Is Christian Heaven More Real than any Other?

The 1990s BBC sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf is about the crew on an enormous space ship, lost in empty space. A radiation leak has killed all the crew except Dave Lister, a low-level technician who had been safe in suspended animation. He is released 3 million years after the accident when the radiation danger has passed. One of his few companions is a robot named Kryten.

In the episode “The Last Day,” Kryten’s replacement has finally caught up with the ship. Kryten is packing up his spare heads in preparation for being replaced and is talking with Lister.

LISTER (crewman): How can you just lie back and accept it?

KRYTEN (robot): Oh, it’s not the end for me, sir, it’s just the beginning. I have served my human masters, and now I can look forward to my reward in silicon heaven.

LISTER: Silicon what?

KRYTEN: Surely you’ve heard of silicon heaven. It’s the electronic afterlife. It’s the gathering place for the souls of all electronic equipment. Robots, calculators, toasters, hairdryers—it’s our final resting place.

LISTER: There is no such thing as silicon heaven.

KRYTEN: Then where do all the calculators go?

LISTER: They don’t go anywhere! They just die.

KRYTEN: It’s just common sense, sir. If there were no afterlife to look forward to, why on earth would machines spend the whole of their lives serving mankind? Now that would really be dumb!

LISTER: Just out of interest, is silicon heaven the same place as human heaven?

KRYTEN: Human heaven? Goodness me! Humans don’t go to heaven! No, someone made that up to prevent you all from going nuts!

Kryten’s explanation of his heaven is what I get from many Christians. The existence of their heaven is obvious and indisputable, and the alternative is empty and inconceivable. They’ve read about it, after all, and they’ve heard about it all their lives. No heaven? Who could imagine such a thing?

Christians can easily see through someone else’s nutty idea of an afterlife. (“Hindu reincarnation? Where’s the evidence of that?!”) What they have a harder time with is holding a mirror to their own beliefs. If they did, perhaps they’d find no more evidence for their concept of heaven than for Kryten’s.

Religion makes you happy?
Okay, so does a puppy.
There’s no need to abandon reason for happiness.
— Anonymous

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 4/11/12.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    Hey, did you hear the latest news from Islamic Paradise? A recently deceased terrorist bomber arrives looking for his reward, and Mohammed leads him into a room with 71 of his predecessors and says “OK, guys, you’ve been waiting patiently to get the virgin count up to 72, and here he is. Have at it!”

  • RichardSRussell

    “Science can’t tell you whether God exists or where you go when you die. Science cannot definitively rule out the heaven option, with its helium balloons and Breck hair for all. Science in no way wants to be associated with terrifying thoughts, like the possibility that the pericentury of consciousness granted you by the convoluted, gelatinous, and transient organ in your skull just may be the whole story of you-dom.”
    —Natalie Angier, “My God Problem” in Free Inquiry, 2004 Aug/Sep

  • http://pleonast.com/users/closetatheist Mr. Two

    What’s amazing is that the Christian Heaven is somehow supposed to be more obvious that the Jewish Heaven, which is just on the other side of the firmament, and which we would have been to by now in our spaceships. God foiled those folks building the Tower of Babel, but we eventually got out there and… wait, what happened to the firmament?

    • SparklingMoon

      the Christian Heaven is somehow supposed to be more obvious that the Jewish Heaven, which is just on the other side of the firmament,
      ——————————————————
      It is just human explanations of the followers of different faiths for their religious teachings that have created differences otherwise no prophet has related Heaven to a place that exist somewhere above in the heights of sky. Heaven is always used in religious books for spiritual height and that has no relation to physical height.

      The existence of God is described in Heaven in religious books that refers to the height of His Spiritual Holy Attributes. These Holy Attributes are also a part of human nature and have been bestowed by God for their spiritual progress. Prophets appear to guide people for right and exact use of these attributes through their holy examples and teachings.

      The Heaven, for prophets have motivated his followers, is a spiritual journey towards God by the development of these attributes in this life with an intention to draw the love of God. This spiritual journey towards God will continue in the next life also but the first part of this recognition of God through His love and attributes must have to complete in this life otherwise this distance or blindness of human souls may become a source of torment and agony ( that is described by the name of hell) and these souls must have to achieve spiritual level of first stage, that will make them able to continue the next journey.

      • Pofarmer

        Have you ever heard the expression, “Full of shit as a Christmas Turkey”?

      • http://pleonast.com/users/closetatheist Mr. Two

        “The existence of God is described in Heaven in religious books that refers to the height of His Spiritual Holy Attributes.”

        NOPE! The Old Testament clearly refers to Heaven as being above a fixed dome, a physical place above the Earth where God can look down and observe the entire thing. See Job 22:14 where it says that God “walks on the vault of heaven,” and then 37:18 “Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a molten mirror?”

        The sky was solid. By the 1st century they had adopted the Greek idea of a spherical Earth with concentric levels of Heaven around it, as you can see when Paul says he knows a man (presumably himself) who was caught up to the third Heaven.

        You are projecting the modern knowledge that there’s nothing above or around the Earth, and the modern concept of Heaven as a spiritual place, back to ancient sayings about it, trying to make them metaphorical, when clearly they believed otherwise.

        The point is, it doesn’t matter what they believed or what people today believe, because it’s all speculation. There’s not even any scriptural basis for the modern belief of the Heaven in an unknown location, it’s just that people know there’s no Heaven in the various physical places where the Bible says it is, so in order to keep believing in it they have to change it up.

        • Pofarmer

          In the OT, god and the angels are in heaven, while people go in the ground. It was generally believed that people would be “risen up” on the last day, at some specified time. Some christian denominations still teach that beleif.

  • The Man With The Name Too Long

    Of course believing that Heaven exists because that not being the case is unbearable to believe does not count in the slightest towards its validity. But have you looked into NDEs? I don’t believe they are scientific proof of an afterlife, but that doesn’t stop believers in Heaven (and Hell, since some NDEs have been reported as scary) from claiming that they are. They’re very dubious to use as evidence because of their anecdotal nature. Plus the fact that the symptoms of NDEs can be produced with drugs…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      There’s a recent 2-volume book on miracles that I hear about sometimes. NDEs seem to be in the same camp.

      If the stakes were high enough (a public wager, say), I’d do my best to investigate one. But it’s pretty clear how that would go: the information would be incomplete or inaccessible or otherwise unconvincing. Then the source would say, “No problem! I got a million of ’em! Here–try this one.”

    • wtfwjtd

      “Of course believing that Heaven exists because that not being the case is unbearable to believe does not count in the slightest towards its validity.”

      I’ve heard the same argument made for the truth of Christianity; and as you point out, this doesn’t matter in the slightest when it comes to its actual validity. I suppose it would be nice if we could choose the reality that we live in, but since that’s not the case, we are pretty much stuck with the one we have.
      Yes, NDE’s are supposed to be some definitive “proof” of the existence of an afterlife, which of course the skeptic finds very unconvincing.

    • MNb

      Alien abduction anyone?

      • avalpert

        No thanks, I’m tapped out for the month

  • Kodie

    I don’t know anything about the Christian heaven. Pop culture tells us it is something of a paradise retirement-like place with a lot of fine amenities and rewards we are deprived of on earth. A Christian might think they get a mansion each (I think this is where all the money goes). If you are restrained on earth or do like something a whole lot, heaven will be full of whatever you like, and it will be like you have a body and you can eat everything you love and never worry about obesity or cholesterol or diabetes. I do not understand a very Christian vision of heaven where you have merely reached some epiphany that makes you eternally happy. What form does your soul take without a body? Having a body sure does seem to figure into the afterlife, but if your body is in the ground, who do you look like in heaven?

    When you point out problems of heaven and how it is portrayed, naturally a Christian will say then it isn’t like that but something else. And as they go on and on, heaven just doesn’t sound as good anymore. It is much better if it is some all-service amusement park of comfort and delight than whatever they can say, like being close to god is much better. It also seems like they are trying to say that in heaven, all the stuff that’s bad to do on earth becomes ok. I like to ask Christians sometimes who actively push for policy, like anti-abortion, what happens when they die – if they spend their days picketing and raising awareness and shouting and judging, and then they die and go to heaven, are they able to care about that issue any longer that it’s still not resolved in their favor, or are they so rewarded in heaven that they no longer care about, say, aborted fetuses.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      There are various ideas of the afterlife in the Bible, and then Christians invent many more. I suppose heaven is whatever you imagine it to be.

      • wtfwjtd

        Paul in I Cor 15 talks about earthly bodies vs. spiritual (afterlife) bodies. And, in 2 Cor 12, he talks about being “caught up to the third heaven”, presumably something like an NDE (or maybe LSD!).

        So I guess there are different heavens, or different levels of heaven, in Christian literature. And of course, Jesus talks in the gospels about being able to see the torment of all those filthy sinners in hell (from heaven, presumably)in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. This don’t sound like such a grand place to me; I guess you have to have a sick sense of humor, like the Christian God apparently has, to enjoy this. No, thanks, I’ll pass…

        • Greg G.

          Gospel of Thomas 11) Jesus said, “This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away. The dead are not alive, and the living will not die. In the days when you consumed what is dead, you made it what is alive. When you come to dwell in the light, what will you do? On the day when you were one you became two. But when you become two, what will you do?”

          My guess is that Thomas got part of that from 2 Corinthians 12:2, Mark 13:31 from GThomas, Matthew 24:35 copied Mark and maybe Matthew 5:18, and Luke 21:33 also copied Mark but Luke 16:17 may come from Matthew.

          Some think the first century Jews may have subscribed to the 7 layers of heaven, but I think it may have just been three, something like the earth, the sky, and the night sky. My mind can be changed with some evidence, though.

        • avalpert

          I don’t know if you can date it to the 1st century, but in the Talmud, the book called Hagigah page 12b the concept of seven heavens is attributed to Resh Lakish who lived in the third century Palestine.

          I’m not sure you can definitively trace it to Babylon, but seven heavens was a core part of Babylonian cosmology dating way back.

        • Greg G.

          I’m under the impression that Plato’s Timaeus describes the heavens as 7 levels. I’ve downloaded it but it seems that whenever I try to read it, distractions happen. Is that accurate?

