Imagine there’s no heaven…or Super Bowl
Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. Have you ever? No hell below us…above us only sky. Imagine no heaven or hell, and no religion too. John Lennon said it’s not hard to do.
Well, I’ve imagined it, and I may say he’s a dreamer but it looks to me more like a nightmare. As much as I share Lennon’s desire for world peace and a brotherhood of man, the God-less, heaven-and-hell-less world I envision is more “dys” than “u”. As in, “topia.” Let me tell you why I think so by asking you to imagine something else.
The postseason is everything
Imagine that professional football was run like a community sports program for five-year-olds where the goal is to just learn a few basic skills and have some fun running around. No one keeps score and everybody gets a trophy. You know the kind. So, no Super Bowl, no playoffs, no postseason at all.
But, “the postseason is everything,” as a recent NFL promo succinctly summarized. Even if individual games were scored and a victor declared, do you really think the players and coaches would put as much time and effort into training and playing their hardest on the field if it didn’t matter beyond that one game?
The postseason gives every regular season game ultimate significance (unless you’re the Cleveland Browns). In much the same way, heaven and hell…a continuing existence after our life on earth ends…is our existential postseason. Without it our lives may have transitory, subjective meaning like the satisfaction of beating your opponent in a single game, but no lasting, objective meaning.
What’s the point?
Though our continuing existence is necessary for ultimate significance, it’s not sufficient. If God does not also exist, our endless existence would still have no ultimate meaning. Imagine again with me that there is a postseason in the NFL, but all 32 teams participate and they just keep playing and playing and playing…no one goes home, no championship game, no rock star halftime performance (I’d be okay with that), no Lombardi trophy. No Super Bowl ring to award the players who have been victorious. What’s the point?
Only God gives ultimate purpose to our lives. Just as the crowning of a championship team directs the season to its ultimate end, a God who created us to know him and enjoy all the blessings that go with that, directs our lives to their ultimate end, which is him.
Imagine now that in Sunday’s big game Tom Brady gets called for intentional grounding and Bill Belichick calls the referee over and says, “That may be grounding to you but it’s not to us. The Patriots don’t believe in intentional grounding. We play by our own rules.” (Why does that sound like something he would really say?) Unless there is a “transcendent” rule-making committee, the refs would have no objective standard to judge what’s allowed and what’s not. And even if the two teams agreed beforehand that grounding is not a violation, who or what would arbitrate when the Patriots play a team that believes it clearly is?
As on the football field, so on the playing field of life. What draws a flag or gets one thrown out of the game altogether cannot be determined by the players themselves. If God does not exist no action can be objectively penalized as not allowed, nor can there be any objective rules of conduct. We may confidently draw up our own and expect others to abide by them, but if they challenge us or cry “Foul!” we have no objective reference to firmly establish that the ruling on the field stands.
John Lennon’s Imagine is an anthem for those who believe the notion of God to be not only ridiculous but harmful. If we didn’t have all these conflicting religious beliefs, they imagine, we could have real world peace. But my imagination is informed by the realization that our human passions, desires, and ideologies also conflict, and require a transcendent referee. And that we have an innate sense of an ultimate purpose for why we exist which can only make sense if God exists.
Imagine there’s no Super Bowl. There would be peace on the gridiron alright…’cause there’d be no games. No heaven? No meaning to our existence…and definitely no peace.