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Jon_R comments on 31 Laws of Fun - Less Wrong

34 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 26 January 2009 10:13AM

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Comment author: Jon_R 26 January 2009 04:37:46PM 9 points [-]

In the interests of accuracy, I'd like to talk about the Christian Heaven. Though I now consider myself an agnostic, I went to two years of bible college (think the Fundamentalist version of seminary). To the best of my recollection, the only substantial description of Heaven appears in the last two chapters of Revelation, a book that even in Fundamentalist circles is acknowledged to contain a lot of symbolism.

There are two parts to this description. The first (Rev 21:3-7) talks about what God is going to do in Heaven: "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." and so on.

The second part (Rev 21:10-22:5) discusses the appearance of the city in a manner that nearly all theologians would interpret to be symbolic. The city has walls of jasper (God's appearance is previously described as jasper, earlier in the book), and is built of pure gold (a reference to the purity of the inhabitants; the book earlier describes the trials they've gone through as purification, so that all the dross would have run out and only pure gold remains). The numbers given are all based on 12 -- both the number of the tribes of Israel, and the number of the apostles. Likewise, the listing of gemstones for the foundation is derived from the list of jewels representing the twelve tribes in the high priest's breastplate as described in Exodus. There's more I could say here, but I doubt you care too much; suffice it to say that the whole thing's symbolic.

The "singing hymns" part actually comes earlier in the book, in Revelation 15, where the apocalypse is still occurring. There's no mention of it in the last two chapters, and certainly no mention of that being all you do forever.

There isn't actually a lot of description of Heaven in the Bible, perhaps for good reason. Apart from these two chapters, the only other stuff we have to go on is some sayings of Jesus in the Gospels. Nothing that I recall about "you'll never have to work again", though there was a lot about giving rest to those who are weary and heavy laden (and if that's not a good description of a peasant's life, I don't know what is).

My point for bringing this up isn't to convince you that the Christian Heaven is great -- as I said, I don't believe in it myself anymore. Rather, I find that people typically make better arguments when they actually know what they're talking about, and it may assist you in railing against the Christian Heaven to know what it actually is said to be.

Comment author: Timwi 12 April 2012 09:49:42PM 4 points [-]

Your post explains how the bible describes heaven. However, when I hear the phrase “Christian heaven” I tend to take it to mean “heaven as Christians today understand it”. You may well be right that the bible doesn’t directly imply that it includes singing hymns for the rest of eternity, but clearly it is widely imagined that way, otherwise we wouldn’t all have heard that idea.

Comment author: [deleted] 12 April 2012 10:16:27PM 2 points [-]

It's an often described caricature of heaven but I imagine that most believers would say that heaven isn't actually like that, and possibly add something about how the things a soul experiences in heaven are beyond mortal comprehension.

Comment author: grendelkhan 04 March 2014 06:11:04PM 1 point [-]

I think you may have been giving them too much credit. Here's an adherent explaining that wireheading is a bad thing, but in heaven, wireheading is good because everything in heaven is good.

I don't think people don't always put much effort into critically considering their beliefs.

I had an idea for a sort of Christian fanfiction, in which people marked for heaven and people marked for hell both go into the same firey pit, but the former are wireheaded to be happy about it. It's a far more efficient construction that way. (I suppose you could also do the reverse, with the people marked for hell being reverse-wireheaded to find nice things agonizing, but that doesn't have the same tasty irony.)

Comment author: polymathwannabe 04 March 2014 06:34:54PM 3 points [-]

That's the standard Eastern Orthodox doctrine: everybody goes to heaven, but only those who love God will enjoy it.

Comment author: grendelkhan 08 April 2014 05:18:53PM 1 point [-]


These theological symbols, heaven and hell, are not crudely understood as spatial dimensions but rather refer to the experience of God's presence according to two different modes.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 04 March 2014 08:13:48PM 0 points [-]

(I suppose you could also do the reverse, with the people marked for hell being reverse-wireheaded to find nice things agonizing, but that doesn't have the same tasty irony.)