Heaven would suck… if it were real.

Such a big topic, so little time. But, I’ll try…

It hit me last night while watching an interview with Richard Carrier, that heaven would really suck… if it were real. So, let’s first examine the legitamacy of heaven (and hell for that matter) from a purely psychological and mythological point of view. My friends at Godisimaginary.com do a great job in explaining it.

Simply talk to Christians about heaven. Ask them to describe what heaven is like, and how they will get there. You will be able to feel the absurdity of this notion in two different ways:

1) There is the direct absurdity [in their story] where the creation of entirely new and completely imaginary “dimensions” and “materialization processes” tells you everything you need to know about how delusional things can get.

2) There is also the absurdity that comes when you compare any two people’s views of heaven. Everyone’s fabrication of heaven is different. For some it involves harps and clouds and halos. For others it involves hot and cold running virgins. For some people, the actual body is transported magically to heaven as described in the “Left Behind” books. For others, your “soul” floats out of the body and makes it way to St. Peter. And so on. People make up anything they like, because heaven is a completely imaginary place.

Heaven is a fairy tale invented by human imagination. And each person’s fairy tale is different. We imagine that we have “souls,” fabricate the concept of “eternal life” and then fantasize a place called “heaven,” complete with streets of gold, calorie-free foods, frolicking virgins and whatever else we can come up with. Christians imagine it so vividly and repeat the fantasy so often that they actually believe it to be reality.

How bizarre can the fantasies get? Fly to Cairo and take a look at the Great Pyramid. There is the pyramid itself — still one of the largest man-made objects on earth. In addition there is the whole mummification process, the disassembled boats, the sacred artwork and so on. All of this was designed to help the pharaoh reach the afterlife. We look at it now and we all know, with absolute certainty, that it was a complete and total waste of time. The Egyptian notion of the afterlife was a fantasy.

The Christian notion of the afterlife is a fantasy in exactly the same way. Heaven is completely imaginary

Heaven is the greatest reward man could ever invent to keep us acting good (short of Mormonism… they make you a god and give you your own planet to rule over – pretty frickin sweet!). And, inversely, hell is just about the single most awful punishment one could imagine. On top of that, they are both for eternity… yep, forever and ever and ever and ever. Wow, that’s a long time. Why is it the best reward and worst punishment imaginable? BECAUSE THEY WERE IMAGINED!

But, let’s suppose for the next little bit that they were indeed real. Would you even want to go to heaven? Think about it. It’s a pretty exclusive club; tough to get into. So, more people will obviously be going to hell than to heaven. It’s not very many. Luke 12:32 shows that there is only a “little flock” that shares in the heavenly kingdom. Rev. 14:1 speaks of only 144,000 being with Christ in heaven. Rev. 5:10 brings out that they will be kings and priests “over the earth.” Who will they rule over with Christ? Psa. 37:11, 29 shows that meek and righteous mankind will inhabit the earth. This follows the premise of what a kingdom actually is: a relatively small group of beings governing a much larger group. Of course, it would make sense that only those who have demonstrated their faith in God’s promises in both word and deed would be chosen for that position.

These will be people you know – friends and family that messed up along the way in their short, short lives on Earth and forgot to ask for forgiveness (or at some point denied the existence of the holy Spirit, which, according to the bible is the only unforgivable sin). So, they will burn in the flames of hell and be tormented by demons day after day who want nothing more than to torture, rape, and defile them in every way imaginable… and there is nothing you can do about it. In Luke 16, the bible says those in heaven can’t even dip their finger in water to ease the torment of those crying out in pain to those in heaven. How much fun would that be? You can hear them screaming for all eternity, but there is nothing you can do, but you don’t care because you drown out their screams by constantly chanting, “I got mine and you got yours. Na nana boo boo, stick your head in doo-doo!” that doesn’t sound like eternal bliss. That sounds horrible… and makes those in heaven seem like real assholes.

And, who says hell will be all that bad. The bible isn’t that specific about it. When Jesus died on the cross, he descended into hell. In Acts 2, Peter is speaking, verse 31, ” . . . seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell.” And in Matthew 12:40, Jesus says, “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly: so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” So, this leads bible fearing people to believe that hell is inside the earth. Urban legends about Russian miners recording millions of voices screaming from hell have popped up all over the internet from this same claim.

Let’s see… god creates a majestic kingdom once thought to be in the sky by Christians (before the age of astronomy… and meteorology). We now that there isn’t one. So, Christians say it’s on another realm of existence of in another galaxy (far, far away… sound familiar?). But, since we haven’t mapped out every part of the inner earth, it’s still ok for them to believe that hell has a physical location inside the globe… where it’s estimated to be 12,000 degrees (and where no oxygen exists which is needed for flames to burn… but that’s another topic that Christian apologists haven’t yet “figured out”). What seems more plausible? There really is a hell inside the earth and volcanoes are evidence of it…. OR… mankind once saw lava spewing from the ground and thought, “Hmm, I bet that would suck to live there – must be where hell is”??? I choose the latter.

To be honest, if the bible is the only source for the story of hell, that’s not really fair to Satan. He didn’t get a book to tell his side of the story. I mean, if people in hell are sinners and have therefore “sided” with the devil, wouldn’t the devil want to show them and good time? He was banished from heaven for being prideful and thinking he was better than god. So, one would assume that torturing people in lake of fire wouldn’t be the best way to show that you are better than god. If anything, it would be an awesome party… all the good stuff you “weren’t supposed to do” on earth is free game down in hell.

But, don’t worry… NONE OF IT IS REAL!

Don’t you find it interesting that Greek mythology (which predates Christian mythology) uses the same good is up and bad is down archetypes for Mount Olympus and Hades? Not just them… many “religions” have shared this story. Christians don’t believe those, but they do when it comes to their own brand of fairy tales. I understand how it helps keep people in line. We reward people on earth for good things and punish them for bad. It seems only reasonable than man would extend this same paradigm to the afterlife. No one likes to think that when you die “it’s all over”. But, that may very well be the case.

We’ve come far enough in human knowledge to let these old myths go. We can live peacefully without the promise of heaven or the punishment of hell. We make our own heavens and hells on earth based on how we live. This is our paradise if we choose to make it so. We may not have streets of gold, bouncy clouds, perfect bodies, mansions for all, and fat little cherubs with harps… but at least what we have is real, tangible, and available to all – no eating of god-flesh or drinking of savior-blood required!

  • jon

    Amen to that dude or gal. What you said about how christianity is a copy of Greek mythology was good. thegodwhowasn'there is a good movie that talks about that; i showed my mom who is a Christian the trailer to that and she didn't know what to say (obviously). What can one say when confronted with the undeniable evidence presented in that movie: that christianity and jesus Christ are nothing new. All archetypes as past religions.

    • Randy

      “come now let us reason together says the Lord.”

      If God isn’t real how do you explain genetic entropy?
      Cell theory clearly states that all cells come from other living cells, While macro evolution suggests the first cells came from nothing.
      But in the theory of Macro evolution DARWIN himself renounced the idea that one species could become another species because being the intelligent individual that he was, he realized what he had published in his first book the origin of species was wrong and he had to take it back.

      BUT people still believe in macro evolution. *sigh*

      Also the idea of genetic homeostasis is directly contradictory to Macro evolution again… anyone with any experience breeding plants or animals would explain to you that one species cannot become another species because Genetic Homeostasis (which is a LAW by the way) does not allow this.. in all examples the original species is rendered infertile (unable to reproduce) or goes right back to the original gene pool.

      Now that were done with “MACRO evolution” we can talk about spirituality

      If God doesn’t exist how is it that voodoo priests/ people who practice santeria/ The occult/ and lastly the “ZOZO” phenomeon that occurs when playing with a Quiji board. How is it that these things exist?.. How can a voodoo priest summon demons and send them to attack people spiritually, how can a Quiji board give similiar experiences to people who have never met or even heard of ZOZO. If you ask a wican *witch* or a voodoo priest they will explain to you very easily that demons are very real, and that is how they get their power.

