Yesterday, a very sad thing happened. My mother’s dog died. Now, we were never “dog people”, but my mother’s husband wanted a dog and he got it. That dog has been the biggest mix of frustration and greatness that it’s possible to be in an animal.
He has always had knee problems and after several surgeries, everyone just kind of gave up. From about 2003 to yesterday, he could move on his own and could be quite fast hen needed, but he would suffer for it the next day. On the other hand, he never ever crapped in the house, he killed several water moccasins on mom’s front porch, and no one dared mess with him. He was a good dog and I’ll miss him. One of the design considerations of our new house was space for him.
The reason I bring this up is sadness and loss are a part of what makes us human. Those and other emotions, memories, the good, the bad, the experiences, the pain, the suffering, the joy, the wonder, the awe of our world and our own children is what makes us human. Yes, human can be defined biologically as Homo sapiens, but that can’t define who and what we are. Only our experiences can do that.
I have heard a lot of stories about heaven from my various pastors. I did a search for ‘heaven‘ in the New International Bible. There were 399 hits. Now, I looked these pretty quickly, so I might have missed something, but I was looking for descriptions of heaven to see how it compared with what I’ve been told in services and funerals all my life.
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:13
So heaven is righteousness: : acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin (Merriam-Webster). OK, think about that a second. How much guilt is in our lives. I’m not taking about divine guilt, but that which we heap upon ourselves. Did we do something that, in retrospect, wasn’t nice? Do we feel guilt for that? Did we say something inappropriate that hurt someone? Do we feel guilt for that? We don’t have to be Christians to feel bad for something said in the heat of the moment.
But none of that exists in heaven. So, either we can’t get into heaven or all those pieces of us are removed.
I’m not sure whether to count Revelation. Even now… especially now, Revelation just seems like a bad trip. There’s a pretty good (if completely made up) description of heaven in Revelation 21. But also in Revelation 21 is this sentence:
I’m not sure if this counts for as heaven as the preceding verses are talking about the New Jerusalem descending from heaven to Earth and God dwelling among the people again. So it may only refer to post apocalypse and not heaven itself. However, this is the verse that pastors tend to use in funerals (taken out of context of course). They talk about how there is no more suffering or pain in heaven.
But again, we are suffering and pain. It’s not the only thing, but it you remove a big chunk of your life’s experiences like that… are you still you?
Another aspect of heaven often mentioned in sermons seems to come from Revelation as well. That is, in heaven, we spend eternity singing the praises of God. That may be from Revelation 19:1.
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
Now, I can barely carry a tune in an MP3 player. I was specifically asked, during my time in church, to NOT sing. Spending an eternity singing would be sheer hell for me and those within earshot of me. Unless that part of me is changed too?
There are also going to be a lot of people I don’t like in heaven. Assuming that those who say they are Christians actually get in… how would it feel to be walking through heaven and see the priest who raped you as a small child? How would it feel to see the guy who your wife left you for? Unless all of that is removed as well, then there’s going to some shit in heaven.
I’ll also note that there is still war in heaven, again courtesy of Revelation 12:7. And there’s a very interesting contradiction in Revelation as well. According to Revelation 21:22, there is no temple in heaven because God is the temple. But Revelation 15:5 and 14:17 and 11:19, there is a temple in heaven. But that’s neither here nor there, just thought I would throw that dig in.
Anyway, in my opinion, if heaven existed, then it would remove (according to the Bible) many of the things that make us… well us. My mom and dad divorced when I was eight years old. I lost a very good friend because of some things I said. I lost a girlfriend because of some things I said. I miss my grandfather more than you can imagine, but if we were both in heaven, he wouldn’t be him anymore. His entire faith was built around the suffering he experienced in World War II. Without that suffering and pain, then he wouldn’t have been the person that he was. Nor would I be the person I am.
I know I’m not perfect, but that lack of perfection is what makes me who I am.
So, if heaven exists as described by the Christian religion (not Catholicism, I’m not really sure what they think about heaven), then if we die and go there… we won’t be us anymore anyway. The uniqueness that is our life will be mostly stripped away and we would be left as a hollow shell of a life. One without all the experiences that make us who we are.
We might as well be non-existent at that point anyway. Atheists describe death as the ceasing of life. We, as the beings that memory and experience make us, cease to exist. Well, that’s one thing that atheism and Christianity have in common. The us that exists in this world right now, will end when we die. Be it that we totally cease to exist or are a shadow of our life continued in heaven… either way, it’s still not us.