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The Law of Heaven

2018 January 7
by Ian Welsh

In all the myths, heaven is only for good people.

This isn’t because those who run heaven want other people to suffer, it is because heaven is heaven because of the people.

Heaven is just a place where you are surrounded by good, loving, kind people.

What destroys heaven is bad people. Oh, heavens can handle a few bad people: They can be rehabilitated or be watched carefully, treated kindly, and deprived of any power to hurt others. But they can’t handle a lot of bad people.

Heaven IS kind, loving people who take care of each other and take care of the world. Kindness not just to people, but to all life, because life depends on each other. This doesn’t mean being a sucker, it doesn’t mean feeding yourself to a tiger, it means recognizing that tigers have a place.

I will give you two laws of heaven:

1) Neither money nor power buys anything that matters. Education, health care, or skipping security lines at airports. Nothing works in a society if the elites know that they will not be getting what the majority get.

2) Default to kindness (or good.) The bar for doing anything evil is huge, because if you fail, all you’ve done is evil. If you do something kind, then at least you’ve done something kind even if you fail. This is most important in the routine way you run your society. If you run a society based on greed, selfishness, and fear, then that is what people do all day and have done to them. That is the sort of people they become.

You become what you do, which includes what you think and feel. People who do good, and feel love, are good people to have in your society.

This is conceptually simple. It is hard to execute, of course, but failure to execute it means we will always live in hells of varying intensity, lucking occasionally into good societies, and losing them without really knowing either how we got lucky, or why we lost the good.


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12 Responses leave one →
  1. January 7, 2018

    G’ma used to say if all those people were right it will be a mighty lonely place.

    Was a day or two ago at a river of pure sound, a place I haven’t been to in many years. Carried me away for an hour or two. Not quite sure what to make of it.

  2. MojaveWolf permalink
    January 7, 2018

    Bravo!

    Excellent post.

  3. January 7, 2018

    The first law of (the analysis of) heaven is that if you think you belong, you probably don’t. The exegesis of that law entails that you’re probably referencing evil and evil-doers as if you aren’t one yourself.

    The second law is depicted in the following fable: Fella gets to the gates, sees (someone notoriously evil) inside and, apparently oblivious to the literature on the contrition-forgiveness path into paradise kvetches to St. Pete, “You gotta be kidding me! No way that guy’s in here!” to which Peter replies, “You don’t have to come in.”

  4. jump permalink
    January 7, 2018

    I am glad you did not reference the ‘golden rule’ Ian. It is a little trite and well, a rule.
    I personally categorize the’ being kind and loving to each other and the world’ as a freely chosen moral impulse rather than a law. The motivation between coercion and choice is an important one from an ethical perspective.
    The spoken statement ‘there are no laws here’ was the opening line to a short story I’ve wanted to write that would consider the circumstances under which that statement would make sense, and the question of ‘why have laws’ is curious. The need for laws means there will be law breakers, not the other way around.

  5. Willy permalink
    January 7, 2018

    Getting your ass to heaven used to be a lot simpler before the days when it needs to be all shiny and chrome with killed infidels or 700 club contributions or some other material condition. Damned self-serving false prophets.

  6. Hugh permalink
    January 7, 2018

    Yes, but what about having mental stability and being like really smart, you know genius, very stable genius? Just imagine a heaven full of people like that. You can’t trump that.

    I have also always found our worship of wealth and the rich curiously at odds with the admonition that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. But then the guy who said it was an obvious commie Stalinist snowflake.

    Re laws, Aristotle 23 centuries ago noted that humankind is a ζῷον πoλιτικόν, a creature of the polis/society. But the particular society is not automatic or universal. It depends on the society we want and requires choices which are codified into law and custom.

  7. reslez permalink
    January 8, 2018

    Humans are hierarchical animals. Since we’re hierarchical we inherently seek status. Since we’re animals we require certain resources to survive. Now that we live in civilizations we have the ability to stockpile those resources, which raises the stakes considerably: higher status individuals get first dibs on the stockpiles.

