April 7th, 2010
12:25 PM ET

Is our version of heaven a recent invention?

Puffy clouds, golden harps and pearly gates. Sounds like the traditional image of heaven. But where do those celestial images come from?

Not from the Bible, according to a provocative article in Slate.

Slate's Johann Hari says the traditional Christian image of heaven as a place where people will be reunited with their loved ones is, well, not as traditional after all. He says that version of heaven "is a very recent invention, only a little older than Goldman Sachs."

"Most of the believers in heaven across most of history would find it unrecognizable," Hari says.

Hari’s lively discussion of heaven is prompted by his review of Lisa Miller's new book "Heaven: Our Fascination with the Afterlife." It traces the evolution of heaven from Judaism to today’s Hallmark cards. Miller even asks in one chapter, "Is heaven boring?"

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Art • Books • Christianity • Culture & Science • Journeys • Traditions

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soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. James H.

    Heaven is directly above you. Heaven is a Hebrew word for the air. Google the words heaven-Hebrew Yahusha-fossilized customs. James

    September 4, 2010 at 7:41 am |
  2. Mohamed

    What value and importance would we have for the heaven without the hell to fear? !!! 🙂

    September 4, 2010 at 4:03 am |
  3. Jim P.

    The bible is pretty clear on "heaven"...you stand around the high throne of your god and you constantly, eternally, sing his priases. That's pretty much it. Mark Twain had a very funny essay on just how exciting *that* sort of thing can get after the first few hundred thousand years.

    Ih yeah, and the place has high wals and strong gates. They never say what for though.

    And according to some early church writers, you do get occasional field trips to enjoy watching people being tortured in Hell. Sounds like a real fun zone.

    July 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  4. jcw

    For a long tme, I've questioned my faith. I questioned about my belief in God. I'm not an athesiest. I was raised a Methodist when I grew up. I had personal experiences of the afterlife, but, as an adult, I have no recollection of my own journey. I had heart surgery at a young age, when I died three times, and went through the light, only to be turned back, since my work wasn't done yet. Had no clue what that was. Still don't these days.

    All I know is, Heaven isn't ready for me, in whatever form that is. I do have ideas of what it might be. What my concept of God is. I've been writing a series of stories that makes me explore beyond my own beliefs, my own borders. I hope, when my time comes, I hope I am worthy to be enlisted in His Service.

    June 23, 2010 at 1:59 am |
    • peace2all

      jcw......I too have had a 'near death' experience. Might I humbly suggest that you always have been and so currently are WORTHY.....and will always be connected to the source. Quite possibly, the source .....instead of being "enlisted in His Service"....would like you to find your own meaning and purpose....as you are always a reflection of the creative source and and your actions seem to me to be flowing from that source...

      Hopefully helpful......

      July 6, 2010 at 4:19 am |
  5. Joe

    72 virgins.....and a case of guiness.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
    • peace2all

      Doesn't sound much better Joe......

      July 6, 2010 at 4:16 am |
  6. Seraphina

    I'm not sure who is right on what heaven looks like, but i think that heaven may not be all clouds and rainbows everywhere but a peaceful place where souls of those who have died can lay to rest for eternity. 🙂

    June 3, 2010 at 2:09 am |
    • peace2all

      Sounds a little boring for me Seraphina.....wow...laying to 'rest' for eternity......

      July 6, 2010 at 4:15 am |
  7. Lubiana

    I get my version of Heaven from the Bible.

    May 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.