Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quazy Quistian Question # 8

Mrs. Ex and I have some friends who love going on cruises. Every year, when these folks plan their vacation, they toss out the same annoying suggestion.

Mrs. Friend: Why don’t you join us this time?

Us: No fucking way.

Mr. Friend: There’s tons of free food. And not a French-cut canned stringbean to be seen.

Us: No fucking way.

Mrs. Friend: Twenty-three different bars. There must be at least one that doesn’t have country music or sports on a giant TV. Last year, I did karaoke!

Us: No fucking way.

Mr. Friend: You won’t believe the shops. The last boat we were on had at least seven different book stores.

Me: Really? Do they sell ...?

Mrs. Ex: No fucking way.

Mrs. Friend: You won’t believe the interesting people you meet!

Us: No fucking way.

Both friends: Are you sure?
I don’t want to accuse my friends of being proselytizers, but they’re more stubborn than Jehovah’s Witlesses. And they’re not just preaching about some fantasy afterlife with 144,000 inhabitants; they’re talking about that many residents on a real-life boat. We’d be surrounded by water, with no way for my wife and me to exchange secret glances, make a big show of looking at our watches, and say, “Oh, shit, look at how late it is. We’ve got a big day tomorrow, so we’d better get home. Too bad, because we were having such a great time.”

What our friends can’t get through their heads is that for both my wife and me, a cruise is the ultimate nightmare scenario. What happens if we’re stuck with a shipload of bores? Or, worse, cheery people? Yikes.

Invariably one of our friends, says “It’s not like it’s forever. It’s only a 10-day cruise.”

Which gets me to wondering: What if it were forever? Even the friendliest, most bubbly idiot knows someone whose company he or she doesn’t enjoy. There’s no one who gets along with everybody. Will Rogers was full of shit: If he “never met a man I didn’t like,” as he claimed, I’m pretty sure he stayed locked in his bathroom most of the time.

Anyway, Mrs. Ex and I are both atheists, so we don’t have to worry about being button-holed over and over again by glad-handers in paradise. Or people who want to show us pictures of their grandkids. But what if we were believers? I’m fairly certain that we wouldn’t be eternally happy unless we had complete veto power over the souls with whom we had to associate. Of course, there are thousands of men and women that we would find fascinating, but, to tell the truth, they’d probably want to steer clear of us. Believe it or not, some people think my wife and I are unsociable.

So what goes on in heaven? Does everybody suddenly become a Friendly Theist? Are you so thrilled to finally be in the presence of your god that you forget how tedious most conversations are? Do you have to spend eternity making stupid chit-chat with dull strangers, or can you join special-interest groups like the ones at Atheist Navel? Do you actually get to choose your neighbors, or are you just dumped into the next available room? What if the couple next-door likes to wake up early in the morning and mow their Edenic lawn while yelling a chipper “hello” to every car that drives by?

We’re talking about a long, long, long time. No fucking way.

Quazy Quistian Question #8
When you die and go to heaven, what happens if your table assignment is with people you find boring? Can you ask god for another seat? Explain your response.


yunshui said...

In the denomination I used to belong to, Heaven was seen as a sort of massive Christian rally affair, with lots of praising and worshiping, forever. I couldn't conceive of a more horrific way to spend all eternity than in the front row of some sort of everlasting Christian revival prayer meeting - endless fiery pitchfork torture seemed tame by comparison.

I think you'd like Limbo, Ex, it's purported to be quieter and somewhat underpopulated. See if you can sort yourself out some kind of afterlife exchange trip with an unbaptized baby.

DB said...

Ha! This should be good. They can't even agree on how to read the first sentence in the Bible let alone something as complex as, say, eternity.

Lifeguard said...

I thought hell was other people... not heaven.

Anonymous said...

So what's the point of these posts, Ex? Obviously, it's not to get yourself converted. If you say it's to try and understand our perspective, pardon me if I seem skeptical. Or is it just an attempt to lure some unsuspecting theist into a slugfest where they're outnumbered and outgunned?

DB said...

just an attempt to lure some unsuspecting theist into a slugfest where they're outnumbered and outgunned?

Works every time!

The Exterminator said...

Limbo doesn't sound bad, but I'm not sure I'd be able to deal with the constant cuteness from all those kids. Is the place limited to humans? I'd definitely have to say nix if it turns out that dead kittens go there, too.

The first sentence in the bible was written in plain English, wasn't it? I don't see the problem.

Well, if hell is other people and there are zillions of other people in heaven ... do we have some kind of paradox going on here?

I'm not sure these QQQ posts have any point beyond raising some stupid questions that, maybe, theists haven't thought of. Since the Judaeo-Christian system is totally incoherent to me, I like to find some of the absurd ramifications lurking on its fringes. One thing that always gets me: Lots of people spend a great deal of time talking about where they're going when they die, and where they think I'm going when I die. But they don't seem to devote any mental energy to imagining what their eternity will be like. So I'm just asking. If some nutzoid fanatic wants to come here and duke it out -- to avoid thinking about the unthinkable -- then he or she is welcome.

