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Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious, cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings (such as a Sky deity, God, angels, King or Queen of Heaven, Heavenly Father or Heavenly Mother or Son of Heaven, heavenly saints or venerated ancestors) originate, are enthroned or inhabit. It is commonly believed that heavenly beings can descend to earth or take on earthly flesh and that earthly beings can ascend to Heaven in the afterlife or in exceptional cases enter Heaven alive. Heaven is often described as a “higher place”, the holiest place, a Paradise, in contrast to Hell or the Underworld or the “low places”, and universally or conditionally accessible by earthly beings according to various standards of divinity, goodness, piety, faith, or other virtues or right beliefs or simply the Will of God. Some believe in the possibility of a Heaven on Earth in a World to Come or of a World Tree which connects the heavens, the world, and the underworld.
The modern English word heaven is derived from the earlier (Middle English) spelling heven (attested 1159); this in turn was developed from the previous Old English form heofon. By c. 1000, heofon was being used in reference to the Christianized “place where God dwells”, but originally, it had signified “sky, firmament” (e.g. in Beowulf, c. 725). The English term has cognates in the other Germanic languages: Old Saxon heƀan “sky, heaven”, Middle Low German heven “sky”, Old Icelandic himinn “sky, heaven”, Gothic himins; and those with a variant final -l: Old Frisian himel, himul “sky, heaven”, Old Saxon/Old High German himil, Dutch hemel, and modern German Himmel. All of these have been derived from a reconstructed Proto-Germanic form *Hemina-. In many languages, the word for “heaven” is the same as the word for “sky”.
Entry into Heaven from Earth
Religions that speak about heaven differ on how (and if) one gets into it, either in the afterlife or while still alive. In many religions, entrance to Heaven is conditional on having lived a “good life” (within the terms of the spiritual system) or “accepting God into your heart.” A notable exception to this is the ‘sola fide‘ belief of many mainstream Protestant Christians, which teaches that one does not have to live a perfectly “good life,” but that one must accept (believe and put faith in) Jesus Christ as one’s saviour, and then Jesus Christ will assume the guilt of one’s sins; believers are believed to be forgiven regardless of any good or bad “works” they have participated in. Catholic Christians too speak of heaven as unattainable by even heroic human effort and having been “opened” by the death and resurrection of Jesus. They see heaven as promised by God as a reward for good works made possible only by his grace, while “the works of the flesh” exclude from heaven. A contrary view is that of Christian Universalism, which holds that, because of divine love and mercy all will ultimately be reconciled to God.
Dispensationalists hold that, in an event called the Rapture, Christians will be suddenly removed from earth before or during the Great Tribulation. They base this belief on 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which says that, along with “the dead in Christ”, “we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”.
Results of exclusion from heaven
Many religions[who?] state that those who do not go to heaven will go to another place, hell, which is eternal in religions such as Christianity. Some religions uphold the belief that other forms of afterlife exist in addition to heaven and hell, such as purgatory, though many hells, such as Naraka, serve as purgatories themselves. Some belief systems contain universalism, the belief that everyone will go to heaven eventually, no matter what they have done or believed on earth. Some forms of Christianity, and other religions believe hell to be the termination of the soul. Some Christian denominations believe in an Intermediate state between death and the Resurrection of the Dead.
Ancient Near East religions
In Ancient Egyptian faith, belief in an afterlife is much more stressed than in ancient Judaism. Heaven was a physical place far above the Earth in a “dark area” of space where there were no stars, basically beyond the Universe. According to the Book of the Dead, departed souls would undergo a literal journey to reach Heaven, along the way to which there could exist hazards and other entities attempting to deny the reaching of Heaven. Their heart would finally be weighed with the feather of truth, and if the sins weighed it down their heart was devoured.
Canaanite and Phoenician views of heaven
Almost nothing is known of Bronze Age (pre-1200 BC) Canaanite views of heaven, and the archeological findings at Ugarit (destroyed c.1200 BC) have not provided information. The 1st century Greek author Philo of Byblos may preserve elements of Iron Age Phoenician religion in his Sanchuniathon.
