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Richard Dawkins Goes to Heaven? Short Story

What?  The uncompromising atheist Richard Dawkins goes to heaven?  While remaining an atheist?  How is this possible?  And yet, in this short story written by yours truly, something very much like that happens…  Read this short story, along with two others, on Kindle. You can also buy for Barnes and Noble’s Nook.

What sounds like the beginning of a very bad joke is actually the title of a collection of three poignant short stories by author Anthony Horvath. Each story draws from what is publicly known about these three notable persons and places them in the presence of God. Antony Flew famously disputed the existence of such a being, Richard Dawkins- the only one of the three still living- infamously derides the notion, and Mother Teresa wondered at God’s absence- in these three stories they each get a chance to ask their questions and speak their minds.

Collection contents:

Mother Teresa Goes to Heaven
Antony Flew Goes to Heaven
Richard Dawkins Goes to Heaven

Excerpt from Mother Teresa Goes to Heaven:

“It is not enough to save you.”
Teresa heard the words with horror. She had heard the entire conversation and she trembled throughout it. Each utterance was burned into her mind so that she could recount it accurately in her mind. She remembered the man’s demeanor before he entered the room. Cool, calm, confident. In the quiet conversation between those that remained in the waiting area it was shared by all that this man of all would go on through the great wooden doors.
The great wooden doors. These doors were visible to all. There was a pleasant incline shaded by tall oak trees leading to the doors. A narrow path, bounded on both sides by soft grasses, led to the door. A sparkling pool of water was about two thirds of the way to the door. But barring the path at its entrance was a man like lightning and in the man’s hand was a sword of lightning. He was too marvelous and fearsome to look at, so Teresa couldn’t help but glance frequently at him.
The chamber doors opened and the man that had received the bellowing decree emerged. He was no longer the self-assured man they had all spoken with earlier. He was visibly shaken. On his left and his right were two more awesome to behold men, but these did not have swords. They led him towards another chamber. Teresa overheard someone ask them, “Where is he going?”
One of the men replied, “He is going to reflect, re-think, recall. Then he shall be examined again.”

————

Excerpt from Antony Flew Goes to Heaven


When the man opened his eyes the first thing he beheld was a garden. It was the assault on his being that alerted him to this fact. His sensory scouts went out and scoured his surroundings and came back with the report- first from the nostrils: here were delicate scents of flowers and dirt; and then the eyes: there were well ordered paths with ivy crawling up rocky walls; now touch: he realized he was lying on his back with blades of grass tickling his ear and when he flexed his fingers into the earth there was that soft moistness you always associated with good soil; the ears came announcing: birds here, birds there, birds everywhere, and somewhere yet unspotted a fountain, detected by alternating gurgles and tinkling; taste came back disappointed, as it had nothing yet to disclose.
The man sat up and saw at once the hanging branches of a fruit-laden tree. While feeling no pangs of hunger he knew he was famished. He stood up and strode with purpose to the tree and helped himself liberally. In his subconscious a fear flickered that he may be plucking his lunch from Augustine’s orchard. He set the fear aside and ate his fill.
He returned to the patch of soft grass that he had been lying when he had first awoken. There seemed nothing else to do. So he sat. … It was the cool of the day, and suddenly the man knew that he was not alone.

Excerpt from Richard Dawkins Goes to Heaven

“You know what sounds like ‘hell’ to me?” Richard asked the accompanying angel, a current of sarcasm carrying the question along.
“I know you’ll tell me,” the angel replied serenely.
“Heaven. Heaven sounds like hell.”

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11 Responses to Richard Dawkins Goes to Heaven? Short Story

  1. Any option to read it for those without a kindle?

  2. I own an E-reader, though it is not a Kindle. Is there a suitable option for European readers?

  3. The uncompromising atheist Richard Dawkins goes to heaven? While remaining an atheist?

    I have a honest question:

    Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was, as far as I understand, an atheist from a Christian point of view: he didn’t believe in the supremacy of Christ as Lord. Did Mohandas Gandhi go to Heaven or Hell?

