Wednesday, December 21, 2005

From Valhalla to Nirvana to Heaven to Hell!

Nearly nine out of 10 people in the United States say they believe in heaven, according to a recent ABC News poll. I got back from my 4th grade son’s basketball game in time to watch Barbara Walters interviewing religious leaders, scientists, believers and non-believers alike from India, Israel and throughout the United States. She was fishing for the agreed upon range of perspectives on heaven and the afterlife in our world (televised on ABC, 12/20/05).

Every culture has wrestled with the question of an afterlife, and most have come to a similar conclusion: The bad end up in Hell, the good go to Heaven.

If you were a Viking who died in battle, fierce goddess warriors known as the Valkyries would carry you to Viking Heaven, Valhalla, where you would join an eternal feast. The Romans thought they became immortal and were spirited off to Paradise on a fiery four-horse chariot.”

Dalai Lama says that the purpose of life is to be happy (smiley face!), and that you can accomplish that by warm-heartedness. He tells Walters heaven is [the] best place to further develop the spiritual practice … for Buddhist the final goal is not just to reach there, but to become Buddha. [It's] not the end. Think of it, heaven is just another proving ground for the higher life, namely, Buddha! God, by any name, is great! Allahu Akhbar!

Of course, the promise of heaven plays a central role in the life of Pastor Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and his congregation. Haggard believes if you are not a born again Christian, you have no assurance of going to heaven. He makes it clear that … if you are born again in the belief that Jesus Christ is your personal savior, you are assured a place in Heaven. Amen! Haggard further stated: Jesus Christ guarantees eternal life to anybody that'll follow him. … The purpose of life is to glorify God and go to heaven … 'cause heaven is our home’. May I add, Jesus makes this clear in an ancient dialogue with Nicodemus (John 3: 1-21).

But for the warm-hearted and obviously happy, Ellen Johnson, president of the American Atheists, heaven is a myth! OK! Remind me… What is a myth? Perhaps it has something to do with those 18 million Americans (since late 1900’s) who believe they have had near-death experiences that gave them a glimpse of the afterlife. “They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (NIV, 2 Timothy 4.4).

By the way, who are the first five people you want to meet in Heaven”? After all Jesus said “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (NIV, John 14.1-3).

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