I don’t know about you, but my idea of heaven is somewhat vague. I think that’s intentional on the part of the powers-that-be, those who encouraged my juvenile and adolescent belief in heaven, but that doesn’t clarify for me exactly what heaven is, where it is, or what it will be like if and when I get there. So I checked around.
The Catholic dictionary says this:
In Holy Writ the term heaven is used to designate the dwelling-place of God, His angels, and saints, as well as their happiness…The supernatural beatitude of heaven fundamentally consists in the intuitive vision of God, i.e., the seeing of God face to face and in experiencing perfect happiness through this beatific vision.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but to me that’s very unsatisfying. If I’m a good boy all my life on earth, and I qualify for a slot in eternal nirvana, all I get, as my just reward, is an “intuitive vision of god”? WTF? Am I finally going to meet this guy, face to face, or will I only intuit the meeting? I thought heaven was a fun place where you got to have ecstatic, near orgasmic experiences; where existence had no down side, no negativity, where everything was always positive, always creating joy and happiness, where all the suffering we experienced on earth was non-existent. A beatific vision is simply a joyful vision. While that might be uplifting for a few seconds, what about the rest of eternity?
It seems to me that heaven will have to have a lot of stuff to help wile away the time, (and what IS eternity but time? And a whole lot of it.) because the perceived slow passage of time is usually associated with boredom, and boredom doesn’t strike me as a desirable characteristic of the heavenly experience. On earth, we go to amusement parks, or movie theaters, or sit in front of our TV when we want to allay boredom, and even then, repeated dosages of the same tired sitcoms, indie-films or merry-go-rounds become the very definition of boredom.
Me, when I’m bored, I pick up a good book and become immersed in fictional or real worlds described by a good writer. But do I need to die and go to heaven to do that? No. I can do that right now, so perhaps I’ve already died and went to heaven?
And how about sex? Sex is the best thing we have down here on earth. I hope we get to take it with us. I assume that there will be sex in heaven, and not just with our spouses. Anyone we want. The Muslims seems to think so, with their 72 virgins, and they stole much of their theology from the Judeo-Christian tradition. And if you’re gay, you should have unlimited gay-sex, because god doesn’t discriminate. If you’re good enough to get into heaven, you should be able to partake of the best that is offered.
But wait! Heaven is starting to take on a decidedly hedonistic hue in my fanciful imagination (and what else do I have but my imagination – theology tells us nothing about heaven). Hedonism is frowned upon in most religions, and don’t religions mirror the mind of their leader?Maybe god’s idea of heaven is all that we should expect. No roller coasters, no cotton candy, no sex. Is it possible that the blueprint for heaven is already in front of us?
I gotta tell you, if being in heaven involves going to church every day, not just on Sundays, and praying to Mr. Beatific Visage, and singing hymns to him on a repeated non-stop basis, that to me sounds a lot more like the other place – you know, hell! Especially if I have to do it for eternity.
Even really devout Christians seem to be confused about what heaven is all about. Except N.T. “Tom” Wright, Bishop of Durham, the fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England. He’s not confused. He’s got it all worked out:
God will download our software onto his hardware until the time he gives us new hardware to run the software again for ourselves.
Whoa, dude! That’s so high tech! You gotta admire a god that keeps up with the times.
Can you spell A-P-O-L-O-G-E-T-I-C-S?