Imagine a world where the heaven, hell and purgatory are known to be real because somehow people can actually see them at the point that there aren't any doubts they don't exist or how they work.

Let's say they work as Dante described them for sake of simplicity.

Would this hypothetical population be almost completely peaceful and well acting because of the bonus/malus they are sure to have when they pass away?

Edit to clarify the question:

The living could know from the dead what led them to the place they are. The dead can't lie.


closed as primarily opinion-based by L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica, colmde, Mołot, sphennings, Frostfyre Jul 11 '17 at 12:22

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ So if it comes from a book, how certain are they that the book is correct? Keep in mind that in the modern world, lots of people would claim to know that heaven and hell are real, and that we know exactly how they work. Which means the real world answers your question of what it'd look like. $\endgroup$ – Erik Jul 11 '17 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ It would surely mean that whichever religion it was whose heaven and hell are real would rule the world. Whether you think that's "way better" or not is up for massive debate and not really on topic for this Q+A type site... $\endgroup$ – colmde Jul 11 '17 at 8:55
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding Fez! If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Jul 11 '17 at 8:56
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    $\begingroup$ Not without VERY good definitions of "pain", "inflicted", "good" and "others". $\endgroup$ – Erik Jul 11 '17 at 8:57
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    $\begingroup$ So you have a god, S/He exists, and still earth is the miserable place it is today... So why in the name of whateveryoulike would i spend my life in a way that forces me to hang around this guy for the rest of eternity? $\endgroup$ – Burki Jul 11 '17 at 10:32

Many people would act as they had to in order to go to heaven, but I think that I don't believe that this world would be perfect for some reasons:

  • Kids don't always obey their parents, even if they trust 100 % in their word. As an example, a kid may believe that he has to behave properly because otherwise Santa Claus won't give him a gift, but he is only worried if he is reminded and if it is December. I think that most people would imitate this attitude.

  • Once somebody knows that his actions are bad enough to go to hell, he wouldn't have any reason to act correctly.

  • If the second case is unreachable, it means that people can accumulate negative actions and still go to heaven, so once knows the limit, it is possible to adjust to the limit.

In conclusion, I consider that it would be a "peaceful world", but not as peaceful as it could be if people couldn't know which is the limit that separates heaven and hell.

  • $\begingroup$ I think people could know/infere the limit by the info provided by the deaths. But I don't think it would be an exact science $\endgroup$ – Fez Vrasta Jul 11 '17 at 9:07
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    $\begingroup$ I like your second point. "Well, I already screwed up... That's a nice car you've got there. Would be a shame if someone would take it." $\endgroup$ – J_F_B_M Jul 11 '17 at 9:09
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding.SE Zero point! That's a very nice first answer. Looking forward to your contributions. "You sinned? If you go to hell anyway, why not come here as a hero and commit every sin possible? Make that 1 sin 1,000,000!" If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Jul 11 '17 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ I immediately thought of The Salvation War. $\endgroup$ – Ambrose Winters Jul 11 '17 at 19:44

This world would be hell on earth.

If you aren't good because you want to, but because you are afraid of punishment, if you know there's a vengeful big brother watching every step you make, and every thought you have, that's a world I wouldn't want to live in.

I can imagine a lot of people would seek out ways to die in a "permitted" way (i.e. no suicide, but a risky sport perhaps?). Because heaven is way more pleasureable than earth, and the longer you live, the higher the chance you commit a sin.

If loosing your sins via confession is permitted, there would probably be long queues in front of the confessional box.


With the option to speak with the dead about how you get to each type of afterlife, as well as what it's like, people would probably do some research and what each is like.

And then, their conclusions might not be what you expect.

Because on the face of it, heaven seems better than hell, but that's because we discount the "eternal" part. In reality, once people talk to some of the long dead people, they will reach one of two realizations:

1) You are still your normal self in heaven, but forever. This is horrible, because our minds and bodies aren't capable of properly coping with the idea of forever. Imagine talking to a person who has been in the same place, experiencing the same thing, for a thousand years (or more..)

If you think your regular job is drudgery, wait until you live a thousand years doing the same thing. Without a sense of finality, a sense of danger or a sense of challenge, your "life" will be quite dreadful. Heaven would sound dreadful. (Probably, so would hell, I don't know which would be worse.)

