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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  13:38:27  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
This is original. But funny? We'll see:

After a long, rewarding life, and a brief, painful illness, William, a life-long atheist, died.

William was soon surprised to find himself standing on a cloud, before a set of pearly gates. His body was undraped, but he found that somehow he did not feel naked. "Well, from the evidence, perhaps I was wrong, after all," the atheist mused, smiling in chagrin. "Now, I'll see if I can get admitted here, or... elsewhere." (William was thinking of Pascal's infamous Gambit, and worrying that he might have lost that particular bet.)

William approached within several meters of the gate. He saw nobody nearby.

"Hello? Is Saint Peter, or some other gatekeeper-creature here?" William laughed nervously. There was no answer. He came closer still. Now he could make out cursive golden letters worked into the filigree design of the gate's mother-of-pearl wings. On the left side of the gate was the word, "Atheist," and across from it on the other wing was the word, "Heaven." He could also make out what appeared to be translations of these words in many other languages.

William touched the right side of the gate with one hand, and found it to be unlocked. As he pushed it, both wings of the gate silently swung wide open.

William gasped as he beheld the revealed view. He began walking through vast green parks with ponds, streams, bandstands, palatial mansions, and wide, brick-paved walkways, interrupted only by a golden, palm-lined ocean beach in the distance. Everywhere people dressed in all skin colors gamboled, debated philosophy, made love, played sports, or simply sat about in the warm sun, reading books.

After a few hours of amazed wandering, William stopped to sit at one of several tables in a shady oak grove. An angelic server appeared at once, and with a silent smile, set down a huge steak dinner and William's favorite red wine -- just the things he'd been thinking of a moment earlier. "And yes, there will be strawberry shortcake with extra whipped cream for dessert", said the angel. "Be welcome, and eat all you like; you'll never get fat."

Just then, an attractive lady at the next table spoke to him. "You must be new here, right, William?"

A little flustered because he had no idea how the lady could know his name, he replied, "Indeed I am, Sylvia! Hey, I know your name!"

"You'll soon find," Sylvia said with a warm smile, "that you will know all sorts of things, such as names, that you need to know here, William. So, how do you like Atheist Heaven so far?"

"It's... well, Paradise! And so very surprising to me, as an atheist."

Sylvia laughed in a rich contralto voice. "Oh, yes, it surprised me, too! It surprises everyone who arrives here."

"How long have you been here, Sylvia?"

"I'm not sure how long it's been, but I died in 1782, at the age of fifty-seven."

"You don't look a day over twenty-five, Sylvia."

"Thank you, but nobody does, unless they deliberately wish to look more mature. Some do, you know, people such as George Bernard Shaw and Carl Sagan. But most people here consider age to be a bit of an affectation. By the way, the children who come here have a choice of either growing up at whatever pace they like, or of remaining children forever. Some adults even choose to become children again."

"I have so much to learn!" William complained.

"It should not be so difficult. But you seem tense, William. That's natural, in someone who's just arrived. Would you mind if I came to your mansion tonight and helped you to relax? A little company, conversation, and sexual coupling might help you to adjust, and I would enjoy it very much also."

William found himself not at all embarrassed to accept this kindly proposal.

"But why..." William gestured all about, "Why, Sylvia, is there a Heaven to reward people for being atheists?"

"Nobody here knows the 'why' of that, and there don't seem to be any gods here to ask. But we do know that this place isn't for all atheists. It's only for the good ones, for people who lived ethical lives and valued humanity. Ironically, it's for people who have done good deeds throughout their time on earth, even though they were not motivated by the superstition of divine judgement. Bad atheists, people like Pol Pot, Stalin, and Mao, that sort never arrive here."

"Well, then, where do the unethical atheists go?" William inquired.

"They," Sylvia shuddered, "have to spend eternity in Atheist Hell, accompanied by hordes of zealous tormentors. You see, that terrible place also has another name: Christian Heaven."

[Moved from another thread.]

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.

Orwellingly Yurz
SFN Regular

USA
529 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  15:21:39   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Orwellingly Yurz a Private Message
HalfMooner: Three cheers for you and whomever else might have participated with the above story. I received a heads-up about it in a personal email from a friend who will remain nameless here, but well-known on this site.

Although I have some doubts about what this narrative suggests, it would be nice to have such a place to spend "eternity" after having lived an ethical existence for no other reason than because it's an appropriate way to live whether an Atheist Heaven awaits or not.

