Here’s an idea that appeared to me one day:
While thinking I had some interesting thoughts about the idea of the “eternal”. Now, by “eternal” I mean things like heaven/hell and the ‘spirit world’ or, to put it another way, the ‘beyond’.
In these thoughts I seemed to think that the idea of the “eternal” was greatly influenced by Christian conversion in a very negative way. In other words, the natural idea of what constitued the eternal was ‘modified’ by the conditions caused by the Christian conversion in such a way that it actually ended up deteriating it. This is because the Christian conversion created attributes and qualities that are not part of the natural idea of the eternal and ended up working against it. In fact, it undermined the whole idea. Some of the effects it caused include:
- A sense of the eternal as something empty or vacuous.
- An apprehension, blind fear, and a sense of horror toward the idea of the eternal.
- An inability to understand the idea of the eternal.
- A denial of the idea of the eternal.
As one can see, it basically caused a general resistance toward the idea of the eternal that, normally, wouldn’t be there. In this way, it created a new versjon of the eternal which I shall call the ‘eternal by conversion’. This would create a new post-conversion sense of the eternal. In other words, its a distorted image of the eternal and, in so being, it is actually not the eternal at all but something else altogether. This may be why Western society has wrestled with it so much???
There seems to be a number of things that caused the ‘eternal by conversion’ such as:
- The ‘belief vacuum’.
- The ‘lack of basis’.
- The grim view of the afterlife.
- The condemnation and suppression of previous belief systems.
1. THE ‘BELIEF VACUUM’
During the Christian conversion people had to change from their known and practiced pagan gods to Christianity. Oftentimes, this was done forcibly or without their consent. This created a condition where people had to change from one belief to another, often immediately or within a short period of time. Despite what they may of learned about Christianity, it left a ‘vacuum’, an ‘unknowingness’, about it all, at least for many of the people. Its as if their beliefs were stripped from them and tossed to the side and what did they have left: a foreign belief system they couldn’t relate to. This created a great absence of belief in many peoples life. A people that once had a ‘defined belief’ now had a ‘foreign belief’ upon them which was unproven and in which they may not of understood that well no less believed. This created a ‘belief vacuum’ which has dominated much of the Christian converted world since. This vacuum is felt in many aspects of belief, one of which is the idea of the eternal. The ‘belief vacuum’ left a general sense that the eternal is “empty”, or not something to believe in, which reflected, in a way, the absence of belief and certainty in the people. This is often reflected in the ‘doubt’ about the Christian explanation of the eternal by many people since (and in any religious explanation). In other words, the idea of the eternal went from a defined belief to an uncertain belief, leaving a sense of a vacuum about the idea of the eternal, making it seem empty and devoid of any definite explanation and even unbelievable.
2. THE ‘LACK OF BASIS’
The ‘lack of basis’ of Christianity caused a vacuum as well. By this I mean that many people could not make a ‘connection’ between the new belief and their everyday lives leaving a great empty space. In short, it had no ‘basis’ in their life. It was, after all, a foreign belief which many did not, and still don’t, quite understand. As a result, the belief just ‘seemed there’ floating in the air like a mist, without any roots in their everyday lives. Not being permitted in their traditional beliefs and customs they were stripped of the very belief that was rooted in their lives. As a result, the Christian conversions created two forms of lifestyles:
- A lifestyle rooted in the traditional way of life but without any belief in their original beliefs or new religion.
- A lifestyle rooted in the new religion.
To me, it appears that the former was far more prevalent than what it at first seems. Many common people did not ‘take up’ the new religion as much as it appears. What they did is ‘go through the motions’ without any real belief creating, in a way, a ‘show religion’. This created something like a “half belief” in the new religion that continues down to today. Because of this, the explanation of life, and the eternal, became to have the quality of being ‘unexplained’ and ‘uncertain’. It makes it so that many people don’t know what to make of things like the eternal or how to perceive it.
3. THE GRIM VIEW OF THE AFTERLIFE
Many poor attitudes about the eternal was supported by Christian belief, which gave a grim view of the afterlife . . . hell and damnation! It created many frightening attitudes about the eternal: fear, horror, terror. This frightened many people who began to associate anything with the eternal with these attitudes. This created a somewhat distorted and twisted view of the eternal and what it is. The eternal turned into something that is threatening and something to fear. For some, this dominated their view of the eternal. For other people, these frightening attitudes made them ‘turn away’ from the eternal, and anything associated with it. Looking back on it now, all the ‘hell and damnation’ of Christianity actually repelled many people away from it.
4. THE CONDEMNATION AND SUPPRESION OF EXISTING BELIEF SYSTEMS
During the Christian conversion they condemned existing belief systems which have been there for who knows how long and suppressed them. In many ways, the condemnation and suppression of these beliefs became a condemnation and suppression of the people. A people that once had practiced an ‘open belief system’ now were faced with a ‘conforming belief system’ in which they must conform. They must follow the rituals. They must follow the beliefs. They must practice the customs. Belief became restricted and constrained. This caused a basic suppression of the natural tendency to believe which, in a way, killed it over time. The significance, meaning, and worth of things like the eternal would slowly disappear and fade. In a way, belief was being smothered to death.
I seem to think that the ‘eternal by conversion’ made the idea of the eternal empty and a void, an empty nothing, unexplainable and in which there was often some fear and apprehension about it. In the end, it was probably involved with the general fall of religious belief for most of the population. All these causes created a general moving away from the eternal and belief in general. It ended up causing things like:
- A loss of belief.
- Nihilistic viewpoints and attitudes.
- The coming of ‘alternate explanations’, like logic and science, that are definate and sure.
- A tendency to avoid the mystery of life.
These are all attitudes and conditions found in the modern world. As a result, we can see that the modern world mentality is rooted in the Christian conversion and its effects. The fact that many of these qualities are so dominant shows the power the Christian conversion had on Western society.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen