A recent news item reported that almost all Americans are sure they are going to heaven. I have talked to some of them and discovered this: They will be flying on separate planes. You get your ticket from whatever cult you have selected, but each has its own airline.
They were all shocked that I wasn’t scheduled to fly, and each pressed me to join his or her sect. They told me that eternity is a good long time and the flight is not so short either — I should get good seats right away.
I went to the nearby pastor and said I wanted to book some reservations. He put his arm around my shoulder and led me to his sanctuary. “Bill, if you put in with us, it’s a sure bet you’ll be sitting in first-class for your trip into Eternity. All you have to do is have faith, and I can supply that for you if you join up.”
I thanked him but wanted to shop around. There was a more impressive church across the street and I poked in there. I got a warm welcome, a firm handshake and a reassuring smile. But the conversation left me unsettled. The minister said that the pastor across the street was a fool and sure to roast in hell. “No, Bill, faith without good work is useless, and at our place you contribute some money and we hire folks to do the good work for you.” I said I needed to think it over and he said that was fine, but I should hurry as a fiery doom hung over me.
So I went to the pastor on the other corner and asked if I signed on with him would I go to heaven? He got right to the point. “Look, Bill, the decision has already been made. We are each predestined for the heavenly choir or the hot place; there is nothing we can do about it. Your minister and your pastor are just whistling Dixie. Nice tune but it won’t get you squat upstairs. But if you are a tenor, I can get you predestined and you are on your way with Calvin AIR Express.”
I checked at the Air Islam office on the same block. “Oh yes, we have an immediate seating plan. And you also fly with some really nice virgins. We can get you reservations. You only need to blow up yourself and a load of infidels and a building to get 36 virgins. Two buildings get you 72 virgins.”
The multiple virgin part was tempting, but . . .
The last option on that block was a cathedral. The priest made me sit in a little ticket booth where he explained it all to me through a grill. “Oh those cults, ignore them! Just get to a priest for a confession before you croak and all is well. You roll the beads and do some Bloody Marys, a nice donation is good and you’re in. It even works for our guys that diddle the little boys and girls. They are all up there, you know. First-class tickets and no waiting for check-in.”
You can be sure I was plenty confused. Five confirmed tickets to heaven, but each had a different flight plan. Here is the hardest part: Each cult was absolutely certain all the others had flawed plans. I thought and thought. Some of them must be wrong, but which ones? I thought some more until I saw the light: They all were frauds!
Someday I’ll just die and be done with it. I know this: Alive or dead, I don’t want to be anywhere near those liars.
Bill van Druten, a retired physician, founded the Lake Superior Freethinkers in 1997. The group, based in Duluth, Minn., is FFRF’s newest chapter