“This morning I’d like to talk about the afterlife.” Mr Charles picked up his cup of tea and took a sip. Although his callused hands and greying temples betrayed his middle age, he’d only been teaching for about six months. In a previous life he’d been a godless investment banker working in The City, but personal tragedy, the Recession and divine inspiration had simultaneously struck, so, now he was a born again Christian and a Religious Studies teacher in a small school in Wiltshire.
“How many of you believe in the afterlife?” around two thirds of the twenty-odd teenagers lazily raised their hand. Andrew Charles gave a wry smile. “Good, we have some area of disagreement, so I’d like to open the lesson up for a discussion about The Hereafter before we get on with some real work. Would anyone like to start us off with an explanation of why they do or don’t believe in life after death?”
James, a small, sandy haired boy who always looked scruffy, no matter what he was doing raised his hand immediately. He had not done so before. “James?”
“Do you believe in the afterlife, sir?” His voice was more confident that his diminutive stature implied. Its high pitch pierced the air challengingly.
“I do.” Mr Charles paused. “I used not to, but it does rather come with the whole package of being a Christian.” James smiled patronisingly. “The very concept that lies at the heart of Christianity is that Jesus was sent down from heaven to redeem us, so that when we die we will be judged fairly by God on the Day of Judgment. Obviously for there to be such Judgment there has to be some form of existence that transcends mortality.” Mr Charles paused a looked for a moment at the vacant stares that met his words. “In other words, an afterlife.”
I assume you don’t share the same view, James?”
There was a pause. “No sir, I don’t.” the boy admitted boldly. “It just seems like a way of telling yourself that someone who’s dead isn’t really dead.”
Mr Charles frowned for a moment. The class murmured, some objecting, others agreeing with James. “Would anyone like to respond to James’ point?”
Tanya did not bother putting her hand up, she simply called from towards the back of the classroom. “Just because it’s a comfort, doesn’t make it wrong.” Tanya had been one of those who confessed to believe in the afterlife at the start of the lesson.
James turned around to face his peer. “It doesn’t make it right either. There’s no evidence for the afterlife.”
“What about ghosts?” someone shouted out.
“Remember,” Mr Charles interrupted. “If you want to say something, put your hands up. I don’t think that ghost stories are exactly good evidence for believing in the afterlife. They are all very subjective and tend to be far too vague to really be of any empirical use. Most its just people letting their imaginations get away with them.”
“So what evidence is there?” another voice called out.
“Hands, please.” Mr Charles took another sip of tea and looked pensively into the half empty mug. “There’s lots of evidence for the afterlife, most of which is linked with conventional religious belief. Take myself for example. I believe I was visited in a vision by God, who told me of his love for me and of how he was there for me, even though I was going through some pretty tough personal things at the time. That’s why I am a Christian and subsequently why I believe in life after death.” Mr Charles looked up from his cup of tea to see James’ hand up. “Yes James?”
“Isn’t that just the same as a ghost story, sir?”
Andrew Charles paused. Silence reverberated around the small classroom.
“Well I think that’s enough discussion for today, we need to start doing some proper work now. If you’d like to get your homework out please…”
After the lesson ended Andrew Charles retreated to his small office with his now empty cup of tea. He set it down on his desk along with his marking and picked up a photo frame that sat next to his computer. He traced his fingers over the image of the beautiful woman who had been his wife until the accident little under a year ago. The young boy’s words rang in his ears.
“Isn’t that just the same as a ghost story?”
The glass shattered as the photo frame crashed to the ground.
Saturday, 28 August 2010
Today I'm getting my fiction on again.