I thought it would be somewhat appropriate to add a story I wrote a few years ago on this subject...although it's a little anti-Christian (not in a outright rude or profane or vulgar way), and it has similar ideas...
He remembered little of the moment, after it had happened.
But for one fraction of a second, the experience was a sickening
eternity. It amazed him how much his brain was capable of,
contemplating a dizzying array of topics as the bullet penetrated
him, searing the fine line of flesh that covered his skull. It
seemed as if his brain had anticipated the moment, that it had
determined exactly what was going on.
It was as if his brain had reached out and grasped time
itself, holding it down, slowing its passage in his own personal
Universe. Its passage was inevitable, but every remaining bit of
energy in his brain was devoted to overcoming it. He felt every
advance of the bullet as it cracked and shattered a small region
of his skull. It continued to move forward, plowing through the
path it had created. When the advance of pain finally halted, he
recalled hearing somewhere that the brain itself was incapable of
feeling the effects of damage; that brain surgeons could easily
perform an operation without needing more than a local anesthetic.
His knowledge brought him to the obvious conclusion that the bullet
was now entering his brain, ripping into the core of the black hole
that held time at its mercy.
The horrifying painlessness created a new sense of agony and urgency, a
complete and total helplessness. He no longer could gauge the damage of
the bullet, and as it slowly ripped through him, his ability to
fight time diminished. The bullet began to accelerate, moving
faster as it ripped his brain apart.
But that was all behind him now. He recalled nothing more
than a flash of pain, and then he was here. He experienced no
disorientation, and felt no sense of having "gone" anywhere. In
every direction he looked, he saw intense white light, but it did
not blind him. In fact, it felt good for him to stare into it, to
allow it full entry into his eyes. He soon realized that he did
not need to blink his eyes, but it didn't seem to surprise him. He
wasn't surprised by the fact that he felt no urge to breathe
either, nor did he feel the beating of a heart in his chest. Being
was effortless, he had no need to do anything.
He spent another eternity here, in effortless existence. He
perceived no passage of time, and found he could go nowhere. He
could not move, he could not walk, but he didn't feel the need to.
He could no longer close his eyes, as the constant flow of energy
comforted him beyond comprehension.
There was no chain of events between his previous experience
and the next. Once again, he was simply "here," but "here" had
changed. He knew it was Heaven, he had no doubt in his mind. He
had devoted a significant portion of his life to God, and he knew
that he would be rewarded for his efforts. He knew that he would
be infinitely redeemed for his finite contribution on Earth.
And when God read his name from the Book of Life, he was no
more surprised than when he realized he could not and did not need
to breathe. What surprised him was what came next.
"As your final act of a free will, I give you the choice. You
can choose to remain here forever, or to leave my presence forever.
It should be an easy decision, but it is a decision I give to you."
He didn't expect this, as if he should need to be asked. He
responded with the obvious answer, shouting "Of course I will
remain here forever!"
"Very well. I am sure you are very aware of the procedures
here. You will be cleansed of sin, and then you will remain here
for eternity. Let it begin."
It was here that everything that made him repugnant to God
would be removed. Every quality that did not appeal to God was
shed from him, like layers of useless skin. It felt good to him,
to feel the darkest recesses of his mind be purged. Every dark
secret he had kept from the closest of friends was ripped from him,
and he was fully aware of the entire process.
He remembered each sin as it was taken from him, each evil
thought that bothered yet secretly entertained his carnal mind. It
was a gradual process, but the awareness of it all kept each sin
alive, separated from him yet still in full view. As the process
continued, he slowly began to realize that with the loss of each
sin, he lost more and more connection to his own former life.
His awareness of the process began to disturb him. He had previously imagined that
in Heaven he would at some point meet his wife once she had died,
and that he would see all of his relatives, that he would be able
to experience eternal bliss in comfort with his loved ones.
But this notion slowly began to leave him. In Heaven, he began to
realize, everyone is a relative. "Love thy neighbor," is after
all, God's own word. But he had never anticipated it to be this
way. In Heaven, love is indistinguishable, without quantity or
intensity. It is simply love.
But what sinner remained of him did not desire this. His
selfish side did not to share his love with everyone, he wanted to
share it with those who mattered on Earth. But Earth matters were
not Heavenly matters. Heaven is a place of selfless love, and
service to God.
He realized that this once comforting thought was disturbing
him, even as the layers of sin were slowly peeled from his soul.
The sensation began to hurt, and he realized that with the
removal of every sin, the remaining sins increasing in intensity.
His final sin would be that root sin, the sin of selfishness, and it gained
incredible power over his consciousness as he was cleansed.
His selfishness feared losing its own significance, its power.
He feared losing concern for his own existence, and for the
existence of those who made his Earthly life more pleasurable, more
bearable. He began to grow terrified of losing his own self-interest, in having equal regard for everyone, and infinite regard
He also realized that as the intensity of his selfishness
grew, it took longer and longer for him to lose the next sin. It
was as if once again he held the power to manipulate time, yet it
could not be completely stopped. As he fought the advancing
forces, he began to feel an incredible pain within him, one he
could not pinpoint on his body.
It penetrated every nerve ending, as if a white-hot needle had
been plunged into every possible part of his body that could feel
pain. He realized that his body was being ripped from him, the
body that had sustained his brain, that had provided him with the
means to perpetuate his selfish existence. And his brain did not
desire this either.
He wouldn't be needing this body of course, yet he realized
the immense amount of pleasure it had provided him. Without it, he
would only feel the pleasure of love, equal, indistinguishable love
for everybody. But this thought did not please him now.
The passage of time now had almost completely ceased, and the
pain he felt began to increase in intensity. He realized that all
of this was within his control, that he would let go at any minute
and allow the process to fully complete. But he refused to. He
would rather have the very body that had provided him with pleasure
and ability be tortured, than to give it away forever. But he
could not stop the cleansing.
The question posed so long ago had seemed like such a simple
question, but now he wished with what remained of him that he could
change his mind. His throat began to choke him as self-pity
wrapped its fingers around his neck. He felt more human than ever,
but he could not breathe, nor could he swallow. But he wanted to.
And as each sin was painfully torn from him, the ever-
intensifying final sin fought harder and harder to keep itself
alive. He could sin no more, but he wished he could, he wished he
could add more sins, to prolong the process as much as possible.
But it was impossible.
He wanted to cry, but he did not need to cry. He wanted to
see his wife, to hold her in his arms and tell her of the agony
that he had been through, but did not need to. He would not need
her in Heaven. But he wanted her.
He wanted to feel her lips on his, to kiss her, to feel the
warmth of her breath on his face. But he did not need to. He
wouldn't be needing lips in Heaven.
As his mind desparately tried to force a reponse from his
tortured body, the energy it expended only increased his pain. He
could not elicit any response from his body, and as the final sin was
shed from him, he felt a terrible numbness that ripped into his
mind. It seemed as if the pain left his body, he felt it in his
brain. He recalled hearing somewhere that the brain itself was
incapable of feeling the effects of damage; that brain surgeons
could easily perform an operation without needing more than a local
anesthetic. The thought amused him for a moment, but as the pain
within his mind increased, he lost the capacity to fight the
cleansing of the final sin, his selfishness. He imagined the
sensation of tears filling his eyes, of a lump in his throat, of
physical and mental despair.
And then it was over.
He felt nothing more. He did not need to move, so he did not.
And he didn't want to. He did not need smile, for he did not need
to show the happiness that he could not feel. His own happiness
was irrelevant. He was cleansed, forever under the will of God.
He had no will of his own. He did not need it.