Heaven and Hell: How many should go to each?

I’ve spent more time than I should thinking about the concept of heaven, and the very idea of it becomes more incoherent the more I think of it. How does it actually work? Nobody ages or dies, sure. Do they feel pain? Do they feel unhappiness? Can they feel unhappiness? If you’re in heaven and eternally mourn the fact there are people in hell, then is it still heaven? If you’re in heaven and don’t eternally mourn the fact there are people in hell, then is it still heaven? How could such heartless bastards deserve heaven? And what about the people who have to associate with those heartless bastards? And while on that subject, what about the other people there? They say hell is other people - do you have to associate with them? What if you want to associate with somebody and being denied that makes you unhappy? Then is it still heaven? And on a completely different subject, you’re living forever here. What’s stopping you from getting bored? You can’t learn new things forever; eventually you’ll have learned all there is to learn, met everyone there is to meet, and consumed all the entertainment there is to consume. How will you be happy in an interminable heaven with nothing to engage your mind?

When you start turning over the rocks and looking at their undersides, the only really coherent heaven is the harps-and-clouds heaven - everybody sits on clouds playing harps forever, and likes it, because they can’t help but like it - their brains have been rewired to do so. And since you’re perfectly, blissfully happy, you do nothing else: you’ve found your place. You’re a harp-strumming God-praising machine and couldn’t wish for anything else. Boredom isn’t a problem, guilt isn’t a problem, worry about others isn’t a problem, nothing is a problem. Because you don’t feel any of those things. You only feel one thing: endless, unending bliss.

That’s heaven.

I definitely get your sentiments and tend to share them to a degree, but what if there are some people who will never be reconciled, no matter what?

True enough, but what if “the Hitlers of the world” don’t want to be forgiven?

What if someone loves their “foibles” more than they love heaven? Will God drag the unwilling soul to heaven kicking and screaming?

Can a selfish, nasty little creature enter heaven? If heaven is full of selfish, nasty creatures, then how is it any better than earth?

I’m a Universalist Christian (I think Jesus died for all sins and God desires all to be saved from sin and it’s consequences - and what God desires happens), so all to Heaven it is - albeit, I believe more in the World to Come, where Heaven and Earth become one (you know, Revelation 21), as opposed to a separate Heaven.

That does sound pretty bad. You and I were both greatly cheated growing up, being brought up in such unimaginative religions.

I would be more than happy to consider any conception of heaven that anybody can come up with, but I gotta say that I don’t see how anybody’s going to deal with the hurdles of putting an emotional, active human someplace forever and keeping them happy that long without seriously altering their state.

I mean, I suppose you could define heaven as someplace that’s meant to be horribly unpleasant, but that seems like cheating.

I voted that everybody goes to Heaven, nobody goes to Hell.

Some pretty tl;dr thoughts (don’t say I didn’t warn you!) about how I come to that conclusion:

  1. Infinite punishment for finite sins makes no sense.

  2. I’m a Christian, so the Gospels inform my view of the subject. The rest of my random thoughts will be based on the assumption that Jesus is one Person of the Trinity, and that the descriptions we have of his life accurately reflect who God is and what he’s about. Starting with, God loves everybody. He loves each of us more deeply than we are capable of loving each other.

  3. If he loves us like that, he’s not going to create us all, just to send most of us off to eternal torment at the end of our lives. (That would be quite a failure on his part, wouldn’t it?)

  4. If he loves us like that, he’s not going to separate the proverbial sheep from the goats in some sort of arbitrary ‘gotcha’ sort of way. (*What - you didn’t accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior before you died? Into the fires of Hell you go! * I do not believe God is like that.)

  5. I believe that none of us can enter Heaven as we are. Paul, writing to his fellow believers in the church at Corinth, says we shall all be changed, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet-call. And he was talking with believers who’d already been through a powerful, transformative conversion experience. So even we who know the Lord aren’t yet who we need to be to enter Heaven.

  6. Some of us - believers or not - when we see the Lord face to face, rather than through a glass darkly, we will look on him and willingly let go of all that is in our hearts that might stand between us and him. And into Heaven we will go.

  7. Some of us, believers or not, will still have anger, hatred, the desire to control others or see them come to bad ends, and other deep sins that we will be unable to let go of. We will not be able to carry those sins into Heaven. So what of us?

Does God stop loving us when we leave this world? Does he abandon us then? I don’t believe it. Human love, if it could live beyond the grave, wouldn’t cease. So how could divine love, which is so much greater, cease? How could God who is the very meaning of love, stop loving us, abandon us?

