Last week we briefly summarized the latest Barbara Walters ABC News Special, “Heaven: Where is it and how do we get there?” Since nothing of substance was really accomplished by the show, and no burning questions were addressed or even attempted, we will need to look at the main premise of the show and form our own analysis.
The very title of the program presupposes the existence of a “heaven.” A more neutral title would have been “Heaven: What is it and how do we get there?” By titling the program as she did, Barbara excludes the skeptics out of hand. Her own research revealed that “nearly nine in 10 Americans believe in an afterlife, and nearly as many believed a heaven exists.” Her bias is the same as most other people.
For instance, her brief interview with Mitch Albom, the author of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, summed up the view of most comparative religion studies—we all make it. All roads lead to God (and by implication, heaven), so it doesn’t really matter in the final analysis. Whatever works for you is fine. Albom concluded that even if heaven isn’t a reality, if heaven “as a state of mind is enough to change your behavior on Earth, perhaps that’s enough.” Then why should a Muslim jihadist like the one Barbara interviewed in jail be put away for his behavior on Earth? His “state of mind” about heaven changed his behavior on Earth, i.e. attempting to blow up Jews. A standard is still assumed “here on Earth” and we can’t use the “God told me so” defense in a court of law. Heaven may in fact be “other-worldly,” but its morality cannot fly here. Martyrs for heaven still get their earthly punishment. Albom can’t have it both ways.
Neither can Ellen Johnson. The president of the skeptical society, American Atheists, wants us to believe that she has the upper hand when it comes to metaphysical ideas. She believes that she has found a philosophical loophole that allows her and her cohorts to abandon concepts like God, religion, and heaven because they are not “empirically verifiable.” In other words, since we can’t prove or disprove the existence of God and heaven, she is intellectually satisfied to let the theist prove his case, because the skeptic is not making any sort of “positive claim.” Johnson tells Barbara that “the burden of proof is always on the person who posits the belief, so if you posit the idea that there is a green man outside the door, you have to prove it.” But Johnson completely ignores the fact that she is indeed making a positive claim. She is positing, dogmatically, that there is no God. Johnson is not the president of the American Agnostics, but the American Atheists. She is sure that this life is all there is—no before, no after. She would agree with Jack Kevorkian that when we die “we rot.” There is no metaphysical reality that remains after the body dies.
Johnson is making a positive metaphysical assumption based on her standard of empirical verification. This life is all she knows, so it must be all there is…period. She can’t prove this, but she is happy to force the theist to prove his positive assertion that there is more than rotting to do after we die. But Johnson has bigger problems in her materialist worldview than an afterlife; she can’t even account for her thoughts about anything. If matter is all there is, how is it that her brain cells floating around her head are any more reliable than the brain cells floating around the heads of religious fanatics that blow up Jews? How can her materialist world account for non-physical concepts like ideas, thoughts, beliefs, the scientific method or even the concept of concept? She must borrow from the Christian worldview a findable, testable and repeatable universe in order to deny the existence of spiritual entities. The skeptic must use metaphysics to deny metaphysics. I don’t have enough faith to live in Johnson’s world.
Barbara ends her special by pointing out that there are over 10,000 distinct and separate religions in the world, and they all have some sort of concept of “heaven.” She also gives statistics that show that close to 90% of people believe there is a “heaven.” In Barbara’s view, “Heaven is where you are at peace and happy.” And this is the major problem with Barbara’s special and the 90% of those who believe in a “heaven.” Heaven is about what makes YOU happy. Heaven is a very selfish place, filled with selfish people. Everyone here on earth strives to be happy in his own way, but jails are filled with people who seek happiness in ways that we don’t find acceptable. How is it that heaven can be the very place that we won’t allow to exist here? Presumably everyone in heaven will be nice, kind, compassionate and generous, but doesn’t it beg the question as to why this is what heaven should be like? Outside of Christianity these beliefs cannot make sense and cannot be shown why we should practice them in the first place, other than to get what you want out of life. Only when the God of the Bible is taken at His Word can we live a consistent metaphysical and physical life that should help us better understand what heaven will really be like. Heaven is for God’s glory, not our personal fulfillment and satisfaction. All 10,000 religions can be and are wrong. Just as all roads don’t lead to Tulsa, all roads do not lead to heaven. You need to check the map that the Mapmaker wrote in order to get to His destination.