Saturday, January 29, 2011

What is the point of bodily resurrection?

I spoke to a man the other day who said that his wive converted to a faith I call Jehovah's Witless (I think that's how it's pronounced anyway ;-)). Now he says she is always getting on him about how he needs to read the Bible and "proclaim the new world", etc, etc. He said that she is always talking about this "new world" where all your relatives are going to rise from their graves. Anyway, the guy was not happy about the way that his wife's newfound beliefs are affecting him, so he asked me for some advice.

One thing I told him was that, if she is going to insist on bodily resurrection, you might want to ask her at what age these individuals will be resurrected. After all, we don't expect their mangled old corpses to come back all worm-eaten and injured, even though this is how the Bible portrayed the resurrection of Jesus, complete with injuries in his palm and side. However, it would be a bit gruesome to see a relative who died in a car wreck all smashed up and bloody. So presumably god would at least clean these people up a bit and restore them to a state of health before they were mortally injured. Otherwise this would really be a zombie freak show.

So far, so good. But why stop there? For example, I pointed out to him that, if I live to 100, I wouldn't want God resurrecting my 100-year-old body. I would want him to resurrect me at 18, or 21 or maybe 25 when I was presumably in better shape. I would imagine that many other people would have similar sentiments. Perhaps one would be okay with even being resurrected looking like you did at 40, but you certainly wouldn't want to be wrinkled and fat and out of breathe trying to gallivant around heaven.

A standard answer that I have heard from religious people in response to this, which they usually make up on the fly, is that "god will let you choose" what age you will be. Perhaps one day you will appear to be 65 externally (only in better health) so you can visit your grandkids, and the next day you will be 17 so you can make out with your high school sweetheart. Perhaps you will some kind of shape shifter going from one form to another instant. This will make it hard for people to recognize you, but I'm sure that religious people will invoke magic again and say people will still instantly know who you are. It's their fantasy, so I'll let them pretend whatever they want.

However, this raises the question of why bodily resurrection is necessary at all, in this case. If you can shift your form at any time, and people know who you are anyway, regardless of what you look like then what the heck do you even need a body for. We have bodies on Earth so that we can move and eat and drink and breathe. Presumably we won't have to worry about such things in heaven. So why should we need a body at all?

As I have long argued, if it were possible for being to exist without any kind of body, then why would having a physical body seem like a good or desirable thing? If you could exist eternally without having to eat or drink, or sleep, or feel pain, all of which are associated with having a body, then why would you want the terrible inconvenience of a body?

More pointedly, if you don't have a body then how can you burn an immaterial being in the fires of hell? Some religions are now trying to say that hell is not literally flames, despite centuries and millennia of teaching that it was quite literal, but rather it is just a psychological torment of being separated from god. However, that would seem to depend upon one's individual psychological disposition. Some people are loners to begin with. Sure God might give you great goodies, but I'm sure there would be plenty of people who would be just fine to go it alone as a spirit, since one would still be free of the need to eat or drink, or worry about health or otherwise support oneself. I'm not convinced that it would be so bad to permanently retired in such a state even if one wasn't is magic candy land with angels and harps. Many people would kill for the opportunity to have some privacy and just being left alone in one's own thoughts and to one's own devices.

Of course, there are many other issues which could be raised about the particulars of the screwball beliefs of the Jehovah's Witless. They seem to believe, assuming that you can pin them down on anything officially, that people will have to live in a physically restored body on the Earth, which will become God's perfect kingdom for 1000 years, and then that non-believers will die, with no-resurrection, simply ceasing to exist. I will note that, in this case, if non-believers are simply extinguished then the observation of Epicurus still holds that Death would be nothing to fear, for when it is, you are not. In other words, when you cease to exist, you won't be around to worry about anything, so it too would not be any kind of terrible anguish. If you were to disappear suddenly, five seconds from now and cease to exist, you wouldn't be around to have any regrets. However, my point was simply that they do not seem to have thought through a number of the particulars, such as the need for a body at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment