Would you stay in Heaven if …

Below are two thought experiments to probe possible clitches in your opinion about God, heaven and hell. Please only answer the appropriate polls. The first poll is for atheists, agnostics, non-theists or skeptics … — you get what I mean. The second poll is for theists (Christians, Jews, Muslims , theistic Hindus …).  Don’t think too hard — my point in this thought experiment should be pretty obvious.  Or, if you feel I am making horrendous assumptions, let me know.

Atheist Scenario:
Imagine that after you die, you surprisingly find out that there is indeed a heaven and a hell and a god. You are given a trial ride in heaven. But for you to stay forever if you willingly agree to honor this god during your eternal stay there. You must show respect and listen to his commands. If you won’t, you go to hell.  You find out he is very different from the Old Testament god you have read of and that god shows you convincingly that he is really good and loving [He can even convincingly explain why suffering happens in the mortal realm in a way that he is still good]. So, would you stay?  In the comments tell us what conditions you would add to the story to make your answer work.  But for fun, I am keeping the poll questions simple.

Theist Scenario:
Imagine that after you die, you were happy to see you were correct — there is indeed a heaven and a hell and you are in heaven.  The atheists were wrong. But wait!  You are disappointedly surprised to find out that God is not as you imagined.  He is not all knowing, and is mean and egotistical. In fact, he will happily send Christians to hell who won’t worship him. But if you worship him he will keep you in heaven. If you aren’t willing to to worship this selfish, angry, mean, very powerful eternal being, you will be tortured forever in hell. Would you stay in Heaven or go to Hell? If you need to add caveats to your answer, tell us in the comments.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

26 responses to “Would you stay in Heaven if …

  1. This is really fun—I look forward to seeing the answers!

    Yes, I guess I’d stay in heaven if there turned out to be a good God.

  2. Sum Gai

    I don’t care how god is, if he will let me stay in heaven insted of hell then whatever i have to do to stay out of hell you gotta do it. btw im atheist and im just saying. “Eternal Happiness” vs. “Eternal Torture” no brainer

  3. TWF

    I’m surprised to find that some Atheists voted no. A life after death would be like a reset button, making the past practically irrelevant. So then you have your choice: pleasant living or torture, for all eternity. If God proves that He is a good guy, that’s a no-brainer decision in my opinion.

    On the flip side, if God is really like the God of the OT, even if people choose to stay in Heaven, I get the sense that He might kick them out sometime in the span of eternity. That God does not handle disagreement with Him very well, and, having a free will independent of God’s, you are sure to disagree at some point.

  4. @TWF … but if he does kick you out, are you worse off than if you’d said “no” initially? Maybe we need that specified.

  5. @ David Chapman :
    Fantastic new pic, dude!
    I won’t share the answers until I have carefully graded all the answers!😉

    Yeah, it was hard to write the polls carefully, so I depended on the readers to be generous with understanding the point of the questions. Listing all the caveates would have made the post too long and folks may not have read.

    @ Sum Gai :
    Yeah, it seems clear to me too but I am curious how others reason.

    @ TWF:
    Yeah, I am sort of surprised too, but I sometimes feel that some atheists are so (rightfully) upset about the manipulative us God-Heaven-Hell thing, that they overgeneralize at times and ironically don’t think clearly in their discussions with Theists. I likewise feel Theists do exactly the same in reverse. And when these two meet — productive communication is almost impossible. But I could be wrong — maybe some readers will tell me my mistake.

    I stipulated that this is not the Yahweh many atheists (rightfully) dislike — the tribal iron-age god. I said:

    You find out he is very different from the Old Testament god you have read of.

    But I agree, if it were the YHWH that you and I read, he seems very tempermental and capricious. But if a Christian does not see him this way, then we can see why conversations on this issue would miss each other.

    I also find it odd that 70% of Theists (at this time) would jump into Hell rather than live with a god in heaven that they hadn’t imagined. Why do you think that is? I have my suspicions but would rather hear other’s opinions.

  6. I must be stupid. I don’t get the question. WHAT is the alternative to NOT staying in Heaven?? I want another chance at life, be it a bird or human or whatever. If your poll is asking, if we foun out the Good guy God is all they say would I be okay with going to Heaven, well, if he were all they say then I would have no choice and by God’s words I would live happily forever there. If there is a Hell, of course I don’t want to go there. But if loving someone of my sex is Hell’s ticket then I would go willing because that would be what I earned. I accept consequences of my actions. I don’t get the question.Really difficult to leave a comment on your blog…

  7. @ Diane
    Why is it “really difficult to leave a comment on [my] blog”?
    Sorry the questions were confusing.
    It sounds like you’d stay in heaven if you found out God was good. So if you are an atheist or agnostic, you’d answer “yes” for the first poll.

