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So lately I've been thinking about spirituality.
It's a funny thing. A lot of my friends are religious. Even the atheists tend to think that a belief system is philosophically sound. Weird, huh?
Now I've started to question the Christian belief system in the presence of my Evangelist friend. Needless to say, he wasn't too pleased. First off, Christmas and Easter. Funnily enough, they happen around the same time as some pagan festivals, namely the winter solstice and spring renewal festivals. No one seems to really notice. Every year, Baby Jesus is born on the same day, because it's a big thing in Christian dogma/mythos, but every year he dies on a different day. Why is that? I mean, you'd expect them to have made their minds up after about 2000 years!
Recently, said Evangelist wrote an essay on Easter. This essay was entitled "Which came first, Easter or the egg?"
The egg is a pagan symbol of rebirth, renewal and spring, kind of like a lamb. Oh dear.
"But I meant a chocolate egg!" he whined.
Well, in that case I say Easter, because chocolate didn't hit Europe till well after Christ, and well after most people forgot about the whole pagan thing. Ah well.
Ok, other belief systems. Well, the Jewish faith is just the Old Testament of the Bible, and Islam also has elements of Christianity and Judaism, including the prophets Abraham and Jesus. Yay.
Then there's those other religions, the Eastern ones. There's Hinduism, with all the different gods that are at the same time all aspects of one god (I think that's right. Please tell me if I'm wrong!), and Buddhism, which doesn't have a god but does have various spirits and a heaven, which is called Nirvana. It's possible to be a Buddhist and a Christian or a Buddhist and an Atheist at the same time.
Ah well, enough rambling. I think some of the ideals held dear by religion are important. Some of the Jewish Commandments are still good for today, I go with the Christian "Love they neighbour" stuff, even some of the Hindu stuff - I think if divine beings do exist, then there's definitely not one all powerful one. Buddhism makes a lot of sense, and at least it's more readily beleiveable in the modern world.
Ah well. This article's crappy. Next one'll be better. [I've heard that before. -YZ]
Well, now you've read through Afterlife Week there's probably just one question on your lips: "Gee, Yahtzee, all these afterlives sound swell, but I'd sure like to know which of them I can expect to be going to."
Well, to this I would say, "That isn't a question."
But I understand your dilemma! Which is why you can now find out for sure with a little piece I like to call Where Am I Going When I Die?
In other news, I finished No Experience Necessary. Now all I need is a game developer to get in touch with me and I can watch all the money and girls roll in.
In other, other news, my last adventure game The Trials Of Odysseus Kent has been nominated for 7 (count 'em, 7) AGS awards: Best Game, Best Gameplay, Best Story, Best Dialogue, Best Puzzles, Best Character, Best Supporting Character and Best Stop Blowing My Own Trumpet. I don't know how you vote for these things, but if any of you guys do, be sure to vote for me!
Reincarnation is that Buddhist thing, isn't it? After you die, your essence goes whizzing around all over the place until it finds someone being conceived, then nips in and takes over. And when babies die in childbirth, there must have not been anyone dying in the near vicinity recently.
Maybe it's because I don't live life to the full, but I don't see what's so neat about reincarnation. What if you commit suicide because life is unbearable and horrifying? You'll really have egg (placenta?) on your face when you wake up right back where you started. Of course, there's always the chance that you'll be reincarnated as something non-human, like a huge lion or a centipede. Trouble is, what with the crazy survival of the fittest thing going on, you wouldn't have much time to enjoy yourself as an animal before you're right back on the reincarnation conveyor belt.
Conveniently, when you reincarnate you can't remember anything from your previous life. For me, this is probably because of one of two things. Either (1) all memories are stored in a physical part of the brain which goes to dust with the rest of the body after death, or (2) reincarnation is a load of old bollocks and this is just an excuse to cover their tracks.
Besides, why would anyone want to go through life again? You know how proud you were when you lost your virginity? Oh, sorry. You know how proud you will be when you stop playing Everquest all the time, meet some women, and finally coerce one of them to bounce up and down on your +23 rod of destruction? Well, when you get reincarnated, you go back to being a virgin. Alright, won't be much of a strain for you still-virgins, but spare a thought for us poor men of the world. Some of us had to do a lot of work to devirginise ourselves. We'll have to do it all again.
