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13 April, 2010

On Heaven

Having successfully made the transition from Deist to Agnostic to Atheist in the last three or so years, I've found that there is a quite large support group for new atheists or agnostics looking for answers in blogs and other online mediums such as podcasts. I often find that these different blogs, articles and shows provide stimulating answers to my questions, but more importantly, ask questions that I had never thought to ask.

Through these questions I have come to believe that Heaven is a place that even a Christian would not want to go. In fact, it may very well be (if it were real) a very tyrannical and oppressive place to be after all.

For instance, every Christian will tell you that free will is God's greatest gift to man and yet it is also the root of all evil. If it were not for God giving man free will, man would not have eaten from the tree of knowledge and subsequently would not have unleashed evil upon the world. Ignoring for this blog entry the inherent problems with the nature of God that arise from this premise (see J.L. Mackie's Evil and Omnipotence) let's examine what heaven means to a free-willed creation of God.

First, does God allow free will in heaven? If so, does that mean that one can choose to leave heaven? Can any thought, action, or argument against God cause a supposedly saved soul to be cast from heaven right down to hell? Can't a person choose to assault another soul in heaven, or even blaspheme against God? If not, can a soul truly have free will?

If one answers, "Of course they have free will to do these things, but no one will want to when they get to heaven," then my answer must be in the form of a question to them: "Why, then didn't God go one step further and create an Earth where people have free will, but don't want to commit crimes. If God is truly Good, shouldn't he want to reduce as much as possible the sufferings of his creation if he is able?"

If one answers, "No, there is no free will in Heaven," my question would be, "Then why call it heaven?"

If one answers instead, "Yes, there is free will and yes, one can be cast from heaven," again, I would ask, "Can it truly be called heaven if it is the same as Earth? Why even call it by a different name?"

Another question that comes up often in arguments with theists regarding the nature of God and Heaven is how a benevolent God could possibly be so angry over minor infractions as to banish his creation, which he supposedly loves, into fire and torture for eternity. I've discussed this problem somewhat in this post and so am only mentioning it to lead into this question: If you knew that you were going to heaven for an eternity, but knew that your unsaved loved ones-be they parents, siblings, children or even just your friends-were going to spend eternity in misery and insufferable pain, how could you possibly be truly happy? How could you call it heaven?

Feel free to answer the best you can, theist or not. I have a feeling that theists will have a hard time looking at these questions and not wondering themselves about the religion they've bought into without contradicting some doctrine or dogma in their Bible or falling back on the "God works in mysterious ways, we are not meant to know them all" argument.

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