Religions have been built around it. Ancient Egyptians would spend their whole life preparing for it. Chinese culture even buries you with cardboard replicas of items you might need while you’re there.
My friends, let me present to you, The Afterlife!
The version in my novel is more forgiving than most. There’s the time to do all those things you’ve always wanted to do, without the concern of making ends meet. A magical place where there’s just rest and recreation, and no fire or brimstone to ruin your day.
My own religious background is Catholic, although I’ve never been religious, so the Catholic tag is just a birth thing. It’s how I was baptised, but has little to do with my life now. My grandmother was a Polish refugee, so Catholicism wasn’t just a Sunday thing, it was a way of life. Dusty prints of Mary, Joseph and Jesus (and the odd angel) adorned every wall in her house.
I swear that during one school break, the picture of our saviour above the television set, winked at me. I was so freaked out; my grandfather had to take the picture down for the rest of my visit.
I tried to reason with myself. It’s Jesus after all. Why be scared? Maybe it’s because two dimensional images weren’t in the habit of moving an eyelid. But somehow when I returned a fortnight later, the print was back on the wall and did the same thing. This second time, I didn’t lose it. It seemed okay that the son of God was taking an interest in me.
Which leads me to my own beliefs, and why, even though Jesus let himself be known to me twice in under a month, I’m not completely convinced. My parents weren’t religious, even though they both came from Catholic European countries. They had seen the early years of the Second World War through very young eyes, so perhaps that’s why their faith had waned. Regardless, at one stage of my childhood, they agreed to send me to Sister Smith’s religious instruction classes on Wednesdays after school.
As a kid, Jesus was a bit like Santa and the Easter Bunny. Something mythical that doesn’t play into the rules of the earthly world around us, but we believe because so many adults tell us it’s true. Sister Smith had me hooked for a long time, until her common sense went out the window. She stated that God loved all people equally, but had a special blessing for those that believed in him without proof. As a child this didn’t add up. Having a special blessing for some and not others, is not equal love. I debated this with her, but she gently stuck to her guns. For me, this was the moment that it all began to sound like a fairy story.
As you get older you realise that other individuals around the world are just as vehement about their versions of God. You question why homophobia is exclusive to very few religions, while others don’t have a problem with it. And even why with all their moralistic teaching, the holy loyal forget to treat others with respect. As one very smart person once said ‘Religion is for those that don’t ask questions’.
Don’t get me wrong. There are religious people out there who have found value and morals in their faith. They don’t judge. They walk among us learning from life, passing wisdom, and never feeling superior. One of the most beautiful life messages I’ve heard was quoted to me from a man of the Muslim faith. He told me ‘if you do something against God, God will forgive you. But if you do something against another person, God will not forgive you until that other person forgives you.’ It’s a good lesson for life. Don’t leave unfinished business.
So this brings me to why I feel the way I do. There are so many lessons to learn in life, that this can’t be all there is. I’m not sure whether Jesus, Buddha or Krishna are waiting on the other side, but what would be the point of everything we’ve learned here, if there wasn’t somewhere to go with it? And to me, those that seek to convert their fellow man, or feel they are holier than a person of a different faith, have missed the point.
But maybe I’ve missed the point. Maybe a brutal unforgiving deity is waiting beyond the grave. You’re either a sinner or a saint. No in-between.
In the end, I guess we’re all in the same boat no matter what you believe (even if you’re a non-believer). None of us will actually know for sure until we get there.