Anyone who lives their life expecting such a reward is not doing so in a state of Grace, which is how I think Jesus and Christianity have it. It's again, as a rather well-known atheist suggested in one of his works: Some seem to be...."forever missing the point."

- Albert Camus, a very big atheist in deed, who has always struck me as being very pissed-off at God, if He were to exist.

OY!


"The modern conservative...is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
--John Kenneth Galbraith

If dogs run free
Then what must be,
Must be...
And that is all
--Bob Dylan

The neo-cons have gotten welfare for themselves down to a fine art.
--me

"The meek shall inherit the earth, but not the mineral rights."
--J. Paul Getty

"The great thing about Art isn't what it give us, but what we become through it."
--Oscar Wilde

"We have Art in order not to die of life."
--Albert Camus

"I cling like a miser to the freedom I lose when surrounded by an abundance of things."
--Albert Camus

"Experience is the name so many people give to their mistakes."
--Oscar Wilde
Edited by - Orwellingly Yurz on 09/15/2006 15:25:18
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  15:24:29   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
Heh.... pretty good.






"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  15:53:40   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Thank you both for your comments. Frankly, I was hoping for some comments, as I spent several hours last night putting this little tale together.

Show me an atheist who was raised in a religious household, but who says he never dreams of Heaven, or worries about Pascal's Gambit, and I'll show you a probable liar.

I suspect that most atheists, like their religious counterparts, flirt (at least in private) with comforting thoughts of Heaven. The difference between them and religious people is that atheists believe those thoughts are mythical in origin. But there seems to be a wide-spread, shared concept across many cultures of the ideal of justice in an afterlife. And, as long as the concept of Heaven is so widely shared, little Heaven tales and jokes will probably always be invented to illustrate the authors' particular ideas, or wishful musing, about Utopian bliss and cosmic justice. This was mine.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  16:14:23   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message
Isaac Asimov once said that he couldn't imagine any kind of heaven that would make him want to live eternally. Either one would eventually get bored or one would cease to be oneself.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

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marfknox
SFN Die Hard

USA
3739 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  16:19:35   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit marfknox's Homepage  Send marfknox an AOL message Send marfknox a Private Message
To elaborate on the comment I just made, what is described in the story is no kind of heaven from my view. The life I have now is far more interesting than some extended free-love vacation with a bunch of attractive intellectual atheists. The idea of having everything I want just because I want it makes those desires seem empty.

In a similar vein, no person is so bad that they deserve eternal hell, and no person is so good that they cosmically deserve eternal heaven. Pol Pot was not a wholly evil person anymore than Ghandi was a wholly good person. So this story just sort of reminded me of the idiocy of the concept of objective morality that comes from outside human needs and desires.

"Too much certainty and clarity could lead to cruel intolerance" -Karen Armstrong

Check out my art store: http://www.marfknox.etsy.com

Edited by - marfknox on 09/15/2006 16:20:25
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  16:52:46   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by HalfMooner
Show me an atheist who was raised in a religious household, but who says he never dreams of Heaven, or worries about Pascal's Gambit, and I'll show you a probable liar.

I suspect that most atheists, like their religious counterparts, flirt (at least in private) with comforting thoughts of Heaven.
Ahem.

Well, Mooner, let me dispel your suspicions on this point. I was raised in a religious household (Roman Catholic), I attended religious instruction schools from grades 1-12, and I have no dreams of heaven or qualms about Pascal's wager. When I do think about death, the only image conjured in my mind is the blackness of nonexistence. There is no part of me that is frightened by the possibility god might exist, since I don't really consider it a possibility. I no more spend my time thinking what heaven may be like than I spend thinking about the clothing styles of fairy folk.

This notion that most atheists dream of heaven in their private moments is awfully close to the accusation that there are no atheists in fox holes. I find the suggestion quite condescending. Whether in the heat of battle or in the silence of solitude, there is no reason to believe that most atheists suffer from pangs of doubt or retreat into religious fantasy.

And I resent the implication that most people who share my viewpoint must be liars.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
Edited by - H. Humbert on 09/15/2006 17:32:36
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filthy
SFN Die Hard

USA
14408 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  18:01:25   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send filthy a Private Message
I used to like the '72 virgins' version of Heaven, until I realized that there is not enough Viarga in Heaven, Hell nor on Earth to sustain that pace. And the wear & tear.... oy veh!

