Heaven, Second Chances, Being Human and Meaning
This year, like a few others in the past, has begun on a sour note. Death and illness, sadness and great sorrow, memories of happier times and decades of companionship. Of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and all things that embrace us through life. The apparent need of the many for the false comfort of a happy eternal life after reaching that non-existent utopia called heaven. The intrusion of delusion into a significant event that steals the moment, steals life; for the event is one that most would rather ignore.
My father-in-law passed after years of dealing with Parkinson's disease. I only knew him after his illness was in control; I never saw the smiles, heard the wisdom or received the focus of his wrath. All I knew was his soft speech, a flicker of a smile once in a while if I tickled his fancy. He was a devout catholic who did not deny science. He was the provider. He was the defender of his children. Saying this, he was also perverted by religion. His actions were, at times, painful and hurtful to his children that did not accept the unerring word of god.
The two days of public mourning after his demise were filled with prayer, filled with grief and filled with god's arrogance. My wife's family are an intelligent lot; if nothing else catholic schools seem to produce well educated theists, and happily, critically thinking atheists. The Viewing was filled with well wishes, condolences, and family members who shared memories of the deceased; which was the best part. If you're wanting closure on death, I cannot think of a better way than shared memories of joy and humor. That is where the dead still exist, in memories. My brother-in-law and sister-in-laws, a couple of grandchildren, all took part. One by one they took to the stage and gently implanted their memories in all that attended. It was beautiful, because it was secular. Well mostly.
I'm sure all the ex-catholics out there may have heard or partaken in this, but I was amused to learn that catholic school children would collect money so they could name a pagan baby. How awesome, and pretty arrogant, is that? I kept thinking, did they name him Neal?
The next day was the funeral mass. Not much good that I can say about that. Too much prayer for me, too much "I'm not worthy" bullshit, too much of god taking credit for all that is good and humankind taking credit for all that is wrong.
Heaven was made for fools, and the fools keep meddling with life.
Recently I made amends with a very close family member. Instead of a smile and a pat on the back from some of the family I hear, "Oh, mom is in heaven smiling." Yeah, that's me. Always doing good deeds for the dead. I take an action that I have reasoned, and felt, to be a good thing and automatically the big dummy is involved. Perfectly good actions made creepy because the dead are watching. Heaven is where some think all good people reside, I think heaven is absolution for all the jackasses that are still alive.
Heaven is absolution because god gives everyone a second chance.
Friends and family battle in life over things great and small, over relationships good and bad, about all the minuscule events that effect life daily. When one dies, friendly, and not so friendly, theists all proclaim the deceased is in heaven. For those who treated the deceased well, they are happily looking forward to their own entrance through the pearly gates. For those that couldn't stand the recently dead, it absolves them of all guilt. Their bad behavior need not change who they are, or who they will be. There is no penance or regrets that they need harbor, for life is a minute part of existence and all will be made whole someday in the future.
Nothing is learned if nothing is really harmed. Death might make you reflect on life as a whole, and affect how you interact with your fellow humans. It can be a lesson, if death is real. Same goes when dealing with all life on the planet and how we treat it; for what does it matter if we destroy when it's only a temporary condition? It doesn't matter when heaven awaits. It doesn't matter if you kill, steal, rape; you can and will be forgiven. Let the poor starve, let war reign over peace, let intolerance be your guide. God's shiny cool home awaits those who hate because Heaven is the ultimate get out of jail free card.
Yet even with all the whining to god, humans remain human.
Possibly some family members have regrets about the time, or lack thereof, that they've spent with their family. Some may think that being regretful is a learning tool, that because we can acknowledge errors in the past that this will teach us to be better in the future.
I think not. Harboring regrets only causes sorrow and makes for a miserable life.
I do not immerse myself with the constant tragedies of the past. We are who we are, and great changes to one's personality rarely happen during life. I remember during the last year of my mother's life arguing about things that seem petty now. I remember being irritated driving her home from my place in Michigan to her home in Illinois because she needed to stop for breakfast to take her medications. I remember after family took her in as she aged that she became politically conservative, mirroring the thoughts of her caregivers. I remember being so angry at her conservative thoughts that I left her alone in my home for an hour. No car so she could leave and no one she could turn to if something happened. She was in her late seventies at the time. I remember way too many interactions that were abrasive with her in my life, so many that I dreamed of being able to change.
But only for a fool's moment.
I harbor no regrets because I know that it was because we were so much alike that we battled. Nothing would change if she was still here, we were who we were. The awareness of my errors does make for some change. I can be slightly more deliberate and thoughtful, knowing I will not have another chance to correct my behavior. Then again, I'm a confrontational, arrogant, opinionated, crazed person, and that side refuses to be shut down completely. I continue to walk around hopping on one foot while trying to get the other out of my mouth. Life is awesome and then I open my mouth. I have lived in a fool's paradise, a paradise where the world revolves around me. And I know I'm not that different from you.
Yet theists think things will be better in some non-existent future. Does self awareness escape them? Do they harbor regrets and maybe learn from them, or do they immerse themselves into a false comfort that says no action is ever final? Do they reside in a Pollyanna world where everything is okay, where there is nothing they can do wrong that cannot be fixed by the almighty? That there is always a second chance to "fix it?"
Age makes us wiser, if you acknowledge the finality of actions you take. If life never ends, then we are free to hurt and destroy.
Theists have made a grave error when saying meaning is lost if there is no afterlife. There is no logical ultimate meaning to life. Meaning would be lost if there was an afterlife. If you can be forgiven for crimes against humanity and the world, then there is no meaning in this life. If there is one, it's that nothing we do now matters except being good slaves.