The Heaven Delusion

I’m Facebook friends with Dan Piraro (the same way Sheldon is Words With Friends friends with Stephen Hawking) and he recently posted this which I thought was really cool. I have shockingly little interest in American politics, but I do get my daily dose from Andy Borowitz:

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In the halls of the United States Senate, dozens of Senators congratulated themselves today for having what one of them called “the courage and grit to stand up to the overwhelming wishes of the American people.”

“We kept hearing, again and again, that ninety per cent of the American people wanted us to vote a certain way,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). “Well, at the end of the day, we decided that we weren’t going to cave in to that kind of special-interest group.”

“It was a gut check, for sure, but we had to draw a line in the sand,” agreed Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S. Carolina). “If we had voted the way the American people wanted us to, it would have sent the message that we’re here in Washington to be nothing more than their elected representatives.”

Calling yesterday’s Senate action “a bipartisan effort,” Senator Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas) said, “This proves that on a matter that affects the safety of every man, woman, and child in the nation, we can reach across the aisle to defy the interests of all of them.”

Senator McConnell agreed that yesterday’s vote “sent a powerful message,” adding, “If the American people think that just because they voted us into office and pay our salaries, benefits, and pensions, we are somehow obliged to listen to them, they are sorely mistaken.”

I’ve also finished reading the first Simon Rich novel (It’s three days after the GRE!) but it went down remarkably fast – in two sittings. One on Saturday night where I read about 42 pages and the second today at lunch where I finished the rest of it. What In God’s Name

is a pretty amazing, irreverent take on heaven and what people (angels) do in it. In the following excerpt, God has decided to shut the earth down and cut his losses following his inability to answer all the prayers sent up to him, but some angels from the Miracles department have made a bet with him – if they can answer just one of millions of prayers God gets, he won’t destroy the earth. The time is about 10 minutes to D-Day and the angels Craig and Eliza are frantically trying to get two humans (who prayed that the other one would like them) together.

“Let’s see what you guys are working on,” God mumbled, throwing his arms around them for support.
“Oh!” he said, peering at the screen. “That thing.”
He shook his head and laughed. “Why do you guys work so hard? What’s that about?”

Eliza shrugged. “We like doing it.”
God smiled, genuinely moved.
“You know what?” he said. “You’re good people.”
“I guess that makes sense,” Eliza said. “We got into heaven, right?”

God squinted at her, confused. “What do you mean?”
Eliza shrugged. “Just, you know, you picked us to get into heaven. So we must be good people.”

God laughed. “That’s not what it’s based on.”
“It’s not?”
“Nah.”
“So… what is it?” Craig said. “What’re the criteria?”
“You guys don’t know?”
“Just tell us,” Eliza said.
God smiled. “It’s rock skipping.”
Craig and Eliza nodded, waiting for God to elaborate. But he didn’t seem to think he needed to.
“What are you talking about?” Craig asked eventually.
“You’ve got to get seven skips,” God explained. “On any one throw.”

Eliza turned pale. “That’s it? Just skip a rock seven times and you’re in? That’s all?”
“What do you mean ,’that’s all?'” God said. “Rock skipping is hard. Almost no one gets to seven skips.”

“Seven skips,” Craig repeated, his voice a dazed monotone. “Unbelievable.”

“Well, for women it’s five,” God said. “You know, so it’s fair. They’ve got weaker arms.”
Craig shook his head, stunned. “Why didn’t you base it on something important?”
God stared at him blankly. “Like what?”
“I don’t know. Like, righteouness? Or courage, or faith…”
“But those things are too hard to measure. Like, how can you tell how righteous someone is? It’s not something you can just add up. With rock skipping thought, you can be like, ‘Hey, that was four skips.’ Or, ‘That was eight skips.’ It works.”

Today I managed to have lunch alone because Liangze had to go scout out the venue for some demo his lab has to do. I enjoyed myself immensely, actually, and realize that I have never really considered the option of being single. Like, permanently. I mean, that was pretty much what I had planned for before LZ came along (sounds like he’s my son), but like the advantages of being single weren’t one of my considerations when I jumped into the relationship, and they should have been. Perhaps I should structure my relationship into alternate months, where every other month, I am single. And purposefully so, not the single-to-hook-up-with-other-guys kind of single, as if anyone can imagine me doing such a thing. There is so much freedom, there is no asking “so when is your mum cooking and when do we have to eat at your house?” or “whose church are we going to this sunday?” or “are we having lunch today?”. Just back to the good ol’ times in my cornell freshman/sophomore year where I avoided everybody and read a crap lot of interesting, funny books while eating meals alone. I never realized relationships were so tiring and grating on one’s nerves and patience until I had the opportunity to be single today and I didn’t have to give the tiniest damn about anyone.

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