[Twentieth century British philosopher, agnostic Bertrand Russell on the easy path to heaven, like it or not. It wasn’t so easy in Faust’s time.]
An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish
by Bertrand Russell
Orthodox Christianity, in the Ages of Faith, laid down very definite rules for salvation. First, you must be baptized; then, you must avoid all theological error; last, you must, before dying, repent of your sins and receive absolution. All this would not save you from purgatory, but it would insure your ultimate arrival in heaven. It was not necessary to know theology. An eminent cardinal stated authoritatively that the requirements of orthodoxy would be satisfied if you murmured on your death-bed: “I believe all that the Church believes; the Church believes all that I believe.” These very definite directions ought to have made Catholics sure of finding the way to heaven. Nevertheless, the dread of hell persisted, and has caused, in recent times, a great softening of the dogmas as to who will be damned. The doctrine, professed by many modern Christians, that everybody will go to heaven, ought to do away with the fear of death, but in fact this fear is too instinctive to be easily vanquished. F. W. H. Myers, whom spiritualism had converted to belief in a future life, questioned a woman who had lately lost her daughter as to what she supposed had become of her soul. The mother replied: “Oh, well, I suppose she is enjoying eternal bliss, but I wish you wouldn’t talk about such unpleasant subjects.” In spite of all that theology can do, heaven remains, to most people, an “unpleasant subject.”
Pasted from <http://www.personal.kent.edu/~rmuhamma/Philosophy/RBwritings/outIntellectRubbish.htm>
[The problem with heaven is imagining an eternity of it. An eternity of hell is more captivating, especially imagining it for others, but it keeps everyone in line. The Catholic church, arousing indignation through Faust’s fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, believed it had the authority to forgive sins which were confessed on behalf of God. They furthermore thought they could essentially sell forgiveness if the sinner made up for his sins by doing something nice for God, like building a church. The Church’s obvious conflict of interest led to corruption and the loss of divine authority in many people’s minds. This of course, is a big part of what the Protestants were protesting about and helps explain the anti-Catholic tone in Faust stories coming out of Protestant-leaning regions.
British writer and journalist Gordon Rattray Taylor describes how it came to be in Sex In History (1954):]
“But it soon was evident that no mere physical system of supervision could hope to regulate the most private doings of a man and even his very thoughts: only a system of psychological control based on terror would serve. The offender must, of his own accord, confess his own sin. The incentive for such confession was found in the claim to be able to remit sins. Christ had given Peter the power of “loosing and unloosing”. This was interpreted as the power to admit to Heaven or to refuse; and it was further postulated, first, that Peter could hand this power on to a successor, and he in turn to his successor, and secondly, that each of these could bestow the power upon lesser members of the hierarchy, and thus to every ordained priest. But to make this power effective it was necessary to emphasize the attractions of Heaven, and the disadvantages of Hell. Unfortunately, the picture drawn of Heaven proved insipid, and it became necessary to dwell with increasing heaviness upon the appalling nature of the torment reserved for sinners, rather than on the loving kindness of God – or perhaps we should attribute this to the fact that Church leaders were often more interested in imagining sadistic horror as a fate for others than eternal bliss. It came to be held that only one person in a million could hope to reach Heaven, and historians have noted the increasing emphasis on the doctrine of damnation throughout this period, and the gradual substitution in the iconography of a stern and vengeful father figure in place of the merciful intercessor, Jesus.”
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[This excerpt from HISTORIA & TALE OF DOCTOR JOHANNES FAUSTUS at http://lettersfromthedustbowl.com/Fbk1.html expounds an old Earth-centric cosmic model. This is from the earliest-known manuscript version (Wolfenbüttel Manuscript) of the Faust story, written just before 1587. This author doesn’t provide a Copernican answer, but the question of the nature of the cosmos was on his mind.]
The Second Question
I thank you very much, spake the doctor, my dear Lord Faustus, for your brief account. I shall remember it and ponder upon it my life long. But, if I may trouble you further, would ye not instruct me once more as concerns the brilliance of the stars and their appearance by night.
Yea, very briefly, answered Doctor Faustus. Now it is certain, so soon as the sun doth ascend into the Third Heaven (if it should move down into the First Heaven, it would ignite the earth–but the time for that is not yet come, and the earth must still proceed along her God-ordained course), when the sun doth so far withdraw itself, I say, then doth it become the right of the stars to shine for as long as God hath ordained. The First and Second Heavens, which contain these stars, are then brighter than two of our summer days, and offer an excellent refuge for the birds by night.
Night, therefore, observed from Heaven, is nothing else than day, or, as one might also aver, the day is half the night. For ye must understand that when the sun ascends, leaving us here in night, the day is just beginning in such places as India and Africa. And when our sun shineth, their day waneth, and they have night.
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