

So please, please, avoid the redneck sauce and serve me up covered in some decadent Gallic goo that goes well with a decent Cos d'Estournel or Gruaud-Larose.

Interestingly, this is a big favorite of the French National Team's soccer fans. I bet you didn't know that those elitist French are even more dedicated than any KC Chiefs fan ever was.

Anyway, this is really no joking matter. You won't be resting. It's straight to hell for you, mister. Mucho partying ahead. All the cool elitists are already there. There's a big football game every week against Heaven. Our boys are undefeated.

Every time we pull some cheap shot, their cheerleader Jesus starts screaming "Turn the other cheek". This pisses off the teams and the fans. None of them have a clue how to do it, and it just causes a lot of tension and turmoil. They are SO easy!

Apparently God is sick of it all and starting to get a bit testy with Jesus. He's been heard to say he made the wrong move when he kicked Satan out of heaven. Well I say - too late now, bub! You missed your chance in the beginning, 6,000 years ago.

EnoNomi said...

Yes, I'm this far behind on reading everyone's blogs (stupid job). But I did want to reply that my family has been instructed that if my body can't be put through a chipper-shredder and turned into mulch, than whatever is cheapest and most earth friendly would be my preference. But also, that since I wasn't going to be around at that point, they could pretty much do whatever they damn well wanted.

EnoNomi said...

As usual, I commented before reading the other comments. Now I want what Yunshui wrote! That's fracking awesome!