Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Latter-Day Ain't

Most people entertain some kind of idea of what happens to them after they die. Some of them get pretty creative. My notion is that nothing happens at all. I'm here, and then I'm not. I might wish it otherwise, but not enough to make stuff up. This idea is not original to me, but it does worry some people, and some of them are praying for me. Although, to be fair, not all of them are praying because of my lack of imagination concerning the afterlife, but also some errant behavior I might be exhibiting while fully upright and viable. I don't really blame them, and I'm not averse to their efforts to intervene on my behalf. I think it's sweet. But I still think it's going to be lights out, don't-let-the-door-hit-you-in-the-butt for me.

I'm perfectly willing to find out otherwise on the other side, though, and under those circumstances I do not expect to be penalized for my lack of faith. As unlikely as I consider the prospect of a Supreme Being who is keeping tabs on me, I believe it is even more unlikely that such a being would have the nanner-nanner sensibilities of a seventh-grader. Hey, I could be wrong, though, and if there is a hell I'll bet it's a lot like seventh grade.

What would really suck, on the other hand, is to be zipping along in the void after my demise and suddenly discover I'm a Mormon. Apparently that is a possibility. I'm not picking on Mormons, because they're welcome to their whole philosophy, and I'd feel the same way about being a retroactive Muslim or Congregationalist. But the Mormons are the only ones practicing Baptism By Proxy. This is the practice of locating dead people--they've got the whole genealogy database set up for that--and baptizing them as Mormons using a currently warm and viable Mormon who gets dunked on their behalf.

The reason for this, as I understand it, is that baptism is necessary to achieve exaltation, or eternal life as miniature gods and goddesses in our own right. According to some reports, there is a quorum of Mormons that must be reached before everyone goes for glory, and so there is a concerted effort to rope in as many people as possible, including people previously snubbed (see: evangelism in Africa) and people previously, uh, alive. According to other reports, there is no quota system as such, and it's just a nice thing to do on behalf of folks who don't have as much opportunity to sign up, now that they're dead and all.

Either way, count me out. I'm not a brave person, and if you try to convert me at the point of a gun--this is not unprecedented religious behavior, and is starting to seem more and more likely all the time--I'll tell you anything you want to hear, and right now.  But in general I'm not one to cover all the bases just in case additional information turns up later. I'd have to spend my life genuflecting, wearing special underwear, painting my face, sacrificing animals, chanting, burning incense, and maintaining a shrine, and frankly, I have a hard enough time keeping up with the laundry.

Besides, if you're a Mormon and have been sealed with your family, you have to spend eternity with them, and Thanksgiving is hard enough. If I must, I must, but I'll take my chances with my own relations, thank you, and not some random Mormon family that might not even play Scrabble.

43 comments:

  1. Waving how-do from the Lone Star State. I'm LDS, an adult convert, faithful, respectful of others' beliefs, and non-pushy about my own. Love your blog and feel pretty much the same as you do about Thanksgiving dinner. The spouse-emeritus was at this year's, and he has taken it into his head that we should remarry, and that the kids should help him talk me into it; can't wait for Christmas dinner. I don't share some of my fellow-Christians' belief in Purgatory, but if I did, been there done that. And if you should find yourself eternally surrounded by Mormons someday, come over to my house and bring your Scrabble game.

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  2. Either way you look at it - whether God exits or not - how "life, the universe and everything" got to be is pretty amazing.

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  3. Fair's fair. If they can do this kind of corpse desecration by proxy, so can we. I'm going to come up with some mumbo-jumbo-chanting and hand-waving routine whereby I can declare Joseph Smith to be retroactively an atheist.

    After all, it's a safe bet that he doesn't believe in God right at this moment, since he isn't believing or doing anything whatsoever right at this moment.

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  4. "...unlikely that such a being would have the nanner-nanner sensibilities of a seventh-grader." Amen.

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  5. I've found this aspect or Mormonism interesting and, I guess, an attempt to give everyone a fair shot at the Pearly Gates. I figure the non-Mormanistic advantage is that to follow through they have to collect all this genealogical information which we can tap into.

    But...uh, I sorta' relish that freedom of choice thing...my freedom of choice, not someone elses.

    Scrabble. Stop spelling out dirty words and you might could fit right in.

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  6. I figure that if I live my live AS IF there were an afterlife, then I've covered my bases. I had never heard of this practice before, but leave it to you to make it seem as peculiar as it truly is! Your lighthearted sensibility makes me smile. I do so appreciate you.

