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January 3, 2012

I’m Not Looking Back, But I Want to Look Around Me Now.

by juju2112

Last Sunday, I took a group of atheists to a Pentecostal church with the goal of critically evaluating the experience. I wrote about it yesterday, but I never did get a chance to cover the sermon itself.

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The pastor’s talk was on New Year’s resolutions and the ways that people want to change themselves. He covered the different kinds of resolutions people usually make (losing weight, spending time with family, etc), and also the past worries of Y2K chaos. The pastor related that his hellfire and brimstone church at the time thought that we wouldn’t even be here today, as the rapture would surely be happening soon.

As is the case with most sermons, though, this one was actually about being saved. He explained that there’s no point in trying to improve yourself if you’re not right with God. After all, even if you make yourself a better person, all you’ve done is made yourself a better sinner. So what’s the point? All change that’s actually important, the pastor said, was through God. The message was that we need to focus on our relationship with God and the afterlife, not the world we’re in right now.

Frankly, this philosophy disgusts me. I spent many years focusing all my energy on the afterlife. Now that I realize it’s not true, I feel like I wasted those years. If this life is all we have, then we do need to focus on it. Spending more time with family and improving your health isn’t trivial at all. It’s way more important than praying for an hour a day or fasting for a week. That year we just had? We won’t ever get it back. It’s gone forever. I hope you’re proud of the things you did in 2011, because you’re not going to get an infinite number of years.

It isn’t just people pouring time and emotion into something that isn’t real that upsets me. It’s the casual dismissal of the “things of this world” and flat-out saying they aren’t important. This life is important. You never know when you’ll be gone, so we should be getting as much out of it as we can. Wasting time improving our standing with a fictional person or place is pointless.

Who am I to tell people how to spend their time, though? Do what you want with your life. But if people are spending time on something that isn’t even real, to me that is harmful. It costs us time, the most precious resource we have.

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