Will I go to Heaven or to Hell ?
Religion, by definition, is a societal system that creates a powerful and long-lasting effect through the establishment of symbols that relate humanity to certain beliefs and values. Religions have narratives (Holy books), symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to one’s life and/or to explain the origin of life in the universe. Religion is used by the society to derive morals, ethics, law and a preferred lifestyle from their ideas regarding human nature and the universe as a whole.
Religion takes different forms in different cultures. Often religions place an emphasis on beliefs, whilst others emphasise practice, works and deed. In most all contexts the religion teaches the concepts of an after-life, a good one and a bad one. As to which your soul is bound for is determined by your beliefs/acts during the mortal life.
To instruct the uninitiated and ignorant of what these afterlives may be, religions have devised the concepts of Heaven and Hell. Constantly promoting the good life of Heaven and the fear of the bad life in Hell. But what is Heaven and what is Hell?
For the purposes of this hub, some generalisations of term is used in a generic state, whereas not to suggest that one religion is better than another or which is right or wrong.
- Deity is used in reference to the God, Goddess, Supreme Being, the Divine
- Heaven is in reference to the Good afterlife
- Hell is in reference to the Bad afterlife
- Clergy is in reference to all priests, priestesses, rabbis, pastors, ministers, and other forms of holy reverence bestowed upon an individual to interpret and instruct the peoples on the works and words of the Deity.
- Church is in reference to the high order of clergy that interpret and communicate the laws, practises, doctrine and dogma of the religion
Beliefs & Superstition
Different religions attach differing degrees of importance to belief. Christianity puts more emphasis on belief than other religions. The Church has throughout its history set out creeds that define correct belief for Christians and which identify heresy. Most religions put more emphasis on orthopraxy (how to worship and behave) than on orthodoxy (how to believe). Judaism and Islam have each created sophisticated systems of law to guide behaviour, but have allowed an astonishing freedom of conviction and intellectual expression; both have comparatively short statements of belief. Buddhism and Hinduism concentrate on the practices of ritual and transformation rather than on uniformity of belief, and tribal religions express their view of reality through a variety of myths, not a 'rule of faith' for their members.
Superstition is described as an "incorrect establishment of cause and effect" or a false conception of causation. Religion is more complex and includes social institutions and morality. But religions may include superstitions or make use of magical thinking. Members of one religion often think other religions as superstition / superstitious. Some atheists, agnostics, deists, and sceptics regard religious belief as superstition. Religious practices are likely to be labelled "superstitious" when they include belief in miracles or extraordinary events, supernatural interventions, apparitions, charms, omens, incantations, an afterlife or the efficacy of prayer.
Heaven & Hell
In a religious context, Heaven is a realm, either physical or transcendental in which people who have died continue to live in the afterlife. It is often described as a place, state or experience of being in extreme bliss, full of pure pleasure, beauty and where everything is perfectly wonderful. Extreme bliss or pleasure means different things to different people, but for sake of argument visualise the euphoria you encounter during that of orgasm and you will have some level of understanding of bliss. Multiply that euphoric feeling a hundredfold and that is Heaven.
Each religion has differing opinions on how (and if) one gets into Heaven; it is always in the afterlife (following death from this mortal life). Admission to Heaven is conditional on having lived a "good life" as stated within the terms of the religious dogma and doctrine as interpreted by the clergy of the religion.
Hell is a place regarded in religious context as a spiritual realm of evil and suffering, often traditionally depicted as a place of perpetual fire beneath the earth where the wicked are forever punished after death. Most all of us have at one time or another burnt our fingers on a match or birthday candle; we understand the pain associated with fire. Imagine if you will, being cast into a sea of eternal (never ending) fire in which all over you body burns forever – that is hell.
Admission to Heaven or Hell:
The concept of Hell and eternal pain and suffering is rather frightening, particularly to young children – the preferred time for the clergy indoctrinate the people into their religious beliefs. Heaven, on the other hand, almost sounds too good to be true, but is it? Are Heaven and Hell real places or is it a figment of someone’s imagination? We just can't die at that is the end, can we? Human beings need to believe that there is something more than just our immediate existence. There has to be something more.
