What are angels?

I have this picture of santa’s elves. Little helpers, floating around between here and there, intervening to help god.

What do they do?

God is everywhere and can do pretty much whatever he wants. How could he need help? Are they perfect, or do they make mistakes? If they are perfect, are they other gods? Oh, no, there is only one. If they can screw up – god knows they will – can god need their help? Do they intervene in human affairs? Angels seem to deliver a lot of messages. But god speaks directly also. Which messages get the special treatment? How about Cupid, is he an angel? Is that really how we fall in love?

Besides messengers, they can be guardian angels. Divine bodyguards, pretty cool. Do they protect from harm or from our own sins? In the big scope of things, harm isn’t so bad. Sin can get you tortured for all eternity. If I could choose, I would rather be protected from hell, than from being hit by a car. But how could I deserve heaven, if a guardian angel kept me in line all my life? And everyone doesn’t get one, obviously. Who is so deserving? I could suggest some populations needing some protection. Do they feed the hungry?

What’s the point of angels?


Who are angels?

Where do they come from? Are they extraterrestrials hired for a job? Are they divine beings created just to do god’s dirty work? If they have free will, besides it being slavery, they wouldn’t seem very dependable. Are they automata, robots programmed to do god’s will? Basically, god’s prosthetic arms? How could he need that?

Or are they just dead people who get a job? Do you need to work in heaven? Do they get vacation time?

Who could angels be?


And what’s with the wings?

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Why did he build such a big universe?

Joe is a billionaire. He does not have a family, but he loves his cat. He decides to build a house, a very big house, with a thousand rooms. The cat explores a little, but mostly stays near the radiator, the cushion and his food bowl. What did Joe expect? Why did he build such a big house?


There are countless billions of planets in the universe. They are all empty but one. We explored a little, but mostly stay on our one planet. What did god expect? Why did he build such a big universe?

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Stupid or crazy?

Bob strongly believes he will win the lottery and buys a ticket. He believed this the week before, but didn’t win. But, this week he is sure. His coworkers make fun of him.

Joe strongly believes in god and prays for good fortune. His prayers weren’t answered the week before, but he keeps praying. He is respected for his faith.


When someone strongly believes some improbable story and keeps believing against recurring evidence, we either laugh at or are worried for the person. We think they are either stupid or crazy. The only exception is religious or other superstitious beliefs. Why do we value irrational beliefs and the behaviours that are related in people’s worldview, when we don’t in every other part of their lives?

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Confession, the ultimate get-out-of-jail card?

Bob is a criminal. He kidnaps children for ransom and then kills them instead of returning them to their parents. He really needed the money. He feels very bad about what he did. He confesses his abominable acts to his priest and receives absolution. Bob is hit by a car, dies and goes straight to heaven.

Joe works on Saturday. He dies and goes to hell.


A mass murderer, after confession, will go to heaven. A wonderful person, having only worked on sabbath, will burn in hell. Feel free to replace “working on sabbath” by your favorite sin, coveting another woman, stealing office supplies, …

Automatic pardon seems to add confusion to the whole reward/punishment, heaven/hell conundrum.

If you calculate to confess just at the last minute before dying, you can get away with anything. If you slip up just once, but die before confession, you burn. If you get the commandments wrong and do something sinful out of ignorance, you’re toast.

To be sure you don’t die at the wrong time, it would be good to plan a confession right after each horrible act.

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Start the week with a quote: Eddie Izzard

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Bob goes to heaven. What does he do all day?

Bob goes to heaven. What does he do all day?


Heaven, in one form or another, is one of the basic pillars of religion. Believing in God is believing in « a better place » after your death. Heaven is perfect. You will always be happy with all your friends and family. The sky will always be blue.

But what could a perfect place actually be like? Even if you forget the idea of sitting on a cloud playing a harp, what could heaven be like?

Let’s stop to think about perfect. Perfect cannot get better. So perfect cannot change.

But think about your perfect day.

  • Playing hokey.
  • Going on an adventure.
  • Meeting someone new.
  • Getting that job.
  • Getting married.
  • A great mystery novel or movie.
  • Working in your community.
  • A walk on the beach.
  • A crazy party where you drank too much.
  • Winning the game.

Cheating, anticipation, (a little) fear, discovery, accomplishment, promises, suspense, helping, sharing, excess, success…

Change.

In heaven, with everything perfect, how could there be change? Cheating seems out of the question, along with fear and excess. If everything will always be perfect, how could there be suspense? What would be the point of promises? If everything is already perfect, how can you accomplish anything, who is there to help? Winning the game usually means someone is loosing. Even sharing is a transition from something not shared…

Take that perfect moment at the beach. Half asleep in the shade. A little breeze in your hair. A cool drink at your side. A good book. A loved one. Would you want that every day, forever? Forever is a really long time. How could you imagine a heaven where you wouldn’t be bored out of your mind?

It is hard to picture yourself alone in heaven. You don’t get to meet new people, or only for a while. It doesn’t take eternity to meet everyone. You would be with your favorite people. Are your favorite people the same as the favorite people of your favorite people? Are your favorite activities the same as the favorite activities of your favorite people? Does everyone like the same things? Is there only one heaven?

A better world today?

Since we are who we are, our perfect world is a better world. Could heaven be our world, just better? No more disease, hunger, accidents, natural disasters. No more crime, injustice, discrimination, fear. Every child having the opportunity to become what he or she wants.

Isn’t that the world we are trying to build today?

What does your heaven look like?

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