Mon | Jan 22, 2018

Ethon Lowe | A better place

Published:Wednesday | December 21, 2016 | 12:00 AM

"He has gone to a better place," said the pastor, unshakeable in his belief, while delivering the eulogy at a funeral I attended recently. Of course, we would want the best for our deceased Jamaican brother and wish him bon voyage to this better place, especially if you lived in a violence-plagued country like Jamaica. Who wouldn't?

Naturally, my interest was aroused, as I also wanted to go to this better place when, God forbid, it was my time. Alas, much to my disappointment, I learnt you must be a Christian to be eligible, and having lost my faith many years ago, there was little hope of my taking up this offer. Further enquiry revealed that this magical place was located high up in the sky. A place called Heaven.

To be sure, I was born a Christian, if that is possible. Some newborns presumably are deeply religious. Not being a very pious babe and probably destined for hellfire (my mother reminds me that I was an incessant kicker in the womb, which makes me think that if I didn't become a serial killer, I might have made a good footballer), I nonetheless became a Christian, culturally

I mean.

It became official when I was christened by a sprinkling of holy water and a few incantations, even before I could say, "Dada." Of course, this religious faux pas cannot be blamed on my loving parents, who were simply observing the religious custom of the day.

Why are Christians, knowing they are going to a better place, Heaven, not eager to leave this life? God knows, I would like to live forever in this life and the next in a better world.

Consider a Christian who is told by her doctor that she only has months to live. Why doesn't she beam with excited anticipation: "I can hardly wait." Why don't her friends and relatives at her bedside shower her with "Congratulations, I wish I was coming," or, "Say hello to Grandpa when you see him."




Christians, while welcoming the thought of going to Heaven, always seem hesitant. Many Christians are ambivalent about their faith, and anecdotal evidence shows that individuals who are most afraid of death are the religious ones.

Curiously, many religions have their own 'heaven'. According to Revelations, the Christian heaven contains a city - the New Jerusalem, where there is a river of the water of life that flows from God's throne. In this city, all pain and tears will disappear forever. Don't forget the angels. How boring.

Hinduism doesn't have notions of a Christian Heaven. Instead, it teaches release from suffering by becoming a Brahman. This release is called moksha.

If I had to choose, I would prefer to be a Muslim, knowing that a bevy of brown-eyed virgins await me in Allah's garden. Without hesitation, I would blow myself up, along with some innocent people and my family, and I would be showered with honours.

Naturally, a trip like this is not without its hazards. I am told that these hopefuls (suicide bombers) wear special protective gear to ensure that the all-important down there remains intact. Wouldn't want to disappoint the ladies, would we?

The natural human desire is to see poetic justice done - that the good will be rewarded, and the evil punished - hence Heaven and Hell. Admittedly a life, nasty, brutish and short does become more endurable when the reward of Heaven is anticipated.

- Ethon Lowe is a medical doctor. Email feedback to and