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HEAVEN by Lisa Miller


Our Enduring Fascination with the Afterlife

by Lisa Miller

Pub Date: April 6th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-055475-0
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

An introduction to what monotheists of all stripes believe about heaven.

Newsweek society and religion editor Miller offers an overview that combines elements of journalism, academics and memoir. Her approach provides an intriguing glimpse at what many believe the afterlife holds, though the author’s own discomfort with the idea of heaven occasionally weighs down the ethereal subject matter. Her continued personal separation from the subject is meant to point out the widespread uncertainty about heaven, but in a book about those who believe, the author’s distance becomes tiresome. Nonetheless, Miller does an exemplary job covering all monotheistic faiths, even including the oft-overlooked Mormons in her analysis. She begins by seeking out areas of agreement among Christians, Jews and Muslims in terms of the afterlife, which are surprisingly broad. She then explores the qualities of heaven taught by various traditions, as well as the question of resurrection versus spiritual continuance after death. The author also tackles the all-important idea of who gets into heaven and why, a complex topic that spans time and tradition. She ends by introducing the reader to those who have seemed closest to heaven, from desert hermits to car-accident survivors. Despite the central theme of the afterlife in so many religions, little work has been done on the subject across faith lines, so Miller’s book is a welcome addition. Her use of personal interviews provides a refreshing a real-life flair to her study.

Populist approach by an elite, but a good starting point.