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Camels, rich men and heaven

6e382b11-9768-4df7-99ea-8043291a7ff9_g_273I try to be good. Okay, so some days I’m better at it than others, but I do try. In my experience. most people want to be good – or at least good enough for other people to like them. In general, you see, we don’t like bad people. Unless they’re filthy rich and drop-dead handsome, when something seems to go totally wrong in our wiring, but even then, if they’re bad – and I mean really bad, not attractively bad-ass – we steer clear of them.

One can try to be good by making a conscious effort to always do the good thing. That’s bloody exhausting. One can try to be good by wanting to be good, more like dreaming than by doing so to say. That’s cheating. If you want to be good, be prepared to sacrifice something on behalf of your fellow man – like your precious time.

The definition of “good” is rather subjective. I don’t think my definition of being a good wife would tally with a conservative rabbi’s vision of being a good wife. Probably because he would assume good = obedient, while I’m not a big fan of obedience. Obedience is the coward’s way out of making choices for themselves.

I do think that most people could agree that as a minimum, being good means that you don’t on purpose set out to hurt another person. (Boy, does that disqualify a large number of the people presently thronging this planet of ours…)

Gaudenzio Ferrari (Northern Italian Renaissance artist, c 1471–1546) The Annunciation Angel Gabriel before 1511Anyway, I do believe that being good is somewhat easier than having faith. Believing in something as tenuous as the concept of God and afterlife is difficult in our world, where we are bombarded by facts, by scientific truths. Rarely do these facts point to the existence of heaven or hell. Instead, these facts break down the miracle of our existence into atoms and energy. I guess that’s the point; having faith requires you to believe in something you can’t see, or hear or touch – but maybe you can sense it?

Personally, I don’t consider science and faith to be a contradiction in terms – and I’m quite sure God agrees with me. (My God is a pretty cool dude, who has long ago ditched certain more antiquated aspects of faith to concentrate on the truly important part – like having actions speak louder than words)

Camel by John O'Neill 2007
Wikimedia Commons, photo John O’Neill

Some people seem to have confused the issues of being good and faith. They seem to think that because they go to church every Sunday, they are per definition good. Hmm. Somehow I don’t think sitting through a sermon while you’re planning a new merger qualifies as being good. I have an acquaintance that quite often brings up just what a good churchgoer he is. Does that make him good? In this particular case, the man is greedy.
As he strives for more wealth, he leaves quite the destruction behind him, not caring over much that other people suffer because of his single-minded focus on accumulating more money. (“Survival of the fittest,” he will say with a shrug, totally oblivious to the irony in this statement from a man who does not believe in evolution)  But hey; he goes to church, regular as clockwork, so I guess he’s expecting to glide straight up to heaven. Given his recurring visits to church, maybe it would be apt to remind him of that little statement in the Bible that says it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to make it to heaven.

Some rich men, however, stand a fighting chance to make it all the way to the rolling meadows of heaven – assuming such a place exists. I’m thinking of men like Bill Gates. Bill Gates? What does Bill Gates have to do with anything of the above? And seriously, can one be as successful as Bill Gates has been in the dog-eat-dog world of business and be good? Hmm; probably not. But whatever his earlier track record, Mr Gates is doing his best to make up for things, giving money – and hope – to the needy of the world.

äppelblomNow, I have no idea if Bill Gates believes in God. Probably not, as he strikes me as one of those “facts and figures” people who don’t believe in anything without proof. But he clearly believes in altruism, and in my book, actions count a lot more than words. Which is why I imagine that Mr Gates is in for the surprise of his life(he he) once he’s drawn his last breath. There he is, fully expecting to sink into nothingness, when suddenly a loud choir of angels startles him awake, leading him in the direction of daisy-dotted pastures.
“But…” says Bill, very confused. (Dying is a once-in-a-lifetime event, and while I have no personal experience, I imagine it is rather life-changing) “… I don’t believe in all this crap,” he finishes lamely, blinking at the angels, at the flowering apple trees.
“Surprise!” God says, grinning broadly. (Of course God grins. And he likes apple pie – hence the apple trees)
“Yeah, you can say that again.” Bill is still sort of stunned. His eyes light up. “Is that Abraham Lincoln?”
“It is,” God nods. He takes a step closer to Bill, who retreats, blinded by His brilliant magnificence. “So do you believe in me now?”
Bill nods mutely. After all, he’s a “fact and figures” man and can’t exactly deny what he is seeing with his own eyes. (And let’s not get into a discussion as to with what eyes he is seeing all this, okay?)
“Good!” God claps his hands. “Peter, dear, register Mr Gates, will you?”

Now, those among you who know your Scriptures will frown somewhat at all this and waggle a finger or two in my direction. As per the Scriptures, faith is a prerequisite to making it to heaven. Yup, that’s absolutely true – but maybe the Scriptures have it all wrong.  You see, my God isn’t all that petty. He judges per our actions, not our words,and He is always willing to give us a second chance. My God believes in being good – and it works both ways.


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