Malaysian Atheist

An avowed atheist living in Malaysia.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Illogical faith & Eternal life

Here's an interesting post from Raja Petra Kamarudin (RPK) over at Malaysia Today. The article is about Malaysian political parties, but there's an interesting bit that is relevant here:

Malays are both fanatically nationalistic as well as fanatically religious. Umno serves one and PAS the other, so both have a fantastic captive market. While nationalism can be explained, argued and debated using logic, religion does not need any convincing. Religion, as Mahathir said, is based on faith, and faith has nothing to do with logic. “How do you defeat faith?” asked Mahathir. Faith does not require logic so it is most difficult to beat PAS which draws its support from ‘illogical’ faith.

Humankind needs religion. It finds comfort in knowing that the end of life does not mean the end of everything but just the beginning of permanency. Humankind would be very upset if it thought that its time on earth is temporary and once life ends then that would be it. What a total waste of time, especially if you have been good all your life. So, humankind needs an assurance that life here on earth may be temporary, but the next life is permanent. But what happens to you in the next life would all depend on how you lead your life here on earth.

RPK is a fine blogger and I enjoy his writings, but I see some problems with the above reasoning. Firstly, he wrote that people need religion because it is comforting to believe that there is life after death. Well, just because it is comforting doesn't make it TRUE. Richard Dawkins has brought this point up many, many times. A person with cancer may find it comforting if the doctor lied to him about the fact that he has cancer, but that doesn't make it true. The cancer is there whether he acknowledges it or not.

Secondly, RPK says your next life is determined by whether or not you've been good here on earth. I think Christians will disagree with him because they believe they're saved by God's grace, not by their deeds. Anyway, I don't want to go into religious dogma here, but it seems RPK is suggesting that people are good and behave decently in order to gain favour from God. Doesn't that make theists seem like hypocrites? Surely there are much better, earthly reasons for being good and kind to others. Lots of atheists are nice and kind.

Finally, RPK is suggesting that life after death is permanent and that is a good thing. I've always wondered about this and I'd like to ask theists if they are absolutely sure that eternal life is a good thing? I wonder, once in heaven, if you get tired of living eternally, could you choose to end your eternal life? Can you even imagine what it's like to live forever? I truly suspect that in heaven, there will be lots and lots of cases of suicide. That's because eternal life has no meaning!

Logotherapy is a form of psychotherapy, developed by Viktor Frankl, that focuses on a "will to meaning". In a nutshell, logotherapy says that life has meaning under all circumstances (even the most miserable ones) and our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life. Imagine if you know that you will live on forever, how will you find meaning in your life? You will not be able to assign value or meaning to any experiences of love, kindness, despair etc. because you will be experiencing them for all eternity. Pretty soon you'll realise that this gift of eternal life is just as bad as the curse of eternal damnation. Let's hope they have damn good psychiatrists in heaven!

I know, theists will tell me that the concept of heaven is beyond the comprehension of our mortal minds. Well, they just don't want to admit that they're as unsure as I am about what heaven and eternal life would be like. I can't accept their explanation. I say that life is much more meaningful because it is temporary! Richard Feynman's last words were "I'd hate to die twice. It's so boring." We can certainly imply that Richard also meant he'd hate to live twice (or live forever).

"How do you defeat faith?" asked Mahathir. The only way is through reason.

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13 Comments:

At 4:08 PM, May 13, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always think eternal life is boring, I don't know why people would like something like that.

 
At 12:54 PM, May 16, 2007, Blogger Marius said...

Faith isn't illogical. Most people think that faith is a blind leap. It isn't, really. There are many people who use logic to provide basis for their faith, like Thomas Aquinas, St Anselm, St Augustine.

 
At 7:24 AM, May 19, 2007, Blogger Meursault said...

Come on, the logic used as a basis for faith is not quite the same as the logic used for other things. Pseudologic?

 
At 8:37 PM, May 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malaysian Christian said...

Dear Malaysian Atheist and other readers,

I do have a few comments to make.

"Well, just because it is comforting doesn't make it TRUE."

But the comfort is true. As it is with comfort, miracles as true/real as well. Medical doctors cannot explain 'miracles', but they do acknowledge miracles exist because many (not most, even hundreds or thousands relative to millions are considered 'many' to me) has witnessed miracles. It's unexplainable.

"I think Christians will disagree with him because they believe they're saved by God's grace, not by their deeds."

You are correct. However, a true Christian doesn't simply place a 'period'. Although one is saved by grace, his works speaks of his salvation. It is balanced. It most certainly doesn't imply that "oh, we're saved by grace; we may feel free to sin as no matter what, we'll be forgiven at the end".

"Doesn't that make theists seem like hypocrites?"

One cannot group all theists under a common banner of "theist", while fighting the "theists" from the standpoint of an "atheists". Even when one mistakenly falls into this trap, one must bear in mind that the ONE and ONLY criteria of theists is FAITH IN GOD'S EXISTENCE. The rest of the "dogmas" need cannot be used in argument against the theists such as the fallacious example given by you: RPK's & Christian's believe in afterlife are different, hence theists are hypocrites.. No sir, wrong criteria of judgement. Afterlife has got nothing to do with the valid common and general "God exist" faith.

