Two weeks ago I posted about my frustrations with the concept of heaven. I got an interesting comment that I wanted to talk a little more about now that I have thought it over.
I'm OK with survivors telling themselves whatever they need to accept a loved one's death, get beyond it, and carry on with their own lives.
I think it is important to separate the ideas of some kind of afterlife filled with otherwordly concepts of perfection and the reality of religion. Let's be entirely frank: People who pretend to think that everyone who dies goes to a place of perfect happiness aren't hurting anyone. (Note that they don't actually think this or they wouldn't so desperately avoid death nor be so utterly devastated when someone else dies.) People who think that some benevolent force created everything aren't hurting anyone either. It is much the same as the fact that 90% of people think they are in the top 50% of drivers by skill; it is a fiction that masses of people buy into that honestly we can't do much about and isn't doing us much harm by and large.
The trouble comes from religion itself rather than the spiritual beliefs that are associated with it. For example, in the funeral I attended that sparked the first post there were endless repetitions of the idea that people who accept Jesus as their saviour go to their reward in heaven. An important part of this idea is that people who don't accept Jesus as their saviour don't get to partake in this endless happiness but instead are eternally punished by God himself for their iniquity. This is *not* like the idea of conscious continuity after death or a benevolent Creator because it is a divisive force suggesting that anyone who does not follow a specific religion and adhere to specific rituals is by definition Evil and that those actions are deserving of the most hideous punishments possible. Of course if you ask the people at the funeral about what was said nearly all would say that it was a nice set of speeches filled with goodwill and pleasant thoughts but they will entirely ignore the obvious fact that what was being said there can very simply be read as
Sky is evil. His beliefs are wrong by definition and he will suffer eternal torment to pay for his transgressions.
Of course a very large part of religious believers don't think that. They actually think that people who are nice and good go to heaven or even that everyone goes to heaven - well, maybe not the murderers and arsonists, but nearly everyone. The trouble is that by reading these passages and supporting an organization that actively promotes the agenda that anyone who does not follow its beliefs and perform its rituals will suffer eternally you promote divisiveness instead of community and hatred instead of acceptance. If people want to think there is a benevolent, anthropomorphic Creator or life after death then they are mistaken but it is hardly important; people are mistaken about lots of things. It is religion itself that is the problem, not the common spiritual beliefs that people hold that happen to coincide with things that are taught by that religion.