How To Get To Heaven Part 2

Sunday, 11 November 2001

[Picture of dice]The original post was too long (there were complaints!), so I have chopped it up and used colours and pictures to help make it more interesting. This is the second part of the original giant post, I hope this is easier and better. I also promise to do at least one more essay to finish off the topic more completely.


SO I finally have a better starting-point: how do I live my live in such a way that I can get into heaven?

Well, rather than get all tangled up in theology and denominational differences, it would seem logical to look at the boundary. The point between life and death; the end of life and the entry into the afterlife — what conditions need to be met at this point to pass judgement for heaven?

When the Christian God looks over a life, it must be something like a book-keeper looking over the accounts; there must be some form of scoring system, plusses and minuses, good points and deductions, and a balance showing a credit (for heaven) or a debt (for hell). I found out that there is such a system, the good points are called virtues and the bad points are called sins. However, the way it seems to work disregards virtues in favour of a sin and penance system — a system of totting up sins and doing things to increase and decrease the sin total. Within that concept sins have varying values; sin is a moral concept where there are degrees of badness, or gravity of sins. However,

“If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.” (1 John 5:16-17).

So there seems to be two main kinds of sin: deadly and not-deadly. But this has nothing to do with the Seven Deadly Sins! (Pride, Envy, Gluttony, Lust, Anger, Greed, and Sloth), the two types of sin are also known as (1) venial and (2) mortal.

Mortal sins simply cannot be done “accidentally;” A person who commits a mortal sin is one who knows that their sin is wrong, but still deliberately commits the sin anyway. This means that mortal sins are “premeditated” by the sinner and thus are truly a rejection of God’s law and love.

This sounds like bad news! What can be done if you have deliberately sinned?

Well, it appears to be the case that if you sin, then you lose your state of grace, and to get it back, you need the sacrament of penance.

[Picture “Penance”]It seems that you confess your sin to the priest, and he estimates your punishment options. By confessing, you show understanding and repentance. The punishment is usually as close to undoing the sin as possible, so if you stole something, you would have to replace it — but you would have to admit to it, humiliate yourself, and give up a prized possession as well. If the sin is undo-able, then you have to make amends or reparations as best you can — at worst you will have to donate work or money to the poor to clear the sin debt. It is supposed to be painful and act as a deterrent to show that it is easier not to sin in the first place. The idea being that you pay a hefty price now, rather than spend eternity in hell.

  1. If you die without sin, you can get to heaven.
  2. If you die with sins you go to purgatory and prayers can help get you into heaven. In purgatory you are purged for heaven, and you get a temporal punishment. However, if you die with sins, but do not seem to deserve hell, you go to Limbo where fate can only be determined by God’s Judgement.
  3. If you die with a lot of grave mortal sins, you just go straight to hell.

So basically, then, I can avoid hell by not sinning — but if I knowingly sin, then I know I will have to fix the problem before I die, and that it is probably a whole lot easier not to bother sinning in the first place. Unwitting sins will be sorted out by the nuns’ and monks’ prayers for the souls in purgatory. The real problem I guess is that it is difficult to know exactly when we are going to die, so it is best to deal with sin-fixin’ ASAP.

We began this reasoning in part one by talking about predicting outcomes, and any discussion on outcomes has to talk about probability and statistics at some point. So let’s look at the standard model, say for example, if 100 people sat an examination test, you would expect the results to plot a bell-curve pattern, where a few pass well, a few fail miserably, and most people occupy the grey area in the middle of just-failing.

[Piucture of Bell curve]

Well, our life-results would be statistically expected to follow the same bell-curve pattern — where only a few souls will make it straight into heaven; it must be like passing the exam, and this would be the extremists like Jesus, the martyrs and saints.

Everyone else failed the exam to one degree or another. If the extremely evil souls go to hell, that leaves the rest to remain in the grey region — of limbo or purgatory to await the Day of Judgement. I am not sure how much of the central, average grey area is limbo and how much is purgatory, but I would guess that — in keeping with anything of value or
high worth, that achieving a pass into heaven would be for an elite, rather than the masses, so it would mostly be limbo.

  • It would devalue heaven to suggest that most people can get in, it has to be difficult and it has to be for the chosen few, not the many.

As I have chosen not to live a life in a religious sect, and as long as I do not commit a serious and obvious sin, the overwhelming odds are that my soul will not go to heaven or hell, but will hang about in limbo or purgatory until Judgement Day.

[Picture of The Immaculate Heart of Jesus]If God’s final judgement uses a ‘relative’ method, where each of our lives are compared with everyone else’s, and the scores standardised and the pass-mark shifted for the bell curve — that way we can assume childhood thefts, gossip, masturbation and lies are common enough to be discounted or cancelled out, and that the sin scoring begins from some relative level or benchmark, as opposed to an absolute zero.

Would I be considered a good person compared with everyone else? Or to rephrase:

will I have done enough to go to purgatory instead of limbo?

Aha — but this (interestingly) would make the extremists my ‘opponents in the game’ because the number of sects and zealots affects the pass-mark, making it harder for me to get in. In other words, the more good people there are,
the more likely it will be that I will go to hell when compared with them!

But I cannot be BAD to them — even if that is good for my family and friends and not me. Mind you — it is not as much of a problem as the poor, statistically speaking.

The biggest statistical force on my getting into heaven on a relative judgement basis is world poverty.

The more poor people there are, the worse are my chances.

If we could end world poverty, then my odds improve and we then have a more level playing field.

I am afraid that the outlook is not very bright, and that it is extremely unlikely that I will get a pass into heaven unless I choose an extremely selfless saintly life after all. I suppose most of the people I know will be joining me in limbo before we descend to hell. It is our choice — in effect we have chosen to go to hell because we know what we have to do to improve our chances of going to heaven, but it is still a huge risk and a leap of faith — and despite all the BILLIONS of “Christians” out there, I don’t see the difficult path being chosen by the majority. It follows that:

  • The majority of Christians are going to hell.