Hurrian and Hittite myths
In the Middle Hittite myths heaven is abode of the gods. In the Song of Kumarbi, Alalu was king in heaven for nine years before giving battle to his son Anu. Anu was himself overthrown by his son Kumarbi. 
The Bahá’í Faith regards the conventional description of heaven (and hell) as a specific place as symbolic. The Bahá’í writings describe heaven as a “spiritual condition” where closeness to God is defined as heaven; conversely hell is seen as a state of remoteness from God. Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, has stated that the nature of the life of the soul in the afterlife is beyond comprehension in the physical plane, but has stated that the soul will retain its consciousness and individuality and remember its physical life; the soul will be able to recognize other souls and communicate with them.
For Bahá’ís, entry into the next life has the potential to bring great joy. Bahá’u’lláh likened death to the process of birth. He explains: “The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother.” The analogy to the womb in many ways summarizes the Bahá’í view of earthly existence: just as the womb constitutes an important place for a person’s initial physical development, the physical world provides for the development of the individual soul. Accordingly, Bahá’ís view life as a preparatory stage, where one can develop and perfect those qualities which will be needed in the next life. The key to spiritual progress is to follow the path outlined by the current Manifestation of God, which Bahá’ís believe is currently Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “Know thou, of a truth, that if the soul of man hath walked in the ways of God, it will, assuredly return and be gathered to the glory of the Beloved.”
The Bahá’í teachings state that there exists a hierarchy of souls in the afterlife, where the merits of each soul determines their place in the hierarchy, and that souls lower in the hierarchy cannot completely understand the station of those above. Each soul can continue to progress in the afterlife, but the soul’s development is not entirely dependent on its own conscious efforts, the nature of which we are not aware, but also augmented by the grace of God, the prayers of others, and good deeds performed by others on Earth in the name of that person.
In Buddhism there are several heavens, all of which are still part of samsara (illusionary reality). Those who accumulate good karma may be reborn in one of them. However, their stay in the heaven is not eternal—eventually they will use up their good karma and will undergo a different rebirth into another realm, as humans, animals or other beings. Because heaven is temporary and part of samsara, Buddhists focus more on escaping the cycle of rebirth and reaching enlightenment (Nirvana).
According to Buddhist cosmology the universe is impermanent and beings transmigrate through a number of existential “planes” in which this human world is only one “realm” or “path”.
These are traditionally envisioned as a vertical continuum with the heavens existing above the human realm, and the realms of the animals, Hungry ghosts and hell beings existing beneath it. According to Jan Chozen Bays in her book, Jizo: Guardian of Children, Travelers, and Other Voyagers, the realm of the asura is a later refinement of the heavenly realm and was inserted between the human realm and the heavens. One important Buddhist heaven is the Trāyastriṃśa, which resembles Olympus of Greek mythology.
In the Mahayana world view, there are also pure lands which lie outside this continuum and are created by the Buddhas upon attaining enlightenment. These should not be confused with the heavens as the pure lands are abodes of Buddhas, which the heavens are not and heavens are looked at “impermanent” places to be reincarnated in, as heavenly beings still have to die and be reincarnated into lower realms. This confusion can be made worse when writers use such words ‘paradise’ to denote such pure lands.
One notable Buddhist pure land is the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha. Rebirth in the pure land of Amitabha is seen as an assurance of Buddhahood for once reborn there, beings do not fall back into cyclical existence unless they choose to do so to save other beings, the goal of Buddhism being the obtainment of enlightenment and freeing oneself and others from the birth-death cycle.
One of the Buddhist Sutras states that a hundred years of our existence is equal to one day and one night in the world of the thirty-three gods. Thirty such days add up to their one month. Twelve such months become their one year, while they live for a thousand such years though existence in the heavens is ultimately finite and the beings who reside there will reappear in other realms based on their karma.
The Tibetan word Bardo means literally “intermediate state“. In Sanskrit the concept has the name antarabhāva.
