Monday, 26 September 2016

Is there an afterlife waiting for us?

Truly one of the most perplexing questions that has been on the minds of every human being since the beginning of Mankind’s entrance on our planet is: what is going to happen to us after our bodies die and are eventually turned back to dust or whatever.                                                                  

This is what the Christian Bible has to say about heaven.

Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 9: And God said, “Let the waters under the Heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear”: and it was so.

Were the writers of the Bible implying that since rain falls from the sky, Heaven is in the sky above us or further away in space? Of course, a great deal of water is under the surface of the ground also and we could also say that anything under the surface of the ground is also under Heaven since Heaven is above the surface of the ground, that is if the Bible is to believed. It might however even imply that Heaven is on the surface of Earth.

Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 14:  And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the Heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

The writers chose the words ‘firmanent of the Heaven’ and the dictionary definition of those words means, ‘the expanse of the Heavens’. This implies that since Heaven is pluralized in the dictionary, it could mean that there is more than one Heaven in space.

Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 4: These are the generations of the Heavens and of the Earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the Earth and the Heavens.

As you can see, the word ‘Heaven’ is also pluralized in the Bible. What is really confusing is the choice of the word, ‘generations’. This could imply that there were previous Heavens in space just as there were previous members of our families that came before us.

Genesis Chapter 7, Verse 23: And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the Heaven; and they were destroyed from the Earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

The choice of the words, and the fowl of the Heaven; clearly pinpoints Heaven being somewhere above the surface of Earth but not above the highest point in which birds can fly. The use of the word, ‘Heaven’ instead of ‘Heavens’ implies that wherever Heaven is, it s not in space, it is on Earth.

When I was a Protestant resident student at Vancouver College in 1950, (which is a Catholic school) I had a dream that I was in Heaven and that the Heaven I saw in my dream was a city on Earth that was far into the future.                  

Heaven, according to the New Testament, has “brilliance like a very costly stone of pure gold, like clear glass with twelve gates each gate a single pearl.” Yet Pope John Paul II, who supposedly spoke about the afterlife, said that Heaven is nothing like the ‘solid-gold city’ detailed at length by John of Patmos in the Book of Revelations.

The Vatican reported on April 13th, 2005 that the soul of Pope John Paul, which entered Heaven the previous week following a long illness, expressed confusion and disappointment upon learning that the Celestial Kingdom of God to which the departed faithful ascend in the afterlife is significantly less luxurious than the Vatican's Papal Palace, in which the pope spent the past 26 years of his earthly life.

I have strong doubts as to whether anyone, (no matter who he is or where he was when he made that claim on behalf of his previous pope) actually spoke with his previous pope’s soul. If he could speak to someone’s soul, then that adds credence to the charlatans who claimed that they could communicate with the departed.  

John Paul II is allegedly have said, “Evidently, the Bible was not intended to be taken literally, after all. Don't get me wrong: It's very nice up here—quite beautiful and serene. It's just not as fancy as what I'm accustomed to. If I'd known Heaven was going to be like this, I would've taken one last tour through my 50 rooms of velvet-draped thrones and priceless oil paintings before saying 'Amen' and breathing my last.”                                                         

Does anyone really believe that Pope John Paul II really said that to someone still living after the pope died? Do you really believe that every one of his fifty rooms in his palace in the Vatican has a velvet-draped throne in it? If you do, come see me as I have some property to sell you. It is called Manhattan.

I think whoever in the Vatican who made that ridiculous claim was merely trying to convince everyone that Heaven really exists and if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ as being your saviour, you are not going to be spending eternity in a place that is “quite beautiful and serene.” I wish I could have used the services of that shill when I was practicing law. I would have had thousands of clients every day standing at my door wanting to see me.      

According to the deceased pope, Heaven is merely a place of unending peace and happiness, wherein all the spirits of those chosen, live together forever in perfect harmony and goodness, basking in the rays of God's divine love. I am not going to take issue with that other than to say that we can also experience that on Earth if we search hard enough for it.   

