According to Christian belief, heaven and hell are the last dwelling places in the afterlife. Heaven is always referred positively and visualizes every human’s perception of true happiness. On the other hand, hell carries the heaviest of negative connotations meant to evoke your most significant fear — pain. In this story, I will explain why I do not believe I deserve to be in heaven (or hell for that matter).
Here are some extracts in the Bible on the concept of hell (with surprising unanimity):
Matthew 13:50 “furnace of fire…weeping and gnashing of teeth”
Mark 9:48 “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched”
Revelation 14:10 “he will be tormented with fire and brimstone”
Whether I go to heaven or hell is trivial simply because I believe none of it. Only going from the quotes above, hell’s furnace of fire seems useless because we leave our bodies on Earth when we die and therefore leave our pain receptors in which we could feel the burn.
My opinion on the afterlife is controversial, just like everyone else’s, but I will point out why religion is not worth following to me before heading to my story.
- No one can disprove the existence of heaven or hell: Disproving a matter that is inherently based on faith is impossible. Due to the lack of observational or measurable data, a hypothesis can not be formed, and no experiments can be done to bear a firm belief beyond a reasonable doubt that people go to heaven or hell when they die. A hypothesis such as “I believe it because I know and I have felt it” is not only untestable both in principle and in practice, but also the lowest form of evidence. It is no different than my friends and me coming up with a testimonial of a UFO sighting, and if enough people believe it despite not seeing it, we have a devout following. Indeed, it is a cruel world!
- Contradicting accounts: The debate on the proper form and practices in religion is not a new topic, and differing views have been the root of the many denominations we have now. Each of these denominations has its opinions and holy books on the concept of heaven on hell. Some religions believe in a sea of fire engulfing the depths of hell, and others think it is sulfur, others believe some demons punish every sinner while others believe in all of them combined. Fear is known to be emergent i.e., and its effects are more than the sum of its parts, so the more the fear-inducing impact, the better, right? Furthermore, imagine a small boy who lived and died on an island that had no contact with the outside civilization, will he then go to hell for not practicing a religion because of the lack of knowledge of its existence?
- Lack of experiences: I have never felt the presence of heaven or hell. If humans are somehow connected to this mystical land since they travel to it after death, should they not be able to feel it at some point in their life? (I know this is weak evidence, but people claim to feel a connection to God through prayer).
- The preponderance of evidence says otherwise: Neil DeGrasse Tyson once stated in an interview that in all his life as an astrophysicist, no evidence has come to him of the existence of a higher deity. With years looking up to the sky and analyzing the structure and properties of space, he saw no arrangement that leads to the belief of a higher power. In the same light, people used to believe the heavens were above in the sky (until it changed to be in everyone’s hearts). That is where Jesus ascended to, and that is where people pointed to while praying. After the first extraterrestrial travel, we confirmed that above the skies is a vast space of vacuum and darkness, which is in contradiction to the Tower of Babel story.
- Afterlife’s History: There are a lot of accounts of the afterlife. The Greeks believed in Hades, the god of the underworld; the Roman believed in Pluto, and Christians believe in Satan. All three myths (if I may), were crafted more than 2000 years ago. According to Rikk Watts, the concept of heaven and hell was made from our longing for justice, love among ourselves, and the inability for our minds to conceive a less than perfect world. But with the advent of the technological era and modern democracy, the need for religion is dwindling and therefore is our belief for heaven and hell.
- Insufficient knowledge: I am aware of my lack of perfect experience in the theological discipline, which has been around for more than 700 years, and I do not wish to drive away anyone from their beliefs. However, I felt it would be necessary for my story, and a bit of context helps reduce any judgment.
It was the eve of my friend’s birthday, and I was dead beat from the previous night’s coding marathon. I had just woken up, and as usual, checked my phone for any likes or messages to get that hit of dopamine I craved. I had received a text from Lucas, who wanted us to meet at 2 pm inside Burger King to have some fun and catch up.