  4. Hi Circe,

    I honestly have no idea, and I doubt many Christians would say that they do. What the Scriptures are explicitly clear about is that there is no other way to be saved except through Jesus. (Acts 4:12). Many of the people ‘reading’ these stories think that I am trying to make a guess at the actual eternal fates of the individuals in question. That is not actually the point of any of the stories at all. There are some variations on the ‘point’ but essentially it comes down to this: when/if we come face to face with the undeniable fact that it is only through Jesus that we can be saved, will we continue to justify ourselves?

    And, related, does our current justification of ourselves have any impact on how we presently perceive Jesus and his claims, and even his existence?

  5. Anthony,

    Thanks for the response. If it is not too much trouble, I have another related question: Do you think it could be indeed the case that a man like Mohandas Gandhi, who I think both of us agree was a “good” man(at least by our current justification) and one who respected the Bible but thought the Gita sometimes addressed his questions better would go to Hell only because of the fact that he did not accept Christ as Lord, in spite of all his exemplary deeds? What about the millions of good people in India or China who haven’t ever heard of Christ?

    I would think that taking the view that they would is rather demeaning of Life, since it essentially reduces the question of whether or not you would be saved to the geographical accident of where you happen to be born.

  6. A more careful reading of the last line of your response suggests you already partially answered my last question. Sorry about this. But I am still troubled by the last part: Isn’t taking the view that being saved is all about that one last moment severely demeaning of Life? I would even go to the extent of calling it darkly nihilistic: it doesn’t matter what you do in Life, it is only that one last moment that is going to matter.

  7. Circe,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    This may surprise you, but I am not the sort of person who states as fact more than the facts will allow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I do that perfectly. Still, it is my goal. Now, as it happens I allow more things to be ‘facts’ than others, but still, I try to stay within them. Your question would require more knowledge than I have access to in order to answer fully. Based on what I do know, in actuality I wouldn’t agree that my view distills down into that ‘one last moment.’

    Let me give an example.

    Let’s say a person is a Christian in their early life but then due to an unfortunate accident loses his mental capacities such that when he dies fifteen years later, there can be no sense (on our observation, anyway) that the person believes in Jesus… or anything else for that matter. I do not think that God is only going to look at this one last slice of life, just as I do not believe (nor do the stories suggest, despite what has been said) that ‘what we do’ doesn’t matter in anyway. As is told in the Mother Teresa story:

    “Have I nothing? Is it all nothing? What was the point?” the man inquired. Though it was still loudly shouted, there was clearly a wavering in the man’s voice.
    “No one is saying it is nothing. It is not enough. The things are different.”

    To nobody’s surprise, Myers didn’t include this little bit in his review. You see, comparing ‘works’ to ‘salvation’ turns out to be comparing apples to oranges. It isn’t that the works are unimportant, its just that they can NEVER be enough. That is why some other way was established. “The things are different.”

    So, certainly, Ghandi was ‘good.’ Just as you no doubt are and just as I am. It isn’t that this ‘goodness’ is irrelevant, it’s that it is irrelevant to salvation.

    So you see, what happens in Life remains extremely important. Our having a ‘good life’ just doesn’t warrant any of us access to God. Think of it this way.

    You go up to the White House and demand to be let in. “But I’m a good person!” you say. “Wasn’t Gahndi good?” you argue. But as it turns out, being ‘good’ has no direct connection to gaining access to the White House. That requires… being elected to the presidency, or knowing someone who will you bring you in, or what not. This doesn’t render your ‘goodness’ worthless. It just isn’t the basis by which you get access to the White House.

    Hope that helps.

  8. Thanks for the response:

    I think I see your point: works in life and salvation are completely disjoint and independent events.

    I was hoping you would not assert that, because, as I understand it, that approach does not address the issue of inherent nihilism at all, until we agree that unless you are a believing Christian, there is no rational motivation for you to aspire for Biblical salvation in life. After all, if salvation is the do all and be all, that already robs Life of its importance. If salvation and life are incomparable, but none is greater than the other, I don’t see what reason somebody not born in a Christian culture* has to even aspire for salvation.