The Vatican says Heaven and Hell are states of consciousness. That too can be experienced on Earth.                                        

Up here, everyone is equal," John Paul II alleged to have said. "No one has to go through an elaborate bowing ritual when they greet me. And do you know how many times my ring has been kissed since I arrived? None. Up here, I'm mingling with tax collectors, fishermen, and whores. It's just going to take a little getting used to it all.” 

Think about this. Are these the words of a very religious pope? Do you really believe that such a holy man like Pope John Paul II would have described ‘women who have fallen’ as whores?                                                   

He also is allegedly to have said, "I spent almost 84 years reciting novenas and Hail Marys to get to this restful place. If I'd wanted peace, quiet, and pretty clouds, I could've moved to the Italian Riviera. Frankly, this afterlife represents a significant drop in my standard of living.”

If the former pope really communicated with the living, (which I doubt) he correctly stated what I have always believed. Heaven is not sitting on pretty clouds and playing a harp.

Christianity has always talked about eternal life. That is supposed to be our reward for following God’s laws. But if we don’t follow God’s laws, do we go to Hell? What is Hell? Is it really a place where human beings will burn all through eternity? The Vatican says specifically that Hell is a state of mind rather than a place and that Hell indicates the state of minds of those that have separated themselves from God, the source of all life and joy.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the truths of faith on this subject by saying that dying—in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice.” If this is true, then it means that you don’t have to sweat in terror anymore thinking that some day, you are going to burn in eternal fire

Where is Hell? Obviously, it is everywhere on Earth because I am sure that there are a great many atheists alive today on Earth who are not in communication with God (if there really is a God) and if there isn’t a God, when we die, we won’t really suffer for not being in God’s presence if we come back to life again.

I honestly believe that Heaven and Hell exists here on Earth. As to Purgatory, let me say that even the Vatican has finally admitted that it doesn’t exist and never did. Think of all those unfortunate women in Catholic Hospitals in years long gone that had allowed the mothers suffering from complicated births to die because the hospitals wanted their unborn babies to be born and then baptized so that they wouldn’t end up in Purgatory.

And now, I wish to address the question of whether or not we will return to life again after we die.       

I dealt with the issue of reincarnation in my book, The Second Appearance. I said on page 151, the following statements with respect to ‘reincarnation’.

Reincarnation could conceivably be the souls of deceased persons moving from deceased bodies to other bodies being conceived.
 The memories of children’s past lives are quite remarkable especially in western countries, where children have seldom been exposed to the concept of reincarnation. Often such memories can fade, as some grow older, while others will be able to recall past incarnations all their lives. Thousands of cases have been documented by various researchers from around the world and some children are recorded as having described where they had lived and recognized family members by name, even when these families live in a different area of the continent. Many have successfully passed tests set by the identified family. What is remarkable here is that in most cases the children appear to have no incentive, financial or otherwise, to make such claims.
Back in the early nineteen hundreds, when India was still a colony of England; there was a boy of about five years of age living in a small village in India. One day, he and his parents went to visit some relatives in another small village that was several hundred miles away. This was the first time they had ever been in that village. When they arrived, their young son began talking with the elders in the village. He asked them questions about certain members of their families and about their own health. He appeared to know all of them and about what they had been doing in the village five years earlier.”
Although many of the people in India believe in reincarnation, experiencing something like this was rare indeed so a big thing was made about it. The governor in that area arranged for British scientists to interview the boy and the villagers. They finally came to the conclusion that in all likelihood, he was the reincarnation of an old man who had died five years earlier in that village. As the boy grew older, he remembered less and less of his previous life in the village until finally, all memory of his past life had left his conscious mind.

If this really occurred and I have no doubts about it having occurred, then this is clear evidence that when we die, we will come back to life again on our planet as a newborn baby. The fact that the boy in India was conceived at the same time the old man died is also evidence that there will be no lingering about of our spirits while taking form again as a new human being.

This issue of being born again was raised in John, chapter 3, in the New Testament when this rhetorical question is asked; How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born again? 

