The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Eating the Afterlife

I'm in the middle of reading an excellent book called "Resurrection: Myth or Reality" by an Episcopal Bishop named John Shelby Spong. I like the cut of this guy's jib. He is one of the most honest and brave writers about Christianity I've read in my whole life. Some of the other titles he has written, including "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism", "The Sins of Scripture : Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love" and "Living in Sin? A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality", give you some idea of where he is coming from.

Today I was reading and hit upon a passage that touches on something I've been meaning to write about for a long time, which is the effect on the belief in an afterlife, or eternal justice, has on our actions as people within a society. From the book:

I began to understand how the concept of life after death had acted as a deterrent to any passion of building a just society. Life after death made the unfair world appear to be fair, for it represented justice delayed, not entirely denied.


I also began to document the historical and polical reality that when belief in life after death began to fade in Western civilization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was replaced by liberal politics. Indeed liberal politics were born, I would argue, to fill the vacuum created by the denial of a belief in life after death. Everything . . . was an unconscious response to the loss of a sure conviction in regard to life after death . . . When the hope that fairness awaited us in the afterlife waned in our unbelieving age, the need to make fair the unfair world was keenly felt and found expression in the political arena. Liberal politics came into being with that as its single basic agenda. If fairness was not destined to be achieved in an afterlife, a passion to achieve it in this life must be served.
This resonates extremely strongly with me, because I believe it explains, in the backwards direction, what it is that our leaders, who so want us just to shut up as they make our world increasingly less just, would have us do. It explains, to a very large degree, why Reagan, whose agenda was taking from the poor to give to the rich, also ushered in the current and ongoing takeover of the GOP by the religious fundies.

If you want to screw the people out of fairness in this life, you've got to offer them something else, something to nourish their sense of justice. Do the GOP want to screw people out of fairness? They seem to be riding a one-way ticket to abolish all earthly justice: affirmative action, discrimination legislation, a progressive taxation system, the power of the individual to get redress from powerful corporations, autocracy and surveillance from the government. And on the other hand, they lament at how "secular" our society is. Oh, if only the people would except heavenly justice and quit clamoring for earthly justice. It really makes the rich people mad, trying to accomodate these calls for fairness on earth. How they are able to put up with the demands of the poor. Why, those people expect the rich to follow the same laws as everyone else! They expect warprofiteers not to start wars which just get a lot of people killed when there is money to be made. They expect a little security in their old age, or in case of a sudden loss of a breadwinner. Peons.

From a rich person's point of view, I'll bet they would like this country to become super duper Christian. Not enough money to heat your home? Warm yourselves with thoughts of how much Jesus loves you. Got screwed by some huge, megalithic corporation which owns half of Congress? Well, your suffering here on earth with be rewarded after you are dead. No money for food?

Eat the afterlife.


Blogger jrm said...

Sorry, I disagree. I too like Spong, although I usually don't agree with him on much.

The problem with this reasoning is twofold: (a) it is ad consequentium; it claims you should not believe in life after death then you will be more aggressive about fixing this world; (b) (actually, a general application of the problem with AC fallacies), it doesn't hold any water because it cuts both ways. If people are convinced that this life REALLY REALLY matters because it's the only one, then guess what?--they are going to resent their suffering even more than they actually do. This might lead to a greater focus on getting oneself out of poverty; after all, if there is no life after death, why risk your life in solidarity with fellow peasants resisting the landlord's goons?

This is sort of turning Pascal's religious wager upside-down; it doesn't work any better that way, either.

1/19/2006 6:36 PM  

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