I wish Heaven was real. Eternal bliss, fluffy clouds, angels – it all sounds bloody wonderful. In my Heaven, Ray Charles, Freddy Mercury and Kurt Cobain are all performing in the most random festival line-up ever. Meanwhile, down the road, George Carlin is performing his brand new show in which he ponders the point of logic in a place where nothing can go wrong. And of course all my late family and friends are there, except those I didn’t like are a bit nicer (it’s my Heaven after all). Imagine, though: eternal bliss. You’ll always be ecstatically happy, and it’ll never get boring.
Then there’s Hell. It’s such a neat idea, that all the ‘bad guys’ of the world will be brought to justice. I imagine it must be great to be able to say “Hitler is rotting in Hell” with feeling and conviction.
The idea of an afterlife brings comfort and meaning to millions. I have friends who criticise religion yet have their own theories on what awaits us after death – souls and peace and the eternal. If so many people didn’t have God hammered into them from childhood, the promise of Heaven would be religion’s best hope in attracting followers.
I have a feeling that some groups assume atheists despise the thought of a Heaven. If it’s taken as fact that the afterlife is 100% real, anyone who challenges the idea will be viewed as spiteful, ignorant liars who are out to corrupt your children. I’m sure you’d find that most of us do not gain much pleasure from the thought that one day our egos and bodies will probably be lost forever.
It doesn’t have to feel frightening though. I think the best thing to hear following someone’s passing is the phrase “They’re at peace now”. You can take this in two ways: either that they’re in Heaven, or that they no longer have the awareness or capacity for pain, worry, torment – all the bullshit that comes with existing. You may argue that this is still depressing because death kills off the opportunity for good experiences too, but think about it this way: your friend/relative doesn’t care about losing that stuff. Why? Because caring requires ego, and in the absence of ego nothing matters. Of course this won’t remove the sense of loss you’ll feel, but it may help reduce it.
I guess what I’m saying is life without religion doesn’t have to be grim and scary. Just because Heaven is a universally beautiful idea doesn’t make it real, unfortunately. Remember how terrible things were before you were born? Neither do I: that’s what I think awaits us.