I don’t think that the person asking that question is implying that in both births, he will have the same mother.

Let me give you the full story as told in John, chapter 3, as to what it says about being born again.

1: There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, ruler of the Jews:

2: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, ‘Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.’

3: Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’

4: Nicodemus said unto him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?’

5: Jesus answered, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto thee. Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’                         
Here is a very interesting phrase. “…..cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Suppose someone from another country were to say that he wanted to enter the kingdom of Queen Elizabeth II but before he was about to pass through immigration, he yelled, “Down with Queen Elizabeth!” Would he be permitted to enter the Kingdom of Queen Elizabeth? No. He would be put back on the plane and told not to return. Would he be able to remain on the planet Earth? Of course he would. He would only be denied the right to enter the kingdom of Queen Elizabeth II, not denied the right to remain on Earth.                                                                                                    

I have interpreted verse 5 to mean that if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus, the only begotten son of God, that person will not be in the kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean that he won’t return to Earth after he is dead. I appreciate the fact that this conflicts with what is said in verses 15 and 36 which say;

15: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

36: He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

We should remember that the writers of that text were adamant in wishing to get the message across to their followers that they must accept Jesus as their Saviour on the pain of never achieving everlasting life.

What about the millions upon millions of Muslims, Hindus and Jews who are not followers of Jesus? Are they to be punished by being denied everlasting life because they don’t accept Jesus as being the Son of God?  I think not.

I believed that the text is to be interpreted to mean that unless a deceased person believed in Jesus while he was alive, he won’t see God. (if God really exists) A great many members of the Christian clergy in this world choose to state that it really means that if you have turned away from Jesus, you will never see God in this world or the next world. If there is an afterlife for each of us, I am more willing to accept that premise than state categorically that if we don’t accept Jesus as our Saviour and follow him, we will never come back to life again after we die.

Reincarnation literally means ‘to be made flesh again’. It is a religious doctrine or metaphysical belief that some essential part of a living being (such as one’s spirit---if one really exists) survives physical death to be reborn as a new body from the womb of a new mother.                                                        

During recent decades, a significant number of people in the West have developed a belief in reincarnation-----I being one of them. Some researchers on reincarnation, such as Professor Ian Stevenson, have explored the issue of reincarnation and published evidence of children's memories of earlier lives in peer-reviewed journals and elsewhere. One the other hand, skeptics are critical of this work and say that more reincarnation research is needed. The overwhelming majority of mainstream Christian denominations reject the notion of reincarnation and consider the theory as a challenge to the basic tenets of their beliefs. However when you ask them to define what the afterlife will really be like, they don’t have the faintest idea at all as to what it is.   

Jesus, the first-born of Mary and Joseph, was the first to rise from the dead which was visible evidence of him demonstrating his power over death. That incident can also be taken to mean his presence was an apparition and not a reincarnation. Let me explain why I think his second appearance was an apparition.

After  Jesus was crucified on a Friday and entombed that same day, he remained there at least until Mary Magdelin looked into the opened tomb on the following Sunday morning and saw that he was gone. Again, I will quote some passages from my book, The Second Appearance. On page 195, I wrote;

If you read Thessalonians, it says in part, ‘Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.’

Then on page 197, I wrote;

For almost two thousand years, Christians from all walks of life during their days on Earth; have looked for the reappearance of Christ. As we approach the end of the second millennia, millions of Christian believers still speak of hope of his return to Earth. Never before has the world heard so much talk about it—from the backwoods preacher to the most renown television evangelist and while the Christians continue to search the Bible for further clues to the second coming, scoffers also continue to mock the idea saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ It seems to me that we must take a stand and recognize the fact that Jesus may be amongst us, even to this day.

On page 198, I also wrote about Pope John II when he was the nuncio in France, where he gave a sermon in the Cathedral of Bourges and said and I quote;  
 “We are the disciples of Christ who has been dwelling among us for two thousand years.”

