Henry David Thoreau once said, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” Christian Nevell Bovee once said, “Heaven will lend you a soul, but Earth will lend you a grave.” Confucious once said, “Heaven means to be one with god.” Seems like everyone has something to say about heaven, both the living and the dead.
As I understand buddhism, and I don’t, heaven is more like a state of mind than it is an actual place, and that’s probably closer to the truth than any of these other boneheads, but even that falls short of the truth. Heaven is by definition not knowable to the living. It’s a place where dead people allegedly go when their time is up, provided they do whatever it is they believe they must in order to deserve it. This differs depending upon to whom you speak. We each have an opinion, but none of us have ever been there, so said opinions are without merit. Anyone who has been there doesn’t come back, with of course the anecdotal exception of people who claim to have died and come back. We have heard it countless times before. A person says while they were dying, they get an out of the body experience, floating over their own bodies as others rush to their side trying to revive them, and they sometimes see or hear things they couldn’t have experienced if they were dead at the time. Then they feel pulled away and experience the dark vastness of space with a light beckoning them to float towards it and become one with its glory. There are scientific explanations for this phenomenon and there are also many nonscientific explanations. Some ex-dead people even describe visiting heaven or hell, being met with dead relatives or experiencing souls being tormented for eternity. Some ex-dead people even get to meet their own deity who takes the time to personally tell them that now is not their time and they have to go back. This story has been told many times and each time it’s got variations in the details, but the theme is the same. Some of those who have died and come back insist there is a life after this, which is not restricted to the physical body. What we think of as ourselves is really just a physical shell housing our consciousness, which doesn’t need this flesh and bone weight after our life is over. We will float about in a transcendental state of existence where the laws of physics do not apply and common sense gives way to magic and spectacle. Poppycock.
A neurosurgeon named Doctor Eben Alexander claims to be one of these ex-dead people. He can talk at length about his experiences after death and has written about them extensively. I would link to his website but all it is, is a blatant advertisement for his book which will be available soon. This leads me to be suspicious of his claims already. I could write a book about my life after death experiences and probably make a fortune. I wouldn’t be telling the truth, but you can’t prove that. It’s my word against yours. How can anyone disprove that Doctor Eben Alexander died and came back to life and experienced heaven in the intervening moments? You can’t. Just as you can’t prove that someone else’s god doesn’t exist just outside the realm of scientifically verifiable reality. Just like no one can prove the nonexistence of a giant immaterial hippo in my bathtub, or a pink unicorn that is just around that corner only to run to the next nearest corner as you approach to inspect the first corner. You could tell me convincingly that you were abducted by aliens last night and they forced you to commit sexual acts with a jellyfish. How can I disprove such claims? Of course, I can’t.
Does that immediately mean they are all true? Of course not. It’s far more likely that one of these scenarios are at play:
You really died briefly, and your brain was traumatized from the experience, and you have deluded yourself into believing events happened in the intervening downtime for your brain, so that you can better cope with the trauma.
You really died, you were not traumatized, but you realize this is a great chance to get attention from gullible people and you wanted to write a book anyway so you could get on the talk show circuit.
You didn’t die, but you want to make up a story that you did die, so you could get on the talk show circuit or otherwise cash in on gullible people.
We human beings are genetically prone to making up stories to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. It’s built into our DNA and it comes in to play every time you look through a partially obscured window and can tell what’s on the other side. Once someone realizes this, they can use it to their advantage against other people. Know what someone believes and you can work off that to describe other stuff you can convince them to also believe. If this Then that. Works in science too, but in terms of faith, you don’t have to prove it. You just have to sound more convincing than scoffers.
Heaven is not real, cuz we can’t prove that it is real. Heaven doesn’t get to be real until we can prove it’s not. It’s the other way around. If you can’t prove a place exists, there’s no reason to believe it does. You can of course choose to believe in it anyway, but your beliefs are unfounded and no one has to take it seriously. If you can’t prove heaven, you can’t prove hell, you can’t prove afterlife, you can’t prove human beings have an existence after this one. All you have is anecdotal evidence, and anyone can claim anything happened if one doesn’t require scientifically verifiable evidence to support the claims.