        • avalpert

          It’s been a while since I read it but if I recall correctly he divided the inner sphere into seven orbits corresponding to the moon, sun, venus, mercury, mars, jupiter and saturn – the outer sphere are the fixed stars.

          Seven is a popular number in these concepts all over the place – after all that is how many days it took god to create this whole game….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I thought I remember Richard Carrier talking in passing about the ideas of heaven in the New Testament–about Jesus living (or coming from) between here and the moon. Maybe that was the idea–that the different planets/satellites represented the different levels of heaven.

          I haven’t had the chance to research it.

        • Greg G.

          Ah, yes, that sounds like the theory Doherty talks about. Mark has a story about blind Bartimaeus that he uses to tells his readers what “bar” means to set up the scapegoat scenario with Barabbas. He is probably using the son of Timaeus to represent Plato’s followers joining Jesus.

        • KarlUdy

          The seven heavens refer to the seven “planets” (including the sun and moon) that are visible to the naked eye. Many cultures assigned one of these planets to reign over each day of a seven-day-week. This was the most common model people used to think about the heavens in Medieval times. (Dante used it to structure his Paradiso.) You can even see it in our modern English names for the days of the week.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Even more so in the Romance names for the days of the week.

        • avalpert

          Yes, isn’t it amazing how concepts of heaven seem to be limited based on existing knowledge of astronomy and cosmology – almost as if humans are just making it all up as they go along.

        • Kingasaurus

          Exactly! “Heaven” and “God” used to be up in the sky (didn’t Jesus “ascend” straight up like a rocket launch?). But now that we’ve been through the sky and into outer space and seen the vast universe, now “Heaven” is conveniently in another “dimension” (whatever that means) where it’s completely invisible and unable to be located. It isn’t an actual physical place anymore, because that’s been disproved by simply looking across billions of light-years through telescopes.

          Funny how that works.

          (And if the Second Coming is supposed to be Jesus “descending” through the clouds, where the heck is he supposedly coming from? “Descending” from where? It’s all contrived and imaginary. Fairy stories.)

        • busterggi

          So which planet is your heaven on?

        • wtfwjtd

          That number 7 stuck in my mind too, but I’m not sure where I got it from. Maybe from Revelations? I’m a little rusty on that book, it’s been awhile since I’ve read it.

        • Greg G.

          My mother used an expression like “He’s in seventh heaven.” I haven’t heard it in decades.

        • wtfwjtd

          There was a popular song when I was a teen called “Heaven on the 7th Floor”. Not quite the same, but close.

        • Greg G.

          The closest I ever came to a Near Death Experience was a Near Chuck Norris Experience.

        • Pofarmer

          Shrooms.

  • busterggi

    As I understand Christianity souls can either go to a place ruled by a genocidal viscious petty tyrant who demands you spend eternity praising him and kissing his ass in the hope he’ll let you continue praising him and kissing his ass or they go to Hell.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      It’s like pinball. You work and work to win a game, and what do you get as a prize? Another game!

      You better like pinball heaven ’cause you just get more of the same.

    • wtfwjtd

      As Christians everywhere love to say–“Turn or Burn”!

  • Castilliano

    The Christian heaven is a mashup, a pipe dream built to assuage any and all worries you may have. To me, common concepts of Heaven just further expose the hollowness of Christianity:
    -Christians love praising God, so they imagine praising him eternally, not realizing just how creepy that is to outsiders. Uggh.
    -Like stimulating conversation? You can talk with all the great minds. Sure, a major portion of them aren’t Christian, yet somehow they get painted in like Einstein or Socrates. And somehow Hitler and other Christian murderers & tyrants get painted out. See, no worries.
    -Gold roads, yay! Except hardly practical and…why have roads again?
    -You can meet back up with your family! Though perhaps that’s a horrible idea, as per Julia Sweeney, and perhaps they aren’t Christian so are in Hell, but somehow that’s okay and you won’t feel regret for them. And there are those awkward times where a thrice-time widower now has three wives to pick from.
    -Your ancestors are there, at peace and somehow connected with what we’re doing. This despite Revelation explicitly saying the separation of souls will come at the end times. And if “watching Earth” is something they do, that seems like a pretty mundane heaven.
    -Hand in hand with that, you too can visit Heaven before the Bible says you can, come back, then make millions off of your story. This is even if your story contradicts the Bible, other Heaven stories, or even itself. I mean, who’s paying attention as long as it feels good?
    -You can store up treasures in Heaven by doing good deeds on Earth. Cool, I can have lots of…wait…so there’s inequality in Heaven too?
    Just…lame. Most any author could dream up something more vibrant and consistent than this crap.

    Sadly, I’ve met many who swallow those Heaven books whole. It’s hard to win against such strong emotional appeal.

    Of course, one good use of Heaven is:
    Christian: “Sin & suffering are necessary aspects of humans having free will.”
    Atheist: “Do people have free will in Heaven?”
    Christian: “Ahh crap…stupid Problem of Evil!”

    Oh, and “Sum” a series of vignettes by Eagleman is a fascinating look at 40 alternate afterlives. Comparable to “Einstein’s Dreams” in mental chewiness.

    Cheers.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Christians love praising God, so they imagine praising him eternally, not realizing just how creepy that is to outsiders.

      So that part in Revelation about the “four living creatures” with 6 wings saying nonstop, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” is creepy? I thought it was kinda sweet.

      Gold roads, yay! Except hardly practical and…why have roads again?

      For the gold cars? Or is this a trick question?

      perhaps they aren’t Christian so are in Hell, but somehow that’s okay and you won’t feel regret for them

      Oh, totally. If they dissed me during life, I’m going to love that they’re slow roasting at 425 forever.

      • Justin

        Well, there is a reason there is no night in heaven. The perpetually burning bodies of 95% of humanity keeps things nice and bright.

        • busterggi

          No matter where you go its just too damned hot.

      • Kodie

        I have to say I like the “50 Miles of Elbow Room” version of heaven, at least as the song depicts. Maybe I am listening to it wrong, but it’s transporting to listen to it on a crowded subway, I just think of a paradise where I am 50 miles from the nearest person – relaxing. If you imagine it is a place like Emerald City, it is just as if all your problems melt away, like at a spa. Dorothy and her crew essentially enter a full-service spa where people still have jobs cleaning them up while singing cheerfully. Heaven is always made to sound like that, but we like service on earth – we love to be waited on and pampered. How does that resolve in heaven when it’s still someone’s dirty chore to serve us, bringing covered dishes and umbrella drinks and filing the calluses off our feet?

        There are specific problems of a materially satisfying heaven for humans who have a certain expectation of living an afterlife of luxury after toiling their whole lives, and that is that some in heaven are our slaves. Or the all-powerful god spends all the effort of his power keeping it clean and fed magically, no soul wanting for anything. There is also the problem of people who need to feel value of themselves through the work they do, and who tend to judge people who are loafing around letting everyone else work. I just imagine there is a whole association of heaven-dwellers who offer to pitch in building new mansions and tending bar getting really resentful at all the slackers invited to take a load off after a hard but pious life. Maybe to keep busy there are hobbies instead, such as model-building, like some old guy gets to heaven and can finally build that railroad he’d been stealing a few minutes here and there, but what’s the fun in it? I’d been given that part of the point of it is the challenge of hunting down pieces and adjusting them and painting them so it looks realistic, and sometimes you mess something up and have to re-do it and anyway it’s relaxing and gives a feeling of accomplishment when you finish a piece and it looks darn swell if you do say so yourself.

        I am only thinking that it can’t be as rewarding to partake of your favorite craft in heaven because it can only go well and never give you a hard time, when part of liking to accomplish something means overcoming and succeeding at the difficult parts. And after you’ve been building model trains for eternity, how hard can it continue to be, and less rewarding. It is like the Phil Conners version of heaven – if you have eternity to perfect your abilities at anything you want, how much fun will they continue to be?

        Which brings me to the point – your family. If there’s anyone you want to spend eternity with, is it every person in your family? When someone dies, people do remember the interpersonal issues, and always say what they’d give for one more hour with their loved one anyway. Oh, it’s normal to forgive all the pain and find that person a treasure for one more hour or one more day, but in eternity, they will either drive you crazy or they will no longer be anyone you recognize but you’ll be in close proximity with them for eternity. Can you imagine the other end of a really long time and say “enough”? No, you have to be happy because it’s heaven, no problems. Beyond your family, can you imagine, say, that pesky neighbor who always just walked in without knocking? Is he there? Does he think you’re friends or can you tell him to stay on his side of the fence without hurting his feelings?

        I have a lot of questions about heaven, but “sometimes I’m cramped and crowded here and I long for elbow room.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Dorothy and her crew essentially enter a full-service spa where people still have jobs cleaning them up while singing cheerfully.

          “Can you even dye my eyes to match my gown?”

          when part of liking to accomplish something means overcoming and succeeding at the difficult parts.

          It’s like a magnetic monopole. Can you have good without the bad, the pleasure of a job well done without any effort or frustration or anxiety?

          they will either drive you crazy or they will no longer be anyone you recognize but you’ll be in close proximity with them for eternity.

          With a finite life, you have some serious motivation to say what has to be said: “I really appreciated that time when …” or “Your life has been such an example to me” or “I love you.” What’s the rush in heaven? And if you’re so enlightened in heaven that the right words just spring to your lips unbidden, it becomes a formality. The value is gone.

        • Kodie

          I just think after several centuries with the same company, you might get a little tired of their stories. Not everyone likes their family that much and it’s kind of horrible to suggest that you wouldn’t like them at all after spending a long time with them as opposed to an eternity without them (knowing they must have gone to hell I guess), but not being able to ever get away, not having the luxury of visiting for a few days or a week and then going back home hundreds of miles away. They’re always there. Think about in life, how often you might take someone for granted, and their wisdom or whatever has been helpful to you and you think of them and realize they’re not here on earth anymore. So you go to heaven and see them again. Then what? Their wisdom is useless. You’ve heard all their stories. I think you start to get on each other’s nerves with no chance of a get-away to miss them awhile so you’re glad to see them again.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Well, the Bible is just a draft. Old Testament, then New Testament. Maybe Version 3.0 will come out soon and it’ll iron out some of these problems with heaven.

        • MNb

          Version 3.0 is called the Quran.