After genuinely talking to someone who had been stuck in heaven for thousands of years, most people would dread the idea of going there. I'm guessing the vast majority of people would become severely depressed. The idea of immortality sounds like a worthwhile goal, but when you really think about it, it's horrible.

2) You turn into something capable of coping with immortality. This would be pretty apparent when talking to these dead, and given that they cannot lie (when it's pretty fundamental to most people to lie from time to time) it's the more likely scenario in your description.

Now you have another problem, because once people start to disassociate themselves from the dead, they also start to feel like it's not "them" that will go to the afterlife. If you've talked to your dead parent, or spouse, or sibling, and you cannot really feel it is them, then what makes you think when you die the thing going to the afterlife is you?

They will instead be condemning something that vaguely resembles them to it, but that will cause them to care a lot less. We might think that we are good and decent people, and we wouldn't condemn other people to such a terrible fate, but when you look at the world we don't really care all that much about those we don't know. Most people vaguely, subconsciously realize that if you buy an iPhone, it was probably built by a child-worker, and that we're slowly destroying the Earth with our consumerism, and that animals have feelings and we're brutally killing them for food, but for the most part we just don't think about it. Because when presented the choice between a delicious cake, or a meal for a hungry child, most people will pick the former unless you're making a conscious effort to appeal to their better nature. (Because most people don't realize that if you donate the cost of the slice of cake, you could easily use it to feed a hungry child. Any time you eat cake, you could have fed a child. If you pick the cake over the child right now, why would you pick the cake over the thing going to heaven or hell in this other world?)

Once people start caring less about what they're condemning to the afterlife, likely their normal sense of self and morality will take over, and you will end up with mostly whatever you had before people realized the truth of what happens after they die.

  • $\begingroup$ I haven't direct experiences of how haven is unfortunately 🙃 but I'd expect it to be flexible enough to make you happy for quite a long time, don't you think? If it was just a white limb than I don't think people would strive to get there $\endgroup$ – Fez Vrasta Jul 11 '17 at 11:46
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    $\begingroup$ @FezVrasta "quite a long time" is a very, very short time compared to "forever". I'm sure heaven could keep you happy for decades, maybe centuries, but you would stop being recognizable as a normal human long before you hit a millennium. The body and mind aren't made for that kind of thing. I don't think most people think too hard about what being in heaven would actually be like; you can try asking them what they think they'll be doing after 50.000 years and whether it'll still be enjoyable. I have no idea what they'd answer. $\endgroup$ – Erik Jul 11 '17 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ I guess it's kinda off topic, but ideally the minds should see a big change to handle the new physic form and environment. $\endgroup$ – Fez Vrasta Jul 11 '17 at 12:04
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    $\begingroup$ @FezVrasta yes; that's an example of my case 2. The living would not be able to empathize with the dead, if the dead transform heavily to be able to cope with their new environment. $\endgroup$ – Erik Jul 11 '17 at 12:06

Do you go to heaven because you chose to be {good|rule-abiding|religious} on your own or because you know you will face severe punishment if you misbehave?

Given that the arbiter sending you to heaven/hell has perfect knowledge of what you did, people would most certainly behave according to the rules. Because of fear, not because the see any sense in it.

Some people will not follow these rules though. Some "mentally impaired" people will be unable to understand the rules or understand them different than the "normal" people. Can they be punished for their inability?

Assume another situation:
There is a being from hell, the devil, who tries to tempt people into committing sins so they end up in hell. I can see two possibilities how this can play out.

  1. The devil can actually choose to not punish someone for an actual sin. He can got to a person and convince them to murder them for the promise that this person won't get punished for the murder (but might be for any other sin, as usual). In this case I can see no difference between being in heaven without sins and being in hell, but with all sins forgiven. As the devil can not punish this person, he has to recreate heaven in hell, as any other treatment could be defined as punishment.
    • Even worse, people would actively start to seek deals with the devil, as they can commit sins without fearing punishment. As long as there is a deal, they are safe. And I most certainly don't want to live in that world.
  2. The other possibility is that the devil can offer such a deal, but he doesn't have the power to follow it through. He can not spare anyone from the punishment. But because the tempted person can know for a fact that the devil is lying, it has absolutely no intention to even consider the offer.