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  7. Well if you are baptized by proxy into the Mormon faith (and as an exmormon I use the term "faith" loosely in this Mormon context), you'll be in good company -- I hear Ted Bundy, Adolph Hitler, Barack Obama's mother, and a few other famous and/or notorious figures have been dead-dunked and thus have a shot at Mormon heaven. Maybe they'll be neighbors with Joseph Smith and all his wives. Or that narcissistic a**hole, Brigham Young.

    Personally I'd prefer 7th grade hell. I hear the underwear is prettier. And they have better parties and beer, which would have been cool to drink in 7th grade.

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  8. I thoroughly enjoyed your post today. It's nice to start the day with a chuckle.

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  9. As an ex-Mormon, I realized a long time ago, that I didn't want to go to Mormon heaven -- like Cognitive Dissenter, I thought the other option seemed like much more fun.

    Great post, Murr!

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  10. if there is a hell I'll bet it's a lot like seventh grade.

    Yes, that's what I've always thought. I've never understood why atheists think religious people believe in an afterlife because it's comforting. Comforting, the idea of 7th grade forever? Yi. My own religious tradition is the most terrifying of all, in my opinion. Do all this *again*, until I get it right? Life after life? I don't believe in that for a moment, because if I did I wouldn't be able to get out of bed in the morning.

    Seriously, though, I think dying dead, while a comforting idea, is highly speculative. We have the daily experience of waking up from dreams and finding that reality as we were just experiencing it was actually delusion, although our consciousness is soldiering on. So we know that happens: actually, it happens a lot. Consciousness just switching off like a light? Well, maybe. Let's hope, anyway.

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  11. Heavenly Days! What a hell of a fine blog!

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  12. This story popped into the news a couple of years ago Holocaust Survivors Want Mormons to Stop Baptizing Dead Jews. Talk about the blind leading the deaf!!

    But Mormon Heaven is really cool... you (and your sealed spouse) get an entire planet assigned to you which you rule over for eternity. It's like having a "Second Life" without needing a computer.

    Don't believe me... check out the (banned) video!!

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  13. Really, all heavens are cool. I'd sign up but I'm pretty sure I'm already in heaven right here. And thank you, Lynn! I will definitely bring my Scrabble game if I travel to Texas. You sound like a lovely person.

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  14. The concept of Mormon heaven is horrifying. Brigham Young taught that men who go to Mormon heaven will have "millions" of wives who will all be submissive and obedient to their husbands. He also taught that no man could get to Mormon heaven if we was unwilling to have multiple wives.

    Sounds like hell to me. Stepford Wives x millions. Plus, have you met any devout Mormon men? Personally I'd opt to do seventh grade over again if offered as an alternative.

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  15. Please I hope they don't baptize me. Oh wait, I was christened. Isn't that the same thing? anyway, i'd rather take a swan dive into the lake of fire than go to mormon heaven.

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  16. Amen! Couldn't have said it better. And I do find the baptism-after-death practice to be more than a bit disturbing. Violative in point of fact.

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  17. In accord as ever, Murr. I wouldn't want to spend eternity with folks who reinvented marriage in our 19th century and then denied that right to others in the 21st. I call that hyPERcrisy (and I hope they're hyper-crispy in their sweet by-and-by).

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  18. Any of the Mormons or post-Mormons in attendance care to illuminate moreidlethoughts there on Special Underwear? Because I, myself, would like to know more about that, too.

    "Hyper-crispy." Snigger.

    I've been both baptized and confirmed. I wonder if that works as an inoculation.

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  19. What about not baptized and not confirmed? And completely non-religious???

    My idea of the afterlife will be kinda like Star Trek... I will become an energy being and will be free to explore the universe with no constraints whatsoever.

    That sounds like more fun than being stuck is a proxy family.

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  20. I'm not a Mormon, but I thought "special underwear" was the stuff you put on before leaving the house if you were afraid you'd be in an accident and somebody else might see it.

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  21. Arrgghh...why did you have to mention the Mormons' special underwear? Last night I had a nightmare about a special underwear bomber. I hope those whole-body scanners at the airport can detect it.

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  22. Mormons are nice people.
    But their founder couldn't keep track of his golden tablets. He just . . . lost 'em somewhere.
    I dunno. Makes the whole rest of it seem a little wackamo.

