I have a lot of friends from various flavors of Catholicism – many of whom are staunch believers in … whatever their church wants them to believe in. Almost all of them have tried to convert me in one form or another. It might be through small conversations (one publishes inspirational books and essentially said that if I believed in God enough, that Tiny Life would be a huge success), it might be through direct conversation (I once had a summer-long email debate about why we believe what we do), but it seems like all of them tried, at one point, to get me on their side. They all wanted me to believe what they do.
Now, in the age of Facebook (I would say “social media”, but my friends are too old to use Twitter or Vine or Snapchat), I’m getting a lot of scripture explanations or “Keep Christ in CHRISTmas!” or variations on that Footprints in the Sand poster. On each post I want to respond, but I’m afraid I’ll offend them (it’s different in personal conversation vs. online public displays). So I figured I’d write this. It covers pretty much everything I believe about religion:
From my understanding of Catholicism (which is mildly in-depth), there are essentially three ways to get into heaven:
- If you’re born (and/or baptized and/or confirmed), you get to go
- Only God can choose you to go
- If you do good works you get to go
There are a few other ways (if you die as an infant or if you’re martyred, etc.), but those are pretty much it.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume Heaven is an actual place. We can skip the traditional arguments of what exactly is “eternal happiness” and what happened to all the people who died before Jesus and what’s the difference between Hell, Heaven, and Purgatory… That’s detail stuff; I’m looking at the Big Picture: how does my current life affect my afterlife? Answer: I don’t know. Better answer: it doesn’t really matter.
The three ways to get into Heaven start with being born. Check.
The next is being chosen by God before you were born. Can’t do much about that.
The last is to do good works. Not eating meat on Fridays and giving up masturbation and having a gay wedding at my house don’t have anything to do with me doing good things. I don’t need to read the Bible and quote scripture on Facebook in order to know what’s right and wrong. We are all born with a sense of fairness (it’s been proven that infants only a few weeks old know what “fair” is). In my opinion, looking to God for every decision clouds that ability; it slows down and even hinders good works.
Now I could get into the charity of the church and what I think about “having Jesus in your heart” or about sanctimoniousness or about the hypocritical nature of worshiping a person whose only lesson was about love and you essentially hating everyone. But I won’t. That’s detail stuff. I’m looking at the Big Picture.
So here’s my belief – and this goes for all you atheists out there too – it doesn’t matter. How I think about God or the afterlife or the lack thereof does not matter. I will still pay my taxes, I will still give to charity, I will still raise my kids with some loving discipline, and I will still die – like everyone else – not knowing exactly what happens to me. And since I am going to die, I don’t want to spend my time thinking about pleasing a God I don’t know exists or raging against people who do.
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