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Heaven And Hell: Fact Or Fiction?









"Hell begins on the day when God grants us
a clear vision of all that we might have achieved,
of all the gifts which we have wasted, of all that
we might have done which we did not do"

Gian Carlo Menotti







[On the surface, this essay deals with the two places that some religions have created to reward or punish the members of the human race for the lives, they have led on this planet. But, in reality, this essay is really about two other things: perfection and immortality vs. imperfection and mortality.]



Does God reward the “good” life with the everlasting bliss of Heaven; and punish the “wicked” with the everlasting fires of Hell? Christianity says yes! But we will show, this is just one more enigma1 that the God, religion has created, presents to us.

Firstly, Let's define our queries:

Heaven: “The abode of God and his angels, where virtuous souls receive eternal reward after death, especially in the Christian and Islamic religions; celestial paradise. ...”

Hell: “In various religions, the abode of the dead or the place of punishment for the wicked after death; the abode of evil spirits. ...”.2

I shall speak of these as the Christian faith (and its derivatives) has presented them to me, since that is the religion in which, I was reared.

Catholics are constantly being told about these places from when they are very small; so, they are just taken for granted, and never really questioned as being anything, but what they are. But is this correct? I mean, since these places are the places we are all heading for, shouldn't we examine them a little more closely; at least to see if they are feasible, and consistent with reason? And, shouldn't they be consistent with reason, since reason is, in fact, our only guide through this world; and, most importantly, that very thing that will decide whether or not we go to one place or the other!

First of all, I see it strange that a God, whose Son said: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. ...” (Matthew 7:1), would be Himself, a Judge, and deal out a never ending punishment for mistakes made in a limited and bewildering world, where right and wrong are so often hard to distinguish. That brings us to another concept that is also a part of this: the soul3.

The Soul:

The soul is the immortal part of a human being's mortal life. Immortal means it lives forever, as opposed to the limited mortality, we all experience as humans. It seems strange that this very short mortal existence of ours, called “life”, should weigh so heavy on us, as being the very thing that determines what will happen to that part of us that will never end! But let's take a closer look at this part of us that never ends.

The soul is curious, as it seems to be primarily that part of us that represents the living part we take as being mortal. That “living” mortal part, that forms our individual lives, as we know them, from life here on earth, in these living bodies. This is our “individuality”, and what is wholly got from our mortal life here on earth4. But is that the immortal part of us? If it pertains only to this existence here on earth, why does it constantly live on in that other existence, either in Heaven, Hell or Limbo5 that lasts forever? It is essentially memories from this mortal life on earth, yet it essentially rules our immortality!

My own opinion of this is, our mortal life dies (ends forever). And what lives on, if anything, is the part of us that is past on in our species – that part that allows us to live as loving organisms that cooperate and socially create an atmosphere of fellowship. If there is a God, this would seem to be God's real part in the human being, and also the whole species of human beings.

So, the soul itself ends up being another contradiction: something immortal, that is made up of something totally mortal – that human, mortal, identity!

The Human vs. The World:

What is life? It is essentially the Human being surviving in a world, where his species is not really dominant except for a single trait: rationality. It is this rationality that makes us stronger and more powerful than the most ferocious of other beasts. It is also that trait, in the human, that allows it to work together with the others of the species to form plans and implement them for the benefit of all. But religion judges the human on the particular rules it sets out as being the “dogma” of that particular religious group. The most important dogma being the Golden Rule, which essentially delineates the path through which humans cooperate to work together mindful of all others.

When St. John said: “God is love.” This is what he meant; that thing inside the human that builds cooperation, instead of contention. The very same thing was enunciated in the doctrines of the Eastern Philosophies, by leading a life that walks “in the middle” or follows “the mean”. So, the Golden Rule was known long before the Bible was written, or the Christ came to this earth.

The Chosen Of God:

Immortality and perfection are the key attributes of God. Humanity became imperfect and mortal, because the first humans (according to the Bible) chose to disobey God. So all of humanity suffered because of what the first parents of humanity did!

Now, does it not seem strange that all of humanity should suffer for what two individuals did? In losing the very things that they once again gain, when they die? But then, they are judged only for that miniscule life, they live; and an eternity of judgment follows them, again for that miniscule “life”, while they were mortal! God seems to be a very severe judge; in contrast to His Son, who always seems to forgive, no matter how weighty the crime. Did He not even forgive His own suffering and death? Yet His Father, in His perfection, seems the most unforgiving of Judges – the very thing His Son admonished (what was that, about someone breaking His own rules?)!

But then, there is the story of Job, in the Bible; the ending of which more or less says that God is beyond reason – the usual “mysterious ways” that always comes up as an explanation, when God seems to go against the very same reason, with which He endowed us!

But what about Perfection and Immortality?

