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Flashback To A Church Basement in Lincoln, Nebraska Circa 1989

I was 10 years old, sitting in Sunday School in the basement of a tiny Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Nebraska. The teacher — someone’s warm and well-meaning and probably-exhausted mother — was talking about how God and heaven are “up there in the sky.” Ten-year-old preacher’s kid me breathlessly raised her hand and said “Or maybe God and heaven are all around us, in the trees and the plants and our bodies and each other!!”

There was an awkward silence as everyone looked around uncomfortably, waiting. The teacher-mom said “Uh...sure...” and after an uncertain beat she moved along with the lesson plan.

I don’t believe in hell. I don’t believe that people who don’t worship the “right” prophet are going there. And I especially don’t want my kid to grow up focusing on individual salvation in heaven versus collective easing-of-suffering in the here and now. Marx and so many other critics of religions have argued that the obsession with achieving eternal life displaces folks’ attent…

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