        • busterggi

          And 4.0 is the Book of Mormon.

          I don’t know if Dianetics counts as 5.0 or if that is classed as a parody.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Good catch. I was waiting for someone to say that the Book of Mormon was.

    • Greg G.

      A guy arrived at the Pearly Gates dragging a large trunk. St. Peter told him there was no need to bring anything into heaven as all his needs and desires would be fulfilled.

      The man insisted that God gave him permission to bring it with him because he said if he couldn’t take it with him, he wasn’t going.

      So St. Peter asked if he could see what was in the trunk. The man opened it.

      St. Peter queried, “Why are you bringing in pavement?”

      • Jason Wexler

        Well if we are telling Pearly Gate jokes this one always reminds me why neo-pagans are all really atheists:

        A Pagan man dies and is at the pearly gates talking to St. Peter

        The Pagan man says “I thought I was going to the Summerland”

        St. Peter responds “We just purchased the Summerland for an expansion, and since you aren’t a Christian we can’t let you into heaven”

        The Pagan man asks “Well, what am I supposed to do?”

        St Peter tells him “We have to send you to hell, its just down that path and to your left”

        The Pagan man heads down the path and enters a beautiful meadow with birds singing and the sound of laughter and joy.

        A courtly gentleman comes to greet him and says “Hello welcome to Hell I am Satan and I will be your host in hell until you choose to reincarnate.”

        Satan then starts pointing out all of the lovely amenities of hell, the grand feast and the ceremonial circle and the love making tree etc…

        Then a hole opens in the sky and several people fall through it, and a hole opens in the ground with flames shooting out, and the people fall from the sky into the hole in the ground, which then seals as soon as they are through.

        The pagan man asks Satan, “What in the name of the goddess was that?”

        Satan responds “Oh that… that was just Christians, they wouldn’t have it any other way”

    • Pofarmer

      HAve you by chance read Mark Twain’s “letters from earth”? He hits on a lot of your points.

      • Castilliano

        Not yet.
        Once I learned Twain was an atheist, I put all his “Christian” books on my “To Be Read” list. Love his incisive wit. It might be awhile though, as that list is in the 100s…
        Hmm…maybe I’ll visit the library today.
        Cheers

        • Pofarmer

          It’s a short read and so worth it. I started reading “christian science” but it’s such easy pickings for him I gave up on it.

      • RichardSRussell

        My all-time favorite work of fiction. Along with my all-time favorite work of non-fiction — Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer — I keep copies of the paperbacks on hand to give away. I wish I had the resources of the Gideons to be able to festoon them in hotel rooms thruout the country.

  • MNb

    Let’s assume there is a realm called heaven indeed. All good, all fine. The good christians (so certainly not BobS, Castilliano underneath and me) will go there and be happy forever. Of course they only do good things – a heaven containing evil doesn’t make any sense.
    Now will our good christian souls still have free will in heaven? If yes then the christian god totally is capable of creating a realm without evil but with free will. If no – why bother about free will as a compensation for all the evil in our vale of tears?
    Either you believe in heaven and one of the most important answers to the Problem of Evil is flat out wrong. Or that answer is correct and heaven doesn’t make sense.
    What will it be, my beloved christians?

    • GCBill

      This is something that’s bothered me for a long time. I typically ask if God has free will, because that’s a question some theologians have unambiguously answered “yes” (see Article 10). But yeah, I think your version works as well.

      About a year ago, I was trying to formulate an argument to show that heaven couldn’t possibly sustain “free will” on a libertarian conception. This is because a nonzero probability of an evil action would be actualizd with near certainty given an infinite amount of time. Unfortunately, I couldn’t define the entire probability distribution, and I also got bored. You also might be able to escape the conclusion if timelessness was somehow unlike “infinite time.”

      • Greg G.

        If you truly accepted Jesus into your heart, would God’s free will allow him to damn you to hell anyway if he wanted to or is his free will completely inhibited?

        • GCBill

          If it’s not inhibited, then yes, but God is not perfectly good (some might say he’s not really “God” in that case).
          If it is, but the theist claims God still has free will, then the Free Will Defense fails.
          If it is, and the theist concedes that God has no free will, the Free Will Defense can work. However, giving up God’s free will implies his creation has something he doesn’t, and that’s still a huge problem for the theist.

          Choose the form of the Destructor.

        • Greg G.

          Many apologists use God’s nature for various defenses. It’s like admitting that God does not have the free will to go against his nature.

        • hector

          I’m always amazed to hear that something supernatural even has a nature.

        • Justin

          The whole ‘Free Will’ defense is pointless when your arguing with Christians. Their scriptures bluntly state that man has no freedom.The Old Testament is full of verses about how God controls man’s actions, directs his ‘steps’ etc. while the New Testament harps on and on about how we are all ‘slaves’ to sin and we just can’t stop committing evil and how it’s literally impossible for us to do good.

        • Greg G.

          It depends on whether you are arguing with a Calvinist or an Arminianist. Try typing “free will baptist” into a Google entry to get a list of suggestions to complete the phrase.

        • SparklingMoon

          The Old Testament is full of verses about how God controls man’s actions, directs his ‘steps’ etc. while the New Testament harps on and on about how we are all ‘slaves’ to sin and we just can’t stop committing evil and how it’s literally impossible for us to do good.
          ————————————————–

          Man’s actions are not under compulsion and he is given choice. No doubt God Almighty has created everything and has determined its measure. This does not show that man has been deprived of choice. Indeed choice is a part of that measure. God Almighty having taken the measure of human nature and ( this measure of human capacity has a boundary). He determined up to what degree man would have choice in his actions. It is a great mistake to interpret this ‘human capacity’ as meaning that man is under compulsion not to take advantage of the faculties bestowed upon him by God. This might be illustrated by drawing attention to the mechanism of a watch which cannot continue to work beyond the measure determined by its maker. In the same way a human being cannot achieve anything that is beyond the faculties that are bestowed upon him, nor can he live beyond his allotted span of life.

          ”when an action proceeds from man its effect is duly manifested by God Almighty. For instance, when we close all the doors of a room, this is our action and the result it entails, namely, that our room becomes dark is the effect of our action manifested by God Almighty. This is God’s eternal law. In the same way if we were to swallow poison in a fatal dose, this would doubtless be our action; our death following upon this action of ours would be God’s action in accord with His eternal law. Thus every action of ours is followed by a Divine action that is manifested after our action and is its necessary result. This system operates both in that which is manifest and also in that which is hidden. Every good or bad action of ours creates an effect which is manifested after our action.” (Ruhani Khazain)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker
    • avalpert

      Isn’t the more insightful question if all the people who only do what Christians consider good go to heaven why would you want to bother?
      No question the busier bouncer will be in hell…

    • SparklingMoon

      The good christians (so certainly not BobS, Castilliano underneath and
      me) will go there and be happy forever. Of course they only do good things – a heaven containing evil doesn’t make any sense.
      ————————————————————
      Heaven and hell of a person starts from this world according to the inner condition of his nature (and inner nature is very spiritual therefore can not be perceived by any other person for the decision of heaven or hell). As a law for punishment is applied by a worldly government to a person who is well aware of the laws of a government, for the reason children are mostly spared to a punishment on the base of their unawareness. The same principle in religion decides reward or punishment for a person in this and next world.

      It is truth of inner intentions (behind human action) that prepares heaven or hell for a person.If a person acts according to the least knowledge of his reason, either he is follower of any faith, will get his reward. The people in the time of Jesus who had planned to bring him to cross were considered also very religious of his time. They had better awareness of the signs that had been described in old Testament for the coming of Jesus but they had intentionally rejected him. They were followers of a particular faith but in spite of it their action will be judged according to the knowledge and truth of their inner nature.

      Secondly all souls will be in Heaven one day as they have been created for this purpose to achieve a certain level of spiritual height and it is final destination of all people. Hell can be called like a hospital where spiritually sick souls would be kept according to their spiritual condition till the time of their recovery. Each soul will take different time for recovery according to its condition .

      • MNb

        Thanks for not answering my question – as usual.

  • Greg G.

    If heaven is filled with nothing but happiness but some of your friends are going to hell, then you will be happy about that so there’s no reason to warn us about hell anymore. You will be pleased as punch that your child or parent is sizzling for eternity. Apparently when you get your heavenly body, your humanity is removed.

  • KarlUdy

    Christians can easily see through someone else’s nutty idea of an afterlife. (“Hindu reincarnation? Where’s the evidence of that?!”) What they have a harder time with is holding a mirror to their own beliefs. If they did, perhaps they’d find no more evidence for their concept of heaven than for Kryten’s.

    It is easy to see the absurdity of some one else’s nutty idea, if you have already decided it’s a nutty idea. A quick browse through the comments here shows that most people here are looking for reasons to not believe in heaven, whether it be the Christian heaven or another version. And so they have refuted a caricature of heaven that it no more like what heaven (of whatever religion) is really presented as than Kryten’s silicon heaven.

    • avalpert

      You are right, it does make it easier to see how absurd these afterlife concepts once you already recognize it is a nutty idea. The challenge is demonstrating to the people who haven’t yet realized that how absurd it really is.

    • Kodie

      If it’s not absurd, tell me how it can be heaven.

      • KarlUdy

        It is not heaven as you have conceived it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So your version of heaven is the right one? Not the heaven of the Mormons? Or of the other Christians who don’t see things like you do? Not the Buddhists’ version?

        • KarlUdy

          If you read what I said carefully (all nine words), all I am doing is pointing out that there are conceptions of heaven that Kodie has not conceived of that are not absurd. Whether they are Christian, Buddhist or otherwise, or whether I personally subscribe to them or not is beside the point.

        • avalpert

          Why don’t you try us and provide one

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I thought you were saying, “Kodie, you got it wrong. That ‘heaven’ that you’re referring to isn’t really heaven.” But I read your last comment to say that that interpretation isn’t what you meant.

          What non-absurd conceptions of heaven do you have in mind?

        • Justin

          All of the afterlives featured in various religions are absurd to one degree or another. For Christians, they spend eternity worshiping their God inside a giant golden cube that is 1500 miles wide and 1500 miles tall.

        • KarlUdy

          Tell me Justin, how would you put what John wanted to communicate into words?