Chinese Zhou Dynasty Oracle script for Tian, the character for Heaven or sky.
In the native Chinese Confucian traditions Heaven (Tian) is an important concept, where the ancestors reside and from which emperors drew their mandate to rule in their dynastic propaganda, for example.
Heaven is a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophies and religions, and is on one end of the spectrum a synonym of Shangdi (“Supreme Deity”) and on the other naturalistic end, a synonym for nature and the sky. The Chinese term for Heaven, Tian (天), derives from the name of the supreme deity of the Zhou Dynasty. After their conquest of the Shang Dynasty in 1122 BC, the Zhou people considered their supreme deity Tian to be identical with the Shang supreme deity Shangdi. The Zhou people attributed Heaven with anthropomorphic attributes, evidenced in the etymology of the Chinese character for Heaven or sky, which originally depicted a person with a large cranium. Heaven is said to see, hear and watch over all men. Heaven is affected by man’s doings, and having personality, is happy and angry with them. Heaven blesses those who please it and sends calamities upon those who offend it. Heaven was also believed to transcend all other spirits and gods, with Confucius asserting, “He who offends against Heaven has none to whom he can pray.”
Other philosophers born around the time of Confucius such as Mozi took an even more theistic view of Heaven, believing that Heaven is the divine ruler, just as the Son of Heaven (the King of Zhou) is the earthly ruler. Mozi believed that spirits and minor gods exist, but their function is merely to carry out the will of Heaven, watching for evil-doers and punishing them. Thus they function as angels of Heaven and do not detract from its monotheistic government of the world. With such a high monotheism, it is not surprising that Mohism championed a concept called “universal love” (jian’ai, 兼愛), which taught that Heaven loves all people equally and that each person should similarly love all human beings without distinguishing between his own relatives and those of others. In Mozi‘s Will of Heaven (天志), he writes:
“I know Heaven loves men dearly not without reason. Heaven ordered the sun, the moon, and the stars to enlighten and guide them. Heaven ordained the four seasons, Spring, Autumn, Winter, and Summer, to regulate them. Heaven sent down snow, frost, rain, and dew to grow the five grains and flax and silk that so the people could use and enjoy them. Heaven established the hills and rivers, ravines and valleys, and arranged many things to minister to man’s good or bring him evil. He appointed the dukes and lords to reward the virtuous and punish the wicked, and to gather metal and wood, birds and beasts, and to engage in cultivating the five grains and flax and silk to provide for the people’s food and clothing. This has been so from antiquity to the present.”
Original Chinese: 「且吾所以知天之愛民之厚者有矣，曰以磨為日月星辰，以昭道之；制為四時春秋冬夏，以紀綱之；雷降雪霜雨露，以長遂五穀麻絲，使民得而財利之；列為山川谿谷，播賦百事，以臨司民之善否；為王公侯伯，使之賞賢而罰暴；賊金木鳥獸，從事乎五穀麻絲，以為民衣食之財。自古及今，未嘗不有此也。」
Mozi, Will of Heaven, Chapter 27, Paragraph 6, ca. 5th Century BC
Mozi criticized the Confucians of his own time for not following the teachings of Confucius. By the time of the later Han Dynasty, however, under the influence of Xunzi, the Chinese concept of Heaven and Confucianism itself had become mostly naturalistic, though some Confucians argued that Heaven was where ancestors reside. Worship of Heaven in China continued with the erection of shrines, the last and greatest being the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and the offering of prayers. The ruler of China in every Chinese dynasty would perform annual sacrificial rituals to Heaven, usually by slaughtering two healthy bulls as sacrifice.
