Disclaimer- I do not believe in Heaven or an afterlife. My formal religion, assigned at birth, alludes to it ambiguously, but I think the idea of Heaven is horse poop. Do note, I appreciate the history of my familial religious culture, but I don’t buy into it verbatim. Also, I only ever viewed three episodes of “The Good Place.” Okay Four. But they were non-consecutive, and I was mostly looking at Facebook on my phone.

There’s Heaven and then there’s Earth. One is unproven and one is tangible. Dudes you’re walking on it. And you need a one-way ticket with a severe purchase-price to get into the other.

 You’ve got the “here and now” and you better make something of your life, imho, because this is probably the only chance you get to strike the piñata. Now if something else exists, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be swept up in the wave. If it’s based on good and evil acts, as many would believe, I haven’t killed anyone or lied on a reality show and I loaded groceries into a car for an old lady once, so I feel confident about my brownie points.

If there is a creator, I was endowed with the skeptic gene, by said creator, so I won’t be punished for questioning its existence. She might even find that entertaining. (Yup SHE. That’s another essay).  I don’t live my life waiting to die, to be rewarded later and I really don’t understand anyone who does. But you do you. Just don’t drag me down with you, sinner.

BUT I have a few questions for those who harbor so much belief and faith in something so intrinsic to their existence that they still cannot explain or prove. And pointing to the bible won’t cut it. It’s a book, written by a few dudes. That’s it. No more. No less. If God wrote it, I dare say it would have been updated by now with a few more modern non-binary prophets, an online website and a Social Media account. Seriously. Reach is supposed to be important in God’s line of work. Why not take advantage of technology and marketing? And I’m not talking about those Super Bowl commercials. I’m looking for the real deal from the supposed original source.

But for you die-hard believers, talk to me. I have wondered, what is the hierarchy of Heaven? If it is so important to your core belief system, then you must have spent some time thinking about the nitty gritty of it too. I mean I’m not even in on the game, and I wrote an essay about it.

(Side bar. I was encouraged to go to different religious services and bible studies with my friends of other denominations. It was part of my education. I do remember however, being absolutely shocked by my 14-year-old friend C. after we left her church bible study one day. She looked at me and said enthusiastically, “I can’t wait to die! Heaven is going to be great!” I was stunned. I did not return to bible study. My father was amused).

Is said Heaven comprised of body-less souls that fly around somehow not bumping into each other? Or are the souls afforded a body of some sort so they can identify each other? If you get a body, at what age is it? I mean if you live a long, healthy life are you going to look like you are 94 forever in Heaven? That doesn’t sound like a reward.

 Do you get to pick your favorite age? That could be awkward if a married couple tries to reunite, and they don’t pick the same decade… Do people who died as children, get to finally be adults? Do you live and grow and change in Heaven? What’s the purpose then, if you live a few short years on earth and then spend eternity reflecting on those years? If you can’t profit from your new wisdom and you can’t effectively share it with your relatives and friends who have not yet died, what is the ever-loving point?  Do you tune into earth like we watch TV? Is it entertainment? Is it important anymore?

Is there infrastructure in Heaven? Are there roads and highways and little houses? Do poor humans become rich angels? Do the rich humans grovel on the streets of Heaven or Hell whichever one they wind up in? Is it wrong to be rich if you earned it fair and square? Are you bad if you don’t share your wealth?

Do you sit in a special Union Station in the clouds waiting to grab a new body on a Heaven to Earth ski lift- like transit and return to terra firma? What is the blooming point if you didn’t learn anything from living the first time? Are we on one big merry-go-round, because that makes even less sense to me. Are we all alone, living parallel lives, experiencing deaths and then our individual “here afters” or are we like certain religions believe, each master of our own planet eventually?

Is our family, really our family? Do we just keep being born into the same tribe, but different stations? Do we all finally get along?? Or are there still fights at family gatherings if there are family gatherings? Do our parents still get to criticize our choices if we are angels??? I mean we must have done something right if we ultimately landed in Heaven, although we might not have become a doctor or a lawyer like mom wanted…

Are the bad guys really frying in Hell? Is Hitler being gassed daily? Is there proof or is it hearsay? I mean are there field trips to Hell so you get to really understand your Heavenly reward? If you show bad manners on the trip and jeer at Hitler, you have to stay right?

