Recently, a friend asked me: "do you believe in eternal life?"
The question served as a cow tipper...once asked, my brain began a domino chain of asked questions and answered thoughts about belief, life, theology, god, me, you and everything else.
OK...forget the onion rings and chicken sandwich...I meant everything else.
So I decided to write down a list of things I believe about belief, and about The Belief - which for me and my history and my culture - is the Christian Belief System.
First...I believe nobody knows much of anything, therefore I reject most "knowledge" and certainty when it comes to god stuff or Jesus stuff or spiritual stuff. To quote Bruce Cockburn, "we're the insect life of paradise, glimpsing for a moment the amazing breadth of heaven." It is all belief, and no amount of evidence, non-evidence, quoting amazingly dense and meaningless theologians or anything else will make it more than that.
Second...the Bible. Just a book. An important book, no doubt. For western culture, that is. But still just a book. NOT the Word of God. At best, a compilation of stories about sacred belief; at worst, a compilation of the ancient world's equivalent of Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. Screed stuff. Read it, think about it, but don't build your life on it. Or do. Whatever.
Third...God. Maybe, maybe not. The only reason I think it matters is...
Four...eternal life. For the most part, don't believe in it. But...when I am at my most religious, I am a universalist...that is, everybody gets saved and gets to go to heaven. Everybody. So...if everybody gets to go to heaven, and there is no hell but here on earth, then eternal life is a moot point, except maybe for creating a sense of wonder and eager anticipation about what it will be like. And that is a good thing.
Fifth...Jesus. Maybe, maybe not. There is significant historical evidence to indicate that he existed; there is also significant historical evidence to indicate that he did not exist. Either way...in some ways, it is a good story. Poor Jewish boy grows up to turn the world upside down. God? Probably not...unless he was telling us we are all gods, and therefore was advocating a bold blasphemy in the midst of the most monotheistic religious society in the history of the world up to that point. Which probably is why he was executed. Did he die for our sins? I don't think so. But...I like the intention of those who said that he did, for this reason. The message is: God loves us, we are all gods, love one another, God dies like all of us, gods die, that's OK, you are OK, all is well. I mean...seriously, who can get too upset about a message like that?
Sixth...belief. I mentioned this before, but let me say again...everything is belief. Everything. For the most part. Knowledge is temporary...because we will learn more tomorrow. 99.9999 percent of reality is mystery to us, and we are knocking it down at about 0.000000000001 percent a century. We just figured out oxygen (in the grand scheme of things, if we have been here for millions of years, transmogrifying from monkeys to humans). We haven't even seriously left the planet. It's laughable. Knowledge changes. Belief does too. Daily. What I believe today is not what I will believe tomorrow. Why? Because...
Seventh...impermanence. The great Buddhist core principle. Impermanence. Everything changes. Everything. Every moment. I have changed somewhat since I started typing this sentence. Over 10,000 of my cells have split. Others have died. On and on. So...belief changes as well, in small doses, as we learn, change, grow, ungrow, devolve, fart, and eat.
Eighth...emptiness. The next great Buddhist core principle. All is emptiness. And science is verifying that daily. Even at the sub-atomic, quantum level. Consider: a muon (google it if you don't know). If a muon was the size of a softball, the next closest muon to it would about ten miles away. It is important to realize that for the most part, we are a swarm of reality bytes, moving in perceived concert with other reality bytes. Not to take ourselves too seriously.
So...I don't know if I believe in eternal life. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if I do...or don't. In light of the things I just said, I don't know what does matter. But...here I am, here you are. Somehow, we have to make sense of it all. Why?
I really don't know.