The Christians seem to prefer a mind-controled, zombie situation. One notices that they seldom go into detail beyond talking about sitting on at the right hand of God and praying & singing, and suchlike.

Reincarnation sucks, unless I can come back as a vulture and get me some finial and permenant pay-backs.

And so forth. The afterlife just ain't what cracked up to be, whatever version one might be looking forward to. The Atheist Heaven might be some improvement, maybe.....

Hey 'mooner, is there a good, thousand yard, rifle range, smooth enough for me to ride my electric sick-sled out to change targets? And a indoor pistol range for when it rains?

And I'd get a little bored hanging out with party animals and fellow book-worms. Is there a 1% M/C and a piss-on-the-floor biker bar around?

There's also the matter of curosity. Where's the swamp? You find the neatest things in swamps, and I love them.

And so forth. As can be seen, no version of Heaven is really satisfactory for all. One can hope, but one'll be disappointed. Or not, when the lights finally go out for eternity.






"What luck for rulers that men do not think." -- Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945)

"If only we could impeach on the basis of criminal stupidity, 90% of the Rethuglicans and half of the Democrats would be thrown out of office." ~~ P.Z. Myres


"The default position of human nature is to punch the other guy in the face and take his stuff." ~~ Dude

Brother Boot Knife of Warm Humanitarianism,

and Crypto-Communist!

Edited by - filthy on 09/15/2006 18:04:38
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Chippewa
SFN Regular

USA
1496 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  18:16:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Chippewa's Homepage Send Chippewa a Private Message
HalfMooner - That was really good. Thanks!

There was a Twilight Zone I think where John Astin played a hipster who ends up after death in Heaven in a room with John & Mary Sixpack watching endless slides of their vacation in Ohio. He finally screams and wants to leave for "the other place" but an angle/demon guy tells him this is "the other place." Their Heaven / his Hell.

Diversity, independence, innovation and imagination are progressive concepts ultimately alien to the conservative mind.

"TAX AND SPEND" IS GOOD! (TAX: Wealthy corporations who won't go poor even after taxes. SPEND: On public works programs, education, the environment, improvements.)
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  18:26:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Well, H.H., I didn't mean to demean any atheist, as I assumed would be implicit in what I wrote, if not in the fact that I'm an infidel myself, and not a particularly heretical one. I accept what you say about you being unconcerned about Heaven, or about Pascal's Gambit.

Getting riled and feeling personally insulted about what I wrote seems a bit much, however, H.H. Please understand, my guesses about others' thoughts were based upon my own occasional musings, in the absence of my having much empirical evidence otherwise. Most people tend to start with such projections when trying to figure how others think. I'm open to correction, as above.

Marf, your mileage may vary. I tried to imply a place where people would be free to do any of the activities they did on earth, and more. Now, to me, just having fine food and good company would relatively paradisaical. I'm willing to admit that a lot of others would not share my ideas of Heaven. On the other hand, I suspect that most atheists would stand in line with me for entry into an afterlife of some kind, if they were convinced one existed, and if admission did not require submission to a vain and cruel god. (Very, very big "ifs," there.)


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  18:39:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by Chippewa

HalfMooner - That was really good. Thanks!

There was a Twilight Zone I think where John Astin played a hipster who ends up after death in Heaven in a room with John & Mary Sixpack watching endless slides of their vacation in Ohio. He finally screams and wants to leave for "the other place" but an angle/demon guy tells him this is "the other place." Their Heaven / his Hell.


Thanks much, Chip. That was indeed more or less the story I was trying to tell.

(Now, if I were that hipster, I would try to interest the couple in espresso coffee and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poetry; or failing that, try hard to develop a personal interest in beer and the wonders of Ohio geography.)




Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  18:53:43   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by HalfMooner

Well, H.H., I didn't mean to demean any atheist, as I assumed would be implicit in what I wrote, if not in the fact that I'm an infidel myself, and not a particularly heretical one. I accept what you say about you being unconcerned about Heaven, or about Pascal's Gambit.

