My grandmother died last weekend. If you missed SCIOPS on the 19th, I’m sorry, I just couldn’t bring myself to write anything worth publishing. (Actually, if you missed SCIOPS, thank you! I’m not doing this just to watch myself type…)
The funeral was beautiful, though naturally sad. But the one thing I can’t get over is all this Jesus business. It’s been two thousand damn years. Can we give up this charade already?
Not that Jesus is the only problem. Religions are all alike in this way: they allow humans to cede responsibility for their lives, for the lives of those around them, and for the lives of all future generations, to an invisible entity.
Gratitude for existence and the beauty of the universe? Invisible entity.
Blame for the innumerable tragedies of human life? Invisible entity.
Guidance through the murky realms of moral choice? Invisible entity (and Its Special Book).
What happens when we die? Invisible entity, of course! It takes you somewhere else, good or bad, forever. For some reason people find this comforting instead of terrifying. I’ll never understand why.
Nietzsche called Christianity a slave religion. It was the fervent hope of a better life, one that would reward all the suffering and punishment of this world, that kept the many generations of Christians from violent revolt in their own lifetimes. The doctrines of pacifism, obedience, and patience combine to form a lifestyle suitable for serfs. The better you are at subjugating yourself before your Lord (note the feudal flavor here), the more you will be rewarded. But not in this life, and not by this Lord. Count on the invisible entity to kick down the prizes in the next lifetime. In this one, shut up and turn the other cheek and work.
- Of course, Nietzsche was a showboating syphilitic with a bad attitude. But he wasn’t wrong. Christianity is a form of
- terminal knowledge
- a dead-end of thought, a self-reinforcing mental trap.
Terminal knowledge, once acquired, is impossible to be rid of. Like a retrovirus in DNA, it lurks inside the mind, taking every opportunity to replicate its own structure. If you accept one of the memetic hooks, such as “there is life after death”, you invite the entire belief system to infest your mind. It’s all self-referential and internally consistent. If there’s life after death, then of course your soul must go somewhere else. It’s clearly not in your body anymore, after all. If it goes somewhere, is that place better or worse than this one? What makes a person go to a better place or a worse one? Better check the Special Book…
I’m not saying I’m special, that I’m somehow immune to terminal knowledge. I can explain every sphere of the Sephiroth and its kabbalistic interpretation. I can map any life experience to one of seventy-eight Tarot cards. I can tell you why the Singularity will change the world forever, and how soon that Silicon Rapture might descend upon us. It’s not that I’ve never been infected. But terminal knowledge is like chickenpox: it can be suppressed. It can be imprisoned, recorded as a hostile agent and guarded by the immune system of the mind. It can be vaccinated against.
The worst thing about the Afterlife virus is that it makes this life worthless. When you’ve got an eternal reward coming, what good is it to heal the sick? To prevent war? To build a better society? If death is the portal to the Better Place, why should we try to extend this life?
It makes me sick to think of the lives that could have been saved, bettered, extended, but for the callous disdain of this memeplex. In two thousand years of Christianity, the quality of life for the average person stagnated and, arguably, degraded. In the mere three hundred years since the Enlightenment, science and hygiene have doubled human life expectancy!
To be fair, we needed a large energy boost and a few upgrades in material production to achieve this much this fast. But all the germs and all the fossil fuels were sitting in the dirt in Jesus’ time. We could have started Enlightening the world two thousand years ago. What would our lives be like now?
My grandmother’s life spanned 80 years. That’s amazing, on the scale of human history. But it should have been longer.
Thanks for reading,
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