    I hope I am making my point clear: For somebody who is exposed only to the Bible as a kid, I can see a motivation for aspiring for salvation. On the other hand, for somebody who has, say, been exposed to several religious doctrines, or to one different from that of the Bible, there is no reason for having an aspiration for Biblical salvation in Life.

    I can give my own example. Growing up in religiously diverse India, I myself was exposed at an early age to several different religious traditions: mainly comprising Christianity and ancient Indian philosophies(from different branches of Hinduism and Buddhism mainly, encompassing the spectrum from pantheism to monotheism to agnosticism to atheism) with a little bit of Islam. I found that all of them were equally confident of their claims, but as far as their bearing on life itself was concerned, I anyway had to pick and choose the teachings(For example, I can’t accept the evils of the caste system even if it can be supported by the Vedas, nor can I accept the unjustfied hatred for homosexuals, even if said hatred can be promoted through several ancient books including the Bible). This led me to conclude that the question of salvation is best left untouched: it is completely unrelated to Life and may even be a non-question for all we know. As for Life, I concluded there was no difference whether or not one chose to live by one of those books: one cannot depend upon any of them for sound moral judgement.

    It was nice talking to you, and I hope we now understand each other’s positions.

    *By Christian culture I do not mean the old usage of the term which encompassed all that I and you and (almost) all of humanity agree is good. As both you and I appreciate, having read the Bible or being aware of it is not all a pre-requisite for appreciating the beauty of, say, the Golden Rule(which almost all ancient cultures came up with, independently of each other).

  9. To add to my response using your excellent White House analogy: Although one wouldn’t be allowed to enter the White House just because one is a “good” person, there is also the fact that most of us wouldn’t really want to enter the White House anyway, and would be content with being “good” persons.

    Further, to take the analogy further, for a citizen of say the UK, or India, this motivation to enter the White House would be even lower that for a US citizen, and may even be non-existent.

  10. Hi Circe,

    Thanks for your comments.

    I do understand where you are coming from but I don’t agree that this does not escape from practical nihilism. On my explanation to this point, all it means is that ‘good works’ remain important, they just don’t achieve ‘salvation.’ If I say that they remain important, that clearly means there is a reason to continue to do them. What changes is the rationale and motivation for doing them.

    Think of it this way. I’ve got some kids. For the purpose of this conversation let ‘inclusion in the family’ equal ‘salvation.’ Now, as it happens, I love my kids no matter what. I’ll love them if they do ‘good works’ or if they do ‘bad works,’ because they are my kids. Their inclusion in the family is never at stake based on whether or not they make their beds or put their plate away after dinner. If one of my kids began doing ‘good works’ because he was afraid he might not be included in the family, he would seriously misunderstand the nature of my love for him. That could never be a factor in getting ‘inclusion in the family.’ But it wouldn’t follow that the ‘good works’ are unnecessary or pointless. Instead the motivation is different: eg, they will do it because they know that their inclusion in the family is established. They are safe. Out of love and respect for me, they will do the works. It is a response to my loving affection and commitment to them, not a compelling out of fear or legalistic attempt to win adoption into the family- which could never be the basis for adoption at all.

    Now, there are lots of reasons to continue on doing the ‘good works.’ The difference is that one does them out of freedom and with a sense of security, knowing that God isn’t standing over your shoulder with pen and paper marking off your transgressions, and preparing to use them against you at the end.

    Please note something in this and the Mother T story. The ‘defendants’ are the ones who choose to defend themselves by recalling their ‘good works’ and sincere efforts. It is THEY who put the works forward for consideration for salvation, unaware that their basis could NEVER achieve what they want it to achieve. You can see the judges saying, “Well, alright. If you’re going to advance ‘good works’ let’s just take a look at them, shall we?” An examination of our works will show that even our good ones were a mishmash of selfish motives or jealous ambitions or what not.