    I’m not sure why some atheists are choosing to jump into hell. Maybe they are so averse to a divine, albeit good, dictator, they’d rather live in eternal torture — I don’t get that, but that is why I am asking. Maybe I should have been clearer. Thanx for the question.

  8. exrelayman

    I, an atheist, agree with the first 3 commenters. Inability to revise my stance when new and more accurate information becomes available reflects a rigidity I desire to avoid, if possible.

    Ingersoll said it years ago – if there is a good and powerful god, then the Bible is an insult to it. This extrapolates to any god that punishes incorrect belief.

  9. @ exrealyman:
    Nicely said. And heck, maybe God is not all-powerful and just can’t interfere in human events. Heck, maybe God is an big fuzz-ball. Well, I’d adopt and live in heaven forever with a fuzzy benign-dictataro, semi-god. As you said, I’d re-evaluate given new data. I’m surprised others won’t. What do you think — question written badly, they didn’t understand, they just hate dictators that much or being wrong is that bitter for them?

  10. TWF

    Hmm, good question David. I was assuming the same treatment.

    Sabio, I can kind of get the Atheist choice of Hell on the grounds of principle for God having a Hell to begin with. I must admit that I took a second or two to ponder an activist’s stance before choosing. But given the way you presented the scenario, it boils down to that somewhat-cliche saying about marriage: “You can be right, or you can be happy. Take your pick.” 🙂

    Regarding the Theists choosing Hell over an eternity with an angry and abusive God, I think that’s an encouraging sign of rational thought! 😉 You, of course, know how the NT God is presented as the epitome of love, sacrificing His Son/Self for us, etc. When I’ve encountered apologists’ arguments defending God’s OT behavior, they usually seem to boil down to saying that God, knowing the ultimate effect on the timeline of humanity, needed to take those actions to result in the greatest possible good overall. It’s a child-discipline explanation. Sure, you don’t want to spank (or otherwise punish) your child, but you know it will be for his or her long-term good. So the OT God becomes a loving, but firm parent looking out for our best interests.

    To arrive in Heaven and find that God is really just a jerk would undermine every aspect of their faith. God would not be the loving father they thought they knew, but would rather be an abusive dad. Who would want to live with that?

    In fact, I wonder about the Theists who would still choose to be with God in that circumstance. Unless it’s just a realization that it’s best to try to make friends with the person who has all of the power.

  11. I’ve heard it postulated that the Hell we often think of as a torturous realm is mostly a (much) later addition to Chrisitan theology, and that what Hell meant to the authors of the Bible was really an absence of God. I don’t know if that means oblivion, or nothingness, or what. But in any event, unless there is some type of really awesome non-stop party happening in Hell, I’d choose Heaven any day of the week, no matter how unsufferable the CEO happened to be. Seems as if anything would be better than an eternity of suffering.

  12. decourse

    The first scenario is, as everyone else has said, a no-brainer. Eternity with Cool Deity is infinitely preferrable to eternal torture.

    In the second scenario, I think I’d probably end up in Hell eventually whichever one I chose, since I probably couldn’t stick with Arsehole Deity’s requirements. Opting to go to Heaven first would at least give me more time to weigh the options. It’s a shame that conditional immortality isn’t an option here.

  13. exrelayman

    Sabio – I don’t see how the questions could be improved upon. Any thoughts about the why of other peoples answers would merely be conjecture – there are areas where conjecture is unavoidable, but I really try to refrain from psychoanalyzing people based on limited information.

  14. @ TWF :
    Yeah, it will be interesting to speculate on reasons for so many Atheists jumping into hell. When I do — in my next post — I hope those Hell-lovers come and correct me.
    Yes, I think the question challenges some theistic thinkers too. (your points are fun)

    @ Adam :
    Yeah, I am with you on that one. But many disagree — I find that fascinating.

    @ decourse :
    LOL. Sorry I couldn’t offer all the possible scenarios — people won’t read long blogs — heck , I rarely do either.

    @ exrelyman :
    But conjecture I will — in the next post. I will let people correct me if they think I am wrong. This is not meant as a scientific, statistically significant study — it is a probe. Many insights start with such probes — and if others find them interesting and have means, they test them more rigourously.

    So yes, any speculation I do is mere weak conjecture — all meant to start dialogue, not to proclaim the truth.

  15. I tried to leave a comment this morning and it never went through – or at least it isn’t showing so…
    The post is somewhat baffling. To pose the question to an atheist and a christian, ‘what if you turned out to be wrong’ re religious beliefs, presupposes that there is a god and now it is merely an exercise of what would you do if this god turn out to be a cool guy or a rotten spiteful sod.

