Thursday, 5 March 2009

The idea of heaven

Every sunday afternoon I was sent to Sunday School. My parents were not particularly religious, it was just an excuse to get my two sisters and me out of their hair for an hour and a half.

Despite my non-belief, I think there was a lot of good that came out of this. I grew to like the big questions and this probably feed into later life when I studied philosophy. I enjoyed confronting my Sunday School 'teachers' with awkward senerios. Two notions I played with were why animals do not have souls and why God did not decide to create a more perfect world.

Another highlight was the free sweets we would get at the end of every Sunday. This was a cheap way to buy our good behaviour!

There was a lot wrong with this experience. With the younger lads, there was always competition to be the best dressed. The competitive instinct can take many forms but this was a tiring manifestation. There was a group mentality and it was often difficult to speak 'out of turn.' A typical saying was: "There is not such a thing as a non-believer who once believed. If you truely believe, you will never lose your faith."

I also didn't like the blackmail. The idea that non-believers would go to hell was not really an argument but it frightened the life out of me. There is something wrong with telling children that if you do not believe you risk being sent to lake of fire for eternity. And as we do not know when we will die, you'd better start believing soon!

I remember praying, asking God to show me a sign because I really could not believe. I was worried in case what they said might be true. I was really frightened. I remember then being told that God would not give me a sign because he also needed to test my faith. If I really had faith, I would need no signs. I was only a child for goodness sake!

It was fear that drove me to such measures as praying. The idea of heaven really did not appeal to me. I was told that there would be no sin and no free will. We would naturally know what was good and could not even think sinfully. As we were full of sin, we could not have a clearer image of what heaven might be like.

If I have children, I will never send them to Sunday School. While my experiences there were not entirely negative, I am still living in the aftermath of such head games.

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