A vision of paradise that is anything but that — to the average observer, anyway. However, some people in fiction have built their religion around an idea of paradise that might seem a little... off to outsiders (to say nothing about some people in reality).
Not all shady cults and religious nuts belong in this category. If someone believes the god they are trying to summon is going to bring on a new era of hugs and puppies, only to discover to their horror that all it does is unleash mayhem and rain of fire upon the world, it's not this trope. However, if the person knows from the start that their god is going to bring mayhem and rain of fire in its wake, but sincerely sees this as the epitome of ultimate bliss, then you have an Infernal Paradise.
Most instances of Warrior Heaven are this for non-warrior cultures (who may mistake it for Hell Is War). Contrast A Hell of a Time and Hell of a Heaven. Subtrope of Esoteric Happy Ending. Not to be confused with This Isn't Heaven, which is when something that seems Heavenly turns out to be a twisted form of Hell.
- Isla Yura of PandoraHearts and his Brainwashed and Crazy religious cult attempt to bring the world into the Abyss by recreating the Tragedy of Sablier at Oz's second coming-of-age party. However, while the cult members truly believe that the Abyss really is a paradise of golden light, Yura knew the truth all along and is only attempting it For the Evulz.
- In Secret Six, Catman's parents are both dead, and he meets them both on a visit to hell—his abusive father chained up, and his mother a lioness. When he questions Etrigan about why his mother isn't in heaven, Etrigan states that one chooses their heaven, and his mother's heaven is being his father's tormentor in hell.
- In Supreme, Daxia is a pocket dimension where all the various iterations of Darius Dax, the most evil human being in the universe, go after their reality is "revised". It's a Wretched Hive of endless night, crime, violence and death. It's so terrible, that an actual Nazi is just one more face in the crowd. And they love every second of it. When the latest Dax arrives, he actually weeps with joy.
- Crossed: Beauregard Salt, a Serial Killer so monstrous that the virus that transformed mankind into rage-fueled predatory psychopaths couldn't make him any worse than he already was — the man didn't even notice that he got infected — sees the Crossed-ravaged world as paradise. Not only did Salt become a Dark Messiah to the infected, he also enacted a century-spanning plan for them to follow in order to make this paradise last forever.
- An example in With Strings Attached is the continent of Baravada, which used to be swarming with monsters and the conquering reptilian Tayhil. However, the skahs warriors wiped them out 25 years ago. Unfortunately, the skahs were, and still are, so addicted to adventure and combat that their now essentially utopian, danger-free world is a dystopia for them. Brox is working to return monsters to the continent to restore their combat utopia. The Actual Pacifist four, who much prefer things as they are, are not pleased when they inadvertently provide Brox with the means to do this, though they manage to spoil these plans in the end.
- The Cenobites' dimension in Hellraiser. A dimension where pain and pleasure are synonymous. They even lampshade it themselves, like when Pinhead describes himself and the other Cenobites as "Angels to some, demons to others." In fact they are usually summoned by someone "seeking the pleasures of heaven or hell, it doesn't matter which". They tend to change their mind about how much like a paradise that sounds after a couple of decades.
- Depending on where they fall in science marching on, Speculative Fiction stories might feature the hellish surface of Venus this way for their Venusians.
- At least one Speculative Fiction story ("Desertion") does this for the surface of Jupiter. In this story, people turn themselves into native lifeforms to explore inhospitable worlds and it works great until people stop coming back from exploring Jupiter. The hero heads out to see for himself where everyone has been going and it turns out that being a Jovian rocks so hard that their explorers don't want to come back.
- In the satirical short story "Heavens Below - Sixteen Utopias" by John Sladek, one of the Utopias is a family picnic in a garbage dump, with the family eating the garbage as if it was a heavenly feast.
- In one of his short stories, Mark Twain deliberately invokes this: the protagonist finds himself in the heaven of an alien race, which is full of beer, women, and song. He is horrified — he wanted to go to Fluffy Cloud Heaven. He and the aliens each see the other's idea of heaven as this trope.
- In Letters From the Earth, Twain's Satan writes back to the other Archangels about how crazy Man's heaven is, clearly portraying it as an infernal paradise. It consists of an incredibly boring endless praise service for the Abrahamic god (as opposed to the Creator Satan and the other Archangels actually served). Here, everyone sings even though most of us are terrible at it, everyone is in an endless prayer service though most humans view church as a terrible chore, everyone has to play music though most of us are bad at it, no one can exercise their intellect though all humans long to, and worst of all, no sex.
- In The Wheel of Time, most of the Darkfriends, Black Ajah and even the Forsaken are following the Dark One because of the "promised rewards" they think they'll get once the Dark One takes over (you know, power, getting to rule the world, etc.). Ishamael seems to be the only one who serves the Dark One knowing that once the Dark One gets out of his prison and takes over the world, he will destroy the world and everyone in it.
