What the Hell?! Good Heavens!? By David Barrows, API

It is the Jewish New Year. On Rosh Hashanah, it is written on Yom Kippur it is sealed who will live and who will die. There is no consensus in the Jewish religion with respect to the existence of heaven or hell. Some believe in a forthcoming Messianic period. 

For other religions, the prospect of heaven or hell is imminent. The question then becomes who goes where, when, how, and why. For those who believe in reincarnation, the decision-making time frame appears to be immediate. Obviously, there is great drama and trepidation/ anticipation associated with this decision.

What are the numbers involved? The answer may surprise and shock you:

  • 117 billion human animals have existed on this planet 

That number appears to be inconceivable. Here is the source and methodology:  PBR, May 18, 2021, Toshiko Kaneda, Technical Director, and Demographic Research.

“Calculating the answer to the question “How many people have ever lived on Earth?” is complicated. To begin with, when we initially wrote this article back in 1995, “modern” Homo sapiens (that is, people who were roughly like we are now) were thought to have first walked the Earth around 50,000 B.C.E. Discoveries now suggest modern Homo sapiens existed much earlier, around 200,000 B.C.E. This major change in our understanding of human existence spurred new calculations and consultations with experts, resulting in an estimate that about 117 billion members of our species have ever been born on Earth.

How did we reach this number? Dudley Poston Jr., a prominent demographer at Texas A&M University, extended our original analysis to 190,000 B.C.E. and produced an estimate of around 8 billion births between 190,000 B.C.E. and 50,000 B.C.E. Taking Poston’s number into account; we came to our revised estimate of 117 billion people born since 190,000 B.C.E. We also estimate that by 2050 another 4 billion births will increase the number of people who have ever lived on Earth to about 121 billion.

To be sure, calculating the number of people who have ever lived is part science and part art. No demographic data exist for more than 99% of the span of human existence. Still, with some assumptions about population size throughout human history, we can get a rough idea of this number.

Any estimate of the total number of people who have ever lived depends essentially on three factors: the length of time that humans are thought to have been on Earth, the average size of the population at different periods, and the number of births per 1,000 population during each of those periods. The estimate, however, does not depend on the number of deaths during any period of time.

Determining when humankind actually came into existence isn’t straightforward. The oldest hominins are thought to have appeared as early as 7 million B.C.E. The earliest species of the Homo genus appeared around 2 million to 1.5 million B.C.E. Current evidence supports modern Homo sapiens appearing around 190,000 B.C.E. Modern Homo sapiens originated in Africa, though the exact location has long been debated. Diverse groups are thought to have lived in different locations across Africa for the first two-thirds of human history.

Around 8000 B.C.E., the world population was approximately 5 million. Slow population growth over the 8,000-year period—from an estimated 5 million in 8000 B.C.E. to 300 million in 1 C.E.—results in a very low growth rate of only 0.05% per year. It’s difficult to come up with an average world population size for this period. In all likelihood, human populations in different regions grew or declined in response to food availability, the variability of animal herds, periods of peace or hostility, and changing weather and climatic conditions.

In any case, life was short. Life expectancy at birth probably averaged only about 10 years for most of human history. The average life expectancy in Iron Age France (from 800 B.C.E. to about 100 C.E.) has been estimated at only 10 or 12 years. Under these conditions, the birth rate would have to be about 80 live births per 1,000 people just for the species to survive. To put that in perspective, a high birth rate today is about 35 to 45 live births per 1,000 population, and it is observed in only some sub-Saharan African countries.

These short life expectancies mean that the human population had a hard time increasing. One estimate of the population of the Roman Empire, spanning Spain to Asia Minor, in 14 C.E. is 45 million. Other historians, however, set the figure twice as high, suggesting how imprecise population estimates of early historical periods can be.”


That is a huge number to assess for such an important decision. Who goes to heaven or hell for all eternity? What about those to be recycled/ reincarnated?  This is not an impossible task for omnipotent Deities.

All of these decisions are taken in the context of a universe around 92 billion light-years in diameter. Perhaps there are other entities in such a vast array to assist in the process.

I have no idea; I am just asking.