The Incredible Humiliation of the Afterlife

Source: Hieronymous Bosch/wikiart

I started writing these lines surrounded by an environment of religiosity harassed by the thought of an afterlife, numbed by the sheer meaningless of life. Yes, the thought is horrifying, depressing, and gives an empty feeling.

But is this feeling of worthlessness and emptiness worth more than the condemnation of eternal existence?

Let us forget logic and reason for a moment. Let us suppose for a moment that humans would be subjected to an afterlife. As if the humiliation of one lifetime were not enough. And to add insult to injury that there would be a higher being to judge humans and to either condemn them to hell or reward them with paradise.

While most people would not find a thought more appealing, would anything be more humiliating? Would they not be satisfied with the comfortable isolation of oblivion? Isn’t the curse of one life enough? It is horrifying how people are motivated to resort to absurdities enticed by such a prize.

It is horrifying how people are motivated to resort to absurdities out of the enticement of eternal life. And add the mythology of the Abrahamic faiths to the thought and it would horrify you even further. Because a God bestowing eternal life could as easily condemn you to the inferno, being as angry and jealous he sounds like.

And even if that is true, just imagine the humiliation of such an afterlife. Whether you are condemned to hell or awarded with the pleasures of paradise, the sheer humiliation of going through it would be unbearable. Would there be anything more insulting to the self-respect of a sentient creature?

There is no wonder that Eastern cultures with philosophies such as Buddhism have the concept of moksha to escape the carnal cycle of birth and death. With the caveat of existing in a higher state of consciousness. But it is like a cry out to protest the misery of the existence forced on every creature.

Does a part of me want to indulge in the promised delights of paradise and reunite with family and friends if there is a life after death? Yes. But there is a part of me that knows that existence involves pain and dread.

Wouldn’t they instead give anything to escape the horror of life? The horror of existence?

Would they force this misery on others?

What Purpose Does the Blasphemy Law Actually Serve?

Source: The Nation

We all know that the blasphemy law is supposed to punish the offenders who desecrate the good name of God and the Prophet, or commit a similar offense against religion. And there is really no doubt that blaspheming against holy persons and entities is indicative of a lack of sensitivity and regard toward religious communities. However, people like to debate whether the offense warrants penalties as strict as death and life imprisonment or even any at all.

There is no debate possible in the country in its present climate whether the blasphemy law should be repealed or not. However, fortunately, many of the people, including some very smart mainstream religious scholars from both Sunni and Shia traditions agree that there are margins of improving the law. In other words, many people concede that the law is being abused or that there is a possibility of abusing it to settle personal scores. This is keeping the next-to-none debate of amending the law alive, where it is important to keep in mind that most people are not willing to compromise on the prescribed penalty.

That is still progress nevertheless. To the common religious conservative citizen, the law must be about penalizing the blasphemer and it becomes a matter of the “rule of law.” However, this is merely an instrument of asserting the political authority of a community. It is basically a reminder of who is in charge, or what is in charge, relevant in this case. There is a reason why blasphemers happen to only target Islam in a country of more than 200 million.

But even if you are in the “amend-not-repeal camp,” I wonder with these motives behind it, people who matter would actually be willing to even agree on any changes to the law. We all know how Senator Sherry Rehman was threatened when she tried proposing her amendments. Even if the majority agrees on such an amendment, the small but forceful minority would see to it that they have their way. There obviously is little hope but to try convincing people to improve the law. However, banking your hopes on that also points toward a fundamental misunderstanding of why the law exists in the first place.

So, if you missed the memo, initiating discussion of the misuse of the law also becomes an offense to the authoritarian religious conservative. That is a fine line to tread on as slips like the late Governor Taseer calling it a black law could cost you dearly. But even if you are super careful and respectful, you are still challenging the very authority that the blasphemy law formulated under Zia is designed to keep, instead of offering an equal opportunity of complaint to all.

While this may have prevented an average citizen from the fanaticism of the minority religious communities, it has made those communities very prone to damage. Especially the helpless individual citizens from those communities who always end up paying the highest cost. It is simply their misfortune that their fellow citizens want nothing to do with knowing their troubles.