    Most odd.

  16. Ah…I have just visited your ‘about’ page and now understand more clearly the tone behind this post. You state you are, “Moderate (agnostic in the deep sense, of course)”
    This is, of course, not atheist, in the true sense, but that’s okay.
    It also clears up for me why you tend to have a more laissez faire approach
    to Christians such as Warrioress and why you would even consider the possibility of a god/creator even in a playful sense such as this.

    I probably should have read the ‘about’ page first up. Serves me right.
    Yet I am still curious, what made you ‘deconvert’? (If you have written a post on this please direct me.
    Care to share?

  17. @Sabio

    I would stay with God, no matter what or who He turns out to be. I’m just loyal like that.

  18. @Warrioress.
    My brother used to say the same thing about my old home town’s soccer team, Chester City Football Club. Eventually they were relegated out of the English Fourth Division to the Conference league. I believe they have been sold and may even be under liquidation.
    Yes,Warrioress, I can see the correlation with your god.

  19. @ the warrioress
    Wow, thank you for your honesty — it will help in my post that tries to analyze this issue. I hope to see you there too.

    @ Ankenaten
    Loyalty is an important trait, it can hurt us, as you say. The question is, even when mistaken, can it still have virtuous, redeemable aspects? I think so. Have you read any of CS Lewis?

    BTW, I do ask you be civil in debating those we disagree with on this site. I make mistakes too, but let’s try and play nice. Strong opinions are allowed, of course. Thanks!

  20. @ Sabio
    I always play nice. You worry too much, I fear.
    My little comments are a lot less barbed than a post such as the one you wrote about the Imaginary Friend. Sheesh, this is almost blasphemous in some people’s eyes. Even the title should have you washing your mouth out and being sent to your room – along with a hundred Hail Mary’s etc.
    Good heavens(sic) there must be folk out there who’ve read that particular post who are, even now, wrenching open kitchen drawers looking for a box of matches – and I don’t mean to start a barbecue – well, I do, but chicken isn’t likely on the menu. .;)
    Besides, gods can take care of themselves, don’t you think?

  21. @ Ark,
    I have seen you interacting on Warrioresses blog and it did not seem very productive. Yes, my “imaginary friend” post was blasphemy to believers, I am sure. But in comments, I try to keep it focused and careful conversation. Again, please stick to the content and try not to use the comment section to be cute — I prefer frank dialogue. Thank you.

  22. As an atheist, if this God could actually prove the worth of that eternal suffering, then yes, I’d probably stay on.

    I can see no reason why a loving God (parent figure) would lock their children in a dark, lonely, and painful basement for all eternity. Even poor parents know this isn’t the way to treat children, why then do the faitheists believe that this is ok and moral?

  23. So, you believe if you write inflammatory posts you expect all commentators to be civil and unemotional?
    Best of luck with that !
    I shall watch with keen interest,

  24. Ted Seeber

    I voted as a theist yes, that I would stay in Heaven *even though that sort of God would be hell to me*; because if there’s one thing that as an autistic, a skeptic, and a Catholic that the Church has banged into my head, it is that my personal preferences are often due to my limited world view and thus they are wrong. And that Obedience to Authority that I Do Not Understand Yet is usually *better* than the path I’d come up with myself (and in fact, has been- when I’ve been obedient to church teaching good things came to me, when I’ve been disobedient, I’ve rightly and justly gotten my due right here on Earth, no need for an afterlife reward at all).

    Or as I tell Evangelical Christians and Evangelical Atheists who assume I am going to hell for my hypocrisy in their eyes: I will gladly in obedience go to hell if a legitimate authority sends me there.

  25. Ted Seeber

    @TWF- I would say the God of the Islamics. In old testament theology, God was faithful to his promises; hard nosed and absolutely a tough love kind of parent, but nobody punished got punished *arbitrarily*. Even with Job there was a purpose to it- proving that faith in the face of adversity can turn ALL suffering to good. Even the worshipers of Baal and the Cananites were at least *guilty of having an incompatible culture* to what God was trying to develop. I’m not real sure that God has gone away yet, given how votes on gay marriage in the United States have gone.

    On the other hand, in the theology of Mohammed- Allah isn’t the same from Sura to Sura in the Koran, let alone from eon to eon. I’m surprised they ever developed any reason at all under that theology (they did, for a brief period, before the Ottoman decided that even Algebra was an Offense Against the Irrationality of God, and culled the sub-sect that had invented it)

  26. I cannot logically choose ANY answer because I do not believe in a false prophet or god, or hell….or the remote possibility that it will ever be proven. It’s really that simple.

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