A Reward for service or Eternal Punishment
In the Christian and Islamic traditions, the idea of heaven is like the carrot tied to a stick held in front of a horse - no matter how hard or fast the horse walks, it can never reach the carrot. Conversely, the idea of hell is the stick or incentive to make you carry on.
Sometimes we wish life could be more heavenly.. or just a little easier, but what is heaven and where do we find it? Heaven is often described as an idyllic paradise where not only are all our needs met, all our desires are fulfilled and existence is an unending pleasure. But, it's only reached after we die as a reward for having been being a good (moral) person for all our lives.
Hell on the other hand as the place where all the bad people go, those who have insufficient moral values and those who commit crimes.
As Dr Spock might say, heaven and hell are completely illogical and they are, like gods heaven and hell are also manufactured in people's minds for various reasons. It is the religious organisations that came up with these ideas for social, political and economic reasons.
With status quo of a religion or a moral order may be benevolent as it appears on the surface in Christianity. Here the idea of heaven is an incentive for people to live what is considered a good life within the framework of that society. Yet if we look at Islam, heaven is a reward for those who have emulated the activities of the Prophet.
For the Christians, the idea of heaven might look like a retirement village in Florida where the anti-ageing creams have worked and after death one is restored to one's physical prime.
For the Muslims, the women don't count, there's no heaven for women and the men if they have done enough raping, killing and slave trading will be rewarded with 72 beautiful virgins.
Both ideas are preposterous as such an idea is contrary to both the laws of nature and modern science. The enlightened consider that heaven is both a place on Earth and a state of mind whereas hell is a state of mind caused by oppression and wrong thinking.
For those people who live in superstitious fear, heaven and hell become real in their imaginations. But for those people who have some knowledge of life understand differently that life is what we make it. Therefore we have the capacity to create a heavenly life or we can make your life that is hell, but only for the individual but for everyone around them.
Life is a state of mind
Although most people identify themselves as being their physical body and mind, and that the world that they see is tangible and real, this is a false view.
In an ultimate sense, this world is an illusion and we perceive only within our own minds. Therefore it is our choice to either create a heaven or a hell. The person with some knowledge of their body and mind knows that life is illusory. As such we have the choice about creating heaven or hell.
Even though we have punctuated this world with wars, famines and all kinds of disasters, the disposition of the enlightened is one of pleasantnest. But the person who does not know themselves will always remain a victim and feel that life is hell even though they might be materially very well off and physically safe.
The consensus of the learned is that if we embraced our humanity and co-operated in creating an equitable society, we'd be living in heaven now - with total peace and prosperity for all.
Cover image; Gates of Heaven by Vybz Kartel Ft Mon Cherie