True story: I once had a dream that I somehow found myself in heaven, or rather, on a long bridge leading up to heaven. I wasn’t dead, and I don’t know if the people around me were, but we were all walking up this bridge. Ahead of us was a somewhat larger group of people who weren’t walking. They were gathered around one guy, and as I got closer someone told me it was Jesus. Not everybody standing there looked very happy, because Jesus was explaining to them that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were right all along. People were peppering him with questions (and not entirely friendly questions either), but Jesus was holding his own and causing great consternation among the non-JW’s around him.
Finally somebody suggested that he surely could not be a Jehovah’s Witness, because the JW’s so greatly diminished his own importance. But Jesus laughed this off and claimed that he was still a supremely important person, and in fact he was the very Logos of God. At that point, a white-haired gentleman said, “You know, I’ve always wondered about that. Why would a Jew adopt the theology of the Logos? The Logos was a Gnostic deity, not a Jewish one.” Jesus faltered for a moment and said, “Really? I didn’t know that.”
It went downhill from there: this admission of ignorance destroyed his credibility as a divine (or semi-divine) being, and finally he gave up and admitted that, in fact, he wasn’t even the real Jesus. But, he protested, his motives were good: he just really loved God and was hoping to help us all find the way to heaven. The crowd wasn’t too impressed, but he kept insisting that it was true, and what’s more, that Heaven was just up ahead, and we should all just go there, and God Himself would confirm the things that (pseudo-)Jesus was telling us. A surprising number of people joined him on the trek upwards, but as I was about to join them, an old guy plucked at my sleeve and pulled me aside.
“They’re not going to find God up there,” he whispered to me, grinning.
“Why not?” I said.
“Because God’s right over there, sitting under that lamppost.”
I looked, and sitting under the lamppost was the oldest, greyest, most wrinkled pug-nosed dog you could ever imagine. He was ancient. But, as the old man explained to me, he was actually a talking dog, and a very wise and very kind one who wanted to share his good advice with mankind and so spare us from vast amounts of needless suffering. But things got a little confused, because back in those days, when they were first inventing the Hebrew alphabet, they couldn’t make up their minds whether to go from left to right or from right to left, and some people even switched back and forth from one word to the next. That’s how “Moses’ encounter with a talking dog” became “Moses’ encounter where he talked to God,” you see.
But worse than the spelling mistake was the fact that Moses couldn’t resist the temptation to mix his own personal biases into the advice he was passing on from Dog, and so all kinds of weird prohibitions and commandments got mixed in with the good stuff. But since other people had similar biases, it turned out that Moses’ stuff ended up becoming the whole religion, while Dog’s good advice was ignored and forgotten. “It’s pretty sad,” the old man told me. “Nobody has even spoken to Dog in thousands of years. He’s become completely invisible to them.”
Well, I felt pretty sorry for the little fella, so I walked over and squatted down in front of him and said, “Hey, hi.” The old dog was so surprised that someone had actually spoken to him that he immediately had a heart attack, lurched forward, and died. Awkward. But I figured that if anybody went to heaven when he died, it surely would be God, so I decided to proceed on up the bridge.
It was a long walk, and there was a huge crowd. They were all nice people, and while there were a lot of theological disagreements going on around me, everyone was polite and calm. They were all going to heaven, after all. The one thing they all agreed on was that heaven was just up ahead, only a little further, and then we’d all see God.
To make a long story short, I got tired of walking, and decided to wait for heaven until it was really time for me to go there. So I walked over to the side of the bridge, swung my leg over the guardrail, and began climbing down the understructure, heading for home. It turned out to be really easy. The bright streetlights on the bridge let me see where I was going, and the girders and such were close together and easy to grip, so I didn’t have any trouble going down. But just before the dream ended, I noticed one last detail: looking up, I could see the whole bridge, and I discovered that the incline was an optical illusion: the lampposts were slightly tilted to make it look like the bridge was going uphill, but it wasn’t. What’s more, it wasn’t straight either. It looked straight when you were on it, but from where I was, down below, I could see that it curved slowly around until it completed one vast circle looping back on itself. The people on it were going to walk forever, and would never get any closer to heaven than they already were.