By Joe Novak
I heard an atheist say that he doesn’t believe in an afterlife but should there be one, he would be thrilled. My first thought was, if there is one, then there surely is a God, unless you believe you’re coming back as a cat, (reincarnation is a topic for another day.)
Religion teaches me that there is a heaven and a hell but one most likely needs to die to get a firsthand look. My parochial school teacher had a picture depicting souls in hell trying to scale a cliff wall with flames all around. Keeping the boys in line was the objective because the girls in the class were seen as perfect angels.
Historically, hell has been used as a tool to keep people in line. If there is no hell, there is less incentive to behave. I have always wondered about life after death and what people perceive it to be. I asked several people about their perception of an afterlife and here is what I was told.
A Catholic deacon said that he thinks hell is the total absence of God and that hell dwellers will be in complete isolation. Heaven, on the other hand, will be more glorious than we can imagine and when interpreting scripture, it is the promise of heaven that we look forward to. We will spend eternity in heavenly bliss with God and our most beloved relatives and friends.
Several people I spoke with believe in an afterlife but don’t really want to give it much thought. “I will find out someday,” was a typical answer.
I personally believe that there is an afterlife including a heaven and hell. I believe heaven and hell will be different for each of us depending on how we lived our lives, but heaven will include an interaction with God. Hell will be an absence of God and we will miss him tenfold more than any person or pet we miss in this life that has passed.
I am not sure there will be actual flames and one person’s response to my question was that they can’t imagine a merciful God condemning people to eternal damnation for giving into life’s temptations. Some Catholics believe in purgatory where you spend time after death in a kind of “sin rehab”, doing penance for your sins before you can enter heaven. I have not given that much thought, although I am hoping I don’t find myself doing windows as my penance. I hate doing windows!
Will we find ourselves at The Pearly Gates where St. Peter checks his book of sins? I am certain he has an iPad by now. Perhaps we will enter through a sin scanner – somewhat like an airport security screener – where all is revealed to St. Peter. For that, as at the airport, we would have to be very careful of what we’re bringing along with us.
Joe Joke: A very religious and wealthy man was on his deathbed. He begged God to allow him to bring one item into heaven. God relented and when he died, he brought a bar of gold bullion. St. Peter, being aware of this allowance, was somewhat perplexed by the item and asked, “Why would you bring pavement?”