Do You Want to go to Heaven?
A priest stands outside of Walmart offering free cards to customers entering or leaving the store. He asks passersby the question, “Do you want to go to Heaven?” Most people ignore him or respond with dumb questions like, “Is it a cruise?” One man asks, “Is it a place?” and the priest says, “No, it’s a relationship”.
I want to focus on the non-religious meaning inherent in the answer, “It’s a relationship.” But first a slightly irreverent Christian view. From a religious angle, if you believe in Heaven (and it’s counterpart Hell) you may see them as taking up real estate situated possibly above or below the earth, and perhaps the final destination of your immortal soul. There is a third place we learned about in early catechism class called Purgatory. According to this view, when you die, you get to the Pearly Gates in the clouds, only to be told the wait time (due to your sins) is very long. There will be a table for you but you have to do penance by waiting a few hours or years or a hundred years in an in-between place called Purgatory, aka Limbo. It is like a lengthy time-out to cleanse your spirit.
I have respect for each person’s religious views, as long as their ideology does not advocate harm in the name of that religion. At its best religious philosophy promotes goodness, kindness, compassion and care for humanity and the planet, but because humans are at the helm, even good ideas get twisted or polluted, resulting in much blood having been shed in the name of most religions.
I don’t think that is what God, if you believe in him (or her), ever intended. But I’m pretty sure he knew we would fail big and that’s why he’s big on mercy and forgiveness. What did he intend? Love your neighbor as yourself. Simple, most people agree, yet most people can’t sustain it. When we do we feel at peace. Even if you are not a believer, what is your intention?
How can Secular Humanists, Agnostics, Atheists and all manner of members of the 5 great religions (Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism) get a ticket to Heaven? Well, if Heaven is more a “relationship” than a puffy cloud of bliss in the sky, what needs to happen to get there? Religious people can have a relationship with God, as they understand him/her. Sincerely surrendering a need to control and reaching toward God from a humble place for comfort, solace, direction and/or support, they can feel joy in a present moment of fullness and contentment of heart. That can be Heaven. But people who are non-believers have also had contented hearts. I think the elements are being in the present moment, being aware of and honoring the body and its emotions (breathing into the present fear, anger, happiness, and/or sadness), and creating a stance of receptivity and acceptance of the self as it is. So, the relationship may not be with God but with an acceptance and love of self. There are times when that may be too hard, like when we feel guilt, shame, are overwhelmed, stressed, or traumatized. In those times we may need a relationship with a “Neighbor”, another human who offers us unconditional love and support. If we can reach for that support and get it, or give it lovingly to another isn’t that like a free card to Heaven?