Heaven: What’s all the hype about?

Who would want to go to Heaven?

I’m serious. I understand that most Christians would probably tell you that the conditions of Paradise are ultimately unknowable until we get there, but if we can conceive of it at all, there must be some common denominator between now and the afterlife. 

For example, each person would still have his/her individual identity, right? As far as I know, Heaven is supposed to be a place of perpetual peace and joy, where we are reunited with our loved ones forever. We’re supposed to actually experience love and joy to their fullest potentials. This would imply that our concept of self and the relationship between the self and others would continue into the afterlife. Assuming this is true, wouldn’t our normal thought processes still be in tact? And wouldn’t that make us vulnerable to the same anxieties, fears, distresses, annoyances, irritabilities, etc. that bother us here on Earth?

But okay, I get it, everything is supposed to be happy and filled with love and all that. There’s no reason to hate each other or have any of the aforementioned negative feelings because it is a place that is irrevocably tied to God, who is perfect, and none of the same temptations that cause negative experiences on Earth are present. As Hell is supposedly eternal “separation” from God, Heaven is eternal unity with God, whereas Earth is, well, something in between. I’d invite any of my Christian friends to correct me on this. And if you have answers, I’d be thrilled to hear them. 

Recently I watched a 1989 animated film called “All Dogs go to Heaven”. (I was coerced by my girlfriend.) Although it was aimed at children, the movie really had some philosophical underpinnings that would make any adult reconsider the afterlife. In the film, the main character (a dog) goes to Heaven but gets bored because nothing is happening. Everything is happy and pretty and nice but there’s no zest, there’s no action to give life a little spice, and the dog ends up missing his time on Earth. And this is precisely my main issue with the idea of Heaven. Where is the joy if it is not contrasted by sorrow? How can we feel genuine bliss if there are no hardships to overcome? It seems to be common sense that in order to have a positive feeling you need a negative one to compare it to. This is what gives it that extra satisfaction. In a perfect place, where sin is nowhere to be found, how would these positive experiences be felt? In short, the concept of Heaven simply seems to contradict everything we know about love, joy, peace, and all of the positive feelings we experience as human beings. 

But say it was possible. Would you want to be there? I know I wouldn’t. In my view, it’s the tragedy and pain of life that makes for the best art and it’s the adversity that makes our achievements satisfying. If there were no problems to solve, no obstacles to pass through, no pain to endure, what would we have left? A whole bunch of nothing is you ask me. Think of your favorite book or movie. Would it have been any good without some sort of conflict? For an interesting plot, there has to be some sort of dilemma a character is forced to work through. Mark Twain said, “The secret source of humor is not joy, but sorrow. There is no humor in Heaven.” He must have been right; humor is primarily a weapon brandished to combat sorrow. And isn’t humor one of the things that keeps us going? That makes life enjoyable? That makes the saddest circumstances survivable? Who would want an existence without humor? 

So what is this thing they call Heaven? No art to make things beautiful, no tension to make things interesting, no humor to make things funny, no adversity to make triumphs satisfying, no tragedy to contrast joy. If there is a Heaven, I don’t know what it would be like. But I can tell you one thing: I’d rather rather live one life on Earth – filled with art and books and love and pain and tension and excitement and adversity and growth and tragedy and humor – than spend an eternity in this so called “Paradise”. 


One response to “Heaven: What’s all the hype about?

  • Noah Ketterman

    I want to start by saying that there actually are some statements in this post with which I agree. Specifically, I like what you have to say about pain and joy. You argument acknowledges evil as a necessity to point toward good. I agree completely with this statement but as you acknowledge the place of evil, you immediately contradict your post on October 12, 2012 entitled, “The God Problem.” In that post, you criticize God for allowing evil (this is a standard objection by atheists). But in this recent post, you practically lay out the Christian’s response to this common atheistic objection by acknowledging how evil can be a powerful medium to point toward good. You only have to take this a little bit further to find that we are being pointed away from our own, flawed nature and toward something, or Someone, that/who is capable of true goodness.

    Concerning your thoughts on heaven, I am going to skip to the third paragraph because it is then in your post that you begin to demonstrate real effort in seeking to understand the Christian concept of heaven. If you continue to make man the theme of the story, you will never get past a juvenile understanding of eternal life. You close the third paragraph saying that hell is eternal separation from God and heaven is eternal unity with God. That statement is accurate and does not need correcting (but thanks for considering me a friend!). Here we will agree on the description used but disagree on its implications.

    I believe that goodness comes from God. I believe that humans, without divine intervention, will act according to their own, selfish desires. Isn’t that the point of atheism? We look out for ourselves and do what is necessary for our own survival. It is true that this does often require us to do good for others but absent God, there is no inherent value in doing so. The atheist’s motivation for doing good is either to puff up his/her own self worth or a reasonable hope that it will one day be reciprocated (both self-centered motivations). Atheism is incapable of assigning value to goodness for its own sake (it actually has the same value problem with just about everything). So we must be certain that we know what the source of goodness is. If you believe in humans as the foundation of goodness, then you have a lot more faith than I do as a Christian.

    I want to close with another point you made that I really like. You talk about the necessity of conflict to make a great book or story. A perfect application for that concept is our own human history. Human nature creates numerous conflicts which we have to deal with as the story unfolds. But every good book has an ending which always satisfies the conflict. The story of the cross was the climax and heaven is the very happy ending. Once we reach the ending, it is silly to suggest that we would want to continue to meddle in the conflict part of the story, I actually found it pretty depressing that you celebrate pain to the extent that you did. We have an opportunity to escape pain forever, to escape ourselves forever. That is heaven, the absence of human nature. I am looking forward to that day with great anticipation and I continue to pray, literally daily, that one day you will be convinced enough to want to come with me.

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