It's not just virginisation that worries me. Let's go over childhood and maybe you'll understand why I would rather pull my own teeth out than do it all again.
Maybe this one isn't so bad. You've got two slaves at your beck and call day and night, and one of them has breasts. On the downside, you have very little dignity as a baby. It's hard to be taken seriously when you've got apple sauce all over your face and are industriously shitting your pants. Of course, very few people can remember much of their lives before the age of two, which brings us to:
This is the stage where you're beginning to learn about the marvellous world around you. Specifically, it's when you develop a conscience. You do this by experimentally doing naughty things and getting spanked afterwards. Okay, so maybe you wouldn't be spanked nowadays, but the Orient has this theory about reincarnating as people in the past, so I still wouldn't risk it.
3. Going to School
There's only one thing I hated more than being a kid, and that was other kids. In Cuba, the police at least wait for you to spit or walk around with your shoelaces undone before beating you up. Children don't need a reason; they're irrational little fucks. I was always what you'd call the 'safe giant', the tallest kid in the school who wouldn't hurt a fly, and it was probably because of this that so many of my schoolmates liked to tease me. Of course, things got a little better in high school after I tried to strangle some kid to death who called me a geek, but that was probably more to do with hormones. Speaking of which:
I'll be twenty this year, so puberty is coming to an end for me. The last few spots are flaring in their swansong. I can sometimes go long stretches without thinking of breasts. So now I'm finally getting rid of the stupid thing, why on earth would I want to go through it again? Especially since this was the time of my life in which I had to take all those dreary exams. I hate taking exams. The day I left school I vowed never to write an essay again. (pauses. Looks around thoughtfully at website.) Well, not one someone else told me to write, anyway.
The only way you'd get me to consider going through puberty again was if you told me I get a special prize if I masturbate 5000 times before I hit 19. Even then it had better be a fucking good prize, like a life-sized hollow chocolate aeroplane or a bite from a radioactive spider.
One of my earliest memories of television is seeing some schoolkid talk about the afterlife. Do you know what he said? This is what he said: "I think if you were good you go to Heaven, if you were bad you go to Hell and if you were in-between you become a ghost".
Well, that's one theory, and it's as good as any other. Now, I know you're all relishing the prospect of becoming ghosts so you can run around in the ladies' changing rooms flinging bras left and right, but it's not really a fate you can bet on. After all, how does one become 'in between'? Do you just do a bad deed for every good one, or just not do any deeds whatsoever your whole life? Seems like a rather haphazard system of judgement to me.
Another theory goes that you become a ghost when something awful happened in your life and you can't rest until it is resolved. In fact, if Brandon Lee is to be believed, you come back as a very solid ghost who can kill people, wear face paints and inspire a whole generation of whiney goth websites. I know this may shock you, but this doesn't happen very often. Most you can hope for is to become some semi-transparent apparition going woogy woogy at people, and it's very difficult to get anything done that way. "I will destroy you" and "I was murdered by the bloke who runs this hotel" both sound the same in ghost language: "woooooOOOOOOOoooo".
No matter how terrifying a vision of a skeleton in a wedding dress is, though, it seems that ghosts have unusual mass market appeal. You see, the thing about marketeers is that it's practically their job to take scary things and market them to death until all the scariness has been squeezed out. Take vampires; vampires were once terrible, gothic, seductive, the most evil of unholy creatures. Now they're reduced to appearing on breakfast cereal boxes and showing us how to add up. With that in mind, let's take a look at some famous mass-market ghosts.
What I don't get is what everyone found scary about this guy. He couldn't have been more wet if he was drowning in a rainstorm on National Wet Day. But no, every time a living person caught sight of him their hair would stand on end and they'd run like they'd just escaped from a Stephen King novel. I mean, look at him, he was a bulbous-headed twat with a girl's voice. I don't recall people being equally scared by Megaman.
