[quote=“rousseau”]What would heaven truly be, then? It would consist of being dead and being conscious of nothing. Eureka! Or, maybe I should say…nirvana? No, nirvana implies consciousness. I’m saying, no consciousness. That would be heaven. You would have no pain, no torment, no anything. Nada. There is nothing to be afraid of, because you won’t exist. How could that possibly be a torment? Oh, sure, it can make you uneasy to contemplate the idea now, but you can rest in the assurance that when it’s over, it really is over, and nobody and nothing can torment you.
I really like this idea. I’ve finally come to a profound realization of how the temporary nature of human life makes certain aspects of it oh so sweet. It’s the only way of looking at ontology that really makes any sense to me. For example, as much as I love my parents and my siblings and my wife, there is no way in hell (heh heh) I would want to be around them for eternity. Are you kidding me? Hell, I wouldn’t want to be around myself for eternity! I’m a kewl guy and all, but I don’t want to know what I might possibly be thinking about in ten thousand years should I actually exist that long. My interactions with the people I love are ultimately temporary; there is an exquisite poignancy to this, and it inspires in me a sense of awe that is–dare I say it?–akin to a religious feeling.
We did not exist before we were born, and presumably nobody has any objection to that (save for Buddhists). Isn’t ceasing to exist once we die the perfect ontological symmetry? I think it is. Looked at this way, life really is precious.[/quote]
I couldn’t agree with you more. There is great theological, philosophical, metaphysical, and scientific truth in what you say. You may be interested to know that you are far from alone in drawing this conclusion.
It’s coincidental that I’m currently studying the continuum of beliefs in the state of the dead through pre-exilic Judaism, the Hasmonean and Second Temple eras, and from the early Christian era to the 20th century. What you have described is the state of the dead as understood in the pre-exilic and post-exilic Jewish canonical literature (the ‘Old Testament’),  as well as the New Testament and some of the early Christian writings from the 1st to the 4th centuries.  
This understanding was unfortunately marginalized as a result of the increasing Hellenization of Christianity, which adopted the Platonic belief in an immortal soul, and Greek views on ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’. However, throughout history there can be found a significant number of Christians who have continued to hold to the original Biblical teaching,     either in the form of psychopannychism (although there is an essential ‘you’ which continues to survive after death, it is completely dormant and unconscious), or thnetopsychism (all consciousness is lost at death, because everything which was ‘you’ has ceased to exist). These views were especially revived during the Reformation.    
Belief in conditional immortality and ‘hell’ as the complete annihilation and utter oblivion increased steadily from the nineteenth century onwards, 5 supplemented by scientific conclusions concerning the mortality of man, to the extent that it eventually entered mainstream Christianity in the twentieth century. From the 19th to the 20th centuries, groups holding the view of ‘hell’ you describe include the Millerites, Advent Christian Church, Seventh Day Adventists, Conditionalist Association, Christadelphians, Bible Students, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of God Seventh Day, and Worldwide Church of God.
Scholarly debate over the state of the dead, and in particular the doctrine of hell, gradually became increasingly significant in the twentieth century.  The doctrine of annihilationism (the term for your understanding of ‘hell’), as the true understanding of ‘hell’, became more widely accepted.
In the 1970s this doctrine became established in mainstream evangelical Christianity   as a result of the work of several high profile evangelical theologians, who made their views public. The trend continued over the next ten years, with an increasing number of mainstream theologians moving to a correct understanding of Bible teaching on this point.
This trend continues today. Far from being resolved in favour of traditional teaching, the ongoing dispute has resulted in a steady increase in the number of well respected Bible scholars upholding the concept of annihilation as the true understanding of ‘hell’. Several modern works in particular are recognized as the most successful defenses of this position.
Despite attempts to stem the tide, the result of this development is that for the first time in almost 2,000 years, the doctrine of hell is on the defensive in mainstream Christianity, continuing to lose academic support.
In fact, the assault on the doctrine by recognized theologians has not only continued but intensified.  Now entire evangelical fellowships are now having to face the issue of whether or not to abandon their belief in hell, and if not then how to manage the increasing defection of high profile theologians from this doctrine.
In scientific terms, annihilation has complete support, which has not gone unnoticed by its proponents.  
So in response to what you write about ‘hell’, I agree with you entirely and echo John Polkinghorne, ‘So what do religious people make of that? Actually, they got there first!’. 
