Heaven and paradise have been subjects of conjecture, fascination, and contemplation for centuries. Heaven is often depicted as a spiritual realm of eternal bliss and joy, often seen as a reward for a life well-lived. Heaven can also be conceived as a condition or state that is present — or not — in this world and this time. And the “heavens” can just be shorthand for the sky above us. Paradise is a place of perfect joy, and can be a synonym for heaven or can describe a state of being, too.

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Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time.

— Albert Camus

Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

— Albert Einstein

I do not believe in the immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern without any superhuman authority behind it.

— Albert Einstein

What intelligent man would not rather be in hell with Parker and Emerson than go to heaven with men capable in this enlightened age of entertaining and uttering such bigotry?

— Allen Gary Jennings, 1889 (in response to a Christian minister saying that Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker were in hell)

Heaven, n.: A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own.

— Ambrose Bierce

Who loves a garden still his Eden keeps,
Perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvest reaps.

— Amos Bronson Alcott

I am like a falling star who has finally found her place next to another in a lovely constellation, where we will sparkle in the heavens forever.

— Amy Tan

I think, from all I can learn, that heaven has the better climate, but hell has the better company.

— Benjamin Franklin Wade, attributed 1885

For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.

— Bible, Ecclesiastes

Gentleness and kindness will make our homes a paradise upon earth.

— C. A. Bartol

Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.

— C. S. Lewis

To attain happiness in another world we need only to believe something, while to secure it in this world we must do something.

— Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.

— Christopher Hitchens

Hell is in the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy, or fight someone, we tumble straight into the fires of hell.

— Elif Shafak

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Why — do they shut Me out of Heaven?
Did I sing — too loud?
But — I can say a little ‘Minor’
Timid as a Bird!

Wouldn’t the Angels try me —
Just — once — more —
Just — see — if I troubled them —
But don’t — shut the door!

Oh, if I — were the Gentleman
In the ‘White Robe’ —
And they — were the little Hand — that knocked —
Could — I — forbid?

— Emily Dickinson

I hope you love birds, too. It is economical. It saves going to Heaven.

— Emily Dickinson

Who has not found the heaven below
Will fail of it above.
God’s residence is next to mine,
His furniture is love.

— Emily Dickinson

What is — ‘Paradise’ —
Who live there —
Are they ‘Farmers’ —
Do they ‘hoe’ —
Do they know that this is ‘Amherst’ —
And that I — am coming — too —

Do they wear ‘new shoes’ — in ‘Eden’ —
Is it always pleasant — there —
Won’t they scold us — when we’re homesick —
Or tell God — how cross we are —

You are sure there’s such a person
As ‘a Father’ — in the sky —
So if I get lost — there — ever —
Or do what the Nurse calls ‘die’ —
I shan’t walk the ‘Jasper’ — barefoot —
Ransomed folks — won’t laugh at me —
Maybe — ‘Eden’ a’n’t so lonesome
As New England used to be!

— Emily Dickinson

Heaven is so far of the Mind
That were the Mind dissolved—
The Site—of it—by Architect
Could not again be proved—
‘Tis vast—as our Capacity—
As fair—as our idea—
To Him of adequate desire
No further ’tis, than Here—

— Emily Dickinson

My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,
So huge, so hopeless to conceive,
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

— Emily Dickinson

Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell.

— Emily Dickinson

People die from lack of shared empathy and affinity. By establishing social connectedness, we give hope a chance and the other can become heaven.

— Erik Pevernagie

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate:
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.
They are not long, the days of wine and roses;
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.

— Ernest Dowson

Mankind must make heaven before we can “go to heaven” (as the phrase is), in this world as in any other.

— Florence Nightingale, 1873

For what is Mysticism? Is it not the attempt to draw near to God, not by rites or ceremonies, but by inward disposition? Is it not merely a hard word for ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is within’? Heaven is neither a place nor a time.

— Florence Nightingale, 1873

In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.

— G. K. Chesterton

Democracy is only a dream: it should be put in the same category as Arcadia, Santa Claus, and Heaven.

— H. L. Mencken

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.

— Henry David Thoreau

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.

— Immanuel Kant

I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t have to spend my whole life fearing hell, or fearing heaven even more. For whatever the tortures of hell, I think the boredom of heaven would be even worse.

— Isaac Asimov

Recollection is the only paradise from which we cannot be turned out.

— Jean Paul Richter

The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven.

— John Milton

I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishment after I’m dead.

— Kurt Vonnegut

Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

— Marcus Aurelius

Travel has no longer any charm for me. I have seen all the foreign countries I want to except heaven & hell & I have only a vague curiosity about one of those.

— Mark Twain

Let us swear while we may, for in Heaven it will not be allowed.

— Mark Twain

Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.

— Mark Twain

The inventor of their heaven empties into it all the nations of the earth, in one common jumble. All are on an equality absolute, no one of them ranking another; they have to be ‘brothers’; they have to mix together, pray together, harp together, hosannah together — whites, n*****s, Jews, everybody — there’s no distinction. Here in the earth all nations hate each other, and every one of them hates the Jew. Yet every pious person adores that heaven and wants to get into it. He really does. And when he is in a holy rapture he thinks he thinks that if he were only there he would take all the populace to his heart, and hug, and hug, and hug!

— Mark Twain

The secret source of humour itself is not joy, but sorrow. There is no humour in heaven.

— Mark Twain

It is worthwhile to live and fight courageously for sacred ideals.
O blow ye evil winds into my body’s fire my soul you’ll never unravel.
Even though disappointed a thousand times or fallen in the fight and everything would worthless seem,
I have lived amidst eternity — Be grateful, my soul — My life was worth living.
He who was pressed from all sides but remained victorious in spirit is welcomed into the choir of heroes.
He who overcame the fetters giving wings to his mind is entering into the golden age of the victorious.

— Norbert Capek

We should so provide for old age that it may have no urgent wants of this world to absorb it from meditation on the next.

— Pearl S. Buck

I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in the kindness of human beings. I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels.

— Pearl S. Buck

In the world to come, I shall not be asked, “Why were you not Moses?” I shall be asked, “Why were you not Zusya?”

— Rabbi Zusya

But if a man be alone, let him look at the stars. The rays that come from those heavenly worlds, will separate between him and vulgar things. One might think the atmosphere was made transparent with this design, to give man, in the heavenly bodies, the perpetual presence of the sublime. Seen in the streets of cities, how great they are! If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

To different minds, the same world is a hell, and a heaven.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Man is conscious of a universal soul within or behind his individual life, wherein, as in a firmament, the natures of Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom, arise and shine. This universal soul, he calls Reason: it is not mine, or thine, or his, but we are its; we are its property and men. And the blue sky in which the private earth is buried, the sky with its eternal calm, and full of everlasting orbs, is the type of Reason. That which, intellectually considered, we call Reason, considered in relation to nature, we call Spirit. Spirit is the Creator. Spirit hath life in itself. And man in all ages and countries, embodies it in his language, as the FATHER.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house a world; and beyond its world, a heaven. Know then, that the world exists for you. For you is the phenomenon perfect. What we are, that only can we see. All that Adam had, all that Caesar could, you have and can do. Adam called his house, heaven and earth; Caesar called his house, Rome; you perhaps call yours, a cobler’s trade; a hundred acres of ploughed land; or a scholar’s garret. Yet line for line and point for point, your dominion is as great as theirs, though without fine names. Build, therefore, your own world.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

But suppose God is black? What if we go to Heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and God is there, and we look up and He is not white? What then is our response?

— Robert F. Kennedy
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