The problem with heaven is imagining an eternity of it

[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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