It is surprising that theological and religious writing in general does not does not spend more time in description of the virtues and rewards of the afterlife. After all, these are the ultimate benefits offered to believers, the benefits that are proposed as compensations for all other sufferings and pleasures foregone.

But even when these are envisaged in concrete terms (a set number of virgins) and particularly when they are presented in quasi-concrete terms (abstract bliss) they seem both dull and unconvincing, which is an unusual combination since the dreary is more often than not rather plausible.

The explanation for the infrequency of the attempt and the weak results that obtain when it is attempted seems to be that in reasoning from earthly life to make a picture of life in the land of the blessed the thinker must attempt two impossible tasks. Firstly, he must take satisfaction or contentment, which on earth is only the necessarily temporary absence of need, and present it as a permanent, in other words a timeless condition. This is incoherent; satisfaction and contentment imply a preceding state that is unsatisfactory and with which we are not content. In other words, time is implicit in these concepts and cannot be abolished without absurdity.

Secondly, those outlining the peace of heaven must describe as a conscious experience an absence of disturbing or irritating stimuli, an absence that we only know by contrasting the temporary condition of unconscious sleep, of which we are unaware, with our manifestly apparent waking selves. Of course, this is impossible; one cannot be both asleep and awake. Similarly, we cannot conceive of a conscious experience that is absolutely peaceful, and the only approximation that we can make to this imaginary state is boredom. No wonder, then, that the devil is said to have the best tunes.