Overview of Heaven
According to Christianity and Islam, people are supposed to believe in a god and live in a certain way in order to gain immortality in heaven. And in case that’s not incentive enough, it’s also to avoid an eternity being tortured in hell. In this case, I will not be talking about the Islamic concept of heaven, as there are many verses in both the Koran and Hadith that have references to paradise, its structure, what you eat, who you spend time with, even how old you will be. There is also a river of wine, but no mention of bacon or smoked pork chops.. The same goes for Hinduism, as it’s not a final place, just a weigh station on the rollercoaster of reincarnation. No paradise exists in Buddhism, although the Pure Land sect has something like one. Traditional Judaism didn’t have one, although some select prophets were taken up to be with YHWH, whose throne room was filled with multi-faced, multi-winged angels whose sole duty is to praise YHWH, who, let’s be real here, was a pretty insecure guy. It must be due to the fact that he never could take care of those *@#%& Philistines next door. Modern Jews usually acknowledge a paradise prepared for the “chosen” people.
So what is heaven to Christians, and more importantly what do you do there?
Dante in his “Divine Comedy” has heaven being a place of light and music. But Dante found much more descriptive creativity in his description of hell and its denizens. Frankly I find the “Paradisio” pretty boring.
So what do Christians expect in paradise? Well, maybe we can start with what makes people happy in life, and see if those things are going to available in heaven.
Okay, I know that we don’t spend much time actually having sex, but we do think about it an awful lot. It’s probably the world’s single largest pleasurable activity. But if you talk to American Christians, most don’t think there will be any sex going on in the fields of paradise. It’s a pity, as the sex in heaven could be wonderful, with no fear of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. You wouldn’t need lubricants or sex aids, and Viagra would be totally unnecessary. Heaven could be one magnificent orgy with multiple orgasms for all. Maybe I should start a religion on this basis? But ever since St. Augustine got his hands on Christianity, sex got a bad reputation in most Christian circles, and it’s supposed to be for procreation and not recreation. I suppose it was inevitable, as the 1st century Jews had a lot of sexual hang-ups too. So, probably no sex in a Christian heaven. No free love, no amorous nights with new partners, no dirty weekends, and no masturbation while watching internet porn. Most people I’ve talked to, as well as standard Catholic doctrine, said you won’t desire sex anymore, as you will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Can that possibly be better than an orgasm?
Food & Drink & Smoking & Drugs
Gluttony is a national pastime for Americans, with over 1/3 of them being obese by some counts. One of the popular seven deadly sins, which are not actually mentioned in the Bible, were invented by the Catholic Church. Will we need to eat in heaven? And if we do, then will we be shitting and pissing too? Again, most people I’ve talked to said that you won’t need to eat anymore. This may be a question of whether you are in heaven as a reanimated corpse, as most Christian texts seem to assume, or as some sort of spirit being. In any event, no one thinks that urination and defecation is a likely activity, so that to me means no eating or drinking. All those gourmet cooking classes you took in life will be wasted in heaven.
Sports & Entertainment
Most people today spend a lot of their time being entertained by others. It can be highbrow theatre or opera, or cat videos on YouTube and Anime comic books. But will this be available in heaven? And if so, who is going to be making it? Remember, watching a sports game is entertainment for the spectators, but it’s work for the participants. Will they want to work in heaven, or would they just want to relax? Also, most sports personalities don’t die in their prime, they die at an older age, when they are not as athletic as in their youth.
This comes back to the issue of what age you will be in heaven. So either there is no sports or entertainment, or there is but its being done by a bunch of old people (the athletes and actors at the age when they died), or its being done by a bunch of young people if we get to choose our age – but if you can’t have sex, and you have no pain or disease, then why be young?
Also, many sports have an element of violence in them, the same with today’s popular action and horror movies. Will you be able to crush your opponent in American football, or will you just be turning the other cheek once in heaven? How much fun would a James Bond movie be with no chase scenes, no shoot outs, and no one in sexy outfits? Maybe the angels play baseball when they are not on guardian angel duty? Anyway, it doesn’t look like there are TV or sports in heaven, except perhaps for the gentlemanly pastimes of non-violent English cricket, ping pong, shuffleboard, or croquet on the clouds? Snore……
People love their pets. Cats, dogs, horses, pythons, parakeets, hamsters, goldfish, rabbits, elephants. I live in Thailand, so elephants are a serious concern. Will we be reunited with them in heaven and enjoy their company? Will they want us? Maybe heaven for dogs is a large city with fire hydrants every ten feet? Maybe paradise for cats is a soft cushion in the sunshine, with a dish full of fresh tuna. Maybe horses just want to run free and never have to tolerate a saddle again.
But in any case, sadly, most Christian sects do not believe that animals have souls. Lots of people believe they do, but as a matter of doctrine, this is not the case. Animals don’t get baptized, and they don’t take communion, and they don’t have the capacity to accept Jesus as their savior – and in any event they are not tainted with original sin. There is no description of animals in heaven, just god and his throne and angels praising him. So, probably no pets to stroke or cuddle, no horseback riding, no duck hunting, no fox hunts, and no cat litter boxes to clean.
So what is left to do in heaven that we normally enjoy here on Earth? Reading books? Singing and praising god? I don’t think that most current rap tunes will make it to heaven, unless heaven is interested in gang bangers, capping cops and keeping control of your bitches and hoes. I am a product of the 70s. Will I never again enjoy Donna Summer belting out “Love to Love You Baby” or “Hot Stuff”? No more Pat Benatar pleading to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”? And of course, Joan Jett and Kiss probably only play in hell. So what’s left? Simon & Garfunkel for eternity? Endless Justin Bieber? Pat Boone and elevator music ever present in the background? Will it be endless karaoke? Locked forever in a room with people unable to carry a tune? Maybe everyone will be modified to be able to sing like Paul McCartney? Please don’t tell me it will be endless hymns to the glory of god…
So with all the normal stuff that you enjoy in life not available in heaven, what is left that you would want to do? Read books? Travel in mostly empty outer space? Talk to your long dead relatives? Be reunited forever with your dead ex-spouse? I guess we lose all our human desires when we go to heaven and become ever happy lobotomized cloud potatoes….for eternity, with the occasional karaoke break and lots and lots of time spent praising God. Just wonderful, an eternity of mindless happiness. I could do that as a cauliflower, just give me water and sunshine.
Art: Fabrizio Furchì