A question about heaven

(48 Posts)

My sister is a Christian and I am an atheist. We were talking yesterday about popular misconceptions about religion and she said that when she started going to church again as an adult, she went to classes and was asked "What do you need to do to get into heaven?". Apparently the group answered with things like give to charity, help others, follow the Commandments etc, which the vicar said was wrong. Apparently to get into heaven you only need to be a follower of Jesus.

My sister and I then had an interesting discussion about whether that means that you could still get into heaven if you were a nasty person but who believed in Jesus. And therefore whether an atheist would get into heaven if they had led a good life helping others.

What do you believe? Are your deeds more important than your beliefs in terms of getting into heaven?

NotQuintAtAllOhNo Mon 29-Oct-12 18:17:39

I believe that Hell is just the absence of Christ, and in that respect, Heaven is just the presence of Christ. Which means, if you believe in Jesus, you just get to spend your eternity in his presence, and if you dont believe, you get his absence. Heaven is not a place. But a state of your soul.

That is what I believe. smile

Yama Mon 29-Oct-12 18:21:56

Another question - is it still heaven if some of the people you love aren't there?

So you Joyful - your name's not on the list, you aint getting in but your sister will. Will it still be heaven for your sister knowing that you are excluded?

But then by your own definition, by being 'insincere' and 'nasty' you don't really believe in Christ so you won't get into heaven ...

I am with quint on this - Heaven is a state of mind and not some nirvana promised if you are 'good'

Probably grin That's an interesting point though.

Quint that's a lovely way of looking at the concept.

flesh are you calling me insincere and nasty? Or is it a hypothetical 'you'? I can't tell, sorry. confused

ByTheWay1 Mon 29-Oct-12 18:41:58

doesn't it also depend on the flavour of religion??

Christian "heaven" has many rules depending on denomination...

I remember being told by a priest when I was 6 to stop blaspheming, the dog would not be in heaven waiting - animals have no soul....

my mum was told by the same priest that she would either be going straight to hell for divorcing and being unrepentant, or would spend eternity in heaven with my alcoholic violent dad as the church only recognised one marriage before god - great choices!! (he didn't actually explain how widows remarrying worked)

Strangely I am now an atheist...

By my definition, it is very hard to be 'nasty' and a genuine Christian ....

It is the hypothetical 'you' ...

That's true - my sister is CofE if it makes a significant difference.

But would your dad have got into heaven if he was violent? Just because he believed? Or would his violence have kept him out?

I am a member of an Anglican church, and the focus is very much on believing and trusting in God, and following Jesus. Although we are encouraged to ask for forgiveness when we have sinned (not in a confessional box kind of way, but by praying to God and kind of apologising), there are no threats of 'not going to Heaven' if we do things that are considered sins. That was the whole point of Jesus dying for us; in Him all our sins are forgiven.

Oh that's ok then, thank you for clarifying! grin I suppose you're right, although there are plenty of people who would identify as Christian who are fairly unpleasant individuals. So they're not actually proper Christians then?

I think that's kind of what I'm asking actually - if you are Christian in thought, word and deed, apart from believing in God and/or Jesus (I know that sounds wrong but I hope you know what I mean) would there be any reward for you after death? Or would you be condemned to hell just because you didn't believe?

Gimblinginthewabe Mon 29-Oct-12 18:55:03

Surely to be a follower of jesus (as opposed to someone that believes in jesus) you need to be nice?

I can't believe how ignorant I am about all this blush but is Anglican still part of the CofE?

PuddleJumper Yep.

ByTheWay1 Mon 29-Oct-12 19:04:53

Yep - my dad would have got in - apparently because he went to confession and repented his sin and believed in God... makes it all right then.... hmm

Thanks NeTe.

By that's bizarre. That's the Catholic belief isn't it?

ByTheWay1 Mon 29-Oct-12 19:10:47

Yep it is Catholic - we had a very strictly Catholic priest - repentance and unqualified belief is everything......

Gimbling, you don't have to be nice to be a follower; that's phrased really badly on my part but what I'm trying to say in an extremely inarticulate way is that it's not about you, or what you say or what you do. It's about what someone else did for you.

I think quint did a brilliant job of describing how I also perceive heaven.

I just have a big issue with the whole idea of being judged and somehow there is some test of goodness.

My reality is that we really don't know what awaits us when we die - part of being a Christian for me is trying to live as best as I can and not just be a Christian in name only.

This whole issue of repentance in name only and absolution by a priest doesn't appeal to me ...

Floralnomad Mon 29-Oct-12 19:25:25

Surely as an atheist you don't believe in the concept of a heaven ( I am and I don't ) so it's an irrelevance .

I don't, but I'm fascinated by religion and I wondered what others believe about it. My sister and I had an interesting discussion and I was hoping to continue it here.

sieglinde Tue 30-Oct-12 11:30:26

Hi, I'm RC, but not the kind characterised above, I think. I hope.

Heaven is to me a kind of blanket term for being with God, being embraced and accepted and loved unconditionally for exactly who and what you are.

Hell - and there's plenty of it about - is about NOT being embraced and welcomed.

Jesus accepted and loved people who were completely outcast, and was often outcast himself. Nobody who wants to be loved by him can miss out. Lots of people actually choose something else, though - typically pride, or power, or wealth, or pleasure bought at others' expense.

On earth we make a heaven or a hell for one another. Repentance is just recognition that we can by our actions make a hell for others, and the will never to do that again.

niminypiminy Tue 30-Oct-12 17:24:09

Agree with Sieglinde about heaven and hell.

As for being judged, I think it is more like being utterly known by someone who sees through all your subterfuges, and all your excuses for yourself, all your stories about how it was the other person's fault and you couldn't help it and anyway it doesn't matter and who cares anyway? We all have plenty of that - no matter how 'good' we are. Judgement is being seen without protective screens.

I don't think it works like 'if you have done x you to to hell'. Jesus brings you face to face with the sum total of who you have made yourself through all your actions. Facing and accepting that is judgement enough.

But there is also love and forgiveness. God sees all our lies and evasions, all our laziness and envy and pride. But nothing we do or are can stop him loving us and wanting us to love him back. Nothing we can do can be so bad that he will not forgive us. Jesus will always mend our relationship with God, He will always welcome us, and he will always bring us to God, our ultimate home. Hell is being apart from him, and choosing to turn our back on him.

I'm interested in the idea that hell (or Hell - should it be capitalised?) is a life/existence without Jesus. Obviously I can understand why a Christian might feel like this but as an atheist I don't feel that my life is hell. Well, only sometimes

So does that mean that while Christians may believe in Heaven and Hell, as a Christian you would already have Jesus in your life and therefore Hell cannot exist? Becauseyou cannot be a Christian and live life without Jesus?

I hope that makes some sort of sense, I can't think how to put it better. confused

NotQuintAtAllOhNo Tue 30-Oct-12 23:15:02

For a Christian, life without Christ would be hell. For you, it would be quite normal. Hell does therefore not apply to you. Neither would Heaven, as you would not be bothered whether he was in your life at all. The concept of Heaven and Hell are religious ones, and because you dont believe in Christ, for you, there is neither Heaven nor Hell. Just life. And death. And normal.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now