It’s been forever that we humans (on Earth, anyway) have been taught by churches, their holy books and well-meaning others concerned with our probable damnation, that the price of our sins is eternal burning in a place called Hell. This fear-inspired belief seems to permeate our very cells—we know we’re bad people and, if held at gunpoint (or on our deathbeds), we can come up with a long list of our (major) sins and our (minor) mistakes. I lost my health and confidence to overriding guilt and shame, but I do have some hard-earned insight on this subject.
I hope I’ve got this right—that Jewish people don’t believe in heaven or hell. Their bible, the Torah, became the Old Testament of our bible, but it’s not crippling to them because it was written to teach people how to live in the here and now. I suppose guilt and shame can still separate Jews from their religion for a time, but I don’t think they fear eternal damnation. They decide to do better and carry on. This feels really life-affirming to me.
Buddhists don’t believe in heaven or hell, either. Spiritual enlightenment is the goal for this lifetime and is achieved by a strong commitment to right-living as taught by Gautama Buddha. They believe in karma (reaping what we sow) as a teacher, and that we live multiple lifetimes until the decision is made to give up our desires, along with our suffering, to become one in consciousness with All That Is.
Is it just Christians who keep a running tab of our sins and a fear of the afterlife—because we humans are unable to be perfect? I’m not certain—there may be people of other faiths who do the same—but I am sure that fear turns us away from God/Christ/Love/Great Mystery/the Higher Self and what is the point of that, when we’re born here to connect with our creator? Fear destroys us; knowing we are Loved heals us. To rise above my own fears, I chose Love, moving inch by inch, until Love flooded my heart and invited me to forgive myself and all others. It took me nearly all of my life to get here and I still sink into dark places, but now there’s the extended hand of Love that says, “Here, let me help you up.”