I believe as he did then, that Jesus has been dwelling with us on Earth ever since his original resurrection. At another sermon, the pope said and again I quote him on that same page of my book;                                                                                                          
“We believe that God is at work in the conscious of the individual person that he is present in history, because Christ has not left the world that he redeemed.”

I wrote on page 199;

“The definition of man is best described as an entity on our planet composed of body and soul and made in the image and likeness of God. Man, then, is composed of a material element, the body and a spiritual element, the soul and not as two independent elements that just by coincidence, happen to be joined together while the body grows but rather as two separate elements that by God’s will, are joined together from inception and as such, they need each other to form a complete whole, namely, a human being. I believe that if Jesus returned to Earth, he appeared both in spirit and in body, as a human being, as he did when he first appeared on Earth almost two thousand years ago.”

I wasn’t trying to say in my book that Jesus immediately came back to life as a human being. He was definitely dead. When the Romans soldier stabbed Jesus in the left side of his chest and no blood came from the wound, that meant that his heart had stopped beating. If he was still alive at that moment, his heart would still be beating and his blood would have been pumping out of the wound. Since there was no evidence that anyone attempted to revive him after he was removed from the cross, you can be assured that his brain was turning into mush. Once that happened, there is no way his brain would have returned to being normal again. He was both physically and brain dead.

So how it is then that he was seen walking on Earth again on the day of his so-called resurrection? The answer to that rhetorical question is simple enough. It wasn’t him at all.

The first person who believed that she had seen Jesus alive that fateful Sunday morning was Mary Magdalene. When she first saw a man whom she believed was a gardener comprising of both flesh and a spirit and not that of Jesus. 

If Jesus expected to see the Kingdom of God, he had to be born again. If he suddenly appeared as a gardener next to the crypt he had been previously laid, we couldn’t say that at the moment of his appearance that he had just been born again, especially not when he appeared before Mary Magdalene as an adult.

He was an apparition and not the reincarnation of a live human being who had just come back to life again. Proof of this can be found in the Bible when you consider what was said about his so-called appearance before Mary Magdalene. Let me quote from page 202 of my book;

On that very day in which Jesus Christ was (allegedly) resurrected and he appeared to Mary Magdalene, she saw him as a man whom she originally thought was a gardener. If Jesus had returned from the dead in the exact form he was in when he was carried to the cave where he was entombed, she would have seen him as Jesus and not as a gardener whom she had never met before.

This isn’t the first time this happened after Jesus was crucified and entombed. I found the second occurrence in the Bible. I paraphrased the incident in my book when I wrote on page 203;

I refer you to another so-called appearance of Jesus before two of his disciples who were fleeing north after the crucifixion of their master. On the road, they were talking to each other about all the things that had recently happened in Jerusalem, and about the suffering and death of their Saviour. While they were talking about all that had happened, the Bible states that Jesus Christ himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him at all as Jesus. In Mark, chapter sixteen, verse twelve, it actually says, After this, he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country.’ Now surely, these two disciples who had been with Jesus for years would have recognized him when he walked with them after his resurrection, would they not?”

This happened again when the disciples were fishing a short distance from the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Again I will quote from the same page of my book in which I was quoting a Bible passage.

“…..the same thing happened again after the resurrection when his disciples were fishing and they saw a stranger on the shore who told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat and it was subsequently filled with fish. The other disciples called out to Peter, ‘It’s the Lord!’ believing that Jesus had return to them. As you know, Peter swam to shore and when the others saw him on the shore at a fire he had built, they saw him with a stranger whom they later believed was Jesus.”

Jesus’ disciples wanted to believe that the strangers they saw were in fact Jesus whom they had followed for so many years but unfortunately for them, it wasn’t the Jesus they knew. That man was dead. Each time a man appeared before Jesus’ disciples after his resurrection; they appeared to them as strangers, not as one stranger, but as several strangers. This however doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus didn’t come back to life again.

