“When I die will Heaven be over?” – Common
I recently posted a question on my Facebook wall that went something to the affect of :
“If there was no Heaven or Hell, no Judgement, and this life was all we have, how would you live different? “
I got a lot of heart felt honest answers.
“I’d still do justice work”
“I’d probably cheat on my wife and live for myself”
“Nothing would change”
It’s something that I’m asking myself as well because I’m at a place where I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, or Judgement after death.
The answer that resonated with me most though came from an atheist, they wrote:
“I am an atheist and believe this is the only life I have. I frankly think I live more lovingly and kindly than I did as a Christian. My philosophy is that in the short time I have, I want to make this place lovelier than I found it, and help make its people safer and more accepted than before to the extent that is in my power. ”
Their response resonated with me because similar sentiments became my gut response when I first asked myself the question of how would I live with the absence of belief in Heaven, Hell, and Judgement after death.
my friend who is Christian also wrote something beautiful:
“Every day my aim is the same:
I want to be kind
I want to be brave
I want to be true to myself
I want to only do good
That’s enough for me. It’s really all I’ve ever wanted. For now, I know this as the gospel, but if ever I were to move away from that understanding, I don’t think these choices would change either.”
The question circles back to me. How do I live my life?
There are certain things that have been deconstructed in my mind and heart that I no longer believe
I don’t believe in Hell because, the thought of eternal conscious torment is just as evil as any God who could think that up.
Whoever God is I don’t believe God to be evil. There are plenty of reasons to believe in ultimate reconciliation as opposed to unforgiveness and unending torture.
I don’t believe in Heaven (or rather I don’t believe in a World to Come) because I think that idea is rooted in Ancient Jewish people’s hope for a restored monarchy in their own homeland and other constructs that surround that hope; (i.e. later appropriation of Greek thought around life after death, and an expanded Jewish concept of Shamayim העדן / Heaven as this was almost always just another name for God (Kingdom of Heaven = Reign of God).
Going to Heaven was always about Israel’s restored Kingdom reign on Earth and a Return to God for the Jewish people and all other nations who would worship Israel’s God and submit themselves to Israel’s King.
I don’t believe in Judgement after Death (Resurrection of All Dead / Final Judgement ) because I think that idea is rooted in an exiled Jewish people who hoped for retribution for their captors, and redemption for all who suffered under that oppression one day.
Teachings developed around the ultimate justice that would come at the end of Jewish exile and return of their promised King.
It is possible to come to these conclusions when rigorous textual criticism is given to the Judeo -Christian Scripture as many scholars have done for centuries who sought to seek historical context, and possible motive over reading the sacred text at face value.
This (my unbelief in these things) is all speculation on my part.
I don’t know or pretend to know.
What I can no longer do is live my life based on an ancient Jewish narrative.
I’ll honor it for what it is and anyone who believes it but I won’t be subject to it in my psyche.
I’m taking things back into my own hands so to speak when it comes to how I relate to those narratives.
I think that’s why my emergence into Agnosticism and a surrender to uncertainty is very much fitting in this season of my life.
I do not know.
What I do know however is that I have a life to live and that life (in my view) should be grounded in responsibility and compassion.
Are all the promises of God that we read about in the Bible null if God doesn’t “exist”? Or more specifically if those promises were an ancient people’s expression for their own existential hope?
Or are all those promises all the more assured because of who we are as human beings and what we are capable of?
I think all those promises are all the more assured because of who we are as human beings and what we are capable of.
I ask myself these things and many other questions and I have hope because we as humanity are more powerful than we know.
We are more connected, resilient, and resourceful than we have yet to manifest in the world.
So peace on earth, justice, eradication of disease and feeding of the hungry, and meeting the inevitability of suffering and death with a devotion to compassion are all things that are within our power.
These things are all possible and so much more.
The very consciousness that animates us all and that projects into the world and cosmos the highest name for meaning itself can and will continue to create better things for ourselves and the world in which we occupy.
Life itself is a gift that breathes unending possibility and potential and if we would all but just have the courage to awake to that reality and live in it, we could continue the work of helping heal the world and living for a better world for ourselves and those who would come after us.
The highest meaning of life is given the name God and yet God is elusive because all language surrounding God is inadequate.
I’m not certain of the intangibility of what I believe to be unknowable but I am certain of the experience of other intangible things like love and consciousness.
My therapist in our most recent session encouraged me that maybe, just maybe when I unconditionally accept and love myself, and inevitably extend that to others in doing so that my experience of love as a human being; that I am experiencing God.
Maybe the experience of love is the experience of God.
Maybe God really is love.
Again. I don’t know.
Again, That’s ok.
How will I live and what does my personal ethic look like?
As best I can determine at present it means striving to be the best version of myself.
Commitment to Life Long Learning.
Cultivating a heart that is quick to forgive and let the small things go.
Setting up boundaries in my heart and life where needed.
Seeking a life of wisdom.
Commitment to Family (Blood and those that Transcend Friendship).
Traveling. (Hopefully one country a year, every year for the rest of my life)
Taking care of my health.
Good Food, always.
I could go on and on..
Ultimately though, as far as I can perceive it all boils down to responsibility and compassion.
What does your personal ethic look like if you were to develop one?
Thanks for stopping by.