Will Byrnes's Reviews > Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife

Heaven by Lisa Miller
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's review
Jan 21, 15

bookshelves: non-fiction, religion-and-sprituality, brain-candy
Read in April, 2010

What is your vision of heaven, presuming, of course, that you have one? Harps and angels, great swaths of light, one’s ancestors waiting in a reception line? There are plenty of notions from which to cobble together an image. How did the practice of ancestor worship, and its suppression lead to notions of heaven? How did notions from diverse religions regarding life after death influence each other? Where does the expression 7th heaven come from? How do scientific understandings of the universe affect religious views about heaven?

Lisa Miller

There is a wealth of extremely fascinating material in this look at how the notion of heaven came to be and how it has changed over the course of human history. Our contemporary parallel-universe notion is a far cry from early visions. Heaven was once thought of as the residence of the gods. Think Mount Olympus.
But the idea of heaven as we understand it—a place in the sky where the righteous go after death to live forever with God—that is a concept born to the Jews sometime during the second century before Christ…the connection between “righteous” behavior, as the Bible puts it, and resurrection and eternal life was entirely new and almost entirely Jewish.
Miller talks with a range of people with varying perspectives on heaven, some scholarly, some artistic, some personal. Don Piper had a near-death, or maybe post-death experience and wrote a book titled 90 Minutes in Heaven. Glenn Klausner claims to speak with those on “the other side.”

Heaven is a rich subject in literature and art, Dante, Revelations, the Koran, Gilgamesh, New Yorker cartoons. Albert Brooks talks with Miller about his film about the afterlife, Defending Your Life. She looks at the influence of artistic interpretations as both source and effect of popular notions of heaven. Dante and the Bible, in particular.

I quite enjoyed reading this book. There is great pleasure to be had in gaining new insights to the world, whether that world is this one or the next, and Miller offers it up in great dollops.

I had the pleasure of attending a book reading by the author in April 2010. Sitting in a Park Slope Barnes and Noble, waiting for the author to arrive, one could not help but note the presence of a pixie-ish young lady by the name of Josephine, maybe 6, 7 or 8 years old. She was beaming as she bounced up and down the aisles informing anyone whose eye she could catch that her mommy was the author. We are quite used to excessive numbers of parents, both of the helicopter and ground-based varieties, who regard their miniature walking DNA extracts as creatures deserving special (and often undeserved) admiration. How refreshing it was to see the reverse in action, but merited this time. Heavenly indeed.

Published - March 3, 2010
Review Posted - April 2010
Reposted - January 2015

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

Another book on how our view of something profound has changed over time, How Jesus Became God, by Bart Ehrman
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Comments (showing 1-14 of 14) (14 new)

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message 1: by Mikey B. (new)

Will Byrnes heavenly

message 3: by Liz (new)

Liz great review

Will Byrnes Liz wrote: "great review"
Thanks, Liz

message 5: by Cathy (last edited Jun 15, 2014 07:41AM) (new) - added it

Cathy DuPont Will:

This is one my mother would enjoy...alas, not to be.

Loved your excellent review though so I'll have to read it instead.

message 6: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice "...one’s ancestors waiting in a reception line?"

Ye gads! Haha, Will. Perhaps a tad more informal?

message 7: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo You made me add another book to my TBR-list.

Will Byrnes Jan wrote: ""...one’s ancestors waiting in a reception line?"

Ye gads! Haha, Will. Perhaps a tad more informal?"

Maybe with an open bar?

message 9: by Jan (new)

Jan Rice Like!

nathan best football player evvveeerrrrr have not been on here in a while but good review will

message 11: by Cecily (new)

Cecily I nearly died drowning in my teens: after initial pain of pressure from not breathing, I blissed out (presumably unconscious), but I never saw a white light or angels or anything.

message 12: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes Cecily wrote: "I nearly died drowning in my teens: after initial pain of pressure from not breathing, I blissed out (presumably unconscious), but I never saw a white light or angels or anything."

Maybe they were on lunch break?

message 13: by Cecily (new)

Cecily That's how little I'm worth?


message 14: by Will (new) - rated it 4 stars

Will Byrnes I am sure once they returned from their outing (to celebrate so-and-so's elevation to ARCHangel, however undeserved) you would have been right at the top of their agenda.

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