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I gotta say, Eliezar, you're doing a good job of making the alternatives look worse than religion. And I say this as a guy who drifted away from religion because he could find no rational reason to believe in the existence of the deity.


In the interests of accuracy, I'd like to talk about the Christian Heaven. Though I now consider myself an agnostic, I went to two years of bible college (think the Fundamentalist version of seminary). To the best of my recollection, the only substantial description of Heaven appears in the last two chapters of Revelation, a book that even in Fundamentalist circles is acknowledged to contain a lot of symbolism.

There are two parts to this description. The first (Rev 21:3-7) talks about what God is going to do in Heaven: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." and so on.

The second part (Rev 21:10-22:5) discusses the appearance of the city in a manner that nearly all theologians would interpret to be symbolic. The city has walls of jasper (God's appearance is previously described as jasper, earlier in the book), and is built of pure gold (a reference to the purity of the inhabitants; the book earlier describes the trials they've gone through as purification, so that all the dross would have run out and only pure gold remains). The numbers given are all based on 12 -- both the number of the tribes of Israel, and the number of the apostles. Likewise, the listing of gemstones for the foundation is derived from the list of jewels representing the twelve tribes in the high priest's breastplate as described in Exodus. There's more I could say here, but I doubt you care too much; suffice it to say that the whole thing's symbolic.

The "singing hymns" part actually comes earlier in the book, in Revelation 15, where the apocalypse is still occurring. There's no mention of it in the last two chapters, and certainly no mention of that being all you do forever.

There isn't actually a lot of description of Heaven in the Bible, perhaps for good reason. Apart from these two chapters, the only other stuff we have to go on is some sayings of Jesus in the Gospels. Nothing that I recall about "you'll never have to work again", though there was a lot about giving rest to those who are weary and heavy laden (and if that's not a good description of a peasant's life, I don't know what is).

My point for bringing this up isn't to convince you that the Christian Heaven is great -- as I said, I don't believe in it myself anymore. Rather, I find that people typically make better arguments when they actually know what they're talking about, and it may assist you in railing against the Christian Heaven to know what it actually is said to be.


Richard: Whichever.


The Sunnyvale world doesn't strictly require supernatural explanations -- you could posit vampires as being a subspecies of humanity, etc etc etc. But as you said in that post, it doesn't matter; we don't really care if vampires are the product of demons or mutated genes. We just care 'does there exist a monster that appears human, and likes to drink blood? does buffy exhibit superior strength and reaction time that is useful for fighting said monsters?' The reality presented by the Sunnyvale world appears to answer 'yes' to these questions, while the reality presented by the hospital answers 'no'. It's something Buffy can look and see; the question is WHICH set of sensory inputs to trust.


Eliezar, why do you say Buffy made the wrong choice? I've not seen the episode, but I read the summary, and it seems to me that Buffy couldn't conclusively determine which world was real. But choosing to stay with the 'hospital' world would mean that, if she was wrong, her friends would die. Choosing to stay with the 'Sunnyvale' world would mean that, if she was wrong, she'd be hallucinating for the rest of her life. I admit it's a bit like Pascal's Wager, but it seems to me that picking Sunnyvale is more moral, unless you have a really good reason for thinking the 'hospital' world is actually correct.


I was raised in a pretty fundamentalist Christian household. I would now describe myself as a 'Christian agnostic'; I don't know if God exists and doubt there is any way to know, but I still follow parts of the faith because I believe they make me a better person. It's just a long road you have to slog down. There's no good way to throw out everything all at once.

I would suggest you start by picking the single most important aspect of your faith, one that both says something about the divine (if it exists) and about what you're meant to do -- for me, it was "love your enemy". And then evaluate other parts of your faith based on that. You don't need to believe in the virgin birth to believe in the transforming power of grace. There's evidence for that aplenty.