I became a Christian just over a year ago now and although I had believe for most of my life before that (bar a few years as a "radical atheist"), I was never in the Christian community then and so I lacked knowledge of how to become a Christian and more specific knowledge about the faith.
One of those things that was explained to me then was the concept of forgiveness and salvation - now although I knew of this before, it was more the specifics that I didn't know - before you are "saved" there are sins (some of which probably have a hold of you) and there are also unforgivable sin. Everything will be forgiven if you are saved - thus, as long as you follow Jesus... you are allowed your human mistakes.
I realise we could argue all day about whether or not it's just that a good person who is an unbeliever gets thrown into hell and a bad person who is a Christian goes to heaven, to be honest using my personal morals you will find it hard to pick a debate with me on that one, my moral compass says that any really bad people should be in hell... well perhaps not hell, tortured for eternity seems quite extreme, but perhaps a better way is to say that I wouldn't expect bad persons to be treated the same as the good ones... at least for a time anyway - and of course we could then argue the meaning of the second coming in revelations and what all that means, but that's not really what I want to discuss here.

I want to discuss the go to heaven if you're saved and go to hell if you're not saved.
Now I do admit that I have rather atheistic tendencies, after all I was an atheist and well... I'm here on T|A aren't I? So in a sense, my faith isn't the strongest but I am saved. I did say that whole "I'm sorry, I accept you, please come into my life" prayer. I was baptised. I am saved.
So in theory - yay me, heaven here I come (with a bit of work I'm sure) and all my Christian friends will be there, who are quite wonderful friends.
- What about my dog that passed away 2 years ago. I know you can't tell by reading this but I'm trying to type this bit as fast as I can because it still upsets me. I threw up as soon as I got home from the vets and... wow, I miss my little dude.
But although I can see people's view that they want their pets to be in heaven and they will be there because they make us happy... do they really go to heaven? They don't have souls after all, and as much comfort it maybe to me to think I might see my dog again, I'm remain unconvinced of the sugar-coated theory.
- What about my family, who granted we aren't extremely close but for the most part - most say they believe in God, but aren't actually Christians and a few agnostic/atheists (not particularly "active" ones if that makes sense). But however much we aren't the closest of families, my immediate family at least are my familiar place to be. I'm guessing I would be parted from 98% of my family.
On the note of family, one of my family members abused me, he is now dead - I know that he believed in God and went to church - but I'm unsure of his status on actually becoming a Christian or not, is he forgiven? Is he in heaven? For myself I'm not convinced I want to see him again as you would imagine, although I've been told since I will be like Jesus then, I'll be able to handle it.
- What about my other atheist, agnostic and non-believing friends? They're awesome too. They've been there for me just as much - maybe more than my Christian friends. Heck, my distinctly atheist friend saved my life because he refused to pray for me and actually did things instead. I'm parted from them too?

So here are two thoughts on this subject:

1.) What is your heaven like?
If heaven is a place that makes you happy, then your pets will be there. But your friends won't, but that friend of a friend you find obnoxious? They're saved, so they'll be there... despite this place being a place of happiness for you.
Perhaps there is some great enlightenment that happens when you enter heaven about being happy that everyone there shares, a general sort of generic clone happiness, I don't know. But I'm pretty sure you're idea of heaven will be someone else's hell... love motorcycles? well that old lady hates the noise of those contraptions.
Heaven probably isn't tailored to one's personal needs for happiness, but rather more rigid. And with saying the words "Heaven is rigid and not tailored to your happiness"... it makes me understand how people can say that we have no idea what heaven will look like, feel like or be like.

2.) Where do you want to be?
Could I really be happy in heaven knowing that some of my friends are going to hell? Could I look back on my life and not regret anything - not saving them, introducing them to Jesus - I'd love them to be in heaven with me; heck most admit they wouldn't want to be in hell! But I also love them the way they are. And where is my dog going to be anyway, if it's possible I'd want to be with him too... if animals have souls are they capable of sin? If they're not are they auto heaven, or auto somewhere frickin' else? And of the family member that abused me, where will he be at? I don't want him near me... nor near my friends.

For me right now, the fact of the matter is that heaven is kind of a mystery to me. Heaven = Good and Hell = Bad is pretty much as descriptive as it gets right now, and we all generally know the difference between feeling good and feeling bad, but when you take away the personal part of those... what is that?
I have some very strong bonds with my non-believer friends and after thinking about this parting at the time of judgement that may happen, as much as before I die I might fear for myself and cry out to God as many do (and who can blame them, death is quite terrifying!)... I'm starting to spare a thought for that separation, I'm not sure I could bare it. I would be considering at that point also - the possibility of becoming an atheist.

