Monday, October 11, 2010

Getting into Heaven

I was raised religious, and at the age of ten was pretty sure that most people were going to Hell.  Getting into Heaven, after all, seemed to be just a little harder than getting into MIT.  People would sell it to me like it was not that hard, but I could read between the lines.

I would be sitting in Sunday school, or talking to one of my fellow church kids, perhaps the scripture-worm that grew up in the Ned Flanders house, and was so religious that it was just a tiny bit awkward for the rest of us.  I would hear

"There's only one thing God isn't able to do.  He can't let sin into Heaven."

"Wait... what?"  As I understand, your sins pretty much stick to you like burrs, and you have to ask for forgiveness to get them cleaned off.  This brings up the very practical problem of dying after you've recently sinned.

Say you haven't asked for forgiveness since before bed last night, and you coveted your neighbor's wife at about noon today (she does, after all, make him steak every Wednesday).  This is the sort of question the preacher won't take too seriously.  After all, we're talking about your lifestyle, we're talking about eternity, we're not talking about fine print that your lawyer can argue over the pearly gates.  This is real life, though, and even the best of us is likely to die with a sin or two stuck to the legs of our pants, and it's a serious question that deserves a serious answer.  That is, unless you want a seriously shitty afterlife.

There's also the assumption that you can't ask for forgiveness after you die.  Would that be cheating, or does a confession even count when you're a spirit?

Christianity, to me, always seemed to be more about the letter of the law than the spirit of it.  It was reiterated to me, many times, that you would be very surprised at who is in Hell.  In other words, you can be a good person, but unless you did this, and avoided this, you're not going to have a good time after you die.

This whole getting-approved-for-heaven thing has always seemed too much like a scam.  If you happen to die with a clean slate, based on these rules, then you get to live here, where it's always sunny, and the lions are as friendly as can be, and you can continue to not sin* for an eternity.

Well, who's getting in?  Not the Muslims, or the Buddhists, or the Hindus.  Not the aboriginal nature-lovers or the polytheists.  Nobody before zero AD (because no Christ means no Christianity).  No atheists.  Definitely no Scientologists.  None of those unlucky boatless legion that couldn't kick their legs for forty days during the great flood.  Plenty of good Christians have probably done some sins that they're not that regretful about, so nix them.  And I sure hope you didn't want an attractive person sexually between praying last night and getting hit by a truck this afternoon.  You are tainted by the very urges you are burdened with.  I think Saint Peter's job as Heaven's bouncer must be an easy one.  "Nobody gets in except for the big guy, and he comes in the back door."

I think we've been duped.  Just like getting taken in by the "Get a Free iPad!" banners, we've entered into a contract that we can't follow through with, and our very bodies, supposedly created by God himself, are our biggest enemy on the insurmountable climb to perfection.

God doesn't want us in Heaven.  That's where he keeps all of his stuff.  If we were wandering around in his domain we would probably leave hand prints, grimy with sin, all over his nice white couch and flat screen TV.  He wants us to be good, though, so we sign the contract, hoping that if we do this, this and this, he'll let us visit.  But there's only one key to that door, and he's not getting copies made any time soon.

That is assuming, of course, that the Christian God exists.  From what I've heard about him throughout my life, though, I hope he doesn't.  Sinful or not, he doesn't sound like a good person.

*I think that some sin is good, in moderation.

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