|Preach to the choir|
|Crux of the matter|
|Speak of the devil|
|An act of faith|
Heaven is a fictional realm where the 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. 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. Some believers of the book see heaven as allegorical for something, but it is almost universally depicted as a real ghostly happy afterlife. Heaven is referred to quite differently by other religions, sometimes conceptually such as: a place/emotion/plane of existence/state of mind/spiritual realm. Unfortunately, the soul and all forms of the afterlife are most likely just human constructions used as emotional crutches to deal with death and/or to help spread religions as rewards for believing. So as lovely as being reunited with your family members and old pets in heaven sounds, the odds of this being true are infinitesimally small. You aren't going to heaven when you die.
Within the believers of the book, some conjecture heaven is a dimension of new possibilities where you can realize whatever you want (without any scriptural basis), to watching sinners burn in hell, to grovelling to God all day, to a spiritual experience beyond comprehension.
Heaven is viewed as grotesque by some New Atheists who challenge the idea of still being happy in heaven after the first octillion years or how a God could be so insecure 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 some of their loved ones are burning for eternity in hell? Heaven is used obsessively as blackmail to convert people to Christianity and Islam. And finally per those two religions, the idea that people are destined to either heaven or hell seems to lack any sense of moral justice or any proportionality of reward or punishment for what is a very short life on Earth navigating morally ambiguous problems without any evidence that heaven or even God exists.
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, 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 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). Pope Francis has suggested that Heaven primarily involves contemplating God for all eternity. 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."
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 apparently believe. 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.
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.)
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.
- Heaven… is a place… a place… where nothing… nothing ever happens. (No! that's not true, warfare will happen at least once! See Revelation 19:14.)
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, (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. 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. 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. 
Arguments about the existence of a heaven
- That no proof exists for the existence of a soul, let alone heaven
- It is a fictional realm that humans created to help cope with the loss of loved ones and fear over what happens when they die
- The concept is wrapped up in religious propaganda
- There are numerous conflicting accounts of what it is
- Even within specific versions, there are logical inconsistencies in its form and function
- The whole thing sounds great, but it is ultimately absurd and false comfort
- Some unverifiable books say so
- Some people without any evidence believe it exists
Arguments against the justice of a heaven
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
Heaven as being with God
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). 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
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.
Ask yourself, what will you be doing after the first billion years in heaven? It's likely you would have mastered all the Universe's 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 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 as noted below — 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.
Eternity itself brings still more problems and the above musings about time are just the tip of the iceberg. It means an infinite time, one that next to it leaves as insignificant as a second next to it even the times described here, and certain issues pop up when one deals with infinity (everything, at least what is allowed by the laws of physics, 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 angelic rebellion there (Satan 2.0, in other words) or not, perhaps more successful this time, 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 Him 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, long after the Universe had either gone heat death followed by a new Big Bang, suffered a quantum vacuum collapse, maybe restarting it, or collapsed into a Big Crunch to begin anew again a whole lot of 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. In one hand, the total number of states a brain can have is estimated to be very roughly 22,752,000,000,000,000,000,000, 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) and is still a finite number, meaning that in an eternity, you would experiment with all of them, and an infinite number of times. In the other, the brain's capacity is finite (around 2.5 petabytes, dwarfing a standard modern hard drive) ), so it would fill up unless you either discarded old memories voluntarily or not, or simply went the equivalent of a BSOD/kernel panic/whatever. Being transformed into something that averted these issues (sort of natural quantum computing with much better storage capacities) would also means to be less human and would of course not alleviate them in the long run.
The Salvation War series describes an encounter in Heaven, that is considered there an alternate dimension with New Jerusalem in the centre, rolling hills with scattered groves around, and benign climate of the invading Earth forces with a group of peasants (note in that setting everyone in the afterlife, be in Heaven or Hell, gets new physical bodies in line with the Biblical premises) 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 and earlier epochs it would be like Heaven (no illness, no lack of food, no invading armies stealing it, looting your village, raping your daughters and wife, and once ended killing everyone and setting everything on fire, etc.) it's at least debatable if someone could forever withstand that for all eternity.
Heaven is described in a rather bizarre way throughout the Bible in both testaments. A rather detailed description of it 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.
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 forests, oceans, etc. outside New Jerusalem or will it be, like Hell, a self-contained universe? (And given that far more people will go the latter rather than the former, Hell would dwarf it.)
There are several obvious flaws in the description of Heaven. A glorious place of happiness. And its counterpart, 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 have happiness being stuck with all those darn cats?
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 savior 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 - assuming they were left that way instead of letting them grow to be raised to basically become a Fundie's wet dream.
Of course, if your fate is to become a
mindless robot sheep just worshipping God, those issues disappear under the rug.
To sum up all of the above, have fun attempting to argue with infinity using just 1st century and earlier writings.
Heaven as ethereal
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?
Note also that the issues described above when one deals with infinity are still here. Going ethereal would not save someone of them unless you invoked magic, in which case pretty much anything goes.
Heaven is hotter than Hell
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:
This article was "refuted" in the The Journal of Irreproducible Results 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.
- Heaven: What is Heaven? What Does the Bible Say about the Heavens?
- Imagine heaven
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Heaven
- 10 reasons Christian heaven would actually be hell: It's not all pearly gates and streets of gold. The Bible’s version of paradise seems more like eternal torture
- Unless you're a Pastafarian.
- 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 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)
- Allegedly it was first written by Paul Darwin Foote in 1920.
- 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."
- 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."
- Pope Francis' Alleged Beliefs About the Afterlife, ReligiousTolerance.org, 2018
- 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
- Resurrection of the Body, Catholic Answers
- Summa Theologica, Third Part, Supplement, Question 94, Article 1.
- Bierce, Ambrose, The Devil's Dictionary, Castle Books, NY, 1967
- Talking Heads (David Byrne), Heaven, on Fear of Music
- The Bible and Heaven
- Revelations 19:14
- Wives and concubines
- Concerning The Hur al-'Ayn (Houris)
- Guardian interview with female suicide bomber
- 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
- What Is the Memory Capacity of the Human Brain?
- Data indicate fertilized human eggs, toddlers crowd Heaven
- Theological Thermodynamics by Tim Healey (1979) The Journal of Irreproducible Results 25(4):17-18 (archived from January 1, 2006)