Lecture notes february 9
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Soc250 – Feb 9/11
Notes on the social genesis of hell and heaven
The Appeals of Heaven “Pie in the Sky, when you die?”
Feuerbach: “Heaven is the key to the deepest mysteries of religion”
As an ideological stabilization mechanism? All is made right in the afterlife, thus tolerating
what is wrong in this life?
Cf. Marxist critiques: promise of “heaven” in the sky sanctions “hell” (exploitation,
oppression) on the earth…
To offer consolation for suffering, with the promise of amends pr justice in the life to come
Afterlife beliefs are regulative for worldly existence: endure poverty, oppression, injustice,
inequality, presecution, ascetic renunciation….
Earth is a different place, when I lies between a heaven and a hell…
Is heaven a place? Or a state of mind or heart?
Chinese proverb: “Heaven and hell within the heart”
Jesus:”the kingdom of god is within you”
Major differences between popular views -> theological or philosophical
Axial Age (c. 800 BCE – 200 BCE) Karl Jasper’s concept (Achsenzeit) for the evolutionary
period in religious-cultural history in the civilization seed beds of the Orient and Occident –
a millennium of creative thought during which “ the spiritual foundations of humanity were
laid simultaneously and independently… And these are the foundation upon which we
continue to live” (The Origin and Goal of History).
Greek Philosophy-Plato, Aristotle
Zoroastrianism and cosmic dualism
Jewish Monotheism – the prophets
Hinduism – the Upon ishads
Buddhism and Jainism
Daoism and Confucianism
[all these breakthroughs were concerned with human meaning, purpose, destiny]
Some of these developed as Religions of Salvation – holding out the possibility of liberation
from suffering to their followers:
(1) Mystical (re)union with the divine or transcendent
(2)Attainment of nirvana or moksha [or higher rebirths with the transmigration of
(3)Heaven or paradise [temporary or eternal, following some Day or Moment of
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