2. Patrick Swayze
Actually Ghost was kind of refreshing. I think I bemoaned the fact once that the only strong emotion that seems to bring people back from the dead is anger/bloodlust (see Jason, Michael, Freddy, the bloke from The Crow ad infinitum), so it's kind of nice to see someone brought back from the dead by how much they love their wife. Actually, I've never seen this film, so there's not much more I can add to this, except to make stuff up. Patrick Swayze likes to round up stray dogs and force them to work shifts in the many small French-style restaurants he owns.
3. That chick from What Lies Beneath
This woman was kind of a pathetic ghost. I mean, out of everything she had ever done in her whole life, everyone she had ever met, the only person she could think of to haunt was her ex-hubby. I mean, sure, he did murder her and stuff, but I'm sure she'd have better things to do. Besides, this is Harrison Ford we're talking about. Once you've done the nasty with Harrison Ford you're supposed to curl up and die with the knowledge that you will never know ultimate pleasure ever again. In that case, you should be quite grateful that he knocked you off afterwards. What a super guy Harrison Ford is.
4. Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense
It was obvious with films like Die Hard, The Fifth Element and Unbreakable that they were trying to make out Bruce Willis as the hardest man in the world. Then they took a U-turn and made him into a soft and intangible ghosty man. Don't get me wrong, if there's anyone I'd like to be a ghost, it'd be Bruce Willis. I'm sure he'd come back as one of those cool wisecracking ghosts who can touch things on occasion and whom only one person can see. I was going to say Bruce Campbell, but I don't want to make a world in which I am responsible for Bruce Campbell's death.
So, following on from my previous update about Heaven (summary: impossible to get into and excrementally boring), let's take a look at Hell. Now, obviously, Hell is precisely where you don't want to be going when you die. Fortunately for us, however, you have to be baptised to be eligible. There's a special place for us godless heathens called Limbo where all the unbaptised go, where we can sit around wearing black poloneck sweaters and discuss how outdated the religious system is. That, to me, sounds kind of like fun. Oh sure, if you have to spend eternity there it'd get old eventually, but at least the view would be good; Limbo apparently encircles Hell, so all us poor saps who didn't get splashed with water when we were kids get to crowd around with the popcorn and point and laugh at the Damned.
Never mind the fact that Hell isn't mentioned in the Old Testament and is more likely to be an invention of the MAN to get the oppressed masses to behave themselves (peace on, brother). If John Carpenter's 'In The Mouth Of Madness' taught us anything, it's that Sam Neill can never decide what accent he's going to use. And that if enough people believe in something, it becomes reality. So Hell may well exist, as well as Father Christmas and Barney the Dinosaur.
To get into Hell, you have to be
The first hurdle is simple enough, as you can go to any Catholic priest and he'll be very glad to fit you into his schedule. The third one is literally as easy as falling off a log. The second one is even easier. According to the Bible, it's pretty difficult in this day and age to be anything but wicked. Everyone who doesn't personally go down to Afghanistan and try to teach Bin Laden and his towel-wearing mates the true meaning of friendship can be described as wicked (and also 'alive', but let's not dwell on that). If you have lustful thoughts about someone you're not married to and don't confess them to your local priest, into the pit you go. No appeal. If you see a beautiful member of the opposite sex with an enormous willy/pair of boobies, and your first thought isn't "Mm, I bet s/he would cook me a nice meal if I asked nicely!" then I'm afraid God doesn't want anything to do with you.
Of course, according to some nutcase Christians (I'm thinking of you, Jack Chick) you can live whatever sordid life you fancy, as long as you confess it all to your priest at the end of every week. I dunno, the confessional arrangement sounds too much like people trying to find an easy way out. If getting let off for terrible sins was as simple as 'confessing to someone and pretending to be all apologetic', the concept of Hell wouldn't have the same sting. Personally, the bit about Limbo I'm looking forward to is when I'll get to watch all the Christians who confessed their little hearts out being shown the way to their own personal pit of sulphur.
SATAN: Mwu ha ha ha ha! Ah ha ha ha! More little piggies for my pleasure!
CHRISTIAN: But ... but ... is this about having sex with my little sister? I confessed about that!
SATAN: Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha! We have a special torture for people who actually think we give a toss that you confessed your sins to some bloke in a dress!
CHRISTIAN: No! No! What?
SATAN: I'm going to read you every celebrity diary that's ever been serialised in the Daily Mail centre pages!