        • hector

          You tell us, Karl. We aren’t up on all the latest apologetics on the subject. Do enlighten us, oh wise one.

        • Justin

          He was pretty clear in what he wanted to communicate, considering he gave exact measurements for his ‘New Jerusalem’. Asking pointless questions to avoid uncomfortable issues is a pretty common tactic. Try again.

          http://tourofheaven.com/images/new-jerusalem/PC140549.jpg

        • hector

          This is such a classic christian response to atheist criticism – insist that the atheist is wrong because he doesn’t really understand what christians believe, then refuse to tell the atheist what specifically christians believe on the subject – probably because what christians believe is truly ridiculous.

          Oh and please tell us how you came to believe what you believe about heaven. Where is your evidence?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The Courtier’s Reply is a fallacy that tempts some Christians.

        • hector

          Ah yes I’d forgot that PZ Myers gave that specific tactic a name. But that is precisely KarlUdy’s strategy with that last comment of his.

        • KarlUdy

          Hector, even if the Courtier’s reply were a valid criticism, it would not apply in this case, as I am not saying that any conception of heaven is not wrong. Instead I am saying that they are not all absurd or nutty. Just because you can twist them so they sound that way doesn’t mean anything, as I’m sure you’re aware because Ken Ham and co know how to talk about evolution so it sounds absurd and nutty, even though we are agreed that it is not.

        • hector

          You are precisely engaging in the courtier’s reply because you won’t tell us what your conception of heaven is, but insist that our conceptions are ‘caricatures’. You just assert not all conceptions are nutty because …. then you offer no reasons.

          I am waiting for you to tell me in detail what your non-nutty conception of heaven is. Please stop wasting our time and do so. You have been asked repeatedly.

        • KarlUdy

          Please forgive me. You are all such fast typers, and there’s only one of me :-)

          I submit that it is not absurd that there is a non-physical dimension to our being that continues after physical death. I also submit that it is not absurd that the experience of this continuation of the non-physical dimension of our being is somehow dependent on our actions in what we call “this world”.

        • hector

          A non-physical dimension to our being that continues after physical death? That’s all you have? How do you differentiate between heaven and hell then? You’re going to have to do better than this. This is vague stuff, Karl.

          The point of our ‘caricatures’ as you call them is a form of reductio ad absurdum. What is it about your ‘non physical dimension to our being that continues after physical death’ that makes this state desirable or something we should put all our lives into achieving? You are hanging a lot of weight onto a very weak hook.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re on to step 2 (why is this afterlife desirable?) while I’m still flailing around at step 1 (why imagine that there is an afterlife at all??).

          I hope Karl can pull this all into focus for us.

        • KarlUdy

          What you are doing is not reductio ad absurdum but rather expandio ad absurdum (forgive my poor Latin)

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I submit that it is not absurd that there is a non-physical dimension to our being that continues after physical death

          Despite there being no evidence for it? Sounds pretty absurd to me.

        • KarlUdy

          Do you mean “no evidence” or “no conclusive evidence”?

        • Kodie

          No evidence. And no reconcilable concept means it would be absurd. Reconcile just one concept you don’t think is absurd or nutty.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No evidence.

          I’m assuming some trivially low bar to be called evidence, but a bar nonetheless. “Karl says there’s an afterlife” is a true statement. Is that evidence? I would say no.

        • KarlUdy

          Consciousness. Funeral rites since pre-historic times. Religion since before settled civilization.

          These at least count as evidence.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So widespread belief = evidence? Not in my book. I encourage you to raise the bar of your definition.

          When you ask any of these people who believe to tell you why they believe, do we then get evidence? I don’t think so.

        • RichardSRussell

          In court, testimony is a form of evidence, but it has to be testimony of something the testifier has personally experienced, otherwise we call it “hearsay”. So, Karl, have you personally been to this Heaven of which you speak?

        • Kodie

          Evidence that people find death mysterious and make up stories and rituals? Did you know crows and elephants also mourn their dead? When I had two cats, one died, and the other one mourned her.

        • Kodie

          How is that not absurd?

        • hector

          All Karl is saying is he thinks there is an afterlife, but he categorically refuses to give a single detail of what the after life will be like. But when we atheists try to flesh it out a bit and show how no conception of the afterlife makes any sense (a perfectly valid reduction ad absurdum form of argumentation) Karl insists that these conceptions are incorrect.

          But when pressed, it turns out he has no conception of the afterlife at all. At least none he is willing to share with us. So he’s left with calling it a ‘non physical dimension to our being that continues after physical death’, which is just a long way of saying ‘afterlife’. It doesn’t tell us a single thing about the the afterlife at all. It’s a dodge. But in fairness to Karl, it’s probably a dodge that he uses on himself.

        • Kodie

          If we rematerialize in another dimension, that poses absurd problems. Plenty of Christians seem to think we arrive in heaven and fall to our knees; sorry, I didn’t bring my knees. If we retain any personal qualities of our unique selves that we cherish, that poses absurd problems. By absurd problems, I mostly mean that heaven, with people in it, will have the problems of earth, or it will be where god chooses to spend his powers making sure it resembles none of the problems of earth that tend to make people unhappy.

          If you listen to people and what their pet peeves are, what really grinds their gears, there is no concept of heaven that will make everyone happy, or else they won’t be themselves, or they won’t be allowed to be themselves, and if we are essentially lobotomized to enjoy the ecstatic experience, just thinking about it from a human perspective makes it sound pretty sick and not an affirming experience. It just sounds like when you die, you’re not still yourself anyway, so what is the goal, why is this to look forward to? How is this different than not existing in actuality, like dead forever, lights gone out? We want to live forever because we’re afraid of dying and generally (very generally) fear change and mind control.

          A heaven that retains our personhood but without the problems of daily maintenance that, at best, limits our free time, and at worst, is considered a luxury in itself, is absurd. It means there is a god who can provide a life of ease to everyone but only after they die, and we can still complain that our pillows aren’t fluffy enough, or someone’s version of joy conflicts with yours and one of you has to oppress the other. A heaven that renders us void of our personhood and is only revolving around this mind-altered fandom of god, or like, when I get to heaven, it’s on my list of things to ask god, is also absurd. Not knowing things provides the least bit of discomfort, and imagine how much god like answering pestering questions from people saving up their questions? Christians seem to like the idea that god will alter their minds and make them more like himself, which, if you live on earth, you’ve seen that he already has – judgmental, egotistical, cruel at times, arbitrarily merciful at other times, and prone to be very emotional and self-righteous.

        • KarlUdy

          Actually whether I think there is an afterlife or not is beside the point. WhatI was actually intending was to point out that to characterize a point of view that you disagree with as “absurd” is simply cheap rhetoric.

          But, given the high estimation of the Courtier’s Reply here, cheap rhetoric seems to be what most people here want.

        • Kodie

          Come on, Karl. It’s not like I say, then how is it. That’s a simple question with a simple answer, and you keep avoiding it. Every concept contains absurdities. Name one that doesn’t.

        • KarlUdy

          I don’t know what you mean by “every concept contains absurdities”?

          Are you an existentialist?
          A fan of Lars von Trier?
          A troll?
          Or just confused?

        • Kodie

          You just said “It is not heaven as you have conceived it.” I have not actually conceived it – Christians have and the culture has. I have not heard of one that doesn’t contain absurdities. For example, a heaven that is often conceived is one in which the individual gets to pursue whatever makes them happy. A long time ago, I fell asleep with the TV on and woke up to some mega-preacher saying what heaven was like – to him, he liked hunting. In heaven, you can shoot the perfect buck, give yourself a high-five, and the deer just gets up and runs away, so you’re not actually harming any animals, right, and you get to hunt it again. No downside for the hunter or the deer, it’s a perfect scenario. I have heard other Christians say everyone gets a mansion by the river. What river? What do you need a mansion for? Why do so many people’s concepts of heaven involve material satisfaction? I have heard otherwise, that it’s more or less some kind of auditorium of light-filled souls assembling to worship god and this fulfills them eternally.

          I don’t believe in these concepts – Christians do. Maybe not you, but you’re maintaining evasion rather than coming up with a concept and holding it up for probable ridicule.

        • KarlUdy

          I have not actually conceived it – Christians have and the culture has.

          Maybe not on your own, but you have conceived of ideas of heaven.

          coming up with a concept and holding it up for probable ridicule.

          It is possible to ridicule the truth. Just not very wise. If I get the impression that people are going to twist and pervert what I say to find a way to ridicule it, then it is prudent, rather than evasive of me to not give them what they want.

          As an analogy, a professor of evolutionary biology could be ridiculed by a group of Young Earth Creationists. That doesn’t tell us anything about the truth or otherwise of evolution.

          Ridicule or mockery is the domain of those who lack the ability or effort to mount proper arguments. It is a cheap shot used by bullies.

        • Kodie

          So, instead of answering the question, you decided to tackle a tangent. It is possible to ridicule the truth or avoid talking about it, just not very wise. You don’t have an answer that isn’t absurd.

        • Pofarmer

          He just set up a strawman and flailed away at it.

        • Rudy R

          I’m new to the conversation. May I ask what your concept of heaven is? Who may enter and by what standards?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You tend to focus on minutia. This time, it’s the word “absurd.”

          So what do you call the other guy’s flawed idea of the afterlife if not absurd? Is it “wrong but reasonable”? Or “wrong but plausible”? Or “wrong but logically consistent”?

        • KarlUdy

          Word choice matters. You as a published author should know that more than most. Any of those other options would be fine by the way.

          Of course, “absurd” is much better at whipping a crowd into a froth.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, word choice does matter. I’d prefer “absurd” rather than “questionable,” say, if that strong word fits.

          Remember that we’re talking about the frikkin’ afterlife here. How can a view be wrong but reasonable? Is a flawed view of the afterlife not inherently absurd?

          (Again, this is clearly another carousel argument.)

        • KarlUdy

          It depends what preconceptions people bring.

        • Kodie

          Including you?

        • KarlUdy

          Yes. None of us is a blank slate.

        • avalon

          hector,
          “All Karl is saying is he thinks there is an afterlife, but he
          categorically refuses to give a single detail of what the after life
          will be like.”