Traditionally, Christianity has taught “Heaven” as a place of eternal life and the dwelling place of the Angels and the Throne of God, and a kingdom to which all the elect will be admitted. In most forms of Christianity, belief in the afterlife is professed in the major Creeds, such as the Nicene Creed, which states: “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” In Biblical forms of Christianity, concepts about the future “Kingdom of Heaven” are also professed in several scriptural prophecies of the new (or renewed) Earth said to follow the resurrection of the dead—particularly the books of Isaiah and Revelation. The resurrected Jesus is said to have ascended to heaven where he now sits at the Right Hand of God and will return to earth in the Second Coming. Mary, his mother, is also said to have been assumed into heaven and is titled the Queen of Heaven. Many also believe Elijah and Enoch were taken into heaven. Revelation 12:7-9 speaks of a War in Heaven between Michael the Archangel and his angels against the Dragon and his angels, which the Dragon and his angels lost and thus they were “thrown down to the earth”, and though the term is not used in the text, they are generally referred to as the fallen angels. In the 2nd century AD, Irenaeus (a Greek bishop) wrote that not all who are saved would merit an abode in Heaven itself. One popular medieval view of Heaven was that it existed as a physical place above the clouds and that God and the Angels were physically above, watching over man. The ancient concept of “Heaven” as a synonym for “skies” or “space” is also evident in allusions to the stars as “lights shining through from heaven”, and the like.
The term Heaven is applied by the Bible to the realm in which God currently resides. Eternal life, by contrast, occurs in a renewed, unspoilt and perfect creation, which can be termed Heaven since God will choose to dwell there permanently with his people, as seen in Revelation 21:3. That there will no longer be any separation between God and man. The believers themselves will exist in incorruptible, resurrected and new bodies; there will be no sickness, no death and no tears. Some teach that death itself is not a natural part of life, but was allowed to happen after Adam and Eve disobeyed God (see Original Sin) so that mankind would not live forever in a state of sin and thus a state of separation from God.
Not only will the believers spend eternity with God, they will also spend it with each other. John’s vision recorded in Revelation describes a New Jerusalem which comes from Heaven to the New Earth, which is generally seen to be a symbolic reference to the people of God living in community with one another; in a number of sects this is taken as more literal than symbolic. Heaven will be the place where life will be lived to the full, in the way that the designer planned, each believer “loving the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their mind” and “loving their neighbour as themselves” (cf. Matthew 22:37-40, also known as the Great Commandment)—a place of great joy, without the negative aspects of present earthly life.
According to Hindu cosmology, above the earthly plane are six heavenly planes: 1. Bhuva Loka, 2. Swarga Loka, meaning Good Kingdom, is the general name for heaven in Hinduism, a heavenly paradise of pleasure, where most of the Hindu gods (Deva) reside along with the king of gods, Indra, and beatified mortals. 3. Mahar Loka 4. Jana Loka 5. Tapa Loka and 6. Satya Loka.
In the Hindu Vaishnava traditions the highest heaven is Vaikuntha, which exists above the six heavenly lokas and outside of the mahat-tattva or mundane world. It’s where eternally liberated souls who have attained moksha reside in beautiful and eternally youthful human forms with Lakshmi and Narayana (a manifestation of Vishnu). Vaikuntha is divided into various realms where various avatars of Lakshmi-Narayana preside. These include the celestial Ayodhya where Sita–Rama preside, and the celestial Goloka where Krishna and his various consorts such as Radha and Rukmini preside. The liberated human souls or jivas who live there engage in different types of relationships Rasa (theology) with the countless manifestations or avatars of Lakshmi-Narayana.
The Qur’an contains many references to an afterlife in Eden for those who do good deeds. Regarding the concept of heaven (Jannah) in the Qu’ran, verse 35 of Surah Al-Ra’d says, “The parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised! Beneath it flow rivers. Perpetual is the fruits thereof and the shade therein. Such is the End of the Righteous; and the end of the unbelievers is the Fire.”[Quran 13:35] Islam rejects the concept of original sin, and Muslims believe that all human beings are born pure. Children automatically go to heaven when they die, regardless of the religion of their parents. The highest level of heaven is Firdaus (فردوس)- Paradise (پردیس), to which the prophets, martyrs and other pious people will go at the time of their death.
