IT’S SCARY. IT’S mysterious! It’s inevitable! It’s our old friend, Death! We’re all heading toward it. There’s no way around it and there’s no turning back. But what happens to us after we die — if anything — is one of life’s greatest mysteries. Is there a heaven and/or a hell? What’s the afterlife like? Have people who have had near death experiences (NDEs) really seen what happens to us after we shuffle off this mortal coil? Let’s consider the theories:
1. The Void
Theory #1 says that nothing happens when we die. We’re dead. Period. Nothing of us survives, except the handful of elements that make up our anatomy, and which are recycled to the Earth by quietly gnawing worms, by the consuming fires of cremation, or — if we’re really unlucky — by being blown to tiny pieces in the blast of a terrorist’s bomb. The void, of course, is the most depressing theory and the hardest one to swallow. Nothingness? The great ME! Gone? Absurd! My thinking, my being, my consciousness just STOPS? Although this apparently happened to Willard Scott many years ago, it’s inconceivable that it could happen to ME. All my lofty thoughts, all my good deeds, all my grand witticisms, all my years of acne management — ultimately for nothing? This idea is so difficult for us to accept because, somehow, it just doesn’t seem fair. And we humans, we want things to be fair — especially on a cosmic scale. Heck, we know life isn’t fair, but we at least expect a fair shake from God after it’s all over. Nothing? Nah — couldn’t be . . . could it?
Heck, we know life isn’t fair, but we at least expect a fair shake from God after it’s all over.
This is, in a way, the opposite of the above theory — and much more fun. Not only is death not the end of our lives on Earth, we don’t even go to heaven or hell to stay — we just keep coming back here. Some people think we actually have many lifetimes, and that we keep returning to Earth to learn, to grow spiritually, to perfect ourselves, or to finally get to the head of the line at one of the attractions at Disney World. Some people believe we can choose who we come back as. Oh, really? In her book about her NDE, Embraced by the Light, Betty J. Eadie writes that she saw and overheard angels talking about going down to Earth (slumming it, presumably), and one of them was all excited about entering the body of a baby that was handicapped. Hmmm . . . How long was the line to get to be John Wayne Gacy? I mean, if this is the case — that we choose — what angel in it’s right halo would choose to come here as a mass murderer, a child molester, or Paul Schaffer? Doesn’t make sense. And if we do keep coming back to perfect ourselves or to grow spiritually, how can we possibly do that if we don’t remember our past lives? If we can’t consciously carry anything over, how can we build on it? And why do we continue to make the same stupid mistakes — like buying pants at K-Mart? Again, doesn’t make sense.
3. Hell. Hades. The Lake of Fire. Eternal damnation. Perdition. Club Lucifer
This is not a pleasant consideration, dear reader. According to tradition, if we’re bad, bad people, we become roasted hot dog weenies for eternity? Wow — God doesn’t kid around, does he? But — unless God is less compassionate and far more anal than most humans are — is this idea rational? God is supposed to be all-loving. Yet you — supposedly far less perfect than God — could you condemn anyone to eternal suffering? Could you send even the most heinous people you can think of — the Menedez brothers, Jeffrey Dahmer, or even Adolf Hitler — to eternal suffering? Stiff punishment is required, without a doubt — but eternal? Considering what fragile, imperfect creatures humans are to begin with, I don’t think I could do it, could you? Once they’re dead, what purpose would this serve anyway? Since He’s God, why can’t He just slap some sense into these jerks, teach them some manners and, if He has to, condemn them to clean toilets in heaven for eternity?
If we choose, who would choose to come here as a mass murderer, a child molester, or Paul Schaffer?
Here it is! The big prize. Our eternal reward. Life with Father. But what is heaven like? What do we do all day? People who have had NDEs say that at the end of that long tunnel of light, they were greeted by relatives who had passed on. They describe these people as looking as well as they ever had on Earth, wearing clothes, and having jobs — they always seem to be rushing off to perform some task. This view of heaven poses some interesting questions. Why do we still wear clothes, who designs them and, more important, do we have to pay retail? What are all these jobs our dead relatives are all running off to — the assembly line at a clothing factory? Aw, man! Do you mean to tell me that even in heaven we still have to go to work every day? Can we at least choose our own jobs? Or do we get assignments from God? We must get assignments, otherwise every dead guy up there would want to be Marilyn Monroe’s masseuse. And if there are no jobs, don’t tell me we just sit around and look at God all day, never mind all eternity. Hell, I think I’d get sick of staring at Kathy Ireland after a month or two. NDEers also describe heaven as having breathtakingly beautiful glowing flowers and landscaping. This vision is so Earth-like that, if it’s true, raises many more questions: Don’t flowers and landscaping require soil, water and sunlight for photosynthesis (are these things in heaven? is heaven another planet?); planning and planting (is this another afterlife job I might get stuck with?); why do they glow, and doesn’t this get annoying after a while?
5. Another Dimension
Could you send even the most heinous people — the Menedez brothers, Jeffrey Dahmer, or even Adolf Hitler — to eternal suffering?
Sounds mysterious and intriguing, and as long as it doesn’t have Sinead O’Connor, I’d be willing to give it a shot. Nah, none of the prevailing ideas about life after death seem to make much sense to me, which is why it remains a mystery. I am both eager and reluctant to find out the truth! If you have an idea of what happens after this life, send your ideas here!