Friday, May 9, 2008

One Heaven? One Truth?

Is there really only one heaven? One afterlife for everyone in the world to fit in? If that is the case, how could everyone be happy?

Is there really only one truth? One truth for everyone in the world to accept? If that is the case, how could everyone be happy?

Is Christianity, as I know it, the only truth? Most Christians seem to believe this idea. They believe that the world needs to be converted to Jesus as much as the Muslim believes that the Christian needs to be converted to Muhammad. Christians also claim that in the afterlife people will be taught the “truth” and decide whether or not to “accept” it. But, these same Christians also believe that we are the same person once we die. So, if that is the case, then, honestly, not many Muslims or Jews are going to be “saved” according to Christian standards. How sane is it to believe that everyone is going to have to convert to Christianity AND be happy about it? ...especially if they are the same person in heaven that they were on earth? If you die, and were then taught that some other faith had it all right, and you were wrong-- could you then so easily forget about your relationship with your Savior?**

As the world exists right now, the current religious breakdown is:
Christians 33.32% (of which Roman Catholics 16.99%, Protestants 5.78%, Orthodox 3.53%, Anglicans 1.25%), Muslims 21.01%, Hindus 13.26%, Buddhists 5.84%, Sikhs 0.35%, Jews 0.23%, Baha'is 0.12%, other religions 11.78%, non-religious 11.77%, atheists 2.32% (2007 est.)… really, all of these people are supposed to find joy (understanding that my premise for the afterlife is that there might be some semblance of joy and contentment...otherwise, it's hell, and let's not go into what I think about that right now!) ....ahem, as I was saying, all of these people are supposed to find joy in the exact same Kingdom as this white girl from Utah might? Hmmmm, I just don’t think so seems a bit absurd.

I recently finished The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan. It was a beautiful tale of spirituality, awakening, life and afterlife. The Chinese afterlife is so different from mine, and so lovely. Tan created an unforgettable character in Kwan.

"My sister Kwan believes she has Yin eyes. She sees those who have died and now dwell in the World of Yin...It was Kwan who taught me, if people we love die, then they are lost only to our ordinary senses. If we remember, we can find them anytime with our hundred secret senses." When Kwan is asked by her sister about the afterlife, she gives such a beautiful explanation that resonated with me. She explains that all those who love Jesus, will be with Jesus. Those who love Allah will go to "Allahland" (as Kwan called it!), and everyone will be where their truth resides, and it will be heaven for them.

So, my question--can heaven be as diverse as earth? Or, to truly be heaven, must we all be alike? I rather relish in differences, so I kind of hope it’s the former…just maybe in heaven we will all learn how to love each other for our differences, instead of trying to change everyone to see the truth as we see it.

When you google" "heaven" are some of the images that come up. I love the variations.

**Note: Whatever religion you are, I'm not trying to undermine it. Every religion assumes their view of heaven is the only view, and I accept that you, or many of you, may see your religion as the only truth and I respect that.


Jessica said...

Thanks for this post. In the last few years I've come to doubt the idea of a strictly LDS heaven for everyone. Like you explained, would everyone want that? Would God force us into a heaven we don't want?
These are important questions.
I hope that someday I will find answers, but for now, I just think that we will be with God and we will be happy. Regardless of the details, I'm counting on that.

Sugar said...

I have been really disturbed by this question quite a bit lately. While I personally believe that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, what right do I have to judge others who were taught differently? There are some mini wars going on in our own town because of the recent death of a child. The discussions surround which afterlife this baby is experiencing and who is right and who is wrong. The church that the parents belong to have turned this tragedy into an outreach, even going on tv to proclaim their forgiveness to the woman who accidentally hit the child as he darted out into the street. I think forgiveness is divine and we are taught to do that. But to turn it into a PR moment? I felt my stomach turn. But then, the gals that go to my church and who stand in opposition to the teachings of the first church are worried about the state of those listening and that they are being lead astray.

I have friends that are "spiritual" who believe in some other ethereal world, I'm not sure what all... They are so much fun and so energetic. So when a Christian friend asked me how I deal with their ideas, I just said I stick to my bible and let our friendships be. How do I know there's not a heaven for them? And will I miss it if I have coffee with people outside of my Bible Bubble? Doubtful.

This is so profound a thought... I'm sorry I took up so much space... I am just right in the middle of exactly what you are talking about. Thank you for your thoughts.

