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An Atheist in Heaven

I was invited to a dinner party at the home of a socialite I met through my profession.  There was the eclectic gathering of characters for which the hostess was well known.  She delighted in putting a group of about a dozen guests together, and then watch the evolution in relationships, if any.  On the occasion when I was invited for the first time, I fell into a conversation with an older man who was there.  It turned out that he was a defrocked priest, and that would explain his presence at the party.  I was there, I assumed, because I had stirred up a bit of conflict in the city because of a scathing column I’d done on the importance of Christian teachings in public schools.

The former priest had actually chosen to be a committed atheist.  He said it was to obliterate his connection with the church, so disenchanted had he become.  I asked if it wouldn’t be uncomfortable, having immersed himself in the faith for several decades, then to be of a mind that disbelieves even the existence of a god, or prophesies, or any other of the many symbols of belief in a higher power with intelligent design in mind. He said that he had witnessed things, had experienced things that left him totally convinced and committed to the belief that there is no god, religion is a hoax.

“Could I ask you to go along with me for a moment, to see if we can learn something in the exchange?” I said.

“I suppose so.  What have you in mind?”

“What do you expect will happen to you when you die?” I said.  Our dialogue caught the ears of Claude Pulman and Mrs. Jeffery, and they sidled in beside us to listen in.

“I hope I will be incinerated, cremated that is, and just return to the earth as ash.”

“No spirit or anything to carry on?”

“No.  When it’s over, it’s over.  Curtain down on this long improvised drama.” he said with great confidence.

“Well, just for the exercise, let’s say you die and find yourself at a point wherein you are to be directed to heaven, purgatory, or hell,” I said.  “I know you would evince the heaven myth, but let’s just say…”

“I know what you’re getting at,” he said.  “Of course, I thought about it a great deal before I woke up to the preposerous nonsense that is organized christianity.”

“What will you do if you are surprised at that juncture?” I said.  “Where would you be directed.”

“I would be directed to heaven, with a curtsie and a bow.”

“How can you justify entry into heaven if you are an atheist?” I was puzzled by this response.

“Heaven would be for people who have lived properly, shown love and generosity, regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof,” he said.  “I have lived infinately more cleanly and honestly than dozens of deeply devout men I have witnessed.  They seem to think that their devotion to their faith means they need not be decent people in our society.  I hope there is a heaven, purgatory and hell, because those sons’ of bitches are gonna get flung into the flames, as they deserve.”

“Hmmm… bit of anger here, I see,” I said.

“Yeah, sorry,” he said. He looked at the floor.

“What would heaven be, to you?” I asked.

“I think heaven and hell would be personal, to each individual.  Purgatory is probably us, now, this earth-life.”  He pause for a moment, deciding if he wanted to continue.  Then he began, somewhat more animated than he had been.  “My heaven would be one of vengeance.  I believe I would be washed with waves of warmth and comfort as I went through a list of wrongs against me and just told the perpetrators what I feel about it, with the wisdom and point of view that I have now.”

“For example,” I said.

“I’d find my father and berate him for times when he embarrassed me infront of friends, and his general coldness and arrogance.”

“Your own family?  I’m surprised,” I said.

“One of my brothers always made me feel bad.  I think he was jealous of me, and it showed.  I’d like to tell him what an asshole he was for having that attitude.  My other brother is a sweetheart.  I love him a lot, and he loves me.  I would be impoverished without him.”

“How about outside of your family?” I said.

“I had a friend who was insincere, and made some trouble for me,” he said.  “I’d like to have the opportunity to come upon him while

he’s in a troublesome situation which I could resolve for him with one word… and refuse to utter the word.”

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“Oo… cold.” I said.

“He richly deserves it.”

All the guests were called to the table, and the conversation never resumed.  I got stuck in a table conversation about the relative pros and cons of cosmetic surgery.  I don’t even know how I feel about that.  Dessert was baked Alaska.  Fabulous.

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Categories: writing Tags: , , , ,
  1. November 25, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    He’s an ex-priest and the best he could come up with is a bunch of petty score-settling? His sermons must have been a joy.

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