Once people learn that I’m an atheist, they sometimes ask me: “Don’t you wish that you could go to Heaven?” Well, I used to answer “Sure. I’d love to believe that Heaven was real and that I could live forever.”, but after giving it some thought, I think that even if the Christian heaven were real, I’d rather just call it quits when my time is up. Thanks, but no thanks.
Why? Well, even though it sounds nice at first hearing, you have to figure that doing nothing but praising god 24/7 for eternity would get old fast. I mean I didn’t even enjoy the hour or two that I spent in church when I went, how awful would it be if it lasted forever!?
Most preachers tell me that there would be no sex, no marriage and no work. You might get angel wings, but you would just be singing God’s praises, for ever and ever. Let’s say you’re an outdoorsman; say a hunter or fisherman. How could you stand it? There might be streets of gold, but have you ever heard of any animals making it into heaven? What would you hunt? There would be no deer in the forests and no fish in the streams. What would you hunt with? Are there weapons in heaven, or fishing rods? You would be deprived of your favorite activities FOREVER.
Let’s say you’re a business man. If the streets are made of gold, it would be a very common element, and currency probably would not be needed at all, especially if all of human material requirements are met. What would you do with all your business skills? Indeed, where would be the need for ANY earthly skills? Tradesmen might find the materials they need to ply their skills, but there would be no market for any of their products. Same for farmers. Everybody would be on permanent, unending vacation.
Consider this. Let’s say you’re a musician, and in the first 100 million years you’ve learned to play every instrument ever invented and you’ve invented a few hundred more, you’ve exhausted every question you could think to ask of every composer that ever went to heaven, and you’ve memorized and perfected every piece of music that interested you. What are you going to do for the next billion, billion, billion years? In eternity, even after a trillion, trillion, trillion years, you’ve not even started. An eternity NEVER, EVER ENDS.
What are you going to do for your 20 trillionth birthday? How about your 987 trillionth birthday? And remember that the (now) horrible choral music is still jangling your last nerve, and has for the last 899 trillion years, and that will continue forever too.
No, I wouldn’t want to go to heaven, and I don’t think you would either if you really thought about it. However, let’s put the above eternity of boredom aside and look at heaven realistically.
There’s no evidence that souls exists. There is no evidence whatsoever of your life, in any form, continuing after death. The Bible don’t count, since it is comprised entirely of anecdotes. Anecdotes are not reliable evidence, as one can see when considering other anecdotal stories: i.e. other holy books, UFO abductions, Big Foot sightings, The Loch Ness Monster, the virgin mother appearances, fairies in the garden, etc.
I know that people have told you that God will make you be happy in heaven, but really? How? If Heaven is to be total happiness, forever, then how can you be totally happy knowing what you now know of eternity? Also, how can you be happy if you know that one or more of your loved ones are in Hell? Or, if you have an ounce of human compassion, if you know that anyone is in Hell.
If the biggest part of your happiness has always been your family, but you know a sibling, parent or child is in Hell, how can you be happy? If god, in order to make you happy, removes the memories of your lost loved ones and the part of that familial love you attributed to them, isn’t He removing the biggest part of your personality? If He alters you very much, you cease to be the “You” that you were. You won’t be you anymore. You’ll just be a happy human-robot? You have to ask yourself, how many of the other people around you in heaven would also be happy human-robots? What kind of eternal-reward would that make?
Further, there are a million unanswered questions about this supposedly perfect after-life. Are babies still babies in Heaven forever? If not, how hold does God make them? Do retarded people become smart? How smart? If Jesus says that riches are to be frowned upon, why are the streets made of Gold, and the Heavenly Gates Pearl? Why are there even streets in heaven anyway? Doesn’t everyone have wings?
Every religion/sect has a different “Heaven”, how do we know which is the correct heaven? Indeed, how do we know ANYTHING distinct about heaven? Even the Bible is extremely sketchy in this respect.
Finally, according to the Bible, the prospects of you going to Heaven are pretty slim anyway:
Revelation 7:4 says that only 144,000 people will be going to heaven, and those will be “of the children of Israel.”
Revelation 14:3-4 says that “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.”
So unless you’re a Jewish man, and a Virgin, sorry.
Doesn’t it make more sense that the ancient church would just make up Heaven and Hell to keep its followers from leaving the faith? That would be the simplest explanation. Hell is, after all, the ultimate threat and Heaven the ultimate Bribe.
The best we can hope for is to live a good life, help our fellow humans, and pass on a planet for the next generation that is in some way better than we found it. To ease suffering, to assist in the gaining of human knowledge and to pass on that knowledge, THAT is a worthy and realistic goal.