The blasphemy law under Zia was passed under the threats of clerics and it is maintained by similar vows. It was a comprehensive push against the secular side of the state, which had since grown weaker by the day. And since the penalties are as per the prescription of the Sharia according to most scholars, amending how the law is enforced would be a push against the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic against secular entities, if not about upholding the word of God. After all, the JI Emir complains that Pakistan is not an Islamic State.

Even when common citizens or scholars agree on the problems with the law, the blame often goes to the secular law enforcement instead of the violence it is encouraging. Vigilantes are arrested alright, but this is seen unfavorably in general, thanks to legends like Ghazi Ilm Deen. However, the act of vigilante violence is disapproved by conservative elites who prefer the victims to hang after a trial. This is why we must have the blasphemy law. Even though they choose to ignore how free our judges are in terms of passing the verdict in such cases and how it encourages religious extremism.

While Mashaal Khan’s tragic killing has opened a window to start this conversation, it is not as if the other side is giving even an inch other than tolerating slightly dissenting comments and pieces in the media. That too, because let’s admit it, Mashaal’s death was too brutal for even most blasphemy law supporting religious conservatives in Pakistan. But the underlying problem remains the same and only time will tell if the ice would break.

We do make a lot of fuss about the blasphemy law and its abuse. While there has been a sharp rise in cases registered since the amendment under Zia, the secular judiciary has refrained from passing many harsh verdicts. Call that denying justice, it hardly matters as hate speech like “Off with the head of the blasphemer” dominate every town in Pakistan. It is almost an article of faith.

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We are at a point far from arguing or talking reason. Perhaps we would be if the intent were just to penalize the offenders.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

The Trauma of Life: The Pictures That Shook The World

Source: Aleppo Media Center/Time

Source: Aleppo Media Center/Time

Just when I thought my conscience was dead, when my heart had hardened enough to take the most gruesome of things, and when I had become cynical enough to appreciate the value of anything in this life, a picture shook me like very few things had ever before.

We have seen so many . We have seen the helpless death of Aylan Kurdi pictured on the beaches of Turkey. We have seen so much that we should not have seen. The genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo, the children suffering Assad’s chemical attacks, and the corpses of dead babies from Gaza Strip and the Syrian civil war.

Somehow this image is different. Somehow it is more shocking that any other thing we have ever seen.

Shocking in its lack of violence. Shocking in its calm.

But it only strengthened my view that this world is no place for a living creature. It is no place for a fragile little kid like Omran, who has now probably seen everything that a human should not in their entire lifetimes. I have probably never felt so disgusted with the idea of life in the recent years.

Throughout the time of the survival of Omran, we keep on hearing the calls of “Allah,” who was so conspicuously absent from the scene. Probably that’s why.

It’s a different feeling in a natural disaster, perhaps, where you are helpless for reasons that are beyond anyone’s control. But this is not supposed to happen. These families really had done nothing wrong to deserve this sort of hell.

But to my mind, if these pictures did not destroy your faith, probably nothing would.

Nothing has destroyed my faith in humanity like this ever before.

Not everything about this is apparently so tragic. Omran’s family survived the brutal air bombing on their apartment complex in a rebel-held neighborhood in Aleppo, allegedly by the Russian jets on August 17. The bombing was enough to scar the family for life, but there was hope that they would escape the war zone. However, Omran’s brother Ali, who had been rescued too, could not make it and died of injuries.

It’s probably not the worst thing in the world. At least the family survived. At least the child survived, and who knows who and what he would go on to become.

It’s not worse than the Holocaust. It’s not even worse than the killings of the young children that an Israeli gunship strafed apparently for fun.

But does that make the personal tragedy of his life any less important? Why do we have to consider the severity and the magnitude of a tragedy to reserve our outrage and shock and grief for it?

I don’t know what to make of such a tragedy.

Should we embrace life harder than ever before, or should we move away from it? Should we celebrate his life or should we mourn? I don’t even have to explain why we should mourn. Others are saying he is lucky. Is he?

Should we value life or should we see it as nothing but a series of painful and traumatic experiences?

There comes a time for families when their lives are irreversibly destroyed, and altered for the worse. It is moments like these that change them forever, which change the course of their lives.

In reducing it to a conflict with complicated powers, how we discount the life of an individual.

Should we use it to push the anti-war agenda or should we use it to rally support for more war against Assad, Russia, and the Islamic State? Should we use it to trash whoever is our political opponent or should we use it to advocate for the acceptance of more Syrian refugees?

