I find it just a trifle funny that considering the people I happen across who take time out to tell me that they don't believe in God almost all of them have some belief in an afterlife! These are generally the people who regard nature as some sentient entity ('Ooh, isn't nature clever - it knows when to make the snowdrops come up and the birds build their nests!' You know the sort of stuff) rather than see it as something that runs along previously laid tracks (which begets the question, 'So who laid them?').
Now some people are expecting nothing after this life and whilst they might not be disappointed, I have a theological understanding that says they will, for their is a heaven and a hell. Heaven is not going to be in a Viking long hall situated in Valhalla drinking, telling stories and wenching (all of which sounds like my rugger days) but will be what we call being in God's presence (and that's open to your own imaginings I guess - Angels, clouds, harps or Arsenal victories perhaps). Hell, for me at least, appears to be spending an eternity in the absence of God (and you can make up your own images for that too!).
Some, having a supposedly kindly God, have created a theology where those who don't make the cut at the final judgement are merely annihilated - they are zapped and it is as if they never were - which will please those who are expecting nothing I guess. But of course this troubles me for there's no separation from God, merely an extinguishing of them and that doesn't fit what I find in the Bible.
But the real challenge for me is the number of people who have an expectation of more and the fact that they all want to run away from 'hell' and want to think of their already departed loved ones all populating heaven and sitting around up there looking down benignly upon us that they invent the various theologies that open the doors to all.
Some take me to task because they see in their own professed faith (Christianity) an exclusive entity that exists to separate rather than welcome all in. 'What about those who don't come to Jesus,' they cry, 'Surely God being a god of love will welcome all in whether they know Him or not?' The problem is that life itself is exclusive - after all, only those born, adopted or married into a family are part of a family. Those who belong to a club are members and have the rights, privileges and opportunities that members have whilst, of course, those who aren't, don't - and yet few have problems with this do they (and if they do then they set about finding out how to join, don't they?).
Others tell me that we need to lower our standards and become 'more accepting'. This is really a call to put aside requirements in terms of mindset, attitude or lifestyle so that we might gain more members. The problem we have is that by changing the constitution we change the values as well as the shape and I'm not sure we can populate heaven according to our own standards even though friends suggest we might - my fear is that we could be supply fodder for the other place.
So here we are, some scribbles and a bit of a dialogue with the clanging contents of my brain for you to contemplate and as you do I leave you with this thought from a friend:
'If there's nothing bad to be realistically saved from there's no need for a Saviour and there can be no salvation!'
And that's the thought to be taken up next time.