Heaven and Hell
By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com

Christmas time is a time for joy, peace and goodwill. For carols and music remembering the One whose bithday we celebrate, of cake and wine, of bonhomie and festivities. The mood affects all, though for different people maybe differently.

But since it coincides with the year-end, it is a time for most also for stock taking - not necessarily of things material, but things filial and spiritual. Among the spiritual, rarely though does one's mind stray to thoughts of heaven and hell at this time; but does our stock taking need to include that as well?

It may be inferred from my title here that it deals simply with the phenomena of the spiritual world and its three distinct regions. But there is for many a deeper meaning and purpose in the concept, in so far as it sets forth the true relations and the disordered relations between man and man, or the heavenly life and the infernal life as exhibited in human experience everywhere.

For the western world the concept of heaven and hell and the doctrines associated, have their origin in the great monotheistic religions of the Abrahamic tradition - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But with swarg, narak and moksha adequately described, it is not alien to the Indian religions as well. For Jonathan Kvanvig in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, "the philosophical issues surrounding the doctrines of heaven and hell have much wider significance, since every religion promises certain benefits to its adherents, and those benefits require by way of contrast some costs incurred by those who do not receive those benefits". That the philosophical issues that arise out of the vivid imagery in western culture concerning heaven and hell arise quite naturally in nearly any religious context, though more pressing in some.
These doctrines essentially concern the afterlife. Theological work of recent times that denies existence beyond the grave has sometimes included metaphorical reference to heaven and hell as aspects of one's present earthly life, a state of the mind wanting to retain the deep personal significance of our choices involved in talk of heaven and hell without endorsing the substantive metaphysical thesis of life after death. Even so, the doctrines of heaven and hell involve a commitment to the idea of an afterlife. These doctrines play an important social function as well. Even atheists often hold that the doctrines ought to be taught, even if false, because of the motivation they provide for good behavior.
And then, in a recent attempt at scientific analysis of heaven and hell, we learn, was this question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so 'profound' that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is how I now have the pleasure of sharing it as it was sent to me by a friend.

The Bonus Question posed was, "Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?" Most students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote "First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving".

"As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different Religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially".

"Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added. This gives two possibilities: i) If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose; and ii) If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over". "So which is it?"

"If we accept the postulate given to me by Jill during my Freshman year that, '..it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you' and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number (ii) must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over".

"The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct...leaving only Heaven thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Jill kept shouting "Oh my God."

This student, we are told, received the only 'A'. Stock taking, indeed! Heaven and hell? …..well, different for different people!

900words: 28.12.2004: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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