Monday, January 09, 2006

Heaven or Hell?

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that the Vatican is expected to abolish Limbo in the near future. This will still leave Heaven, Hell and Purgatory for believers to worry about.

Any such worry must surely give rise to consideration of what proportion of the world’s population ultimately end up in Heaven and, conversely, how many are doomed to Hell?

If there is a Heaven, I personally reject the view that only members of any one religion can qualify for entry, as this would seem to constitute a fundamental contradiction in any concept of a loving God.

Hypothesis - Key assumptions

(a) there is a Heaven and a Hell
(b) that everyone on Earth has a right of entry to both.
(c) that not everyone gets to Heaven, some go to Hell
(d) in this initial scenario, 75% get to Heaven, 25% go to Hell.
This % can be readily tweaked to generate a range of possible results.

Automatically Qualifying for Heaven will be those
(i) who die in infancy
(ii) who die of famine or disease, not caused by lifestyle choices
(iii) who die as innocent victims of war
(iv) who endure lives of oppression, repression etc..
(v) who endure lives of hardship and poverty
(vi) who dedicate their lives & talents to the welfare of others

World Population

The UN estimates the World Population at approx. 6.5bn. They categorise this population into 2 main categories
More Developed Countries” (MDC) account for 20% or 1.3bn people
Less Developed Countries” (LDC) accounting for the remaining 80% or 5.2bn.

We can assume that Europe, USA/Canada & Australia/New Zealand represent the bulk of the MDCs, with total combined population of 1.135bn.

LDCs would include
China 1.3bn
India 1.0bn+
Africa 780m
SouthEast Asia 500m
South America 365m
Mexico/Central America 140m

The bulk of those qualifying automatically for heaven under conditions (i) to (v) above would obviously come from the LDCs. Indeed, a very high proportion of the populations of those countries would seem to automatically qualify for Heaven under those same conditions.

Going back to our original assumption of 75% Heaven and 25% Hell, here’s what happens to the proportion of the population of MDCs who get to Heaven, depending on the assumption you make for level of automatic qualification from the LDCs:

LDC.................MDC..............Total (75%)
Qualifiers........ Qualifiers...... Qualifiers
90% (4680m).......15% (195m).......4875m
85% (4420m).......35% (455m).......4875m
80% (4160m).......55% (715m).......4875m

The table above illustrates that we in the “More Developed Countries” face a significant challenge in qualifying for Heaven, under the assumptions set out already. If the bar is set higher e.g. 50:50, then we’re almost all doomed to the eternal flames.

Indeed, it seems that our only hope is that the bar is set at a low level, with only a minimal percentage going to hell.


Most of us seem to think that the Hippocratic Solution of “first, do no evil” will be sufficient to see us right. We add to that occasional charitable donations, perhaps even a standing order or two for a feeling of permanent grace.
However, we need to consider a couple of relevant parables; The servant who buried his master’s talents and, expecting praise, was chastised when he failed to return them with some value added - so much for “do no evil“. Then there’s the story of The Widow’s Mite to put the generosity of your charitable donations into perspective.

It’s clearly those silent but deadly Sins of Omission that will be the undoing of most of the denizens of the More Developed World.

Remedial Actions

Finding myself ticking all the wrong boxes, I decided some time ago to take out what I hope is fool-proof insurance: I’m leaving the bulk of my estate to charity. It seems like the perfect each-way bet.

Hopeful nephews and nieces please take note.

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