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June 21, 2010



I appreciate an issue you spent a lot of time examining in this part of the series. Not to say you didn't address the bigger, overarching issue, but I feel how you handled the materialistic view of heaven that many churchgoers hold to makes a lot of sense, and even at the young age of 22, I feel like living forever with the purpose of playing sports, drinking wine, making money...whatever makes it happen for you...is incredibly tiring and does not inspire any sort of desire to live in heaven.

For my tithe, I'd say that while those things may or may not exist in heaven, the biggest component of Heaven being Heaven is the presence of man with God in the context of a world full of other people and lack of sin (and all the terrible issues that brings into the world).

While I don't have a high view eternity where all I do is drink wine and write music, I do find the idea of experiencing community in a most dynamic way to be incredibly enticing. I've always (since I've really thought for myself) believed that "treasures in heaven" refers to the friends who come to salvation through any work which God did through us. And so naturally, the goal of heaven is to exist in the context of the world God originally created us to exist in, and enjoy first and foremost the presence of God, and secondly the presence of his bride. I get annoyed with a lot of people...but I still love people, and while I need to get away by myself at times (and I think that will happen in Heaven), I have no remorseful thoughts about spending infinity building relationships, seeing the evolution of those relationships, and experiencing the presence of God both in person and in the context of multiple people.

The moments I want to last forever, without fail, always have to do with being in the presence of another person who is near and dear to my heart. I think it is the understanding that we don't forever (in this life) to spend with people that creates the desire to move on from a particularly "intimate" moment.


I am 32 and still in the process of "walking away", which is a very disturbing process, especially when your father is a Pentecostal pastor. I don't know if I will ever "come out" to my family as an agnostic partly out respect for my aging parents and partly because they were pretty upset just to find out I'm not a republican. Regarding the point of living eternally being narcissistic, I've found that for me giving up the idea of heaven is more painful because death is so final, not because I won't exist but because I won't ever see people again that I love dearly. I remember going over the implications of being an agnostic in my head and coming to that realization and becoming physically out of breath at the thought, like I had been punched in the gut.

Greg Horton

facebook profile person who needs to use his real name, since you've called me Prof in the past, I assume you're a former student. While I understand the desire to spend time with people, I still don't want to do it for eternity, although that is the most compelling reason I know of to desire eternity. As for time in god's presence, I simply don't care. That is a meaningless abstraction to me that relies on so many assumptions--he loves us, we could understand him, we would actually want to spend time once we met him, etc.--that the concept of it is not even the tiniest bit appealing.

Mark, I had the same experience in terms of the realization that eternity might be a fiction. The finality of death is unsettling, but no more so than the ennui of eternity.


Forget decades. People get bored and weary in days, weeks, months. Even the discipline of avoiding bordom becomes hopelessly redundent and pointless. People grow tired of families, jobs, another hobby, etc. I've spoke with those who were suicidal and spent each day desparately searching for a reason not to blow their brains out. If it is all about satiation curves, you are on to something. Not sure it is.

Greg Horton

Not sure it's about satiation curves either. Doesn't matter. Satiation is a myth. We get bored long before we're satiated, which seems to imply some degree of satisfaction. Not sure what it's about, but I'm not interested. I can't think of any construct that would make me interested.

Jesus Reyes

That's why I converted to Islam, ‘Assalamu Alaykum’. It's not about the house or Allah, it's about the virgins.


I am a Baptist Christian who doesn't believe in hell and doesn't believe in a far off heaven that we sit around for an eternity eating, drinking, and being merry. I still feel like there is going to be conflict when Christ ushers in the kingdom of God and the conflict will exist even when God and creation live as one...that's too romantic.

I don't think the traditional evangilical greek concept of an utopia will ever fully exist. I do think God is going to make the world righteous and purfied but that doesn't mean that all the gays and democrats are going to be wiped out (They'll already be wiped by Sarah Palin's army). I have no idea what it means or what it will look like but I know what it won't look like and that is it won't look like this world as it is now with oil filling up the gulf or innocents losing their lives living in a warzone.

Heaven in a far off place is a nice idea but I don't think that is what God intends. I just don't get that picture in Scripture especially if the first man created by God in God's image was not satisfied being with God and needed a mate like him.

Trevor Palen

<---Facebook person

@Greg - Obviously it's not expected for your to care about time in god's presence if you haven't had what is in your mind an authentic experience with said god. However if one has had that experience, it certainly lends itself to being something one could conceivably desire for eternity...as much as a brain can fathom eternity.

As per the boredom talk...I think that hinges very much on the corporeal realities being consistent from life that is occurring now and eternal life. It's difficult to fathom because our bodies are fully limited, but in a situation where the body is understood to be constructed to endure for eternity, reasonable assumptions can be made that boredom as we know and experience (especially the temperamental aspect) would not carry over into the next life.

@Joe - I think the Genesis account is fairly clear that God decided that it was not good for man to be alone rather than Man deciding he was not satisfied with just God.


Trevor-not to put words in Joe's mouth but I didn't take his comment about boredom with god to refer to the creation of woman but to man's discontentment with communing with god without wanting more (I.e. Tree of the knowledge of good and evil)
Joe-If I'm wrong please correct any mistatement.

Greg Horton

trevor, god decides lots of things in scripture, most not good for human life: flood, plague, incest, fire and brimstone, etc. since I read the Genesis account as mythological, I'll assume that man and woman were co-created, as they were in Genesis 1. I'll leave the misogyny to the fans of Genesis 2.