But I do take issue with your word "unsuspecting." If you've got the same collection of wacko crusaders in mind as I have, you picked the wrong adjective. They're about as "unsuspecting" as the Taliban.

Anonymous said...

Well, if hell is other people and there are zillions of other people in heaven ... do we have some kind of paradox going on here?

It's just one of God's great mysteries, Ex. You just have to believe.

John Evo said...

Did I mention - I really like this?

The Exterminator said...

It's just one of God's great mysteries, Ex.
Yeah, I'd put him right up there with Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle.

I get your point, but I'm not gonna shoot my whole wad of those stories all at once. I have to be indulged in my diatribes, too.

Anonymous said...

There won't be table assignments, in fact there won't be tables. It'll be more like a Roman feast, everyone stretched out on couches. If you'd like to reserve your couch I can take your order now.

BTW, can you move next to me so I can get rid of the yard nazi next door who is either mowing or leaf-blowing his yard every other day, rain or shine?

John Evo said...

Ex, I don't expect Nanny stories every post. But I was kind of hoping you might have being dropping clues that you'll be moving away from this tiring stuff - even if YOU do it in a humorous way. c'est la vie.

Ordinary Girl said...

From what I remember heaven was supposed to be bliss. It was supposed to be streets of gold and being in the presence of God all of the time.

There was the whole dilemma about if people remarried after one spouse died, who they would be with in the afterlife and what they would like like in their prime or as they looked when they died? What about children? Would they look like children?

But no one really ever answered those questions and just left them up to God's plan. No one ever mentioned annoying neighbors.

What bothered me most is that some of my pastors said that we would be perfected, unable to sin, like the angels. So, I always imagined myself as a mindless automaton working for God for eternity. I didn't like that image.

Heaven is supposed to be perfection, but perfection is so vastly different for each person that I don't know how everyone could experience the same existence and be happy.

Ordinary Girl said...

Bleh.. I suck at editing.

The Exterminator said...

I'd be happy to join you on the couch, but don't count on me to be effective at getting rid of yard nazis. Those neighbors I was talking about live next-door right now. If someone started blowing his leaves during our eternal feast, I'd probably just shrug and cover my plate.

Sorry, but every now and then I have to check to see if an evil genius is playing a trick on me about reality. The only way for me to do that is to start fulminating about something. I rant, therefore I am.

If everyone is perfect in heaven, wouldn't sudoku be pointless there? But I can't even imagine a happy forever without an occasional puzzle to solve. Oh, well. Maybe they'll have those really hard British cryptics in hell.

And don't worry about editing in heaven. From what I can see of religious writing in BlogWorld, there won't be any grammar there.

Anonymous said...

I've got nothing to add, except to say I like reading your posts. Sometimes the comments are funnier and more interesting than the post.

One of the reasons I dumped religion was because no one could explain heaven.

Anonymous said...

If I were assigned to a boring table, I'd organize a group to provide dinner music.

The Exterminator said...

Sometimes the comments are funnier and more interesting than the post.
Yeah, I've been thinking about posting only the word "the" and seeing how many readers have something to say about that.

I'd organize a group to provide dinner music.
So we'd get to hear the Salvation Army Band even there?

John Evo said...

ozatheist said: Sometimes the comments are funnier and more interesting than the post.

Why, thank you, Sir!

Spanish Inquisitor said...

In response to the word "the" (2nd sentence, 12th word) I have nothing to say.

However, I will say that in response to the QQQ, I always found it enlightening that the Bible is real short on what heaven is like, but real long on what Earth should be like. That's always a good indicator of exactly where the Bible came from.

Of course, since it was so vague, I got to fill in the blanks. I imagined that heaven is one big, never ending Parcheesi game. Dice being rolled constantly, no matter what Einstein said.

Or maybe Monopoly. And God's got all the real estate, with Hotels on every block.

Anonymous said...

If heaven is all about seating assignments and I end up at a boring table (how would any table not end up boring after a few thousand years) I'd probably try to liven things up. Maybe attempt to overthrow the establishment or at the very least start up Wacky Tie Friday.

Really, messing with people's minds is one of the great joys in life. Why would I subscribe to a 2000 year old mindfuck when I can create my own new one every few minutes and keep people guessing?

The Exterminator said...

And God's got all the real estate, with Hotels on every block.
Yeah, and the only spot you can land on is Go to Jail. Remember: Do not pass God.

I think that in heaven, on Wacky Tie Friday you don't have to wear any pants. But the real hoot is Wingless Tuesday.

Sarge said...

There's a very good set of books by Parke Godwin, "Waiting For The Galactic Bus and a sequel called, "The Snake Oil Wars". The "afterlife" is dealt with in a very funny and thoughtful way. Great reads.

One of the supporting charactors is a Muslim terrorist, dies and goes to the "afterlife" as a martyr, wants his houri and thousand year boink. Gets his wish, first fifteen minutes is everything he expected, after a while he wonders if breaks are allowed, and in an hour, eternity looks like it will, indeed, last a loooong time. Then he's let off the hook.

