Philip is an etherist. It is an emerging movement on earth with at least 100,000 recorded members. They do not have a place of gathering and worship like a church, temple or an ashram. Instead, they congregate in cyberspace and on Facebook with the occasional Skype to carry out initiation ceremonies.
Some call etherism a quasi-religion. Others call it a cult. Still others call it a nuisance. Their god is actually a primordial energy like the quantum singularity of a black-hole and this original force exists everywhere. It is actually the source of all technology that runs the earth – so the etherists believe. And when they die, the etherists are promised that they will enjoy eternity in a celestial grid that stretches beyond the horizon. There will be no more tears and fears in this heavenly technological bliss that the etherists affectionately call glitteris.
The founder of etherism was a man called Jack Sparrow. He grew up in a Methodist home and was a technology genius by 9 years old. A college dropout, High Priest Sparrow, as he was known to his members, earned his first billion when he sold his software application to a technology supergiant company called Orange. After that, he retired at 19 and started etherism. Its members believe that Sparrow was the elected savior of this world. He was the one who would solve the climate problem and redeem the earth from her own destruction. Alas, like all self-professed spiritual hyperbola, it was not meant to be. Sparrow died of a heart attack at age 33 and the leadership was passed to his wife, High Priestess Sarah Lee. Now Sarah Lee claims that she is the new savior of the earth. So much for cognitive dissonance.
But our story really begins with Philip and not Sparrow or Sarah Lee. Philip is a die-hard member of etherism. He sold everything he had to give to this movement. When Sparrow died, he was inconsolable. Yet, what happens next is going to be mind-boggling for Philip and it starts with an unexpected death...
Philip: Where am I?
Angel: You died...you were electrocuted when you spilled green tea over your lap-top. Your heart stopped.
Philip: What? Just like that? Where is this place then? Who are you?
Angel: Welcome to the place of eternal rest. I am your angel guide.
Philip: You mean glitteris?
Angel: This is heaven son.
Philip: Heaven…you mean the Christian’s heaven?
Angel: Yah…the one foretold in the Bible. Recall “in my father’s house there are many mansions”?
Philip: OMG, you mean this is not glitteris, the techno-heaven of eternal bliss reserved just for etherists?
Angel: Unless glitteris means heaven son, then yes welcome to glitteris then.
Philip: But…but, I renounced Christianity a long time ago. When I was 22 or 23. So, how is it that I still landed up here? Shouldn’t I be in that fiery place?
Angel: Well, here’s the thing…there’s a policy called “once saved always saved.” And you accepted Him in your youth, right? That's actually forever. You sealed the deal at 17 son.
Philip: That’s strange...I am an etherist. I died an etherist and not a Christian. I should be in glitteris, shouldn't I? You mean to tell me that glitteris doesn't exist?
Angel: Look here son, I don’t know anything about this place call glitteris. You are here now. You need to get onto the program.
Philip: (thinking) Wait, you people believe in free-will right? Choices? Autonomy? Enlighten me on that.
Angel: Oh…here we go again…that free-will shenanigans.
Philip: Yes...free-will. You mean I can’t choose to renounce my belief and accept another? Doesn’t my choice count for anything? Can’t I unsave a save?
Angel: Son, you’re obviously not getting it about the “once saved always saved” thingy. It’s just four simple words. How hard can it be? No theological baggage or philosophical debate here. Read my lips, “ONCE-SAVED-ALWAYS-SAVED”. Understood?
Philip shakes his head…
Angel: Ok, son, here’s the lowdown. Free-will don't work the way you think it works on earth. There are some things that take precedence over free-will here. But there are others that don’t. Take for example, the choice of a movie, a school, an investment, a future wife or even going to war. These things...the man in charge here don't really bother. You people have absolute free-range on them. But when it comes to salvation and heaven, well…he has the final say. He crosses the “t” and dots the “i” so to speak. That’s what "once saved always saved” means. In other words, his sovereignty reigns supreme. Can we move on?
Philip: Ok. I see. Once I am saved, I am saved. Nothing I do can change that, right?
Angel: (smiles) Yes, we have a convert here!
Philip: But...wait, in that case, I should expect High Priest Sparrow to be here too. He was a Christian. He was baptized in a Methodist Church. I am sure he said the sinner's prayer too. Where is he? Is he here?
Angel: Here is where it gets tricky. He’s not here. He didn’t make it.
Philip: Aaah? I don't get it. Once saved always saved remember? You preached it earlier, right?
Angel: It’s actually a little more complicated than that. We have to define “save” here.
Philip: Define save? Save is save. Save means save! The sinner’s prayer. The confession. The forgiveness. I am sure he did all that.
Angel: You really ask a lot don’t you? Well, if you must know…save actually means more than that. Or more accurately, it means nothing like that actually.
Philip: You are not helping my heavenly guide…
Angel: Well, in his book, save is a loaded word. It is all about population control I guess. Or keeping heaven heaven…or else we would have all kinds of weirdos here. You know I heard even Hitler once believed in Him.
Philip: You mean being saved is not just about saying the sinner’s prayer?
Angel: Erm…it’s about election son.
Philip: Election? You mean chosen? Chosen when?
Angel: Before the creation of time.
Philip: So, he chose us even before there were anything? Isn't this predestination?
Angel: Whoa, you make it sound like it’s a bad word. Just go with the flow son.
Philip: I see…I was chosen.
Angel: Yes, congrats!
Philip: And Sparrow didn’t make the cut. He was not chosen.
Philip: You know, if you come to think about it, it really doesn’t matter what we do on earth or in our lifetime then. We are either in or out, chosen or not, and the decision has already been settled long long time ago. And doesn’t this just make his son’s death redundant, inconsequential? This is really a lot to digest.
Angel: Well son, it is much deeper than that and you have an eternity to figure it all out.
Philip: Okay, I think I have a rough idea for now. In a nutshell, what you are telling me is that it is all rigged from the start then.
Angel: Watch it son. You shouldn’t be complaining. You made it right? You're elected. Count your blessing. You should spend one day in the complaints department here. The complaints are endless from the millions and millions who had dedicated their whole life for something that was never meant to be in the first place.
Philip: Mm…I guess you are right then. I should count my blessing. What a game changer! So, what now my guardian angel?
Angel: Enjoy my son. Welcome to your eternal rest and bliss. Your mansion awaits. Let me take you there. It is actually just next to…