“I prefer the wisdom of the unlearned to the folly of the loquacious” – Cicero
So with that little pearl from Cicero I shall be as brief as possible. To start, traditionally, “Hell” is defined as… “Place or state reserved for unrepentant sinners after death, where they suffer both separation from God, and other traditional punishments”. (Oxford, 1996). or, “The abode of condemned souls and devils in some religions; the place of eternal punishment for the wicked after death, presided over by Satan”. “A situation or place of evil, misery, discord, or destruction”. “Torment; anguish”. “A sharp scolding”. Excitement, mischievousness, or high spirits”. [Informal] (Canadian Dictionary of the English Language, 1998)…and from the same source, “Heaven” is defined as… “The sky or universe as seen from earth; the firmament”. The abode of God, the angels, and the souls of those who are granted salvation”. “Everlasting bliss”. “A condition or place of great happiness, delight, or pleasure”.
What is it that humans do that makes them want to end up in Heaven and not Hell (normally)? What ensures some persons will be in one place and not the other, as a result of their actions? What if you don’t believe in either of them? Well, most people I know, religious or otherwise, do not intentionally seek out harm to themselves. We avoid death and harm by avoiding circumstances that would precipitate experiencing them. In other words, we try to take care of ourselves, usually out of fear of the possible alternatives. This all ‘makes sense’. But how much of our behaviour entails risk-taking versus risk-averse actions? Everyday activity carries risks with it, i.e., driving to work, crossing a busy street, drinking alcohol, using prescription (and especially non-prescription) drugs, air travel, playing a sport, etc. We just assume the chances of death or injury occurring are so few, that participating outweighs any risks.
If you believe in the concepts of Hell and Heaven, then avoiding harm to oneself, and more importantly, avoiding harm to others, will be predictive of where you end up. If you don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, you, regardless, act in such a way as to preserve your health and that of others. This is considered “normal” behaviour. Criminals and other “bad” people are thought to possess Devil-ish traits that make them do what they do. They do not possess Angelic traits, except when they appear to use these traits as a disguise for ulterior purposes. Sometimes we are ‘tricked’ by these people to give them the benefit of the doubt. And usually the ‘mentally ill’ person is not held accountable for their actions, which makes it unclear which destination they will end up in. But even criminals, unless they are mentally ill, would not choose to end up in Hell. So they take severe but calculated risks, or act out of spontaneous impulses, and avoid Hell by not getting caught. Or so they think.
There are then, like the criminal who plots his/her illegal behaviour, risks that if you succeed stave off Hell. But the accountant who speeds over the limit because he’s late for the office, is exhibiting criminal behaviour. Does a speeding ticket guarantee you will go to Hell? Does shooting three innocent people in your bank robbery attempt guarantee Hell is for you? How much of what is done is a risk of going to Hell? Maybe not one speeding ticket, but 200 speeding tickets? Will I go to Hell for killing one person, or ten, or 200? What if I’m rehabilitated? Will I go to Hell then?
Luck seems to play a key role in going to Heaven for some people. Plain good-living folk won’t go to Hell unless they take risks that fail them and injure others or society.
Going to Heaven may work for those whose risks of injury to others are removed altogether, in spite of their intentions. And for those who are convicted but are innocent in fact, luck works against them. Presumably they won’t however go to Hell.
It may be that luck plays a role in whether you go one way or the other, intentions aside. Luck may be necessary in human affairs if a benevolent deity has designed a hell (which seems surprising) with entrance criteria that are unattainable in real life. No one is perfect; therefore only those that strive to be model citizens yet show predictable (read ‘normal’) imperfections may go to Heaven. Unpredictable, egregious imperfections that are sustained, will guarantee a short route to Hell. Luck has a lot to do with it.
Humans are, after all, thrill seekers by nature, especially men and boys. The creation of the Heaven-Hell dualism ostensibly serves the purpose of guiding morality by forcing fearing of one over the other. It doesn’t always work. War will be the next subject in Terry’s Cupboard.