Friday, May 28, 2010

Thoughts on the likelihood of heaven

More than 30 years ago, back when I was a Christian, I could not rap my mind around the mind fuck known as heaven. I asked my clergy questions, the answers made my head hurt. I was not comforted by the knowledge that I would spend eternity with my family, friends, or even with Jesus. I wanted to know how heaven worked, because the concept of heaven as white lower middle class Americans understood it, did not make sense.

I remember asking about a friend's mother who went senile near the end of her life. What happens to her when she dies? Is heaven a place where her senility is cured and she is restored to health? Does she suddenly become the best possible version of herself? In heaven, is she an 18-year-old at the top of her physical beauty? Or is she 35, 50, or that brief period at 62 where she was healthy before the senility set in? The clergy's answers ranged from a vague living sprit of brimming with health and beauty with full knowledge of her life, to an old crone, cured of her illness, but locked in the form of an aged body. It boggled my mind.

More troubling are those who are damaged by illness or accident at a young age. I knew a girl who fell from a horse and became substantially less of a person. Her mental capabilities were affected by brain trauma. She became more child-like instead of growing into adulthood. She's still alive today, but needs care. When she dies, is it the fully cognizant 15-year-old child who goes to heaven or the 50-year-old adult with muddled memories from the past 35 years? Christians tell me she will be made whole. What does that mean?

I'm thinking about this because of my stepfather. He's facing a round of radiation therapy for a brain lesion and the doctors have warned that his personality might change. The old hypothetical scenarios came roaring back. If medical treatment can change who a person is, then what the hell happens in heaven? Is it my old stepfather or the new surgically improved one? What if the new personality is better? I have an unquiet mind, it need answers. I know the answer already; I've known the answer for 30 years. Heaven is a sham. It is a fiction made up to secure the services of the faithful. I've always known this, even back when I called myself a believer. If heaven exists, it's right here on earth. It's only around for as long as we live to enjoy it. My stepfather knows this intuitively. His heaven is a wife, grandchildren, a few friends, and a nice old hotrod.  It's why he fights to stay alive each day. What we have here on earth is all we will ever have, and I think it's worth fighting for too.