Can you really be eternally happy in heaven?

3 09 2008

Back in August PZ Myers linked to a reality-based retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” in which Jack trades the magic beans for a cow, and is berated and banished by his family as a consequence.

JACK: This cow can get us through the winter. [. . .] And I never understood what was magical about those 3 beans.
JACK’S FATHER: They were given to me by my father who was given them by his father whose father SAID THEY WERE MAGICAL.

Jack goes on to get a degree in applied economics and live happily ever after with his cow; his family freezes and starves to death.

One commenter, Kenny, raises the following objection:

and of course we know that this is a fairy tale because “lived happily ever after” does not exist in the real world. Jack and his cow will also eventually die. oh but wait, maybe there is a “lived happily ever after” if what religion says is correct and there is/are a God/Gods.

Kenny’s extreme linear-mindedness is almost endearing, but his remarks did lead me to wonder: do Christians believe that heaven is a place of eternal happiness, that once they die and go to heaven they will be happy forever. Like, interminably happy?

George Carlin has this great routine about the cliches and inanities people mutter when somebody dies; so good it’s worth embedding.

“‘You know, I think he’s up there now, smiling down at us, and I think he’s pleased.’” Carlin opines that the deceased would be far too busy with celestial activities to be smiling inanely at the living all the time. “What kind of eternity is that,” he asks.

But you’d think that the deceased would be at least as sad about being separated from his or her loved ones as would be those loved ones, and at any rate surely could not be pleased that his or her death has caused so much misery.

And if you do end up in paradise, it’s highly likely that there will be those dear to you who wound up in the other place. Your atheist brother, for instance, or your lesbian grandmother. Could you really be happy knowing that your friends and family are suffering flames and torture for eternity? If so, what does that say about your morality?

And surely heaven can’t be a place in which it is possible not to be happy, otherwise how is it all that different from a life of general happiness and contentment on earth (albeit spliced with the odd not-so-happy moment)? Isn’t eternal happiness part of what defines heaven as heaven? Or is it the case that however happy you were alive, you’ll be just as happy in heaven, except in heaven they give you one more ice cream, or one more blowjob (or pegging, if that’s your bag), or one more line of coke to sniff off the back of a nubile hooker?

And is it even permissible to be unhappy in heaven? Wouldn’t that constitute a kind of blasphemy, a sign that one is discontented in this state of communion with the divine? We know the Abrahamic God isn’t always happy, but then he’s not always the staunchest observer of his own rules. But how does God enforce eternal happiness? Are the unhappy people banished to Hell, or at least to purgatory, until they get over it? Or is there some kind of mind-control at work, some kind of H-chip (shades of the Happy Helmet from Ren and Stimpy) interfaced with your neurological wiring that ensures that you have no choice to be anything but happy? If that is the case, is that really happiness?


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5 responses

4 09 2008
OzAtheist

It would be interesting if any religious people can come up with an answer.

From what I’ve seen of the ‘happy clappy’ club they would probably be ecstatic to be able to spend all day every day just ‘praising the lord’.

It is not proper happiness if it’s being forced.

5 09 2008
AV

From what I’ve seen of the ‘happy clappy’ club they would probably be ecstatic to be able to spend all day every day just ‘praising the lord’.

I’m prepared, at least for argument’s sake, to give them a little more credit than that. Surely even these individuals would have people on earth or in Hades that they would miss or lament. Is it kosher, as far as Biblical morality is concerned, to fiddle while Mum burns?

7 09 2008
wade

I don’t think God is contained by time. In “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis, he talks about how time is like a bicycle wheel where Heaven is in the middle. So when I die, I get to Heaven at the same time as someone who died in like the 1600s or 1800s. Keep in mind that this is just from a man, and not from the Bible so nobody knows. Also, I looked up some more stuff on this topic and found this:

http://www.amazon.com/tag/christianity/forum?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx77WQHU8YS50Z&cdThread=Tx3BMOO8AD35PMG

As for the whole thing about being able to see people in Hell, the Bible says that whatever causes us grief or sorrow or pain of any kind will not be present in Heaven. But it is confusing because we are supposed to know a lot more in Heaven than we do now. Overall, it is hard to fathom what Heaven will be like because we are just humans and do not fully understand God. I have also read that we will not even care about such things like sex or whether or not our husband or wife is there because living with God is WAYYY more fulfilling than anything else. I for one can not wait to die.
On an ending note, I would like to say that I am NOT religious in any way, shape, or form. I think religion should be done away with all together. However, this does not mean that I do not follow Jesus. I totally follow Jesus and put him in control of my life. I do think that religion takes Jesus’ teachings and chops it up into a million pieces. I like to think of it as sushi. There are religions of Christianity and they eat pieces of the whole fish, called sushi and that is what is more widely acceptable to the world. However, I believe that Jesus called us to eat the fish whole(metaphorically). So if I walked into a sushi bar and asked for the whole fish to eat, instead of just the little pieces, I would be viewed as weird and maybe even radical. This is what kind of followers Jesus wants. For more radical, weird ideas like this, I urge you to check out any “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller and even more recommended is “THE IRRESISTIBLE REVOLUTION” by SHANE CLAIBORNE.

8 09 2008
AV

As for the whole thing about being able to see people in Hell, the Bible says that whatever causes us grief or sorrow or pain of any kind will not be present in Heaven. But it is confusing because we are supposed to know a lot more in Heaven than we do now.

This suggests a kind of mind-control on God’s part, the erasure of your memories and knowledge of loved ones so that you don’t become a party-pooper in heaven. Ignorance, in other words, is bliss.

Overall, it is hard to fathom what Heaven will be like because we are just humans and do not fully understand God. I have also read that we will not even care about such things like sex or whether or not our husband or wife is there because living with God is WAYYY more fulfilling than anything else.

Without memories of or the ability to recognise your loved ones, are you still really “you?”

I for one can not wait to die.

That’s chilling, but it confirms Nietzsche’s claim that Chrisitianity is a nihilistic belief system.

There are religions of Christianity and they eat pieces of the whole fish, called sushi and that is what is more widely acceptable to the world. However, I believe that Jesus called us to eat the fish whole(metaphorically). So if I walked into a sushi bar and asked for the whole fish to eat, instead of just the little pieces, I would be viewed as weird and maybe even radical.

You might be viewed by other Christians as presumptuous or arrogant, if you’re claiming to have grasped the True Faith of which they are purportedly ignorant.

8 09 2008
Bruce

Keep in mind that this is just from a man, and not from the Bible so nobody knows.

The Bible wasn’t written by people???

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