The Odd Place

“What’s in here?” Without waiting for an answer from my guide, I opened the door.

“I really wish you hadn’t done that,” my guide said.

Inside the room were two men seated across a dining table from one another. Their chairs were wooden and looked uncomfortable. Rather than food, many open books were spread over the table. The man on the left was dressed in black from head to toe with the exception of a white collar. The man on the right wore a three piece suit and tie. Both of them turned to look at us when the door opened.

“Oh good. Gabriel, can I ask you to clarify this passage in . . .” The suit started to ask a question but was cut off by my guide.

“I am sorry. As you know, I am prohibited from involving myself in your discussion.”

“But this matter of idols . . .” The suit protested.

“Icons. Not idols.” The collar finally spoke up.

“Gentlemen, please. I am but a servant.” I hadn’t known my guide for long, but it was already obvious they were not just a servant. “You and yours were provided the teachings. It would be presumptuous of me to interpret them to you.”

“See? Even Gabriel knows that we are the true interpreters . . .” While the collar addressed the suit, my guide closed the door quietly.

“Please do not open random doors before asking. It is uncomfortable having to extract myself from such conversations.”

“I’m sorry.” We continued walking down the hallway. “Were they theologians?”

“Only in the broadest sense of the term.”

“Are they in heaven? Or hell?”

“You already know there is no hell.”

“So that’s heaven?” I found it hard to believe.

“To them, yes. Not for you. Nor many others. They get to enjoy their meaningless debate, and they don’t bother anyone else.”

“But they’re already here, why don’t they just relax? Let the debate go?”

“Neither of them can accept that this is heaven. They each believe they belong in heaven, but the other does not. The presence of the other has convinced them both that this cannot be heaven. So they spend their time arguing over the true path to salvation, as well as all the details that they believed were important when they were alive. They think that if they can prove that their faith is the one true faith, they will be allowed into heaven.”

“How long have they been at it?”

“Decades, at least. The door is unlocked, and they could leave at any time, but they each believe that this is a test that they must pass.”

“Why not tell them?”

“They have been told. They refuse to believe it.”

“Are there others like that?”

My guide sighed quietly. “Death often does not change people. Many struggle to accept love and kindness. They mistrust it. So they turn heaven into their own private punishment. And the ones who do think that they deserve paradise cannot accept that others also deserve it. They become convinced that this is not paradise because a group they learned to hate is also here.”

“That’s depressing. Does anyone accept this place?”

“Yes. There are plenty who do. They came already expecting everyone, or nearly everyone, to be here. They were already prepared when they were alive.” My guide paused for a moment. “And atheists. It seems they had no expectations at all, so this is merely a pleasant surprise.”

“This place is rather odd.”

“You have not yet met any of the Divers. That is the name they call themselves. They are convinced hell is around somewhere and are constantly searching for it. Spending their time in paradise looking for punishment. This place is odd because of the humans who come here.”

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