I was listening to some song lyrics a couple of days back which had the line “you have to die to go to heaven”. Which struck me as such an incredibly odd thing about religion, but then religion is about faith, and nothing takes more faith then dieing in the hope of eternal salvation – even as misguided as I think it it.
I’m sure many others have expressed these thoughts, but I’ve always thought that religion must have been created as the ultimate way of controlling crowds. Think of the sway religious leaders have in world politics and how it allows them to control their flock. Hell, people even blow themselves up with the conviction that they’ll “get” many virgins for their sacrifice.
I’m sure in the past religion was a great coping mechanism for dealing with our mortality. If you live a good life, and follow these simple rules, then you’ll be accepted into a wondeful kingdom when you die. It’s a lovely thing to believe, and they added an extra clause for the people that were kind of hesitant: If you DON’T do these things, then you’ll burn and be exposed to eternal suffering. With that kind of choice, most people would probably just go along with it “just in case”. Probably in the same way that people on their death beds, on death row, or who are about to “face their maker” all suddenly want to have a priest with them and do some last minute praying (I’m interested to know how I’d behave in such a situation, I honestly don’t know).
In some ways I liken the thought of heaven, at the end of life, to how I use suicide when I’m depressed. When things are going crap and nothing is working out, you can rest assured that, so long as you are repentant for your sins and swear to live a good life, you’ll get into a lovely place at the end of it all. When I’m in a similar situation, I think that if life gets to bad then I am ultimately in control of my existance. I can push the eject button if I become desperate. Nothing for anyone to worry about, I’m not at risk of doing anything drastic, I just know that I use it as a comforting thought in tough times. Kind of like someone owning a gun for self-protection, just knowing you have it there to protect you is enough, even if you never use it.
There is one final point I’d like to make. I am a huge believer in relative happiness – the idea that happiness or sadness, when related to life circumstance is completely relative. If you lose a limb, that really sucks for several months, but if you are asked about your happiness and are compared to the happiness of someone who is able-bodied you’ll most likely be on par with them. For the same reason, people who win the lottery, after the first couple of months, don’t think they are any happier then before their strike of luck. For this very reason the idea of heaven seems strange – if this is meant to be the kingdom of happiness then how are you meant to maintain it? Do you just continue to be exposed to more and more happiness-creating events until you implode with ecstasy?
By coincidence, while writing this entry I was listening to a John B mix that has a quote of a Dylan Thomas poem “And death shall have no dominion” – 3:50 of this mix. Pretty damn awesome, and I often disregard poetry, so that is saying alot:
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.