Dear Heaven

Dear Christian Heaven,

You are what it's all about. For Christians, Heaven is the endgame. The goal. The meaning of life. The final destination. All the suffering and self-denial in this sinful world slide away like a curtain as the true believer slips his mortal coil and goes to enjoy eternal paradise with his Lord and Savior forever and ever amen. Earthly life has little utility of its own for the Christian. We are on this earth to prepare for the afterlife; to start a relationship with God so that we can know Him more fully in the next life; to recruit others into the fold so that they too can go to Heaven.

Christians are nihilists with imaginations.

Heaven is on the left; not to be confused with the famous gay nightclub in London of the same name. Although for a few Christians, the two are interchangeable.

Everyone seems to take it for granted that Heaven suffices as a meaning for life. After all, what better goal could anyone imagine? Golden streets. Beautiful gems and precious stones. Everyone gets their own mansion and crown. A celestial relationship with your heavenly father. All your friends and family who were good down on earth will be with you. But at the risk of sounding like an ingrate, I don't think that even all of that would suffice as the purpose for existence. It all seems pleasant enough at first glance, but I'm going to tell you why I don't even think Heaven is a place I would want to go to, much less makes the cut as an ultimate meaning of life.

I bet you thought Jesus was a simple man who saw past earthly wealth and existed on a higher, more transcendent plane of post-materialistic values like peace-of-mind and intimate human relationships. Wrong. He was just biding his time and counting on those fat-sack treasure chests in heaven.

Mansions. Crowns. Titles. Heaven's going to make us all filthy rich.

Duck Tales was my favorite TV show when I was six years old. My mother eventually made me stop watching it after she noticed that I had begun opening my piggy bank and counting the coins several times a day, then chuckling to myself greedily. Things really came to a head when I tried to "dive" into my own pile of money one afternoon. You can't swim in $4.36 worth of change.

There's a lot of gold and precious gems in heaven, and that's exactly how I would have thought to design eternal paradise as well... when I was seven. I'm sure shiny things were awesome back when the bible was written. Most everyone lived in mud huts, ate gruel, and drank out of wooden cups and sheep bladders their whole lives. Who wouldn't want a little sparkle? But now we have Las Vegas. I've been there. It hurt my eyes and then I threw up on a roulette table. The bejeweled look isn't a status symbol anymore, it's a sign that you're playing Bejeweled; either that, or eating at a Persian restaurant. I may have grown up poor, but somehow I escaped the inferiority complex that compels teenage "gangsters" and hairy-chested Italian men in mid-midlife crisis alike to encrust themselves in shiny things like so many rats lining their nests with dropped gum wrappers and scraps of aluminium foil.

Leave your minimalist sensibilities, notions of tasteful feng shui, and harmony with nature at the door when you knock on the pearly gates. All you'll need to pack are velvet vests, over-sized gold chains, and polyester leisure suits. But what else would you expect from a club where gay men aren't allowed in? I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of Hawaiian shirts and white-tube-socks-with-sandals combos as well.

Vain taste in construction materials isn't the only odd thing called for by Heaven's notoriously eccentric architect (rumors are swirling that he's an Irish heroine addict recluse who had his bladder converted into a pencil case). Revelations 21:16 (NIV) clearly states that, "The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be [1,400 miles] in length, and as wide and high as it is long.In plain English, heaven is a giant fucking cube. Strange choice in layout, and yet it feels all too familiar somehow.... a giant cube. People in a giant cube. People stuck in a giant, labyrinthine cube. Oh that's right, I'm thinking of the movie Cube. That movie where the people are trapped in a giant cube of horrors, and have to travel from room to room, never knowing what style of insidious booby-trap will dice them to bits or boil them alive. I took careful note of how that whole adventure turned out, and I think I'll be declining any invitations to wander around a giant cube for all of eternity.

Alderson thought he'd give the cube a go. Results were mixed. Smart people learn from the mistakes of others. I learned that bad things happen inside of giant cubes.

As if to confirm my suspicions that Heaven is actually a nightmarish death trap, the Bible goes on to describe some of the undead monsters that will be living there. There's a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes. We've got creatures with six wings, covered from head to toe in eyes... just a moving mound of eyes with six wings. Then there's the cherub- a hideous chimera with four faces; an amalgamation of lion, ox, man, and eagle. I assume Napoleon Dynamite may have had something to do with that last animal. According to Revelations each one of Heaven's twelve gates is made from a single pearl. Great. Now we've got giant mutant clams.

