Lately I’ve been thinking about the nature of Heaven and Hell, and my own conjectures of what they might be like. My favorite book on the subject is C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, whose main point is that, in the end, it is our own hangups that will keep us out of heaven. It’s not so much a matter of being shut out of heaven as not even making a proper effort to get in.
But my own thoughts lately have been in terms of society and what that will be like in the different parts of the afterlife. I believe it will in some ways be very much like the society we have now, but very different in other ways, if nothing else because of the kinds of people that will be our neighbors.
Say you were to divide all people into two groups: those that live and work in creative and productive ways and contribute to society, and those that lazily and greedily feed of the contributions of others - such as by stealing, committing fraud, or various get-rich-quick schemes. Now imagine what things would be like if everyone were physically divided up that way, and how the resulting societies would turn out.
As a side note, there are two obvious issues there. First, it is an overly simplistic and black-and-white way of looking at things. I think the same applies to the idea of Heaven and Hell, so I’d say it’s still a fitting approach to that subject. Second, what is it that would actually separate us? It’s not the same as the division we have now between the rich and the poor; I’m talking about something based on people’s actual desires and intents, not the circumstances and fortunes we happen to have. It is difficult to picture how this would be enforced, but I believe in some way our own natures - what we have chosen to become - will determine and define whether we belong to the society of Heaven or the society of Hell.
Now on to the projected fates of these hypothetical societies. Take the world we live in, and imagine what it would be like if people stopped lying, stealing, and cheating - or if those that did those things were removed or otherwise prevented from having a negative influence. First of all, there is so much time and energy now being dedicated to matters of security and enforcement that could instead be put to more positive uses. What if, for example, everyone that is currently working on spam filters were free to work on other technologies? What other contributions might they be making instead? I think that is only the beginning of the changes we would see, and there are benefits that we can’t even imagine from our present perspective. We would be constantly growing and opening up new possibilities for each other.
Now for the other side. What if the thieves and cheaters were left to only cheat and steal from each other? If the only people that made anything worth stealing are gone, what is there left to steal? These people have developed extremely dependent lifestyles, so when all they have to depend on is each other - the least dependable people of all - then things will seriously start falling apart. If that were to happen in this life, they simply would not survive because they lack the attributes and skills necessary to sustain themselves. But we are talking now about the afterlife, where there is no death and being in Hell means having no choice but to live in unlivable circumstances. There is no other choice, no other possibility, because that is what they have chosen to become.
Yes, I optimistically talk about the heavenly society in the first person, and the other in the third person. But I think that is the way to go - and not only to talk like it’s going to happen, but to act like it as well. So if your goal is to be a part of that heavenly society, you need to become the kind of person that will be comfortable there.
All this, of course, is influenced by my own religious beliefs. Hopefully you will at least find it interesting to compare it to your own.