Yesterday as we were walking around Green Lake with the boys, Kieran asked where bad people go when they die. Mike took this an opportunity to explain that Catholics believe that everyone goes to purgatory first, and then people pray for them to be able to get into heaven.
"It's sort of like going to jail in Monopoly. Then you get a 'get out of jail free' card!" I guess that means that the "pay 200 and get out of jail" rule was like those indulgences that contributed to Martin Luther's reformation.
I told Kieran that Lutherans don't believe in purgatory, so he said he's a Lutheran.
I commented to Mike today that I had to chuckle the other day at church when an older Catholic prayed for the repose of someone's soul, and I can't imagine a Lutheran praying that. Mike thought that this simply meant a request for the person to rest in peace, but sure enough it is linked to purgatory as are dedications of masses to the dead. It's all about helping your loved one out of jail!
To me, this is another example of religion based on fear...how reassuring would it be for a child to hear that he or she (or a loved one) will have to go to purgatory instead of heaven and wait there for an undetermined period of time to get out? According to my Googling, many blogging and commenting Catholics do indeed find purgatory to be reassuring, as they are cleansed of all their sins before they enter heaven.
As for myself, I don't have a clearly defined idea of what heaven or an afterlife is. To me, it's about faith and God's grace. Maybe it's better to have a strong faith in a Monopoly jail and a get-out-of-jail free card? I can't swallow that though.