The song, famous since 1935, is an example of the way we use the concept of heavenly bliss as hyperbole to describe a state of euphoric, perfect happiness, like that of Fred Astaire who found it dancing cheek to cheek with Ginger Rogers (who wouldn’t ?). Some people really believe that such a state will be theirs when they die, for all eternity. By definition there is no limit to the pleasures in store for them. Some have been imagined by preachers and other purveyors of pious fiction, but most of us would give priority to our own wishes and dreams. For some it’s seventy-two virgins, for others it’s anywhere away from the wife whose nagging will surely put her in Hell. For us as kids it meant ice-cream every day; later it was whisky galore.
Pipe-dreams for many, desperate wishful thinking for those to whom life has dealt a lousy hand, the ultimate illusion of those who believe their “soul” must be immortal, their virtue rewarded, and injustices suffered in this vale of tears set right by a good and just God.
Dog-lovers sometimes attribute such immortality to the most faithful friend they ever had. The last word on the subject was brilliantly penned by Evelyn Waugh in his story about funerals and cemeteries for canines, “The Loved Ones”. We smile at the idea, but after all why not ? Does our capacity to reason and to talk give us an exclusive privilege to eternal life ? And, for some, what would eternal life be worth if Fido could not be part of it ?
Non-atheists should take a serious look at their childish fantasies, and enjoy as best they can the only life they will ever have and the only heaven they can hope for, even if it does not include Ginger Rogers.