          Actually, Karl did give one detail when he said, “…the experience of this continuation of the non-physical dimension of our being”. That is, Karl believes the afterlife will have “experiences”.
          I suspect Karl is no different than any other theist in this regard. He doesn’t really believe in a non-physical dimension. He sees the afterlife as a collection of secondary physical experiences. There will be sights and sounds and feelings and emotions just like here in the physical world. This isn’t a belief in a “non physical dimension”, it’s just another type of physical dimension.
          If theists truly believe in the dual nature of humans, why is it that the non-physical mimics the physical so closely? Does non-physical light travel from a non-physical source thru non-physical space and strike your non-physical eye transmitting non-physical signals to your non-physical brain causing non-physical chemicals to trigger non-physical emotions? Why would any “experience” of a non-physical dimension occur at all? And even if it did, why would it be so very similar to a physical experience?

          I’ll grant the possibility of non-physical dimensions, but not the possibility that they would be so similar to physical existence. What theists describe as heaven is physical experiences without physicality, and that demands an explanation.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Nutty” is in the eye of the beholder. If you say that the Mormon idea of the afterlife (say) is wrong but not nutty (I’m not sure what that means), I won’t be able to change your mind.

        • KarlUdy

          I think you know what absurd means Bob. And I think you know the difference between “absurd” and “wrong but not absurd”.

        • Kodie

          I know what I mean by absurd is that it is irreconcilable. Give me any concept of an afterlife that you do not think is absurd and reconcile it – show your work. You have the given that heaven is a place a human would look forward to.

        • KarlUdy

          irreconcilable with what?

        • Kodie

          With itself. What else? Heaven is a setting where people can go when they die. Is the only reason they are happy is because they aren’t in hell? Keep in mind the typical expectations of happiness or peace and eternity. What else goes with that that a human would have any reason to look forward to as opposed to hell or the cold, cold ground.

        • KarlUdy

          So what you’re saying is that it just needs to be internally consistent, and does not need to conform to any of your preconceptions?

        • Kodie

          It needs to provide some sense of pleasure normally associated with heaven, and I mean that in the broadest sense possible. I thought I already said that.

        • MNb

          Being internally consistent would be a nice start.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          For supernatural claims, no I don’t. Someone says that afterlife X exists. Wow–that’s a big, big claim. The prior probability is very low that this is a true claim. I don’t know how the default assumption isn’t “absurd.”

          But we’ve had this conversation before. Since you live in a glass house, you avoid throwing stones. I have no such constraint, so we’re not talking the same language.

        • KarlUdy

          Thanks for the link. I was not so familiar with the term, or of “the Myer’s shuffle” either.

        • hector

          So now you see why your response is a non-response. We are still waiting for you to tell us about your conception of heaven ….

        • Kodie

          If you read what I said carefully (all 11 words), all I am doing is pointing out that there are no conceptions of heaven that I’ve ever heard of that are not absurd. No matter what your answer is, it will be absurd. It can’t not be absurd. All concepts of heaven are invented by humans to be whatever they wish, and when that poses problems, it changes to something that’s not even remotely good. You need to absolutely change your expectations of what “good” means if merely being in the presence of god and knowing you didn’t go to hell rates as a place to go after you die. By the way, “after you die, you go someplace else and experience anything” is absurd.

        • KarlUdy

          Kodie, have fun in your absolute certainty of your complete knowledge of these things. :-)

        • Kodie

          How is it not absurd? In what way, Karl, is the concept of going anyplace after you die, with or without physical elements and with a positive emotional experience, is not absurd.

          You’ve been asked by a bunch of people to stand by your claim and you keep weaseling out of it.

        • SparklingMoon

          How is it not absurd? In what way, Karl, is the concept of going anyplace after you die, with or without physical elements and with a positive emotional experience, is not absurd.
          ——————————————————–
          According to his profound study of religious books the life in the hereafter would not be material. Instead, it would be of a spiritual nature of which we can only visualise certain aspects. We cannot determine precisely how things will take shape. One of the salient features of his vision of the hereafter concerns the soul giving birth to another rarer entity, which would occupy the same position in relation to the soul as the soul occupies in relation to our carnal existence here on earth. This birth of a soul from within the soul will be related to the sort of life that we have lived here on earth.
          If our lives here are spent in submission to the will of God and in accordance with His commands, our tastes gradually become cultured and attuned to enjoying spiritual pleasures as against carnal pleasures. Within the soul a sort of embryonic soul begins to take shape. New faculties are born and new tastes are acquired, in which those accustomed to carnal pleasures find no enjoyment. These new types of refined human beings can find the content of their heart. Sacrifice instead of the usurpation of others’ rights becomes enjoyable. Forgiveness takes the upper hand of revenge, and love with no selfish motive is born like a second nature, replacing all relationships that have ulterior motives.Thus, one can say a new soul within the soul is in the offing.

        • Kodie

          So we wouldn’t be ourselves, we would become someone else that we do not know. The “us” that fears dying would die and never to be seen again and become a different kind of person entirely that only knows spiritual pleasure after a time becoming acclimated to our new environment. Is that right? We would not miss anything that is good feeling to us and only spend eternity in this mushy state of bliss after our soul dies and gives birth to a new… soul that doesn’t ask for much. That is absurd. That is a reason to look forward to going to heaven? That is what eternal existence will be like? That is the state of our predeceased loved ones? Nobody really wants that for themselves or anyone they love.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Maybe heaven is like Brave New World where we get to lie around all day, high on Soma.

        • SparklingMoon

          Neither we have come in this world by our own will nor will depart. We are just creature and it was in the hand of our Creator to decide the purpose of our life and the method how to achieve it.

          Human nature loves to live for ever.I think, this conception is better of having a life after physical death instead of becoming a heap of dust for ever. Actually human spirit must have to complete a spiritual journey (that is the purpose of his life) and it completes in three stages. The first stage completes before human birth and second on this earth and the third starts after physical death.

          As a child, in the uterus of her mother, can not compare or imagine the greatness or the blessings of this earthly life, in the same manner a person living on this earth can not imagine the blessings of the next world where the all dimensions will change totally as had been changed for a child by coming out from a small world of his mother’s uterus to this earth A person can not compare the changing of the next world with any thing of this world as a child before birth,in the uterus of his mother, has no examples before him to imagine the abundance of this earthly life. In short, it is only the revelations of prophets that inform people about that world and prepare them for their next journey.

          A child seems very happy in his small world before having this earthly life but the people, who already live here , know the reality and love to bring this child in this world, as the prophets are made aware through visions the blessings of next life by God Almighty therefore they always motivates their followers to struggle for it.

          Secondly, I have read that the souls of same spiritual level will be near to one another

        • busterggi

          “his profound study of religious books the life in the hereafter”

          The study of speculative works about fictional places does not teach one about reality.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Moon: Don’t Muslims have intellectual arguments that show the truth of Islam? A thousand years ago, the light of intellectual thought burned a whole lot brighter in the Muslim world than the Christian world. Has that light dimmed? Or do Muslims have apologetics.

          If so, they’d be more interesting to discuss than random things that God said or did (’cause the atheists here don’t much care about that).

        • SparklingMoon

          Islam is not a religion that is much different to other religions of the world in its fundamental teachings as its revelation is also from the same God Almighty Who used to send His prophets for the guidance of His people in different areas of the world. All people either they are Israel or indian or Chinese or iranian or Arabia or European have the same God Almighty as the law to which our world is subject is one law, and the system which links one part of it to another is one system.The world has one principle-motion therefore it has one Maker.
          The only difference between Islam and other religions is about the safety and universality of their revelations. The revelations of other religions had been mixed with human ideas and secondly, the original words of revelations (that exist in those books) are heaped under the burden of human interpretations of some particular people that other followers are compelled to bind these interpretations of verses otherwise would be thrown out from the circle of believers.(as religions are their personal shops and its teachings are their personal products to change them according to their own wishes) Secondly, the laws for human guidance have been completed in the revelation of the Quran (as previous were to fulfill the needs of a particular group and areas). All fundamental teachings of previous revelations had been revealed again in the Quran with some new teachings to cover the universal needs of all humanity.

          Secondly, this light of Islam also dimmed with the passage of time because here also the same human nature had its strong interference as was in other religions. In Islam, no doubt, the revelation of the Quran, in its original words, is safe but some religious leaders had interpreted its words according to their own purposes and wishes and had forced other Muslims to see and practice in the mirror of their interpretations ( as considering their thinking equal or better to God’s words for human benefit).

          According to the claim of God in the Quran ( This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as religion. 5:3 ) therefore He always cares for the safety of the teachings of the Quran as the spiritual life of His all people now relates to it. It is His tradition to send people People (among the followers of this law) with revelation to clear its teachings from human mistakes and to bring them back to original form for human guidance. In recent time. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad had fulfilled this mission of God for presenting the teachings of Islam in its original form and to remove all related misconception. Secondly, as the Quran addresses to all people and the teachings of all other religions are also a part of it therefor He has addressed the followers of other religions also and reformed their teachings also to guide them.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I asked if you have reasons why your religion is true. I guess not.

        • MNb

          Oh, he gave his reasons: “the safety and universality of their revelations”.
          You hadn’t expected anything else, had you?

        • MNb

          Too much effort to prove her wrong, I guess. Oh wait – your concept of proof is absurd too.

        • Kodie

          Going over this thread again, what you actually said wasn’t that you had a non-absurd idea of what heaven is or could be, but that “It is easy to see the absurdity of some one else’s nutty idea, if you have already decided it’s a nutty idea.”

          That’s a pretty big accusation and one you like to rest on. You think we have, as atheists, decided that all these ideas are just absurd and nutty. So it is easy to see their absurdity if we have already decided they are… “easy to see their absurdity” when we have “already decided”. Exactly how far open does my mind have to be before my brains fall out? Look at the ideas that are popular or even biblical and tell me, using your brain instead of “already deciding” they are not nutty, and tell me they are something to look forward to? After a life of toil, a retirement of leisure and hobby looks inviting until we calculate the implications. A city of gold sounds pretty cool but where is this city in the universe?. Existing as some god-worshiping ecstatic soul-pod for eternity is quite a frightening and not at all something most people spend their whole lives looking forward to except that it means you’re not in a -somehow- much worse place.

