Monday, January 05, 2009

One True Religion

Our church is having a Wednesday night series of discussions of thorny theological issues. Our pastor calls it "Doubt Night".

The first meeting is supposed to focus on whether there is one true religion. I know the answer to that one. Yes, there is one true religion; it's my religion, and any deviation from my point of view is a deviation from the truth. Of course, I can't prove that my religion is the one true religion, and I have to admit that there is a possibility that I may be mistaken about some things or everything. In fact, the one true religion might not have been discovered yet by anyone. And what is meant by "true"?

I've been thinking a lot about the afterlife lately, mainly because I've been reading a book about Resurrection and what Jews and early Christians believed about thje afterlife. In the first century, there was a widespread belief that the spirits of the dead resided in a place akin to Hades, a joyless abode from which none returned and where there was neither punishment or reward or hope of any kind. The Pharisees had a novel idea that the righteous would be bodily raised at the end of time and their spirits reunited with their bodies. Other sects didn't agree and like Jews of yore reckoned that the present life was all we had. Worship God now, for there is no worship in the land of the dead. Eat and drink and take pleasure in your toil.

I don't know what to make of Christian references to the raising of the dead and to the notion of the afterlife. I have difficulty reconciling the relative importance of an ephemeral earthly life with an eternal afterlife. Is there something about earthly life that is missing from the afterlife? There's evidently no marriage and presumably no sex. Maybe we look back at our miserable time on earth with longing and nostalgia. Maybe there is no afterlife for most of us or any of us. Maybe all the blessings of heaven (absence of toil or pain and what have you) are the blessings of the grave.

Of course, one solution to the "problem" is the Holy Ghost. Those in whom the Holy Ghost dwells will not readily be tempted to focus on the sweet bye and bye and to forget to work for the Kingdom and the betterment of the world in this life.

No comments: