RS Classic: Apparently I'm Waxing Philosophical

>> Sunday, August 8, 2010

Since I started talking all this in the here and now, I thought I'd recycle some of my thinking along these lines from before, including what I think of the viewpoint of Christian thinking. As you can see, my opinions haven't changed much.

Something I rarely do is post an email forward. It’s almost impossible to trace them down and give credit and this is not an exception. But, I have a reason for putting up this up, and I’ll explain afterwards.

A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead. He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.

After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight.
When he was standing before it he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side.

When he was close enough, he called out, ‘Excuse me, where are we?’
‘This is Heaven, sir,’ the man answered.
‘Wow! Would you happen to have some water?’ the man asked.
‘Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.’
The man gestured, and the gate began to open.
‘Can my friend,’ gesturing toward his dog, ‘come in, too?’ the traveler asked.
‘I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.’
The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.
After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence.
As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book..
‘Excuse me!’ he called to the man. ‘Do you have any water?’
‘Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there, come on in.’
‘How about my friend here?’ the traveler gestured to the dog.
‘There should be a bowl by the pump.’
They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it.
The traveler filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself, then he gave some to the dog.
When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree.
‘What do you call this place?’ the traveler asked.
‘This is Heaven,’ he answered.

‘Well, that’s confusing,’ the traveler said. ‘The man down the road said that was Heaven, too.’
‘Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That’s hell.’
‘Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name like that?’
‘No, we’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.’
Now, why did I do that? I have to be honest, I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell. Seriously.

But, it got me to thinking and that’s the kind of thing I like to spread around. Let us postulate, for entertainment value, that Heaven and Hell did exist. I personally think this sort of set up is perfect. Not just because many animals have souls (duh!), but because this could be the perfect way to differentiate between someone worthy to go to Heaven or Hell.

Think about it.

You walk up to the “Pearly Gates” and meet St. Peter (as far as you know). If, after the description of Heaven (streets of gold, no worries or stress ever, wonderful and perfect in every way, etc) you still wanted to go in (and I find that hard to believe, but we’ll say that sounds good to ya). So, St. Peter starts going to through a screening list. You a Muslim? You a Pagan? You a homosexual? You ever have an abortion? Would you have supported your teenage daughter if she wanted one? Etc. etc. You say no (presumably) to it all, and Peter says, “Well, I can see you’re a righteous person. Come on in.”

Would you go in? Before asking “What if I’d said yes to any of that?” If you’d gone in, no questions asked, I think you’d deserve the Hell you got (and, by the way, the boredom of that just as it described would be Hell to me, too).

Why in hell would heaven be exclusionary? And, if it was, is it where you’d want to be? I think this is one of the aspects of organized religions, particularly the Middle Eastern originating ones (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) that I have the hardest time understanding.

What kind of butthead thinks that sounds like Heaven?

It's kind of between the lines, but I was shooting for the notion that most of us (if not all of us) know someone who wouldn't make the cut as fundamentalists see it. What kind of person waltzes into Heaven blissful with the understanding that these people they know will live in everlasting torment? Aside from what I think that says about "God," I think it says something about the people who believe there is a long list of exclusionary criteria for Heaven. I have to admit, most of the Christians I know don't really think that way or so I truly believe.


  • The Mother

    I guess I'm right out.

    Here's my take: What kind of afterlife would you actually want?

    The Christian view: things stay the same, always. You spend your eternity praising God, everything is wonderful; you are surrounded by the people you love.

    My husband, whom I love dearly, starts to grate on me by the end of a long vacation, let alone eternity.

    I would accept an afterlife that includes no less than the capacity to grow and change and learn. Anything else is unacceptable.

    So far, no one is offering me that. Which is probably okay, since I don't believe in a soul separate from our neurobiochemistry anyway.

    (PS: I don't know of any religion that thinks animals have souls. Christianity, following Aristotle and Descartes, does not. Buddhism probably comes closest, but animals, like handicapped people, have defective souls.)

  • Shakespeare

    Presbyterians define hell as "the absence of god." And I tend to agree with them. I believe reincarnation is likely, and in a more spiritual existence (if our souls go somewhere permanently, or for a while between lifetimes) I assume that life is rather like it is here, though I hope I have a better perception of the world (see more, know more, etc.).

    The latter is only because I currently feel so obtuse. Then again, I have absolutely no idea what awaits. So I just have to wallow in the now.

  • Shakespeare

    I'm not saying that "believing in god" is necessary for one to not be in hell. The Presbyterian definition just works because I see "god" as some sort of spirituality, VERY loosely defined.

  • Stephanie Barr

    The Mother, except for the fact I believe in souls, we probably aren't that far different. Take a look at tomorrow's post and decide for yourself.

    Shakespeare, I don't know how to define an "absence of God" so I can't equate it with Hell. I see a large number of believers who use their interpretation of God to do horrible things. I'd rather have "no God" than do that. Actually, I'd find a Heaven with nothing but leisure or where good people were excluded far too Hellish to suit my tastes.

  • soubriquet

    Whether or not animals have souls, or whether souls exist at all, I'd say my dog learned from the best of me, and not from the worst. He was ever faithful, loyal, trusting and forgiving. Which is pretty much what god expects of christians, yes? He might not have been too big on the subject of sharing, but if I took his bone away from him, he'd sigh, and accept it.
    Given all that, I'd say my dog would be better qualified to enter heaven than his master.

    I don't believe in god though. I don't deny the possibility of god, but nothing so far has convinced me. If there is a heaven, and it's full of those bible-bashers who think it their place to rain down condemnation on every person who does not share their beliefs, then I won't miss it. I'll be better off with the excluded folk. And the dogs.

  • Roy

    Huh! So Heaven has triage. Who knew?

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