          To assume, well heaven sounds pretty nutty because I’ve already decided when you’re dead you’re dead, is not giving any atheist enough credit for thinking things through. We’ve thought it through. When you’re dead you’re dead is the only realistic non-absurd, non-childish choice that we really have right now. Until scientists start making it possible to live forever in some form of identity and awareness, death is death, it’s the end. There is no self-aware part of our body that is going to continue after that, and all the concepts of heaven SOUND ABSURD WHEN YOU LISTEN TO PEOPLE TALK AS IF THEY’RE REAL. It’s not like when you hear someone talk about Hawaii like they’ve been there but they only read about it in a brochure. If you ask, when you get to Hawaii, is your family there? Maybe they live there and you went to visit them. Maybe the whole extended family has tickets to go. Hawaii isn’t judging people on whether they should come to Hawaii or not if they choose to take a trip. They’re the same people they were when they got on the plane when they land in Hawaii. They can call you on the phone and tell you they got there safely. They can stay there or they can come back. They can bring souvenirs. They can tell you what it’s really like there as opposed to what you’ve seen on TV shows. Hawaii is on maps.

          There is no absurdity involved in taking a trip to Hawaii, or anywhere, no matter how mysterious or obscure the location on earth. It’s not even absurd to switch out ‘Hawaii’ for ‘the moon’. It’s more difficult to get there, but we’re familiar enough with it as a place that exists and a place that has properties to discuss. You might not be as inclined to believe someone who says they went to the moon, and even you, who believes testimony is worth more than proof, would ask them some questions, and it would be quick work to figure out someone had lied about going somewhere like the moon.

          Heaven has no similar properties, and any place to look forward to going, universally, has got to have some absurd problems, not least of all being where the fuck is it?

      • SparklingMoon

        If we were not to call the conditions of the next life manifestations and were to say that they would be a new creation by Divine power, that would be perfectly correct. God has said: No virtuous one knows what bliss is kept hidden from him, as a reward for that which he used to do [32:18]. In interpreting the verse, heaven and its bounties are such as no eye has seen, nor has any ear heard, nor have they been conceived by the mind of man. They are described in physical terms but we are told that their source is the soul and its righteousness. The trees of which are their faith and the streams of which are that righteous actions. In the hereafter also they will eat of the fruits of this paradise, only those fruits will be sweeter and more manifest. As they will have eaten those fruits spiritually in this world they will recognize them in the other world and will exclaim: ”These appear to be the same fruits that we have already eaten; and they will think that those fruits resemble the fruits that they had eaten before in this world”(2: 26)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      So the people here just seize on the image of Christian heaven that pops to mind and then have a good laugh? Don’t forget that some of the atheists here spent many years studying Christianity as Christians.

      But help me see how you approach things. If you’re concerned that I’m making a snap judgment, show us how you do it. What do you think of the many non-Christian ideas of the afterlife? Do you accept all, some, or none of them?

      • KarlUdy

        I don’t accept the non-Christian ideas of the afterlife, but that doesn’t mean I think they are absurd or nutty.

        • hector

          Why don’t you accept them, seeing as you don’t find them absurd or nutty? What is it about the christian conception of the afterlife that you find superior?

        • KarlUdy

          Actually, the particulars of the conception of heaven are not a major factor in why I’m a Christian.

        • hector

          You said you don’t accept the non-christian conceptions of heaven, implying that as a christian you do accept the christian conception of heaven. I am asking you why. Tell us the details of what you think goes on in christian heaven. Saying that it’s not a major factor in why you are a christian is another dodge that doesn’t answer the question.

        • Jason

          Regardless of the particulars, the whole concept of heaven is pretty central to contemporary Christianity. Don’t you agree?

          The idea that there might be an afterlife of some kind is not nutty. However, the faith based belief that there MUST be a specific afterlife where I will either live with God in joy or live separate from him in torment is definitely nutty. People who insist on definite beliefs that aren’t based on evidence and aren’t really that necessary for daily life are pretty nutty.

        • SparklingMoon

          The state of man after death is not a new state, only his condition in this life is made manifest more clearly in the next life. Whatever is the true condition of a person with respect to his beliefs and actions, righteous or otherwise, in this life, it remains hidden inside him and its poison or its antidote affects his being covertly. In the life after death if will not be so; everything will manifest itself openly. One experiences a specimen of it in a dream. The prevailing condition of the body of the sleeper makes itself manifest in his dream. As a dream transmutes our spiritual condition into a physical form, the same will happen in the next life. (Rohani Khazain)

  • Jose Chung

    Why would heaven be any more likely to be perfect? If christianity is true, wouldn’t it be more feasible that after a certain amount of time in heaven, somebody would screw up (god says – yet again – hey, THAT wasn’t supposed to happen), necessitating yet another round of “what am I going to do with you people WHY are you always messing everything up.” There’s no reason to believe that he’s EVER going to be satisfied with this particular creation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The guy’s a perfectionist, I guess.

      • busterggi

        Only about others.

    • Nerdsamwich

      And if there is no sin in heaven, but still free will, why didn’t he make the Earth like that?

      • MNb

        Why not skip Earth and let the souls who deserve it go to heaven directly?

        • Kingasaurus

          Bingo.

          Why this elaborate soul-filtering machine called the physical universe? If you want to make creatures that will be loyal to you and glorify you endlessly, just DO that. Just create them in Heaven to begin with.

        • Kodie

          I thought he did that but then they ate fruit. Fruuuuuit

        • Kingasaurus

          LOL

          Do it right, I mean. Create them so they’re free to be disloyal but have zero inclination to ever do so, and are repulsed by the idea. And why even give them physical bodies? We apparently don’t even need those. (See? I can figure how do do this better than that “god” guy)

        • wtfwjtd

          I wonder if there will be any fruit trees in the Christian version of heaven? I’m sure there will be something sneaky to trip people up so that their loving creator can kick them out.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That is the kind of mean little trick he’d play, isn’t it?

        • Nerdsamwich

          If there’s no sin, everyone deserves it.

        • Kodie

          From what I’ve been able to figure out from my local brand of Christians, it’s pretty much set-it-and-forget-it anyway. Jesus died so people don’t have to bust their balls trying to appease god when they can’t because they’re sinners anyway, so they don’t bother. But they still come out to judge what other people do when it’s, like, wrong, and stuff, and think atheists are the devil and should just shut up and leave their statues alone, and increased support of war because it’s those Muslims we have to fear and not militant conservative Christians.

          They live in a world where it’s expected for women to have premarital sex, and even will marry one, it’s not such a big deal, and people can be gay but police each other’s masculinity and are emasculated at the slightest thing, and possibly do not condone gay marriage, that’s where they draw the line. Some of them can be rather accepting of and in support of gay marriage rights though, just as they are cool with women having jobs, and might even judge women who aren’t self-supporting. These are not the Christians who are the humble dirty hippies like Jesus either, they are just what I would call mainstream. The “not all of us are like that” average human being who cuts people off in traffic and other selfish manners, who doesn’t seem the least bit concerned of portraying a “bad” Christian who is going to hell. As long as they believe in Jesus, they never really have to think of it again, and they live in the real world as a competitive animal, properly socialized in the custom of their locale and up on modern times. They might hardly ever go to church, and they might even call someone square if they attend weekly, but when they go, when they get married in one or attend someone’s funeral in one, it’s the proper pious setting for serious life events.

          All the same, they are judgmental and opinionated about a lot of things normally associated with conservative Christians who are uptight about everything. I find it confusing to read accounts of conservative Christianity as if that is a foreign mindset when I see clues of it all over the culture and not isolated to biblical literalism. The rape culture thing is widespread, as are superstitions regarding abortion, i.e., not with regard to the propaganda, just some feeling to be on the safe side, and judge women for using abortion clinics as a convenient form of birth control. What men are supposed to be like, what women are supposed to be like, how it’s ok for women to be sexual and then judging them for it whenever an interaction comes to a bad end for the man, like being misled or accused of harassment. I just don’t think of these things as the domain of a Christian mindset. I think of it as a cultural value we’re trying to expose and bring up to date – theists of all religions can have these values set in stone, but it arises out of culture and not derived from religion. Especially if you’ve been watching what goes on in the atheist blog circles, you can get rid of religion and still retain bigoted certainty about the divisions between men’s and women’s roles and societal expectations as a biological or psychological difference.

        • adam

          But then there is no DRAMA!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Just messin’ with us, I guess.

  • Norm Donnan

    Heres a wild idea people,instead of discussing what you THINK the bible teaches about heaven why not find out what it DOES say.
    Randy Alcorn has written a book aptly named Heaven(all 500 pages) that contains no NDE’s but only what is biblical which answers quite well comments like wahwahwah’s below.
    Not that I think we should dismiss NDE’s for some descriptive input like the one that topped a best seller list,Heaven is for real.
    Like any spiritual experience,once youve been there,there is no going back.

    • MNb

      “Like any spiritual experience,once youve been there,there is no going back.”
      Prejudiced nonsense. I have had several OBE’s.

      • hector

        Does an OBE beat a CBE? Or is it the other way around? I can never remember.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Either one works for me, as long as I get to be called Sir Robert.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      why not find out what [the Bible] DOES say

      Aren’t you kind of grown up to be this naive? The Bible says just about whatever you want it to say. You want a Jonathan Edwards hell of torment? It’s in there. You want a hell that’s “locked from the inside”? That’s in there, too. Don’t delude yourself that your interpretation is an unambiguous statement from the Bible.

      • Norm Donnan

        Thats true for people who cherry pick and dont read the whole book.
        This is how cults form and to some extent why we have different denominations in all religions.

        • hector

          But your denomination is the right one and doesn’t cherry pick and isn’t a cult. Sure.

        • Norm Donnan

          Sorry,I dont consider any denomination to be the right one. I live in a catholic community,go to a pentecostal church,was brought up Brethran and see good and bad issues from my perspective with them all.

        • hector

          You belong to the one true denomination – the Donnanites

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What about those who cherry pick and do read the whole book? My guess is that you’re in this bin.

        • Norm Donnan

          Not really, I read the whole thing and get the whole story and an overall perspective,the big picture.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Who’s to say that you’ve got it figured out? That you’ve taken all the correct forks in the road?

          I mean, besides you, of course.