 ‘Death means that the body returns to the dust, and the breath to God who gave it; meaning not that an immortal part of the person goes to live with God, but that the God who breathed life’s breath into human nostrils in the first place will simply withdraw it into his own possession.’, Wright, ‘The Resurrection of the Son of God’, p. 98 (2003)
 ‘As good creational monotheists, mainline Jews were not hoping to escape from the present universe into some Platonic realm of eternal bliss enjoyed by disembodied souls after the end of the space-time universe.’, Wright, ‘The New Testament and the People of God’, p. 286 (1992)
 ‘we freely admit that there are indications that some of the early fathers believed in the final annihilation’, Morey, ‘Death and the Afterlife’, p. 60 (1984)
 ‘Theophilus, in common with other writers of this period, such as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, argued that the immortality of the human soul was conditional, rather than intrinsic. In other words, the immortality of the soul was not an integral part of human nature; immortality was understood as being conditional upon total obedience to God.’, McGrath, ‘The Christian theology reader’, p. 647
 ‘In the first place, there have not been a few, both in ancient and modern times, who have maintained the truth of a “Conditional Immortality”.’, McConnell, ‘The Evolution of Immortality’, p. 84 (1901)
 ‘At the same time there have always been isolated voices raised in support of other views. There are hints of a belief in repentance after death, as well as conditional immortality and annihilationism.’, Streeter, et al., ‘Immortality: An Essay in Discovery, Co-Ordinating Scientific, Psychical, and Biblical Research’, p. 204 (1917)
 ‘Many biblical scholars down throughout history, looking at the issue through Hebrew rather than Greek eyes, have denied the teaching of innate immortality.’, Knight, ‘A brief history of Seventh-Day Adventists’, p. 42 (1999)
 ‘Various concepts of conditional immortality or annihilationism have appeared earlier in Baptist history as well. Several examples illustrate this claim. General as well as particular Baptists developed versions of annihilationism or conditional immortality.’, Pool, ‘Against returning to Egypt: Exposing and Resisting Credalism in the Southern Baptist Convention’, p. 133 (1998)
 ‘through the early part of the 1540s a number of English evangelicals continued to claim that the souls of the dead experienced no consciousness before the Last Judgement.’, Marshall, ‘Beliefs and the dead in Reformation England’, p. 224 (2002); this is psychopannychism
 ‘The Anti-Trinitarian Anabaptists, of the sounder group, but holding divergent views on the person of Christ.32 These opposed the Greek and Roman Catholic position and frequently denied the eternal torment of the wicked in hell. Michael Servetus (d. 1553) was in this category.’, Froom, ‘The Conditionalist Faith Of Our Fathers’, volume 2, p. 81 (1966)
 ‘Many who became Anabaptists also believed that the soul is not naturally immortal but “sleeps” between death and the final resurrection. Some affirmed, further, that only the righteous would be resurrected, while the unrighteous would simply remain dead. Many denied hell. The Venice Synod affirmed soul sleep and rejected hell (ibid., pp. 871-72).’, Finger, ‘A contemporary Anabaptist theology: biblical, historical, constructive’, p. 42 (2004)
 ‘Many of the Socinians denied the immortality of the soul, and held to the sleep of the dead and the ultimate annihilation of the wicked after due and just punishment.’, Froom, ‘The Conditionalist Faith Of Our Fathers’, volume 2, p. 86 (1966)
 ‘The Norwich minister Samuel Gardiner envisaged the dead ‘sleep[ing] supinely in their lockers, careless and senseless of secular affaires’’, Marshall, ‘Beliefs and the dead in Reformation England’, p. 213 (2002)
 Pool, ‘Against returning to Egypt: Exposing and Resisting Credalism in the Southern Baptist Convention’, p. 134 (1998)
 Knight, ‘A brief history of Seventh-Day Adventists’, pp. 42-43 (1999)
 ‘The acceptance of organic evolution had helped theology by opening up the possibility of extending the process beyond death but had created a difficult at the beginning. The usual assumption has been that animals are mortal, men immortal. At what point then in the evolutionary process did immortality enter?’, ‘A Letter From Roland Bainton On Immortality’, Church & Williams (eds.), ‘Continuity and discontinuity in church history: essays presented to George Huntson Williams’, p. 393 (1979)
 ‘The doctrine of conditional immortality is becoming popular, especially among Christian thinkers.’, Radhakrishnan, ‘An Idealist View of Life; being the Hibbert lectures for 1929.’, p. 283 (2nd ed. 1947)
 ‘For the past century there has been a battle for the traditional doctrine of Hell.’, Spencer, ‘The Destruction of Hell: Annihilationism Examined’, Christian Apologetics Journal (1.1.1), 1992
 ‘In the twentieth century, Church Missionary Society missionary Harold Guillebaud defended annihilationism in The Righteous Judge in 1941, which was privately printed in 1961. Basil F.C. Atkinson, a prominent evangelical apologist and leader in Cambridge University’s Inter-Collegiate Christian Union and Inter-Varsity Fellowship, taught annihilationism to his students and later had his book Life and Immortality privately printed (1962). His leadership influenced several up-and-coming evangelical annihilationists (e.g., John Wenham, Robert Brow, and possibly others).’, Morgan & Peterson, ‘Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment’, pp. 197-198 (2004)
