Saturday, June 09, 2007


For some reason, folks in our country seem to be engaging in a lot of thought about life after death. Whether we sense our annihilation, or whether it is just something to fill the idle hours, people are thinking about religion these days, divided between the Believers and the non-Believers and those who just aren't sure about anything.

Those who are Believers are just about impossible to bear these days. They are so sure they know "the way" that they preach it on street corners and movie theaters. The language they speak is Jesus, and they speak Jesus as every opportunity, quoting Scripture to embellish their words and droning on in long, pompous interpretations of the Good Book. I am sure that even God would duck into a doorway to avoid these souls, who undoubtedly mean well, but are so eager to change YOUR ways that they forget about their own.

It seems to me that your religion is hooked to the place of your birth. If you are born in the Middle East, you are probably Muslim, praying five times daily to Allah. If you are born in Africa, well, who knows? Perhaps a Sun God, or some other Deity formed from nature's bounty. If you are born in the South Pacific, you may well be looking to the Heavens for John Frum to drop his Cargo into your vicinity.

Even though some people claim that the United States is a "Christian" country, we are actually a Melting Pot of various religions and beliefs. Our only chance of getting along at all may be to ignore religion completely and proceed with our lives, praying in closets. Otherwise, we seem doomed to years and years of chaos, of the "taking Christ out of Christmas" hysteria, the sniping, the arguments.

Someone asked me recently..."Do I believe in Hell?" Frankly, I don't like the idea of Hell. Heaven seems to be a nice enough place, but Hell is well...hellish! I like my comforts.

Hell is actually where other people are headed, not ourselves. Mark Twain said we'll have lots of company there. It is a place of eternal punishment. No mercy in Hell. No compassion, no lawyer, no habeas corpus. No, sirree, once you are headed for Hell, there's no turning back.

How can God be described as forgiving and merciful and, at the same time, be the manager of such a place as Hell, with souls screaming and begging and suffering? Even the harshest judge in our land at times doles out a more compassionate sentence! But God seems to be a Hanging Judge, and if you are doomed to Hell, you are lost!

Why is it that some folks take great delight in envisioning this All Powerful Hanging Judge? They will warn you about it, describing the dire consequences of your non-religious behavior, spelling out doom and gloom for your future. They seem to enjoy the vision of someone being taken to task for their stubborn earthly refusal to agree with them and delight in the thought of their eternal punishment. Not exactly a warm Christian way of looking at things, I would say, but then who am I to know the answers?

Some folks describe themselves as sinful beings who suddenly have some sort of an epiphany and voila!...there is no turning back from that lightening bolt of sudden knowledge. From that minute on, they are members of that exclusive club, and they enjoy talking about it, because somehow, talking about it seems to be one of the rules. That epiphanies are hard to come by doesn't occur to them. If that lightening bolt doesn't strike, what is a person to do?

Who can be blamed for asking questions? Who can be blamed for saying that some of the Christian religion is silly, like fairy tales for the feeble-minded, and some of the Muslim beliefs are ridiculous. As for the Mormon, now, who would believe that a farmer had a angel appear in the woods one day, with these Golden Tablets?...well, try to tell YOUR neighbors that and they would laugh and dub you nutty as a walnut tree! Yet we are asked to believe in these things, have faith in these things, and use these beliefs to steer us into the afterlife.

I don't know. The whole thing is nuts. I've seen more believable plots in a cartoon, and I struggle to understand it all. If God exists, and I believe he does, I don't know why he left us so confused. And I don't want to hear that it is a matter of faith, because faith has so often been misused and abused. The Germans had faith in Hitler. Some people had faith in George Bush. Faith in anything should, I believe, be earned...not sold like popcorn at a circus.

Thus, the girl my mother used to call the rebel is still rebelling, still asking nosy and imperious questions that no person can answer. Somewhere, I read about a famous author, whose name I have forgotten, whose last mortal words were..."Ahh, now, the mystery!" Exactly! But unfortunately, this mystery cannot be solved until that last mortal moment.