      IF GOd isn’t real how do we have a whole line of movies dedicated to “Satan” and demonic possesion i would humbly implore anybody to seriously think about these things. They happen everyday just recently a man in florida got naked ran into the streets stripped the clothes of a homeless man and proceeded to eat his face.. even after being shot several times he did not quit. No normal person does that..People speculated drugs, but the family said he was possesed and sure enough.. when the autopsy came back he had only marijuanna in his system.. if anyone here has smoked pot you know how that makes you behave (usually on your couch eating potatoe chips giggling) . how can you not believe in God when you are face to face with the devil.

      AND if you don’t believe in God
      why do you give credit to him by even having a website like this???

      LASTLY, how do people die and go to hell, then come back and tell everyone about it. Has God hardened your heart, or are you scared
      Why, wont you heed these messages, people who have never believed in God will tell you that they died and say they saw the devil, the looks on their faces are genuine and the fear in their voice can’t be mistaken.

      How do children who have never heard of God, or Jesus. Tell their parents that they got to meet Jesus.

      I humbly implore everyone

      , that if they are questioning anything i said i invite them with the UTMOST RESPECT and decency to come sit with me and we can reason together

      I am not a religious lunatick, and am a very educated man. Especially on the idea’s of genetic entropy, and evolution.

      On a final note, i want everyone to know that God loves them more then they could ever imagine, this i know to be true. All he wants is for you to sit and “reason” with him.

      God bless all of you, you are in my prayers
      Sincerely Randy Dressler

  • Adam

    Thanks for the compliment. Yes, "The God Who Wasn't There" is a fantastic film. If you'd like more on the subject, check out David Fitrzgerald (one of our VIP bloggers) and his new book NAILED: http://www.atheismresource.com/the-bible

  • http://wading-in.net/walkabout Just Al

    I'd add a couple of things to the whole concept, that I've argued before:

    1. The practice of punishment (and reward) is to show that consequences exist, but the only purpose of it is to prevent bad behavior from occurring again. It's a method of maintaining a social structure – we punish a child that hits other children not to address the action, but to instill a behavior pattern that will work better throughout the child's life. The concept of hell is the same as catching a child ruining their dinner (and disobeying their parents) by stealing from the cookie jar and killing them dead for it. It makes absolutely no sense unless you're glorifying sadism. The same message, unfortunately too subtle, is found in Dr. Strangelove, where the Doomsday Weapon only has value as a threat – it's pointless to actually make one. Then the message gets even creepier when those that created the weapon are the ones who will retire to sexual promiscuity and recreate man in their own image ;-)

    2. What if, of course, one's vision of heaven includes meeting all of their relatives and friends once again, regardless of the salvation of those people? Many churches maintain that we're supposed to relish the salvation we (well, not me) obtained, and disregard those who earned their torture. I'm glad you noted this, and I'm not alone in finding this one of the most anti-social and sadistic encouragements of religion, which seems to delight in drawing these lines and creating these walls. But suppose, good as I am, I'm not actually happy with everyone being damned? I thought that was one of jesus' messages? Do this mean I have the power to hold others from damnation and populate heaven as I see fit? This would mean that very few people would actually make it to hell in the first place – they'd have to piss off everyone. Alternately, there's the idea that my personal heaven doesn't actually involve those souls, and the "avatars" I spend eternity with are not actually the people I grew up with, who really do remain damned – a happy illusion, but one I'd most likely be aware of, and not be happy with. Then you can suppose that souls have duality, and can be both places at once, which makes me wonder how it would feel if I were one of those (from all accounts, I gots the hell reservations, but who knows? Maybe somebody's pulling for me…)

    3. "Good" and "bad" are always relative to each other. We recognize the good times that we have simply because our happiness exceeds the average at those times. We can always contrast our lives with people living in squalor in third-world countries, or with the very rich in our own, and consider that we have it either good or bad in comparison, but this doesn't seem to affect our happiness any more than it does theirs. In fact, I would say that the drive for personal improvement, for increasing our social status or feelings of adequacy, are what defines us – we'd likely find heaven to be incredibly boring. What would we have to look forward to, or strive for? What would actually define our existence? (Unless, of course, we really got off on those screams from the damned, but I imagine even that would get old after a while.)

