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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Read
This is a fascinating book, exhaustively researched and beautifully written. As a journalist, Miller, who writes on religion for "Newsweek," interviews all sorts of intriguing personalities on what they expect to see and do in the afterlife. But she also digs back into history to see where we got all this stuff about milk and honey and roads paved with gold. Finally,...
Published on March 31, 2010 by Book Junkie

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20 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More than a little disappointed
I wind up reading quite a few of the books that are featured on John Stewart's The Daily Show so I was really looking forward to this read. Truthfully, I could have learned as much after spending an hour or two on the Internet. The book is listed as 368 pages but is really only 239. I don't count the epilogue, which consists mostly of a long ,rambling personal story...
Published on July 22, 2010 by S. Rodger


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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Read, March 31, 2010
By 
This is a fascinating book, exhaustively researched and beautifully written. As a journalist, Miller, who writes on religion for "Newsweek," interviews all sorts of intriguing personalities on what they expect to see and do in the afterlife. But she also digs back into history to see where we got all this stuff about milk and honey and roads paved with gold. Finally, she lets us in on her own skepticism, and her own hopes, turning what might have been a dry exposition of ancient doctrines into a conversation that feels as contemporary as it is compelling. Highly recommended for believers and unbelievers alike.
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39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Any Book on Theology That Quotes 'Talking Heads' Is OK with Me, May 11, 2010
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When I was a little kid, first grade or so, I had a nightmare about Chilly Willie, the penguin cartoon character. Chilly was out in the ocean and he drowned. But that wasn't the scary part. The scary part was seeing the bird sitting on a cloud in heaven. And he was going to be there, doing nothing for ever. That boredom was what scared me.
That's why I was happy to see that Lisa Miller, in her book Heaven (Harper Collins 2010), included a chapter entitled "Is Heaven Boring?" Because a lot of adults wonder about that, it isn't just the mini-me. Miller explores many interesting questions about heaven and the answers provided by the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) for the last few millennia. Ideas about Heaven from culture (Dante) to pop culture (The Lovely Bones) are also presented.
Miller is Jewish, the religion editor of Newsweek and skeptical herself about the existence of heaven. But her interviews with followers of various faiths are fair and respectful. She calls Anne Graham Lotz (Billy's daughter) a friend and listens politely (and uncomfortably) to Anne pleas to take the Christian path to Heaven. She also writes about her respect for prominent atheists.
It is interesting to follow the history of views of Heaven through the years and the various ways heaven is viewed today. Is Heaven a physical place or purely spiritual? Does one get entrance to Heaven through faith or works or does everyone get in? How does one's view of Heaven affect the way one lives life? The varied answers to these questions that Miller finds are intriguing, sometime funny, and thought provoking.
I knew a lot of the things that Miller writes about. I remembered from my seminary days about Augustine's teaching that unbaptized babies would not get into heaven. (The Bishop of Hippo wrote that just as the thief on the cross would enter Heaven based on his faith, though he was not baptized; babies who are baptized enter Heaven though they have not faith.) I hadn't known (or remembered) that the church father went on to argue that there was a special baby hell, wherein baby souls wouldn't really even notice their torture. (Baby hell is a concept worth pondering.)
I was unaware of some of the Muslim theories of the intermediary state between death and the Resurrection. This is a theory that two angels with green eyes and long fangs test the newly dead with a series of questions. Those who pass the test with flying colors will get a window view of heaven. Second tier corpses will get a window to hell with the assurance that they won't go there. Third level is pretty bad because your grave will be set afire and fourth is worse because your sins are turned into wild animals that will attack you.
I also found fascinating the archeological evidence that in ancient Israel, people kept their ancestors bones under there house and may have consulted and/or worshiped them.
Miller can, of course, present no definitive conclusions with her research. But she seems to believe that it is a challenge to rationalism to believe in Heaven and is very uncomfortable with the idea that there is only one route to get there.
Obviously, these are difficult questions. But I believe in a powerful God who can do as He chooses. And that He has graciously choose to give life to His people after life on this earth.
And as to that question of whether Heaven is boring, I came to my own conclusions when I attended camp as a kid, a few years after that penguin dream. A speaker at camp pointed to the beauty around us (the spectacular Sierra Nevada Mountains) and the fun we'd had though the week (swimming, games, archery, great food) and said that a God who thought up such great things would have even better things to come. For me, that answered my fear. That's when I trusted Christ for forgiveness of my sins and began looking forward to Heaven.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent And Thought Provoking, August 2, 2010
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Ms. Miller's historical overview is excellent. Our interpretation of what exists in the afterlife has greatly changed in the past 2500 years. It has grown and matured as mankind has grown more complex. Ms. Miller makes this journey fascinating. She also debunks many of our current myths about other religions' views of heaven [e.g., the 72 virgins of Islam]. Yes, as this book is written by an American, for the American audience, she does, for the most part, deal with the three major religions in America. This may be off-putting to some. One warning: You must approach this book with an open mind. When I was reading it, one deeply religious Baptist friend asked me what I was reading, and I explained that it was a book that described how our views on heaven have changed over the past 2500 years. She gave me a blank expression, and informed me that "Heaven has never changed!" I had to quickly say, "Heaven may not have changed, but our understanding and interpretation of it sure has!" Ms. Miller has done an excellent job of writing on a difficult subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heaven: A Resource for Hopeful Living, May 29, 2012
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Paul Patterson (Winnipeg, MB Canada) - See all my reviews
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Lisa Miller gives us readers an extremely entertaining, educative and vulnerable exploration into the plethora of views regarding heaven. She is a Reformed Jew and editor of Newsweek's religion section. Miller isn't committed to a firm belief in Heaven but definitely manages to elicit our hopes for a meaningful life... and perhaps more. I haven't read any treatment of heaven that is more conversationally readable than this book. With genuine interest and tolerance the author listens to a variety of view points concerning afterlife. She honestly admits that she wished she might have the same faith and confidence in heaven as some of her interviewees express. She seems particularly drawn to the ideas of heaven in orthodox Judaism and evangelicalism. I am not sure whether or not her hopes are crushed due to being a thoroughly postmodern person divorced from a the ancient world-views but she does seem to wish for the earlier literal belief in heaven, even though she is intellectually convinced of modern cosmology.