Nah, no freakin’ way. And God’s love, God’s patience, are infinite, and our resistance to his love is finite and limited. Eventually even Hitler and Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and Idi Amin and Genghis Khan and Torquemada and all the other greatest monsters of history, will let go of the evil in their hearts, repent of the evil they have done, and be able at last to enter God’s Kingdom.

Well, I don’t know that “heaven” (the Christian concept) is necessarily a forever place. In Christian eschatology, once Jesus returns in glory, he will establish new heavens and a new earth. I think one prophet in Scripture describes it as something like “the New Jerusalem descending from heaven”. To me, that seems to mean that “heaven” (God’s dwelling place), and “earth” (man’s dwelling place) will basically become one. The veil between the physical and the spiritual will finally be completely removed.

You describe heaven as “putting a human someplace forever”. I don’t see why humans would have to be limited to one place. If heaven and earth have been made new, we can explore the inifite expanses of the universe for an eternity. We can focus on a hobby or an interest with literally nothing to hinder us from it, for as long as we want.

Anyhow, there is a whole lot more speculation and imagination regarding the afterlife in Christianity than I think you give it credit for.

Rowan Atkinson’s take on this


Does infinite bliss for finite goodness make sense?

A human living a good life might deserve 100 years at an all-inclusive Caribbean resort or something. But eternal bliss?

Even Jesus spend time in Hell/Death, it is possible everyone has, doesn’t mean one has to stay there. It is my belief that eventually everyone will get to ‘heaven’, or the good place, as God’s plan is perfect and desires none to be lost. However God created Hell for a reason, and perhaps that’s what at least some of we need.

So given your choices answer a would be the most fitting, but other answers also are possible.


I’d like to opt for the Summerland, if they have a Library.

If heaven’s not a forever place, then in my opinion it’s not worth worrying about. You live, you die, and you cease to exist forever. Making that “You live, you fake-die, you wake up and live again, you real-die, and you cease to exist forever” doesn’t materially change things in my opinion - it’s still an annihilation model. Heck, it’s the model I currently exist in, except that I fake-die once every twenty-four hours or so.

The universe may be infinite in size, but it’s not infinite in variety.

(It’s actually not infinite in size either.)

Like the hobby of harp-playing? Certainly. But it’s going to inevitably play out in one of two ways: endlessly repeating the same activity or set of activities with no changes or mental stimulation and you’re fine with that, or you’ll lose interest in things and run out of things to do.

For it to work the hobby had better be really interesting, too, to help you not think about all the other people who aren’t with you or are with you or aren’t doing the things you do want them to or are doing things you don’t want to them to.

Quantity doesn’t impress me. Quality, on the other hand, would. And I really do think that if anybody had conceptualized a heaven that withstood scrutiny as well as one where you’re altered to be happy with a repetitive, pointless existence, somebody would have mentioned it in my hearing by now.

Sounds like neither heaven nor hell is a reasonable outcome.

Annihilation for everyone! Yay!

Eternal bliss is overly generous, but eternal torture is overly petty and vindictive.
Which god do you believe in?

How about infinite bliss because of God’s love and grace for all (which is what I think RTFirefly was getting to)?

And yes, that doesn’t make sense, but that’s supposed to not make sense (in the it’s way too much for us to comprehend how everyone gets the same reward… you know like the parable of the employer who gives the same money to folks who work 1 hour as those who worked all day).

It only doesn’t make sense if you assume that the bliss/suffering is meant to be reward or punishment.

Maybe God just wants us to shut up and be quiet for the rest of the road trip. It wouldn’t be the first time a surly child was handed a tablet and told to have fun.

I should be more specific. The afterlife, if it exists, must necessarily be forever since its existsnce would seem to confirm the notion that our souls are immortal. “Heaven” is only a temporary and disembodied part of the afterlife. As I said, at some point (the return of Christ), heaven and earth will be re-made and we will be resurrected, whatever that may look like.

Not sure why you’re so fixated on harp-playing, but…like whatever a human could possibly be interested it. What interests you?

Run out of things to do? Seriously? How long do you think it would take to fully comprehend the entirety of knowledge in the entire universe including the divine essence itself?

People talk about the afterlife “in your hearing” that often? I think you overestimate your auditory experience. I have run in devoutly religious circles my entire life, and I’ve rarely heard anyone talk meaningfully about the afterlife.

You’ve got to do some digging!

I like your answer, thanks. Eternal bliss is God’s generosity.

Not really–all that it proves is that souls outlast physical bodies. The souls themselves could then have an expiration date of their own.