Getting riled and feeling personally insulted about what I wrote seems a bit much, however, H.H. Please understand, my guesses about others' thoughts were based upon my own occasional musings, in the absence of my having much empirical evidence otherwise. Most people tend to start with such projections when trying to figure how others think. I'm open to correction, as above.
No, Mooner, I didn't think you meant any ill by it, which is why I tried to voice my concerns as politely, if as firmly, as possible. I wasn't so much upset as trying to point out the things I found personally objectionable. I do get irritated when people of any stripe accuse atheists of merely being believers in secret, and so I apologize if you found my criticism overly harsh, but any talk of atheists lying about their convictions raises my hackles.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  19:37:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
H.H. wrote:
quote:
No, Mooner, I didn't think you meant any ill by it, which is why I tried to voice my concerns as politely, if as firmly, as possible. I wasn't so much upset as trying to point out the things I found personally objectionable. I do get irritated when people of any stripe accuse atheists of merely being believers in secret, and so I apologize if you found my criticism overly harsh, but any talk of atheists lying about their convictions raises my hackles.
Well, I can see that, hackles-wise, and have shared the same kind of reaction. My point is that perhaps (I am more cautious now) many (not all!) atheists share a large part of a common cultural background with the more dominant believers in society. We all instantly recognize a sketchy cartoon showing a grand gate on a cloud, with be-robed people standing about. We have certain expectations that are excited by the sketch's set-up, even before we read the underlying gag caption. Likewise, the dominant theology of our society effects many of us in other ways.

Since the existence of Heaven and Hell are widely and deeply believed in by many of our contemporaries, and are thus endemic in our culture, it would be difficult to to excise these ideas from our consciousness, no matter how firm is our disbelief in them as realities. I suspect that these concepts affect different infidels in a whole spectrum of ways, from deliberate and firm dismissal in your case, to sometimes light, wishful thinking in mine, and even to jealous thoughts about the certainties of believers among others.

And I do feel we as atheists should welcome a laugh at our own expenses from time to time. A humorless attitude about one's beliefs, as is so often demonstrated by True Believers in the religious community, is part and parcel of a hardened mindset. We infidels might benefit from a self-deprecating sense of humor also. After all, we are not preaching some kind of Word of God, but simply pointing out the silliness of the unevidenced beliefs of others. We have no orthodoxy to defend, no all-powerful deity who is paradoxically so afraid of disbelief that he commands us to kill those who do not worship him. We atheists can afford to laugh at our own foibles, just as we laugh at those of others.

When an atheist falters and backslides into partial belief, do the angels weep?

This is turning into an interesting discussion!


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  19:53:53   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message
Filthy, do you really think you and your needs would be overlooked in any proper instance of an Atheist Heaven? There'd be a really tough biker bar right next to the rifle range in middle of the reptile-infested-blessed swamp.


Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25997 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  21:16:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
And more along the lines of what HalfMooner just said, I'm pretty sure, marf, that "Atheist Heaven" would be exactly as challenging for you as you want it to be (at any particular time). I, like you, would get tremendously bored if my every whim were fulfilled as soon as I thought of it. I'd enjoy having a huge surfeit of time, though, to spend learning to be a chess grandmaster, or on music, or writing, or programming, or any number of things I haven't thought of. Time I don't have now. But learning people's names, eating and finding sex partners? All mindless tedium from where I sit, and I wish I could do without 'em now (well, except the last one, which I'm actually done with).

There are far too few hours in a day here on Earth for me to get done everything I want to do. And besides, Atheist Heaven is the only place I'll ever get to set up and participate in epic swords-and-sorcery battles with real* people, real castles, real dungeons, real monsters and real magic, so quit being a buzzkill.

* "real" in all five cases meaning "having all the characteristics of the thing in question as far as my senses are concerned."

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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H. Humbert
SFN Die Hard

USA
4574 Posts

Posted - 09/15/2006 :  21:42:04   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send H. Humbert a Private Message
It seems to me, reading over some of these colorful descriptions of imagined heavens, that people don't so much want to find themselves in a place ordained for them by a god, they want the power to be a god-- to alter one's reality at whim. And if that's the case, then I suppose I can relate. Who hasn't fantasized about having some array of superpowers at one time or another? Or their own personal Matrix where changing one's reality was as easy as flipping a switch? And time. Time enough to really enjoy it.

I guess for me such musings simply hold no connection, not even a tenuous one, to the idea of the christian heaven, nor any afterlife.


"A man is his own easiest dupe, for what he wishes to be true he generally believes to be true." --Demosthenes

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." --Richard P. Feynman

"Face facts with dignity." --found inside a fortune cookie
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