I dealt with that issue in my book when I wrote on page 204;

My quarrel with being told that I will be born again, though, at least in its current usage, is that it gives the mistaken impression that transformation is a one-time affair. It predisposes that once you have come to Earth as a human being and die, your soul will either go to Heaven or Hell. End of story. I don't believe this is an accurate representation of the scriptures.  On this issue of being born again, I come down on the side of the Unitarian poet, Edward Cummings, who once wrote: ‘We can never be born enough.’ The soul----the curious soul, at least, the live soul---always longs to be made new. To be ever more whole. To be reborn. Not because we were born wrong the first time, but because God has created our souls to live forever in the bodies of human beings.  And so my wish for all of us is that we will be born again...and again...and again.

It is conceivable that this may well have happened to Jesus after he was killed in Jerusalem. His soul or spirit (whatever you choose to call it) has returned many, many times just as ours have ever since his and ours were first within the bodies our original ancestors. Possibly we were born thousands of times and lived different lives thousands of times and died thousands of times and yet our souls have always prevailed. Like atoms, they can be moved about but they are indestructible no matter whose bodies they are part of. 

I will quote from the last words of my book.

      If our spirits live forever and is within each of us in our lifetimes, is it not conceivable that we were here before and that after we are gone, we will be here again?

I have referred to the resurrection of Jesus to illustrate that it is quite conceivable that when we also die, we will be born again as another human being. And when we die again, we will then be born again. And we definitely will not look the same each time we are born again as we did in our previous lives.

Now all this talk about the existence of an afterlife for all of us hinges entirely on one aspect of human life and that is, the human soul. Does it really exist or is it really just fiction that has been passed down to us for centuries? If it doesn’t exist, then I don’t see how we could live again after we die. On the other hand, what happens to our souls (if we all have one) after we die?

The belief in the existence of souls has remained a common (but by no means universal) part of human religions all over the world. A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological beliefs is an incorporeal essence of a person and any other living thing. The kinds of people who have these beliefs include Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Christians as well as other religions.

The most essential aspect of our minds is our memories. We know from empirical data that physical damage to the brain sometimes permanently damages a part of a person's memory. Also, sometimes various abilities and talents are lost. When the physical brain is damaged, through accidents or disease, a person’s personality and memory is directly affected. Surely there can be no reason whatever to suppose that our memories will survive our deaths. Indeed there is every reason to think the opposite, for memory is clearly connected with our brain structure, and since this structure decays at death, there is every reason to suppose that our memories also must cease. It follows that when a person dies, his brain is damaged beyond repair and therefore, there would be no way in which the dead person’s memory could be retrieved.

This raises an interesting question however. How then did the five-year-old boy in India know about the lives of the old men in a village he had never been in before?

Our belief in a soul (or spirit) is closely tied to our belief in human immortality. We have always known that the human body is destroyed by natural processes after death. For our memories to survive physical death, we would need to have some component that is not cellular material that would thusly survive the death of our bodies and subsequently bring our memories into some transcendental existence that we would be in after the deaths of our previous physical bodies.

As much as I personally would like to believe in an afterlife, I am not positively convinced that we will have an afterlife after we die. I believe that we may very well have a soul (which for which I consider synonymous with the word spirit) but only that it is a non-physical entity that may or may not carry our memories into our afterlife after our body is decaying after our deaths.

If however we really do have a soul, this means that we will survive death, and we will preserve at least some of our memories and personal qualities from our previous life. This could mean that initially, we would have a sense of experiencing a continuation of a past corporal life. Of course, as we would grow older, our new experiences would cloud over the past experiences to the point that we could no longer retrieve them. This is what happened to the boy in India. As he got older, he remembered less and less of what he remembered of the old men in that other village his family took him to.

Is our soul a metaphysical backup of our physical brain that can somehow transfer itself into another body conceived immediately after our deaths and can live on in a new body after we are gone? To a significant degree, that hope many of us share is an expression of our desire for immortality. But wanting something to be true does not make it factual. However as we have all learned, what appears to be impossible, often turns out to be factual. I guess we have to die first and if as a child we remember past events that took place in our previous bodies, then we will know for sure that our souls really do exist and they will carry us into our next life.  

I welcome the opinions of those who have read this article.

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