A Layman’s View Of Eternity

If the Bible is the Word of God, then Christians over the years have certainly learned how to “water down”, or rationalize much of what it declares to be the truth. Few people to-day believe that the earth was created in 6 days. Only infants would swallow the far-fetched Bible stories such as the far-out fairytale of Noah’s Ark. No one to-day believes that the sun revolves around the earth even if it took the church 500 years to apologize to Galileo for his heretical discovery. Even fewer believe that the Ten Commandments were scratched out on a tablet by God and handed to Moses as the moral human code for all time. Preaching hell, fire and brimstone held sway for almost 2,000 years, but is barely mentioned in most churches to-day. And the 3-in-1 depiction of God was not the “word of God” at all, not a Biblical revelation, but the efforts of one theologian who got his way.

Mainstream Christian leaders, partially because of widespread skepticism, changing societal values, rapidly falling church attendance, are being backed into corners. Many have conceded that much of their religious content is not to be taken literally. And so there is a growing sense that the Bible is starting to fray around the edges, as followers stop believing and skeptics challenge the antiquated doctrine as the “word of God”.

Christianity has stubbornly prevailed for 2,000 years for a reason. It offers comfort and the hope of eternal salvation to true believers. It builds communities, provides cohesion, and gives real purpose to human life. Some believe that it has caused enormous good. Detractors proclaim that it has inflicted terrible harm. However, religious leaders have tirelessly invented ways to involve the masses, and to give them hope. Creating saints was like winning a major lottery for the church.

The concept of sainthood was a clever, powerful way to personalize the Christian religion by bringing it down to a human level. Many popes, along with multitudes of simple pious people were elevated to godlike positions after death. Religious leaders encouraged the laity to choose their favourite saints from an army of mini-gods, reminiscent of ancient societies, to whom they could pray for help, special favours in this life, or, if not, in the next when they entered heaven. After all, every saint has proven to be a “miracle-worker” twice over according to the church. Even Christ's earthly mother, Mary, was elevated to sainthood, and is revered by millions. Somehow, Christ’s earthly dad, Joseph, an ordinary human, who is seldom mentioned in the Bible, also made the cut to sainthood, mainly for being a virtuous man.

Currently more and more saints, or mini-gods, are being created because of "miracles" they performed. There are currently many thousands of canonized saints from whom to choose. There is evidence that these saintly people performed good works, but no proof that they ever rose from the grave into eternal life to answer our prayers.
The Christian church was founded on the belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus into an actual spatial location-heaven, but where is it? All through the Christian church’s history, heaven has been an integral part of Christianity's belief system, as was the devil and hell, although the latter have lost their fearsome place with modern church goers who now prefer to ignore these punitive Biblical concepts. Popular belief dictates that heaven is somewhere in the sky above the moon, but astronauts, zooming into space, never encountered it, or else they simply missed St. Peter waving to them from the Pearly Gates.

Even Voyager 1, traveling at 38,000 miles per hour for 37 years, and currently beyond the edge of our solar system, has not reported back any sign of heaven so far. Modern telescopes have enabled us to “see” objects 14 billion light years away, but have failed to report any sign of what surely would be a top-heavy, overpopulated soul-filled heavenly home.
Hidden heaven, the Christian home in the cosmos after death, is believed to be the eternal playground of Christian believers, whose souls, minus their physical brains, as impossible as it sounds, live forever. Non-believers were destined for hell, somewhere in the bowels of the earth, but never discovered. It is now out of fashion and so seldom mentioned in mainline Christian churches. Instead they conveniently choose to portray the Trinity God as a forgiving God of love who accepts one and all into his kingdom-even a Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Pontius Pilot, that dastardly Roman governor who condemned Christ to death on the cross for no particular reason.

The record would seem to indicate that God, if he exists, doesn't care what you or I, or anyone else, including Hitler, Stalin, Pope Francis, or Ganges Kan thinks, says or does. He appears to observe Planet Earth with indifference, as monstrous wars, suicide bombers, genocide, pestilence, droughts, famine, human cruelty, misery and suffering on a colossal scale, occur almost at random. Our earthly home is but a minute spec in God’s colossal universe that stretches to eternity and beyond. But when good things happen to us on this amazingly-beautiful earthly ball we call home, we cannot help but give thanks. It is a built-in reflex that does no harm.

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Dr. James F. McDonald is a retired elementary school principal who lives in Dundas, ON.
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