I have always seen the Lord's Prayer as much more than something you say by rote on Sundays. I am hardly alone. It's the only prayer that Jesus taught. And it contains ideas that are not confined to any church or creed. In fact, my basic sense that religion is fading has to do with the crying need for some universal basis for living without conflict. The purpose of this article is to suggest that Heaven is what ending conflict is all about.

My goal, therefore, is to spring heaven from its prison. We will only do that when every tongue in every corner of the world can say heaven and have it mean something very different from what religion has made of it.


There are three Abrahamic religions. They are called Abrahamic because the common ancestor of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is taken to be Abraham.

The Lord's Prayer is unique to Christianity and reflects the power of its emphasis on incarnation. Christianity is about godliness becoming visible, tangible, in a human being. The most pernicious result of this has been to make this fundamentally ethical understanding about goodness and peace into an exclusive cult.

Religion becomes cultlike when it destroys people's sense of freedom. This makes choice the province of authorities. Instead of helping people by educating and enabling them, it produces what Nietzsche saw as a sheeplike and resentful result.

Not all religion is cultlike. But the worst expressions of it are cultlike in the extreme.


Spirituality is a growing response to the insularity of religion. Insularity means going against the poet John Donne who said we are none ot us islands. Insularity means isolation and exclusivism. It means we are saved and you are not.

In its worst expressions, salvation becomes internal to a particular church and results in divisions that are painful. If you see harm as what evil is, then it is evil also.

Spirituality is a much more general term than religion. It covers every person on the planet. It is universal. It is what each person does with the idea of knowing oneself.


Heaven, understood spiritually, is not just a place. Indeed, if Abba is said to be in heaven, as the prayer states, then he is here as well as whatever heaven might otherwise be. The prayer explicitly states Abba's will is to be done here on earth, Heaven is the place where Abba is. Where life is. Where truth is. Where beauty is. Where justice resides.

If we turn heaven into the posthumous preserve of believers in this or that branch of this or that religion, we are far from what Jesus intended.