Who goes to Heaven/Hell, really?

edited November 2013 in Religion & Philosophy
My dad passed away early this morning - about 2 AM. No condolences, please. I haven't spoken to him in about 20 years. He did some pretty odious shit while he was alive. My oldest sister was the only person who had anything to do with him these last few years (and she had more reason to hate him than any of us). I didn't have any animosity toward him. I just didn't care. Maybe that's worse - I dunno.

But it got me thinking... As much of a prick as he was in life - and believe me, he was - it's hard for me to fathom that he's in Hell now. Call me an optimist, but I have to think that there's a place in Heaven even for people like him. I'm not big on the absolute literal word of the Bible, so quoting a verse (camel, eye of a needle, etc) probably won't sway me much. Maybe it's the living who actually get to judge. If enough people figure you deserve eternal damnation while you're alive, maybe that's what you get.

Normally we wax eloquent about the people in our lives who pass on. This one is a bit of a quandary for me. Guess my final feeling is pity. He died alone because of the choices made long ago. And now he's...?


  • And yes, Clay - If you're reading this and your first response is "worm food", that's fine. I'm old enough to respect an athestist's perspective now. :)
  • Heaven and Hell are constructs of man trying to come to grips with his own mortality and ego.

    Once you leave this mortal coil, that's it folks.

    Enjoy your time here on the blue marble, no encore when you expire.

    My thoughts and frankly, I don't know.
  • Maybe, but I don't think so.

    Anyone else?
  • I like the line from Gladiator.  What we do in life echoes in eternity.

    That doesn't foreclose the possibility of awareness of error and reconciliation after death.  If Stalin and Ariel Castro and Ted Bundy all continued to understand their errors and make better choices, that's no skin off my nose.

    One of the consequences of moral acts is a formation of the person who performs them.  An act of charity forms a person who can give to others, an act of rudeness helps to form a rude person, and a gravely evil act may help form a person who is capable of further great evil.  That doesn't mean a person can't still make choices to be less charitable, rude or evil, but who we are has something to do with how we choose.

    If moral action forms moral habit, one has to wonder about the degree to which that habit persists.  Would a person habituated to poor choices choose a reconciliation with perfect order?
  • Heaven and Hell are part of a larger discussion of theology and mythology and for me are just a human construct that attempts to render understandable that which cannot be understood.

    Fortunately, I suspect your concerns have little to do with Heaven & Hell per se; being instead about you attempting to figure out how you feel, about how you feel about how you feel about your father.

    Maybe I'm wrong.

    But let me tell you a little bit about MY father.

    My father was a selfish, self-centered asshole who did the world a favor when he dropped the fuck dead a few years back. He only lived that long because about the time I turned 16 he realized that I could kick his ass and stopped beating me up before I figured it out too.

    He was also good at the mind fuck. Two examples:

    1) When I was somewhere around 10 years old he had gotten the two of us tickets to s Star Trek convention in NYC, which was a HUGE deal to me. I was a huge Trekkie, had seen every episode, had every book published and even had the "Action Figures". Yes, I had a Captain Kirk doll. All the others as well. AND, this was back in the 70's, when the principle actors not only still LOOKED like their characters, they still actually came to the conventions.

    A few days before the convention he got mad at me about something and told me we weren't going to go. In fact, he was going to take one of the kids at his school instead.

    2) When he died he had a mutual fund with about a quarter million in it. He left none to his long term girlfriend, to whom he had promised good sized chunk of money. This was the one that he was seeing while married to my Mother, by the way.

    Instead, he left it all to my sister and I. In a 90/10 ratio.

    I won't pretend that I wouldn't have enjoyed the money, but for me money has always been more of a means to an end than a goal. And honestly, my sister needs it WAY more than I do. So this isn't something I was upset about, but it does leave the question... Why did he do that?

    He did it because he knew that if he cut me out of his will COMPLETELY, my Sister would never tell me about the money. The ONLY way to insure that I would know what he had done was to include me in the will and 10% was the smallest amount he could leave me.

    We had become estranged for the final time a few years before his death. It was something that he did, or rather failed to do, and when he tried to apologize by sending me money, I mailed the checks back to him without explanation. This was his way of saying; "Fuck me? No, Fuck YOU!", from beyond the grave.

    Anyway, the point of all this is that I didn't particularly care one way or the other that he was dead. I think I was more emotionally moved by the death of Princess Diana than by my father. Of course, she was actually worthwhile human being.