Ancient civilisations of man understood this too. In the times of the pyramids, certain individuals (the Pharaohs) proclaimed themselves a Deity in human form. The imposed dominion over the peoples through brute force, slavery and torture. Other individuals, from the same timeframe, chose a different method to seek dominion not only over the common peoples, but of the Pharaohs as well -- they were the Clergy of their religion.
As time past, across the globe, different religions would rise and fall. Each time we found humans proclaiming themselves as the true Deity of the people, and clergy were readily on hand to support these claims -- exalting them as such a Deity. Great cathedrals, temples and monuments were built in support of this notion of their Deity.
Today there are few mainstream religions, but each one shares something in common with the religions of old.
- Their Deity is all powerful, divine and eternal
- Their Deity contains within a wrath that shall punish those who betray them
- Only belief in their Deity will enable the passage from this life and into Heaven; and then only after the death from this mortal life.
- Those that break or go against the will of their Deity, as interpreted by the clergy of the religion, will have their soul sentenced to an eternal death.
Religious Control & Power
But how does religion and its clergy maintain control over the people? Through the concept of ones soul. The soul is the incorporeal essence of a person or living being. Most religious systems teach that humans have souls and it is this soul that will benefit or perish as a result of your beliefs and/or acts.
People are taught from a very young age, that this entity (soul) exists. We cannot see, feel, hear, taste, touch, smell or otherwise recognise that it exists; it just does. And since this is the essence of our very being, it is something that we don't want to lose.
St. Thomas Aquinas understood the soul to be the first principle, or act, of the body. However, his epistemological theory required that, since the intellectual soul is capable of knowing all material things, and since in order to know a material thing there must be no material thing within it, the soul was definitely not corporeal. Therefore, the soul had an operation separate from the body and therefore could subsist without the body. Furthermore, since the rational soul of human beings was subsistent and was not made up of matter and form, it could not be destroyed in any natural process.
The Church defines the soul as the innermost aspect of humans that which is of greatest value in them, that by which they are most especially in the Deity’s image: 'soul' signifies the spiritual principle in man.
Whether we ever really had a soul in the first place is a different question altogether, but the belief that we do enables the clergy to gain dominion over our conscience self so that they may teach us how to keep from losing it or its death. We have all seen death, either through pets, family members, animals or bugs. We know, without doubt, that death is permanent and irreversible.
Our Mortal Life
During the time of our mortal life, that is whilst we are still alive in this current plane of existence, we are taught religion by the clergy and instructed how we must worship, believe and/or behave in order to obtain admittance into the eternal bliss of Heaven. Not to mention the fear of eternal death and punishment is drummed into us to ensure that we do not stray from the control of the clergy.
It is in man's nature to be dominant over his domain. Some men have stronger needs of domination than others, and use differing methods to obtain this domination. Some through brute force, others through influence, and a few through religious and mystical thought.
- Is the Deity real or a figment of someone's imagination?
- Does Heaven and Hell truly exist? Is there anything to look forward to or to fear?
- Which religion is true and which are myths or falsehoods of man?
Religions do have a place in modern society. Whether real or imagined, the religions and their clergy give us societal order, hope for a better life (if not in this, then the next (if it exists)), and are the foundation of law.
I believe that Heaven and Hell do exist; and as most all religions state that you can only have one path to the Deity and its afterlife in Heaven ... you better choose wisely.
2 Peter 2:1-3 (Christian Bible) "But there were false prophets also amongst the people, even as there shall be false teachers among ye, who privily shall bringeth in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that boughtest them, and bringest upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spake of. And through covetousness shalst they with feigneth words make merchandise of thee: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."
Whether you are Catholic as I am, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim or some other religion, keep true to what you believe to be true and maybe you will have chosen the right path to Heaven. Do not endeavour to force your beliefs upon others, those who choose to believe in religions other than yours - as they may be right and you may be wrong. No one will ever know, with 100% certainty, that their chose religion is right until after it is too late.
Psalms 133:1 (Christian Bible) "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
So whilst you are still here in this mortal life, join with your brethren (both those who believe as you do and those who do not) and enjoy fraternal brotherhood, good cheer and living a just and moral life. Just in case you have chosen wrong, at least you will have held some righteous communion with your fellow man.