To expand upon an earlier point: the beliefs “there is a heaven, so I need not improve life on earth” and “there is a heaven, I should die” are untrue. The belief “I have nothing to lose by risking my life because of my love for God. If I live I live, and if I die I enter paradise” is true. The belief “there is no heaven, so nothing that I do matters in any ultimate sense” is untrue. The belief “there is no heaven, so I must not waste my life” is true. You should treasure every moment of your life, live it to the fullest, and leave no room for regret; you must never fail to do good or to love your life in the present because of the belief that you will have the opportunity to do so in the future. And you should not be avoidant of death, or slow to make a sacrifice, or to take a risk; nor should you be hedonistic. From the interplay of these two principles I can devise my formulation: I must find a way to be completely in love with my life, and at the same time entirely willing to die.
Heaven constitutes an important jump from god to benefit, especially where god has already been identified with morality. But it has always carried with it a terrible risk- that of incurably orienting the one who believes in it away from the present, which is real and the basis of duty, and towards the future, which is hypothetical and irrelevant to duty. There is no cure for this fault, it is a categorical risk of the jump being used. Our only recourse is to bring the two assertions together, “there is a heaven” and “there is not a heaven,” holding each proposition at arms length and the spirit of the choice between them close to the heart. We proceed with an absolutely consistent spirit, and an inconsistent logic. Jesus seems to have been aware of this weakness of mankind’s, for he told his disciples again and again that he would return, but refused to tell them when. Therefore the two facts- that of a potentially imminent parousia, and that of the possibility of further delay, always had to be held together. The guiding principle for relating them to one another is the parable of the thief in the night. It may come at any moment. Assume that each moment is your only moment.
Likewise, both of the beliefs, “there is a heaven” and “there is no heaven” have right consequences when held with the right spirit, and wrong consequences when held with the wrong spirit.
Furthermore, we need the right consequences of both at the same time to avoid falling into one error or the other. We must, in a certain sense, believe both simultaneously. For this reason, we should stop looking for the truth value of the statements, and start looking for the truth value of our reactions, so that we may simultaneously react truthfully to both, in spite of their contradiction.
Remember the time I had you stand out in the highway with your eyes closed, waiting to see if traffic would come and kill you? As long as your eyes were closed, you didn’t know if you were gonna live or die- both possible realities were real for you at the same time. Only while they remained closed could you simultaneously react truthfully to both. That’s the value of uncertainty- it allows you to hold contradictory propositions together. If you knew for sure that you were going to die, there would be no point in trying to live. If you knew for sure that you were going to live, it wouldn’t cost you anything to believe it. And whatever doesn’t cost anything, isn’t worth anything.


Talk back, yo. :)

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