    I recognized that this was not how most people felt in this situation, even when it was about an abusive father.

    A familiar trope in movies and TV is the one about the father and son who reconcile late in the father's life.

    That isn't me. I have no regret, nor do I expect to. It simply is what it is and it wasn't my doing.

    You said:

    This one is a bit of a quandary for me. Guess my final feeling is pity.
    He died alone because of the choices made long ago. And now he's...?

    There is no quandary.

    You said it yourself... He died along because of the choices he made long ago. And now he's dead, that's what. And you have no obligation to feel anything about that OTHER than what you actually feel. And if you don't feel anything, then you don't feel anything.

    Ultimately, we ALL die alone.

    The question is whether or not anyone gives a damn. That question turns on how the person acted in life.

    So if your father's actions were such that you don't really care one way or the other, then that's on HIM.

    And for what it's worth, I don't think anyone burns in lakes of fire. The Divine Comedy was a work of fiction, nothing more.

  • When I look at all the beauty in this world I think there is no way this is all an accident.  
    When something bad happens I ask Who would let this happen?

    My Dad drove me very hard when I was young.  Looking back, gone twenty years next month, I see he was just doing his job as a father.

    I have a few friends who've had a rough time growing up.  Their fathers passing made them very bitter.  If there is a memorial service you should go.  If there isn't then make one up on your own even if it is just a graveside visit and a simple lunch.  Closure is important.  Not for him.  For you.
  • ZedZed
    edited November 2013
    If you're going to believe in Heaven & Hell, it would only be rational to believe in all the things that go with it.

    Specifically, an omniscient triune God that created everything including man; that man rejected God, his Creator, and in doing so damned himself to eternal separation from God (Hell) and that the only way to redeem that original relationship between man & God was to do so through a relationship with his son, Jesus Christ, which would result in eternal life (Heaven). 

    That's an extremely simplified overview, and depending on the line of theology and doctrine that one follows there are some minor variations to the core 'formula'. 

    To be as succinct as possible, the nature of man is to be a prick.  There is noone that is naturally "good", except for some internal driving purpose/reason to be good.  (The whole being "good" thing opens another can of worms, who determines what is good?  Are there absolutes?)

    But in the end, whether you're a goodie two-shoes or prick all of your life doesn't impact where you end up for eternity.
  • I have utterly no idea what happens when the body dies.  I suppose that I vaguely believe that the life-force marches on, but beyond that, all bets are off.

    There are a couple of things that make me keep my options open, primarily on the subject of reincarnation. 

    There is the long established belief system of the Tibetan Buddhists, who believe that the death of the body begins a 49 day period of "Death," in which the Mind of the recently deceased goes through an experience that is described in the "Tibetan Book of the Dead" and is amazingly close to the descriptions of individuals of many different cultures who have described NDEs (Near Death Experiences) they had while clinically dead.

    Add to that the reports of individuals who have had a "Level 5" experience under the influence of very powerful Psychedelic substances.  These reports describe experiences which are congruent with the descriptions from the other two groups of reports.  In fact, these Level 5 experiences are also known as "ego death experiences," and this ego death experience is at the heart of the Tibetan belief.

    The Tibetans (and we westerners, for that matter) believe that the Ego is but one component of the self, but it is the component that holds experiences, memories, values and the like.  

    On the death of the body and the start of the 49 day period, the first thing that happens is that the ego is shattered, blown to bits if you will.  

    The next thing is that happens is that the newly dead mind experiences massive confusion, sees a tunnel with a bright light at the far end (but is too confused to act and go to that light at this time), encounters shadowy figures who encourage him, and eventually goes on to conduct a detailed comprehensive review of his life and judges it.  

    There's a lot more, but the relevant point is that this description of the experience of the newly dead mind is reflected so accurately in such detail in the other two sets of descriptions.

    The tibetans believe that the mind can be trained to deal with the confusion resulting from the ego-death.  

    Naturally enough, they believe that this only can be accomplished with the assistance of a specialized guru under whom the recent decedent would have studied for years.  Well, that rules me out.  However...

    Of course there's a "however" here.  Mine is that I agree with Dr. Timothy Leary, who believes that if you can reproduce the ego-death experience, you can repeat the experience and train yourself to get past the confusion. 

    The ultimate aim of this experiment is to get off the wheel (of life, death and rebirth) at the first opportunity, and that is a brief window that occurs when the tunnel with the light appears.

