The Dilemma of Heaven
I recently began to ponder the ever-promised goal of theistic heaven, particularly the Christian version which entails a very specific path to having arrived there. This path can be briefly summarized as follows:
a)'We are born into a sinful existence, being both sinner and sinful from the moment of birth.
b)'We live a life with free will, thus we ourselves determine our final destiny through our acceptance or rejection of God's rules.
c)'During the course of this free will "experiment" of God's in which we ultimately end up determining our position in the afterlife--that being an existence in heaven or an existence in hell--we make the proper or improper choices according to the rules declared by God, or so Christians tell us. Though it varies from denomination to denomination, and even between individual Christians (i.e, grace through acts vs. grace through faith, etc.), ultimately some set of determinations, used and levied by God, and most importantly based on our own free will in the carrying out of these actions, or not, determines our acceptance into heaven.
d)'Upon reaching a state of death, the morally good and/or properly-actioned believer, having accepted God's rules, then finds himself in heaven.
Fair enough? In other words, this whole process has been determined by the prospect of our free will and in the use of that free will with respect to the choices we make during this life. However, I find that heaven must, by it and God's very nature, be a place in which the believer has all free will stripped from him. The theist would therefore have lived a life of freedom and choice during his earthly existence, but would be subjected to a naked removal of this free will upon entering heaven. Otherwise, should free will remain, it is obvious from the biblical tale--in fact the entire prospect of having arrived at heaven in the first place--that men and women would sin in heaven.
This thought naturally leads us to the only remaining option available--the absence of free will in heaven. Perhaps the theist would deny this, claiming that our personal nature and free will would remain in heaven, for what purpose would there be to concern ourselves with immortality if "we," as personal, identifiable, and actionably free-willed human beings, are not actually immortalized as such. That is, to have our free will taken from us, after having established ourselves and gaining access to heaven on that very premise of having used free will, is to remove everything of significance. The one thing that we used to gain entry into heaven is the first thing God, by requirement, would remove from us.
Yet, if free will is not removed, we can only assume that heaven will be filled with the same proclivities, the same crimes, the same demeaning and pitiful acts that we find humans with free will on Earth partaking of. Heaven would degrade to a point certainly worse than here on Earth, for we would live for an eternity capable of sinful act in perpetuity. Surely an argument that states we would be swept free of sin, of this inclination for sin, is no surety against it, especially over the expansive time frame of eternity. After all, was not Adam and Eve born in such a state of sinlessness and free will? Did they not sin by the mere eating of the fruit from a forbidden tree? What then, with access to this tree and the remnant of our free will, would we find heaven to consist of but criminality and sinfulness of a kind only imagined here on Earth?
Perhaps God would then have to strip us of our knowledge of good and evil. Yet, even this isn't satisfactory, for we could still carry out acts of a so-called sinful nature, and yet never realize that the act was good or evil. Is it the knowledge, therefore, that causes sin? Would we be as children, raping and pillaging in heaven without any true understanding of our actions? What then remains of us again, as humans from this life, if our knowledge and understanding of morality is taken from us, yet our free will remains? Can we truly have free will without such an understanding in the first place? Is not it our free will that permits us to choose a sinful or a moral act? Therefore, God cannot remove this knowledge from us either.
No matter how we might consider it, heaven must be a place of moral knowledge and of free will to commit moral acts or immoral acts. Not even the angels can be said to have been restrained from this, for wasn't Lucifer himself among God's most beloved and noble? If we can find such free will among the angels, and we, as God's most beloved and free-willed creatures are to exist there, what is to stop us from making war and strife in heaven?
In the end, heaven and its very concept is a wholly unsatisfactory one. Any understanding that we have for it is simply inconsistent. God must, by necessity, peel from those who enter heaven the very things that constitute them as individual, free-willed, and knowledgeable beings. He would have to cause us to become as unwitting animals of the dumbest sort, like puppies who are always glad to greet their master, with tongues lagging from their mouths and utter dereliction in recognizing the harm they cause by urinating on the divine floors. Is this what I, or any of us, should look forward to as a proper Christian? I should hope not, but that is what is offered.
Disclaimer: The Agora is something like a "Letters to the Editor" section in a newspaper. Agora articles represent the viewpoint of their authors and should not be taken as necessarily representative of the viewpoint of the Internet Infidels and/or the Secular Web. Articles are published solely on the basis that they will be interesting to our nontheist readers.