I felt as if I were receiving a wonderful review of all the comparative religion courses I have ever had while at college. The only difference was that she was thoroughly engaging and utilized testimony from individuals who believed ardently in their views of afterlife rather than mere theorists. She made me want to take the topic seriously and to explore how whatever the other side contains it has an importance to my here and now life.

Lisa Miller has definitely done a vast amount or research and recommends some of the best popular and academic treatments of her subject. I was delighted to see that she even spoke to and read N.T. Wright one of my favourite Christian theologians who stresses the importance of Resurrection rather than immortality in a bodiless other world. Like the author herself, Wright does all in his power to intricately connect the Heaven to Earth in a profoundly hopeful manner.

While tabulating the views of Heaven in the history of religions and current traditions, she doesn't neglect to submit Heaven to the gaze of empirical science by discussing the various research on NDE (Near Death Experience) and physic phenomena. The age old dilemma of Mind/Brian connection is ever in the background. However, even when discussing the first hand accounts of dying and returning Lisa Miller emphasizes the need to apply a ethical litmus test as to whether the experience enhanced the character of the person having had it. From her examples it appears that the NDE experience regularly retrieves individuals from death to their normal consciousness with more love, generosity and confidence. Such transformation can not be easily dismissed.

Lisa Miller rarely takes sides in the debates on heaven, except in the case of exploiting the grieving through seances or by making the entry to Heaven a sectarian or ethnic privilege. She maintains an open mind throughout her book and ultimately displays a gracious attitude toward different points of view. There is very little reductionism here nor is there any deriding of the beliefs of others. Love is Heaven's watchword; Dante is its prime poet. Miller doesn't evade the fact that heaven, when overly literalized and humanized, is jest-worthy as her comments on Albert Brooks' 1991 film Defend Your Life reveal. In-between reincarnating Hassid Jews, Paradise pursuing Muslims and a host of others, the true North of Miller's discussion is an affirmation of life. She exalts the importance of Heaven for the expectant living in her last paragraph,

