From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
But what if you suffer from vertigo?
Preach to the choir
Icon religion.svg
Crux of the matter
Speak of the devil
An act of faith
♫♬In Heaven There Is No Beer[note 1]

Heaven is a fictional realm where the spiritual/magical essence of a human (known as a soul) somehow survives death and is fantastically transported to this zone of paradise to spend forever and ever and ever times eternity there, doing things that depends on whatever the believer's parents also believed.

Most commonly known by believers of the book (Jewish people, Christians, and Muslims) as the place up in the clouds (no one has seen it from a plane or a rocket-ship), heaven is where you go to meet the bearded man in the sky (God) and in most versions praise him forever and/or enjoy milk and honey while watching the smoke of tortured sinners and unbelievers rot in hell.

Heaven is referred to quite differently by other religions, sometimes conceptually such as: a place/emotion/plane of existence/state of mind/spiritual realm (meaning people of the book don't have a total monopoly on the afterlife). But the soul and all forms of the afterlife are almost certainly human constructs used to help spread religions as rewards or punishments for believing or disbelieving and for some, comfort for dealing with the fear of death. So as cool as it sounds to be reunited with your saved family members in heaven while you watch and cheer as your enemies get tortured in the fire pits below, the odds of this or any other afterlife being true are infinitesimally small. You aren't going to heaven when you die. On the upside, this means you're not going to hell either, so just be thankful you're not going to get burned in a fire pit forever.

Some believers of the book see heaven as allegorical for something, because they say so, and what that allegory is, is often just as vaguely defined as the holy books do. Some conjecture heaven is a dimension of new possibilities where you can realize whatever you want (without any scriptural basis). Though others, see heaven more closely to what the bible hints at: watching sinners be tortured in hell and/or to grovelling to God all day, to a spiritual experience beyond comprehension.

Heaven is viewed as grotesque by some Atheists who challenge the idea of still being happy in heaven after the first octillion years or how a God could be so insecure that he literally needs millions of souls praising him for eternity. The logical inconsistencies are also pronounced: how could a Christian enjoy bliss in heaven knowing that most of their friends or even loved ones are burning for eternity in hell? (assuming, or course, they could remember them, which the Bible suggests it would not be the case, as noted further down.)

Heaven and hell are used obsessively as blackmail to convert people to Christianity and Islam. In the Qur'an and the New Testament, hell is relentlessly brought up as a punishment for not swallowing the nonsense of those books and obeying the rules of the religion, and heaven is offered as an escape from hell if you do what they say.

The idea that people are destined to either heaven or hell seems to lack any sense of moral justice or any proportionality. That someone would face an eternity of one or the other based on the actions during a relatively tiny time on Earth navigating morally ambiguous problems without any evidence that heaven or even God exists, is absurd. That there are only two options is absurd. That we will be frolicking in the clouds after death is absurd. Just about everything relating to heaven is absurd.


Heaven as depicted by Botticini.

Most Christians hold that Heaven is 1) where all the saved will go to 2) experience eternal happiness and 3) be in the presence of God 4) forever.

The writers of the Bible themselves express vagueness concerning any fuller description of the future of the faithful,[1][2] and most Christian denominations concur with them. However, this does not prevent a diversity of opinion or even argument about what makes up Heaven.

Many preachers teach, simply, that Heaven is where you spend forever worshiping God. As most people understand "worship", it's not entirely surprising that some Christians (and, of course, mean, old, evil atheists) would prefer an eternity in Hell as superior, and perhaps more fun — and way cooler (by at least 80°C). Pope Francis has suggested that Heaven primarily involves contemplating God for all eternity.[3] On the other hand, a popular inspirational passage (sometimes wrongly attributed to C.S. Lewis) says "Hell is an unending church service without God. Heaven is God without a church service."[4]

Literal bodily resurrection (normally with any broken bits fixed) has been a major part of church teachings from Christianity's earliest days and is still something Roman Catholics as well as some branches of Protestantism apparently believe.[5] However, more recently (perhaps due to science showing Heaven isn't a literal place in the sky), many believe in a spirit afterlife or non-corporeal existence after death; this is the position of Christian versions of spiritualism and supposed visions of Heaven from near death experiences. Some Evangelicals have also elaborated further this in their tradition of liberally mixing Biblical verses, claiming believers after dying will go to Paradise having there a taste of the glory that awaits them and waiting until Judgement Day, when after they have bowed their knees and accepted Jesus as Lord they will be judged and finally enter into Heaven.

Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica portrays one of the ways of having a good time in Heaven: watching people getting tortured in Hell,[6] which will make you really happy that you aren't being tortured.

According to some other Christians, especially Roman Catholics, very little is known about heaven — except that you want to go there, so that you don't get burned in hell forever. (It's the destination, not the journey.)

Post-Christian views[edit]

Sarcastically, heaven has been defined as:

A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own.[7]

As an additional note: Have you seen the people who claim to be securely destined for Heaven? Would you want to spend eternity with them? Eh; it'll turn out OK.

  • Heaven… is a place… a place… where nothing… nothing ever happens.[8] (No! that's not true, warfare will happen at least once! See Revelation 19:14.)[9][10]


Muhammad visits Paradise.

Islam teaches that righteous Muslims go to Paradise or "Jannah" when they die. A common western misconception is that men get very pleasant sexual rewards in Paradise — in fact they get two wives and a hundred concubines,[11] (or more accurately Houri), which sounds a bit like hard work.

The hundred concubines may not be real women though, but "Houri", who are apparently designed for men's sexual pleasures. They are always virgins and their sexual relationship with men does not affect their virginity. Furthermore, they do not get older than thirty-three years of age.[12] As with all passages from holy books, there are some believers who take them more literally than others.

A conversation between a Guardian journalist and a failed female suicide bomber went as follows:

  • Guardian: According to the Qur'an, male martyrs are welcomed to paradise by 72 beautiful virgins; and women martyrs?
  • FFSB: A woman martyr will be the person in charge, the manager, the officer of the 72 virgins, the fairest of the fair.[13] And truly it is a supreme sacrifice to kill oneself in the hopes of getting to wear a name-tag that says "manager".

Other views see the Islamic paradise as a direct equivalent to the Sugar Mountain offered by most religions and understand that the virgins thing is a myth. Many Mormons say the same thing about the part in their Book of Abraham where every person in Heaven gets their own planet. [14]

For those familiar with the Biblical threats of hell and other punishments, and the reoccurring general theme of those versus promised rewards for obedience, if you generally browse random Surahs of the Qur'an you'll find the blackmail to believe in its religion far more relentless.

Arguments about the existence of a heaven[edit]


  1. That no good evidence exists for the existence of a soul, let alone heaven
  2. It was likely created by humans to feel like there would be justice and continued existence after death.
  3. Statements about heaven and hell are embedded in religious propaganda, and long-used by the power-hungry to manipulate people
  4. There are numerous conflicting accounts of what it is, and only the word of faith-based authorities as to which is true
  5. Even within specific versions, there are logical inconsistencies in its form and function


  1. Some unverifiable books say so
  2. Some people believe it exists without any evidence
  3. Such beliefs have been around for very long, among quite many
  4. Impossible to disprove, because its existence is unfalsifiable
  5. It may sound great at first, however absurd it is on closer examination
  6. You can pick whichever version of the belief appeals the most to your feelings

Arguments against the justice of a heaven[edit]

Only the very best of Christians can go to Heaven, so you better cough up that dough for your church.

The idea that one's life can be summed up in a moral balance sheet or that a couple actions could trump all your others and get you into heaven or hell is patently absurd. No great being could possibly devise a just moral system where a finite set of actions could lead to only two options: eternal bliss or eternal torture. There is no proportionality per heaven and hell both in terms of the requirements to get in and the very nature of everlasting reward or punishment.

Arguments on the absurdity of heaven[edit]

Heaven as being with God[edit]

For those Christians who realise how inexcusably cruel a burning Hell would be, they often claim that Hell is just existence without God. The bible doesn't say anything remotely like this; if anything, it gives clear descriptions of the horror of hell (numerous times in different books).[15] The terrible theological argument goes, those who choose to be without God would spend eternity missing out on all the fun of being with God. In other words, to make Christianity seem a little more humane, they take away the fire but still make hell something not that good and even make it all your fault for not believing Christian nonsense. The question remains, what does it even mean to be with or without God in the afterlife? And would spending forever in a grey drab doldrum not become relatively cruel after "just" a few thousand years? How about the next ten million years without God? Is an endless eternity in the gentle sounding fire-free version of hell, a proportional response from God for "not believing in him"? Is banishing beings to any level of eternal mediocre existence a moral proportional response by a God to a thought crime?

Heaven as blackmail[edit]

While heaven may not have been originally invented to scare people into thought control, Christianity took the Judaic version of heaven and sure milked that belief-ultimatum for everything they could. Heaven, less as a reward but more as a reason for believing, for not questioning things. After all, not getting into heaven is quite the missed opportunity. One you'll have a lot of time to regret. This was both a very powerful tool for several centuries of cruel toxic rule by fear and then and now a way to have people coughing up that dough, including the excuse of it being used to save as many people as possible from Hell.

Time scale[edit]

Ask yourself, what will you be doing after the first billion years in heaven? If it is a place of relative freedom, it's likely you would have mastered all the Universe's languages and learned the secrets of the 11th dimension. Perhaps it's in vogue there to stare out a window for a few centuries. Maybe create some imaginary dinosaur friends. It's quite possible after the trillionth year in heaven you might start saying and doing strange things or perhaps be self-harming. Or maybe all people do is prostrate in front of God and bob their heads up and down praising him forever. Is that still fun after a quadrillion years (a time in which, in the real Universe, all stars are expected to have burned out)? If so, likely the angels have to administer a happy drug that is eternally intensifying to avoid developing a tolerance. A good question to ask oneself is, do I really believe that in an octillion centuries (a time in which in the actual Universe it's expected galaxies will have disintegrated), I will still be active in heaven trying to pass my time with new diversions or maybe just kneeling before God singing his praises? Does the idea of this make you feel even a little queasy in the stomach?

If one goes literalist (see especially the Book of Revelation and Isaiah 65:17), the fate of those fortunate enough to end up there will basically be brainwashed[note 2] to worship God forever and ever, ever with things never changing even a bit — let's see if even the most die-hard Fundie can withstand an eternity that way — so if your concept of having fun is different to that, no such luck.


A rather detailed description of heaven can be found in Revelation, giving precise details of which jewels adorn which gates and how many units of pure gold gilds the many arches in heaven. It is described as a city, but it is also vaguely referred to as a ghostly place. Angels use precious measuring sticks to set up a perfect architecture. There is an elaborate set of thrones and levels for the different angels to seat themselves (heaven seems divided by class). It is also geometrically a perfect Borg cube, even if some commentators suggest it could be pyramid or mountain-shaped, which raises the question, if Heaven fits millions (maybe billions) of people, then it must be very high… and yet the whole thing is illuminated by a lamb, so, does that mean there are no floors? Or perhaps each floor has an open centre like a modern five star hotel? The materials are quite magical as walls can be solid gold yet crystal clear. The bright lamb must be sort of like the Wolverine from X-Men who can self-heal, since that kind of radiation it emits should be rather toxic for any creature. Heaven has rivers, streets, trees, and something vaguely described as a city (probably as pure coincidence something just like a 1st century city?). It isn't known if there is a large theme park with waterslides and a 150 foot vertical drop.


Various metrics are given about who gets in and out of Hell, and yet at the same time it seems just believing in Jesus as saviour gets you in there. This raises the question of why all the metrics? God created the entire Universe filled with a zillion supposedly empty planets (and galaxies) and yet in the end, it is all reduced to a Heaven and Hell maybe with nothing (not even empty space) beyond them, which raises the question what was the point of all those galactic clusters so far away you can't even see them without an enormous and extremely complex telescope? I guess the galaxies are kinda pretty…

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this scenario is the possibility that, unless one subscribes to the idea of those who died unborn and too young to decide by themselves to follow Jesus going to Hell with the issues it brings, all of them will wind up in Heaven. Given how many die that way, especially due to natural causes, one finds that 98% of its 350 billion inhabitants would be from fertilized eggs to young children[16] — assuming they were left that way instead of letting them grow to be raised to basically become a Fundie's wet dream.

