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.

I agree, for me there is neither Heaven nor Hell. But if you are a Christian then they are real. But if you are a Christian and your concept of Heaven is belief in God and Jesus and being in their presence, then how could you ever be in Hell? That's what I was trying to ask (I'm not sure that explains it any better either, sorry!).

NotQuintAtAllOhNo Tue 30-Oct-12 23:22:18

"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 think Christians have Heaven on earth as long as they have Christ in their lives. Loss of Christ, or Faith, would to many be a struggle, seen as Hell. Being separated from Christ, through faith struggle, lack of belief would be Hell. I dont think these concepts are confined to after death but in Life too.

I also agree with what was said earlier- Nasty people, are not really Christians. They would not do these things if they truly had religion. Many people claim to have faith because it can benefit them in one way or the other, but with impure hearts and no actual faith, they are not truly Christians.

It follows, it is therefore not enough to JUST believe in Christ to go to Heaven. If you were a truly nasty person, who had committed many crimes or sins, who decided to pray and repent on your death bed, THIS would not bring you into eternal life or some great place called heaven with nice cushy armchairs and wine flowing. It would achieve nothing. If, you suddenly realized how extremely bad you had been, repented, and welcomed Christ into your heart, you would find Heaven, ie peace in your soul and presence of Christ.

Atheists, I believe, are fully able to have similar, as I believe it is a state of peace in yourself.

But I think my outlook is rather Buddhist. grin

NotQuintAtAllOhNo Tue 30-Oct-12 23:23:21

By losing faith? not feeling Christs presence? Lack of peace within you, turmoil?

Thank you, I understand now. smile I think. You're very eloquent.

sieglinde Wed 31-Oct-12 10:16:45

Another way of putting it - though I agree broadly with all the above - is that all of us want and are programmed to want unconditional love; it's part of us as humans (and it's part of my dog too). Hell times for me in life have been times when that love has seemingly been withheld. While we are here on earth, that love can be difficult to discern. Afterwards, in heaven, it won't be problematic; it will be everywhere. That's what I mean by Jesus; Jesus is unconditional love. Hell times made by me have always involved a wilful rejection of love.

MichaelaS Wed 31-Oct-12 13:36:52

Christianity teaches that everyone except Jesus has sinned, I.e. done something bad or nasty. Obviously some people have done more bad things than others, but one bad thing is enough to ban you from heaven because God is good and cannot stand bad things. So, mass murderer? Out. Lustful thought about someone other than your spouse? Out.

The point of Jesus becoming uman and dying on the cross is that he took the punishment for our wrong deeds, so we don't have to. So yes, in theory every Christian is nasty and has admitted it and asked Jesus to take the rap. Which seems unfair unless you also concede that Jesus is God, the one who invented the system in the first place, and he chose to do it because he loves us and wants us to be able to go to heaven. If you don't want to go he won't force you though.

After all of that, the bible is quite clear that "faith without works is dead" I.e. if you really believe Jesus has rescued you from an impossible situation then you are likely to be a lot nicer to others as a result, and also to want to keep Gods rules so no stealing etc.

When Jesus was crucified there was a tried on the cross next to him. He repented on his deathbed (death cross) and Jesus told him that afternoon he would be with Jesus in heaven. So yes, deathbed conversions count if they are genuine, good deeds without trusting in Jesus to deal with your bad ones does not work, because you still have the black marks on yr record.

That's how I understand it anyway.

MichaelaS Wed 31-Oct-12 13:46:24

Tired=thief oops!

technodad Thu 01-Nov-12 22:46:24

NotQuaintAtAllOhNo,

I am a bit late to this thread. When I read the second post on this thread (by you), you said: "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."

I immediately thought exactly what JoyfulPuddleJumper said, i.e. I don't have Jesus in my life, so that must mean that I am living in a constant hell - and from my perspective, hell is pretty nice on the whole.

I have to admit, I was surprised by your response in the last post where you say that if you are not a believer, then heaven and hell do not exist. This seems a staggering to me, as it seems to be and admission that heaven and hell are a complete fiction made up in the mind of religious people (which is highly likely to be true).