 'But the year 1974 serves as a benchmark in the debate over annihilationism in evangelical history. That year evangelical publisher InterVarsity Press published John Wenham’s The Goodness of God (later titled The Enigma of Evil), in which Wenham questioned the historic view of endless punishment and proposed annihilationism. ', ibid., pp. 198-199
 ‘Annihilationist ideas have been canvassed among evangelicals for more than a century, 2 but they never became part of the mainstream of evangelical faith, 3 nor have they been widely discussed in the evangelical camp until recently.’, Packer, ‘Evangelical Annihilationism In Review’, Reformation and Revival (6.2.37-38), 1997
 ‘Also in 1974, InterVarsity Press published Stephen Travis’s The Jesus Hope, in which he questioned whether annihilationism might be the better alternative. Two years later Christianity Today included an article by Edward Fudge defending annihilationism called “Putting Hell in Its Place.” Fudge’s thorough book on the subject came out in 1982, and was an alternative selection of the Evangelical Book Club. In 1987, Christianity Today allowed Clark Pinnock to declare his belief in annihilationism in a short article entitled “Fire, Then Nothing.”’, ibid., pp. 198-199
 ‘The overall concept of annihilation has recently received renewed interest, exposition, and defense from somewhat surprising sources. In the past decade a number of rather prominent evangelical theologians and leaders have affirmed they are annihilationists. Among these are Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Clark Pinnock, John R. W. Stott, Stephen Travis, and John Wenham.’, Erickson, ‘Is Hell Forever?’, Bibliotheca Sacra (152.606.260), 1996
 ‘Responding to criticisms of the doctrine of hell made during the modern period, a number of evangelical scholars have developed the doctrine of ''conditional immortality.’’’, McGrath, ‘Christian Theology: an introduction’, p. 478 (2006)
 ‘In its place, a growing number of scholars, evangelical and non-evangelical alike, have embraced a view of the destiny of the unbeliever called annihilationism or conditional immortality.’, Spencer, ‘The Destruction of Hell: Annihilationism Examined’, Christian Apologetics Journal (1.1.1), 1992
 ‘Of the books that espouse annihilationism, the four best have been written during this century. Anglican missionary-translator Harold E. Guillebaud completed The Righteous Judge: A Study of the Biblical Doctrine of Everlasting Punishment shortly before his death in 1941. In the late 1960s Basil Atkinson, under-librarian in the Cambridge University library, penned Life and Immortality: An Examination of the Nature and Meaning of Life and Death as They Are Revealed in the Scriptures. Seventh-Day Adventist historical theologian LeRoy Edwin Froom’s massive two-volume work, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, was published in 1965–66. Edward Fudge, an attorney and Churches of Christ layman, produced The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of Final Punishment in 1982.’, Peterson, ‘A Traditionalist Response To John Stott’s Arguments For Annihilationism’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (37.4.551), 1994
 ‘Semipopular books reaffirming the reality and endlessness of hell began to flow: Ajith Fernando, Crucial Questions About Hell (1991); 13 Eryl Davies, An Angry God? (1991); 14 Larry Dixon, The Other Side of the Good News (1992); 15 William Crockett, John Walvoord, Zachary Hayes and Clark Pinnock, Four Views on Hell (1992); 16 David Pawson, The Road to Hell (1992); 17 John Blanchard, Whatever Happened to Hell? (1993); 18 David George Moore, The Battle for Hell: A Survey and Evaluation of Evangelicals’ Growing Attraction to the Doctrine of Annihilationism (1995); 19 Robert A. Peterson, Hell on Trial: The Case for Eternal Punishment (1995). 20 All these books argue more or less elaborately against annihilationism. The debate continues.’, Packer, ‘Evangelical Annihilationism In Review’, Reformation and Revival (6.2.39), 1997
 ‘Recently two works have stood out in offering a rationale for conditionalism. The first is David Powys’s massive monograh ‘Hell’: A Hard Look at a Hard Question. Tony Gray commended it as “the strongest and most articulate defense of the conditionalist position written thus far.” Published in Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs, this slightly revised version of Powys’s doctoral dissertation strives to interpret all relevant New Testament passages on hell according to their thought worlds. Particular attention is given to Old Testament passages and traditions, the culture and thought of Palestine, and to some extent the culture of the wider Greco-Roman world. Powys’s goal is to focus on the biblical teaching because he recognizes that “the great majority of modern positions on the fate of the unrighteous may be classified and largely explicated in terms of presuppositionally-determined reactions against ‘traditional orthodoxy.’” Powys’s primary contribution lies in his breadth of coverage and attempt at serious biblical exegesis.’, Morgan & Peterson, ‘Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment’, pp. 199-200 (2004)
 Meyers, ‘A friendly letter to skeptics and atheists: musings on why God is
good and faith isn’t evil’, pp. 26-32 (2008)
 Jeeves, ‘Whatever Became of the Soul?’, in Stannard (ed.), ‘God for the 21st century’, pp. 131-133 (2000)
 Snobelen, ‘Religion and the Mind Sciences’, teaching notes for units HSTC 3201/CTMP 3201/RELS 3201 (2010)
 Polkinghorne, ‘More Than a Body’, in Stannard (ed.), ‘God for the 21st century’, p. 136 (2000)