But perhaps I've been too harsh on heaven. Let's take Heaven at face value for a second. Let us ignore the the tacky decor, the ominous shape of the structure, and the unusual biological curiosities which will be roaming around up there. Suppose that heaven is great. Somehow, in some way, by some means that we can't conceive of with our human minds, Heaven is the bee's knees. Everything is exquisitely satisfying and always will be, forever.

Heaven may be eternal, but you won't be there for eternity. Eventually you are going to fuck up and get sent to Hell. Some people say it's impossible to sin in heaven, but that's bullshit; just ask Lucifer or Adam & Eve. It's a simple odds game, and it's inevitable.You can be bad and get kicked out of Heaven, but you can't go to Hell, be good and earn your way back up. If you could, then this poor bastard would have served his time and been out by now. That means that over a long enough time frame (and eternity is a long enough time frame) the only person left in Heaven after a while will be God, and one day He might even trip over a root, accidentally take His own name in vain, and have to sentence Himself to Hell just for consistency. And take a gander at this non-exhaustive list of offenses that are punishable by eternal torment- "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death" (Revelations 21:8, NIV). You're never going to make it. I give you thirty minutes max, much less eternity.

"Hey honey, does this white tunic make my ass look big?"

"No, Hun. You look great." Bam. Liar. Husband just went to Hell. Wife got a written warning for using the A-word.

"Someone tell God He has a booger hanging out of His nose."

"I'm afraid to tell Him." Cowardice. Tommy just bought himself a one-way ticket to Hellsville. Next stop, Eternal Torment.

Bob thought he'd get away with masturbating in the shower. Wrong. Sexual immorality. Go to Hell. Go directly to Hell, do not pass Go and do not collect $200.

Harry Potter never made it to Heaven to begin with, but lifelong Harry Potter fan, Christina Hinkler, did; that is until she picked up a stick and said, "wingardium leviosa." Now she's in Hell with Harry for practicing magic arts.

And the only thing worse than getting sent to Hell would be actually living with these draconian prohibitions for all of eternity, surrounded by the boring lame-asses who would still be there. Imagine a Presbyterian ice cream social that never ended. No swearing. No smoking. No drinking. No gambling. No sex. No entertaining heretical ideas.

"No lying" sounds like a nice rule until you try to throw a surprise birthday party for someone.

"Where are you taking me?"

"To your surprise birthday party."

Fun is ruled out, so what IS everyone supposed to be doing year after year as an endless eternity grinds slowly on? Well there's always singing praises to God. The worship room is open twenty-four hours a day. This is Heaven's main attraction. That sounds OK, I guess, but it could start to get old after a few hours. My parents are as dedicated as any Pentecostal, born again, saved-by-the-blood-of-the-lamb, evangelical Christian out there, but even they draw the line at a couple hours of worship per week. I've had some very spiritual experiences at church, but I don't remember a time that the worship was so good that we weren't ready for football by kickoff.

Now then, in the earth these people cannot stand much church -- an hour and a quarter is the limit, and they draw the line at once a week. That is to say, Sunday. One day in seven; and even then they do not look forward to it with longing. And so -- consider what their heaven provides for them: "church" that lasts forever, and a Sabbath that has no end! They quickly weary of this brief hebdomadal Sabbath here, yet they long for that eternal one; they dream of it, they talk about it, they think they think they are going to enjoy it -- with all their simple hearts they think they think they are going to be happy in it! - Mark Twain, Letters From The Earth, 1909

I'm sure the music will be better in Heaven, but if worshiping God really is the point of human existence, then I'd think Christians would do more of it in this world. And that goes for all of the rewards in Heaven. They're all just more extreme versions of stuff we already have on earth. Not very creative. If being filthy rich doesn't fill that existential hole in your heart in this world, then why would you expect walking on streets of gold to do so in Heaven? There are tons of perfectly healthy people who are depressed. Why is never being sick supposed to be a game changer? Sometimes young people with their whole lives ahead of them throw themselves off of bridges. Why do you expect living forever to fix everything? If having close relationships with other people is supped to make you happy in the next world, then why don't you just cut to the chase and start living that way here and now? There's nothing new in Heaven, it just kicks the can further down the road- close your eyes, hope more is better, and try not to think about it too hard. But the truth is that if you can't find meaning on this earth, then you're not going to fair any better on Super Duper Earth.

I have a good relationship with my dad. Hanging out with him wouldn't be enough to fill an eternity, but it's an important part of my life. I never saw the need for a souped-up heavenly surrogate and I don't know what I would get from Him that I can't from him.

Sebastian Braff


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