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Heaven in the American Imagination$
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Gary Scott Smith

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199738953

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738953.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Heaven in the American Imagination

Gary Scott Smith

Oxford University Press

Americans have viewed heaven and its entrance requirements in many different ways. Their views of the afterlife have been significantly shaped by their interpretation of sacred scriptures, especially the Bible. However, because the Bible says relatively little about heaven and its description is largely metaphorical, people's desires and life experiences have significantly influenced their understanding of heaven. At various times, Americans have pictured heaven as an unparalleled paradise, an unending banquet, a celestial city, a refuge of the redeemed, a glorious kingdom, a magnificent home, a haven from the world's ills, a posh vacation resort, a perpetual playground, and a therapeutic center. While most Christians have argued that individuals will be admitted to heaven only if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and Lord, many others, including numerous Catholics and Jews, have contended that people's upright conduct and good works play a major role in getting them into heaven.

Keywords:   heaven, evangelicals, Jesus, savior, Catholics, Jews, good works

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