What and where is heaven?

What and where is heaven?

My pious Baptist grandmother once shockingly confessed, at the ripe old age of 93, that she didn’t want to go to heaven. “Why,” we asked? “Well, I think it will be rather boring just sitting around on clouds and singing hymns all day” she answered. She had a point.

Mark Twain might have agreed with her assessment. He once famously quipped that one should choose “heaven for the climate, hell for the company”.

Most of us have some concept of heaven, even if it is one formed by movies like What Dreams May Come, The Lovely Bones, or think it involves meeting Morgan Freeman in a white room. And while not as complicated as biblical ideas about hell, the biblical concept of heaven is not particularly simple either.

What is hell exactly?

What is hell exactly?

“This is hell” we might proclaim, midway through a boot camp session or a punishing work deadline. We don’t, of course, mean we are literally in a place of eternal torment nor standing in a lake of fire.

Hell continues to be invoked in all sorts of ways, by Christians and non-believers alike, with Dante and Hieronymus Bosch, among others, fanning the flames of our collective imagination.

Considered by some as a swear word, hell can be used to threaten eternal damnation or, more colloquially, to add colour to an exclamation. But do we even know what we mean by the term? And where does this so-called Christian idea even come from?