So if you firmly acknowledge that heaven and hell are a figment of your imagination, surely it is a logical conclusion that all the other religious stuff (e.g. the existence of God and Jesus) is only in your head too! In that, they are just other "religious concepts", and not actually real tangible things in the universe.

I would be interested in your thoughts.

NotQuintAtAllOhNo Thu 01-Nov-12 23:33:21

Technodad I say "The concept of Heaven and Hell are religious ones, and because you dont believe in Christ, for you, there is neither Heaven nor Hell. "

Based on what I said before "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."

It follows that Heaven and Hell is not a geographical place where people go. What is hell to me, as Christian, would not be hell to you, but normal, if we think that Hell is the absence of Christ. A non believer does not have Christ in their life, but it does not mean it is hell to them.

It does not mean I think it is the figment of anybodys imagination, just that what would be my eternal damnation, might not seem like that to you. But like you say "pretty nice on the whole".

To be a bit down to earth about it, I like pepsi max. I cant stand Fanta. If I had an existence where the only drink available to me was Fanta, this would be pretty hellish FOR ME as a pepsi max lover and Fanta hater. It would be Heaven for a Fanta lover!

Not sure if I make any sense, as it is pretty late.

It is just how I get my head around the whole thing.

Bear in mind that my Faith bug bear is the whole life after death scenario, which I dont buy into at all. My body rots. Full stop.

greencolorpack Thu 01-Nov-12 23:39:11

Your belief in Jesus matters more than your good deeds. If you believe in Jesus you love him and want to treat him right and this leads on to doing good deeds. But doing good deeds alone doesn't get you into heaven. doing good deeds and being self righteous creates feeling of pride in oneself, and this is the devils own sin, pride.

Think of it like a friendship or relationship. If you love someone you treat them right. You treat them right because you love them. You don't just pretend to love Jesus while doing things he would hate, because what kind of phoney love would that be?

Conversely if you hate Jesus why would you want to go to Heaven? heaven is where Jesus will be worshipped and celebrated for all eternity, if you hate Jesus then you wouldn't enjoy Heaven anyway.
T

sieglinde Fri 02-Nov-12 14:48:09

Just so everyone knows, greencolorpack is articulating a PROTESTANT view here - salvation by faith (in Jesus) alone. This was down to Martin Luther's interpretation of the bible - he put together two verse which are actually milres apart and came up with this.

RCs and Orthodox Xtians - and some C of Es, plus many Sally Army and Mormons - believe in salvation by good works.

Because Protestants didn't, they pretty much shut down the welfare system in sixteenth-century England...

Sorry, guys. It's the historian in me. grin

sieglinde Fri 02-Nov-12 14:48:28

MILES. Sorry!

ginmakesitallok Fri 02-Nov-12 15:03:46

Surely if heaven and hell only exist for those who believe in god, we'd all be much better off being non believers, no risk of hell then? If hell only exists for believers,(but they get to go to heaven), who actually goes to hell?

amillionyears Fri 02-Nov-12 16:25:56

TheJoyfullPuddleJumper
Do you have a bible? The Good news bible is good for beginners,the New Revised Standard Version is also good.
The bible says
"Confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that Jesus was raised from the dead. Then you will be saved"

zillyzilly Fri 02-Nov-12 16:28:51

Sieglinde, that is soooooooooooo interesting though. Please say more! And do links!

crescentmoon Fri 02-Nov-12 17:19:21

yes sieglinde i found your last post very interesting as well! please elaborate. is this something to do with the protestant work ethic thing? or prosperity protestantism?

amillionyears I have one somewhere, but being an atheist it's not something I tend to look at very often.

greencolorpack I don't hate Jesus, I just don't believe that he was the son of God because I don't believe in God. Hate implies some kind of emotional involvement but for me there is none. I am happy for others to believe whatever they wish, it just doesn't work for me.

