What’s the Harm in Heaven?

Religious bumper stickers always catch my eye and elicit a strong reaction from me. Recently when I saw “Life is short.  Heaven is forever,” on the back of a car, an audible sigh escaped my lips.  I remember thinking, “Yes, and no.”  Yes, life is short, but Heaven not only is not forever, Heaven simply is not.  I wish Christians could understand that life is short and heaven doesn’t exist.  Sometimes I want to grab them and shake them and say, “Stop hoping for Heaven!  Live now!  Dive in now! Love others for who they are now! Make the world a better place now! This is it!  Make it count!”  Then I’d slap them in the face of couple of times and then let them go…just kidding…I wouldn’t let them go. I’d fling them to the ground :-).

Sick kidding aside, at first glance, the belief in Heaven seems harmless enough, like most Christian doctrines, when analyzed, its harmfulness becomes evident. The idea that this life is short, but don’t worry about it, paradise awaits after death, is a destructive belief.

What is my evidence for such a strong statement, you may ask?  Why, of course, I have much evidence, but for today, let me offer up to you one of many personal stories that will support my thesis and then perhaps my statement about slapping Christians and flinging them to the ground (figuratively of course) will make more sense.

I was having coffee with a Christian acquaintance and during the conversation she shared with me about her youngest son. A few years before, at the age of 20, and still living at home, he had become “rebellious.”  He was refusing to attend church, and was spending time partying with his friends. (Wow, I’ve never heard of a 20-year-old doing that) Anyway, she had informed him that as long as he lived under her roof, he would go to church. When he continued to refuse to go and continued to party, she kicked him out.  A week later, living on the streets, he was struck by a truck and killed.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a child, but to lose one under those circumstances, one would think, would be devastating. When I reached out to her, telling her how sorry I was and how awful that must have been for her, I was floored by her response.  She calmly, and without much emotion, explained to me that she knew she had done the right thing, (what God would have wanted her to do) in throwing him out when she did and she knew, because he had accepted Jesus, she would see him in heaven one day.  She told me that she had such peace about it that she didn’t even cry at the funeral.

It’s not that I don’t understand why she believed that and  continues to believe it to this day.  It’s probably the only thing that keeps her sane—if in fact she is sane.  It must take an awful lot of energy to bury the unrealized pain and guilt she must carry with her on a daily basis.   Like many Christians, she is one of the walking wounded, unable to have her wounds attended to because they must remain covered and hidden.

I walked away from the conversation feeling extremely sad.  This woman had rejected her son because of religion. She had missed out on truly loving him and sharing her life with him because of religion, and now she feels exonerated and at peace, because one day she will have the opportunity to build a relationship with him when they are reunited in Heaven. Sadly, that reunion will never take place.  She missed an opportunity she will never get back and all because she believes in the myth of a personal god and a literal heaven. It gets worse though. Because she continues to believe she was doing “God’s will,” when she rejected her son, due to his lack of church attendance and “rebellion,” her belief, and the support she receives from the Christian community for that belief, keeps her on the same destructive path today.  Just last year, she kicked her 18-year-old daughter out because she is a non-believer.  Thankfully she was kept safe because she came to live with us for a time, but their mother/daughter relationship is severely damaged. How very tragic.

Since rejecting Christianity, I have gone back and forth as to whether it has some redeeming value or is just plain damaging.   More and more it is becoming extremely difficult for me to see how there can be any redeeming value in a belief system that causes such pain.  It seems to me that the Christian idea of heaven prevents people from giving life all they’ve got here and now.  If I could create my own bumper sticker and I do in my mind quite often, it would read:  “Life is short.  Give it all you’ve got.”


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ... Zoe ~
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 05:47:09

    Truly stunning. After losing her son, she turns around and kicks out her daughter. Gives new meaning to the hymn lyrics, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.” Lord for you, I give you my kids. You take them. I’ll catch up with them in heaven.



  2. notabarbie
    Apr 07, 2012 @ 06:44:36

    I know…I don’t think it will ever cease to amaze me. Thanks for reading!


  3. boomslang
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 04:53:04

    “she had informed him that as long as he lived under her roof, he would go to church”

    Well, so much for that “free will” junk.

    But it’s a sad story no matter how you slice it. People missing out on so much, based on the extremely off-chance, if not impossible, idea of “Heaven”. Right, like we should believe that this woman is going to be living in a state of perpetual bliss, knowing that her flesh and blood, non-believing daughter is (presumably) going to be tormented with fire 24/7. Yeah, sure. Or wait, maybe Yahweh will erase her memory of her daughter. How lovely.


  4. notabarbie
    Apr 19, 2012 @ 07:09:53

    You know boomslang, His ways are not our ways…

    So many of my son’s friends are miserable and scared in their own homes–miserable because they aren’t allowed to question and if they show any signs of independence or original thoughts, they are punished, e.g., phone taken away, not allowed go to the gym, etc. They are scared because they know that their parents will kick them out when they are 18, or they at least they threaten to. It’s all very sad. They hang out at my house because they know they are cared about for who they are and nothing more. One of my son’s friends was telling me that his parents are always telling him that he is going to go to hell for various reasons: The music he listens to, or he sags his pants, or smokes weed. One day I said, “you know, there is no Hell, right? It’s just always been a way for religion to control people and your parents are using it to control you now. I would never lie to you, you need not fear Hell.” He said, “I know Ms. B, I know, but sometimes it still scares me a little and I get so depressed” (He’s tried to commit suicide before) I assured him that his time will come. I think he believed me. I worry about him sometimes and I worry about how badly I want to punch his mother in the face, but not enough to stop me if ever the opportunity arose.


  5. MuireannMc
    May 26, 2013 @ 01:01:37

    Yep, it’s me posting a comment again – I’ve been reading your blog through from the beginning yesterday and today.

    My mouth is still agape from reading this post.

    And I do realise that NOTHING I’ve experienced with christianity (in England) comes anywhere near being as disgusting as that woman’s rejection of her TWO children. I know committed christians whose children don’t attend church, but are not rejected because of it. I confess that I was surprised to discover that one christian couple even tolerates their unmarried son visiting with his live-in girlfriend and being allowed to share a bedroom with her…

    The cold unfeeling rejection that you wrote about is the sort of thing that I’d only think possible with seriously weird cults (like Jonesville?) So perhaps that positions this christianity as a seriously weird cult?


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