God, Heaven, Hell And Purgatory

An Angel Leading a Soul into Hell
Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450–1516)

Co-Written By Sally Dugman and Steven Earl Salmony

Some years ago, my mother and another relative of mine went to a funeral mass near Philadelphia, PA. The two of them were the only white skinned people in the church.

Nobody batted an eyelid since everyone who knew the dead person knew that he had a deep and long enduring relationship with my family involving strong mutual love.

When my daughter was three weeks old, I ran up to this now dead friend with my daughter in my arms and laid her into his own. Then she cried to look at his face, which was so dark that it was almost black. So she was startled, apparently, to see someone with skin almost like ebony.

Then I touched her shoulder while she was still in his arms and said that everything is okay as this is Mom’s dear friend. Then she calmed down while staring in wonder at his very dark face. (Racism and bigotry are taught. People are not born into those sorts of ugliness.)

Anyway, at the funeral, there was a lot of talk by the minister about this friend now being with God and having a gold palace from God encrusted with jewels since he was so faithful to God.

I think that I may know the reason that there was talk of gold and jewels. It is because the African Americans in this community were relatively poor. So they equated happiness and Heaven with wealth perhaps.

I, myself, have a different vision. I don’t want a gold palace, nor jewels after dying. I won’t sit as a supplicant or a worshipper at an authoritarian God’s feet were I to ever go to a place called Heaven — a place that lots of Christians believe exists.

Instead God, if this Heaven were a real place in another dimension, would get a mouthful from me about the way that he let this planet Earth down by causing it to operate out of brutality since evolution runs on everything competing and/or gobbling up others in a closed energy system, such as we have on Earth.

I’d tell him that he is a bad parent because this vicious plan is not the way that you are supposed to treat whatever you make and supposedly love. As a parent, you are supposed to assist and guide — not pit your offspring against each other.

Well, in my fantasy about God et al, God would get sick of me after a while and send me off to the Devil. Supposedly there is Hell fire and horrible happenings with torture in the Devil’s land.

Well, the Devil King wouldn’t like me either since I’d yell at him and maybe even kick him (unless he took my legs away to punish me). So he’d push me now to Purgatory.

Now Purgatory is this special place, I’ve heard, for people wherein it can’t be decided if they are good or bad since they haven’t matured enough for it to be discerned (i.e., in the cases of unborn fetuses and young babies) or with more grown, older people who are too much a mix of both good and bad to be placed either into Heaven or Hell.

And I surely don’t want to be in a Hell created out of Hieronymus Bosch’s mind! So I’d prefer Purgatory.

Well, I’d get tired of floating around there in Purgatory looking at everything after a while. So I’d bust out after a while, maybe float around outer space for a while to look at some more oddities and, then, wind up right back on Earth as a disembodied soul whispering in people’s ears about their doing whatever is good and right to serve each other and the planet.

Please, though, the universe or God shouldn’t give me reincarnation. I don’t want to go through the same cycle of birth, growing up, dying, facing God and the Devil after which I would wind up repeating the process (the same loop) over and over again ad infinitum.

I slide all over the place with regards to whether a God or Gods exist or not. I also realize that most people follow the religion into which they were inculcated through proselatization. I see this happening everywhere except in some instances wherein someone holds outlooks like the ones exposed by Bill Maher.

Known for his stance against religion, Bill Maher’s views on the various world religions are explored as he …

My friend Steve has views on this topic, too. He is a firm believer in a God’s existence. I find them interesting and amenable.

I have no squabble with him. So, here they are so that you can decide for yourself agreement or not with him. Here are his outlooks verbatim:

“God is unknowable, and yet when asked about the existence of God, I respond most ably by saying, ‘yes, absolutely.’ How can that be? No one knows, for example, what consciousness is or how it works. There is so much that is fundamental to the existence of life that we simply do not know. So much is there still to be learned; so much yet to be fathomed. When I look out at the world through my eyes, I cannot see consciousness any more than I can see God, but both exist in my experience. Perhaps their presence is derived from a capacity for experience. The certainty of God’s presence is not based upon a Kierkegaardian “leap of faith” or in a system of religious beliefs, but in perceiving “as if seen through a glass darkly” a spark emanating from within all that lives. Despite multiple wondrous personal attributes and seemingly miraculous capabilities that human beings possess, it appears we cannot know the nature of ‘what is.’ Communicating in language from a personal variety of spiritual experience, the spark provides certainty about the presence of God made manifest in all that is alive in the world.

Steven Earl Salmony, Ph.D., M.P.A. is a writer in Fearrington Village, NC, USA.
Sally Dugman writes from MA, USA.



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