The Grate Beyond

An anonymous proof that heaven is hotter than hell, from Applied Optics, August 1972:

The temperature of Heaven can be rather accurately computed from available data. Our authority is the Bible: Isaiah 30:26 reads, Moreover the light of the Moon shall be as the light of the Sun and the light of the Sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days. Thus Heaven receives from the Moon as much radiation as the Earth does from the Sun and in addition seven times seven (forty-nine) times as much as the Earth does from the Sun, or fifty times in all. The light we receive from the Moon is a ten-thousandth of the light we receive from the Sun, so we can ignore that. With these data we can compute the temperature of Heaven: The radiation falling on Heaven will heat it to the point where the heat lost by radiation is just equal to the heat received by radiation. In other words, Heaven loses fifty times as much heat as the Earth by radiation. Using the Stefan-Boltzmann fourth-power law for radiation

grate beyond power law

where E is the absolute temperature of the Earth — 300K. This gives H as 798K absolute (525°C).

The exact temperature of Hell cannot be computed but it must be less than 444.6°C, the temperature at which brimstone or sulfur changes from a liquid to a gas. Revelations 21:8: But the fearful and unbelieving … shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. A lake of molten brimstone means that its temperature must be below the boiling point, which is 444.6°C. (Above that point it would be a vapor, not a lake.)

We have then, temperature of Heaven, 525°C. Temperature of Hell, less than 445°C. Therefore, Heaven is hotter than Hell.

Asking Back

On the morning after a battle, Mary prays that her husband has not been killed. Is this a coherent plea? It would seem that the matter has already been decided: Her husband is either alive or dead. If he is dead, then in order to grant Mary’s prayer God would have to change the past retroactively.

“If one does not think of [such a] case, the idea of doing something in order that something else should previously have happened may seem sheer raving insanity,” writes Michael Dummett. “But suppose I hear on the radio that a ship has gone down in the Atlantic two hours previously, and that there were few survivors: my son was on that ship, and I at once utter a prayer that he should have been among the survivors, that he should not have drowned; this is the most natural thing in the world.”

Perhaps God can grant Mary’s prayer without changing the past: Perhaps, using divine foreknowledge, he interceded at the time of the battle knowing that she would later pray for this. “One of the things taken into account in deciding [the outcome], and therefore one of the things that really causes it to happen, may be this very prayer that we are now offering,” writes C.S. Lewis.

But this entails an oddity of its own — such favors, it seems, are available only to those who are in some doubt about a past event. God will intercede today for a prayer tomorrow — but only an uncertain person would make such a prayer. “I may pray that the announcer has made a mistake in not including my son’s name on the list of survivors,” Dummett writes, “but once I am convinced that no mistake has been made, I will not go on praying for him to have survived. I should regard this kind of prayer as something to which it was possible to have recourse only when an ordinary doubt about what had happened could be entertained.”

(Michael Dummett, “Bringing about the Past,” Philosophical Review, July 1964.)


  • James Buchanan’s niece was his first lady.
  • FIVE THOUSAND is the highest number name with no repeated letters.
  • Ardmore, Tennessee, borders Ardmore, Alabama.
  • 9306 × 2013 = 3102 × 6039
  • “So that’s what hay looks like.” — Queen Mary

If God exists outside space and time, then how can he be omnipresent, present in all places at all times? If he exists within it, how could he have created it? How could a creation (or anything) take place outside time?

Divine Wills

When Scunthorpe solicitor R.A.C. Symes died in 1930, his will specified that “in the event of the Second Coming of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ my Will shall (so far as may be legally permissible) come into operation and take effect as though I were dead.”

When retired London schoolmaster Ernest Digweed died in 1976, he left his whole estate, more than £26,000, in trust for Jesus Christ at the Second Coming. The estate was to be invested for 80 years, and “if during those 80 years the Lord Jesus Christ shall come to a reign on Earth, then the Public Trustee, upon obtaining proof which shall satisfy them of his identity, shall pay to the Lord Jesus Christ all the property which they hold on his behalf.” If Jesus does not appear, then the estate goes to the crown.

See Heaven on Earth.

An Atheist’s Credo

George P. Spencer of Lyndon Center, Vt., died in 1908 at age 83. His epitaph is inscribed on the sides of a granite monument:

Beyond the universe there is nothing and within the universe the supernatural does not and cannot exist. Of all deceivers who have plagued mankind, none are so deeply ruinous to human happiness as those impostors who pretend to lead by a light above nature. Science has never killed or persecuted a single person for doubting or denying its teachings, and most of these teachings have been true; but religion has murdered millions for doubting or denying her dogmas, and most of these dogmas have been false.