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  23. Sometimes it seems as though you are my twin demon, perched on my shoulder, urging me to think all these thoughts that I usually try to put off until the end of the day, or when I can't sleep, or when, I guess I'm just wondering about everything I've ever been taught by everyone. When it gets too noisy in my head, I consult with the birds at my feeder, the two squirrels who are obvious teenagers chasing themselves up and down my tree, and release those thoughts like colored balloons to float away, until they become tangled in another one of my tree-thoughts. Welcome to the inside of my head.

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  24. Just listen to the catchy lyrics of "Let the Mystery Be" by Iris DeMent. Exactly your sentiments, Murr.
    -Tony M

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  25. It's impossible for me to imagine the end of consciousness. I have to believe that there's more to life than this because, I mean really... What was the point? I'm not mired in any particular dogma, but I would like to see all my pets that have passed before me. I've had some good horses I'd sure like to ride again. But not if it means being a Mormon. No offense to anyone.

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  26. You know, I am just plain suspicious of ANY religion that says--you're male, big advantage. Round up a bunch of wives, or virgins or whatever.
    Puh-lease.
    What is there about male ego that is so driven to lord it over this life and the next?
    Reminds me of the time I outright flabbergasted a guy I was working with when I told him that the Bible using the masculine pronoun for God did NOT mean that God had a penis. He looked at me dumb-struck. To this day, I don't know if I had just spoken heresy in his mind, or if he couldn't believe he was hearing the word "penis" spoken somewhat derisively.

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  27. KGZMom: Did he go into "defense" position? If he did, you got your answer.

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  28. The world lost a lot when we went from "Demeter" to "Deus." And SHE went back before Zeus, too! (Can you say "Eleusinian MISS-teries" and not "Eleusinian MISTER-ees"?)

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  29. I have never before, anywhere, heard or read a description of "after life" or the lack thereof that so closely matched my own!
    I come from an evangelical background. I know my mother is praying for my soul. I'm not sure my brother and sister care, since we don't agree on much.
    I'm up on the Morman theology, and find it quite amazing. What folks will invent in order to have peace of mind or gain power and control over others!

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  30. Oh, come one, Murr! Everybody knows you wear special underwear.

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  31. It does not happen to be true that everyone knows what my underwear is like. That is a rumor that started in the early seventies with a pretty solid basis in fact, but it became less and less true over time. The only really special underwear I ever had was in 1980, when our puppy took a fancy to chewing the crotch out of my underwear. At that point they ceased to fulfill their foremost function and only served to provide visible panty lines, which made them as useful as those rakes that put creases in your carpet so it looks like you've vacuumed.

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  32. When I was 8 years old I was told by a raving Baptist minister-lunatic that I wasn't ever going to be saved and that I was going to hell to burn eternally. That pretty much sealed my relationship with organized religion and their crazy zealots. But! Zealots would be an awesome scrabble word played on a triple word square.

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  33. Hi Murr, I've missed your crazy posts and you did me proud, you old Scrabble player you! That's insane about post-baptismals, yeehaa!

    Merry Christmas, that rebel, Olivia

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  34. Shamelessly funny! If you ARE a Mormon and don't know it. . . I can see somebody volunteering to be baptized for you, but doing that year-long missionary venture on your behalf? I wouldn't count on it.

    That demerit could definitely put you among the family members too lazy to play Scrabble. Or shuttled off by yourself, tied to the top like Mitt Romney's poor dog.

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  35. Mitt Romney's dog spent the family driving vacation tied to the top of the station wagon, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1638065,00.html

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  36. Mary just blew my mind. And I think Mormons play Scrabble, just like you and me. We're all more alike than different, really.

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  37. The world lost a lot when we went from "Demeter" to "Deus." And SHE went back before Zeus, too! (Can you say "Eleusinian MISS-teries" and not "Eleusinian MISTER-ees"?)

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  38. KGZMom: Did he go into "defense" position? If he did, you got your answer.

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  39. In accord as ever, Murr. I wouldn't want to spend eternity with folks who reinvented marriage in our 19th century and then denied that right to others in the 21st. I call that hyPERcrisy (and I hope they're hyper-crispy in their sweet by-and-by).

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  40. Really, all heavens are cool. I'd sign up but I'm pretty sure I'm already in heaven right here. And thank you, Lynn! I will definitely bring my Scrabble game if I travel to Texas. You sound like a lovely person.

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  41. Fair's fair. If they can do this kind of corpse desecration by proxy, so can we. I'm going to come up with some mumbo-jumbo-chanting and hand-waving routine whereby I can declare Joseph Smith to be retroactively an atheist.

    After all, it's a safe bet that he doesn't believe in God right at this moment, since he isn't believing or doing anything whatsoever right at this moment.

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