Monday, February 11, 2008

Day in the Life: I Wanna Go To Heaven

I stopped at a local fast-food restaurant for lunch yesterday. I was alone and as I sat eating, the song on the restaurant's radio caught my attention. While I can't recall the lyrics, the hook was clear: "I want to go to Heaven".

The singer was obviously talking about the Christian Heaven, with the ideas of happiness and joy, seeing all your family and friends, and "good weather" being present in the lyrics.

On High
First, let me say that I did not take offense at the song being played. I didn't storm up to the front, angrily asking the employees why they would allow a religious song to be played while I -- an ATHEIST! -- dined at their fine establishment.

Of course not, that would be silly and pretentious.

Second, understand that this post isn't about my objection to the song at all. Just because a person sings a song doesn't mean that it is true, or that they think it is true. I can sing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" without believing it.

My argument is with the idea put forth by the song, or more rightfully, by the religion.

What's So Good About Heaven?
I'll assume that you know the story of the Christian Heaven, the magical place where God lives and only the people who love Jesus can go there when they die. It's full of golden streets and angels with harps and sunbathing saints on a bed of puffy clouds. For the purposes of this post, I'll ignore the fact that none of this is provable, including the existence of the "soul" that apparently will represent you while in Heaven. We'll hit that some other time.

For now, I want to simply ask the question (presuming it's true), what's so great about Heaven? I suppose you could narrow the common answers down to the following:
  • Being in the presence of God
    That may sound like the ultimate dream-come-true for your average Christian, but if the Christian God did exist, I wouldn't want to be in his presence. As Professor Dawkins stated, that god is a controlling, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

  • Life after Death
    A wonderful idea, isn't it? Just think about it right now, just for a second. No matter what your beliefs regarding an afterlife are, just for a moment entertain the idea that you can survive your own death. More specifically, you will never really "lose" anyone you care about. Your family and friends will all be there with you, or at least they'll come soon, and you'll all live happily forever-after.

    Aside from the scientific logistics of this idea, the thing that bothers me the most of about it is its implications with life. I mean, if you'll have all the time in the after-world to do the things you could have or say the things you should have when you were alive, then you'll end up not saying and doing those things while you're wasting the only one life you know for sure that you do get.

  • There is only joy
    One of these doctrines is the idea that there is no sorrow, sickness, or pain in Heaven. I mean, you're right next to God, for Christ's sake! If your tummy hurts, go tell God and he'll fix it. He'd have to; he's right there!

    One could argue, however, that you need sorrow to know joy. You can't have cold without hot, otherwise what would cold even mean? Of course, this is getting too technical and philosophical for my purposes. But a utopia with no more loss or pain would be a wonderful thing, I think.

  • It isn't Hell
    If you don't let Jesus write your name in his special book, you'll be turned away from the Pearly Gates when you expire, and since the Catholics did away with Purgatory, the only other place you could go is to Hell. Hell is the complete opposite of Heaven, they say. A total separation from God, it's supposedly a place of never-ending pain and anguish (brought to you by your all-loving creator!).

Aside from being a comforting thought (i.e., there's no need to fear death, because it's not really "the end"), the Christian canon describes this fantastic story with specific stipulations that, to me, do not seem that appealing.

It Won't Be Me
For one thing, how could I "enjoy" Heaven when I know that, for example, my unbelieving wife is down there, roasting in Hell forever? I've asked this question to several believers, and the general response I receive is shocking. God, they say, will alter my memories, or change my "being" so that I will have no recollection of those in eternal torment.

Alter my memories?! Overlooking the fact that memories are a function of the brain, something that goes nowhere when you die, my response is clear: No! I don't want my mind erased just to live in ignorant bliss! My memories and thoughts are part of me...they're what make me, me! If any of them were purposefully taken away from me, whatever's left won't be me.

Unlike the singer, I don't wanna go to Heaven. Sure, I'd like to know that I'll live forever even after I die, and that all my family and friends will too. But there is just no reason to think that that is anything more than a fantasy, no matter how sweet it sounds. I need to do what's right, right now. I need to tell those around me how I feel, right now. I need to live my life the best way I know how, and right the wrongs I have made or will make in this life and not wait around to do it after I'm dead.



Rahil Abbas Habib said...

an interesting read. now, as far as i was aware you're basing all of this on what christian scriptures say.

well let me tell you what Islam says.

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem (In the name of Allah, the most beneficent, most merciful)

Of course you will worry for your loved ones right now (in this life) about their destination - will they end up in hell? will they be shown mercy and allowed into paradise? it's natural to feel this worry. I myself wonder the same thing about me, my family, my friends, and everyone else!

But let me tell you something. Now, whether you choose to take heed of this and look seriously into it all, that's up to you. If you do, that's great! if you just brush it off, then... I pray that Allah(God) guides you.

By the way, any references to God, I will write as Allah as that is the Arabic word for God - our Creator.

Now, after we die, it's not as simple as we will live again. no, that's not the case. After we die, we'll be taken to the heavens and recorded (as it were). After that, our soul will be returned to our grave - where are dead. When the Day of Judgement arrives, THAT is when we will be resurrected. Live will given to us again - Allah will rise all of mankind up once more for that day so that everyone will be judged (hence the name, Judgement Day).

Now, I know you mentioned that according the christian scriptures you'll go to paradise if you believed in Jesus (peace be upon him) as the son of God. Now, that is not true. God has no child(ren) nor any parents. He begets not not was He begotton. And if you think about it, it makes absolutely no sense for Allah to have a son.

Now, I don't know a great deal about christianity, but they seem to believe in this concept known as first sin. Which is basically that we are all liable to being punished because Adam (peace be upon him) disobeyed Allah and ate from the tree... and that Jesus (peace be upon him) died as a sacrafice for our sin...he paid for our sins through his death. Now I just wanna point out that Jesus was never actually killed but rather he was elevated to the heavens until an appointed time - but that's a whole other discussion.

But the reality of things is that we are accountable for our own deeds and misdeeds - not those of others.

Now, you have to try and understand that paradise is a reward that no single person can ever attain no matter how much they worship and how obedient they are to Allah. BUT, according to how obedient you were or tried to be, Allah will show mercy to you and allow you admittance you into paradise.

So why would anyone wanna go to paradise? well...since there are only two places to go (hell being the other) I think anyone who is of sound mind would prefer paradise over hell.

if you work hard enough you can get that really nice car or house that you've had your eye on for a while now...but if you don't put any effort into getting it, you probably never will, and then you'll have to stick to that really small car that has rusted away and gives you endless headaches and problems.

It's the same for paradise. If you want it, you have to work for it. You can't expect to just be given paradise.

Now, as an atheist, you're probably thinking, that's all fine and dandy, but i don't believe that Allah exists in the first place so none of this matters...

but let me ask you this; if there is no creator, then how is there the creation? if you was to walk by a mountain and you saw a tent and a fire at the top, but you didn't see anyone there (or nearby either) you wouldn't assume that the tent just built itself or the fire just started itself would you... everything in creation comes from somewhere....from a Creator.

STA said...

"if there is no creator, then how is there the creation?"

The argument from design? Really?! Come on, I thought you'd at least have read some of my posts before leaving me this drivel...

Who says the "creator" has to be anything conscious, intelligent, supernatural, or god-like? Was the "creator" of the mountain in your question an intelligent god? Nope.

You first have to show that universe is a "creation", and then you have to show how YOUR god is the real, and finally you have to show how YOUR god is responsible for "creation".