Lucas was relatively short but had a stout figure which you could not have messed with even if your life depended on it. He had pronounced muscles, especially on his shoulder caps, that gave him that hanger shape on his upper body. He had a short beard around his chin and jawline, although patchy. It looked hard and compact as the bristles of a shoebrush but felt soft like an Eider duck’s feather. Contrary to his physique, he was always joyful and had a voice higher than the average man. I guess you get some and you lose some.
I texted him back that I would be there despite having no energy and a shameful bank balance for my age. It was currently 10 am and with my poor time management coupled with excessive discounting, I overestimated the time I had. Instinctively, I started playing games on my laptop until 12:30 pm as I was bored. Due to the sheer luck of picking up my phone to check for messages (I now believe I have nomophobia), I realized that I had not had breakfast nor showered, and it was almost impossible to arrive on time. Almost impossible.
I quickly removed my sweatshirt at the same time, making coffee while running to the shower. It seemed as if time was going more rapidly as I rushed faster to beat the time. I had a quick shower. Half brushed my hair; half brushed my teeth. Drank the coffee and hopped out. Oh, wait! I didn’t have any money. An Uber to his location could easily cost a day’s meal. Do I search in the house or put my color printer to good use? Creative and not so original thoughts and ideas lingered in my mind as they went until I resorted to the introvert’s saving grace: go back inside and call in sick.
I felt the guilt run through my body. I had borrowed from all my friends, and it made no financial sense to use the money I did not have and lacked an excuse for it. My muscles felt dystrophic as I typed the complete paragraph of lies to my dear friend whose only want was to talk to — a fair exchange. I sent the message and not waiting to see if he saw it, shut down the phone and chucked it to the sofa. I walked down the hallway in shame to the kitchen as I drained my sorrow like wringing water from a soaked sock during a hike gone sour.
Depressed and downhearted, I started watching You on Netflix. One hour passed. Two hours passed. Seven hours later, I remember my phone and turn it on. I had ten missed calls from Lucas and an angry emoji. It turns out his battery died, and he operated on faith, waiting for the time and hour that I shall come.
When 7 pm reached, he was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that I would not be going, and the moment he stepped out of the food chain, he felt a weird feeling like something would happen in the future. Two blocks down on a dark alley, Lucas met two men, both holding handmade daggers, and with the help of reflection, they appeared rusted.
Instinctively, Lucas feared for his life and was torn between fight and flight. “Could I take them? But they have weapons…” He took two steps back only to feel something on his back. If it was not enough, a man stood behind him, holding a used syringe and had a piercing smile that summarized the pleasures of his psychotic thoughts running through his mind.
“Give me your money, rich boy.” One of the men who looked like life landed him on the wrong side of the coin said. Naturally, Lucas refused. He could not just give out the money for his birthday to a trio of strange men on an alley. One of the men with daggers loomed towards Lucas, his body getting bigger and bigger, blocking the light from the streetlamp behind him. Lucas, who was scared to the roots of his existence, garnered up all his might and ravishingly transferred a blow to the man’s chin like a light refracted on the water’s surface. Unfortunately, the second man was quick on his feet and managed to stab his abdomen before escaping to the shadows.
Lucas limped to the main street, called an Uber, which rushed him to the hospital. Unaware that all these happened, I continued with my life for two full days before receiving word of his misfortune.
This article is not a rant about why no one told me about the incident, nor is it a justification of my innocence. On the contrary, it is a manifestation of my limitations as a human — as a sinner.
This story should not be misinterpreted to have a deeper meaning. Lucas is not mankind, nor were his events the atrocities committed by humanity. I do not embody Jesus in this story, nor does Lucas waiting have anything to do with the second coming of Christ.
Instead, this is a story of deep reflection and thought. If I could ignore my friend’s plea which lead to his stabbing. If I could make the eve of his birthday the most memorable day of his life in a negative way and still have the audacity to miss both the meetup and his birthday, then I do not deserve a place in heaven. So long as I am made in the image of God — a perfect, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent being — I ought to act so. But I don’t. If there is a genuinely loving and caring God, why does he let all these bad things happen? I do not deserve a place in heaven because I am already living in hell here on Earth.
Thank you for reading. I would appreciate if you would share or like the article — I would love to get to know my readers better! ❤️