In fact the majority of people (Christian or not) are going to hell. That’s a statistical fact; heaven is exclusive. It is a vanity for me to suggest that I might get in ahead of others far more deserving.

[Picture of the Immaculate Heart of Mary]But this begs the question: Why are Christians not choosing that difficult path? — is that why so many Christians are protesting against the Church and playing around with doctrine to suit themselves, and making up their own denominations and their own rules about getting into heaven — with ideas such as “You have to be Born Again” to be “Saved”? I have even heard “Christian” denominations state that it is possible for Homosexuals to get into heaven! In fact I have heard it said that ANIMALS are able to go to heaven these days! Perhaps the centuries-old core beliefs are so unpalatable that they cannot be accepted in a modern world of opulent luxury for many. Is that why so many others are leaving Christianity altogether?

[Picture of preacher]I suppose it makes sense — they are not going to heaven, so they might as well make up their own rules and do their own thing, at the least it makes no difference to their outcome.

But there is one other option: what if God’s final judgement was not ‘relative’, but ‘absolute’ — where each life is appraised individually, and scores good points against bad points. It is just possible that this ‘absolute’ method would provide sufficiently small numbers to keep heaven exclusive. Maybe then there would be a chance of good outweighing the bad, and I would get to go to heaven via purgatory.

It is difficult to know whether judgement will be relative or absolute. If it is absolute, then at least I can feel that I have control over my destiny to a better degree. The outcome would simply depend on how I live my live in terms of sin.

  • The absolute method — or individual life tally is the only Christian hope

Perhaps this explains why so many Christians have not chosen the difficult poverty path or religious sects. I needed to check out this idea, and I found that it is indeed the case that the Catechism teachings consistently refer to the absolute tally method.

  1. OK so it is possible to get into heaven without having to become a poverty-stricken homeless pacifist (like Jesus), and
  2. it is possible to get into purgatory and then heaven on the basis of having lived a life that is absolutely judged by God to be more good than bad.

In part three I will investigate how to do that!

/end of part two

>>part three

6 Responses to “How To Get To Heaven Part 2”

  1. […] How To Get To Heaven – Part One […]

  2. Danny Says:

    I respect the description of your journey here RT1! You have made me see the subject in a new light, and for that at least you are to be congratulated. I have been a pastor for many years here in the US and it is true to say that we can easily fall into routines and set paths of thinking about what has become all too familiar. I struggled to see the Holy Scriptures with your eyes, having to read over passages again and again to get in touch with your mindset, and I think it will be useful to me in my life’s work, particularly in making connections with people who, like you, want to go to heaven but are also wary of religious fundamentalism. I believe you seek the Lord and I pray that your search will bring you to closer to a 121 relationship with Christ.

  3. Deadly Deedes Says:

    The Ancient Greek word “Phthonos” means “envy”, but by “nemesis” the Greeks meant “indignation at undeserved success”.

    Somehow these two Greek words merged into a single Latin word used by the Romans: “Invidia” and is often (incorrectly translated as “envy”).

    “Invidia” is one of the SEVEN DEADLY SINS, so the distinction can be important.

    Another of the SEVEN DEADLY SINS is “Luxuria” which is similarly mistranslated or mis-taken as “Lust” when it means “extravagance”.

    The Christians have managed to introduce a sex term into the list of sins!

    As LUXURIA, the first of the deadly sins, refers to wastefulness, luxury, extravagance and so forth, I thought you might be interested as it does connect the seven deadly sins with the topic of this blog post — poverty, living a mendicant life, living like Jesus and so on.

    An interesting point or distinction may be made then: instead of living a life of extreme poverty, you can possess things and enjoy life and material goods as long as you are not wasteful and extravagant (the other extreme). In other words to take what you need, and not more.

    This will keep you from committing a deadly sin.

    Additionally, remember never to be annoyed at someone’s unmerited success (which is not quite the same as jealousy or envy, is it?).

  4. Aquinas Says:

    I like this argument, but you are too kind to the Christians. What struck me from your account was that it is NOT a system of totting up good and totting up bad for a person’s life, then sending the person to heaven or hell for eternity based on being more one than the other.

    I was struck by the fact that the system is about totting up the bad and totting up the repair work, the penances and apologies. Good works do not seem as important.

    And I am just amazed at how blind I have been to this, and how Christianity is no longer for me. How can I follow such a religion? It is so utterly selfish and self-centred, self satisfied and self-obsessed.

    Thank you for opening my eyes to the ridiculousness of it all.

  5. Gilligan-Devil Says:

    Years ago, CBS had a popular TV series called GILLIGAN’S ISLAND which is a direct representation of hell; nobody on the island wants to be there, yet none are able to leave.

    Each one of the characters represents one of the 7 deadly sins:

    – Ginger represents LUST – she wears skimpy outfits, is obsessed with her looks, and is a borderline nymphomaniac.

    – Mary Ann represents ENVY – she is jealous of Ginger’s beauty.

    – The Professor represents PRIDE – he is an annoying know-it-all.

    – Mr. Howell represents GREED – no explanation needed.

    – Mrs. Howell represents SLOTH – she has never lifted a finger to help on and of their escape plans.

    – The Skipper represents two sins: GLUTTONY – again, no explanation needed and ANGER – he violently hits Gilligan on each show.

    – This leaves Gilligan. Gilligan is the person who put them there. He prevents them from leaving by foiling all of their escape plots. Also, it is HIS island. Therefore, Gilligan is SATAN.

    Crazy? He does wear red in every episode…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: