What If Heaven Is Terrible? | Unveiled

VOICE OVER: Peter DeGiglio
What if Heaven... isn't so great? Join us... and find out!

Broadly speaking, the promise of an afterlife provides comfort, guidance and focus to millions on Earth. But statistically speaking, it's a bit of a headache. According to sceptics, there are various problems and inconsistencies with it... So, in this video, we take a closer look at some of the most common criticisms of Heaven, to ask; What if it's terrible?

What If Heaven is Terrible?

What happens after we die? It’s a big question, and one of the most popular answers is that we go to Heaven… and that Heaven is pure paradise. Think of the best, most agreeable, most enjoyable place you can imagine, and that’s what we’re dealing with here. Everything is good, nothing goes wrong, and it all goes on for eternity. But… how can that be?

This is Unveiled, and today we’re answering the extraordinary question; what if Heaven is terrible?

For today’s video, we’re not debating whether Heaven does or doesn’t exist. We’re not especially concerned with the form it takes (if it does exist), either. And we’re not about to tell you how to get there! We have covered most of these topics in other videos, though, so be sure to check them out after this!

But, for today, we’re more simply imagining that Heaven is a place where people go after they die. For every one person in this life, there’s the possibility of one more soul (or spirit, or consciousness) in Heaven. We know that broadly speaking, the promise of an afterlife provides comfort, guidance and focus to millions on Earth. But statistically speaking, it triggers a bit of a headache.

First of all, who gets in? There’s potentially a huge population issue. If we take just the modern human as having even a chance of entry into Heaven, we’re casting our net up to 300,000 years back across history. Even the most conservative estimates claim that around 100 billion people have lived on Earth during this time - roughly 7.8 billion of which are alive today. That means that even if only half of everyone who’s ever lived gets into Heaven, there’s around 50 billion people there. Say the figure is more like eighty percent, and that’s 80 billion souls all in one place.

When you imagine paradise, do you see 80 billion people? Or would you rather it be a little quieter?

Consider, too, that the population of Heaven will have started to spike in recent years, in line with the fairly spectacular figures we’ve seen down here on Earth. In the year 1800, the global population was around 1 billion. By 1900, it had grown to about 1.6 billion. By 1950, it was 2.5 billion. And then the figure truly took off, so that by the year 2000 it was at more than 6 billion… and today, in 2021, we’re speeding ever closer toward the 8 billion people mark.

The effects of this recent, rapid change are continually debated and analysed by experts in the modern world… but, in Heaven, the effects are pretty simple. There are more people than ever, and they need to make way for more people still (at an increasing rate) every single year. In 1950, there were 50 million annual deaths in the global population. Today it’s up to 58 million - a relatively small increase, you might say. But projections by Our World In Data say that by the year 2050, we could be past 90 million deaths per annum. Whoever’s keeping the books in the afterlife, then, is about to see their workload skyrocket! And, again, it could be argued that this doesn’t tally with the stereotypical image of Heaven being a peaceful and harmonious place. Really, it’s less bliss and more bustle. Less serene and more, well, stressful.

But perhaps we shouldn’t get too bogged down in the numbers? Heaven, after all, is endless and eternal… so it’s a good bet that it can handle any number of occupants. Indeed, the more the merrier, because a busy Heaven means that less souls will have wound up in that dark, miserable and fiery other place - Hell, or the underworld. So, let’s imagine that you’re a soul departed from this mortal plain, but your ticket into Heaven is stamped and verified. It’s a little louder than you might have anticipated, yes, but otherwise it’s all good. Now, to find your friends, family and loved ones.

But here lies another potential pitfall with how Heaven would actually work. What if one of the people you had been expecting to meet up with… actually isn’t there. Or, perhaps even worse, what if it’s impossible to recognise them in amongst the celestial, angelic crowd?

As we’re dealing with a broad version of Heaven in this video, there are no set rules for getting in. But we know that there are variations of these rules between religions and belief systems on Earth. Thereby, in some instances, you might be permitted entry via one religion, but denied it by another… and, so, your fate hangs in the balance until such point as it’s revealed to you which rules were the right ones. That is, until such point as you’ve died. What happens, then, if for whatever reason your best friend doesn’t get in? It would be bad enough for them, naturally, but also terrible for you because you’d be facing eternity without someone who’s important to you. So, how could Heaven ever be that enjoyable under these circumstances?

There’s also the issue of perfection. Many versions of Heaven include that those inhabiting it are either already perfect souls, or they’re elevated to become perfect souls. But could this state of invariable perfection actually cause more harm than good? Mightn’t it take away individual traits and personalities, for example? And for anywhere to ever be considered truly perfect, would this mean that even the concept of Hell will have had to have vanished, too?

Universal salvation is one way around that last question, wherein everyone is saved and sent to Heaven regardless of their Earthly deeds. God reconciles with all, and everyone ends up happy. But, with such complete happiness already in the bag, one question asked by sceptics of Heaven is… what would motivate the souls that inhabit it? What would inspire them, or even please them? And, as a result, would they even need such ties as friendship and family? Amongst some of the harshest criticisms levelled at the idea of Heaven is that, according to some, it might not even be possible to employ free will there… because that would risk imperfection. And, so, can a place where free will doesn’t exist ever be that great?

And all of this is before we’ve considered whether it’s only humans that get into Heaven? Is there also a place for pets, for example? If there isn’t, then wouldn’t it be imperfect from the outset (from a pet-owner’s point of view)? And why stop at just domesticated cats and dogs? Say you’re a naturalist and you’ve dedicated your living years to saving pandas. If there aren’t pandas in Heaven, then wouldn’t you be a bit… disappointed. Or, say you spent your life as an explorer passionate about the Arctic Circle. If you were asked, you’d probably like Heaven to have polar bears, rough seas and extremely cold temperatures… but none of those descriptors really fit the bill for what we’re usually told Heaven will be like. Again, there’s argument that all eternal bliss would really achieve is stripping us of what makes us… us. But there’s also the problem of physicality, here.

Across almost all versions of Heaven, we accept that we’ll be inescapably leaving our physical bodies behind. So, even in an afterlife where free will does still exist, and we are still motivated and capable of seeking out loved ones… there are no hugs to give them. There are no hands to hold. And there isn’t conversation to be had, in a physical sense, without mouths, vocal cords, lungs, et cetera, to make it happen. Even if your pet dog does get into Heaven, you can’t pat it. And if Heaven is like the Arctic Circle, then you can’t feel it. According to some versions, feasting is a big part of the afterlife… but eating and drinking would surely be difficult, too? Finally, imagine that you have a favourite tree in this world, and fortunately for you it does get replanted in the ever-after. Unfortunately, you’ll never be able to climb it, sit by it, or potentially even see it. But still, in theory, the leaves would grow forever.

And that’s arguably the final, faintly frightening aspect of Heaven - it’s said to be forever. Eternity is really impossible for us mere humans to get our heads around… so much so that even eternal bliss is daunting to some. Even an alternate, physical domain with free will comes with the caveat that; this will never, ever change. It’s a whole new, wholly alien, level of existence for us. A place where everyone is universally satisfied. And while, for believers, that’s reason enough to accept that it’ll be fantastic… for sceptics, it’s difficult to buy into.

The concept itself is never likely to disappear. The hope that we go to a better place is strong… but that’s what could happen if Heaven is terrible.