If you want to know about the inner workings of people’s mind, ask them to describe how they imagine heaven.
No, I don’t mean to explore the metaphysical aspect of the term; of course our subjects can be either believers or non believers. I want to explore their view on an ideal place to live for eternity. I guess, one will have more problems with believers trying to explain “heaven,” because the standard religious view of it will get in the way of their own preferences and definition of what kind of place a given heaven should be. Atheists however, lacking any background in belief systems, will simply try to describe what they think is their ideal.
I doubt anyone can define his or her heaven anyway. Perhaps most of the people will fail even beginning to define it. It will bring much angst and philosophical questions in their minds, partly because we human beings, are not evolved to think about a plan, a life, longer than a hundred years. Just like our bodies are not evolved to understand the difference between flying in an airplane with the speed of 800 km/h or another one with 1200 km/h of speed, or we can’t understand the real difference between 1 million and 10 million kilometers of distance; we are not simply evolved for that purpose. Our brains are incapable of understanding these figures without the help of charts, metaphors, comparisons or visual helpers, just like our eyes that are not evolved to see the distant stars in detail or the complexities of a DNA molecule.
We evolved to live for a very short time.
How people will honestly describe their ideal resting place? Will it be a temporal or spiritual space? Will they define an environment which will satisfy their senses and simply give them a good bodily feeling or they will try to search their ideals in more abstract possible worlds, such as, a two-dimensional “flat land”? Will they allow other beings to appear in their imaginary heaven or you will be the one that will surprise them by reminding that they created an island of solitude around themselves?
Also it’s good to mention that as much a person works more on the definition of his or her heaven, it will create so many rules and regulations that will limit freedoms of that given heaven, contradicting with the popular belief of vast freedoms that humans will experience in the skies above. Remember, when you are trying to imagine a heaven, you are technically a sort of creator. Being a creator has it’s own responsibilities, as well as limitations. This reminds me of the problems of that a creator may face. According to Wittgenstein:
“If a god creates a world in which certain propositions are true, he creates thereby also a world in which all propositions consequent on them are true. And similarly he could not create a world in which the proposition ‘p’ is true without creating all its objects.” (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 5.123)
So, as much we go further describing our heaven, we will limit it more, just like an authoritarian régime, that first begins with promise of a beautiful world, where people are living happily hand in hand, and eventually creates so many rules out of fear of some “traitor” destroying this heaven, this delicate balance, that finally leads to creating a place where you have no control on what you eat, what you wear, where you go, who you meet, what you read and even what you think. (Sounds familiar?)
So, suppose there is a heaven, what is your perception of it?