Tue | Aug 21, 2018

Garth Rattray | Is heaven exclusively Christian?

Published:Monday | December 18, 2017 | 12:00 AM

If you are atheist or agnostic, or one of those 'religious' people who don't suffer the opinions of mere mortals when it comes to matters of faith, don't bother reading this article.

I'm weary of ridiculing comments/feedback asking if I'm serious, why I'm wasting space and how it is that I, a scientist, can believe in fairy tales. And, I'm annoyed by all-knowing, holier-than-thou 'Christians' who seek to deride and shower vitriol on any opinion other than what they were taught in some seminary or college or whatever.

If you are a seeker, curious and possess an open mind, read on. We should be able to question what we have been told. I don't believe that it's a sin to peel away the layers of traditional religious teachings and attempt to peer into the unknown. It's not blasphemous to search, to question, to try to understand.

Just the other day, a friend and I engaged in a three-hour-and-45-minute marathon debate about who gets into heaven. First of all, I wonder about 'heaven'. We are socialised into thinking in terms of absolute good and absolute evil; a good God and an evil Satan, a wonderful heaven and a horrifying hell. But I have some problems with those concepts - if God is everything, how can Satan exist outside of Him?

Wouldn't 'everything' be part of God, including Satan? And, could God commit any of His children to eternal fire and brimstone (hell)? Aren't we also part of Him? Wouldn't He be committing part of Himself to hell forever and ever and ever? And, if heaven has milk and honey, how will I manage? I am lactose-intolerant, and the very smell of honey makes me very nauseous.




Whose version of heaven do we go to? My version of heaven might be a peaceful glade with a fantastic view. My wife loves the seaside; where will we all end up? And herein lies the biggest problem of all, according to my friend: ONLY avowed Christians can get into heaven. If you don't verbalise or accept that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and that he is the ONLY way into heaven, you 'salt' bad, bad, bad, forever and ever and ever.

My friend is an avid churchgoer who attends Bible studies several times every week. She even goes to the Jewish Shabbat. She said that ONLY Christians go to heaven. That means that heaven excludes everyone from any other religion or belief. She said that the Jews (only the Jews) that lived before the birth of Yeshua were prayed for in order to allow them to enter heaven. Hmmm.

Therefore, heaven excludes Orthodox Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Rastafarians and any other non-Christian religion that you can think of. This, she said, is so, no matter how good and/or sacrificial a life you live.

So much for atheists - even if they treat others as they would want to be treated, even if they serve and give to the poor, even if they spend their entire life being good and decent human beings, even if they preach peace and love and sacrifice for others ... they will be eternally locked out of heaven - according to her.

I am a believer in Christianity but, according to many practising adherents of the faith, my concept of Christianity is aberrant. According to them, my eternal soul is in mortal danger of being damned for eternity. Lawks!

I think that most Christians focus too much on Yeshua, the avatar. The Holy Ghost, the Christus, entered into Him at His baptism (by John the Baptist). Well, that's my understanding. Thereafter, Jesus became Jesus the Christ - because He was infused with the Holy Spirit. He often said that He and the Father are one. Therefore, I believe that when He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," He meant through the Christus within Him.

Perhaps then, as long as someone, anyone, has within his/her heart the capacity to receive the Holy Spirit (the Christus) from our Heavenly Father, as long as he/she can love others and harbour no evil, he/she will be admitted into whatever heaven awaits them. This would make heaven all-inclusive, as I think it surely is.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.