Author Topic: Problems with Heaven  (Read 1251 times)

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Offline DumpsterFire

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Problems with Heaven
« on: August 24, 2012, 12:30:01 AM »
I broached this subject a couple of weeks ago, slightly off-topic in another thread, and I've finally gotten around to starting a new thread for it. The subject began as follows:

Yes I do believe in God and when we die we will be awarded/punished for our deeds in this world and get endless life in heaven/hell

Welcome to the forum, fasi.

One question I have asked several theists here regards the notion of eternal life. Specifically, how deeply have you considered the ramifications of living for eternity? What exactly do you think you will be doing forever? For the sake of argument you may answer under the assumption that your final destination is heaven, although I would welcome your thoughts on eternal hell, as well.

And please, no throwaway stock xtian answers like "I'll be forever happy in the presence of god", but a well considered response in your own words. For example, how do you imagine day 2 in heaven will be different from day 2 million or day 2 billion, et al. ?

I hope you'll take the opportunity to be the first theist to actually respond to this, and I honestly look forward to your answer.


Unfortunately, fasi345 turned out to be another drive-by theist, and never replied.

Quesi gave the first response:

That is a really good question.  And one that I admit I had never really thought about before.

What does one do in the afterlife?  Forever and ever and ever?

I've posted about my sweet aunt, who believes her mom and my grandma are up in heaven cooking for my dad.  Even if you put aside the absurdity of dead people eating, it is not one of my utopian visions. 

I've seen the artistic depictions of deceased loved ones sitting on clouds and playing harps.  And that would be great for a few hours.  Days?  But years?  Millions, billions, trillions of years?

There was a video a while back by some guy who claimed he died and went to heaven, and romped around various different celestial districts, including a "body parts" room, which had all sorts of healthy body parts (livers, kidneys, ears, whatnot) that are sent down to earth to the holy who pray for them. 

So what do these blessed souls do for eternity? 

Reuniting with lost loved ones will be joyous, and will certainly take a while.  Meeting ancestors, quite a while.  Peeking in on loved ones on planet earth would be satisfying.  Music is nice.  Sitting around feeling bliss is nice.  Sitting next to a white haired bearded deity on a throne would be exciting.  Being embraced by a loving Jesus would rock. 

And then what?  Do you get to collect all human knowledge?  Are there books?  Movies?  Or do you just sit there and get celestial knowledge infusions? 

And then what?  After you know all that there is to know?

Do you spend a lot of time thinking about your loved ones who ended up in hell?   Can you get passes to visit them?  Or are they wiped from your memory - as if they never existed?

And then what?

I imagine you spend a lot of time meditating and reveling in the goodness of God and whatnot. 

Do you get to take naps?

But forever?  Millions?  Billions?  Trillions of years?

Wouldn't you, eventually, long for an end?

To which I replied:

That is a really good question.  And one that I admit I had never really thought about before.

What does one do in the afterlife?  Forever and ever and ever?

It was not something I truly pondered until recent years myself, and I know you and I are not alone in that regard. Most people think of heaven as a perfect place where they will get to see lost loved ones again, maybe hang out with god/Jesus/Jimi Hendrix (some say they're all the same person ;D), and just be happy and free from pain and fear and evil forever. But eternity is not a concept that the human mind can process effectively. Everything we experience, every instinct we possess, every perspective to which we can relate is based on something finite. It is very difficult to wrap our heads around forever.

And then what?  Do you get to collect all human knowledge?  Are there books?  Movies?  Or do you just sit there and get celestial knowledge infusions? 

And then what?  After you know all that there is to know?

And then what, indeed. Those three words sum it up so well.
One of the biggest questions I have is, once you know all there is to know (which is inevitable on an endless timeline), wouldn't that make you a god yourself?

Wouldn't you, eventually, long for an end?

And there you have it. It is very difficult if not impossible to conceive of an eternal afterlife that will not eventually suck like a Hoover. At least, not one where any vestige of humanity is maintained.

Then Garja:

When I believed in such things I just always assumed that God would somehow make it so the whole experience isn't as incredibly boring as it would seem.  I don't know.... a Holy Lobotomy or something.