Religions, today, use Heaven and Hell as examples of what is in store for us, if we obey or break their rules (for instance, the rules set out by God in His 10 Commandments) – reward and punishment. Yet The Christ was not about rewards or punishments; but about the furtherance of good, for its own sake; as His whole life showed. Goodness provides its own reward, in its very action; and evil is, by its very nature, its own punishment (except, maybe, in those genetic misfits who can't tell the difference between good and evil; in which case, it is not their fault anyway*). The most important things, in all acts, are the intentions behind those acts. What we mortals call the “motives” – of good or bad. If avoidance of punishment is the only goad to good deeds, then it seems that the whole purpose of the Christ's life was lost! We do good, not to avoid punishment, but for the sake of good itself; and the good results it brings about. Evil is seldom a truly intentional act, but most often a spur of the moment “getting even.” That is why the Christ emphasized unlimited forgiveness. So it seems that the whole concepts of Heaven and Hell are somewhat misdirected; for pure evil is often only a genetic malfunction or a circumstance mishandeled, rather than a real fault of the perpetrator. And, it is rare to find one, who does not regret that evil action. Should a soul suffer the fires of Hell for eternity for sins committed because of genetics, or a faulty mind – for that is where the really evil of this world have their origins!

And that is the whole idea behind our imperfection: we will always make mistakes, because we are not perfect. And, we have only a short life within which to redress those mistakes. For most, this life is the real punishment for us, because we have the knowledge to examine again and again those wrong things we do; and they always seem to come back to haunt us.

It is sad that the religious clubs of today, must still use the frightful, eternal punishment of a Hell, or the blissful, eternal reward of Heaven to motivate their followers; it is also a sad “God”, who uses such things, to keep His followers devoted to Him. Such was not the true teachings of the Christ; for He understood, what was truly important. Good must come from the instinct of good within the heart that is born into all humans. And, rarely, is evil anything more than a misdirected reaction to the seeming unfairness that life seems to confer on all, through blind chance. That is why that immortal and perfect thing, I call the GOOD6, we all have inside of us, lives on to be inherited by all human beings. That is why God needs no religion to show us the way; or their Heaven and Hell. For goodness always elicits joy; and, evil always elicits hurt; even in us poor imperfect mortals!

Chance affects all blindly; yet it is often hard for us to understand that; and we, instead, see “purpose” behind it. The mortal world is not only imperfect, but unfair and unjust. It is a world, where chance rules – that is its nature. That is why prayer cannot change things; only concerted human actions, acting under the furtherance of the betterment of all – that is the true “prayer” of humanity – for that is the GOOD, acting to further all through the actions of all!

We are a species with something “immortal” (which I call the GOOD) born within us. I term it immortal, for our species will always produce it, like no other species can. It is what keeps us doing good instinctively; and also, it instinctively turns us from evil. So, it never divides, but always unites, by its very nature. It generates love – that is why some call it “God”. It shows up in all, but we must accept it – and, there is the problem, we face... it depends on a free will. And, a free will, in a world ruled by chance, that often mimics purpose, allows the occasion of “sin” (something not in line with the betterment of all). That is mortal imperfection.

So, after what I said, I see Heaven and Hell as mere fantasies, since they seem to contradict the very nature of divinity itself. They demean a God, whose main attribute is perfection, with the pettiness of revenge. If God is love, they also contradict this, with petty imperfect qualities that generate hate. Evil is its own punishment; so there is no need for Hell. And, good is its own reward; perpetuating itself, in its accomplishment. We cannot face the world alone; that is why religions are their own contradiction; in the divisions they cause. Perfection can never divide, but always unite. Human perfection is love, which always unites humanity to face the world of chance, and overcome it. The only true Hell is humanity's waste of its working together, to make the world better for all, as Gian Carlo Menotti mentions above! And, the only Heaven, we can ever know, is letting the GOOD unite us in love (that some call God)!




FOOTNOTES

To return to note's origin click the footnote number at left



1 See the essay: “My Take On Religion”



2 These definitions taken from: The Reader's Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary; The Reader's Digest Association; Pleasantville, N.Y.; 1966.



3 “Soul”: “a:The divine principle of life in man. b: the moral or spiritual part of man as related to God, considered as surviving death and liable to joy or misery in a future state.” See footnote 2 above, for source.



4 See footnote 2 in the essay: “Issue 9: Birth Control And Abortion”.



5 This idea of “Limbo”: “A region on the edge of hell for souls of the righteous who died before the coming of Christ, and those of infants who die before baptism.” is even stranger, because these souls are really in “limbo”; since they are “righteous”, yet they don't get Heaven, because God created them too early; or their mother had a miscarriage or abortion!? It seems God can't make up His mind, what to do with them, so He created a special place for them!? This God of religion is a very strange God indeed!



* These people are called "psychopaths". But this only brings up another problem: why has God made humans, who are genetically compromised, so that their minds do not know the difference between good and evil? God created broken humans? And, even broken as to where their morality is concerned? This "God", certainly, doesn't seem so "perfect"! Of course, God may have created the process of creation itself, which is imperfect; and meant it to be that way. But this is just another reason for Him, not to create a Heaven or a Hell!



6 The GOOD – The agency in humanity that allows it to assume the wider perspective of the Universe (or God), or the perspective of humanity as a whole, as opposed to the perspective provided by the satisfaction of the survival instinct. This Universal Human Perspective is often termed the "Golden Rule": "Do unto others as you would have them do to you", or "Love your neighbor as yourself".







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Originally Published:

October 16, 2015


Revised:

October 16, 2015