    Or so it says here.  Who knows?  I've got an open mind, a ticket to ride, and nothing to lose.

    Sounds like win to me.  YMMV, 

    I'm going to investigate this route in the near future, but alas, I won't be able to report whether my experiment bore fruit or not.  Pity, that; but there's no helping it, it is what it is.
  • After this thread, I ended up buying this book and reading it on a flight leg tonight.

    Not sure if I am a believer or not, but it was an interesting read.
  • edited November 2013
    I know you don't want condolences Seabird, but just wanted you to know that I said a quick prayer that you find peace of mind. I think that whether we on the board believe or don't believe, we can all agree that we hope you find the answers you seek and that you find comfort in those answers.

  • Unka Bart said:

    I have utterly no idea what happens when the body dies.

    Two Words: Quantum Entanglement
  • I'm sure I don't need to rehash the basis of what I believe... but I struggle with what it means.  Heaven, Hell, justice, free will, love, eternity... they all collide at the point of our demise.  As much as I like to think about it and struggle with what it means for me, my wife, my children, my parents, my moron friend that humps anything that looks at him funny and steals from his customers and company whenever he can get away with it, I think this is an area of Christian faith that is particularly brilliant.  The Bible says two things on this matter... 1. A person's salvation (or lack thereof) is between that person and God.  We can't and we should not try to judge. 2. Every time this sort of question comes up to Jesus, about what happens to others, He points it back onto the person asking.  YOU'VE read the scriptures, YOU'VE heard it said... now what are YOU going to do about it.

    I always chuckle when I see people claim this is a construct made by man to comfort us.  An eternity of anything seems like Hell to me, the only way I can embrace the idea is because God has fulfilled every other promise He has made.  Worm food is far more comforting to me.
  • An eternity of anything seems like Hell to me.

    Even walking streets of gold while singing hymns?  Seems like glorious time to be had.
  • LOL!

    I appreciate the replies and the kind words regarding my personal situation (I can't really call it a "loss"). The comments have been interesting.

    W/re to my dad, he was no saint. Not trying to judge, but I don't think anyone who knew him (even his friends) would say that about him. There were quite a few people who admired him for his intellect, but that's about it. As soon as I learned about such things, I suspected that he was either borderline sociopathic or narcissistic. But I'm not sure that he rose to the level eternal damnation. The Bible is pretty unspecific about *how* we get judged. That, and depending on who wrote what book in what era, the goalposts tend to move around a bit.

    As for the very concept of an afterlife, I don't think that the lights get switched off and that is that. Nor do I think that there are lakes of fire, or that Lucifer is hanging out in a frozen pit, and all the good little boys and girls get to lounge around on fluffy clouds and play harp.
  • Zed said:

    An eternity of anything seems like Hell to me.

    Even walking streets of gold while singing hymns?  Seems like glorious time to be had.
    I read this yesterday and decided to sleep on it... I still can't figure out if you're being sarcastic :)
  • Neither can I.  I know what the 'right' answer is, but as you originally said, an eternity of anything seems like Hell to me.  I think it is one of those 'divide by zero' things. Head can't wrap around it.

    Speaking of heaven, will your spouse be there?  How about your kids?  Animals?  Will you be able to enjoy a nice single malt scotch while kicking back in an Adirondack chair on the shore of some northern lake?  Will we be able to get a nice steak?
  • Steak & a........
  • 2.FOH. said:

    Steak & a........

    Yeah, then there's that...

  • Zed said:

    Speaking of heaven, will your spouse be there?  How about your kids?  Animals?  Will you be able to enjoy a nice single malt scotch while kicking back in an Adirondack chair on the shore of some northern lake?  Will we be able to get a nice steak?

    According to the Bible -
    Spouse?  May be there but there is no marriage in Heaven.
    Kids?  May be there and they will still be your kids.
    Animals?  Animals are in Heaven but it's not clear if they existed prior to Heaven.  I have to assume they are "new".  My dog died last week and we had lots of talks about weather or not we would see him in Heaven.

    I don't know about scotch, steaks, BJs and sunny days but I sure hope so.  I hope track days with an F40 are part of the deal as well.
  • Wait... so no marriage... but a chance of BJs & nookie?  Does not compute.  Oh yeah, divide by zero.
  • I think it's likely that there is some sort of afterlife. As far as Christianity is concerned I believe that atonement, not limited, covers all sins whether repented or not. 
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