I wish that I could cry;
Fall upon my knees.
Find a way to lie
About a home I’ll never see.
It may sound absurd, but don’t be naïve
Even heroes have the right to bleed.
I may be disturbed, but won’t you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
And it’s not easy to be me.
— John Ondrasik
When you’re an atheist, you’re not supposed to admit that you miss heaven.
At least, that’s the impression I’ve gotten in writing for an atheist crowd. The line I’m supposed to take to heart, I gather, is that heaven would be a dreary place, with all the bowing to God. Besides, they tell me, no matter how good heaven is, I’d get tired of it.
So, for the most part, I’ve kept the fact that I miss heaven to myself.
I’m done with that. I’m going to be honest and let the chips fall where they may.
I miss heaven. I don’t miss God, and I don’t think I want to be there forever. I certainly don’t miss the concept of hell. But I wish there was a place where I could understand everything. Where everyone loved each other, deeply. Where we had that deep, rich happiness that feels like Mom’s sweet potato pie on Thanksgiving. Everyone peaceful, everyone loving each other, everything beautiful.
I fight for that, today. I know utopia doesn’t exist — that no matter how hard I try, most people won’t see the person I think is “the real me.” On some level, I will have to live and die alone.
I miss the concept of being completely, thoroughly, and deeply loved by someone who knows me inside-out.
I miss being able to be honest about missing these things without fearing that my atheist-card would be taken away.
Heaven is a dream I’ve had in my mind for most of my life. And yes, I’m angry that the seemingly beautiful story that felt so much like home is horrendous to so many beautiful people. I’m ashamed that the heaven I once believed in was so sexist, homophobic, unfeeling towards so much of humanity, and deeply disturbing in that it contains a hell.
I think there are beautiful ways to look at an atheist life, and one of the things about it is that you can be honest, if you’re not obligated to believe in God. People — including fellow atheists — may not like it. But you’re not going to be going to hell if you get angry at the way the world works; the worst another atheist can say is that you’re wrong or tell you the universe is indifferent, so you should get over it. But that doesn’t matter. They aren’t God. You can get angry. You can cry. You can regret. You can work to try to try and change things. You can still hope.
So I’m using my right to regret things and saying that I wish there was a heaven. You wouldn’t be forced to stay; you could leave, if you wanted.
And, of course, there would be no God to worship. Just people to meet and laugh with — family, friends, and others I hadn’t met with in the previous life.
And we’d laugh, in this dream I have, about all the bullshit that happened in the lives we lived before. All the hate, the abuse, the ruined lives, the diseases, the starving. We’d laugh because it all made sense, because we understood who we are — the parts of each other that we didn’t know that caused us to hurt each other.
I’ve heard it’s naive, but I don’t want to shake the thought that we’re decent people. I think that if I could read the mind of everyone, from the greatest philanthropist to the cruelest serial killer, and feel their emotions, I would understand why they did what they did. I still think we call things people do “evil” because they hurt us and we don’t understand how someone could do them. Once we understand the motives, we’re still hurt, we’re still angry that we lost something, but we don’t see the person as evil, really. We just see the thing the person did as hurtful.
But what if all the ways we felt cheated in life, all the unfairness, all that we’ve lost, all our missed opportunities and regrets — what if it all could be made right?
I think about it sometimes.
I know that sounds crazy. But sometimes the pain in the world hurts so much that I decide to hope, in spite of it all.
I’m not as naive as this may appear. I know it’s a waste of time. Like the song says, I realize, as I wrap myself in a barrier of hope, that “I’m only a man in a silly red sheet.”
But I’m not crazy, or anything.
I’m just claiming a right to bleed a bit. I only have one life, and it’s mine, so I’m claiming that right.
If it’s not atheistically correct, I couldn’t care less. It’s honesty, and I’m gonna just let it lie as it is. You don’t have to feel this way. If you’re stronger than this, congratulations and feel free to claim your medal of made-up superiority; maybe that’s your silly red sheet.
This is who I am, for better or worse. I’m not in church, where we all have to sign up for the same program and hide our true feelings under an atheist Bible or creed.
I miss heaven, and I wish that there was one to go to, and that’s the truth.
Thanks for reading.