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.
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.