Looking for some fun, excitement, and a change of pace this weekend?  On Saturday I will be doing an all-day seminar for the Smithsonian Associates, four lectures (two in the morning, two in the afternoon), each with Q&A to follow, on Heaven and Hell, based, of course, on the book.  Interested in joining in?  Ticket information, and so on, can be found here: https://smithsonianassociates.org/ticketing/tickets/heaven-and-hell-perspectives-on-afterlife

The structure of the lectures will be different from the book.  Here is the line-up of the lectures.

9:30­–10:45 a.m.  Death After Death

The earliest records of the afterlife in ancient Near Eastern, Israelite, and Greek cultures portrayed it as no life at all: death leads to only a dreary, uninteresting, eternally empty existence in which there is no joy, no pleasure, and no hope, as portrayed in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Hebrew Bible, and writings of Homer.

11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.  Justice in the World Beyond

Both Greek and Israelite cultures eventually developed the concept that this life cannot really be the end of the story and that the misery and injustices experienced now will be vindicated later.  There later emerged the idea of postmortem reward and punishments, as reflected in Plato and Jewish apocalyptic texts.

12:15­–1:30 p.m.  Lunch break (participants can either stay in the webinar or leave and return)

1:30–2:45 p.m.  Jesus, Paul, and the Book of Revelation

Neither Jesus, Paul, nor the author of Revelation believed that when a person died their soul went to heaven or hell.  Instead, God was soon to intervene in history to destroy the current world order and set up a utopian kingdom here on earth in which his followers would live blessed lives forever, in bodies raised from the dead; those opposed to God would be annihilated from existence.

3–4:15 p.m.  The Birth of Heaven and Hell

The end of the world expected by Jesus and Paul never arrived, leading Christians to believe that eternal life was not coming to this world in the future, but immediately after death.  The body would die, but the soul would live on, either to enjoy the pleasures of paradise or the eternal torments of hell.  Later, some came to believe in an interim period of punishment (purgatory), and yet others claimed that in the end, all people would be saved.