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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Living As Though There Is Life After Death

I have an older brother (3 years older than myself.  I won't tell you that his name is Roger)  who has told me that he has written my name on a slip of paper and twice a week he puts it on an "altar" in the St George LDS temple.  He is convinced that this activity is my only chance of getting into heaven.   He also shared a poem for my benefit by a French poet named Albert Camas;  "I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn't, than live as if there isn't and die to find out there is."
I have thought about this philosophy for several days.  It is a philosophy that he intended to mean that he would rather treat others with kindness and love, thinking that he would be rewarded (or at least not punished) in the hereafter than to live a life of sin, self-gratification and indulgence only to find out that he would be punished for a life of degradation.
This makes sense.  A little.  But not sufficient for my way of thinking, because there are certain caveats in living such a life.  Foremost is the idea that any God would see through this way of thinking of "hedging your bet".
For example, people who follow a religion that places a premium on prayer, you might be desirous of praying constantly to the exclusion of everything else.  Such a person might live quietly in a monastery, doing nothing but praying -- and so waste his life instead of living a life.   Or he might fret about whether or not he/she has done enough to assure his eternal happiness after death.
A person who feels compelled to follow religious leaders over his own common sense may:
  1. Donate an exorbitant amount of money to any church without asking for an accounting of how it is spent.
  2. Live a life that shuns those who follow other religions and philosophies to feel that he/she is superior to (or better than) others.
  3. Attend more meetings than is healthy.
  4. Read only materials that are approved or correlated by his church.
  5. Hurt, shun or kill others who believe differently.  (The Bible is filled with such atrocities, and the murderers of 3,000 innocent people on 9/11/2001 were also living such a philosophy)
  6. Insist that others who believe differently have to submit to laws written for only believers (forbidding intermarriage, birth control, abortion, blasphemy, being homosexual, etc.)
  7. Feel that only their own version of morality is worthwhile or that simply not believing makes that person immoral.  (i.e., those who otherwise live good, decent, happy, fulfilled lives of service to others are still "dammed" unless they are baptized or accept Jesus)
This list is only some things that I quickly thought of, but you can easily think of others.  The Biblical "Ten Commandments" contains such tribal knowledge that it is not difficult to come up with a better list of how to behave morally in today's world.  One such list is here as the "New Ten Commandments".  I can recommend it for those interested in a more sensible way to love each other.

One lady in a blog I get wrote about her feelings of hate for herself in this way:
"My dissonance lay in just the matter of believing myself a bad person for not being able to believe in something that I'd been taught that just praying 
enough, testifying enough, fasting enough, reading enough in the BofM etc. 
would reveal the truth of. In hindsight the truly terrible thing in all of 
this was my own belief in myself as someone with some kind of basic fault that hindered my belief in the truth of mormonism. It was a terrible place to be 
mentally. I knew I was a bad person for not believing in the TRUTH, and yet it was impossible for me to believe."

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