Friday, May 15, 2009

Heaven

Revelation 12:7,8
7 And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.
8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.
Based on Genesis 1:1, I could perhaps reasonably presume that the angels were created along with heaven (and the earth). If they were created earlier or later this would not invalidate my argument - but I believe its reasonable to presume they had to have been created. I would also like to presume that the devil was not created evil but became evil through his own free will. If the devil was created evil, this means God creates evil things.

Why then did the devil go against God and wage war in heaven? This question, when taken to its logical conclusion will form the thesis behind my belief that heaven is nonsensical.

What is heaven?

Despite heaven as being the goal for most Christians, not much is known about what to expect, what the rules are, etc. The bible is very vague on these matters, but it gives the overall impression that heaven is a "good thing" and worth aspiring to (as opposed to hell with its fire and distance from God, the latter being inconsequential to those who do not believe). The characteristics appeal to our emotions that we wish to meet those we love in the next life and there will be no suffering or injustice. Could the reason why the specifics of heaven are not known be because God doesn't exist and heaven is wishful thinking?

Like many other theological constructs, we have no physical or accessible evidence of heaven so one has to take these issues on faith. I have no reason to believe mere wishful thinking is enough to make something real, otherwise contradictory wishes could not be separated as true versus false. A Christian believes and wishes heaven exists, a Buddhist believes and wishes reincarnation occurs after death. Given this, I cannot believe in heaven as an atheist.

Can I Speculate?
Even though I do not believe in an actual heaven, I wish to speculate on some characteristics that it might have. Is it possible to discuss something one does not believe actually exists? I believe so, I can discuss an imaginary animal (say a dolphin which has evolved intelligence) and state its characteristics (DNA, large brain, ability to communicate) despite my knowledge that it does not exist. In my opinion these speculations are reasonable.

We know these games of speculation occur in works of fiction and fantasy. Many role players have guidelines associated with characters of which people agree are not real. I have even been witness to many heated conversations over these invented characters. Therefore I am justified in believing one can use logic and reasoning in speculating on fictional or fantasy worlds - including heaven (regardless of its existence).

Reasonable Assumptions
I would like to propose the following propositions associated with heaven which I believe are reasonable.
  1. Free will exists in heaven
  2. Humans have free will in heaven
  3. Heaven will last forever
  4. Hell is the opposite to heaven
  5. The devil cannot reenter heaven

Justifying These Assumptions

Free will exists in heaven
Free will must exist in heaven otherwise the angles and Satan could not have rebeled against God unless they were designed to rebel against God. So free will exists in heaven unless God creates evil beings - which goes against the common characteristics of God.

Humans have free will in heaven

If humans did not have free will in heaven, the following would follow.
  1. Free will would be contingent on the human body (it seems odd to give us free will in this life and deny it in the next).
  2. We would be merely robots in heaven.
  3. Free will is better than no free will, therefore heaven would be worse than this life.
I therefore believe free will in heaven is true.

Heaven will last forever
Hell is the opposite to heaven

I believe these to be obvious and does not require justification.

The devil cannot re-enter heaven

This one is harder to justify. It may be that the devil can choose to re-enter heaven but chooses not to. It could be "in the nature" of the devil to resist God. If the devil cannot choose to re-enter heaven, one might argue that he doesn't have free will (in the same way God cannot will to do evil). Given I don't find the Christian notion of evil to be correct - its hard to formulate this in a sensible way...

Using These Assumptions

It should be possible using simple statistically analysis to construct a model of the number of people in heaven at any given time. For a sufficiently large number of people or souls in heaven, we can approximate it as continuous rather than discrete.

N(t=0) = N0

For the non-scientists out there, this statement just says that the number of people in heaven at the start is some value N0

If we assume that when t=0, no more souls are created and all souls which have been created are either in Heaven or Hell, then

Ntotal = Nheaven + Nhell

Which is the law of conservation of souls.

After some time t, we expect some people to have used their free will in heaven to leave and follow Satan. Lets say there are L number of people who do this.

N(t) = N0 - L

Although it is not possible to estimate how many people this would be, based on a simple population dynamics argument, we can assume a proportion of people per unit time will leave or disobey God.

In mathematical terms, this represents a first order differential equation of the form

dN/N = - R dt

Where N is the number in heaven and R is the proportional rate loss of souls in heaven per unit time. For example, if there were one billion people in heaven, and one million souls left in one millenia, the rate would be R = 0.001 people per millennia.

Solving this differential equation with the initial conditions gives us the result

N(t) = N0 Exp(-R t)

Which is a simple exponential decay function. (Think radioactive decay)

Given heaven lasts forever, we can see from the population function that the population of people in heaven will tend to zero as the time t goes to infinity.

Potential "Outs"

Lukeprog over at "Common Sense Atheism" presents a four part series on "Escaping Hell"
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Conclusion

If heaven was one-way, which is to say, you may only enter once and it is possible to leave then it stands to reason, by simple population dynamics that over time, heaven will be devoid of all humans or any souls which have free will. I therefore conclude that this concept of heaven to be absurd and it would be more logical to allow people to re-enter heaven or escape hell.

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