What is heaven like?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by GottaBigOne, May 22, 2005.

  1. GottaBigOne

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    As the resident "vocal atheist" I will share with you an article from the blog that madam Zora does not like :p . I find religion very interesting, and I hope this article does the same.

    Heaven
     
  2. Ineligible

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    The writer seems to have a rather childish Sunday-school idea of heaven, so no wonder he is a bit surprised by what the Bible says. If he read some serious theology he'd probably be surprised too.
     
  3. GottaBigOne

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    Why do you say that his view of heaven is childish, please explain, because I thought that as an atheist he had no view of heaven, and was simply looking in the bible for an accurate description and asking whether or not it seems like a place one would like to spend a great amount of time in.
     
  4. BobLeeSwagger

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    A good resource for all things religion is beliefnet.com. Lots of interesting interpretations and history there, although the message boards are full of crazies.
     
  5. Ineligible

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    The author contrasts Biblical passages with what he thinks heaven is supposed to be about, for example "heaven is usually depicted as being a perfect place to be".

    The Hebrews (and other ancients) saw the world as divided into the earth and the heavens, each with a different nature and different creatures, so this is included in the creation story. However, the proper place for humanity was on the earth. That's where Paradise was located, not in heaven. The fall of man disrupted the entire creation, including the heavens. Ultimately, there is to be a new heaven and a new earth, presumably with mankind on earth, not heaven. Putting people in heaven is, on that view, a temporary stop-gap. People were made for the earth.

    And "the kingdom of heaven" is not a synonym for heaven, as is clear by looking at the uses of the term.
     
  6. Freddie53

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    At this moment I am getting ready to go to Little Rock and I don't have time to give a complete discourse on the subject. However, I will point out some accepted beliefs and I will tell what I belief. As far as the controversial points I will have to address them later.

    1. I believe in the Bible. But I am not a literalist. So much of the Bible is imagery, fable, figurative language. And there are many authors.

    2. I believe in the progressive revelation of God to man. God is still in the business of revealing himself to humans. Today's humans should have a better understanding of God that people two thousand years ago. What that means is that people's understanding of God in the Hebrew culture some 1000 or more years before the birth of Jesus is not the same as our understanding.

    3. I believe the Bible is God revealing himself to humans and then humans write the story. God's revelation is perfect. But that doesn't mean that human's understanding of that revelation is perfect. If it did, there would be no contridictions in the Bible.

    So Gotabigone, in talking with me you have a whole different set of questions and understandings then you do with the fundamentalists and the literalists. And most of the mainline denominations, Episcopol, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, some Lutherans and the United Methodist Church, don't have the same mind set or understanding of the Bible as do the fundamentalists.


    Much of what the article said is correct. What is wrong with the article is what it didn't say. Much of the verses quoted are imagery more than actaul fact and the book of Revelation makes it clear that in the end there will be a new heaven and new earth. My understanding of that is that in the end of the earth days, God will have his creation perfect and there won't be war or rumors of wars. There are all those quotes to. We can't leave them out.

    I believe that God is in the midst of creating and just simply is not through with the earth part of creating. I'm sure there are other worlds and that God will always have a project going, But all of God's projects end with a product that is perect. The imperfections are simply pulled away or they are removed in some fashion.

    I will deal with the definitions and the context of them at a later date. But the fundamentalists reading this will be a bit perplexed when I tell them that the early Hebrews didn't even believe in an eternal life. And they believed that there were other gods. The very ancient Hebrews just believed that Yawee or Jehovah was their personal God. They also bragged that he was more powerful than the other gods. Later Hebrews came to believe in monotheism or there is only one God.

    I believe there is only one God as well. But God might be known by different names in different cultures.
     
  7. GottaBigOne

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    Freddie, I agree with you about how the fundamentalists have got it wrong and I think that was the point of the article. The author is not saying that "heaven must be a perfect place" he is saying "that it is usually depicted as such( mostly by fundamentalists)" He is pointing out the immaturity of THEIR beliefs, not agreeing with them.
     
  8. Dr Rock

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    this would probably be a pretty big deal if heaven were to actually exist :eyes:
     
  9. DC_DEEP

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    If heaven actually does exist, I'm sure there will be very few christians there.

    Funny how often I get harrassed for my lack of religious beliefs. As a matter of fact, as most self-proclaimed atheists I know are very vocal (and often stubborn) about their beliefs, I tend to consider atheism a "non-deist religion." I simply explain my religious beliefs as "I have none. None whatsoever."

