Doubting Thomas

Ever wonder whether it’s all worth it?

I do. Frequently.

What if there isn’t a God to explain everything at the end of this life? What if there’s no St. Peter with a list of your good and bad deeds waiting for you at the front of the pearly gates?

What if death is just …

and that’s all we get?

It doesn’t frighten me as much as it disappoints. I work hard at bettering myself each day. I make it my business to always regard myself as a rough draft, far from perfect and in dire need of revision. I recognize weaknesses in my personality or well-being and seek to correct them immediately. I strive for honesty, courtesy, integrity, and discipline in my character. I commit to exercise and therapy for my physical and mental health. After all, you can’t care for someone else unless you’ve proven efficient at taking care of yourself. And although I haven’t covered each flaw yet, I’m still in the process of self-discovery. There’s always hope for a better me, a better day.

But, what if it’s all in vain?

Do our attempts at self-improvement matter if we’re just destined to perish as shells of our former selves anyway?

What regrets would we have if we found out at the end of the road was simply nothingness? No eternal reward for our sacrifices?

Wouldn’t you wonder about that extramarital affair you wanted to have but didn’t? Or the $100 bill you returned to a gentleman after it fell out his pocket as he obliviously strolled past you?

Rejecting these options might have been the stupid thing to do. Most likely, you made your decision based on your own morality. But, what is morality in an existence with an inevitable and unsatisfactory end?

Atheist ideology is more popular than ever but there are still traditional religious folk who press the notions of a right and wrong, good and evil, Heaven and Hell. Being of logical mind yet raised with a Catholic background, I find myself standing at the crossroads with my ice cream cone melting down my arm wondering which path is right.

Has the pressure to be a “good” person been worthwhile? Does anyone beside my family and friends notice?

I’ve carried groceries across the street for the elderly. I’ve carried my girlfriend over large puddles. I’ve helped raise her daughter. I’ve donated money. I’ve volunteered at soup kitchens. I’ve tutored children. I’ve been a reliable presence in my family and friends’ lives. I’ve maintained a general goodwill with people throughout most of my life – quite a feat if you know how much of an introvert l am.

But, what merit do these actions hold in the afterlife? Is there a scoreboard? If not, then why strive for a moral and just character? Am I just following suit?

Even worse, am I just pretending to be a good person for peace of mind?

Isn’t that wrong? Isn’t charity supposed to be about other people? What type of hypocrite does something for people to make themselves feel better? That’s backhanded philanthropy.

Wouldn’t being bad make me happier? Wouldn’t it be logical to act selfishly if I’m going to dematerialize into dirt anyway?

James Lipton, host of Inside The Actor’s Studio, asks his guests what they would like to hear God say when they arrived at Heaven’s gate. I think I know what my answer is:

“Hey! Welcome to Heaven! Right here is everyone you’ve ever loved and everything you’ve ever wanted. Enjoy, asshole!”

That’s been my incentive all along. And that’s a bad thing, right?

On the opposite end of the afterlife spectrum is, of course, Satan in his red tights with an over-sized dinner fork inviting us into his very uncomfortable home void of any air conditioning, privacy, and personal space. (Sounds suspiciously like the subway during rush hour, doesn’t it?) Apparently, Hell is quite inspirational. Nobody wants to suffer for eternity. But, that would mean all of my goodness is generated from a fear of being punished. I’m like the scared little kid knocking out all his chores because Daddy just pulled out the belt. I can’t expect an allowance for that performance. There needs to be a purer intent than just avoiding an ass-whooping.

So, then, what the hell? (No pun intended. Well, maybe a little. But, apparently for my sake, not yours.) How’d we get here? Seriously, this shit is baffling.

The Big Bang Theory?

OK. But, where did the objects that initially slammed into each other to subsequently form the universe come from?

Any help with that one, atheists?

Didn’t think so.

What if God made us for entertainment’s sake? For shits and giggles?

Just look at how successful reality TV has become. I can’t imagine God finding anything better to watch on his ubiquitous crystal ball than the shit people do on a daily basis. He’d have crime shows, love stories, war epics, terrorism plots, and comedy to entertain Him. Only thing missing would be suspense, right? On the whole, everything’s a rerun to an omniscient being.

My conclusion is that it’s all like the ending to Inception. Does the totem stop spinning? Is he still dreaming? My girlfriend thinks he’s still dreaming because he’s wearing his wedding ring in the final scene. Supposedly, he only wears his wedding ring in scenes where he’s dreaming. But, it’s just metaphorical comfort food for someone who needs to know an answer. However, I realize that Christopher Nolan himself, the writer and director, doesn’t even know. Because there isn’t an answer.

And I’m guessing that’s the point.

 

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