Whether we’re in a poor country wondering if we have the strength to fetch water
or in a rich nation struggling to pay the bills, we all have pressures upon us. That’s
why the vision of achieving a safe and peaceful ending is such an appealing concept;
it meets a psychological need. Fairy tales encapsulate this idea in the phrase, “they
all lived happily ever after”.
It’s the stresses of life and the possibility that they might be resolved by entry
to heaven that gives us the notion of ‘Salvation’. Being ‘saved’ is a particularly
attractive prospect if you live in a deprived community; it’s much better than being
dead! ‘Salvation’ also gives priests something to promise and someone to talk about
- the ‘Saviour’.
The concept of ‘heaven’ is a great tool for those in power. If a ruler can convince
the masses that they have a idyllic existence to look forward to in the future, they
are more likely to be content and meek and obedient in the here and now. That’s why
states often reward religious leaders: in the UK, Bishops are given a seat in the
House of Lords with an attendance allowance: £300/day tax-free + expenses!
So, if you subscribe to the proposition of heaven you are signing up to the continuation
of your society’s current authority.
Isn’t that something to bear in mind if you are being oppressed by a dictatorial
Yes, There are Many ‘Heavens’!
Jews have seven. It’s a hierarchy. The first one is the entry level and the seventh
heaven is the most sublime; hence the expression, ‘to be in Seventh Heaven’.
In Norse paganistic mythology, heaven is known as ‘Valhalla’, which is described
as an enormous majestic hall ruled over by the god Odin. ‘Nirvana’ is the heaven
for both Buddhism and Jainism. To enter the Ancient Egyptian Heaven you had to pass
through the ‘Underworld’ in a quest called the Duat. There are many more tales of
Like all good clubs though, ‘Heaven’ has entry conditions; you won’t get a look in
at any heaven unless you have joined the appropriate sect in advance. Even then
you have to be well behaved because, according to the legends, you will only be admitted
to heaven by the ‘grace of god’, whatever that is. Fortunately, it’s never too late
to sign up - death-bed conversions have always been popular! For those of us who
can’t make the grade there are mythical dystopias to end up in such as purgatory,
limbo and hell.
The desire to go to a better place might be construed as giving us a reason to behave
‘righteously’ during our earthly existence but it can also be interpreted in
exactly the opposite way, see below:
The Dangers of Heaven
‘How can heaven be dangerous?’ I hear you
ask. Well, if you wish to cut short your human
body form and achieve your magnificent
spiritual survival early by becoming a ‘martyr’,
you might be prepared to slaughter several
members of other religions! Such a massacre
would be perfectly moral of course because your god would be on your side! This
was at least part of the motivation behind what Americans call 9/11 (the attack on
the World Trade Centre towers in New York on 11/09/2001); the Islamic fundamentalist
suicide pilots were each assured of an eternal existence with twenty seven virgins
Why would you hang around on Earth if you could get killed whilst doing your god’s
work, become a ‘martyr’, and get to heavenly heaven sooner?
Well, where is it? Historically, it was pictured in the clouds, but we have not detected
it yet despite searching at all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum and being
able to see more than 13 billion light years into the distance! Some say it has retreated
to being ‘within us’.
Do they mean in our imagination?
And Hell? Burning for eternity is a great threat for scaring folks into joining your