IMAGINE THERE’S NO HEAVEN..
So on my way back from church, where I volunteer to teach English, I had to stop by a café and write about how I don’t believe in the need for religion. Typical.
Naturally, I had to vigilantly pertain to the habit of arriving fifteen minutes late to said lessons, and of course I had an agenda. Said agenda is not at all harmful, merely selfish: to avoid awkwardly standing aside in the naughty corner of nonbelievers consisting of me, myself and I during the Morning Prayer. It was on this magnificent day that Mr. Bishop decided to cunningly walk in later than my usual late and give me a mini-panic attack. How dare thee Mr. Bishop nonchalantly and unannouncedly waltz in again and give us chocolate for your name day? Have you no regard for the people who snuck in just in time to avoid drawing in attention to the awkwardness of a nonbeliever volunteering at a church? Very sweet of you indeed! Nonetheless, lovely chocolate, very rich and smooth.
Flashback: when mom found out I was volunteering at church, she confronted me with an “I knew you had strong faith after all!” What a surreal moment, sort of like a coming out of the closet grand event. And it’s not that I don’t have faith, of course I do. I have faith in humanity, in the children who deserve a fair chance in life, and in giving back to the community. Not in much else though.
Wait a minute: what’s that familiar taste in my mouth? Shame? At believing, at Not believing? At blatantly admitting either?
Either way, this got me thinking; one, why is religion becoming a taboo; and two, why do we need religion in the first place; and three, what would the world succumb/rise to if religion was removed from the equation altogether?
But first, imagine there’s no heaven.. What would you do differently? Would you stop giving back to your community? Would you finally get that tattoo? Would you join a purge? And do we truly need religion to give us a moral compass?
Maybe, once upon a time, when the world was a little more violent, if possible, a little more primitive, religion was needed to set some ground rules for those who thought they could escape earthly laws when committing crime behind the scenes, but is this concept still valid nowadays? It’s not that I am condemning people of faith; let me say this once and for all: EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US has the right to hold that which brings them peace closer to their hearts. And this brings me back to our first question, why is there so much stigma around religion nowadays? Why have we claimed it our right to not only walk “the untrodden path”, but to also stigmatize those who choose not to? Don’t we all have the right to have our own belief system? And of course it goes without saying that whatever you believe in must not be force-fed to others in any way, shape or form, be it through propaganda or violence, but just truly to have the right to believe in it in solitary. This pseudo right of stigmatizing either side inevitably leads to fanaticism on either side, utterly ungraceful.
But I digress. Ah yes, imagine there’s no heaven.
And here I’m reminded of two instances that morphed this little existential query of mine. The first happened once upon a lifetime ago when I was in high school. I read Rabia Al Adawiyya’s poem saying: “Lord, if I adore you out of fear of Hell, burn me in your flames! If I adore you out of desire for Heaven, bar its gates in my face. But if I adore you for Yourself alone, don’t deny me the beauty of your face.” And it was then when I realized that in me, alive and kicking, was a rebellious little thing who needed to break free from the basics of Reinforcement Theory. In my little attempt at a rebellion, I refuse to be threatened by punishment or encouraged by a reward, only the grace of the freedom to experience life and express it. What if we could rise above a fight-or-flight mechanism, and instead long for a sense of purpose, of fulfilment in giving back and offering our service. Is that how we could get to see “the beauty of your face” dear reader?
And as I digress a little further, I come to the second instance which confirmed this little theory. This brilliant professor at university once told us that “you can never escape your conscience, for it is that little bell you hear when you do something. You know it in the heart of your heart if it’s the right thing to do. The little bell will always toll.” Meaning, we don’t really need a set of rules, heavenly or otherwise, to dictate how to live our lives with dignity and a sense of morale. So why the need for religion, heaven, hell, laws, prisons? And what is it that happens to us that clouds our innate sense of direction? Is it an innate nature to break the rules, or is it acquired by nurture?
Ugh, not THAT debate again.. just imagine there’s no heaven, ok? There, that’s your problem now.
The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and do not necessarily reflect or represent those of Delirium Station.