Is this what our existence comes down to? Is this what life is about?

I don’t even know what’s right anymore.

I don’t know whether I am sad, angry, frustrated or disgusted. I don’t even know what to say anymore. This is the sort of shock after which you don’t want to be happy again.

I don’t even want my mind to be numb anymore. I don’t want to suspend my consciousness, as I would usually do. I want to absorb every bit of these pictures.

Even crying does not undone the grief. It does not undone the trauma of life.

I don’t know how to respond to the pictures of Omran Daqneesh.

We would move on from this, but for a change, something inside is dead.

 

Elie Wiesel Leaves a World With Antisemitism Alive and Well

Source: cufi.org.uk

Source: cufi.org.uk

When Elie Wiesel would have been liberated from the Nazi concentration camps, the last of his third one, he would have started life with a renewed hope.

It probably would have restored his faith in humanity and in hope, though it never restored his faith completely in God. At least not in the way it was before.

There is surely a lot to read about the Shoah or the Holocaust, but nothing equals the viewpoint of a sensitive soul that has lived through the living hell of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Not everyone believes his words, which is why he ensured that other than Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., remains an undeniable evidence backing them.

Still nowhere near reflecting the human suffering.

What is the material evidence of that?

Source: Jewish Virtual Library

Source: Jewish Virtual Library

The pain and suffering endured by Elie Wiesel, resulted in the creation of the play “The Trial of God“, which was a brilliant, iconoclastic idea for a people with a theistic tradition, and to someone who saw God as an important part of his life.

But can you blame him to dare to rebel? In his own words, he could never forget the flames of the body, which consumed his faith forever. The moments which murdered his God and turned his dreams to dust.

In his own words, he was there when God was put on trial in Auschwitz.

While it is easier for some people with full, partial, distant or spiritual relation to the Jewish culture to relate with the pain of the Holocaust, it is important to accentuate its importance in a global, more humanist manner. It is important not to simply reduce it to references about the deliverance of the Jewish people, such as referring to it as the “birth pangs of the Messiah.” I am not sure if Elie Wiesel himself would be thrilled by the thought.

Elie Wiesel would rather focus on the sheer absurdity of creation and the unacceptability of the nightmare that the Jewish people and many more such as the Romani and the homosexuals went through during the reign of the Third Reich. It was simply something that was not supposed to be.

In any case, it is important to explicitly establish the Holocaust as a burden on the conscience of humanity, instead of tying it as an accident exclusive to the Jewish identity. It is important because gentiles, who are particularly anti-Israel politically, find it easier to dismiss this human atrocity as something that happened to the Jews. And the antisemites and anti-Zionists who are kind enough not to dismiss the Holocaust widely believe that it was something that the “Jews deserved” and something that they “deserve to go through again.”

While there are scholars like Norman Finkelstein who believe that the Holocaust has been exploited to further the Zionist cause, the fact remains that in our world, the Holocaust is trivialized more than anything else. Something perhaps more horrific than Holocaust denial. This is not to condemn Holocaust jokes because that attains nothing, but everyday approach people take to the atrocity in political discourse. Probably because so many genocides have been committed since then, without getting nearly as much attention.

Perhaps this was why Elie Wiesel feared indifference more than hate. Hate, in his words, you could fight.

Imagining the horrors of the Holocaust, how thrillingly secure it feels to be able to witness such a living hell and having the comfort that you are completely safe from it. How reassuring is this feeling that such a threat could possibly not threaten your life.

Let’s just stop. You can’t even imagine. But the relics, the documentation and the haunting photographs from the not so distant past do leave you shaken.

But I wonder how many times Elie Wiesel and thousands of other Holocaust survivors and their children would have woken up in the middle of the night, not being able to shake away the horrors of the death camps, the ovens, the gas chambers. Checking if they are still not on those horrible bunk beds by the corpses, still not required to shower together every morning.

Because believe it or not, any day it could happen again.

I could not help marvel at the irony that Elie Wiesel is leaving the world with antisemitism alive and well, but not without considerably retreating him. It is shocking how vulnerable Jewish people still are, despite “controlling the world” in some people’s view.

I feel disgusted when I have to lecture someone on the basic morality of it. But I guess that is what his good fight was all about. A fight that all of us must fight. It’s the least we can do.

