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Previously, I talked about how the notion of heaven was so problematic in even its purpose that I struggled to coherently establish the basis upon which heaven would be designed. Of course, I neglected to mention that, without the physical brain and body, the disembodied mind really is a bit of an issue. We arguably don’t even have a remotely credible vehicle in which the journey into the afterlife can take place.

Let’s just ignore that and try and thrash some parameters for heaven out.

As mentioned, the idea of philosophical boredom becomes a bit of a nightmare for the heavenist.

Let’s assume heaven is eternal, and your mind doesn’t get constantly reset. If you had a normal human mind with limitations to memory, you would not have the capacity to learn and remember everything, probably eventually becoming the most optimal version of your potential self. But if you had new mind in entering into heaven, such as some kind of infinite quantum computing mechanism that could carry on learning and experiencing in perfection, then you would perhaps approach something close to becoming God. The other problem is that your new, upgraded mind would be pretty far removed from who you are on Earth and how you operate. This might invalidate the youness in you going to heaven.

Which nicely leads onto yet another problem with heaven that I have oft remarked upon: when you die and go to heaven (hint: you don’t), what version of you goes? If you were most awesome at age 23 but die at 78, is it the curmudgeonly you that goes (sorry, don’t mean to be ageist)? If you were horrible for 49 years and then nice for 5 days, or vice versa, then which type of you exists in heaven? If you get dementia and die, is it the dementia mind that goes, or some previous version of you? If it is a previous version of you, what is the selection criteria and who selects? Well, since I am God here, me. But that doesn’t really help when you adhere, as I do, to the non-continuous “I” – I am differing versions of “myself” at every instance in time. So this makes heaven even more of a headache.

For something so commonly believed in and so prevalent in popular culture, it sure is one hell of a difficult idea.

Not only, then, do I fail to come up with the purpose and guiding principles of heaven, but I fail to be able to work out how to construct it.

Okay, let’s forget about who gets in and how. Let’s call it universal, as mentioned before. It’s a big party place for some version of everyone. Or every version of everyone. It’s all the sliding door possibilities. Or there is a different heaven for every version.

So what do you do?

Well, if you have to take into account individual desires, perhaps there are infinite heavens so that each heaven is individualised for whatever version of you is being focused upon.

I have said to some friends before, when philosophising in the pub with fellow thinkers over some good ales, that this was my idea of heaven. Sorry to my family there… Thinking and arguing over stuff is what floats my boat. But then we get back to boredom. In economics, there is the Law of Diminishing Returns. Each subsequent unit of a good, ceteris paribus, will return marginally less utility with each consumption. That first pint of water in the desert is heaven. The 49th in a row, hell. The five billionth chat about utilitarianism in the heavenly pub with my mates and the five billionth ale will get us back to boredom.

The only conceivable way out of this conundrum, it appears, is… magic.

It just so happens that it works. I would consistently, over time, over eternity, get never-ending pleasure from subsequent philosophical chats. The problem here is I, as I presently am, wouldn’t. You would have to change me to a different version that would be compatible with this idea of heaven. Perhaps there becomes a heavenly version of each person, where we are changed so that our minds can never get bored, can never cause pain, etc.

Aaah, pain. Pleasure. What if my pleasure involved pain for someone else? I suppose in the personalised version of heaven as mentioned, this would be fine since heaven is all about that given individual. In a single collective heaven, you get issues because for there not to be pain and suffering, our free will would necessarily be constrained. Again, this is a common criticism of heaven, the problem of evil and free will. Okay, so I don’t believe in libertarian free will. Either way, if people have their desires and volitions as on Earth, then pain and suffering would come about, as on Earth. So constraining of volitions and desires would be necessary in order to eradicate suffering.

Perhaps some form of minimal suffering (frustration, annoyance, even anger?) is warranted in heaven?

Otherwise, heaven becomes such an alien place where we humans simply can’t do the very things we so desire.

Damn, heaven doesn’t seem to work, no matter which way you look at it.

I think I’ll lump for individualised heavens where everyone can do what they want for as long as they want and then finish it when they’re ready.

Kinda like a big simulated computer game. Sorta like The Matrix.


See some of my arguments against heaven in my reasonably priced ebook: The Problem with “God”: Skeptical Theism under the Spotlight.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...