Heaven (and its existence or not) has been having something of a cultural moment in recent years, with a number of books and movies purporting to relate individual near-death experiences. And those stories, such as “Heaven is For Real” and “Proof of Heaven,” come from a Christian perspective, the desire to know whether or not this is earthly existence is the sum of our existence or not is not limited to church-goers only, but is a seemingly universal concern. One might wonder: ‘what is it about this particular time and place in our culture’ that has brought these concerns to the fore of our collective consciousness?
A recent story from the Las Vegas Review-Journal offers an excellent investigation of this;
Why, by whatever name and whatever theology, has heaven been such a popular topic lately?
First is simple curiosity and the hope that there’s more to our existence than what we experience here.
“One of the philosophical causes of this is: This is our life. Is this all that we have?” says Dr. Aslam Abdullah, director of the Islamic Society of Nevada. “We think that, somehow, we do not want to believe that this is all we have, so we want to project ourselves in a new world, a new life, and we do not know what that life will be.”
Religion and faith can answer questions about heaven in ways human experience and observation can’t. And because religious beliefs and human experiences are so varied, each believer in whatever comes next probably will answer the question in his or her own way not just now, but at the time of his or her death,
“It’s quite possible that our own experiences and our own theology at times impact our own consciousness, and at the time of death, that consciousness becomes much more expressive,” Abdullah explains.
“It’s interesting that the word that is used in Islamic literature is Janna. It means something that is hidden from experience and from our eyes. So we are longing for eternity, and because most of what we learn tells us that … once we leave this world, this is the end, basically, this idea that there is a life after this one gives us much more meaning in this life and gives us much more meaning of our actions in this life.”
posted by Jon White