SATAN: "On Saturday, I went to Uri Geller's house, and who should I see there but Geri Halliwell -"
CHRISTIAN: Ack... so much name dropping... brain... melting... blaaaarg...
When you lay it out like that in a little five-letter word, it sounds kind of fun. Hey, kids, death is cool! All the grown-ups are doing it! And all you need to make your very own death is cyanide, or a gun, or a length of rope, or maybe just the roof of a very high building! See what all the fuss is about today!
Thing is, if I wasn't kind of attached to life, and if there weren't people who'd miss me, and if I didn't blindly think I have a career as a successful novelist ahead of me, and if the concept wasn't kind of intimidating, I'd be having a go at death like a shot. If only to see what happens afterwards. Having a very logical, Vulcan-like mind I'm afraid I don't think there is an afterlife, or if there is there probably isn't much of one. Heaven and Hell and reincarnation all seem scientifically possible. For a time I was sure you'd just become a ghost floating around the world forever, but I have to wonder ... how would you see anything without eyes? Hear without ears? Think without a brain? All of these important biological elements go to dust, what do you have left? I suppose you could end up with a sort of intangible ghost-brain or ghost-eyes, but this seems too much like letting optimism cloud judgement.
So I'm resigned to the fact that after death you just become an invisible spark of consciousness, deaf, dumb, blind and unable to think. More to the point, unable to write updates for comedy websites. So I suppose ol' Mr. Reaper can fucking well piss off for the time being.
Now then, now my opinion is clear, and while an Everclear MP3 is playing in my ears as I type this, let's have a critical look at some afterlife concepts people have. And if we don't get through them all today, well, I guess we could do some more another day.
Heaven sounds like a pretty decent place, but according to scripture it's harder to get in than Planet Hollywood. Some sources say only 144,000 people are getting in out of all six billion of us. That's kind of unfair, as Heaven is up in the air, where there's no end of space for an extension, and Hell is underground, where space is limited. You'll probably have your Damned having to share maggot-filled beds. Well, I guess the place isn't supposed to be the Waldorf, but it still seems a bit stupid.
Some Christians, chiefly the kinds of Christians George Bush may describe as "major league assholes", believe you can only get into heaven by being a Christian. Some of those believe you can do whatever the hell you like on Earth as long as you go with Christ at the end and beg for forgiveness. Other Christians - the Christians who care about not seeming like a complete git - say that it's just being good that matters when it's time for the selection process. But the bible, as I'm sure you're aware, has a highly speculative interpretation of 'good'. Some passages say you're damned to Hell if you even have lustful thoughts about anyone you're not married to. Some say only virgins can get into Heaven (so how are we supposed to continue the species, Mr. Big Clever God Man?). You could go by the ten commandments, but Leviticus endorses murder upon children who defy their parents, and I don't want to follow one set of rules only to find I should have been following another load all along.
Of course, once you've gotten past that achingly difficult selection committee, you have to wonder what's going on in Heaven. Apparently you get to sit around and talk to God a lot while doing nice, clean, pure things. So it's kind of like being in a monastery, but you get nice white robes. Hell would probably be preferable, if only because Heaven sounds so utterly, utterly boring.
On the other hand, what would be the point of leading a good, clean, pious, DULL life on Earth if the only benefit is getting to spend a good, clean, pious, DULL eternity in Heaven at the end? Maybe Heaven is one big sin-bin to make up for it, where everyone gets their own brothel and ten dozen concubines. But after sixty million years you've done every sexual position you can think of, explored every single delight, run out of chocolate body paint, and now you're bored again. You know when you're at work, and you look at the clock, and think "Ah, only X number of hours before all this boring work can end for the day". You don't get that in Heaven. In Heaven you're there forever. Just dwell on that for a moment. You're there for EVER. You could be there for a hundred thousand million billion squillion centuries and you would never reach the point where you can say "Right, just another hundred thousand million billion squillion centuries until I can go home".
Well, I was actually going to do Hell and Reincarnation and Ghosts here as well, but I just started running off at the mouth. So I'll do more tomorrow. Hell, I might even make this a theme week. Stay tuned!
material not otherwise credited by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw