From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
But what if you suffer from vertigo?
The dreams of man
Icon religion.svg
Snooze buttons
Disturbing your sleep
Recurring dreams
♫♬In Heaven There Is No Beer

Heaven is a(n) place/emotion/plane of existence/state of mind/spiritual realm that you really wanna go to after you die that may or may not exist.

Views are diverse about what heaven, if it exists, will be like, even within a particular religion. Beliefs range from being able to do whatever you want, to watching sinners burn in hell, to singing praise and playing harps in the clouds, to a spiritual experience beyond comprehension, to a mere bodyless state of happiness. Agnosticism about what Heaven is like seems the most reasonable position, on the grounds that it is simply outside of any living person's experience. What we cannot experience, we cannot know anything about, and so anything goes.

Heaven is purported to exist by some Jews, most Christians, and most Muslims, and many other religions.

Heaven is hotter than Hell[edit]

In 1972, an anonymous[note 1] 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 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 Results in 1979.[1]


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 heaven the future of the faithful,[2][3] and most Christian churches 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 many 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).

Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica portrays one of the ways of having a good time in Heaven: watching people getting tortured in Hell, 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. (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.[4]

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.[5] (No! that's not true, warfare will happen at least once! See Revelation 19:14.)[6][7]


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,[8] (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.[9] 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 Koran, 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.[10][note 2]

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. [11]

Arguments about the existence of a heaven[edit]


  1. That no proof exists for the existence of a heaven
  2. That God does not exist (i.e., strong atheism)
  3. That God, if he does exist, is evil, or unjust, or cruel, or insane
  4. That the soul does not exist, either at all, or after death, and so can't go to heaven (i.e., materialism)
  5. That heaven is a tool used by corrupt "religious" officials to manipulate the masses, rather than real


Most arguments for Heaven are either rejections of the above objections or appeals to an ideal (i.e., the just world hypothesis) — such as undying love, or complete happiness, or complete justice — that does not exist in the known Universe. The latter argument can devolve into an argument from emotion.

Arguments against the justice of a heaven[edit]

Bad men could change, given time, and become good, and therefore do not deserve eternal torture. Good men can become corrupt and bad, given time, and therefore are not worthy of eternal happiness. So why should heaven or hell be eternal?

Arguments on the absurdity of heaven[edit]

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 being good, 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 a very powerful tool for several centuries of cruel toxic rule by fear.

Time scale[edit]

Ask yourself, what will you be doing after the first billion years in heaven? It's likely you would have mastered all the universes languages and learn 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? 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, will I 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), the fate of those fortunate enough to end up there will basically be brainwashed[note 3] 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.

The Salvation War series describes an encounter in Heaven, that is considered there an alternate dimension with New Jerusalem in the center and rolling hills with scattered groves around, and benign climate, with a group of peasants (note that everyone there, be Heaven or Hell, has physical bodies, in line with the Biblical descriptions of everyone getting that) who dedicate their time to both cultivating crops for the angels and praying. They've been that way for around a thousand years, and while for the perspective of someone from the early Middle Ages it would be like Heaven (no illness, no lack of food, no armies stealing your food, raping your daughters and wife, and once ended killing everyone and setting everything of fire, etc.) it's at least debatable if someone could forever withstand that.


Heaven is described in a rather bizarre way throughout the bible in both testaments. A rather detailed description of it can be found in Revelations, 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 brigh 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.

The Book of Revelation also mentions the old heavens and Earth will pass away and that there'll be no sea, meaning that for people as astronomers, mariners, etc it will rather be like Hell even if you'd be very busy worshipping God to care about it. Does this mean, even if some apologists with more common sense that your average literalist interpret this would happen in spiritual and not physical fashion (so things would not change), that as noted below everything of a humongous Universe, far beyond anything Biblical authors could fathom, will disappear being replaced by just Heaven and Hell. Will also exist something outside that New Jerusalem or like Hell will it be a self-contained universe? (and given that far more people will go the latter than the former Hell would dwarf it).


There are several obvious flaws in the description of heaven. A glorious place of happiness. And its counter part, a grotesque underground torture chamber where the loving forgiving God boils the skin off of his children, for a very long period of time. Yet would someone in heaven, enjoying its bliss, be able to be happy knowing a close friend or a brother or sister was roasting in hell? If dogs aren't permitted would someone be happy knowing they'd never see their beloved creature again? 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 which raises the question what's the point of 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 which begs the question what was the point of all those galactic clusters so far away you can't even see them without an enormous extremely complex telescope?. Of course if your fate is to become a robot just able to worship those issues disappear under the rug.

Other issues are related to eternity itself and the above musings about time are just the beginning of them. Eternity means an infinite time, one that next to it leaves as insignificant as a second even the times described hereWikipedia's W.svg, and certain issues pop up when one deals with infinity (everything will happen an infinite number of times) as the possibility of people breaking some law(s) of the city and being sent to Hell, God changing His mind and sending everyone in Hell to Heaven or even vice-versa (in other words, changing His pact with no possibilities of contesting it), yet another rebellion there angelic (Satan 2.0, in other words) or not, perhaps more succesful, Hell becoming a less nasty place, even maybe since there're several types of infinities an entity more powerful than God (same if He's not omnipotent) popping up and destroying everything, etc. Even if you accept the Fundie idea of God being outside space and time, thus unchanging, and which brings a lot of issues the least of them is leaving God as a Lovecraftian deity, things are not much better since that would mean that Heaven would never change and you'd at worst be worshipping God long, long, long after the Universe had gone heat death followed by a new Big Bang several times. That, since our mortal minds are not prepared to eternity, the package of being admitted to Heaven would likely include to feel the passing of time in a different way (ie: becoming less human) gives little comfort.

Yet another problem is related to Heaven being a physical place. The total number of states a brain can have is very roughly 22,752,000,000,000,000,000,000[12], which despite being a mind-blowing amount has most of them unusable as they are equivalent to insanity or a computer crash (they also include to think like Hitler, Stalin, and similar persons as well as having sinful thoughts, etc. but that's another topic). In an eternity you will experiment all of them, and an infinite number of times meaning also to playback memories again and again as the brain's capacity is finite. Being transformed into something that averted that (sort of natural quantum computing) would also means to be less human, and going ethereal has similar issues, especially in what said entity could be made of.

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 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. It's nothing like what's mentioned in the bible. Why one Earth would someone ever take that book literally silly? The argument would be, those who choose to be without God would spend eternity missing out on all the fun of being with God. 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 a few thousand years?

In a nutshell[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Allegedly it was first written by Paul Darwin Foote in 1920.
  2. It is indeed the supreme sacrifice to kill oneself in the hopes of becoming a mid-level manager.
  3. Basically, no sin means no free will. Remember also that it's stated there that there will not be no more sadness (bliss cannot be fully enjoyed if it never stops) and it can be deduced 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)


  1. Theological Thermodynamics by Tim Healey (1979) The Journal of Irreproducible Results 25(4):17-18 (archived from January 1, 2006).
  2. 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."
  3. 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."
  4. Bierce, Ambrose, The Devil's Dictionary, Castle Books, NY, 1967
  5. Talking Heads (David Byrne), Heaven, on Fear of Music
  6. The Bible and Heaven
  7. Revelations 19:14
  8. Wives and concubines
  9. Concerning The Hur al-'Ayn (Houris)
  10. Guardian interview with female suicide bomber
  11. http://www.thewire.com/culture/2014/02/mormons-dont-get-planet-once-they-die-say-mormons/358669/
  12. https://psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/12406/how-many-possible-states-does-a-brain-have