In search of Heaven: Where is it and who gets to go there? (Opinion)
As a follow-up to my "God Particle" article, I thought of expanding the topic to Heaven and Hell. If you believe there is a God, must you also believe in an afterlife, that place of utopia and its opposite destination of abject horror?
The Christian Bible teaches of a far away dimension where the "good souls" will ascend to after death or the second coming of the son of God, Jesus Christ. A place of perfection where those who lived a life according to the Bible get to inherit unrivaled splendor--a utopia not possible on earth. According to the Roman Catholic doctrine, this transcendent realm is also the home of the Holy Trinity--God, his Son and the Holy Ghost, along with the Angels, Archangels, Saints and all those "worthies" who died before you.
Islam teaches of similar rewards but this time, men who have lived according to the strict instructions of Allah will have countless virgins for carnal pleasures. I don't know if the women get their share of partners for unbridled passion as well. Terrorists doctrine emphasizes this carnal reward to their suicide bombers willing to die for the cause.
Buddhists believe that death is not the end but the beginning of another existence. Their version of "Heaven" is slightly different to Christian's. As the earthly body dies, the spirit seeks another "attachment" through a new body and life.
But a person can be reborn in one of six realms--heaven, human beings, Asura, hungry ghost, animal and hell, according to the severity of ones karmic actions. However, where the Christian euphoric Heaven seems to be the last stop, Buddhists believe none of these stages are permanent and we are forever evolving into new journeys.
The Jewish belief stresses their earthly quality of life rather than the afterlife. Though Christianity has invaded the far corners of the globe including the continents of Africa and Asia, there are still deep recesses of native religious customs flourishing, where they worship different Deities and have different ideas of the afterlife.
For every point there is a counterpoint, therefore a utopia of Heaven cannot exist without the darkness of a despairing Hell where evil demons and their king Lucifer await you if you're not worthy of the utopia "above."
I was barely a teenager when an American evangelical minister visited my tiny island homeland. His fiery sermon, followed by an extremly graphic film, brought out the "natives" in droves, terrifying everyone with the torturous red hot Hell and promises of the exquisitely pampered life the poor could only dream of.
Suffice it to say, even though I had been an avid churchgoer since a child, that fire and brimestone sermon scared the "hell" out of me. (Pun intended). I have since gotten over that fear and religion, not necessarily in that order of course.
Which brings up this intriguing question: Are Heaven and Hell an invention of religion to exert power and control over the masses? Fear is a potent motivator and crafty tool to use for control. Church-goers swear it's real and atheists sneer in mockery and disdain.
Others believe in a Supreme being but do not take the teachings of the Bible literally. Heaven and Hell to them is a state of mind here on earth-- a way of living life in the here and now not the hereafter. Moreover if one has to measure up to a level of purity, who gets to enter the "pearly gates"?
Do gays and lesbians, transgender and bisexuals go to Heaven? What about ideologies? Some conservatives, Catholics and evangelicals believe abortions, birth-control, being gay or lesbian, even medical procedures like amniocentesis, are wrong or "sinful." So are liberals who do not adhere to this belief doomed for hell?
What about other religions who do not subscribe to the biblical places of Light and Darkness, are they too barred from the streets of milk and honey? What about the very rich? The Bible teaches that it is "easier for a camel to go through the eyes of a needle than for the rich to enter the gates of heaven."
It does get blurry when one gets down the nitty-gritty of just who gets to inherit the goodies of Heaven and who gets banished to burn with the prince of darkness, Lucifer, the devil, Belzebub or any of the numerous names given to the fallen angel who rules down below.
Now that I have mentioned down-below, where exactly is Heaven or Hell? We were taught as children that Heaven was up there and Hell was "down there." But in terms of the universe, there is no up or down. So are they in another dimension? One pastor said Heaven was "out there." Which leads into another query. Are we the only ones "out here" or are there other life forms and other galaxies besides ours, and if there are, how does that fit into our God, Heaven and Hell beliefs?
No one has ever died and returned physically except the biblical Jesus Christ, but many documented stories tell of near-death experiences where adults and children describe what they saw and felt. Sceptics explain away the common recounted bright white light at the end of the tunnel; the euphoric feelings and the meetings of loved ones who had died, as the brain doing psychedelic tricks, but believers say those vivid memories are more than the chemistry of grey matter.
Speaking of grey matter, is our brain the answer to all these complex questions? Maybe we haven't even unlocked the extent of our mental prowess and our brain has the 'supernatural' connections we're forever seeking. Savants and some autistic children possess extraordinary mental gifts that still baffle scientists and doctors. A savant may have very limited social and physical skills yet have a phenomenal grasp of math, music or an incredible memory.
What causes a man of 50 who cannot even tie his shoelaces, capable of memorizing an entire library? Or one who can't drive a car but is a human calculator, able to calculate equations the best mathematicians stumble over or learn the most complex of languages in a short time? There are also cases of ordinary people, who after traumatic brain injury, wake up with talents and skills they didn't have before their accidents. Like a woman who has never spoken German, speak it fluently; or a man who can now paint like Van Gogh or play the piano like Chopin where before he couldn't even doodle.
So many fascinating questions, but few answers. Plus, the fascinating find of the "God Particle" has opened up a whole new world of scientific and religious possibilities, ensuring that this debate of God, the Devil, Heaven and Hell will continue indefinitely.
What do you believe?
To read my article on The God Particle, click link below.