Views: 65

Comment by Nix Manes on October 13, 2009 at 2:40pm
This kind of thought process is what eventually leads a lot of people out of belief--there aren't any answers to be had. Therefore, the questions that the belief forces you to ask might be flawed. If that's true, then the entire concept might be, well, just plain wrong.

Now, people can try and 'read between the lines' of various passages in the bible or put something together that might make them feel better, but it's not really going to be true and doubts will still continue to pop up over and over. Again, because the premise on which the question is based is flawed.

The general idea of some sort eternal happiness waiting out there somewhere is entirely subjective, too, as you have basically pointed out yourself. I'm going to make a point that might make you really mad or even sick, but it'll go toward this idea.

What if your abuser were in heaven? He's there because he "was saved" (using whatever criteria you wish) and his idea of eternal happiness was to have people to abuse forever because that is what he finds the most enjoyable. Shouldn't he get what would be most pleasureable to him in order for it to be heaven? For him it wouldn't be heaven if he didn't get that.

The people who are in heaven with him being abused can't have being abused being part of their heaven. They're supposed to get their ultimate happiness, too, right? How do you solve this problem? You can't because the whole idea is contradictory and, therefore, can't be real.

The only way this can work is that each person in heaven won't care about anything they cared about before. They will be happy without a care in the world--literally. Pets, family, friends (in hell or heaven), teachers, lovers, etc. will be irrelevant. In this case all your questions also won't matter because they literally won't matter. Just trust that you will be happy without knowing how or even why. That's all you can do if you want to hold that position. If you think about it at all there will be no answer to find.

Heaven, like most everything religious, falls apart under scrutiny.
Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on October 13, 2009 at 2:44pm
Wow. It seems to me that even YOU don't buy all that bullshit, and you only did the little 'accepting Jesus' prayer as some bizarre form of Pascal's Wager.
Actually, it isn't all that bizarre. It's only the Abrahamic god that threatens you daily with threats of fire and damnation. I'm sure if you lived in a place where Hindus were -wait, never mind, they don't believe in that kind of Hell just because of that same paradox.
So if the Buddhists were- Oh wait, neither do they.
So maybe a Chinese traditional-Hold on....
See what I'm getting at? Your god is the only one that insists on raping people.
Forced love isn't love, babe.. it IS rape.
And by saying that if you don't believe in him and love him, you'll suffer for all eternity in an everlasting pit of acid and fire is just as much rape as having a man hold a knife to your throat and tell you to 'love' him.
Out of the entire world, only SOME Christians, a few Jews and some Muslims believe in this concept of Heaven/Hell dependent upon what you believe. There is a reason for this. The rest of the world knows it doesn't make sense.
No enlightenment can rationalize me living in eternal bliss as my grandmother, cousin or best friend has their skin melted off eon after eon. No all loving god would condemn a person to eternal torture just because someone either believes or doesn't. You know why? Because we can't control what we believe. Our brains are processors. It looks at information that is in front of it, then makes a decision based on the weight of the evidence. Once you see evidence, you cannot un-see it. Once you have doubt, it will be there in your mind. If god is all powerful, he knows you doubt.. so no matter how many prayers you whisper, no matter how much you try and pretend otherwise, he'll see through it, right? So either that means god wants you to go to Hell (because he didn't give you enough faith to un see the evidence) or he's unfair (in which case, he isn't god, right?)
So... To get to your question, this is my heaven:
We already know that our technology can only perceive the smallest window of all that the cosmos have to offer. Much like far infrared, there is some other type of energy wave length that could pass for a 'soul'
Not one bound to the deities of mythology that humans are so fond of creating, but instead a measurable, tangible essence known to science.
As our bodies decay, our matter transforms. We go back to the molecules and particles that we once were. Eventually in the eternity of existence, these molecules will reconstruct in trillions upon trillions of different ways. Eternity is nothing but one looooong numbers game. Eventually, something with the same arrangement will be produced again. Will that thing be me? Hmm.. it will have all the things that make up the present me. Will I know it? Probably not. Maybe so.
The fact of it is, no one knows how all this shit works, but if we can avoid nuking ourselves or destroying our world, eventually science will sort it out. A hundred years ago, the concept of infrared was beyond our belief. A hundred years before that, they were still searching for 'different types of air' that were odorless and tasteless. Today we take C02 and Nitrogen for granted. But once it was as invisible and unimaginable as the things we are still theorizing on now.

