What all these heavens have in common, though, is that they are far off, hidden from our sight. Preachers and scriptures tell us that this life is a vale of tears and none can change that, but if we bear suffering with good cheer and humbly obey the religious authorities, we will receive pie in the sky by and by. Although most religions have edicts commanding their followers to aid the poor, none have any expectation that their followers will succeed at alleviating want, or even that such success is even possible. Jesus, for example, is reported as saying that the poor will be with us always (Matthew 26:11). Instead, most religions teach that misery and suffering will persist until God returns to establish his kingdom on Earth, and of course they all teach that converting the poor is a higher priority than supplying material needs. ("For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"The concept of Heaven and Hell has always posed a problem for me. I once heard heaven described as "being in the presence of God". I understand the concept. If there were a god, being in his presence would be the ultimate reward for faith. Reality intrudes - Heaven and Hell do not exist, nor does god. The only heaven (or hell) we have is the one we experience here and now while we live. In the immortal words of Bradley Nowell, "love is what I got". We make the best of what we have, we strive to be better, or we descend into the abyss of drugs or despair. The choices are ours alone to make. Without the reward of an afterlife, life itself becomes our precious reward.
John Coltrane is playing Syeeda's Song Flute at the moment. My wife and son are relaxing on the couch. I am in heaven.
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