The concept of heaven in Islam differs in many respects to the concept in Judaism and Christianity. Heaven is described primarily in physical terms as a place where every wish is immediately fulfilled when asked. Islamic texts describe immortal life in heaven as happy, without negative emotions. Those who dwell in heaven are said to wear costly apparel, partake in exquisite banquets, and recline on couches inlaid with gold or precious stones. Inhabitants will rejoice in the company of their parents, wives, and children. In Islam if one’s good deeds weigh out one’s sins then one may gain entrance to heaven. Conversely, if one’s sins outweigh their good deeds they are sent to hell. The more good deeds one has performed the higher the level of heaven one is directed to. It has been said that the lowest level of heaven is one-hundred times better than the greatest life on earth. The highest level is the seventh heaven, in which God can be seen and where anything is possible. Palaces are built by angels for the occupants using solid gold.
Verses which describe heaven include: Quran 13:35, Quran 18:31, Quran 38:49–54, Quran 35:33–35, Quran 52:17–27.
Islamic texts refer to several levels of heaven: Firdaus or Paradise, ‘Adn, Na’iim, Na’wa, Darussalaam, Daarul Muaqaamah, Al-Muqqamul, Amin & Khuldi.
Structure of Universe as per the Jain Scriptures.
The shape of the Universe as described in Jainism is shown alongside. Please note that unlike the current convention of using North direction as the top of map, this uses South as the top. The shape is similar to a part of human form standing upright.
The Deva Loka (Heavens) are at the symbolic “chest”, where all souls enjoying the positive karmic effects reside. The heavenly beings are referred to as devas(masculine form) and devis(feminine form). According to Jainism, there is not one heavenly abode, but several layers to reward appropriately the souls of varying degree of karmit merits. Similarly, beneath the “waist” are the Narka Loka (Hell). Human, animal, insect, plant and microscopic life forms reside on the middle.
The pure souls (who reached Siddha status) reside at the very south end (top) of the Universe. They are referred to in Tamil literature as தென்புலத்தார் (Kural 43).
While the concept of heaven (malkuth hashamaim מלכות השמים, the Kingdom of Heaven) is well-defined within the Christian and Islamic religions, the Jewish concept of the afterlife, sometimes known as olam haba, the World-to-come, is not so precise. The Torah has little to say on the subject of survival after death, but by the time of the rabbis two ideas had made inroads among the Jews: one, which is probably derived from Greek thought, is that of the immortal soul which returns to its creator after death; the other, which is thought to be of Persian origin, is that of resurrection of the dead.
Jewish writings[which?] refer to a “new earth” as the abode of mankind following the resurrection of the dead. Originally, the two ideas of immortality and resurrection were different but in rabbinic thought they are combined: the soul departs from the body at death but is returned to it at the resurrection. This idea is linked to another rabbinic teaching, that men’s good and bad actions are rewarded and punished not in this life but after death, whether immediately or at the subsequent resurrection. Around 1 CE, the Pharisees are said to have maintained belief in resurrection but the Sadducees are said to have denied it (Matt. 22:23).
Some scholars[who?] assert that the Sheol mentioned in Isaiah 38:18, Psalm 6:5 and Job 7:7-10 was an earlier concept than Heaven, but this theory is not universally held.
The Mishnah has many sayings about the World to Come, for example, “Rabbi Yaakov said: This world is like a lobby before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall.”
Judaism holds that the righteous of all nations have a share in the World-to-come.
According to Nicholas de Lange, Judaism offers no clear teaching about the destiny which lies in wait for the individual after death and its attitude to life after death has been expressed as follows: “For the future is inscrutable, and the accepted sources of knowledge, whether experience, or reason, or revelation, offer no clear guidance about what is to come. The only certainty is that each man must die – beyond that we can only guess.”
According to Tracey R. Rich of the website “Judaism 101”, Judaism, unlike other world-religions, is not focused on the quest of getting into heaven but on life and how to live it.
Kabbalah Jewish mysticism
In order from lowest to highest, the seven Heavens are listed alongside the angels who govern them:
- Shamayim: The first Heaven, governed by Archangel Gabriel, is the closest of heavenly realms to the Earth; it is also considered the abode of Adam and Eve.
