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Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife Hardcover – Deckle Edge, March 23, 2010

4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Heaven. The word evokes all kinds of images and feelings in the hearts of people virtually everywhere. In some corners, heaven is seen as a vague sense of euphoria, a state of everlasting bliss. In other corners, heaven is a busy place, where eternal progression is the challenge of eternity. In this fine work, Miller, religion editor for Newsweek, surveys this fascinating subject from the earliest days of Judaism to contemporary expressions of faith. Beneath her pleasing prose and often amusing observations about the afterlife, there is a longing, a desire to be part of what heaven really is. And it is this sense of personal yearning that informs her delightful and insightful study. Heaven is hope, a constant hope for unimaginable perfection even as we fail to achieve it. This marvelous work is a readable and wonderfully realized study of this constant hope that we share. And whether we align with Augustine or with the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, whether we're informed by scripture or by popular culture, Heaven will delight and edify readers at every level. (Mar. 23)
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From Booklist

According to various polls, most Americans believe in heaven even, as Miller points out, when they don’t know what heaven means. Miller, Newsweek’s religion editor, addresses what and where heaven is and why the concept endures. Having covered many aspects of religion and interviewed people of many different faiths, she offers portraits of famous and ordinary people as well as experts in religious studies to educe how their views do or, more commonly, do not reflect the “official teaching, whatever that is.” The crux of the book focuses on believers, not beliefs, “for how people imagine heaven changes with who they are and how they live.” Miller discusses the heavenly city, afterlife in the Hebrew Bible, resurrection, and salvation, includes a chapter on visionaries, and comments extensively on how heaven is portrayed in pop culture ranging from the Talking Heads’ song “Heaven” to Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones (2002). Miller’s whirlwind tour of heaven is an entertaining primer on a most complex subject. --June Sawyers

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (March 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060554754
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060554750
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #791,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Lisa Miller, author of "Heaven: Our Enduring Fascination With The Afterlife," is a senior editor at Newsweek. She oversees all of the magazine's religion coverage and writes the weekly "Belief Watch column. She also is a regular contributor to the Washington Post's "OnFaith," an online global conversation about religion and faith

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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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.
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