Garja makes a good point: Wouldn't an all-powerful god be able to somehow make an eternal existence a pleasant thing? If so, how could it happen without utterly losing one's individuality and identity, not to mention free-will?


Theists: Please give a description of your concept of heaven, and how you believe an eternal life there would be.

Atheists: Please describe any way you can imagine a heaven/eternal life situation could be made not to suck in the long run.


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Offline Nam

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2012, 12:37:16 AM »
Is there a question somewhere in this? Or do you want our opinions of something none of us[1] believe exists?

-Nam
 1. except the theists here
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Offline DumpsterFire

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2012, 01:49:40 AM »
Nam - there are several questions there for anyone who cares to answer, although I suppose a theist's perspective would be most appropriate here. For atheists, I'm merely asking if you can conceive of any way an eternal life could even be brought to the realm of possibility, kind of like what Garja touched on. Its all rhetorical, ok?

For example, I suppose it may be possible to live forever and enjoy it while maintaining one's individuality if heaven is similar to the movie "Groundhog Day", but you would have to wake up every morning for eternity thinking that this was your first day in heaven, with no recollection of the previous days. You would still have free-will (short-term, anyway), and you'd be gloriously happy, but could this scenario be considered good and/or just?

I trust the impressive minds here can conjure up some other possibly feasible eternal life scenarios, however improbable they may be.

For the record (and its kind of silly that I feel the need to say this), I am an atheist. I think the very concept of a human being (or spirit, if you're so inclined) living forever is logically implausible.

I think that when the concept of eternal life is honestly considered at length, it crumbles.

I think most theists have not properly and at length pondered their concept of heaven.

That is the point of this thread.
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Offline Noman Peopled

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2012, 04:07:52 AM »
Garja makes a good point: Wouldn't an all-powerful god be able to somehow make an eternal existence a pleasant thing? If so, how could it happen without utterly losing one's individuality and identity, not to mention free-will?
That would depend on the definition of "all-powerful". Personally, I would define it as "being able to do anything except solve self-contradiction". The reason for this is that while almost anything may be possible, what's definitely not possible is making a rock so heavy he can't lift it and yet still being able to lift it, which would be necessary to maintain absolute omnipotence.
In short, no, I don't think it's possible to take a system (including physis and psyche both) that's evolved for a limited lifespan with limited ressources at hand with the environment being abrasive as well as subject to entropy and have it work for eternity upon eternity without major reconstruction.

Atheists: Please describe any way you can imagine a heaven/eternal life situation could be made not to suck in the long run.
In principle? Create a pleasent environment, stop bodily decay, and allow people's memory to overwrite itself. At least this way you'd have a shot at perpetual happiness - although seeing how many of humanity's problems are man-made, I don't really see it, either. I'm guessing cutting parts out of the personality would again be necessary.
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Offline Nam

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2012, 04:38:21 AM »
Dumpsterfire,

Well, as I've said in the past, I like the idea of Elysium. I don't know if I like Pindar's description or Plutarch's, or a mixture of the two.

But, it's not true: be nice if it were.

-Nam
A god is like a rock: it does absolutely nothing until someone or something forces it to do something. The only capability the rock has is doing nothing until another force compels it physically to move.

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Offline Brakeman

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2012, 05:49:49 AM »

For example, I suppose it may be possible to live forever and enjoy it while maintaining one's individuality if heaven is similar to the movie "Groundhog Day", but you would have to wake up every morning for eternity thinking that this was your first day in heaven, with no recollection of the previous days.

Couldn't the groundhog day scenario also be seen as taking death "one day at a time?"
Each day you and your memories would be obliterated, and each morning a new you created to live for only one day.
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Offline jynnan tonnix

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2012, 06:04:14 AM »
That's more "50 first dates" than "Groundhog Day"...as I recall. in GD he woke up everyday going "oh, no, not again!" until he figured out how to learn from each day and work toward putting all that cumulative education to work.

But in any case, I don't know that I'd get bored as long as there were things outside of me that were changing. So watching people and events unfold on Earth could be interesting for maybe a few millennia. Though I don't know that watching the planet die, or seeing hunanity wipe itself out would be entertaining, and certainly not blissful.

I can't really grasp the concept of eternity, though. Even if one could pick other planets to watch after the Earth was no more, eventually the whole unverse would cease to exist, and then there would be a reeeeeaaaaallly long period of nothing interesting even if there was another Big Bang...then billions of years just waiting for something as interesting as protozoa to emerge...Maybe there's some sort of cosmic fast-forward button to get through those times.

Offline DumpsterFire

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2012, 07:59:02 AM »
That's more "50 first dates" than "Groundhog Day"...as I recall. in GD he woke up everyday going "oh, no, not again!" until he figured out how to learn from each day and work toward putting all that cumulative education to work.

But in any case, I don't know that I'd get bored as long as there were things outside of me that were changing. So watching people and events unfold on Earth could be interesting for maybe a few millennia. Though I don't know that watching the planet die, or seeing hunanity wipe itself out would be entertaining, and certainly not blissful.

I can't really grasp the concept of eternity, though. Even if one could pick other planets to watch after the Earth was no more, eventually the whole unverse would cease to exist, and then there would be a reeeeeaaaaallly long period of nothing interesting even if there was another Big Bang...then billions of years just waiting for something as interesting as protozoa to emerge...Maybe there's some sort of cosmic fast-forward button to get through those times.

You're right, I got my movies confused. But what would probably make the most sense is if it was a combo of both movies - nobody would be able to remember anything beyond that single day. Otherwise, it wouldn't be as blissful for everyone present. This scenario would still present a great many inconsistencies, obviously, but it would certainly address the problem of boredom an eternal life would inevitably bring.

And if the whole point of this place is everlasting bliss, I'd imagine knowledge of the earthly world wouldn't be allowed. You know what they say about ignorance...
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Offline Hatter23

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2012, 10:43:00 AM »
Eternal life would not suck in the long run if you were given the option, at your choice as to when, for reincarnation. When you die from that iteration you wake up in heaven with both memories. You can chew on now having more experiences for a few centuries, and then do it again. Each time progressing, learning new perspectives, and reflecting upon them. Eventually you'll be more and more removed from the trauma and triviality of the hunger of life, seeing it from all sides.



An Omnipowerful God needed to sacrifice himself to himself (but only for a long weekend) in order to avert his own wrath against his own creations who he made in a manner knowing that they weren't going to live up to his standards.

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Offline Energized

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2012, 10:49:03 AM »
Eternal life would not suck in the long run if you were given the option, at your choice as to when, for reincarnation. When you die from that iteration you wake up in heaven with both memories. You can chew on now having more experiences for a few centuries, and then do it again. Each time progressing, learning new perspectives, and reflecting upon them. Eventually you'll be more and more removed from the trauma and triviality of the hunger of life, seeing it from all sides.

This. I would also like a chance to opt out of the cycle altogether at my own choosing.

Sitting around like a zombie with only words of praise for a narcissistic deity isn't my cup of tea. If I'd be allowed to explore the universe and visit other planets and stuff, that would be cool. But I would tire of it after a while and I would like to go out when I wanted to.

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Bringing torment and pain to others.
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Perhaps it is time to die?'

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Offline bosey926

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2012, 11:17:13 AM »
^^^This.  When I think of the eternal afterlife (heaven in this instance), I am thinking of The Matrix Reloaded scene where Neo (Keanu Reeves) goes in to the creator's "office" (the white room with the television screens), and gets the explanation that every one of his actions are predetermined by the maker.  That in the 3(?) times previous to Neo, all of "the ones" had tried to gain their independence of the maker, but they had all failed.
     Something along these lines is exactly what I envision when I see heaven...if it actually existed of course.  How is one supposed to exist in this supposed ecstasy for eternity if every action ever taken was predetermined by the tri-omni deity in the first place?  One of the most common excuses I hear for sin is that God gave us freedom of will; we must use it to guide our path to the afterlife (or something very close to that).  The problem is, if God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, then how in the fuck do I ever make a single decision in my life as an infantile, finite, homo sapien, on this little spec of existence that he determined we label "Earth"?  Do monotheists, or any theists for that matter, know what a contradiction is?