    At more than one workplace, I have requested to be exempt from religious observances, most especially xmas and easter. I actually had one supervisor tell me that in the "spirit of teamwork" I should acquiesce, and just enjoy the christmas activities planned for our business unit. She could not understand that I thought it was immoral and blasphemous to celebrate holy days of a religion I did not believe in. Eww, we had some run-ins over holidays.
     
  10. GottaBigOne

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    Funny how you seem to think its bad for atheists to be stubborn in their lack of belief, and then describe an incident when you did just that.
     
  11. SpeedoGuy

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    Good on ya for sticking to your guns, DC. That kind of insidious peer pressure to conform has no place in our schools, the workplace, social clubs, sports teams or our government.

    SG
     
  12. B_DoubleMeatWhopper

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    The article is actually not particularly interesting. A person explaining what he himself doesn't understand seldom is. An atheist who looks in the Bible to find passages to disprove Christian ideas aren't very convincing to people who know what the Bible is.

    Take, for instance, the two passages from Revelations. This book is pure apocalyptic literature, and anyone who takes it as being literal clearly has no understanding of Biblical literature. The book is highly symbolic in its use of numbers and images as well as coded language. And Austin Cline doesn't even know the tradition behind the scenes. He wrote, "Admittedly, these two passages seem to take place at the End..." Anyone who knows the merest iota about the war of Michael against the dragon knows that it is a story about a war before the creation of man, not something that will supposedly happen at the End. It is a tale from the deepest antiquity of Jewish tradition concerning the revolt of the fallen angels and the creation of the Abyss. How can someone point to evidence he doesn't understand?

    "From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence..." This was during the days of the Zealots and the sectaries of Qumran who thought that they could gain admission to God's kingdom through holy war against the Roman invaders. To be honest, the word heaven doesn't properly belong in this verse, because it's not there in the Greek original. The Catholic version has "kingdom of God", and that is not the same thing. God's kingdom on Earth is not heaven, and Jesus was explaining that using violence to become a member of God's people was futile. Of course, Cline doesn't explain this because he doesn't understand it, and even if he did, it does nothing to support his argument.

    "Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist, yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Here is another example of a verse where the original has "kingdom of God". Its meaning is very obvious when taken in its proper context: the followers of Jesus on Earth benefit from Jesus's prophetic light, which surpasses that of John. John the Baptizer himself admitted that Jesus's station was above his own. Jesus's own teachings carried far more weight than John's words. There is no mention of a class system in heaven like Cline suggests, but why would we expect Cline to actually understand what he's reading? Understanding Scripture is never his purpose.

    "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away." The Greek word ouranos means heaven, but more literally means sky. (Actually, the Greek text has plural hoi ouranoi, 'the heavens'.) Jesus is here using the literal meaning: the sky. He is not speaking of the afterlife abode of the Elect; he is saying that his words of truth are eternal, moreso than the temporary physicality of the sky and the Earth.

    So Austin Cline falls short in his pointless refutation of that about which he
    has no clue. Expecting to gain any insight about "the general impression among Christians that heaven is a great place to go" from this Bozo is like expecting the plumber to explain Spenser's imagery in The Faerie Queene. One must understand what he's seeing before he can point out its flaws; Cline doesn't.
     
  13. Dr Rock

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    technically you can't classify it as a religion because there is no faith involved. an atheist doesn't believe there are no gods - they don't believe there are any. it's a much less subtle difference than it appears in text :p

    I don't consider myself an atheist as such, although most people would probably consider me one. I can't accept the idea of faith without proof, but that's a personal thing - I'm incapable of comprehending how any supposedly sentient creature could decide to believe in something which isn't demonstrably proven; from my perspective, doing that would be deliberately mutilating my own intelligence. I don't care what anyone else believes themselves, as long as they don't allow their beliefs to influence their actions towards ME. that's when I turn nasty.

    my objection to organized religions is another thing entirely; that's for the same reasons I object to political government and other disfigurements of society, and has nothing to do with the fact that I personally have no religious or political beliefs.
     
  14. Freddie53

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    Well I am back from Little Rock. I promised to explain what was going on when I returned. Well I don't have to now. DMW has done a beautiful job explaining those particular passages. And it is not just Catholic doctrine that he gave. It is also the doctrine of the mainline Protestant denominations that I named earlier.

