“When you die, you’ll go to Heaven. All of our family who have gone before us will be waiting. Even when Mommy and Daddy die, it won’t be the end. We’ll be there waiting for you too.”
“But I’m scared Mommy. What if I’m not good enough to get in?”
“God knows your heart Ben. God knows you’re a good person and all good people get to enter into Heaven.”
My mother used to tell me all the time that God knows ours hearts. He knows we’re essentially good people and good people get rewarded for good behavior. Of course we all make mistakes, but we’re also forgiven so it’s really no big deal. I always worried though. Some of my earliest memories are of sleepless nights imagining death having nothing to offer. No afterlife. No Heaven. No Jesus. I worried that my mother was wrong and that when I died my consciousness would cease to be. That was a frightening thought to me. It still is in a way.
The promise of Heaven wasn’t a story concocted by my parents to get me to be good, although they did use it as a means of correction from time to time.
“God’s watching you so you better be good!” my mother would say.
No, the story of Heaven has been passed down for a very long time and is part of many religions. The Christian version I heard about sounded amazing. My family would be there waiting for me. I would be happy all the time doing all the things in life that I enjoyed. The problem is that the version of Heaven I was taught as a Christian didn’t even exist in Christian theology. It was something made up by people who wanted to believe in a Heaven that included all of what they wanted and excluded all that they didn’t. It was a hodgepodge of this and that. Basically it was whatever you wanted it to be and that could vary from person to person.
So whenever this life here and now got me down, I could always look forward to the better, happier and eternal life to come. All of the woes here were temporary and an endless supply of happiness was just around the corner. It all sounded too good to be true. When things sound too good to be true, it’s because they are. The faith I had in the Christian god and his son Jesus promised me a much different version of Heaven than what I was taught. I had to actually open up the book that is said to contain God’s word, yet seldom read by Christians to find that out. Heaven was not eternal bliss, but rather eternal servitude and constant groveling at the feet of Jesus. Every moment of every day of the eternal life to come would be spent kissing feet and offering praise. No thanks.
Some people are so engrossed in religion that eternal ass-kissing sounds like a welcome destination after a lifetime of living in this “sinful world.” Some people are okay with the thought of spending an eternity married to Jesus instead of an eternity with their departed spouse or children. An eternity without my family is not Heaven to me. It’d be Hell. But it’s whatever God thinks is best for us, right? Let us build strong relationships here and dissolve them upon death? That’s not love. That’s cruel.
The Heaven that nearly all believers want to go to is not one that exists anywhere but in the minds of those who want it to be real. It’s not in the Bible or in another Holy book. Some people even think their pets will be there in Heaven because their bond with them on earth is certainly indicative of animals having souls, right? The Heaven people want is not being offered by religion, yet people pay up each and every week to try to get closer to reserving their spot there. The Heaven they are trying to get to is a panacea that they have created because problem solving here and now is too hard.
The issue with creating a Utopia in your mind and then actually believing you are going to go there is that it makes you neglect the life you have here now. If the life to come is going to end all suffering, why fight suffering now? This life is far too short as it is to be bowing down to an unknown/unknowable/unbelievable god when you could be focusing on your happiness and the happiness of those you care about. I’m not saying Christians don’t love their families. They certainly do. But they spend so much time, effort and money trying to appease words in a book, thinking it will put them on the winning side. The words in a book are simply words in a book. Until proven otherwise, God is simply our minds shaping those words into a human-like form that we can relate to. Until proven otherwise, God is an idea. Until proven otherwise, God is no more real than any other words we’ve read in any book written at any time in human history.
Focusing on a blissful eternity when there is no evidence of that is to put all of your eggs in one basket and pray that the god you’ve come to believe in likes your eggs enough to carry your basket home. The life you have now is real. Why and how we got here is irrelevant to the fact that we are here. This life is real and this life has an end. Any life beyond this one is fantasy until there is some proof to the contrary. This life is stressful enough as it is without having to worry about which god to serve and without worrying that the god we do choose to follow isn’t pleased with our performance.
Believing that an eternal paradise awaits is a nice thought, but it distracts from the paradise that you could be living in now. The life you live with the loved ones you live it with is your reward. There is no divine scoreboard you need to worry about in order to be happy. If God is real and is watching us live our lives, he does so as a mere spectator. Look at all of the things in this world that are happening that go against what religious teachings say. There is constant contradiction between scripture and reality. Instead of making excuses, put down your book and open your eyes. Instead of “walking with God”, take a walk out in nature. Instead of “being the bride of Christ”, spend time being a good spouse or partner. Instead of “having childlike faith”, spend time with your kids. These are the things that are real. These are the things that are meaningful. These are the things that will give your life purpose and value.
Stop wasting a perfectly good life waiting for a perfect life to come. Stop putting things off now because you think a divine being will swoop down one day to make things all better. Make this life count because it is all you are guaranteed. What you see before you is what you get. If there is an afterlife, I sure hope it’s one filled with more time with the ones I love and not time with the one I used to pray to. My family loves me and takes care of me. The one I used to pray to couldn’t be bothered to answer when I called or be bothered to keep a promise. An eternity with someone like that is not one I wish to endure.