Heaven: Is It All That It’s Cracked Up To Be?

heaven-hellI’m sure you’ve noticed that a common theme among many Christian bloggers is the topic of “hell.” They seem to relish the idea of pointing out that “hell” is the destination of anyone who rejects God/Jesus as their savior. Often they include what they believe are the horrors of this “terrible place” (burning sulfur, everlasting fire, tortured screams, etc.). They seem to delight in pointing out what awaits you as an unbelieving, sinful, god-rejecting reader.

Then, at the close of their tirade, they switch gears and affectionately share the “gospel story” with you, urging you to to accept Jesus into your life (whatever that means) and avoid ending up in the fiery pit of “hell” … for eternity.

What I find rather interesting is how few write about the location at the other end of the spectrum. Of course, I’m talking about “heaven.” I wonder why that is. Let’s think about it for a minute.

Although believers tend to talk glowingly about their ultimate destination … how it’s going to be such a “heavenly” place and how they’re looking forward to worshiping Jesus/God for eternity … I can’t help but wonder if this is truly the way they hope/plan/expect to spend infinity. After living on this earth and experiencing so much of what “LIFE” has to offer, can an individual truly be content spending their eternal existence doing nothing but demonstrating their love and devotion to a deity? I mean, think about it. We’re talking 24 hours a day … FOREVER!

Many have speculated on what this existence will be like (they’ll be with loved ones who also “made it,” they’ll walk streets of gold, they will be forever “happy”) but in actuality, there is nothing in the bible that expounds on what will take place … except worship.

Let’s be honest here, Christians. When you say you aspire to reach “heaven,” have you seriously considered what awaits you?

What Would We Do Without Hell?

Awhile back I read a news report about a young lady who had been brutally raped and murdered. At the sentencing trial, the distraught father shouted at the guilty party … I hope you Rot in Hell!”

Other times, I’ve heard enraged individuals condemn their adversary by shouting … I hope you Burn in Hell!”

And on more than one occasion, I’ve heard someone say to another (usually in a fit of anger) … “Go to Hell!”

It’s apparent that “Hell” is widely accepted as a less-than-desirable place to be.

But what is “Hell?” Is it truly that hotter-than-hot place mentioned in the Bible? And where is it located?

More to the question, how did the story of “Hell” get started in the first place?

It seems the ancient Egyptians were the first to teach afterlife judgment. They believed the deceased would be judged by Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld. If he deemed a soul as evil, it would be doomed to experience either terrifying darkness or a river of fire.

Then the Zoroastrians came along (a Persian religion), who agreed with the Egyptians abousoulsinhell.jpgt an afterlife judgment. The difference being they believed the dead would be resurrected (rather than sent to the underworld) – either to a good life or to a place of unspeakable torment.

The early Greeks also taught that the soul lived on after death and Hades was their realm for the dead (good or bad). However, in later years, the philosophy of afterlife judgment (and either reward or curse) permeated their beliefs. Can you guess where the bad guys went? Of course! To a place (below Hades) where they suffered eternal torment.

And then along comes Paul (our favorite Christian) who declares the “evil” will receive wrath and furyanguish and distress … at life’s end.

One source that also talks about this undesirable place – and that few know about — is the Book of Enoch, which was written during the post-exilic period of Jewish history. This book provides several detailed accounts about some underworld journeys that Enoch took. I was struck by the number of times he used the word “fire” to describe what he saw. He talks about fiery bows and arrows, fiery swords, rivers of fire, tongues of fire, portals of fire, streams of fire, mountains of fire, and of course, the abyss of fire that holds the naughty angels (that supposedly bred with human women).

What stood out to me is that Enoch never uses the word “Hell,” yet it is apparent to those who condemn others to this awful place that this is exactly what they have in mind.

One more interesting fact about Hell. Tertullian, a noted second century theologian, has been credited in numerous places with the following statement:

At that greatest of all spectacles, that last and eternal judgment how shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquefying in … flames … philosophers blushing in red-hot fires …

(It seems the “Hell” curse is nothing new.)

One last tidbit to consider about “Hell” – do you know where the actual word came from? It’s derived from the Old English word hel, helle and came into being around 725 CE as a reference to the netherworld of the dead. Its core meaning is “to hide, conceal.” Obviously, its meaning has evolved over the years. Where it was once used to describe the dark and dismal abode of departed spirits, in today’s idiom it has come to mean the place of eternal punishment for the wicked.

So … if we take it all away, where are we going to send those “sorry bastards who never should have been born”?

Things I Never Learned in Sunday School

NanCover-ebookIt’s finally done! The book I’ve been writing for the past five years has finally come to fruition and is now available in both paperback and Kindle format through Amazon. Other eBook formats are also offered through Barnes & Noble, Kobobooks, Sony eBookstore, et al.

During my years in the Christian faith, I accepted what was taught in Sunday School and church without question. It wasn’t until I left the church that I began to investigate the history behind many popular Christian beliefs … with surprising results (i.e., things are not always as they seem).

In this book I challenge readers to go ‘outside the box’ and investigate what they believe. It is not a task for the faint of heart because it could very well mean discovering things that are in direct contrast to what you have been taught. On the other hand, it could result in a spiritual rebirth.

Some may find the contents of this book unsettling, but I believe you will find it difficult to put it down until the very end.

Visit my “Escape From Religion” blog for more details, book excerpts, and how to order your copy (at reduced pricing) of “Things I Never Learned in Sunday School: Facts about the Christian faith that will surprise and astound you.”

Afterlife Insurance

In a recent conversation with a friend, we got on the subject of religion. He commented that his parents attend church every Sunday (except for occasional sleep-ins), but he’s never heard them talk about God or Jesus, nor do they read their bible, say ‘grace,’ or demonstrate any other spiritual behavior. He wondered aloud why they even bother going.

I would venture to say this describes a large percentage of church-goers. They wouldn’t miss a Sunday service, yet any thought about God is absent from their lives the rest of the week … UNLESS they experience some type of situation where they want/need God to step in. Then prayer and supplication enter the picture. (Oh God! Please help!)

But praying to God doesn’t require church attendance, so what’s going on?

In my opinion, it has to do with the underlying concern (fear?) about what happens after one dies. Christianityafterlife.jpg has long taught there are only two things that can take place (possibly three if you’re Catholic) … you either go to heaven or you end up in hell.

Because hell has gained such an infamous reputation over the centuries, most people want to make sure they have plenty of “Afterlife Insurance” to guarantee them a spot in heaven. Church attendance helps make the payments.

It’s rather sad that Christianity has indoctrinated people with so much fear about what happens after death. Instead of living for and enjoying the present moment, they feel pressed to perform certain actions, rituals, and sacrifices to satisfy what they believe are God’s requirements for a ‘heavenly afterlife.’

The undeniable truth is we don’t KNOW what will happen when we die. And after-death experiences are not de facto proof of anything. So why not focus on today and let tomorrow take care of itself? (Even Jesus taught this.)