Elie Wiesel is not just important as a literary figure, but because he left the empathy in the world for the Holocaust, its victims and its survivors.

This day is important in history, because the most enduring living symbol of human resistance to inhumanity, to the Holocaust, is alive no more.

 

The Cruel Plan

Source:www,immoderati.it

Source:www,immoderati.it

The more you study the condition of nature with cold, hard scientific facts, the more you come to the conclusion of how much of a disaster life actually is.

It is simply shocking how vulnerable and condemned to doom every living organism is. The physical nature of this condition is not as much shocking as the psychological and emotional struggle requried to sustain it.

It is important to consciously acknowledge that at least any human being, if not all sentient animals, need a functional psychological and emotional balance to get through the ordeal of living.

Given these disturbing and disabling facts, it is only amazing how an intelligent species capable of making up completely meaningless concepts to feel better about their meaningless existence. Especially when the meaningless concepts cruelly promise to liberate from God’s cruel plan, which only makes the misery of it even worse.

Sorry, if the word God offended you, but most of us like to personalize someone at the back of this cruel plan. Otherwise, it is hard to make any sense of it.

So, what to do about it? Because for the incurably depressed and perpetually curmudgeonly, the eventual logical step is suicide. I believe it is an intellectual conclusion, despite everything.

But life is strong, self-protective and self-preserving. Pretty strange for a meaningless creature, but not so much for a cruel one.

 

Therefore, the most important function of conscious, sentient life is to overcome the realization of the condition of life and to indulge in the meaningless meaningful, fulfilling, yet distracting concepts of self-fulfillment.

 

About Injustice

Source: theviewspaper.net

Source: theviewspaper.net

Injustice is a human invention.

 

A matter of social sophistication and intellectual aesthetics.

It is non-existent in the natural world. It is arguably incompatible with the principles of evolution over billions of years.

 

There is no such thing as injustice. It is not the absence of something.

Just another false promise. A utopian dream, for one thing.

 

It is just an abstraction. It is just an expectation.

A fragment of your imagination.

 

But perhaps not.

 

Injustice is just another word for the condition of life.

 

Isn’t an Agnostic an Atheist Without Balls?

Source: quotes.lifehack.org

Source: quotes.lifehack.org

Stephen Colbert is a comedian and I take the statement as a joke. Though it does possibly translate the opinion, if not malice, of a lot of atheists, and probably his own toward people identifying as agnostics.

Professor Dawkins has referred to “permanent” agnostics as fence sitters and has accused them of intellectual cowardice. (Agnosticism)  He has proposed his useful atheistic scale that goes from 1 to 7, depending on how people perceive their belief pertaining to a supernatural being. But he is speaking in more practical terms to someone who has just had the revelation of the absence of a deity after reading “The God Delusion“.

Colbert’s statement is an idea that many people hold probably because agnostics are perceived to be less confrontational than a lot of new atheist converts. That is not necessarily true. An agnostic can be antithetical too. But if you are not being disrespectful to someone, that not necessarily may be a sign of lack of guts, but of good manners.

There are agnostics that tend to believe and agnostics that tend not to believe, bust mostly fall into the disbelief zone for their skepticism. Agnosticism, to a lot of people, like Bertrand Russell, is simply a more accurate philosophical and logical position than atheism. For others, it could be a transitional stage from belief to disbelief, and that is probably what Dawkins refers to as “temporary agnosticism”.

The agnostic is just conceding that they don’t know and that they cannot know. While an atheist thinks that there is no supreme being simply because there is no evidence at hand. Though this does not mean that agnostics do not agree to the lack of evidence. To different people, either positions can make sense, and not much to others, who would see it as splitting the hair.

Source: Telegraph

Source: Telegraph

But to settle the matter, let us examine the quote of the philosopher that I personally consider the greatest authority on skepticism, Bertrand Russell, (No, Dawkins is not half as much brilliant or even sensible) from his 1947 pamphlet Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?.

As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God.

On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

I just think agnostics are philosophically and logically more correct than atheists, not lacking balls or any other round objects.

However, you can come up with more accusations if they did not even appreciate or understand the Russell’s teapot analogy.

Quick Web Reference: Agnosticism
Quick Web Reference: Russell’s teapot

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Answer to the Quora Question:

Atheism: What do you think about this quote: Isn’t an agnostic just an atheist without balls?