Giving certainty about the eternal afterlife would get people to long for the "right" afterlife, but for the wrong reasons.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think I understand this paragraph: "Some other people might..." $\endgroup$ – Fez Vrasta Jul 11 '17 at 9:04
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    $\begingroup$ Before someone objects: "mentally impaired" is not meant in any negative way. It is a fact that some people are unable to receive certain communication-clues that are considered standard. Similarly these people send their own clues that most people are unable to perceive. Normal is what is most common. Everything else is by definition abnormal. $\endgroup$ – J_F_B_M Jul 11 '17 at 9:05
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    $\begingroup$ @FezVrasta Say normally you will get punished in hell. Now I, as devil, come to you and tell you "Hey, if you murder this guy you will go to hell, but I'll promise to not punish you". You can now murder someone "for free". You can not get punished in hell, because the devil would become untrustworthy if he breaks his word. But then there is no sense of you being in hell, because what is the difference to heaven? $\endgroup$ – J_F_B_M Jul 11 '17 at 9:08
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think this can happen in Dante's vision of inferno? $\endgroup$ – Fez Vrasta Jul 11 '17 at 9:09
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    $\begingroup$ @FezVrasta See edit. If you still like to discuss this, let us continue in chat. $\endgroup$ – J_F_B_M Jul 11 '17 at 9:35

What would happen?

People would stop caring about life before death. There is no need to achieve anything in your life because you will leave it and go to heaven for ever. No one would care about medicine as everyone would be like: "Yep - it's my time". I think people would die very young and that would make earth a chaotic graveyard land.

As people would not care about life nothing would move forward. We would live in small wooden villages and have no science.


No, given the status of affairs no.

Proof enough is there were centuries when everybody was dead certain God, with all His paraphernalia existed and was constantly acting on this world ("no leaf falls unless that's the will of God")... but world wasn't "better" than it's today.

Too many "interpretations" are possible.

Too many chances to obtain "remissions" are available.

  • $\begingroup$ If a friend did something bad and then died, you could not know where he actually ended up. If you thought it wasn't something bad you would have done it as well. In the case described in the question you would know it and you could adjust by consequence. $\endgroup$ – Fez Vrasta Jul 11 '17 at 9:22
  • $\begingroup$ @FezVrasta that requires knowing that it was the specific bad thing that sent him there. It might have been something completely unrelated. (In fact; if you felt a need to do something terrible, you would use that exact argument to convince yourself.) $\endgroup$ – Erik Jul 11 '17 at 9:55
  • $\begingroup$ The question states that livings can get this exact info from deads $\endgroup$ – Fez Vrasta Jul 11 '17 at 9:56
  • $\begingroup$ @FezVrasta you mean they can actually communicate with the dead? That wasn't clear from your edit. Could you please clarify that? And also add whether the dead are told why they end up where they are? $\endgroup$ – Erik Jul 11 '17 at 10:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Burki: this answer was written in a haste (and it shows!) Concepts behind it are the same as the accepted answer. I should have taken the time to write it properly and perhaps I should delete this. Anyways, just to clarify; most people was sure, so sure that many would die instead of committing what they felt was a "deadly sin". Unfortunately the concept was (is?) so foggy we could have people (think "Torquemada") fully convinced they were gaining Paradise (for them and for their victims) doing horrible things... not to speak about "indulgences", of course. $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Jul 11 '17 at 14:46

I think it would be a lot less "white collar crime". More or less everyone with slightly above the average level of intelligence would be very careful not to "sin". There would be much fewer Enrons, Bernie Madoffs or Hitlers. In such a world, I would probably not even consider slashing the tires of the guy who takes my parking spot.

On the other hand, much of the petty crime, drug and gang related crime would still exists, because if those people don't care about the jail, why would they care about hell?

There might also appear sects of true satanists. People who know they will go to hell and they try to sin (commit crimes, get drunk and drive buses into crowds) as much as possible before dying.

As the things described in the question stand, the devil's business would suffer, especially if contacting the dead for details on the afterlife was easy and certain. If not, the world would be just like ours. Supposed there was a certain level of skill required to contact the dead, there would be many quacks claiming they can speak to the dead. With that happening, skeptics would appear and claim there is no afterlife and then things would start to work out as they work in our world.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm interested in the "street criminality" part. I think most of those people commit crimes because there's not the certainty of the punishment" both because they could not get caught, or because once caught they are released. Also, they may commit crimes to have a better life. But knowing that most of their "life" will be in "the afterlife" wouldn't change things? $\endgroup$ – Fez Vrasta Jul 11 '17 at 10:02

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