Here’s the Hierarchy question. Is there social class stratification in Heaven? Are some people really holier than thou? Are great people great angels? Or are we all equal?

 Is Einstein doomed to be reborn as an average Joe? Do the intellectually disabled finally gain knowledge? If so, what a waste if they couldn’t have had it in life. That seems cruel.

Are there elections in Heaven? Is it self-ruling? It sounds like there are a lot of folks up there and someone has to organize it.  Does God spend as much time tending to souls in Heaven as on earth? Does God pay attention to all of us or some of us? Why?

Does God have a God? Is there a hierarchy of Gods? Who is the head God? Why? Does it change? Do the Gods have to petition each other for ranking? What does God’s resume and job application look like?

Was the parting of the Reed Sea real? (Yes Reed, not Red. Look it up). Why did God drown some of her children, the Egyptians, to protect the others, the Israelites? Then why did God turn around and allow millions of Jews and others to be systematically murdered in World War 2? If I saw my kids beating on each other, I would have stepped in to stop it. Does God love us as a parent? Does God actually know we exist? Does God exist?

Are we a happy accident? Are we really truly the only creatures in the galaxy? Yeah. I have a tough time buying that too.

Do we really fly in Heaven? How do we learn to do that? Are there clothes in Heaven? Do we all suddenly have perfect bodies and we run around unclothed? Do we get cold?? Is someone always fiddling with the thermostat? How could you possibly keep all those people comfortable at the same time???

Do we get hungry and thirsty in Heaven? Do people have sexual desire in Heaven? Are there marriages in Heaven? Do single people get to be married angels?

Are there police in Heaven? Good people bend the rules sometimes. Are there angels ensuring that the rules of Heaven are followed, or do you drop ten floors to “you know where” for rolling your eyes at someone during a conversation? Is there a list of infractions handed to you at the gates, or do you find out the hard way?  Is there a “three counts and you’re out” rule?

Are there jobs in Heaven? Does Apollo pull the sun across the sky every morning? What happens if he oversleeps or has a difficult day? If you hated being an accountant in life, but you’re good at it, do you still have to be one in Heaven? It seems like there would be a lot of counting to do in Heaven.

Do angels have mentors or personal coaches to help them acclimate? Is there a training manual or is everything transmitted telepathically? Do angels talk or just sing? How do they know what to sing?

Can you change careers in Heaven? Can you get an education?  Can you further your education? I mean you don’t want to be bored and presumably, you’re going to be in Heaven a long time. Do angels get bored in Heaven?

Which religion is correct? Are any of them? Do they all have it wrong? Does that matter? Is religion only for the living?

I have a lot more questions.

You can fabricate any answer you want to any of these questions. You can say that you just know that your religion is right and that you have all the answers. But you do not. The pope does not. The Indian chief does not. The head rabbi does not. No one does. No one knows for sure.

If we really understood that life is so precious and fleeting a gift, that nothing is for certain either before it or after it, that no faith or belief can protect you from whatever reality is, that there is no magic that makes you or your loved ones special, perhaps we would walk around each day and truly appreciate our miraculous present. We are here, now, in what seems a possible version of Heaven.

Not to be Pollyanna-ish but okay let’s give that a try today, because I would like to see us clean up the present scenery. The environment needs some help. We have to eliminate poverty, discrimination and warfare. We should stop fighting with one another and see the miracles that we truly are every single day.

We need to stop stealing, bullying and causing grief to one another and instead spread our good fortune to breathe this air and play in this sunshine. Kindness should be our currency. We should have faith in ourselves to be better and share our wisdom.  We shouldn’t need a Godly parent or a Heaven.

If they both exist, then that’s an unexpected bonus.

But we could be in Heaven right now, if we perhaps just tried a little harder to fix it, I think.

Still, I will always wonder if there is a city in the sky and if so, why can’t we see just a little glimpse of it once in a while.  God knows we need that…We really need that.

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