// BOOKSACTUALLY RECOMMENDS //
The Billion Shop
by Stephanie Ye
“Back in primary school, I had a classmate who told me that when I died, my soul would float eternally on the surface of the sea. I can’t remember how we got onto the topic: It must have come up during one of the many philosophical discussions the very young tend to have, along with things like what makes a work of art valuable (as opposed to just expensive), and why the Japanese are so perverted (political correctness was something we would only be taught in secondary school).
If you are good, Sam said, you will go to heaven when you die; if you are bad, you go to hell. However, if you are bad but believe in Jesus Christ, you will still go to heaven. Jesus died for our sins, and if you believe in Him, your sins will be washed away. Sam was standing in front of me in our class queue on the basketball court after recess. Our positions in line were determined by our heights, and at the age of 11 I could look down at the counter-clockwise hair whorl on the top of his head, thanks to girls hitting puberty first.
Having myself had a healthy heathen upbringing, I was not convinced of the existence of heaven or hell, let alone that the belief in some guy who died a long time ago in a land far away would be able to determine my entry into one or the other. What if you are good but you don’t believe in Jesus, I inquired. For example, is the Dalai Lama going to hell? (At that time, I did not know much about that gentleman, except that he was Buddhist and considered holy).
I think people go to whatever place they believe in after they die, JJ piped up. (Actually it probably wasn’t JJ; he was tall even as a kid and it wouldn’t have made sense for him to be standing near me and Sam. But, maybe because he’s dead or maybe because it is the sort of peace-making thing he would say, I always remember it as being JJ.) If you are Christian, JJ said, you go to Christian heaven, or hell, as the case may be. If you are Buddhist, you get reincarnated, either into a higher life form if you’ve been good, a cockroach if not. Muslims go to Muslim heaven, Hindus go to Hindu heaven, and if you’re a free-thinker, you will just cease to exist in the whole universe.
There was a solemn pause as we all pondered the absoluteness of this non-existence.”