(Video embedding disabled by request; you can view the YouTube of John Lennon's classic song here. Photo of Stewart Hampton's portrait of John Lennon courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?
I normally don't get my religion news via Huffington Post, but Brad Hirschfeld's article about Stephen Hawking's recent statement that "There is no Heaven," caught my eye.
Well, here's my heresy.
I don't believe in Heaven either. Well, not Heaven the way Stephen Hawking alludes to, anyway.
I don't think there's a spot on the GPS (or should I say, a theoretical version of a GPS that maps the entire universe?) that you can put an arrow and say, "Heaven is HERE." I don't even think it's a place.
Heaven, I believe, is a metaphor. I'll talk about this more in a bit.
You see, this all started when I started realizing I didn't believe in Hell, either. Mostly, I believe "Hell" resides between our two ears. I've said this before: The thing we use to understand these concepts (our brain) dies when we do. I have come to the conclusion that we can think, and believe, and cogitate all we want about these two concepts, but the sad fact of the matter is this cogitation is for naught, because our brains die when our bodies die.
But there was a place where I realized, "If I'm going to give up a place called Hell, that means I probably have to give up Heaven, too. It doesn't make sense to believe in one mythical place, but not the other. It's incongruous to believe in this good place and not believe in a bad place."
Yet, I am a person of faith. I have reason to believe in God, and to embrace Christianity as the living representation of God that suits me best.
So it called the big question to the table--What DO I believe?
I believe that this life, our present existence, is not the sum total of "all there is," of "all that makes up us." I believe that simply because I believe in the laws of thermodynamics--that energy is neither created nor destroyed, and that the tendency of the universe is to be more random. I believe that energy is constantly transformed.
Yet there is this inner voice within all of us that resists randomness and seeks transformation of our physical selves, and our psychic selves. The more "spiritual" a person is, the more aware he or she is of that desire.
I believe we, because of the limitations of the human brain, give metaphorical names to that which we do not understand. I believe we gave this vague description of whatever lies beyond this life as we now know it, names like "Heaven" and "Hell" to simply give it voice.
After all, we named atoms "atoms" long before we proved their existence.
I often think about how quantum mechanics raises the possibility of multiple, simultaneously occurring realities. Just as light simultaneously behaves as both a particle and a wave, all these things we see as a single reality, could, in fact be multiple realities.
I also think about how the biggest growth for me spiritually, has been the recognition that the biggest gains I have made are in community. Understanding the power of a church community as a unit--a single "packet of energy"--is crucial--and that although my place in it is desired, it really is only a tiny piece and the importance is on the "unit" of a church community as a dynamic system. "Me" as a solo believer is nowhere nearly as powerful as a well-functioning system. By the same token, the human trappings of me--my DNA, my thoughts, my gifts, my quirks, and my failings--become less important, and the divine trappings of each of us as a "unit" become more important. It becomes less about me earning a spot in a separate entity, and more about the entity already being here, just mostly undetectable to us. I have become less interested in this entity "saving me," and more interested in the possibility that this gathered energy has the power to save the world, of which I am simultaneously both an active packet of living energy in that world, as well as an active packet of spiritual energy in this world that lies beyond my comprehension.
Finally, I think of how Jesus himself said, "The Kingdom of God is at hand," and "The kingdom of God is among you." In my mind, this is a description of a simultaneous set of realities.
Giving up a "place" called Heaven and considering the possibility that Heaven is right here, simultaneously running in a different reality, has freed me. We don't have any way of knowing what that reality is. But to work with it, we had to name it. Names become concepts.
So, no, I don't believe in Heaven as a "place." But I do believe that is the name we gave to it to illustrate this reality that disappears the moment we start to observe, study, and "prove" something about it. In that sense, I definitely believe in the entity of this reality that transcends death, this reality that we learned to name "Heaven," to accept the mystery of it, and simply agree to be an active life in it. Heaven as a concept has far more power than Heaven as an actual, physical thing. In that, I believe--wholeheartedly.