What is the book Heavens On Earth about?
It is focused on the issue that haunts human race since the ancient times – that our mundane human existence sooner or later is going to come to an end. What’s awaiting us after death? Heaven for the righteous or hell for sinners? Or is it just a long, dreamless sleep? Many religious scholars, scientists, and philosophers tried to answer this question. After all, the very meaning of our lives depends on it.
It’s our ancestors realizing their mortality what led us to the emergence of myth and religion, ideas about resurrection and reincarnation. Today, it encourages many to aspire for the better and meaningful life that is worth living. We don’t know what is there after we die, but while we’re still here and have the will, we’re able to change for the better.
Michael Shermer, the founder of The Skeptics Society and its “Skeptic” magazine, was a convinced Christian in his youth, but in his University days, he changed his views dramatically. He made his goal to fight against superstition – all those pseudo-scientific statements, myths and misconceptions, including the ones which accompanied humanity since its emergence.
The book explores the concepts of paradise and the immortality of the soul. What is heaven or paradise? For some, it’s a place where we end up after we die, of course, if we lived a righteous life. Some people think that heaven and hell are inside of us. It could be a distant past or a beautiful future, or it could be a utopian paradise which can be built with the help of like-minded people.
Theologians or gullible people of the past weren’t the only ones to be interested in immortality. Today, science is enthralled in slowing down the process of aging. Cryonics, cloning, the methods of prolonging lifecycle and the other means of possible achievement of immortality are very relevant in today’s society. Shermer doesn’t believe in any of them, and he proceeds to explain why. However, he has faith in humanity as a species, our progress, and prosperity, our drive to succeed.
Summary and 10 Ideas of Heavens On Earth
Idea №1. We’re aware of the possibility of death, but we cannot imagine being absent in this world.
Idea №2. Many people think of death as a transition to another form of life.
Idea №3. In monotheistic religions, a heaven is a special place, another dimension, where the souls of the righteous go after they die.
Idea №4. Many spiritual mentors of our time see heavens being within us.
Idea №5. You cannot prove the existence of the afterlife with reincarnation, nor “going beyond the body” under the influence of chemicals.
Idea №6. You cannot prove to communicate with the spirit world or with the ghosts of dead people.
Idea №7. If you clone a person or freezing his brain, you’re not resurrecting him.
Idea №8. Many are inclined to see heavens as something of a past, but there was nothing.
Idea №9. The future paradise in the form of utopian society also does not exist.
Idea №10. We die so that the future generations can live, and the only real kind of immortality is the immortality of our genes.
Review Heavens On Earth
On the one hand, this book is written by a convinced and a consistent skeptic. There are many of them among former religious people like Shermer was in his youth. He denies all kinds of miracles, naive beliefs, prejudices, and delusions. On the other hand, the book is full of faith in humanity, its possibilities, which are far from being exhausted. It believes in the endless beauty of a natural, not imaginary, world. We are not allowed to live forever, and perhaps we ate not allowed to go to heaven or into some other unknown form of the afterlife.
Shermer doesn’t reject such an opportunity; he only considers it unproven. We are unique, we cannot be copied, and we live only once. We should be grateful for the opportunity to exist, to love and receive love; to understand the world and thrive for new heights of progress. This skeptical book is full of endless optimism and admiration for life.
Author Michael Shermer
Michael Brant Shermer is an American historian and popularizer of science, founder of the Society of Skeptics, and also the editor-in-chief of the journal, primarily devoted to the investigation of pseudoscientific and supernatural claims.
Since April 2001, he also maintains a monthly column in the journal Scientific American. Shermer claims that at one time he was a Christian fundamentalist, but left the faith while studying at the university.
Unlike many scientists, Shermer conducts active public discussions with representatives of pseudoscientific theories, in particular, with Holocaust deniers. On this subject, he wrote the book “Denying History”.
Watch and listen to his book Heavens on Earth on TED