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Heavenly Problems

July 3, 2007

“‘The Hunt,’ a provocative episode of the award-winning television series The Twilight Zone. An old hillbilly named Simpson and his hound Rip appear to drown in abckwoods pond but awake the next morning near the water, walk toward the local graveyard, come to an unfamiliar fence, follow it, and arrive at a gate. The gatekeeper explains to Simpson that he is at the entrance to heaven. He is welcome, but Rip is not; no dogs are allowed.Simpson becomes infuriated, declaring that he would rather stay with Rip than go to heaven, and man and dog walk away together. Soon they meet an angel sent to accompany them to heaven. Simpson protests that he won’t go without Rip, and the angel tells Simpson that Rip is welcome in heaven. The angel explains that if Simpson had left Rip and gone through the gate, he would made a terrible mistake, for the gate-keeper had lied: the gate was the entrance to hell. Why had Rip been excluded? He would have smelled the brimstone and warned Simpson away. As the angel says, ‘You see, Mr Simpson, a man, well he’ll walk right into hell with both eyes open- but even the devil cant fool a dog!’…

Heaven… defies description. What events take place there? How do individuals relate to each other? What activities occupy them? A familiar supposition is that harps are played, but how long can harp music suffice for felicity? We understand the happiness that Rip brings Simpson. But how does it compare to the joys Simpson would experience in heaven? Not knowing, we are comfortable with Simpson rejecting heaven and staying with Rip.

To see addition difficulties involved in grasping the concept of heaven, comsider the case of Willie Mays, the spectacular baseball player whose greatest joy was to play the game he loved. What does heaven offer him? presumably bats, balls, and gloves are not found there. So what does Willie May do? Assuming he is the same person who made that spectacular catch in the 1954 World Series, how can the delights that supposedly await him in heaven match those he knew on earth?

Furthermore, some of May’s fans found their greatest delight in watching him play baseball. Wont they delight this joy in heaven? Whatever heaven may offer them, they will miss Willie in action.

The problem mounts. Consider two individuals, peters and peterson, and suppose that peters looks forward to the joy of spending eternity with peterson, whereas peterson looks forward to the joy of being forever free of peters. Assuming they retain their distinctive personalities, including their fundamental likes and dislikes, how can they both attain heavenly bliss? 

More questions arise in attempting to understand the supposition that our bodies will be resurrected. Will they appear as they did when we were ten, forty, or eighty years old? …”

Steven M Cahn. “Heaven and Hell” God, Reason and Religion, 65-68 

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