I do not cling to heaven as a radical concept, a place that embodies the best of everything - but beyond the best. A belief in heaven focuses our minds on the radical nature of what's beautiful, most loving, most just, and most true. At the beginning of this book, I said, I believed that heaven was hope. I would now amend that to say, "Radical hope - a constant hope for unimaginable perfection even as we fail to achieve it. As Emily Dickinson said, heaven is what we cannot reach. But it is worth a human life to try.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Dubious Disciple Book Review, July 3, 2011
I've found my soul sister! Meet Lisa Miller, a self-described journalist, religion expert, and professional skeptic. She sometimes wants to believe, but it isn't in her. She misses her grandparents, and wishes she could picture them contentedly up there in heaven waiting for her, but she just can't. Her journey in this book to learn about heaven may have been spurred by a certain emptiness.

In search of heaven, Lisa interviews dozens of people, from rock musicians to homemakers to heavy-hitting theologians. From Muslims to Jews (her heritage) to Christians and beyond. She finds that, for most people, heaven is the best of what they already enjoy on earth--only a little better. And forever.

Lisa likes statistics, and the statistics show religious views are changing. Today, 65 percent of Americans believe that many different religious paths can lead to eternal salvation. Only a third of Americans still believe in a God who controls human events. Yet, 81 percent of Americans tell pollsters that they believe in heaven, up from 72 percent ten years earlier. How can this be? "It's hard to know exactly what they mean--beyond an automatic and understandable hope for something after death besides the terrifying end of everything." Belief in reincarnation, for example, is trending upward, fueled in part because people today WANT to come back and live again. Life is better in our age. Where before, we wanted to escape the cycle, now we want another run at it.

A fun and thought-provoking book, I'd recommend this one for anyone.
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20 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More than a little disappointed, July 22, 2010
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S. Rodger (eustis, fl United States) - See all my reviews
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I wind up reading quite a few of the books that are featured on John Stewart's The Daily Show so I was really looking forward to this read. Truthfully, I could have learned as much after spending an hour or two on the Internet. The book is listed as 368 pages but is really only 239. I don't count the epilogue, which consists mostly of a long ,rambling personal story. This was too much like having lunch with somebody who won't let you get a word in edgewise and then having to pick up the tab. There are much better books on the subject.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Survey, November 1, 2014
This review is from: Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife (Kindle Edition)
The author gives a nice survey of the tenets of the major monotheistic religions regarding heaven. She looks back and forth in history for how things have changed over time which is very interesting. I turns out Heaven as we envision it is a relatively recent development.

The book is very readable and balanced, I thought. It is a difficult topic to render without becoming partisan, but here her journalistic skills are evident. She interviews, she thinks, she compares and she writes, all well.

I'd recommend the book to just about anybody, if they asked me.

One idea widely expressed in the text is that Heaven is like all the nice things here, only better or more so. This is exactly the impression one gets from cannabis, just like reality only...enhanced. Isn't it? So hey, I'm hoping....
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Added to My Shelf of Reference Books, July 12, 2011
I found this a well-crafted presentation of how people view (and believe in) heaven, by one of my favorite journalists. I appreciate how Miller reports on religious beliefs in a manner neither preachy, nor abstruse. I'm an atheist, so I didn't read this for support of any religious beliefs, but because Miller brings reason and sensibility to the subject. One of my favorite non-fiction volumes, one to keep with other reference works.
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4.0 out of 5 stars We'll written and not overbearing, June 11, 2014
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This review is from: Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife (Kindle Edition)
A thorough review of the subject matter. It provides great information and never tries to convert the reader. It has helped in bettering my understanding of other peoples views of the subject. Not only the comfort people get from their belief but also how the concepts have developed and matured down through history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great study on a great mystery that affects all of us, November 4, 2013
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This review is from: Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife (Kindle Edition)
The amount of research the author did was amazing, and it supported many different views on this great mystery of life. She developed the tradtitions historically and culturally providing a very interesting picture. Many personal interviews also added different perspectives. I used the book as the basis for a study for a church group that I expect will lead to much introspection and lively conversation.
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