(From Charles L. Wallis, Stories on Stone, 1954)

Quiet Study
Image: Wikimedia Commons

When French-American philanthropist Stephen Girard founded Philadelphia’s Girard College in 1830, he explicitly excluded religion from the campus:

I enjoin and require that no ecclesiastic, missionary or minister of any sect whatsoever, shall ever hold or exercise any station or duty whatever in the said college; nor shall any such person ever be admitted for any purpose, or as a visitor, within the premises appropriated to the purposes of the said college.

“In making this restriction, I do not mean to cast any reflection upon any sect or person whatsoever,” he wrote, “but, as there is such a multitude of sects, and such a diversity of opinion amongst them, I desire to keep the tender minds of the orphans, who are to derive advantage from this bequest, free from the excitement which clashing doctrines and sectarian controversy are so apt to produce.”

The Golden Key

A monk was standing at a convent gate,
With sanctimonious phiz, and shaven pate,
Promising, with solemn cant,
To all that listen’d to his rant,
A full and perfect absolution,
With half-a-dozen hallowed benedictions,
If they would give some contribution,
Some large donation supererogatory,
To ransom fifty murder’d christians,
And free their precious souls from purgatory:
When (he asserted) they would gain
A passport from the realms of pain,
And find a speedy passage to the skies.
A knight was riding by, and heard these lies;
He stopp’d his horse, “Salve,” the parson cried;
And “Benedicite” the youth replied.
“Most reverend father,” quoth the knight,
Who, it appears, was sharp and witty,
“These martyr’d christians’ wretched plight
Believe me, I sincerely pity:
Nay, more–their sufferings to relieve,
I will these fifty ducats give.”
This was no sooner said than done;
The priest pronounc’d his benison.
“Now, I presume,” the soldier said,
“The spirits of these christians dead
Have reach’d their final place of rest?”
“Most true,” replied the rev’rend friar,
“(Unless Saint Francis is a liar;)
And, to reward the pious action
Of this most christian benefaction,
You will, no doubt, eternally be blest.”
“Well, then,” exclaim’d the soldier-youth,
“If what you say indeed be truth,
And these same pieces that I’ve given,
Have snatch’d their souls from purgatory’s pains,
And bought them a snug place in heaven,
No further use for them remains.”
He said thus much to prove, at least,
He was as cunning as the priest:
Then put the ducats in his poke
And rode off, laughing at the joke.

— “C.J.D.,” in The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, 1824

Heaven on Earth

In 1864, Peter and Hannah Armstrong deeded a tract of Pennsylvania land to God:

Containing four square miles of land of which we have redeemed about six hundred acres, and we do hereby set apart the balance of said tract at or before the redemption of the whole world, as the purchased possession of Jesus Messiah, together with all and singular rights, liberties, privileges and appurtenances whatsoever thereunto belonging to us; we do grant, deed and convey to the said Creator and God of heaven and earth and to his heirs Jesus Messiah, for their proper use and behoof for ever. In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seal the day and year above written.

The Deity failed to pay his property taxes, unfortunately, and the land was auctioned back to a human.

In an 1884 will, Charles Hastings deeded a plot of Massachusetts land “unto the Lord Jesus, the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.” Perhaps learning from the Armstrongs’ experience, he gave it in trust, reserving the right as agent to “occupy and improve, make repairs, pay taxes, insurance policies, &c.” But Hastings’ heirs contested the will in 1897, and it was declared invalid.

The Greater Good

Suppose in some distant forest lightning strikes a dead tree, resulting in a forest fire. In the fire a fawn is trapped, horribly burned, and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering. So far as we can see, the fawn’s intense suffering is pointless. For there does not appear to be any greater good such that the prevention of the fawn’s suffering would require either the loss of that good or the occurrence of an evil equally bad or worse. Nor does there seem to be any equally bad or worse evil so connected to the fawn’s suffering that it would have had to occur had the fawn’s suffering been prevented. Could an omnipotent, omniscient being have prevented the fawn’s apparently pointless suffering? The answer is obvious, as even the theist will insist. An omnipotent, omniscient being could have easily prevented the fawn from being horribly burned, or, given the burning, could have spared the fawn the intense suffering by quickly ending its life, rather than allowing the fawn to lie in terrible agony for several days. Since the fawn’s intense suffering was preventable and, so far as we can see, pointless, doesn’t it appear that … there do exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse?

— William L. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” American Philosophical Quarterly 16.4 (1979): 335-341.