I felt a little guilty because I had hardly thought about Jesus at all in the hereafter. I hoped someone would show up to talk to me about this oversight as I was sure that many other people had gone to their different religious hereafters and were hearing talk I never heard in my meanderings here and there.
"I say if you don't need Jesus, you are doing fine!" said a hearty voice in my ear. I looked around startled to see who this might be and was shocked to see a man I thought looked familiar but for the moment I could not place him. I hoped as we talked I would remember who he was.
"I was like you when I first passed," he said, "wondering if I was religious enough, but here all your illusions are stripped away, and you begin to realize that we are all born on earth with limited powers. Over the centuries people gave Jesus similar powers to God because that was comforting to them. You must admit that at times you have derived comfort from the thought of Jesus caring about your pain and coming to give succor."
"Why yes, I have," I said, startled, recalling a near death experience where an angel actually hovered over me ready to greet me, should my death occur. It was in fact the presence of the divine personage which I thought might be Jesus that saved my life. I was so overjoyed to see him that I know it showed on my face and in my eyes, and my tormenter dropped his hands and refrained from choking me as he said he was going to do. He recognized I was beyond pain, so then he thought of the consequences of such an act and changed his mind. I always thought if the angel had not come I might have died, so he had saved me because I was overjoyed to see him."
"Yes," said the man, "it is possible to have a great love for these personages whose powers your religion taught you were so great. But you probably scaled down your expectations about what they could do for you as soon as you grew up and developed more power in your own right. Jesus comes to those with no power at the moment to save themselves. Children need an angel when they are in dire danger, someone to cling to, when all others have failed them, and they are dying or being killed."
"That is certainly true, I said, 'but I do think that people have a very tough time upgrading religion to fit the needs of the members better. They always get stuck in a rut and think that admitting to a need for change will cause people to doubt their doctrines."
"I am John," said the man. "You really don't know me, but I often come to newcomers to answer questions about religion since it confounds so many. People are running everywhere looking for this heaven and that one. It is a most confusing time."
"Well, I thought I was doing well enough by myself," I said. "I do think the most important thing is to love one another, so I have been searching out the family members I left behind to make sure they are okay before I seek out any task to do here that will take too much time and energy."
"That is what most people do," said John. "You are not alone. I went back to my home town many times before I was satisfied I could be gone for any length of time without it falling apart. I feared my kids would die, my grandkids get in dire trouble, and the house would burn down."
"My son's abode did burn down!" I said startled. "Since I came here. I experienced an awful fright that he was going to be burned up with it."
"Oh, you don't want any of your kids to join you for a while!" said John. "And some of them are bound to shake the veil, curious to see where you have gone."
"If you would just sit down over here," I said, directing him to nice park bench, "and talk a while I would be grateful. You sound like you might even have been a minister of a sort. I am sure I could benefit from talking to you."
John went on talking in his pleasant voice, "I do think many religions emphasizes the supernatural instead of teaching people to be strong themselves. The stronger people are the less they are going to need their human leaders to be omnipotent. You have to remember that people argued for centuries about the nature of Jesus. People are always deciding they do not believe he was the only truly begotten son of God, that we are all the sons and daughters of God. The stronger we are the less supernatural we expect someone else to be. I am of the opinion that it would be hard for any man born of woman to be that much more powerful than any other man. Jesus included. I have not really got into any serious trouble for believing this. I found out my children would just as soon look to me for guidance if they could as to Jesus."
"I do think that such opinions are bound to receive sharp rebukes from some of the Christians I have known, but I have never really argued against the Christians for I believe they have their reasons and needs, so I just leave them alone and go my way in peace."
"I didn't really quarrel with anyone about their religion," said John. "I decided I just didn't need that particular religion as much as they did."
"That's about what I thought," I said. "Well, thank you, John, for your kind words. You seem so familiar I thought I knew you, but I realize now if I had met anyone as rational as you are I would remember them."
"I notice people's faces and can tell in a minute they are conflicted about religion. I usually stop and talk to them a minute just to see if I can relieve their concerns."
"I was just needing to talk a little bit to acknowledge the fact that there is religion and belief in the world, even though I don't seem to belong to any of the faiths. I have investigated quite a few, and just did not feel comfortable spending my Sundays in what they call 'worship'. The way people think they should act on Sundays tends to get me down."
"I have never tried to make anyone feel guilty about how they chose to 'worship' on Sunday. Nor do I want them to try to make me feel guilty for how I worship. I often spend my time on Sundays as a volunteer talking to people like yourself who are wandering about looking a bit lost."
"Thank you for stopping. I was thinking perhaps something is missing in me because I am not missing Sunday worship. On earth I would always be aware of other peoples' ways of worship, but here there are no visible churches or religious hereafters so I am not aware if people are still worshiping in the hereafter as they did on earth."
"I would say it is a more questioning kind of worship. They are wondering what is expected of them now they have arrived here. I have gone to my church's hereafter, but I must say the preaching has nearly always lost its' bombastic flavor. I think that is a very good thing. People immediately begin to let the doubts they had surface, wondering if what they are saying is really relevant."
"Hmm. I suppose that is why I have not sought any of the religious hereafters out. I have spent so many years not worshiping in church I thought I would be very uncomfortable in a church in the hereafter."
"It's a curious thing to go see what people expect in the hereafter. They try to bring it about themselves if they can't find it. People get up in turns and try to express their bewilderment and confusion about what they have experienced in the hereafter. Things have not materialized quite like they expected. But that is because so much pomp and hypocrisy has been burned out of people in their dying. Most are so changed they are hardly recognize themselves let alone anyone else. It is surprising what a bit of humility will do to change a person."
"I hope they are more determined to sort out reality from fantasy, lies from truth," I said. "It has been my experience on earth that people would believe almost anything if it sounded exciting. Pigs can really fly. That sort of thing."
"Yes, a prophet rises up and tells a willing group of followers some stories that aren't quite the truth but are passed on for generations as new revelations. But as you might know, when their followers get here they expect to see the truth personified. In other words they expect their religious pigs to fly, and when they can't they are very disillusioned."
"Nobody really had to believe these stories in the first place, but who knows why people believe what they do. I guess then that everyone has moved up a step in being able to discern the truth. That is encouraging."
"I would say that going through the death experience winnows out a lot of the chaff. You cherish the truth a little more, don't you think?"
"I have certainly realized that love of family and friends and fellow country men is really what matters. Most religions teach that, but in garbled ways. The religious might love family when it is easy. But the wastrels are going to get easily rejected. It is easy to love a person without problems. The problem people are the ones who try our souls."
"Indeed," said John.
I started thinking about some more difficult members of my family who had passed to this side. I was thinking that maybe it was time to go find one or two more of them while I was feeling strengthened with my chat with John. I doubted he had been one of the problem people. He seemed too much together.
"Oh, I used to drink," said John, reading my mind as those experienced spirits so often do," in my younger days. I had plenty to overcome. So good-by now, Sister, I hope I have helped you today and we can have a pleasant chat again someday."