Which way to heaven?


“And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” – 2 Kings 2:11.
“And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven” – Luke 24:51.
The ancient Egyptian god Horus was ruler of the sky.
The Greek god Zeus (and later the Roman god Jupiter) was nicknamed “The Sky God” and supposedly ruled from above the clouds.
Native American mythology is full of mentions of “The sky father”.
Hinduism would have us believe that above the earth are six heavenly planes.
The Chinese character 天 means both sky and heaven.
Show me the culture that did not believe their deity dwelled up above in the sky somewhere. Even our modern vernacular is filled with references of ‘going up to heaven’ or ‘angels coming down to earth’. But unlike in ancient times, we now know that we live on a cooling planet that rotates around a star in the outskirts of one of billions of galaxies. We also know that our own location in the Milky Way galaxy is constantly changing as the galaxy keeps spiraling, and as if all of that wasn’t enough, Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the Red Shift showed us that the entire universe is blowing itself apart and expanding in an ever increasing rate.
What, therefore, can possibly be meant by our solipsistic term of “Up” or “Above”?
What possible sense can we make of the ancient claims about heaven being “above us”?
Is it not time we admit that all religions flatly contradict what we now know to be true?
No doubt, at this point, many religious apologists will jump up and make claims to the effect that ‘heaven is only metaphorically above us and that heaven, “in fact”, does not actually exist in any physical place we can locate, but in some spiritual or metaphysical realm’. But this would be one of those excuses available only in retrospect, and a pathetic one at that. Never mind that this pseudo-answer is as nonsensical as the claim that heaven is in the sky – because it too is not based on any reason or evidence, how could anyone making this modern claim possibly possess this information in the first place, even if it were true? As always, how a person thinks is always more important than what a person thinks. Religions keep adjusting the what factor, but never the how – they still make extraordinary claims without providing even ordinary evidence.
It is embarrassingly easy to uncover just how artificial religious apologetics is – retroactively reverse-engineering the whole heaven story to fit modern tastes and intellects. Does it ever strike anyone as odd that so called religious explanations like that never precede, but always follow, scientific discoveries? Shouldn’t the great religious sages have been able to tell us that heaven is not actually in the sky, before scientific tools managed to actually probe it? Even after science has dealt centuries of humiliation to religion by beating it in every single dispute it ever had with it, religious leaders seem to think that repudiating and apologizing for their past errors absolves them of responsibilities in the present and future. “Yes” they seem to say “it turns out we were dead wrong in the past, but we’ve apologized for it and are now ready to be infallible all over again”.
One should also keep in mind that there is nothing in the ancient scriptures that suggests they were written metaphorically or that they were meant to be subjected to human modification and interpretation. Adaptive change is something that we humans bring to scriptures, not the other way around. I admit that even i would have been impressed to read in some ancient tribal middle eastern scroll that the earth is a round planet that rotates around the sun, and is a tiny part of an immense universe of billions of galaxies. It would have also been impressive to read that heaven is not actually a place above us and that it is, in fact, a spiritual metaphysical concept that exists in another dimension. But alas, these are all modern concepts that modern humans have brought to ancient tribal religions. There is nothing in the ancient scriptures that could not have been written by ancient tribesmen, and it shows. One would think that an omnipotent omniscient deity would have provided his ancient tribal acolytes with a single piece of wisdom that was beyond the reach of their epoch, or the reach of any other tribe for that matter. We must simply come to terms with the fact that even the founders of the great religions knew less about the world than a first grader does today.
Consider for a moment if this type of backpedaling happened in the field of medicine or politics, would we ever even consider blindly following the prescriptions of a doctor or politician after they had deceived us countless times in the past? Would an apology from such a doctor or politician cause us to not only forgive but also forget? Why then are we expected to do this with religion?
We can, of course, choose to forgive religion for its past mistakes but forgiving someone’s past should not be mistaken for trusting them in the future. Religion has, after all, modified a great deal of what it teaches but corrected nothing about how it thinks.

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