If hell is other people, what is heaven?

smiley-face buttonMy cousin sent me a special gift for Christmas. I just got it yesterday.

It’s a smiley-face mug, because she says my mother loved the whole smiley-face thing, and a three page letter. Two paragraphs are about how much she loved my mother, and a couple of memories of her, including one in which she swears my mother, in a hospital miles away, whispered “good-bye” to her at the moment she died.

The rest is about how my cousin got “saved.” All you have to do is admit that you’re unworthy, that nothing you can do can ever make you worthy, and that Jesus is the only truth; and you get to go to heaven where “every desire will be fulfilled.” She doesn’t want to get there, see (and she knows, of course, that she’s going to heaven), and have my mother say, “Where’s my daughter? Didn’t you tell her?”

Because otherwise I’d be completely unaware of the whole Jesus thing, I suppose.

If God had given my mother permission to stop off and say good-bye to people, wouldn’t she have said good-bye to me, her own daughter? I would definitely remember that.

I do give her credit for a couple of things. This is her belief system; according to what she believes, I will go to hell, and suffer and burn, and never see God and Jesus and my mother and my cousin (who is certainly going to heaven, remember) for all eternity, and she doesn’t want that to happen to me. That’s a kind thought.

Also, although we disagree on almost everything (except we both think Monsanto is evil) and we’ve gotten into it a few times on Facebook, for the most part she does it in a civil manner (so do I) and otherwise leaves me and my beliefs alone (again, so do I). Instead we engage in a sort of passive-aggressive war of Facebook graphics and posts addressed to no one in particular.

She is, of course, a member of the Tea Party. She believes everything bad that she reads about President Obama, whom she calls “Zero” or “Scumbama,” and there is no evidence in existence that could ever convince her otherwise. Though I agreed to stop referring to “Tea Baggers” some time ago at her request, she refers constantly to “Libtards,” and people who disagree with her are “sheeple” who are too stupid to think like she does. Yet she’s incapable of a rational conversation about, say, gun control, and instead is among the alarmingly large group of Americans who believe that any reference to gun control means that “Scumbama” and the “Libtards” want to take everyone’s guns away so that Homeland Security can march them all off to FEMA camps and force them to renounce Christ and accept the Mark of the Beast. She literally believes that, and not only expects the Rapture to come at any moment, she prays for it daily.

She displays a special level of spluttering hatred for Michelle Obama, for reasons I cannot fathom. You should have seen what she said when the First Lady dared to suggest that children should eat healthy foods. Equally furious hatred is directed at her neighbors, at people who are rude to her, at anyone who suggests she get a flu shot, and generally at anyone who dares to cross her. It actually shocks me how hateful she can be. She likes to say that she can’t wait to watch them burn in hell.

Christ of the AbyssYet she’s always sending letters, and care packages filled with baked goods, to the troops, probably even more often than she mentions it on Facebook; and she’s adopted at least a dozen animals from the shelter. I wish she’d stop doing that, actually, or at least stick to cats, as she doesn’t seem to understand that dogs need to be trained and an adult dog at an animal shelter probably has behavioral problems that she’ll need to work with. She recently returned a couple of puppies who are probably ruined for life, because they were so “ungrateful” for the home she’d given them, they dared to chew up some pillows. She actually expects these animals to be grateful to her.

At least she never had children.

My sole memory of her is from when I was about seven years old. My brother and sister and I were staying with my aunt, uncle, and two cousins, during the summer when my father didn’t want us home by ourselves all day (this was after my mother died). It was a dark and gloomy apartment with plastic-covered furniture, and it was railroad-style, so you had to go through my other cousin’s bedroom to get to my aunt and uncle’s room. I always thought that was odd, especially since both cousins were probably in their early twenties by this time.

Anyway, one day we kids were being loud or something, acting like kids. We were far too afraid of my aunt, who was a scary Polish woman of a type you don’t see much anymore, to do anything really naughty, on top of being terrified of my father who was a pretty scary man himself. This cousin had promised to take us to McDonald’s for a treat, but now threatened that, if we didn’t do as we were told, not only would she not take us to McDonald’s, but she’d go and get some for herself and make us sit down and watch her eat it.

This petty cruelty makes me laugh today, but even at the time what I noticed was not so much the threat, but what a weird, spiteful threat it was.

I think we did get our treat that day, but I don’t remember that part.

She makes me feel sad and scared for her, because she’s so filled with fear and rage herself. I can see that not only is she an intelligent person, she is also full of love and kindness, but it all gets so twisted somehow.

So how do I respond to this letter she’s sent me? I have to say something. I can thank her for the memories of my mother she’s shared with me. For the rest, though…  here’s what I’d like to say:

I don’t believe there is a God, not at all in the way that you do. But if there is a God who will keep me apart from my mother and send me to suffer agonies in hell for all of eternity solely because I would not submit to him – because to do so contradicts every ounce of reason and rationality I possess, reason and rationality he supposedly gave me – then I don’t want any part of him. I would not worship a god like that. And if you think that’s arrogant, how arrogant is it that you think you know the mind of God better than anyone else?

I feel sorry for anyone who believes they live in a universe where its Creator made them as they are, permits them to live a pitifully short time, and then punishes them for eternity for making even one false step. How terrifying and small that universe is, how arbitrary the love of that so-called God of Love. It sounds like an abusive relationship to me.

But hey, thanks for the mug.

One Response to “If hell is other people, what is heaven?”

  1. John Says:

    Hello, forgive me for not knowing your name (I’ve searched for it in the topic, but
    I couldn’t find it) and I know that some months have passed since you made this article, but I want to let you know that I share your thoughts and that I had my own experiences with religion… You (and anyone else in the globe) would expect a boy from the third world, like me, to be a religious fanatic (because religion is a survival tatic, as theorized by Darwin). But I am different, for some reason. I was introduced to churches since my childhood, learned about hell and heaven, saints, how God (with a capital G, yes, I do believe in God, but in my own way) is just and that I must blindly follow the bible.
    I’ve loved to read this article you wrote and I hope we can keep contact so we can share our thougts and experiences.

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