    I will point out that some religious denominations/variations, while utilizing heaven and hell, don't feel that damnation is forever. It's still a half-baked idea, because it would make hell simply something to deal with, without the fear of death adding flavor to the torment, and you still have the idea that heaven is eternal once you get there. And I've seen few people address the utter pointlessness of providing a brief existence on Temptation Island, then spending forever and ever someplace else – what kind of a divine plan is that? The lesson of Job seems to indicate that souls might be some kind of currency, which should be of concern to all those who (note the terminology) consider themselves "saved." There might be some kind of metaphysical pog game coming up…

  • Adam

    @ Just Al: Good points. I have heard many people proclaim that they wouldn't want to be in heaven for eternity if someone they loved "missed out" and was sent to hell. Eternity knowing that person is burning and being tortured doesn't sound all that pleasant… neither does forgetting them. Another example of how Heaven is completely fake – it's whatever you make it. Rubbish. My heaven is here… right now, on earth, with my friends and family.

  • Mark

    Having grown up in the church, I cannot imagine spending all eternity in church. Stand up and pray, sit down and pray, stand up and sing, verses 1,3 and 5 only. Sit down and drink some grape juice and eat a cracker. Listen to a preacher drone on and on and on in that Southern Baptist sing songy type voice. Damn,that would be hell.

  • Amanda

    This is similar to the question I am always trying to get reliogious friends and family to answer. Say you are the perfect Christian. You do everything you’re supposed to do. You end up in Heaven. The person you love most in the world (parent, child, spouse, pet, whoever) does not. They end up in Hell. Can you be happy in Heaven knowing that person is suffering in Hell? And if you CAN be happy in that situation, are you the kind of person who deserves to be in Heaven in the first place.
    I personally, would not want that. None of it is my definition of a paradise.

  • Charlie Smith

    My favorite version of “Heaven” was a Gahan Wilson cartoon in Playboy forty or so years ago. It showed two men leaning against a cement wall. Across the top of the wall were letters spelling H-E-A- -E-N. The “V” was on the ground. There were cigarette butts all around and a couple of unshaven “angels” who had passed out, drunk. One man says to the other, “I thought heaven would be a classier place.”

  • Tyler

    Did the writer of this article do even the tiniest bit of research before writing this? Heaven is hardly an exclusive club. Before you quote scripture to criticize it you should try and read it first. The bible says "he who believes and is babtized will be saved" and "for God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever shall believe in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life". Nothing there about only 144,000, I think you misunderstood or you were asking Jehovah's witnesses. This site claims to be atheist, but it clearly a very religious site. It is just that everyone here has a personal problem with God. It is also very clear that everyone who writes these articles believes in God. Why are you so hung up on someone who's existence you deny?

    • Adam

      @ Tyler: The author, JT Eberhard, is a great researcher and knows the bible very well. Rev 14:1 is often used to make the point of the exclusivity of heaven, "Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads." None of us believe in god here, so please don't presume we do.

  • Aly

    Hmm. Why can’t we just let other humans believe what they want? I don’t see how people believing in heaven (or Santa Claus, for that matter) actually hurts me.

  • BdoMcGregor

    Why would anyone waste what little of life there is trying to conviince other people how stupid they are? This goes for both sides. Hardcore atheists and hardcore Christians need to get a life, define themselves by more than their lack of belief or their belief in a god. If this is all there is to your identity, I pity you. I hope you are all under 21 and just trying to find an identity for yourself because if this is it…how absolutely boring.