"Well, they [theists] just don't want to admit that they're as unsure as I am about what heaven and eternal life would be like."

In order for counterfeit things to exist, there must first be an original. There are theists who saw the reality of Eternal Life and the perfect contention it offers being in that state. Moreover, your definition of 'eternity' is a dogma. To certain theists, 'eternity' does not mean an unending period of time. It means a state of 'timelessness'. How can one comprehend what time is? Physicists often relate time to space. And time began when Big Bang occurred. What's outside the fabric of time-space model has always been a mystery.

 
At 8:46 PM, May 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,

"I've always think eternal life is boring, I don't know why people would like something like that." (4:08 PM, May 13, 2007)

You imagine eternal as something continuous yet unending. Try adopting a new concept: eternal has no beginning and no ending, and has no element of time. What state would that be? Certain people who've experienced it said, "It's the most perfect experience. Unexpressed by language". Doesn't sounds boring. It does, however, suggests that 1) one is suspended in the state of perfection (joyful, happy, care-free, hopeful, peaceful etc.) and 2) one STILL exists

Regards,
Malaysian Christian

 
At 9:00 PM, May 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lastly,

" "How do you defeat faith?" asked Mahathir. The only way is through reason."

True indeed. To defeat faith, all one has to do, is to reason. Reasoning places one in a state of uncertainty. Uncertainty = loss of faith (faithless/no more faith). However, bear in mind, a reasoning may not be built on truth (but lies aka 99.99...9% truth). What is the ultimate truth? Noone knows. Nobody by him/herself is perfect.

Regards,
Malaysian Christian

 
At 3:22 PM, September 09, 2008, Anonymous pestomaestro said...

There's no need to "defeat" faith, like smacking down your opponent in a badminton game. All you need is to promote reason as an approach to living, without the need to resort to faith-mumbo-jumbo and supposedly inerrant "holy books".

Miracles, you say? A person from a century ago would find 3G video chat, with the disembodied sound and moving images, to be a fantastic technological leap. Someone from five thousand years ago would think it was the Burning Bush.

As said by Arthur C. Clarke, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. In the same vein, any sufficiently advanced cure is indistinguishable from a miracle. That doesn't mean it can't be explained; if not now, then later, when enough pieces of the scientific puzzle are put together to create the big picture.

If the existence of god depends on miracles (being temporary violations of the usual way of things), and if miracles can be disproven, what does that say about god? Or His Noodliness :)

 
At 4:32 PM, June 28, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, there's no need to argue, just ask anybody with a religion:

"God created this Universe, then how was God created?"

I bet they can't answer that but instead ask you to stop asking..... what a bunch of poor devils.

 
At 10:23 PM, December 11, 2009, Anonymous Hedonese said...

I read Victor Frankl's book and he's actually very open to supra meaning afforded by religious faith unlike existentialists like Sartre. Eternal life per se would be boring IF there is no God. But if the Christian faith is right that our purpose in life is to glorify and ENJOY God forever... and since God is the most interesting, loving and infinitely inexhaustible person in the universe (there will always be new exciting things about him to learn, love and discover and projects to do with Him) then it seems irrational to suppose that it would be anything but fulfilling and meaningful

at least that's how i see it without needing to resort to mysteries :)

 
At 10:36 PM, December 11, 2009, Anonymous Dave said...

Meursault, you may have violated the dogma of atheism when you said a temporal life is meaningful because of its transitoriness. That may be Benjamin Button's view but Albert Camus would frown at that... If i get him right, he sees no inherent purpose or meaning and certainly no hope beyond the grave. Life is absurd, he says.

What then is the point of living, even if one lives for others, if at the end of the day everybody dies? “Living is keeping the absurd alive. Keeping it alive is, above all, contemplating it” (ibid. 57)"

You just gotta keep the absurd alive instead of finding some illusory meaning in life

available online: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5520/is_200006/ai_n21465525/

 
At 11:01 PM, December 11, 2009, Blogger Meursault said...

That's interesting Dave. I didn't know there is such a thing as "atheist dogma". I'd think that there is no need for such details since atheists are just people who don't believe in God. Whether they want to believe if life has meaning or not is their own business.

 
At 11:08 PM, December 11, 2009, Blogger Meursault said...

Hedonese, no doubt religious faith gives people meaning in life, but that is not the only way. The Christian purpose does sound tempting using words like 'eternal', 'forever', 'everlasting', but these are words that our human brains cannot comprehend and so some people can't accept that...

 
At 4:43 PM, December 19, 2009, Anonymous Hedonese said...

Hi Meursault, ur rite. atheism is the dogma that there is no God (it's a dogma as there is so scientific observation that verifies that). It's a faith position as well :)

Given this axiom, certain conclusions follow logically. Death is the end of everything. Our lives are not connected to something beyond death. Camus the author who created Meursault saw this most clearly and bite the bullet that life is absurd. Atheists who cannot accept this fact inconsistently believe life is still meaningful in a subjective sense. That's their right, i suppose, just as others have the right to believe in pies in the sky rather than face the abyss of nothingness. But I think both are inconsistent and lacking intellectual courage to follow truth to its logical conclusion.

At least thats how i see it

 

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