There is a little fourteen year old girl sitting somewhere in a Pakistani hospital right now as I type these words. She was recently shot in the head and neck on her way to school by a Taliban bastard’s gun. Why? Cuz she believes women should be allowed to learn. Malala Yousafzai is my short duration personal savior of this nanosecond, because since 2009 she has been outspoken online and offline about how the Taliban is treating her and others in her community. One morning recently as she and fellow students boarded a bus in Pakistan, a Taliban soldier walked up with a gun and demanded to the group that someone point out Malala to him. One of the other girls stood up and pointed at Mulala, and the Taliban soldier shot them both. I bet the tattle tale is kicking herself about now. “Snitches get stitches,” a friend of mine snickered that to me earlier today when I relayed this story to him after reading it in the newspaper. He was absolutely right.
The Taliban beheads people who disagree strongly with them. They burn down schools, claiming education is ungodly. They force men to grow their beards as per their god’s laws. They give women curfews, demanding they remain inside after dark. The Taliban demands everyone follow their interpretation of their god’s laws. If you don’t obey their commands, they will take it upon themselves to usher you into the afterlife of your choice, so you can find out for yourself whether or not a heaven exists. They believe that after they kill you, then you will know they were right.
This is not how you reasonably win any argument; by killing off everyone who disagrees with you. When that Taliban soldier shot Mulala Yousafzai in the face, he offered ample proof that there is no god, no heaven, no magic, and nothing of any substance outside the laws of physics. How? By using a gun and claiming it was Allah’s will. If a god was powerful enough to smite its own enemies, it wouldn’t need the Taliban to do its dirty work for it.
Christians believe in this concept of “The Body of Christ.” Every congregation is philosophically an extension of Jesus Christ. He works through each individual participant in this group delusion. So if you commit actions, god is fulfilling his mysterious plan through your behavior. All you have to do is give it up to god, and he will work through you to make miracles happen. You will become a hand of god.
Bionic Dance calls this “thinking on automatic” or allowing your conditioned behavior modification through exposure to dated dogma to decide for you how best to behave in every day activities. People often ask me why I don’t just live and let live? Why not let people believe what they want. And to split hairs, I do. I don’t force people at the barrel of a gun to behave as I want them to behave. I don’t need a gun. I don’t need coercion. I got rational thought and common sense on my side.
But by allowing Believers to run on automatic, we put all of society in jeopardy. How many fourteen year old girls have to take a bullet to the face before we wise up to that? It’s not doubt that makes Believers pull a gun on a fourteen year old girl who is only trying to better herself. What makes someone do that is misguided faith, and a belief that his actions here are immaterial compared to all the wonders he’ll see and rewards he will gain in his own personal delusion of heaven.
Another old adage that comes to mind, although I don’t recall who originally said it: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” If someone REALLY believed in heaven so fervently as to assume it’s better than anything one can experience here, why would that someone inhale another breath after that realization? Such a believer would actively seek to end their own life as soon as possible in order to experience this infinitely better hereafter. Of course most heavenly dogma has thought ahead on that one and makes suicide a punishable offense. You can’t cheat your way into heaven. You can’t kill yourself. That’s against the will of Allah. You instead have to get your enemies to hate you so much they will shoot you dead so that then you can make it into heaven fair and square, having martyred yourself for the cause. That’s about the most boneheaded conclusion any human has ever made, but it doesn’t stop boneheads from believing it.
If you believe in a heaven so much and you think it’s better than here, go ahead now and visit it. Just don’t insist that the rest of us come with you, cuz we’re not done living this life yet. You go on ahead, and if it’s everything you say it is, feel free to come back and let us know. Maybe you too can write a book about it and end up on the talk show circuit. Oh wait, you’ll be dead. And if you just die a little bit and come back, I ain’t gonna believe you any more than any of the others who died came back and wrote books about it.
Maybe if you bring back a heavenly ashtray..