NotQuintAtAllOhNo Fri 02-Nov-12 18:20:06

I am brought up Lutheran, btw. With influence from Laestadianism
(Though my husband and dc are Catholics)

amillionyears Fri 02-Nov-12 19:10:19

I have realised while I have been offline, that I only gave you a half answer.
The other half is,once a Christian, we are supposed to try and do right things.
If we think we may have done wrong,we are to say sorry to God.

monsterchild Fri 02-Nov-12 19:23:09

What sieglinde said. How one attains heaven does depend on the particular denomination. Even among protestants there are arguments regarding good deeds, and whether they're required. The Protestant "work ethic" and Calvin's theories have had a huge impact on welfare systems in the US as well.

sieglinde Sat 03-Nov-12 12:19:27

Here followeth a huge long rant.

Yes, monsterchild, dead right - perhaps the most famous or notorious very Protestant group in these respects are the Mormons. They do believe in community support, but on a quid pro quo basis, and they also believe in both self-reliance and 'service', which tends to mean the kind where you take a gun to Afghanistan (or a briefcase to Wall Street).

Sixteenth-century Protestantism was a radical and intellectual movement, and like all of these, it had very strong and strongly delineated ideas that tended to get watered down a bit over time because they weren't always very practical in terms of what we might see as the limitations of human nature. The idea of justification by faith to some extent collided with Calvin's idea of double predestination - that the fate of each soul int eh afterlife has been known to God form the beginning of time and cannot be changed. This doctrine kinda made folk look over their shoulders all day, searching for signs of their own salvation or reprobation and those of others - led to a very high suicide and self-harm rate and a lot of deep depression....

One of the key signs of election (which means that you are among those off to heaven after death) is worldly success, and yes, this is still a huge influence on US politics. Max Weber, who was first to articulate the theory, said that this idea mean that protestants tended to work hard in worldly ways to show themselves among the elect, to reassure themselves, and that they therefore tended to equate penury with being a big old sinner.

By contrast, medieval RCs linked beggars much more with Jesus himself - when Francis of Assisi set out to imitate Christ perfectly, his first action was to give away everything, even his clothes, and depend entirely on gifts form others, which he saw as gifts from God (and so did they). Even now US RCs tend to vote Democrat while Protestants vote Republican... It was protestants who passed the HORRENDOUS vagrancy laws under Eliz I, where you could be branded with a red-hot iron for begging - the idea was that since you were a reprobate you might as well start hellfire early, an idea expounded at much greater length by Oliver Cromwell's schoolteacher in his book which aimed to show how God's judgements on reprobates began during their lives. The demonisation -yes, literal! -of the welfare moms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries led to them being driven from parish to parish because nobody wanted the burden of providing for them.

So Protestants score big on self-reliance, hard work, and intellect, and RCs on charity. This divide has also surfaced in European politics of late, with the Germans and some Brits talking about the sleepy southern economies, the PIG economies...

Of further interest... The Ranters were an extreme Protestant sect who may have made roughly the same argument as some of the posters here; if God already knows who is to be saved and who damned, why behave well? Why not just enjoy life? Of course they were not exactly approved of by anyone. grin

The Bible... there is no 'Bible', but only Bibles. RC Bibles contain whole books of the Bible not in Protestant versions, like the Book of Tobit (which contains a star appearance by the archangel Raphael, and thus partly explains all the Rafs and Raffas in RC countries). The psalms are differently numbered, and the decalogue (10 commandments) is different - yes, you heard that right... SOMEHOW RCs don't give the 2nd commandment over to how thou shouldst not make unto thyself any graven image. So then they add another one later abotu not coveting your neighbour's wife.

The basic RC translation is the Douai bible, though there are also RC RSVs. The King James is Anglican, and the lucky buggers ought to delight in it more than they do.

That's so interesting! I didn't know that about the Bibles - although I did know that there were assorted different versions I thought that the Catholic and Protestant churches used the same one. blush

Even now US RCs tend to vote Democrat while Protestants vote Republican... I didn't know that either. Is there any evidence of a similar divide in this country?

sieglinde Sat 03-Nov-12 16:50:42

Some evidence I think that RCs do mostly vote Labour and Lib Dem, but it's not recent evidence; they tend to see themselves as more like the poor, and have stronger feet in the working classes. But they also hate communism with a fiery passion.

Yes, you can tell Bono is Protestant because of '40', the 40th psalm. If he was RC it would be called '39'.

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