Heaven as ethereal[edit]

The Bible describes Heaven with quite a bit of detail and yet still leaves a lot of information out. While being described as a physical city, it clearly has some quirky supernatural phenomena (like a glowing lamb and winged angels). And yet the overwhelming majority of Christians see it more as a happy ghostly place with buildings and bodies transparent and radiant all on top of fluffy clouds. Could Heaven be both a bejeweled city and a never ending Pink Floyd happy acid trip at the same time?

Heaven is hotter than Hell[edit]

In 1972, an anonymous[note 3] article appeared in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Applied Optics that demonstrated that the temperature of Heaven (525°C) is hotter than Hell (<444.6°C). This was based on Isaiah 30:26;

Moreover, the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold as the light of seven days.

and the liquid-gas transition point of brimstone (sulfur) from Revelation 21:8:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

This article was "refuted" in the The Journal of Irreproducible ResultsWikipedia in 1979, arguing that in Hell the liquid-gas transition point of brimstone is higher, due to the high pressure required to compress an astronomical number of souls within the tiny volume of Hell.[17]

Do you go to heaven after you die?[edit]

Almost certainly not. You simply cease to exist. Your life ends with brain death and all that is left of you are the footprints you have left (both physical and your impact on others).

Of course, there's also countless other possibilities among unfalsifiable beliefs in existence after death, and if any of them were actually right, what's to say that it would be an Abrahamic religion? Apart from other religions, Western esotericism also offers various alternatives which believers find subjectively more logical or otherwise appealing. Other proposed afterlives may for example involve limited timespans rather than an eternity of sameness, processes of change in the forms of existence and movement between "worlds" or realms, and maybe learning and self-perfection over time, in various variations and combinations. However, very importantly, just like heaven, this is all wild speculation, and there is no evidence that any of this is the case. One might consider working on accepting, and being comfortable with the fact that your existence (beyond other people's memories and physical relics you leave behind) simply and utterly ends with your death. Do you truly need the crutch of heaven?

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Unless you're a Pastafarian.
  2. Basically, no sin means no free will. Remember also that it's stated there that there will be no more sadness (bliss cannot be fully enjoyed if it never stops) and it can be deduced going by such Isaiah verse that there'll be no memories of the old heavens and Earth (in other words, you'd live oblivious to all those people being tormented in Hell).
  3. Allegedly it was first written by Paul Darwin Foote in 1920.


  1. 1 Corinthians 2:9: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."
  2. 1 John 3:2: "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
  3. Pope Francis' Alleged Beliefs About the Afterlife, ReligiousTolerance.org, 2018
  4. The Misquotable C.S. Lewis: What He Didn't Say, What He Actually Said, and Why It Matters, William O'Flaherty, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 16 Mar 2018
  5. Resurrection of the Body, Catholic Answers
  6. Summa Theologica, Third Part, Supplement, Question 94, Article 1.
  7. Bierce, Ambrose, The Devil's Dictionary, Castle Books, NY, 1967.
  8. Talking Heads (David Byrne), Heaven, on Fear of Music
  9. The Bible and Heaven
  10. Revelations 19:14
  11. Wives and concubines
  12. Concerning The Hur al-'Ayn (Houris)
  13. Guardian interview with female suicide bomber
  14. http://www.thewire.com/culture/2014/02/mormons-dont-get-planet-once-they-die-say-mormons/358669/
  15. Fire: Matthew 13:49-50, Jude 1:7, Mark 9:43, Mark 9:47-48, Revelation 14:10, Revelation 20:14-15, Destruction: 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Acts 2:27
  16. Data indicate fertilized human eggs, toddlers crowd Heaven
  17. Theological Thermodynamics by Tim Healey (1979) The Journal of Irreproducible Results 25(4):17-18 (archived from January 1, 2006)