About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Monday, October 15, 2007
What's heaven gonna look like?
A juicy bit comes right at the beginning of the book, when Twain has Satan visit the Earth and write a series of letters with his impressions to his two archangel friends, Michael and Gabriel (this must have been before “the fall”). The second letter makes the very good point that human beings seem to imagine heaven as a place where, really, they don't want to be, because it simply goes contrary to everything they normally like to do.
For instance, “the human being naturally places sexual intercourse far and away above all other joys – yet, he has left it out of Heaven!” Secondly, “in man's heaven everybody sings! The man who did not sing on earth sings there; the man who could not sing on earth is able to do it there.” Third, “every person is playing the harp – those millions and millions! – whereas not more than twenty in the thousand of them could play an instrument on earth, or ever wanted to.” Moreover, “all the nations on the earth ... are on an equality absolute ... they have to be 'brothers'; they have to mix together, pray together, harp together, hosannah together ... [while] here on earth all nations hate each other, and every one hates the Jew.” Lastly, “every man in the earth possesses some share of intellect, large or small; and be it large or be it small he takes a pride in it ... and then contrives a heaven that hasn't a rag of intellectuality in it anywhere!”
To summarize, the Christian heaven has no sex, everyone is supposed to be singing and playing the harp regardless of his musical abilities, one is forced to associate with people one doesn't like, and there isn't a book or newspaper in sight, not even CNN. You know, those 72 virgins offered by that other group begin to sound quite appealing...