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2012, 12:50:31 PM »
Every theist I've talked to explains heaven as eternally praising god.  Imagine going to church forever!  Not my cup of tea.
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Offline stuffin

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2012, 02:28:27 PM »
Every theist I've talked to explains heaven as eternally praising god.  Imagine going to church forever!  Not my cup of tea.

So us Athiests will be going to heaven after all, cause you're making heaven sound like hell.
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Offline jynnan tonnix

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2012, 02:55:58 PM »
^^^
Maybe we all go to the same place, then...only for the theists it is bliss, and for the atheists, torture.  :)

Offline Samothec

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2012, 03:54:41 PM »
I read an analysis by someone who found a passage in the bible where it said that heaven has 7 suns in its sky. They did the math for the temperatures of heaven and hell based on their described physical attributes and heaven is hotter than hell. LOL
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Offline jdawg70

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #15 on: August 24, 2012, 05:30:21 PM »
^^^
Maybe we all go to the same place, then...only for the theists it is bliss, and for the atheists, torture.  :)

First thing that came to mind:
http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/2007/02/21
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Offline wright

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #16 on: August 24, 2012, 05:51:26 PM »
Eternal life would not suck in the long run if you were given the option, at your choice as to when, for reincarnation. When you die from that iteration you wake up in heaven with both memories. You can chew on now having more experiences for a few centuries, and then do it again. Each time progressing, learning new perspectives, and reflecting upon them. Eventually you'll be more and more removed from the trauma and triviality of the hunger of life, seeing it from all sides.

This. I would also like a chance to opt out of the cycle altogether at my own choosing.

I think Hatter and Energized's version is what I would find most bearable, even pleasurable for at least several centuries. Though I do wonder how human memory would cope, unaided, with hundreds of years of experiences. Which is why I would want the option of suicide / oblivion.

Our capacity to clearly remember is finite, after all. Could we keep supplementary / backup files in external media, consulting them as necessary?

Would our minds start breaking down, developing something like senility, unable to keep our overloaded memories in order? Maybe someone here with the right background in psychology / neurology could offer some informed opinion?

When I was a Christian, I had the fantasy of (once dead and in heaven) using God's mind as the ultimate library: eternally learning everything about the universe. All the past (I was an Old Earth / theistic evolution type) and all God had planned for the future; I was really looking forward to sitting down and having a good long read / chat.
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Offline Betelnut

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #17 on: August 24, 2012, 06:34:11 PM »
I wish I can remember which essay it was but Mark Twain talks about how heaven would drive a sane person insane.  To paraphrase, obviously.

Offline jynnan tonnix

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #18 on: August 24, 2012, 07:59:26 PM »
There's a short (fairly long, actually, as those things go) story by Mark Twain called something like "Extracts from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven" which has a lot of interesting thoughts of the matter.

Offline wright

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #19 on: August 24, 2012, 11:11:04 PM »
There's a short (fairly long, actually, as those things go) story by Mark Twain called something like "Extracts from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven" which has a lot of interesting thoughts of the matter.

Jynn, I remember that! I love Twain's ruthless examination of Christian theology (Mysterious Stranger, anyone?); he did it at a time when the repercussions were a lot more severe in the US than now, too.

Here's a link to the Extracts at the Gutenberg site: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1044
Live a good life... If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I am not afraid.
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Offline DumpsterFire

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #20 on: August 24, 2012, 11:12:20 PM »
Hatter - You make a great point. I hadn't considered the option of random reincarnations. That would definitely provide a foil for boredom.

Another question for which those of you well versed in Bible studies may have an answer, assuming the Bible even covers it:

My grandmother recently passed away. She married my grandfather quite young. They had 5 children together, then he died in an accident after they had been married for about 10 years. Many years later, she married another man with whom she had a very happy 20 year (or so) relationship before he, too, passed away. So after my twice-widowed Grandma finally exited this mortal coil, my brother and I in a moment of levity wondered, which man would she be with in heaven?

Would it be her first love, her first husband, the father of her children? Or the man she spent most of her golden years with, was married to for twice as long, and chose to share a burial plot with?

Will they share her, or will she get to choose for herself?

Xtians believe heaven is a perfect, wonderful place, but I don't think they've really thought it through, especially a scenario such as this.

