Stephen Mason Ph.D.

Look At It This Way

Do You Really Believe in Heaven?

I Didn't Really Think So!

Posted Mar 22, 2010

So after the missionary gets through listing all God's laws, he tells the assembled natives that, unless those strictures are followed to the letter, an eternity in Hell awaits. This prompts one fellow in the front row to ask about all those souls on the next island who never heard of God's laws. "They go directly to Heaven," says the preacher. "So why did you tell us?" asks the native?

A good question to be sure.

I knew a lady who got caught up in the Seven-Day-Something-or-Others in much the same way. Somebody told her about them so then she had to join. Having a room temperature IQ, this made perfect sense. But surprisingly, it proved to be no great burden because she just loved being told what to do, loved following the rules and really loved handing over her weekly tithe. God, it seems, is sorely in need of cash. And if ever there was a six second lull in a conversation, she also loved to jump in and tell you about how really swell it was going to be when you died. Actually, it will be exactly as it was before you were born but that seemingly obvious bit of logic somehow escaped her.

Anyway, in the fullness of time, her physician discovered a very serious symptom. Lab work was done and she was told not to buy any green bananas. Finally, it seemed, all her years of walking the line and handing over ten percent of her worldly goods were about to pay off. I actually thought about calling to say how happy I was for this turn of events. Good thing I didn't. Suddenly no treatment was too expensive and no procedure was too painful. Of course it made no difference and the end came despite her kicking and screaming.

So that made me wonder. How many people really believe all they say they believe? The FOX network did a poll and discovered that 87% of their sample believed in Heaven. I would say that this merely confirmed my suspicion regarding those who tune to FOX but then ABC reported 89% of their viewers agreed. Gallup followed up with 81%, Newsweek with 76% and CBS with 64%. Looking at the international picture, Reader's Digest reported that only Malaysia (98%) and the Philippines (97%) topped the 91% of believers found in the USA. In Australia, 75% believed in Heaven while 64% of those in the UK figured the pearly gates were real and half of all Frenchmen went along.

Looking at the numbers, why then do so many Americans take vitamins and avoid polyunsaturated fats? And why follow all the rules and deny all the fun stuff if there's no hop, skip and jump at the end? I don't know about you but if believers get a nonstop ticket to Waikiki in the sky and I was a believer...I'd be keen to be outa here. I'd have my shoes in my hand, my laptop out of its case and I'd be standing at the head of the line checking on my golden chariot's ETA.

Dr. Saad made a long list of conflicting religious beliefs and I'd like to add one more. It occurred to me several years ago when, being a neighbor, I attended a memorial service for Nicole Brown Simpson. One after another, friends and family trooped to the podium to say how Nicole was in a better place, smiling, happily looking down on us. The minister told us she was with God in Heaven and would know only eternal joy. In short, if one were to believe everything that was said, Nicole was far better off than the rest of us. So - and here's my simple question - why then was everybody so sore at OJ?