..I watched the Barbara Walter's special, "Heaven: Where is it? How do we get there?" on Thursday night. It was entertaining and cute, in a "bubblegum for the mind" sort of way, with its exploitation of celebrities like Richard Gere, Elizabeth Taylor, and the Dali Lama. It was also
disturbing in depictions of extremism on the sides of Christian and Islamic viewpoints. The "science", took the fun out of it all with an explanation of the "heaven gene" and "dying brain syndrome". Throughout the program, I found myself listening to John Lennon's "Imagine", on the MP3 player in my mind.
... the show didn't teach me anything new and I doubt it intended to do so. The pervasive message seemed to be "lead a good life here to experience heaven on earth," or beyond. And it did so in almost a "gonna find out who's naughty or nice" kind of way, perfectly appropriate for a show airing only five days before Christmas. The show did, however, reinforce some beliefs I have held for a very long time.
...the first of these beliefs is that religion and politics are inseparabley linked and always a source of trouble. A brief clip showed some Evangelical teens praying in what appeared to be something more like a "voodoo trance" than any Christian service I have ever attended. These youth were taught to express religious fervor in such a manner, no less indoctrinated than a failed Palestinian suicide bomber held in an Israeli prison. Sadly, both are victims of errant religious instruction. With several references to Armageddon and Revelations, I was left believing that if such a final confrontation does occur, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy more than a fulfillment of a promise from God.
... next, cultural bias plays a tremendous role in one's religious belief. Is it any wonder that desert dwelling people perceive heaven as having an abundant water supply and lush gardens? Native Americans described the "happy hunting grounds" as a place where the spirits of warriors hunted the spirits of animals. A universal belief is that heaven is full of peace and tranquility, food and feasts, and our family and friends. What we lack or long for, in order to thrive on earth, is abundant in heaven. Conversely, what we fear and loath is always present in hell - fire, famine, disease, and pestilence.
... third, I am convinced that there will always be someone eager to stand up and say that they know what God wants, that they have a clearer idea of "The Creator's" master plan and the road to heaven than others do. Most of the time, such people will go the way of Aimee Semple McPherson, Jim Baker, or Jimmy Swaggart.
... finally, the last bastion for all religious discussion, or dispute, will invariably be faith. At its best, faith is both hope and trust. At its worst, faith is a circumvention of logic and intelligence, too often used in a manner akin to "Because I said so!"
... I much prefer a simpler view of creationism such as depicted in a recently discovered ancient Mayan mural buried for thousands of years in Guatemala. The mural simply shows a fish to represent the water world, a turkey representing the air world, and the Corn God, offering an ear of corn to umans so they may eat and flourish here on earth.