Does the Bible make any mention of something like this?
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Offline Garja

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #21 on: August 24, 2012, 11:25:51 PM »
^ Interesting question.  I dont think I ever really considered that humans would again be bound to temporal relationships in the same way we were on earth.  Like, I dont know that I would have thought about couples living together.... as a couple, if you follow.  I dont remember ever reading anything that specifically addressed this though, so have no idea what the canon version is or if it varies among denominations.
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Offline LoriPinkAngel

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #22 on: August 24, 2012, 11:56:18 PM »
@ Dumpsterfire --
Quote
maybe hang out with god/Jesus/Jimi Hendrix (some say they're all the same person ), 

If you must equate a guitarist with god it would be Eric Clapton...
It doesn't make sense to let go of something you've had for so long.  But it also doesn't make sense to hold on when there's actually nothing there.

Offline wright

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #23 on: August 24, 2012, 11:57:25 PM »
Another question for which those of you well versed in Bible studies may have an answer, assuming the Bible even covers it:

My grandmother recently passed away. She married my grandfather quite young. They had 5 children together, then he died in an accident after they had been married for about 10 years. Many years later, she married another man with whom she had a very happy 20 year (or so) relationship before he, too, passed away. So after my twice-widowed Grandma finally exited this mortal coil, my brother and I in a moment of levity wondered, which man would she be with in heaven?

Would it be her first love, her first husband, the father of her children? Or the man she spent most of her golden years with, was married to for twice as long, and chose to share a burial plot with?

Will they share her, or will she get to choose for herself?

Xtians believe heaven is a perfect, wonderful place, but I don't think they've really thought it through, especially a scenario such as this.

Does the Bible make any mention of something like this?

I'll take a stab at it... Consulting my NKJV's topical index, the big J himself is quoted in Matthew 22: 30, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven."

So your grandma's preferences would seem to be irrelevant. What does it mean, to be like an angel? If there's no marriage, is there still sex? Or is there even gender?

Sorry I couldn't give a more definitive answer, but then this is the Bible we're trying to make sense of here. The same book that says the creator of the universe can be defeated by iron chariots...  :?
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Offline LoriPinkAngel

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #24 on: August 25, 2012, 12:03:21 AM »
I read a book called Five People You Meet In Heaven  by Mitch Albom  In this book the main character died and went to heaven and 5 people who's lives he had a great impact upon met him one at a time and described how his presence/existence changed/effected their lives.  He then was able to choose what at stage of his life he would like to spend eternity but 1st he had to tell his story to someone who changed his life.
It doesn't make sense to let go of something you've had for so long.  But it also doesn't make sense to hold on when there's actually nothing there.

Offline DumpsterFire

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #25 on: August 25, 2012, 03:48:40 AM »
If you must equate a guitarist with god it would be Eric Clapton...

I don't disagree in regards to the man's skills, but Eric ain't dead yet, so you wouldn't be hanging with him in heaven, now would you?
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I once met a man who claimed to be a genius, then boasted that he was a member of "Mesa".

Think for yourself.

Offline Noman Peopled

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #26 on: August 25, 2012, 03:58:34 AM »
I just thought of the afterlife concept the two jehovah's witnesses who visited me once brought to the party. They described it as being part of an all-consciousness, like eternal sleep. I had no idea that's what the witness notion of heaven was - it struck me as way more new-agey than abrahamic.
I was puzzled and asked them what the appeal was then.
(As an aside, they came by every year or so (with notes) - but the instant I gave them fifteen minutes and invited them to come by the next week they were gone. This was three years ago.)

@jdawg70: I assume you're familiar with Jhonen Vasquez' notion of heaven and god? ;)
"Deferinate" itself appears to be a new word... though I'm perfectly carmotic with it.
-xphobe

Offline Backspace

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #27 on: August 25, 2012, 07:32:58 PM »
What to do in a christian heaven?  Drill for war against dragons, of course!

Quote
Revelation 12:7: And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon
There is no opinion so absurd that a preacher could not express it.
-- Bernie Katz

Offline stuffin

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Re: Problems with Heaven
« Reply #28 on: August 25, 2012, 10:13:21 PM »
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below
Above us only sky
When you do things right, people won't be sure you've done anything at all.