“The heavens” originally referred to the sky (effectively, outer space), but Heaven has come to mean “the place where spirits and the gods dwell”.
Throughout the world, believers in an afterlife seek the rewards of a good life in whatever existence comes after death. Each religion has its own version of Heaven, including reincarnation, the grace of angels, the faces of friends and loved ones, or a spiritual world of eternal bliss with no pain and no struggle.
No person in recorded history has directly detected the existence of any Heaven and been able to communicate it to other living people. Two sources support the notion of Heaven:
- Passages in sacred texts, presumed by followers to be inerrant. Clearly, these are compelling only to the followers of a particular religion. Other religious adherents, as well as atheists and agnostics, find such proofs unconvincing.
- Written first-hand experiences of those who have had near-death experiences. Medical science defines death in terms of the complete lack of brain activity for a period of time. Despite depictions in movies, no one has ever been revived after clinical death. Those who have come close describe experiences similar to popular descriptions of Heaven. A near-death experience nearly always involves a temporary deprivation of oxygen to the brain, so the fact that people around the world report similar incidents is not unexpected.
References in sacred books are insufficient as proof of the existence of Heaven. Subjective reports of those who have undergone near-death experiences are more like instances of dreaming or sleep walking than legitimate experiences of an afterlife. Finally, the belief that something better should exist beyond death is of course insufficient proof that it in fact does exist.