    And DMW many Protestant scholars will agree with what you said about the kingdom of God there instead of heaven. The King James Version of the Bible is a beauty to read with all its thees and thous and its attempt to make flowing lines translated from a different language. It is a masterpiece in that regard. The Psalms in particular are beautiful to read in the King James Version. It is not the most accurate translation by far. Most any translation is better than the King James Version. I do love hearing Psalm 23 from the King James though. The New International Version is my favorite to read. I have not read the current Catholic translation. I want to get a copy though. I am sure it is a very accurate translation.

    Much of Revelation was written concerning the times back then. Revelation is written in the form of a Greek play to be performed on an outside Greek theatre. (At least that is what the professor in seminary said.) It is the easiest and the hardest book to understand. The basic synopis of Revelation is simply this:

    There will be times of good and bad. Evil will appear to be winning at times. But in the end GOD IS GOING TO WIN!

    If you understand the last part, then you are OK. No need to get your panties in a wad if you don't fully understand parts of Revelation as long as you understand God is going to win.
     
  15. prepstudinsc

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    Freddie-
    Most evangelical scholars will say that the NIV is the best translation to use right now because it went back to all the early manuscripts. Some of the fundamentalists will argue that the King James is the only version to use, but there have been so many discrepancies to prove otherwise, only because they didn't have the research materials or technologies that we have today versus what they did in 1611.

    KJV Bible Controversy

    The KJV definitely is beautifully written, there is no doubt about that, especially the Psalms. When looked at from a literary point of view, they are some of the most beautiful things ever put into print, however some of the rest of the Bible just gets so weighty because of the language. The NIV, or even the NASB, is much easier to digest, and since the Bible is for the people, I think that is what it should be about.

    That is the concept that is so hard for non-Christians to understand. God never promised an easy journey on earth. Our reward is eternal. We're just here on earth for a short time, so our struggles are going to be short, but because God has already won the battle for us we can look forward to what awaits us. Of course, this is extremely simplified--one must confess sins, and have faith in Christ to reap these rewards, but Jesus himself said that we only had to have faith the size of a mustard seed or a child-like faith. It's so simple and yet so difficult all at the same time...
     
  16. GottaBigOne

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    DMW, that what a great post, very informative and very accurate I believe. I do think however that you misunderstood Mr. Cline's intentions as did someone else. Having read many of his articles I have grown accustomed to his use of sarcasm and oversimplification. His article is not an attack on the "true" meaning of heaven, it is an attack on the simple veiw that many people have of it, that being the juvenile harps and clouds thing, or that it is paradise, and reward in the afterlife. Mr. Cline rarely attacks christianity in general because he understands that it is a many faceted belief system and they can't all be lumped together (If you read more of his stuff, you'd see that). It's really disheartening when people read one or two things written by someone and then make assumptions about their intelligence, education, and motivations.
    Sure, there are many different translations and interpretations of the Bible and they cause a lot of misunderstandings and confusion, this I think was part of the point of the article.

    I think its interesting that a lot of us are all on the same page, and misunderstandings of intention throw everything out of wack.
     
  17. madame_zora

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    I am sorry that I am on vacation ands only online for a few minutes more. This is a subject of much interest to me, GBO, and I hope it's still going when I get home. I didn't "connect" with Cline's writing style as much as you do, but I will give it a better read when I'm not hurried. I feel that he is oversimplifying the subject matter for the purpose of poking fun at it, (not that that is entirely objectionable) and I just think there would be better approaches to a somewhat serious subject (for some). Personally, when I don't know the answer to a question and have no way of getting an answer, I feel much better saying exactly that rather than posturing on either side about something none of us can give anything other than an opinion. In my OPINION, heaven would be a reunion with the rest of the energy from which I was individuated originally. Since I beleive in reincarnation in a sense, this seems like a logical conclusion to me, but I would never offer it as more than a personal opinion. Thanks for your thought-provoking topics, much love as always.
     
  18. GottaBigOne

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    madam, I think you come the closest to understanding Cline's intentions. He is definatley poking fun at the subject matter; the article isn't serious, althought there are some serious points. I agree that it isn't always productive to poke fun at something many people take seriously, but that is one article among many. If anyone wants to check out some more stuff on the site, here is the homepage.
    Atheism.about.com
     
  19. jonb

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    All I know is, o/~...Heaven isn't too far away...o/~ (And I only know that lyric from seeing an ad for a retro collection.)
     
  20. DC_DEEP

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    GBO, that was not directed at you. I was actually referring to the M. M. O. type of "atheism" which is ACTIVE, and pressing their non-belief upon others. What I am saying is I am neutral. I do not insist there is or is not a god. That is for each person to decide for himself. I don't even qualify myself as agnostic - it isn't that I don't know, it is simply that I do not believe.
     
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