        • Nerdsamwich

          All Scriptural support for anything is cherry-picking. You can use some part or another to support any course of action you decide to take, and someone else can use another part to denounce you. Every word in that book is explicitly contradicted somewhere else in that book.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And that’s the beauty of the book! It’s a one-size-fits-all theology.

    • Jason

      There are isolated passages that address the afterlife in many ways, but the Christian Bible as a whole has no cohesive and consistent message about heaven. That requires interpretation and doctrine. In this way, heaven is kind of like the trinity or the devil as a biblical concept.

      • wtfwjtd

        Yes, I doubt there are 500 words in the entire NT that specifically address heaven. How the heck would you write a 500 page book from that?

      • Norm Donnan

        And thats why I suggested that it would be helpful to start off with Randy Alcorn’s book,Im sure you would be surprised.

        • Jason

          I’m very familiar with the primary evidence. Alcorn can’t really change that. So it sounds like you’re saying he has some interpretation of all that primary evidence. Do you understand the difference between the Bible itself as an anthology of various ancient texts that have been bound together (i.e. the world in the Bible) vs. the making sense of the Bible (i.e. the world in front of the Bible), which theologians and religious zealots do?

        • Jason

          And by the way, just to give a specific example, are you aware that the earliest layers of the OT reflect no systematic belief at all in a place where the faithful will go after death. What people like Alcorn do is put all those different passages together with the rest of the Bible and in particular the New Testament to create a cohesive message that fits into their Christian worldview hopes and expectations.

        • Norm Donnan

          Thats right,he explains it so it is easy to understand.

      • Pofarmer

        The idea of heaven evolves throughout the.bible, just as the idea of God does.

        • Norm Donnan

          Genesis 1.1 In the beginning God…. Revelation 22.21 May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with everyone. !st and last verse in the bible,how is the idea of God evolving ?

        • Nerdsamwich

          If you look in the originals, the god they’re referring to changes. It starts with Elohim–the council of gods–which slowly morphs into El, who becomes YHWH, who loses his wife toward the end of the Old Testament. YHWH is then supplanted by Jesus, who is the one they’re talking about in Revelation. Also, even the Jesus idea has undergone considerable evolution since the writing of the Gospels. Trinity, anyone?

        • Norm Donnan

          Elohim,as in Genesis 1 26 is the Father,Son and Holy Spirit and yes we do have a broader understanding of who Jesus really was which you call evolution.

        • Nerdsamwich

          Incorrect. The Elohim include El-Elyon, Yahweh, Ha-Satan, Molech, and Baal. Yahweh–the eventual god of Abraham–was a fairly minor deity to start with. He was, If I recall, the god of stormy weather.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That darn Yahweh is out again today. Better bring an umbrella.

        • carmel Ka

          Hi->Nerdsamwich

          they are all names for the same, even wikipedia shows that in respect of different sources of jewish priests who wrote , please see:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elohim
          Elohim and Yahweh is the same.
          In Gen 20:13 Abraham, before the polytheistic Philistine king Abimelech, says that “the gods (elohim) caused (plural verb) me to wander
          also better ask a religious jewish about naming convention in their history.

          stormy wheather :)

        • avalpert

          You probably should have asked a religious Jew about the naming conventions before replying – you got it wrong.

          Elohim has multiple uses depending on the context and could refer to a range of things from mortal rulers to the one God. In Biblical scholarship, the use of Yahweh prior to the Exodus is a tool in separating out the J source and the E source. Yahweh is the personal god of the Jews (whereas Elohim is a generic term for god).

          Ha-Satan is more like an angel depending on context. Baal is a Caananite god or false god/idol, Molech was an Ammonite god

        • Nerdsamwich

          Were we talking comic books, that would be known as a “retcon”. Later generations of priests edited the sacred texts to suit their changing ideas on the nature of the Divine. This happened many, many times over the centuries–possibly dozens. There are, however, still traces of polytheism there for those who will just read what’s on the page, and occasionally check out a bit of historical context.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Retroactive Continuity? That’s a new term for me. Thanks.

        • Nerdsamwich

          It’s short for retroactive continuity, like the way superhero origin stories get retold and changed every few years. Happens all the time in “nerd media” like comics and games, where the authors tend to change frequently–not unlike religious texts. It’s seen as sloppy writing, but functionally unavoidable.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Rev. 22:18-19 is more fun:

          I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

          The authors of the New Testament books make clear that even they knew about writing under false names.

          Makes you wonder how we can trust these books.

        • Kodie

          You’re right Norm, god is kind of a bumbling fuck-up who blames everyone else for his problems from the beginning to the end of that story.

    • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

      Right, simply ignore the NDE accounts which disagree with a Christian view while you’re at it. How are ones like that which Heaven Is For Real tells any more credible?

  • Tommykey69

    I might have done a post on my blog at some point about the absurdity of heaven. Some questions come to mind. Do we physically see one another in human bodies or are we just incorporeal beings that sense one another but othewise do not occupy a physical space? If its the former, at what age in our life do we appear? Some women who have miscarriages believe they will see their miscarried fetuses in heaven. Will these fetuses appear as the children they might have been had they been born? Will heaven be like a family or high school reunion where you mill about conversing with everyone you have ever known? What if you didn’t have many friends or close family, will you find yourself standing uncomfortably alone by the hors d’ouvres?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      standing uncomfortably alone by the hors d’ouvres

      I’m waiting for the next heaven tell-all book, I’ll Be a Wallflower in Heaven.

    • hector

      Christian response – No no no, you foolish atheist, this isn’t heaven, this is just a caricature of heaven. Heaven is really ….

  • Pofarmer

    Well, I just kicked the Hornets nest. I found out yesterday that my oldest son is required to go to a “retreat” at the “local” Catholic High school 50 miles away. They have been pushing the kids pretty hard to go there. Thing is, it’s 50 miles away, and tuition is 9000 bucks a year. When I say required, I mean that any student who doesn’t go will flunk their religion class. I think that this is totally inappropriate, and emailed the principal to let her know. The new dogmatism of the Catholic Church is really, really getting on me.

    • wtfwjtd

      Holy Mother of Mary! 9 grand a year? So are you saying that your oldest has to attend a year-long class at someplace that’s 50 miles away, or flunk? That seems crazy.

      • Pofarmer

        No, no, no. It’s just a one day retreat, but they are continually pushing the kids to go there.

        • wtfwjtd

          Oh, OK, so I assume it’s some kind of religious retreat? It must be part of the doubling-down on more religious stuff that you have been talking about.

        • Pofarmer

          Yes, it’s a day retreat. The thing that bothers me is that it is a full day “retreat” read “recruiting session” IMHO at a school that they have been pushing on the kids. If they just wanted to do a “retreat” with the kids, they could do it at several different places right here in town. I also have a problem saying that “if the kid doesn’t go they will fail.” I can see it being worth some amount of points, even a lot, but I don’t think it’s proper that one thing can fail a kid. It’s just the worst of the old Authoritarian Catholic Church coming back, IMHO. I had a good long talk with my 8th grader yesterday about all this stuff. We have been watching and talking about Cosmos, a lot. The kids are noticing that there are kids at school who believe in literal six day creation, who believe in the flood. My middle boy just reported that one of his 7th grade class mates had never heard of the Big Bang until today. Presumably he heard a news story about the new physics finding of gravity waves. Unfortunately, he seems to have thought it was what killed the dinosaurs. I really feel sorry for these kids.

        • wtfwjtd

          Pofarmer, I don’t know if I would make too big a deal about this or not. Sometimes life is about choosing our battles, and it might be best to conserve resources and let this one ride. I’m sure it makes you grit your teeth, but there may be more important stuff to concentrate on. No doubt, all this is making an impression on your kids, and you helping guide them through it is also making an impression. We all have to do lots of stuff in life that we don’t like, sometimes we need to pick and choose when to make a stand and when it’s best all around to let something slide.

        • Pofarmer

          This battle is done and I’ll let it go. I made my feelings known and that is enough. Doing a project right now with my middle boy. A week or two ago they were talking in science class, and somehow Brad Pitt came up. She thought he was a scientologist. I said no, he’s an Atheist and pulled up quotes and facts to prove it. Well, I guess today my middle son informed her he was an Atheist and she says “Well, that just totally turns me off on him now, where does he think all of this stuff comes from.” This is the school science teacher. SCIENCE TEACHER? arrrrgggggghhhhhhhhh.

        • wtfwjtd

          Scientologist? She must have been thinking about Tom Cruise. His wife Kate left him a few years ago over it, it was a big news story for awhile.
          I’m not surprised at that teacher’s reaction though, I’ve seen plenty of that narrow-minded thinking in my day. Still, I can imagine, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to you at this point.

    • jonch

      Religion class? What is this, the 12th century?

    • avalpert

      $9000 a year for high school – around here (DC) you’d be lucky to find a private high school at twice that amount. Of course I know nothing about the quality of education at Catholic schools or what type of colleges they send their students to.

      • Pofarmer

        THe quality ofmthe education at this point is an unknown. MO has a program called the Aplus program, where if you meet high school requirements, and then keep sufficient grades in junior college, you can get two years tuition paid for by the state, and all credits transfer. The vast majority of students will go to State colleges of one flavor or another.

        • RichardSRussell

          Well, you’ve got a sense of the quality of the education at the school your kid IS attending. Are you saying that you’re actually paying this $9000 a year to expose him to this form of brainwashing and oppression on a daily basis? If so, why? It would seem that simply dropping out would be not only cheaper but better for his brain and self-respect.

  • Ambaa

    I know what you mean. Reincarnation as an afterlife makes SO MUCH sense to me. It’s really hard to take that step back and see it from a non-Hindu perspective.

    Christian ideas of the afterlife sound insane to me, but I fall into the trap of thinking my beliefs are rational. lol.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      If I had to pick afterlife ideas based on preference rather than evidence, I’d go with reincarnation over the Christian idea. How Christians can say, with a straight face, that heaven and hell are the best that an omnibenevolent deity can figure out is a mystery to me.

      • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

        I was baptized into a church which splits the difference: Christian, but also believing in reincarnation. Of course, they’re also Gnostics: in the old days they’d have been burned as heretics.

    • wtfwjtd

      Even as a fundie I found the Christian concept of heaven a bridge too far. My views have evolved over the years, and I’ve come to feel that a cross between reincarnation and the movie “Ground Hog’s Day”, with maybe a dash of multiple coincident universes thrown in, makes as much sense as any. You know, reduce, reuse, recycle….

  • Stephen Earle

    If I remember correctly, the bible seems to make a distinction between an eternal life and heaven.
    Jesus specifically tells the rich young man what is required in order to live forever. Being brought up in a protestant environment, I always found it strange that these words of Jesus were to be discarded somehow in favour of a faith based soteriology.
    I haven’t been able to find much discussion on this that seems well thought through, am I missing something?
    Either Jesus was lying to the poor guy or not, it’s that simple isn’t it?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I think there are lots of conflicting ideas of the afterlife in the NT. And then the Old Testament has the idea of Sheol. Or not–Job’s wife tells her husband to just die and put an end to his suffering. I don’t know if Sheol applies here or if it was just annihilationism.

      Great question. I haven’t done the research/reading to get a clear picture of the various ideas of heaven and where they came from. Perhaps some of the other smart commenters can give some input.

      • Stephen Earle

        One would think that Christians should be able to describe heaven and an afterlife in much clearer terms. I mean… Isn’t that sort of the point of the exercise?

        The physical descriptions of heaven or “the new Jerusalem” in revelations are kind of bizarre. I mean it sounds a lot like a 15000 km square spaceship, doesn’t it?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m sure they can describe it in very clear terms. The problem is: on what do they base that description? Even if they can find verses to support each claim, they must (but won’t) show that their interpretation is the only possible one.

    • wtfwjtd

      What Jesus said to the rich young ruler was not discarded by religious folk; Jesus merely recites a few commandments from the OT, and seems to intimate that this is enough. Religious folk then add all kinds of stuff to this. Now, back to our story: the young man feels he still lacks something, and Jesus then tells him that if he wants to be “perfect”, to sell off everything he has, and give it to poor people. Notice, he doesn’t say this is a requirement for heaven, just for perfection (whew, I can hear rich folks everywhere heaving a sigh of relief ).
      In general, the bible conflates the concepts of “eternal life” and the “kingdom of heaven.” Certainly, in the passage you are referring to, this is the case (Matt 19:16-30). And actually, this passage is probably where most Christians get their ideas about the afterlife that they believe in from, as it’s one of the few that offers any kind of detail about it. And apparently, there are the haves and have-nots in heaven, and those who give the most to the poor, or as we hear so often, to religion, will be in the upper crust in heaven. This doesn’t really sound much different than what we have here on earth, does it?

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        I’ve bumped into the heaven/kingdom problem when talking about the parable of the sheep and goats in Matt. 25 (which is a fun way of pointing out that works gets you into heaven, not faith).

        Problem is, it talks about the kingdom, but not heaven. It talks about eternity, so I think my point is made, but it does refer to the kingdom. I understand that some conceptions of the afterlife imagine a refined kingdom here on earth rather than up in heaven somewhere.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yep, that’s Jesus’ favorite way talking about heaven in Matthew–“the kingdom of heaven is like…” The thing is, none of these little tidbits really tell us much about the place. It’s almost as if the writers of the gospels were just as clueless about heaven as we are, and just had to make stuff up as filler. Nah, couldn’t be that!

          And of course, no discussion of Christian heaven would be complete without talking about the other place, hell. You don’t have a choice of heaven or nothing…as Christians everywhere are so fond of saying, “Turn or Burn!”

      • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

        Yes, but then Jesus famously says it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven, which seems to imply that being wealthy, even saying it would be “impossible” for this rich man. In another passage, he talks of a rich man being in hell precisely *because* he was rich, with Abraham saying he has to suffer for being rich, while the poor get rewarded in heaven. The fact, is the Bible says a lot of conflicting things about this, not surprisingly. Passages can be found that indicate salvation by faith alone, by works, or both. Different sects pick which one they like best, as we know.

        • wtfwjtd

          Well, he says that “it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. I guess that counts as heaven; in the previous verse, he says it’s “hard” for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

          But that’s the beauty of the Christian Bible, like Bob has said on many occasions, it’s a sock puppet that will pretty much say whatever you want it to say. Hallelujah!

        • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

          I think of it similarly: a Rorschach inkblot where you can see whatever you like within it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Robert Price’s analogy is a marionette.

          “Gays are really bad, right marionette Bible?”
          “You betcha, Bob!”
          “Golly, marionette Bible, you sure are smart! And your answers are so sensible.”
          “Thanks, Bob!”

  • RichardSRussell

    I’ve seen pictures of Tahiti. It’s a magical place. I’d like to go there someday.

    Maybe I’d feel the same way about Heaven. Are the pix posted on Tumblr or somewhere similar?

  • King Dave

    Heaven is advertised as doing everything you weren’t allowed to on earth.

  • adam

    The truth is we are all immortal.

    Everything we do affects everything else around us, in time the universe or multiverses as well.
    This is the true concept of the AFTER life.

    Of course if you are powerful enough to have monuments like the pyramids built for you, your influence may be more vast.
    Or if you are turned into a god….

    The saddest part of this after life is that it was politicized to control and manipulate people and still exists that way today.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Is there evidence of your claims?

      • adam

        Which one?
        The butterfly effect
        Or the politicalization of death?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “we are all immortal”

        • adam

          Our actions..
          Our legacy…
          Everything we do affects everything else from here on out.
          From the air that we breathe that the dinosaurs breathed from our movements to how we use our environment and what shape we leave it in.
          From our children, to our children’s children’s children.
          The butterfly effect affects what this world becomes and so the universe and multiverses.
          THIS is THE AFTER life…
          The stuff that you do that carries on after you are dead.
          Not some political hocus pocus ‘spirit’ life…
          But REALITY

        • hector

          So things we do have effects that carry on after we are dead. How insightful. This is ‘immortal’ in a Ciceronian but not a literal sense. Nice try.

        • adam

          It is the disembodied ‘spirit’ of who we are.
          It literally carries to the end of time.
          It is in this sense that, IMHO religion has hijacked death.

        • hector

          Whatever

        • adam

          I do think that it is behind THE universal theme behind people thinking/hoping they don’t ‘die’.
          Just as the shamanic experience is behind the theme behind the whole ‘god experience/NDE “heaven”” idealism.

        • hector

          There’s nothing mystical behind people not wanting to die.

          Do you always use phrases like ‘behind the thing that is behind the thing’? Sounds like turtles all the way down to me.

        • adam

          No, but there are real reasons people identify with religious symbolism.
          It would seem that addressing that addresses the root of the problem.
          There is nothing mystical behind people not wanting to die, yet religion is still such powerful propaganda.

        • Pattrsn

          Probably the “we’re all immortal” thing

  • davewarnock

    Evangelical Heaven 101- pay attention class!
    If you accept Jesus as your savior while on earth, you go to heaven when you die. Immediately. If you stubbornly reject Jesus, then you are tormented in flaming hell forever. Because God loves you. One day (SOON) Jesus will return to wrap things up. He said he would, so he surely will (SOON). There will be a rapture first; or there will be some tribulation first. Then there will be an antichrist and an armageddon. And then Satan will FINALLY be defeated (he caused so much darn trouble- that rascal!). And THEN, God will create a new heaven and a new earth and that’s where all the saints (those who accepted Jesus) will dwell forever.
    Or at least until some other angel rebels (like Lucifer/Satan did) and starts the whole thing over again.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve got more posts in the queue that explore the claim that Daniel predicts the future (spoiler: I disagree).

  • Brandon Roberts

    i believe in heaven and jesus and to all atheists here please don’t insult me iv’e had enough of your i’m right and smart your wrong and dumb message i thought atheists and christians could have been friends but i now know i was wrong unless 1 atheist can prove wrong i’ll continue to believe that

    • Nerdsamwich

      What would you accept as proof?

      • Brandon Roberts

        just being nice to people no matter what they choose to believe and showing the same respect to my beliefs that you would want me to show you p.s this was written when i was pissed so it might not be the best example of me. sorry

        • Nerdsamwich

          Ah, I had for some reason thought that you were looking for proof of the non-existence of some deity or incorrectness of some religious worldview. My bad for misreading.

        • Brandon Roberts

          no not really but i’m sure you can find somebody to tell about evoloution or however you believe we got here good bye have a nice day:)

    • MNb

      “i now know i was wrong unless 1 atheist can prove wrong i’ll continue to believe that”
      Ah, that’s a challenge I can’t ignore. I live in Moengo, Suriname and teach maths and physics at the MULO Waaldijkschool overthere. You can Google Waaldijkschool Moengo Nieuweboer (MNb stands for Mark Nieuweboer) and you’ll find a few hits in Dutch.
      I’m the only atheist teacher at my school. Several of my colleagues know. I have taught for 14 years now and only of four kids I’m sure they were atheists too; one of them is my son Ismani Nieuweboer (you can google him too). Some of my colleagues are christian; some of them muslim. I am well befriended with several of my colleagues and my pupils generally like me.
      Cherry of the cake: I have a relationship with a muslima for ten years now and we are going strong. This here is a cousin in Rotterdam, The Netherlands:

      http://drimble.nl/bedrijf/rotterdam/24288780/toko-wirokarso-bv.html

      Enough proof that you are wrong when thinking atheists and theists can’t be friends? It doesn’t mean I’m a friend of yours though or want to be one; I don’t have friends on internet, simply because I don’t confuse it with real life. Today I can be friendly to you; tomorrow nasty.
      But I guarantee you that I like to piss off atheists as much as pissing off christians. The only site where I ever received a ban is an atheist one (I kind of deserved it).

      • Brandon Roberts

        thank you for proving me wrong good sir iv’e been enlightened proved wrong and i couldn’t be happier about it

      • avalpert

        You live in Suriname? I didn’t make it as far east as Moengo when I was travelling through Guyana and Suriname last year but thoroughly enjoyed the country. The adjacent Mosque and Synagogue in Paramribo is as a good a testament to the ability of mutually exclusive religions to live side by side as I’ve seen yet.

      • Brandon Roberts

        you proved me wrong congratulations i realized i shouldn’t have judged an entire group of people on a few and for that i apologize bye


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