    Works do not give you salvation, but that doesn’t mean they are unimportant. The reason we do them and what we hope them to accomplish are merely different.

    I have one more comment to add, then go ahead and reply.

  11. I wanted to speak to the White House analogy. You are right of course that someone might not actually want to visit the White House. It’s just an analogy to explain one particular point, which I think you grasped.

    Visiting the White House is a poor substitute for ‘salvation.’ 🙂

    We must change the analogies to better understand the situation as Christian believe it is and represent. Please understand they are merely to explain the principle, not speak to the evidence that a Christian might present. (I’ll explain that more in a moment)

    Imagine a man dressed as a doctor coming up to you on the street. He says, “Unless you take this medicine, you will die!” In this case, not dying=salvation. Now, the first thing we notice is that you will not think to retort: “Nonsense. Just yesterday I donated to charity.” The ‘good work’ is not connected to the situation (and doesn’t make that work unimportant- it just won’t ‘save’ you.’). The doctor persists and endeavors to explain that your situation is dire and you must act fast.

    There you see how we perceive the issue. The human race and each individual within it is in dire straights. The medicine has been offered. No other medicine will do.

    Now, how do we know that is the situation? That’s a perfectly valid question. The doctor would try to demonstrate it one way and the Christian another way. In either case, there will be two commmonalities: 1., even if you’re convinced it will remain in your power whether or not you will, indeed, accept the medicine and 2., there will be a sense in which we rely on the testimony of someone else presumed to be in a position to know that we are in fact in dire straights.

    Now change the analogy.

    Let’s say you live in a far off land and you and a hundred of your friends find an ocean liner off the coast, empty. You say, “Sweet! Free boat!” Unfortunately, none of you know how to operate the darn thing. It just floats around, but that’s ok, cuz you’re having a good time. Then one day someone helicopters in and explains to you that the ocean liner belongs to a powerful tycoon and that it had been stolen from him. He must have it back and you must return it right away. Just one problem: nobody knows how to steer and navigate it! The man himself offers to steer it for them. They grow suspicious: how is this man to be trusted? They demand credentials and other evidences and in some measure receive them. Still, anyone can forge a certificate of ownership, right? It’s happened before, why not this time? The man pleads with you. He explains that if the ship is not returned to port by such and such time (death), the tycoon will board the ship on open waters and regard everyone on it as a thief, and deal accordingly with them: after all, he did send someone to the boat to operate it for the occupants… if only they would trust him.

    Here again, the question is “What is our true situation?” In the latter analogy, we are told by someone that our situation is dire but the matter is complicated by the fact that none of the people are in a position to head into the port in question to verify with 100% empirical certainty what will happen, nor can they radio up the tycoon and ask him directly, because here again the enterprising skeptic could come up with any number of ways the person on the other side of the radio is really the tycoon. In point of fact, the only way the tycoon can empirically demonstrate his claim on the ship is to show up and forcibly commandeer it- the very thing he hopes to avoid. It will do little good, when he does show up, to say, “But I shared my lunch with my friend! I’m a good person!” because the tycoon knows that this sort of thing has nothing to do with the fact that BOTH you and your friend are in the position of thieves, and rebellious ones at that who refused to accept the word of the messenger (and demanded in some cases impossible and irrational ‘proofs.’ Though, I leave open for this analogy the possibility that some demands were reasonable- and yet still impossible, since again, the only really empirical proof is the overthrow of the ship, the very thing the tycoon means to avoid).

    So you see that if it were only a matter of whether or not one wanted to visit the White House or stay at home and enjoy humble pleasantries, no Christian would bother anyone else about anything. It is only because we believe the situation is dire that we act at all. When we act, we hope to make clear that a deadly biological disease threatening to wipe you out does not care if you volunteered in a soup kitchen.

    Obviously, this turns into a discussion about whether or not our portrayal of the situation is correct, though that wasn’t my point in using the analogies. I’m only trying to help you understand the situation as Christians understand it and why ‘good works’ are not the ultimate solution for escaping that situation- and yet are still important.

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