I, too, especially now, am getting told about heaven, and no two stories are alike. It appears that everything I like to do and people who I like to be with will be unavailable to me, but for some reason I'll like it. Be "blissful"! (Actually, my second tour in Viet Nam I was attached for a while to an Australian unit. My counterpart was a sergeant who rejoiced in the name Blissful. I was informed by others that he was the only man in the Australian army, who, no matter what happened, was always truly Blissful. He was a very nice guy, but in the way these things always seem to work out, his outlook was more like that of Eeyore.)

My wife and my atheist cuz's wife (she's a minister) are taken to task because they won't see us. They say, how can it be paradise for them if their beloved isn't there. I haven't heard so much self contradicting mish-mash and absurdity since the last political speech as what's told them.

Hell, now, the twice born seem to be quite sure of. Last week I was even told about the reality of Hell by an otherwise sensible person who trotted out the old story about the Russians drilling an oil well and actually hearing the screams of the damned.

An eternity with a bunch of mopes, doofus's and ninnies who I wouldn't hang around with here, and engaging in an eternal church service, which I hate, or an eternity in flames with Garibaldi, Russell, Hubbard, and several friends. I think the former would be more excruciating than the latter.

Lifeguard said...

Would you believe I'm following this thread all day yesterday, the Wifeguard gets home from work and asks "Hey, Lifeguard, you want to go on a cruise with my family for the holidays?"

PhillyChief said...

Well contrasts are necessary, and monotony is hell, so I can't fathom Christian or any religion's heaven since they're all void of contrast and monotonous. If you're going to be transformed somehow into liking that, then you'll be as OG said, an automaton. If that's true, then there is no afterlife because whoever you are now will no longer exist once you're dead. After seeing the Schiavo case, apparently Christians don't care about being brain dead. Alive in any way, even brain dead, is somehow preferable.

Perhaps having heaven be a happy hunting ground or a raucous beer hall like Valhalla would be fun for a time, but no doubt that would get old, too. Cruise? Forget it. No fucking way. I concur.

The Exterminator said...

If there's an afterlife, I'd kinda like to be seated at your table. I figure you can regale us with stories and anecdotes for at least a couple of million years.

What did you say? To me, a cruise would be even more of a nightmare if I were trapped onboard not only with a skillion strangers, but with family, too. You're gonna return to shore as one mega-angry atheist. Bon voyage, Titanic.

A happy hunting ground doesn't appeal to me much because we'd have still have to work for our food. But that perpetual Norse Oktoberfest sounds like fun. I'd better start brushing up on my Wagner. Do you think they'll let in someone whose ancestors were Jews?

John Evo said...

Not a single Christian response to this? Well, there was Davo but, really...

Oh well, who cares? Do I really want to subject myself to more irrationality? Here. Let me answer for all theists.

Ex, heaven is not something I can explain to you. It's not something that can be compared to human experience and thinking of it in terms of what you "like" and "dislike" here on earth is inadequate. We know it will be wonderful, but how and why are beyond our comprehension. We don't know what hell is for the same reasons. We only know that heaven is what we should strive for by living according to our belief in Jesus Christ while we are here.


The Exterminator said...

I beg to differ on "We don't know what hell is ...." You can get some pretty specific horror stories from Christians about what's in store for you and me there. So, inadvertently, you raised an interesting point. How come the most bloodthirsty Christians can tell us in gleeful detail about the terrors of their hell, but they can't describe their heaven except in the vaguest terms? If I'm planning a long vacation, I want to see at least a brochure.

Anonymous said...

If he “never met a man I didn’t like,” as he claimed, I’m pretty sure he stayed locked in his bathroom most of the time.

I tried that. Doesn't work. The bastards always find you.

As for heaven, last I recall was that all your time would be taken up with playing harps, singing praises, and basically telling The Great Narcissist how wonderful he is. I'd be quite happy to kill myself if it would keep me out of that crap. Yeah, yeah, suicides go to hell. Which is the point. I've always maintained that the most interesting people are there. But see, I'm talking about killing myself after I die if I discovered then that I was headed to heaven. There must be some clever little Christian logic twist to cover that, right?

By the way, I thought the cruise lines had invented hell on earth. They put all that great food in front of you but give you a norovirus (or whatever the hell it's called) to make you violently ill. On a ship. In the middle of a tossing sea. With all that food just sitting there. Yup. Sounds like hell to me.

Sarge said...

Thanks, Ex, appreciate the sentiment.

Did anyone ever see the sci-fi thing where the guy finds out he's in hell? He's stuck in a place where if he goes in one room it's one thing he hates, if he goes in another there's an elderly couple showing slides of a vacation, places he's uninterested in, people he doesn't know.

Our protagonist is losing his mind, and the demon in charge of his torment says that there's a room exactly like it in heaven.

Anonymous said...

Sarge, I remember seeing that.