The idea of heaven is much more of a paradox than it is a paradise. The world would be a better place if people would come to terms with the idea that Earth is an extraordinary place in the universe. It is one of the very few that supports life as we know it.
Long before I quit believing in a deity, I realized that heaven was the stuff of myths. A place with no needs to fulfill and no problems to solve is no paradise. After all, it is the rain that makes us grateful for the sun and the drought that welcomes the rain. I also realized that my chance of meeting the people I admire, in the "next" life, was minute. After all, they wouldn’t even know I existed, so if forced to meet me, it wouldn’t be their paradise, would it? If you take an honest look, you see that the only paradise— the only world full of unimaginable miracles is this one. There is no other place that our poor brains can comprehend to be better.
Organized religions keep their parishioners in line using a "carrot and stick" technique. The carrot is the promise of paradise for the virtuous . The stick is the threat of damnation for the wayward. Religions brainwash their followers to make them conform to standards approved by society. They offer the hope of a better life after death while giving no hope of a better life for the living.
Religion is responsible for more grief, pain, and terror than any other facet of humanity. Religious persecution and wars have infiltrated every culture since the beginning of civilization. Instead of enriching life, religion sucks the beauty out of life. It creates longing and yearning instead of satisfaction and action.
You don't have to worship a prophet to acknowledge his wisdom. You can respect and follow the teachings of Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus of Nazareth without fealty. Whether Ghandi, Martin Luther King. or the Dali Lama, the philosophies of religious leaders may seem that they have sprung from the divine. Instead, like all cultural mores, they originate from what society accepted as wholesome.
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