    It is perhaps the tragedy of human nature that the higher the status a person reaches, the less empathic they become. They share less. They care less. High status seems to inherently cause the decrease in empathy, like a kind of brain damage. There are multiple studies that demonstrate this. It appeals to common sense as well, since a person who reaches high status and gives up their deserts isn’t likely to remain high status for long. We also see the evidence in the red-soaked pages of human history. Disinterested leadership is exceedingly rare, and honest generosity in the great is the exception to the rule.

    Personally, I think it probably is possible to foster a society in which resources are allocated fairly — at least, to a considerably greater extent than in our own greed-worshiping society — but status seeking will always find an outlet. We wish to make the striving less vicious, but we will always face enemies. 1) High status individuals who feel little empathy for others, and 2) aspirants who view themselves as likely to win. As long as we are human this problem will never go away. Every society will create high status people with low empathy. Every society will create strivers eager to hoist arguments in favor of increasing the resource stakes.

    This is the original sin of human nature, the reason utopia is a synonym for “nowhere” and ideal societies last a maximum of twenty years. A society that finds a way to overcome it truly will be heaven. It will also, arguably, not be human.

  8. V. Arnold permalink
    January 8, 2018

    At 72, in a short lived male side, of the family tree; I don’t know about any of this.
    Heaven? Not heaven? I have no idea.
    I think about death every single day and the fact is, every day is a continuum of the day before, with no answer coming about the future inevitability of my death. My wife, 60, and I discuss this regularly.
    My concern is that my wife (who most certainly will out live me), is financially secure upon my death.
    I have no idea what that moment (?) will entail; but a part of me looks forward to that moment of finality, in a temporary world of our construct. Surely it will be unexpected; how could it be other?

  9. highrpm permalink
    January 8, 2018

    @ jump,
    in society, there are laws and then there are rules. e.g., rules of a game. to play you gotta know the rules. rules of the road. to drive w/o accidents, one must know the rules.

    laws. to remind us all what not to do to avoid offending others? i dunno. a neighbor who grew up poor and w/o a father admitted to me he had to steal to survive as a child. he knew he was stealing. what’s more important? stealing or surviving? his choice. as he grew up, and began working for a living, he stole less. and he also admitted that he still stole. he knew how to do it well. when and where not to to avoid getting caught.

    funny how individual experiences make us what we are. there’s a book title, working the organizing experience. where individuals cross the line is imposing themselves and their rules on others. that’s hell.

  10. Mongo permalink
    January 8, 2018

    If we were a species which had our priorities in order — that we have no idea why we are here, or the nature and purpose of the universe; and that no one knows what happens after death would be the central questions driving human society and culture.

    To the extent they do, it doesn’t seem any answers to those questions provided to date have done more than create societies where the strong rule and exploit the weak — meaning, they aren’t answers at all.

  11. Ian Welsh permalink*
    January 8, 2018

    For most of human existence we were not hierarchical. We were, instead, insanely and if necessary, violently egalitarian.

    Human nature is not particularly hierarchical. It includes that as a possibility, but it only expresses under the right (wrong) circumstances.

  12. davidly permalink
    January 9, 2018

    reslez: “It is perhaps the tragedy of human nature that the higher the status a person reaches, the less empathic they become. They share less. They care less. High status seems to inherently cause the decrease in empathy, like a kind of brain damage. There are multiple studies that demonstrate this. It appeals to common sense as well, since a person who reaches high status and gives up their deserts isn’t likely to remain high status for long. We also see the evidence in the red-soaked pages of human history. Disinterested leadership is exceedingly rare, and honest generosity in the great is the exception to the rule.”

    This seems about right to me, and it would seem that we individuals occupy a spectrum graduated respective to these empathetic predispositions. Reapplied to the religious concepts of contrition and forgiveness, it makes sense that people tend to feel empathy toward their closer peers, or those of their class. However…

    It’s said that, in the absence of God, humans would have needed to create one. If the humans who created God are jockeying for positions of higher authority, or co-opting the invention for the same — goading lowly schmucks into servitude, and generosity to people who are anything but generous in return, then the Golden Rule is a rule of gold and Heaven and Hell the ultimate threat.

    In spite of my atheism, I feel like their is something else, though, to the religious texts, including large portions the so-called Testaments. Still, the provenance is unreliable enough to be treated as entirely dubious and at a minimum should be viewed as suspect, certainly always for its potential for propaganda.

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