I was raised Christian. I was raised in a family where I was told that God was real and that he was looking out for me. According to the church I grew up in, he loves everyone unconditionally and when we die, he has this special place waiting for us. It’s a place of unending bliss and unending happiness where everything is great all the time. Everyone that we have ever loved is there and they will be so happy to see us. Isn’t it wonderful? Well, I heard about that, but some part of me never bought it. The church I was raised in was one of the most liberal I have ever seen. The people there were open-minded and good people. To this day, I hold nothing against them when I walked away. But the whole concept of Heaven seemed strange.
First off – it’s not unconditional love. When talking about Heaven, one can’t help but look at the man who runs it – God. A monotheist who happens to exist in three forms (consistency, what’s that?). See, I was raised to be told that his love for me is unconditional. Not true at all. If you read the Bible, then you learn that there are some very clear terms and conditions that apply to his love. Or, at the very least, to entry into his afterlife. You have to worship him. A lot. You have constantly love him and constantly be devoted to him. Otherwise, you don’t end up there. You go to this other place. It is a place of unending suffering and torment. You never get a chance to leave that place. You are stuck there, forever. So, the idea that this deity’s love is unconditional seems a bit ridiculous to me.
But the more I think about it, the more that I realize that the concept of Heaven is totally nuts. Here’s a thought for you – a place of eternal bliss would be hell after a while. Part of what makes the human condition so profound is that amount of emotions we experience and how we experience them. Nobody experiences just one thing at any given time. People like to have this false dichotomy of happy and sad. Like you are either one or the other. But no, emotion is a nebulous orb full of complexity and dissonance. That is what makes life so interesting. In Heaven, the idea is that everything will be good all the time. Maybe this is just me talking, but that would become Hell to me after a while. Nothing changes, nothing grows. Nothing is different. There is a great quote from Mordin Solus in Mass Effect 2 about change that I think applies here.
No limitations, no advancement. No advancement, culture stagnates.
In a place that is all bliss, all the time, what would change? With nothing to drive cultural growth, what would it be like? The way I see it, it would be pretty much the same thing, every single day, for all time.
That’s another thing – do you have ANY idea how long eternity is? A common Christian rebuttal to that is that time has different meanings in Heaven. That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if 1 day is a thousand years in Heaven. You are still there until the end of time. So your days will go on and on and on and on. It would never, ever stop. The reality is that one of the drives in this world is to make things change. We want to make the world different. But one of the reasons that immortality sounds horrible to me is because of the fact that eventually, you wouldn’t have anything left to change. You could only make things different for so long. Eventually, because your time in this place would never end, it would become the same thing, over and over and over again, until the end of time. Time is a funny thing to us mortals. Since we only live about 80 years or so, we get to live with the fact that eventually, we will die. Time doesn’t mean that much to us. But when I really think about it, everything about Heaven sounds like it would become a prison camp, with time as my guard. Scary shit, for sure.
So, if the truth about this place isn’t nearly as rosy as we think it is, why do we believe in it? Why do we indulge how absolutely insane this concept really is? I think I’ve come to a reason – because life sucks. For real, if life was a fun experience, then Heaven would seem like a total bore to us. But the truth is that when we have a relationship end, a loved one die or everything go to shit, then it is comforting to think about the fact that there is a place where you can go to be happy. A place where all the shit of this world isn’t going to find you. A place where you can indulge a belief that everything will be better. In some ways, I get that. In others, I find it kind of sad that people desperately need this place to exist to validate their lives.
Life is complicated. Life is hard. Life is a giant pain in your ass, but you stick with it. Because despite how shitty it is, there are the things that make the shit worth it. Seeing a beautiful sight that will last in your mind forever. Hearing a sound that makes joy come to your heart. For some, it is the sound of the ocean. For others, their baby or child’s laughter. We find those parts of life to validate the shitty parts that leave us wondering why we even bother. But that’s just my thoughts.
Food for thought.
Until next time, a quote,
“Some see it (death) as changing into an indestructible form. They believe that the purpose of the entire universe is to then maintain that form in an Earth-like garden that will be of delights and pleasure for all eternity. On the other hand, there are those who conform to the idea of our blinking into nothingness. We all have our experiences, our hopes and dreams, merely a delusion…Considering the marvelous complexity of the universe, its clockwork perfection, its balances of this against that, matter, energy, gravitation, time, dimension, I believe that our existence must be more than either of these philosophies. That what we are goes beyond euclidean and other practical measuring systems and that our existence is part of a reality beyond what we understand now as reality.” -Captain Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation