Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Limitations of Heaven

Jesus in heaven
Heaven has always been one of those nebulous illusions that morphs to fit any mindset.  For a Christian, for example, it’s some kind of cloud-filled place with multiple angels playing harps.  One minister, Rev. Brown, told me that he expected to spend eternity at the foot of Jesus soaking up knowledge.

He didn’t explain what he would do with that information since classrooms and seminars were not part of his vision.

For Muslims, heaven is a kind of reward for a good life or valiant death.  There, virgins await incoming souls.  I’m not sure who the virgins are or what happens to the valiant wives left behind.  Maybe they are transformed into virgins when they ascend to heaven, assuming women can go to heaven.  I doubt Muslim beliefs would give them male virgins as playthings.
vision of Hindu heaven

Jews just sleep until united with God.  They used to have a heaven and hell, but those ideas were smothered by Christian teachings, so the Jews shucked them.

Hindus are reborn, coming back in a form commensurate with their previous actions on Earth until they finally work off all the bad karma and become one with the universe.  Buddhist work toward Nirvana, a heavenly state of bliss beyond the cares of the world, but admit only a few achieve such enlightenment.  The rest have to try again in the next life.

Zoroastrians came up with the idea of heaven.  They see it as a reward for following the “truth” of their faith and not the “lie” perpetuated by the evil Ahriman.  Their heaven is filled with radiance and great wonders.  By the way, they also invented the three-day waiting period before ascending to a judgment, where they are designated for heaven or hell.  It’s akin to what happens when kids learn their homeroom assignments in a high school. 

To me, these various heavens are interesting, but obviously have a problem.  A person who dies is stuck with whatever type of spiritual body he started with.  By that, I mean that a woman doesn’t suddenly become a man or vice versa. 

Paul tried to counter that by arguing there is no male or female in heaven.
Heavenly choir

Fine, but what about talent?

For example, I can’t sing.  I try, but those who remain within earshot often begun to grimace or assume other expressions of distaste.  I have always wanted to sing.  However, in heaven (or for that matter in hell), as described and taught by religions, I won’t suddenly have that ability.  I will still be “me,” the non-singer.  I won’t have art talent or any other kind of skill I may want, such as manual dexterity so I can actually do more advanced handiwork than change a light bulb.

In fact, all religions that offer heavens to believers have that same limitation.  The “I” continues.  That’s why Rev. Brown can see himself hanging on Jesus’ every word.  He can only picture himself as male and interested in what Jesus has to say because that’s what Rev. Brown is now.  He simply transplanted himself into the heaven he imagined.

To me, that’s more of a hell. 

Angel with harp
Maybe that’s another reason why a growing number of people are leaving traditional religions in record numbers.  They want to grow and be more, to lose the limitations of their current lives.  Traditional heavens don’t allow that.

Of course, this is just idle conjecture.  There’s no proof a heaven exists any more than there is proof of God.  Nevertheless, if there is one, I don’t want to strum a harp.  I took drum lessons before proving convincingly that I have no rhythm.  I can’t even clap in unison.  After a lifetime spent in classrooms, I also have no intention of taking any more courses with or without Jesus.

Ladder to nothing
I want to sing well.

If I can’t do that, I’m just not going.

I can also decide heaven doesn’t really exist, just like the millions of men and women who are walking away from organized religion for a more realistic future.  None of them may be able to sing, but in the reality of the nothingness that follows death, it really doesn’t matter.

 Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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