- Raquie: The second Heaven is dually controlled by Zachariel and Raphael. It was in this Heaven that Moses, during his visit to Paradise, encountered the angel Nuriel who stood “300 parasangs high, with a retinue of 50 myriads of angels all fashioned out of water and fire.” Also, Raquia is considered the realm where the fallen angels are imprisoned and the planets fastened.
- Shehaqim: The third Heaven, under the leadership of Anahel, serves as the home of the Garden of Eden and the Tree of Life; it is also the realm where manna, the holy food of angels, is produced. The Second Book of Enoch, meanwhile, states that both Paradise and Hell are accommodated in Shehaqim with Hell being located simply ” on the northern side.”
- Machen: The fourth Heaven is ruled by the Archangel Michael, and according to Talmud Hagiga 12, it contains the heavenly Jerusalem, the Temple, and the Altar.
- Machon: The fifth Heaven is under the administration of Samael, an angel referred to as evil by some, but who is to others merely a dark servant of God.
- Zebul: The sixth Heaven falls under the jurisdiction of Sachiel.
- Araboth: The seventh Heaven, under the leadership of Cassiel, is the holiest of the seven Heavens provided the fact that it houses the Throne of Glory attended by the Seven Archangels and serves as the realm in which God dwells; underneath the throne itself lies the abode of all unborn human souls. It is also considered the home of the Seraphim, the Cherubim, and the Hayyoth.
The Nahua people such as the Aztecs, Chichimecs and the Toltecs believed that the heavens were constructed and separated into 13 levels. Each level had from one to many Lords living in and ruling these heavens. Most important of these heavens was Omeyocan (Place of Two). The thirteen heavens were ruled by Ometeotl, the dual Lord, creator of the Dual-Genesis who, as male, takes the name Ometecuhtli (Two Lord), and as female is named Omecihuatl (Two Lady).
Main article: Polynesian mythology
In the creation myths of Polynesian mythology are found various concepts of the heavens and the underworld. These differ from one island to another. What they share is the view of the universe as an egg or coconut that is divided between the world of humans (earth), the upper world of heavenly gods, and the underworld. Each of these is subdivided in a manner reminiscent of Dante‘s Divine Comedy, but the number of divisions and their names differs from one Polynesian culture to another.*
In Māori mythology, the heavens are divided into a number of realms. Different tribes number the heaven differently, with as few as two and as many as fourteen levels. One of the more common versions divides heaven thus:
- Kiko-rangi, presided over by the god Toumau
- Waka-maru, the heaven of sunshine and rain
- Nga-roto, the heaven of lakes where the god Maru rules
- Hau-ora, where the spirits of newborn children originate
- Nga-Tauira, home of the servant gods
- Nga-atua, which is ruled over by the hero Tawhaki
- Autoia, where human souls are created
- Aukumea, where spirits live
- Wairua, where spirit gods live while waiting on those in
- Naherangi or Tuwarea, where the great gods live presided over by Rehua
The Māori believe these heavens are supported by pillars. Other Polynesian peoples see them being supported by gods (as in Hawai’i). In one Tahitian legend, heaven is supported by an octopus.
An 1869 illustration by a Tuomatuan chief portraying nine heavens.
The Polynesian conception of the universe and its division is nicely illustrated by a famous drawing made by a Tuomotuan chief in 1869. Here, the nine heavens are further divided into left and right, and each stage is associated with a stage in the evolution of the earth that is portrayed below. The lowest division represents a period when the heavens hung low over the earth, which was inhabited by animals that were not known to the islanders. In the third division is shown the first murder, the first burials, and the first canoes, built by Rata. In the fourth division, the first coconut tree and other significant plants are born.
