Sundin column: Belief in the unprovable
As I See It
I was born on Friday, April 2, 1926, which happened to be Good Friday that year. Many years later, I wondered about how often my birthday would be on Good Friday and found out that it had happened in 1915, and would happen again in 1999, 2010 and 2021, but not again until 2083.
I wondered if I would leave this world on Good Friday, as I had entered it — in 1999 on my 74th birthday, in 2010 on my 84th birthday, or in 2021 on my 95th birthday. I am still here after the first two of those dates, but as I write this column (my 492nd), it is possible that it could be my last — but at least I’ll get it off my chest.
With that in mind, I would like to share my beliefs on life and death.
I am not asking you to agree with me: We are all entitled to our own opinions and beliefs, and these happen to be mine, for whatever they are worth. I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed a long and good life — except for the untimely deaths of both my sons in 2008 (at the age of 54), and my daughter in 2010 (at the age of 59).
We are not conscious of the beginning of our lives, but most of us have had many, many years to think about the ending of our lives.
I would call myself a doubter, or at least an agnostic, about a hereafter. I believe that our life begins when we are born and ends when we die — as it does for all other forms of life that have evolved on this planet — and that there is no hereafter.
Nearly all religions promise a life after death, rewarding those who have earned it and eternally punishing those who have not. This belief is a powerful tool to promote both the religion and an orderly society, and to discourage civil disobedience, but it has also been misused as a powerful weapon for religious enmity. Reflect on the horror of all the wars and the vicious torture, slaughter and persecution that mankind has committed in the name of religion throughout history – and it is still going on.
I have a question regarding heaven and hell — where are these places? Knowing that the interior of the earth is intensely hot, we are told that that is where hell is, but from what we now know, there is no evidence that there is any such place under the surface of the earth. And from the long-held belief that the sun, moon, stars and planets were in a canopy surrounding the earth, it seemed obvious that heaven could be just beyond that canopy, but science again has revealed that the stars are scattered throughout an extremely huge, cold, dark and airless expanding universe.
I also have some existential questions about a hereafter. Are there separate heavens (or hells) for each of the multiple religions there are on earth, or would the members of all of them (Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc.) miraculously coalesce into one happy hereafter?
Would babies who died in infancy remain infants, teenagers remain teenagers, or would they forever remain as they were in life? Would different races of people have separate heavens, or would they be able to cohabit willingly? How do you think you and your wife would get along with a former spouse in a marriage that ended in a bitter divorce?
Furthermore, unless admission standards are exceedingly stringent, how would you ever connect with your family and friends among the billions of souls that would have congregated in heaven over the millennia, or would they have an apartment address? And what would one do to relieve the boredom of eternity?
If you believe in an all-powerful God, why do fervent prayers go unanswered and why did he allow a monster like Adolph Hitler take over Germany and cause an estimated 75 million deaths trying to conquer the world, and all the atrocities that mankind has committed for conquest and in the name of religion.
Regardless of whether or not you believe that there is life after death, you will not be disappointed, because if there is you will live it, and if there isn’t you won’t miss it.
I will close with a quotation that for me, sums it all up. “Faith is a belief without evidence, told by someone who speaks without knowledge …” (Ambrose Bierce)
“As I See It” appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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