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Good post, D'arcy.
There is a lot of mystery in this, no doubt. People have struggled with these issues .... well, forever, really.
Here's my take on it. God is bigger than we can even fathom. Trying to understand God would be like looking through a keyhole at something as big as the Grand Canyon.... you would only get a tiny, tiny glimpse of it. But, the wonderful news is that God loves each of us .... we are his children! So, even though there is a myriad of things we CAN'T understand, he did give us the capacity to undertand his love. And I think that's a wonderful place to start. :-)

Boquinha said...

I sometimes wonder if when we all get to heaven, God/Allah/Buddah/Etc. greets us warmly and with a compassionate chuckle and we all get a good laugh over how much we've all agonized over who is right and about how much we've tried to convince one another that we're-right-they're-wrong. I mean, look at history. War after war after war . . . all in the name of religion. Maybe it really is an opiate . . . bleh.

Cool idea to Google Image "Heaven." :)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Darcy,
I arrived via Gustav's blog and find your topic both very interesting and very honest of you to confront in your writing about it.
We never truly know what lies ahead until we each confront it alone. That can be a scary thought and I am slowy arriving at the conclusion that it also means letting go of this human identity and attachment to the physical self as we enter this other realm as something beyond our comprehension. This human need to label and define cannot compete, as happywife alludes to, something far beyond our understanding.
I only know at times when I am in the mountains amongst nature I sense a calming flow we are all part of, and that is enough for me.
Thanks, and great post. Have a nice day.
Ka kite,

Gustav said...

Dear D'Arcy

Your question is "can heaven be as diverse as earth?"

My answer is a question. What if heaven was earth?

If you shoot a telescopic gaze around our galaxy no other planet comes close to earth's sublime heavenliness.

Our diverse and strange planet hosts millions of delights and contains an extraordinary combination of oceans, mountains, life, cloud and sky.

Did you know that earth's blue sky can be found no where else in the known Hubble telescope Universe?

My view is that earth is at least one form of heaven and that it may be the only heaven and that if we all believed this was heaven it could dramatically change how we live.

Instead of counting on a future infinite heaven with singing angels maybe heaven is finite and temporal and if it is - should we not treasure each moment, celebrate and bathe in its beauty?

In the end there is only another beginning. And the next beginning may be another heaven. Yet for I, this moment, in this body, reading your post confirms that I am in heaven.

My heaven has intellectual debate, art, love, rivers filled with trout, holding hands, beating hearts, great architecture, hugs, french kissing, poetry, music and to answer your question "diversity" and maybe even fashion.....

D'Arcy said...

Jessica: I am counting on that too!

Sugar: What a hard thing for your town to be going through, and the hurt these people feel is only compounded by the differences of beliefs. I hope your town can find healing.

Happy Wife: I still keep peering thought that keyhole, wishing I could see more...many people I know just stop looking, they too a look and they understood enough for them. I, on the other hand, keep thinking...what is that in the distance, I need to figure that out! I like your analogy!

Boquinha: that would serve us all right! lol!

Ruahines: amen brother.

Gustav: you make me smile...maybe fashion?!!! Jimmy Choo shoes for sure!

Alisa said...

I like Gustav's idea. I'd never considered that before.

Olivia said...

yes, and only the lds church teaches that we'll be taught, the protestant world as a whole sees it as we die, heaven or hell, period. I love Amy Tan, and that book, and the Bonesetter's Daughter, are my favorite by her. Her latest book, Saving Fish From Drowning, was a disappointment...I actually met her at FSU, she came to talk to the grad students, and I snuck in. Unlike some authors, she's as amazing as you think she'll be.

On another note, yes! You totally have to come visit us after we get settled in. We're going to be living about 30-40 minutes south of DC, an awesome area. And you'll love Faiyaz, and you've got to meet Anjali. Give us a month or so to unpack. :)

Moonbird said...

I'm finally reading your blog!!! I just keep nodding my head.

Beth said...

I think that, no matter what religion/culture/whatever we happen to be, some things are universal... things like family, love, and beauty. Rather than suppose that those who weren't taught to believe Christianity will be forcefully taught in the afterlife, think of this: They die and find themselves in a beautiful, peaceful place, surrounded by lost love ones and ancestors... they are taught slowly and gently, and come to realize a beautiful truth: the God that they have believed in, whichever one that is, is the same as the Christian God. They will come to see, like King Lamoni, that the Great Spirit is the same God that Ammon worships.

I know that the gospel is for everyone, which stands to reason that Heaven is, too.

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

Beth, whoever you are, I concur. Don't stress too much about it--the Savior didn't. Follow in his footsteps, and whatever happens, you'll be good to go.