It is believed in Theosophy of Helena Blavatsky that each religion (including Theosophy) has its own individual Heaven in various regions of the upper astral plane that fits the description of that Heaven that is given in each religion, which a soul that has been good in their previous life on Earth will go to. The area of the upper astral plane of Earth in the upper atmosphere where the various Heavens are located is called Summerland (Theosophists believe Hell is located in the lower astral plane of Earth which extends downward from the surface of the earth down to its center). However, Theosophists believe that the soul is recalled back to Earth after an average of about 1400 years by the Lords of Karma to incarnate again. The final Heaven that souls go to billions of years in the future after they finish their cycle of incarnations is called Devachan.
Near death experiences
Many people who come close to death and have near death experiences report meeting relatives or entering “the Light” in an otherworldly dimension, which share similarities with the religious concept of Heaven. Even though there are also reports of distressing experiences and negative life-reviews, which share some similarities with the concept of Hell, the positive experiences of meeting or entering ‘the Light’ is reported as an immensely intense feeling state of love, peace and joy beyond human comprehension. Together with this intensely positive feeling state, people who have near death experiences also report that consciousness or a heightened state of awareness seems as if it is at the heart of experiencing a taste of ‘Heaven’.
Criticism of the belief in Heaven
Marxists regard heaven, like religion generally, as a tool employed by authorities to bribe their subjects into a certain way of life by promising a reward after death.
The anarchist Emma Goldman expressed this view when she wrote, “Consciously or unconsciously, most atheists see in gods and devils, heaven and hell; reward and punishment, a whip to lash the people into obedience, meekness and contentment.”
Many people consider George Orwell‘s use of Sugarcandy Mountain in his novel Animal Farm to be a literary expression of this view. In the book, the animals were told that after their miserable lives were over they would go to a place in which “it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges”. Fantasy author Philip Pullman echoes this idea in the fantasy series His Dark Materials, in which the characters finally come to the conclusion that people should make life better on Earth rather than wait for heaven (this idea is known as the Republic of Heaven).
Some atheists have argued that a belief in a reward after death is poor motivation for moral behavior while alive. Sam Harris wrote, “It is rather more noble to help people purely out of concern for their suffering than it is to help them because you think the Creator of the Universe wants you to do it, or will reward you for doing it, or will punish you for not doing it. [The] problem with this linkage between religion and morality is that it gives people bad reasons to help other human beings when good reasons are available.”
1. ^ The Anglo-Saxons knew the concept of Paradise, which they expressed with words such as neorxnawang.
2. ^ Barnhart (1995:357).
3. ^ “Jesus Paid It All – What does this mean?”. AllAboutJesusChrist.org. http://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/jesus-paid-it-all.htm. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
4. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1026
5. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1821 and 2007-2011
6. ^ Galatians 5:19-21 cited in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1852
7. ^ Attridge, Harold. W., and R. A. Oden, Jr. (1981), Philo of Byblos: The Phoenician History: Introduction, Critical Text, Translation, Notes, CBQMS 9 (Washington: D. C.: The Catholic Biblical Association of America).
8. ^ Harry A. Hoffner, Gary M. Beckman – 1990
9. ^ Sabatino Moscati Face of the Ancient Orient 2001 Page 174 “The first, called ‘Kingship in Heaven’, tells how this kingship passes from Alalu to Anu, … was king in heaven, Alalu was seated on the throne and the mighty Anu, first among the gods,”
10. ^ Moscatti, Sabatino (1968), “The World of the Phoenicians” (Phoenix Giant)
11. ^ Ribichini, Sergio “Beliefs and Religious Life” in Maoscati Sabatino (1997), “The Phoenicians” (Rissoli)
12. ^ a b c d Masumian, Farnaz (1995). Life After Death: A study of the afterlife in world religions. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1-85168-074-8.
13. ^ Bahá’u’lláh (1976). Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá’í Publishing Trust. pp. 157. ISBN 0-87743-187-6. http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/GWB/gwb-81.html#pg157.
14. ^ Bahá’u’lláh (1976). Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá’í Publishing Trust. pp. 162. ISBN 0-87743-187-6. http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/GWB/gwb-82.html#gr7.
15. ^ (but no soul actually goes through rebirth; see anatta)
16. ^ Salvation Versus Liberation, A Buddhist View of the Paradise or Heavenly Worlds.