Authentic experience? Please define what constitutes an authentic experience. What criteria were you given ahead of time to gauge the authenticity of the experience? This is the trope of theists who blithely suggest that many of us outside the camp simply lack the authentic experience of god in order to believe, as if some of us outside the camp hadn't spent most of our lives in it. Perhaps you've become a Calvinist and now believe some of us were damned for eternity, thereby explaining god's absence? You're going to have to do better than offering a non-verifiable "authentic experience" with no criteria for determining said experience.

And I have no idea how you can use the phrase "reasonable assumption" when you're talking about things that can't be known. Pluralism works against you here. Why are you right about eternity and the Buddhists wrong? What is a reasonable assumption about theism but an assumption based on metaphysical preference?

Joe Kendrick

Mark, you're spot on with the Genesis statement.

Trevor Palen

@ Mark - I was referring more to the boredom issue as brought up by Charles. Also it seemed to be because of how Joe worded his last thought that he was discussing the creation of Eve as opposed to the event of the fall, but I easily could have misread.

@ Greg - The key phrase in my post was "what is in your mind an authentic experience". Obviously given your blog "the experience(ing) of god", you have had experiences that you classify, more or less, as POTENTIAL authentic experience. It's pretty clear, however, that if you do not believe in said God, then those experiences, in YOUR mind, are not authentic. I am talking about a perception of authentic experience, not a reality of one.

I use the phrase "reasonable assumption" because I feel like the system sets the assumption in motion. In our 21st century post-modern era, skepticism is the only reasonable epistemic stance. You and I can't know anything because of the scientific method, so we're really only talking about beliefs anyway. Now while I think some beliefs are more reasonable than others, you and I cannot know for sure that they are. One of the ways I believe we overcome this is by establishing systems that have truths that govern the way that system works, but if we get right down to the heart of the matter, those truths are ALWAYS presuppositions anyway. Nothing is neither presupposed nor dependent upon presupposition, so we can go ahead and get that out of the way right now.

What I'm saying is that it is logical to think, that if heaven does indeed exist, and if Scripture's description of receiving new bodies holds true, then one can reasonably assume that boredom as we know it will likely not transfer over to the next life...in fact, the brain being completely different, if it exists at all, will surely not process information the same way that it does now.

Trevor Palen

I meant to say "Nothing is neither not presupposed nor not dependent upon presupposition"



Your comments on epistemology seem to presuppose that knowledge in some classical sense is the only epistemic good. There are other epistemic goods, however, like reliably truth-tracking epistemic systems. If we take verifiability as a prima facie indicator of truth-tracking (which you and every other theist must do to operate in the world at all), then despite the possibly wide swath of knowledge cut off by the lack of verifiable principles, we will have a system that is clearly more reliable than any system of religious belief. You might be right that all beliefs fall short of the epistemic bar, but that doesn't mean that all beliefs are on equal footing. Though the first principles of evidentialism probably are not evidentially justified, the actual use of the system is so inordinately successful in comparison with any other system, that it should be given de facto epistemic authority.

Greg Horton

Trevor, not sure I can improve on Cheek's response. Actually, I know I can't.

As for postmodernity, skepticism goes back to the Greeks. It's always been a reasonable epistemic stance, when, as the Greek skeptics believed, something couldn't be shown to be true. It was and is better to suspend judgment. So, yes, I find it to be the most reasonable epistemic stance vis-a-vis metaphysics. The concretizing and institutionalizing of metaphysical beliefs leads to authoritarian structures almost without fail, for theists, atheists, pagans, anyone who believes skeptics MUST believe their way. As you'll remember from class, I don't care as long as people are content to worship whichever construct of god they prefer; it's when they want to pass or prohibit legislation predicated on those constructed myths that I get irritated. From within the framework of public policy especially, skepticism is by far the most reasonable epistemic stance.

As for my experiences, no, they're not categorizable. But neither have they led me forward in faith, a sure sign of an authentic religious experience, I would guess. And as you'll note, I haven't ruled out physical causes either. Some things we just don't know yet, so I'll remain skeptical about my experiences too. As pluralism has taught us, whatever faith you imbibed growing up gives you the vocabulary and the rubric within which experiences with god take place. That makes them filtered beyond our control, and sort nails the coffin shut on claims of exclusivity.

Joe Kendrick

I don't think you misread my last statement I just don't think I was very clear. I know the writers of Genesis write that God said it is not good for man to be alone. But it doesn't make sense if Adam is the presence of God then why is Adam alone? Why isn't God enough for Adam? Why does Adam need someone like him to be with? It would make sense to me that if we content in Heaven because we are with God and in the presence of God, then why wasn't Adam.


Since bliss and boredom are both largely artifacts of our chemical neurology, I think it is (vacuously) consistent to assume that if the laws of physics are changed so that our bodies are somehow made immortal, our brains could also be changed so that perpetual happiness would be possible.

I have a pretty good life, but a perpetually happy self wouldn't really be recognizable as me. Though my real objection is that there's no reason to assume anything like this will happen, so why bother discussing it? (Exegesis of fiftieth-hand hearsay doesn't really count as evidence.)

Jonathan Walker

Where is Part 27?

Did it all end here???

Greg Horton

Haven't had time to work on it lately

Sent from my iPhone


I'm with Jonathan - would love to read more.

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