Hope you find whatever it is you are looking for.
If you ever have any questions or just want to talk, I check my mail pretty often.
Comment by Monika on October 13, 2009 at 2:52pm
Lol. You should have stayed a atheist. You try to be a perfect human being by who's standard? What is a perfect human being? What is heaven or hell and which God is the right God? You are a unique individual and there never was nor will be another one just like you. Why cant you take pride in it and be happy with who you are. What do you need to be saved from? Could it be the flaws you have that the religious system has problems with for you don't fit in any of their molds they have created over the centuries? Cant you not see the unnecessary guilt trip they are loading you down with? Maybe you should just have stayed being yourself for their is no way in ever pleasing God for the simple fact it was arranged that way from the get go by our corrupted ancestors. Religion is just a belief system that was created by man for man and man make mistakes. Just be a good person because its the right thing to do.
Comment by Dave G on October 13, 2009 at 2:53pm
Back when I believed, my concept of heaven was very vague. Light and contentment and happiness and dead relatives and all that. Once I started actively looking into things, the idea of an eternal, perfect place fell apart pretty damn quickly. The entire concept of heaven, as put forth by most Christian denominations, was absurd on the face of it, and contradictory when you got into the details.

I am curious, though. You said that you just recently converted to Christianity, and that previously you were an atheist. You also don't seem to have totally bought into a lot of the Christian dogma.

So, if I may ask, what was the evidence that convinced you to believe God? What was it that changed your mind?
Comment by Prazzie on October 13, 2009 at 3:17pm
Lol. You sound like a very conflicted individual. "Now I do admit that I have rather atheistic tendencies" and in another comment you wrote: "I'm a Christian but very atheistic".

"Christian" and "atheist" are, by definition, polar opposites. You are a theist, you have belief in gods. I am an atheist, I lack belief in gods. You cannot be a theist and an atheist simulataneously*, nor can you be a theist with "degrees" of atheism. However, we can both be agnostic, that is to hold that certain things are unknowable.

I echo Misty's sentiment, I hope you find whatever you're looking for. I think this community is a great place for you to be.

*Okay, Dawkins likes to say that we are all atheists with regards to most gods, we just go one god further, but until you let go of that last god or three, you're no atheist :)
Comment by Gaytor on October 13, 2009 at 6:40pm
The struggle. Be who you want to be and take your time getting there.

Heaven for me would be a place of equality. We don't have power or money struggles. We take care of what we need to but life isn't overwhelming with work to be done. Everyone is there, but we don't feel the animosity. I could have dinner with Hitler and know that he recognizes what he did. We can't change it, so we are able to shrug off even the deserved hate.
Of course let's say you are a New York Attorney whos heaven is kicking that guys ass and making him feel small then going and having a drink to talk about what a man you are? It would have to be compartmentalized and not unlike large computer. The Matrix without errors or interference?
Comment by Alison Rufus on October 13, 2009 at 7:13pm
Quick reply - Thanks for the responses, I'm having a bad few days here, so I will reply to you all properly tomorrow, possibly Thursday. I'm in an awful bitchy and upset mood, and I don't want to take it out on any of you. So - I'm not ignoring you, just give me a day or so!
Comment by Reggie on October 13, 2009 at 8:59pm
All the arguments aside and ignoring your conflicted stances to get to the questions at hand. I do not believe in any after life and even when I was trying to swallow the Christian pill (which may have been a suppository), so many things about this glorious, eternal reward troubled and confused me. Basically, I had many more questions than I had daydreams about heaven. So, I have never really given it too much thought about what I'd like heaven to be like, if heaven and eternal life were indeed the truth of the matter.

Heaven to me, to borrow from the movie Office Space, would be two chicks at the same time.

Where would I like to be? In bed with Mila Kunis and Kate Hudson.

After that, I could die a happy man.
Comment by Doug on October 13, 2009 at 8:59pm
To me the "soul" is your thoughts, knowledge, and memories. If you go to Heaven, then how will you be able to enjoy paradise? You have no brain and no physical appendages therefore it is not possible to enjoy your life like you would here on earth. The same thing applies to hell. If we are wrong about being Atheist then who the fuck cares if we burn forever and ever...We are not going to feel it.

Now, am I mad at you for becoming Christian, NO...Do I care if you stay one? NO!

If the Atheist are right and there are no GOD's, no Heaven or Hell....Will that change your mind about this post?
Comment by Ashli Axtell on October 13, 2009 at 9:54pm
For me, heaven is ceasing to exist in any capacity.

The mere thought of existing forever in any way, even in some heaven-scenario, is really quite terrifying.

I've heard some Christians claim that their idea of Heaven was getting to praise god for eternity. Blegh. Some others think that they'll get to sit with all their dead family and pets on fluffy white clouds of happiness. I have no idea. I never, ever developed a concept of heaven when I was trying to fit in the Christian community because I was never fully able to wrap my brain around everything else.

If you want learn about an awesomely complex Heaven system, check out the Latter-Day Saints. Theirs is super-interesting! Different levels of paradise, spirit "prison," and even evil people have a repent option after their souls have been incarcerated for a time. I could go on and on about those zany Mormons.


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