Well, it has been a long while since part 1 of this series-thing, so I’ll do a quick refresher. Essentially, what I want to work through here is not a full defense of each perspective of eternity, but rather to discuss the various implications of each. We began with the belief in a Hell where those who do not believe/faith/whatever are eternally damned/punished. Implications of that belief, to me, are concerned mainly with evangelism and reaching the unheard.
Now, I want to go for a complete 180 and discuss a polar opposite view. Namely, the belief that there is no place where souls go for punishment after life on earth. This view, more or less, is centered around an idea called Universalism. If you aren’t familiar with Universalism, google it. It’s probably a pretty interesting wikipedia page. Here, instead, I want to look at some basic knee jerk implications to a belief in the absence of any sort of Hell or place of eternal punishment.
Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, this makes the devout belief to any one particular religion very difficult. Typically, a key part of any religion is some sort of system of ethics that tells believers how to live. In any set of ethics, there are a series of “what not to do’s” that usually touch on the belief in other gods or some form of idolatry. I’m speaking from a mostly Western perspective here, but I believe most religions in the East have similar ideas (although, at times polytheism can be much more inclusive). If all roads lead to the top of the mountain, why restrict yourself to one road?
Second, a belief in Universalism makes our lives on earth less impactful on eternity. In fact, it almost separates the two entirely. This can be both good and bad. **About to be graphic** For example: A woman lives her entire life in sex slavery being raped and tortured. She dies before recognizing any sort of God or divine mercy on her life. With Universalism, she is still saved and may spend eternity in paradise. On the other hand, her slavers/pimps may also live in the same paradise. Not all systems of Universalism are entirely inclusive, but many are. Thinking about those two people in eternal bliss can be a bit sickening, but perhaps it is better than the two spending eternity suffering (which would likely be the case in a Judeo-Christian model of the afterlife). As I said, not all Universalists would hold that everyone who lives inherits eternal life simply by living, but when we begin to exclude people for doing horrible things, we may begin to fall down a slippery slope.
Last, while our lives on earth impact eternity less, doing good in our lives still remains important. Instead of helping the poor with the end goal of converting them, instead, we serve the poor simply because it is a good thing to do. Instead of reading the Bible and debating the Qur’an, we can read both and gain guidance from each. This bleeds into my first point. Here, what we do is more valuable than the particulars of what we believe.
To me, this is a beautiful view because of the unity it brings with it. I still have problems with certain aspects of it, but there are some parts that I can definitely get on board with. I’d encourage you to grab a cup of coffee, and consider this perspective on the afterlife. I have only began to crack the surface with this little blog post. I’d love to discuss this view and it’s implications more with whoever would like to chat.
I am going to make one (maybe two) more posts in this “series.” Stay tuned for more heresy and open-mindedness.
***Please excuse any typos, I am tired and in the middle of the semester. Proofreading is no fun.***