Stephen Hawking: 'There is No Heaven; It's a Fairy Story'
Heaven is a man-made idea. Not only is it man-made, but the people who thought it up were so primitive in their understanding of the the human body and mind, of the earth and universe, of the forces of nature that they needed to assign man-like attributes to their world to make sense of it all. This is why we've had sun gods, and sea gods, gods of wind and gods of thunder. After an all-out arms race of of deistic proportions we are now left with all-powerful, all-knowing, omniscient, universal beings (who happen to look like us and get jealous and angry like us) Ancient peoples did not understand death. Even today, it is hard to grasp knowing someone so well and then one day they just aren't there anymore. It is a very pacifying feeling to think about someone moving on to a place of pure beauty and splendor after they die. The truth is, there is no way anyone can ever know this until they die. These vivid descriptions you read about the afterlife are just people willfully imagining what they hope it might be like to make them less fearful of dying. I am actually not as bothered by the human concept of heaven. If that makes you feel better in your life, then by all means believe it. I guess my real beef on this topic comes from the church when they say "believe like I do and keep my sacraments and pray to my deity only or you will go straight to hell in a hand basket when you die". Supernatural threats that prey upon our basic human fears of death and mortality are the most powerful and the most vile of all.
I say instead of throwing your hat in the ring blindly, let's continue to research what we call the human "conscience" or the human "soul". Try to understand the brain on a fundamental level as we take our last breaths. Are the "near-death experiences" just your brain synapses misfiring as it loses oxygen or is there something more subtle actually happening? This is where we should spend our time. In the laboratory. Not in the pew. No one knows what happens when you die. If someone says they know based on an ancient book, they are full of it.