17. ^ Herrlee Creel “The Origin of the Deity T’ien” (1970:493-506)
18. ^ a b Joseph Shih, “The Notion of God in the Ancient Chinese Religion,” Numen, Vol. 16, Fasc. 2, pp 99-138, Brill: 1969
19. ^ Homer Dubs, “Theism and Naturalism in Ancient Chinese Philosophy,” Philosophy of East and West, Vol 9, No 3/4, pp 163-172, University of Hawaii Press: 1960.
20. ^ http://www.bigli.com/quadro/279/dosso-dossi/ascensione-di-cristo.aspx
21. ^ Audience Talk, 21 July 1999
22. ^ Ehrman, Bart. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. Oxford University Press, USA. 2006. ISBN 0-19-530013-0
23. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Angels: “The evil angels: … In New Testament times the idea of the two spiritual kingdoms is clearly established. The devil is a fallen angel who in his fall has drawn multitudes of the heavenly host in his train. … Christian imagery of the devil as the dragon is mainly derived from the Apocalypse (9:11-15 and 12:7-9), where he is termed “the angel of the bottomless pit”, “the dragon”, “the old serpent”, etc., and is represented as having actually been in combat with Archangel Michael.”
24. ^ Irenaeus of Lyons; Book 5, 36:1
25. ^ Moody, D.L. Heaven. Liskeard, Cornwall: Diggory Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1846858123.
26. ^ Bunyan, John. The Strait Gate: Great Difficulty of Going to Heaven Liskeard, Cornwall: Diggory Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1846856716.
27. ^ Bunyan, John. No Way to Heaven but By Jesus Christ Liskeard, Cornwall: Diggory Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1846857805.
28. ^ Norman C. McClelland Encyclopedia of Reincarnation and Karma 2010 p263 “Swarga Meaning Good Kingdom, this is the general name for heaven in Hinduism, and more specifically the name for the heaven of the storm and warrior god Indra. Dwelling here are the lesser gods and beatified mortals, but even for the souls”
29. ^ Everlasting Life in Paradise according to Qu’ran Seven Steps rising to the heavens.
30. ^ a b c d Nicholas de Lange, Judaism, Oxford University Press, 1986
31. ^ Pirkei Avot, 4:21
32. ^ jewfaq.org/olamhaba.htm
33. ^ “Some people look at these teachings and deduce that Jews try to “earn our way into Heaven” by performing the mitzvot. This is a gross mischaracterization of our religion. It is important to remember that unlike some religions, Judaism is not focused on the question of how to get into heaven. Judaism is focused on life and how to live it.” Olam Ha-Ba: The World to Come Judaism 101; websource 02-11-2010.
34. ^ The Legends of the Jews I, 131, and II, 306.
35. ^ The Legends of the Jews V, 374.
36. ^ Ginzberg, Louis. Henrietta Szold (trans.). The Legends of the Jews. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909–38. ISBN 0801858909.
37. ^ Craig, Robert D. Dictionary of Polynesian Mythology. Greenwood Press: New York, 1989. ISBN 0313258902. Page 57.
38. ^ Young, J.L. “The Paumotu Conception of the Heavens and of Creation”, Journal of the Polynesian Society, 28 (1919), 209–211.
39. ^ Leadbeater, C.W. Outline of Theosophy Wheaton, Illinois, USA:1915 Theosophical Publishing House
40. ^ Jorgensen, Rene. Awakening After Life BookSurge, 2007 ISBN 1-4196-6347-X
41. ^ Animal Farm Character Profiles at Charles’ George Orwell Links.
42. ^ Goldman, Emma. “The Philosophy of Atheism”. Mother Earth, February 1916.
43. ^ Opinions: Essays: Orwell’s Political Messages by Rhodri Williams.
44. ^ Background information for George Orwell’s Animal Farm at Charles’ George Orwell Links.
45. ^ The Atheist Philosophy
46. ^ Quote by Albert Einstein at Quote DB.
47. ^ Sam Harris at the 2006 Beyond Belief conference (watch here).