Rethinking Christianity / Spirituality

Why do we want go to Heaven?

I read a post today written by the Unknown Buddhist, Pass the Hamm’s.  It is an entertaining post about residents in a retirement home discussing what it will be like in Heaven. Will there be Hamm’s beer? If not, why go? And other such musings.

But what stuck with me was the questions about what will we do when we get there?  One retiree in the post comments, ““What will we do in Heaven? Do we just sit and sing wonderful songs to God?  If we do, that could get tedious. I mean, singing for the first thousand or so years sounds great, but that third thousand … man, that will suck. I’d probably go to God and say, “Got anything else?””

Admittedly I have had such thoughts myself.  Heaven is proclaimed to be the most joyous experience we can ever have. But there are no specifics about the experience. We are left to ponder what it will be like and to question what we will do there. Will we float among the clouds and sing songs of praise? Will we constantly kneel before God in a persistent state of adoration? Will we traverse golden streets in between our heavenly mansions giving out high fives to other passers-by?

As the octogenarian in the post proclaims, “that could get tedious…got anything else?”

butterly and fieldsWhat will heaven be like if we don’t have concerts, restaurants, and family gatherings? Will heaven be all that joyful if I can’t hug my grandchildren? Or gossip humorous nonsense with my best friend?  Or laugh until my sides hurt when my Aunt Betty cuts a fart at the family picnic so raunchy that the whole family is joking about the stench scattering even the flies away from the apple pie?

The author ends the post with a quote from Steve Jobs:  “No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.

And there is the point I walked away with. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. Maybe, our whole fascination and longing for heaven is not as much about eternal life with God, but just eternal life. We don’t want to die. The thought of ceasing to exist is terrifying. And perhaps we will accept any alternative to that, without giving much thought as to how actual or accurate the proposal may be.

My thoughts turn to the Gospel of Thomas and how Jesus implies that the Kingdom of God is a state of the self, inside us and around us. Maybe I just need to search for the most joyous experiences I can have in my life now and enjoy all the special people and events that make it worth living, and accept that all heaven may be is the bliss that I can feel in this lifetime.

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7 thoughts on “Why do we want go to Heaven?

  1. Hey Unconventional,
    When I was a kid I used to imagine heaven. It was kind of like a church service. I would sit in a pew and look forward at the back of a bunch of adult heads and start wishing I was at home playing video games. Will heaven be boring?

    Then, when I really searched scripture, this boring idea of heaven can’t seem to be found. What will happen is a resurrection into an entirely new physical creation. It is called “new heaven and new earth” or “new creation”. What will we do? We will enjoy each other and the creation in the presence of God forever. We might have enjoyable work to do while there. Whatever it is, if God can create this reality which has beauty and is enjoyable to such an extent that we don’t want to die in it, how much more desirable will a new reality be without death?

    • I have considered that thought as well…if this life is so desirable, then how much more would a “next” life be. Just like progression from the womb to this life, it must surely become better.
      There is much speculation in the thoughts of the afterlife. And I don’t think the bible or Jesus was very specific about it. In fact, I think Jesus related heaven much to the improvement of the earthly state of living, telling the impoverished that in heaven there are many mansions, etc. Since he referred to the Kingdom of God as a state of being and not a place (at least IMHO) I’m left to wonder if Heaven is not a term to signify being in an advanced station of spirituality where we are consciously connected intimately with the all of creation.

      • The bible is not specific about the new creation because it’s not made yet, it is still in the mind of the Creator. 🙂

        Seriously though, I agree with you that “Jesus related heaven much to the improvement of the earthly state of living” and even that the Kingdom of God describes something about the present state. In theology isn’t this called “realized eschatology”? For example, Paul says:

        So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Cor 5:17, NRSV)

        However, I do not think we should force a dichotomy onto these concepts saying that they must describe something in the present and not something at the end of time (or vice versa). Why can’t the Kingdom of God also represent both something about the present and something about the future? I think the biggest indicator for this is seen in the resurrection. If the Creator brought Jesus back from death, then we have a sign of the future new creation which has touched this world. If this really did happen, we are no longer speculating, but have a hope that is warranted.

      • My belief in a physical resurrection has waivered and I think of it in terms now more of a spiritual and emotional experience by the apostles. I will even consider it possible that they saw Jesus as an apparition or presence from an alternative dimension just as people claim to see ghosts today. As with all metaphysical experiences claimed I leave it in the realm of the possible but not proven. Perhaps the greatest indication for me of rebirth is that all of life seems to dissolve into itself and become new in some other way.

        I agree that we shouldn’t force a dichotomy on spiritual concepts. The beauty of Jesus’ message in my view is the fluidity and timelessness of it. It can represent many different things to many different people. Just as those in other religions accept his words as confirming or relating to the words of their own prophets, in Christianity the mystics, new age and progressive Christians have also seen different yet relative spiritual meaning in his message.

        I appreciate that you comment and share your own point of view. 🙂

  2. I should start by saying that the conventional notion of heaven as some kind of eternal reward for the actions of a finite life has never made any more sense to me than the notion of Hell as an eternal punishment for the same.

    That said though, I think the commonly raised reservations about heaven touched on in this post arise from a misapprehension of what ‘eternity’ and ‘boredom’ might be (not to mention ‘identity’ and ‘self’).

    Eternity isn’t like what you’re doing today extended infinitely in time. Eternity is something beyond the dimensions of space-time and exist both outside of it and rolled up tight into every instant of it. As Blake suggested, you can find eternity in an hour (or a second). Unfortunately the most memorable experiences of eternity often seem to be of hells. We can remember the suffering that seemed to go on forever but similar experiences of bliss seem harder to pin down in experiential memory for some reason.

    The reason we engage in boredom avoiding activities is because otherwise we might be left alone with the contents of our own mind and most people find that very uncomfortable. I don’t think a heaven in which you were still subject to the tortures inflicted by your own psyche would really rate as much of a heaven. If you are really in a completely blissful state, time and boredom cease to have any meaning. That also means that Aunt Betty’s farts no longer impinge upon your equanimity – whether for good or ill.

    But as you can see, if you are completely stripped of your psychic pains you are probably now something very different to what you are used to thinking of as your ‘self’.

    I think conventional notions of heaven are messed up by the idea that your ‘self’ is what goes there. Hell isn’t other people. It’s you. Or at least the messed up ideas of what constitutes ‘you’.

    • Hello Struggler. I have been scribbling in a journal but not much time to write on here due to becoming a care giver for my dad this past year. I hope to start writing again soon now that things have improved and his health is much better Life throws us curve balls and shakes us up!

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