On the Implausibility of My Making It into Heaven

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From The Feathertale Review #14

With over three thousand unique religions in the world — each with its own beliefs, customs, liturgy, scriptures and history — finding common ground can be difficult. It seems as though there might never be a true universal understanding. But after studying the issue, I have found there is one element that is ubiquitous among all faiths. It is, if you will, a divine constant. Of course I speak of the fact that none of these faiths — not a single one — believes I have any chance of making it into heaven.

In the past, others have attempted to draw tenuous links between the world’s religious traditions, without much success. While it’s true many faiths do teach the golden rule or make some mention of how murder is generally frowned upon, these concepts are by no means universal. It seems the only truth they can agree on is that I, Richard Light, fail miserably to live up to all their varied moral codes and, as a result, am destined to suffer in all their diverse versions of hell.

Am I upset? Not at all. Because my inevitable nightmarish fate actually gives me hope. The fellowship of believers may have their differences, but now they can put those aside, point to me, and in one voice declare, “Well, this dirtbag certainly isn’t making it into heaven.” Now just imagine what the world would be like if they shared this message of unity with their children.

Maybe you think I’m overstating my importance amongst the devout. With the millennia-old disputes that separate the great religions, how could anything — or anyone — possibly bring them all together? I know that in these trying times it’s difficult to be so heartened, but I want to share an inspirational story with you that may change your mind. It’s a story I have never shared, partly because I’m fearful of sounding immodest, but also partly because it could get me arrested.

More times than I can count, I have shown up to some place of worship, hungry and dressed in rags, begging for help. Without fail I have been greeted by a person of faith who offers to care for me and give me shelter for the night. Yet all I ever ask for is that they pray for my lost soul. There is a beautiful moment when they bow their heads in supplication, which is unlike any other. It’s the perfect opportunity to swipe the collection plate or something shiny off the altar.

Really, it works every time.

But what’s truly amazing is that no group has ever treated me any better or worse than another. As I bolt from their church or temple — clutching a gold-encrusted candlestick or maybe an elaborately bejewelled mitre — they all call upon their God to smite me for my treachery. It’s the same message in every language and in every culture. It’s the message of my eternal damnation.

Sure, I could dismiss this unprecedented cross-denominational harmony as a mere coincidence, but I feel there is something deeper going on. So while waiting for just the right moment to spring the ole “pray-and-swipe,” I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about our great religions beyond their proven gullibility to my scams. What I have found is remarkable. It isn’t just my thieving that unites them in disgust; it’s every aspect of my character — every last shred of my blackened soul — that makes me so goddamn irredeemable.

It’s hard not to get a bit teary-eyed just thinking about it.

I’ve travelled from the megachurches of America, to the great mosques of the Arab world, to the mountaintop temples of the Far East, and I have yet to find a faith that condones my pathological tendencies to lie, cheat and ignite unsupervised fires in their inner sanctuaries; I’ve sat at the feet of countless clerics, priests, imams, rabbis and yogis, only to hear each one denounce my depraved sexual exploits, which were often interfering with their sermons; and I’ve scoured hundreds of scriptures and holy texts to learn this simple truth: a particularly blasphemous neck tattoo, incorporating the names and faces of our great moral teachers, is not great for one’s eternal prospects.

Have these humbling experiences been a wake-up call? Most definitely. I realize now that I have some purpose here on earth. It’s my destiny to bring everyone together by being a receptacle for all their religious hatred. I imagine it’s not unlike how the Dalai Lama feels. Except the exact opposite.

You will be happy to know that these experiences have also matured me. I’ve moved on to a simpler, more solitary life, free from petty crime. I guess it just didn’t feel right stealing from churches anymore. Or maybe it’s just because all those religious folk finally started picking up my scam and I need to find a new angle. I’m thinking about something with credit cards. In any event, I’ve moved on to greener pastures. Now I troll the Internet, harassing believers and baiting them to condemn me to hellfire and other unimaginable fates. Sure, it’s not much, but each time I get someone to call me the “instrument of Satan,” I know I’m doing what God put me on this earth to do: to be the loathsome thread that weaves our colourful tapestry of faiths together.

So next time you turn on the television to see religious folks hurling insults and rocks at each other, don’t get too discouraged. Right now it may seem like they can’t get along, but one day they’ll put down those rocks, join hands, and pick up bigger, sharper rocks to hurl at me. Together. Because when it gets down to the fate of my soul, these religions really aren’t so different after all.

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