- In Heaven by Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, planets having been assimilated by the religion of Cosmic Unity have been turned into "Heavens". These look extremely squicky to outsiders, because every — still living — inhabitant has been disassembled and their parts blended together for ease of storage, so that you get rivers of blood and the like. However, the combinations of parts that make up individuals are still being kept track of and their minds exist as wholes within a paradise-like virtual world. Nevertheless, it's ultimately presented as not such a terrific way to be.
- "A Song for Lya" by George R. R. Martin presents an alien world where the locals, the shkeen, live in medieval squalor, with no advancement of any sort for thousands of years. They also host disgusting parasites called "greeshka" which shorten their lives and retard their intellects. However, when "Joined" beings die, their minds are preserved in a psychic union which is so pleasant that just the telepathic spill-over to the living Joined is enough to make them indifferent to achievement and personal hygiene; they join this "Union" by going into a network of caves outside their sacred city, finding a giant greeshka, lying down on it and waiting for it to consume them. The bad part is presented as being the shkeen belief that anyone who does not die in the Union is utterly alone. A psychic couple, Rob (the narrator) and Lya (for whom the story is named), are summoned to the planet to find out why the religion is starting to get numerous human converts, and they discover that each of the "Joined" are truly happy and love everyone, even total strangers, as strongly as a married couple would love each other. This convinces Lya to join their cult and put herself on the fast track to Union. Her psychic calls to Rob to join her in the Union are waved off by the planetary administrator as being some kind of "psy-lure" but it's left ambiguous.
- From William Blake's illustrated novella, The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell:
As I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity. I collected some of their Proverbs: thinking that as the sayings used in a nation, mark its character, so the Proverbs of Hell, shew the nature of Infernal wisdom better than any description of buildings or garments.
- A mild example from the Heralds of Valdemar series. The Karsite description of Heaven is open, grassy plains with lots of sunshine, where the followers of Vkandis can sing his praises continuously. The Tayledras mage Firesong points out that this sounds spectacularly boring, to which Karal, the priest telling him about this, points out that the original prophets and followers of Vkandis were shepherds eking out a living on gloomy, rainy and rocky mountainsides, to which the Karsite heaven would be considered a vast improvement.
- In one of C. S. Lewis' non-fiction books, he speculates on the possibility of earthly animals existing in the afterlife, and the theological conundrums in either answer to the question. He doesn't reach a clear conclusion, but he jokes that Heaven for mosquitoes and Hell for humans might well be the same place.
- Johannes Cabal: The titular Immortality Seeker claims that God is so obsessed with order that He inflicts Death of Personality on all souls in Heaven. A believer is greatly put out to hear it, but doesn't have a response.
Johannes: That's what the Heavenly Host is, countless thousands of bars of light, souls burning, all the same. Your personality lost forever.
- "Rautavaara's Case" by Philip K. Dick. The titular character is a technician nearly killed by an accident in space and recovered by a rescue team from Proxima Centauri. Her body is beyond repair but the Proximans put Rautavaara's mind on life-support, effectively making her a Brain in a Jar in her dying moments. Sufficiently Advanced Technology allows them an experimental glimpse of what her soul is experiencing as it moves on: Jesus Christ welcoming her and her Christian shipmates. The Proximans then offer to make a few "improvements" to this passage to the afterlife, based on their own religious ideals. At their stimulation, Jesus bites into the crew and devours them. The Proximans (or "Approximations") are Energy Beings who consider the Christian ritual of consuming God's flesh and blood utter blasphemy. Instead, they believe the ultimate bliss is to be eaten by God. Despite Rautavaara's horror, they insist they are doing her a favor. This "experiment" causes a diplomatic rift between them and Earth.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel:
- Several vampire / demon cults, such as the Order of Aurelius, desire to bring about Hell on Earth by releasing the Old Ones. This seems particularly nonsensical for vampires, who require mortals to feed on to survive. It's probable they think they'll be rewarded in the new order, which given the capacity for gratitude the Old One seen in the series demonstrated towards its summoner (i.e. not making any attempt to save him when he was killed, nor caring that he was) seems unlikely. It doesn't even appear to be a trait of the transformation, because when Angelus met The Master and learned that he considered the purpose of vampires to be worshipping the Old Ones, ceasing only to feed, he promptly decided Screw This, I'm Outta Here!.
- Lampshaded and Subverted when Spike decided to help the good guys save the world, because:
Spike: We like to talk big, vampires do. 'I'm going to destroy the world.' It's just tough guy talk - strut round with your friends over a pint of blood. The truth is I like this world. You've got dog racing, Manchester United, and you've got people - billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs. It's all right here.
- Funnily enough, he was saving the world from Angelus, who had the conversation below shortly after he was turned. Either the centuries brought him around, or he took the whole soul incident pretty hard.
The Master: Awaiting that promised day when we will arise, ARISE, and lay waste to the world above.
Angelus: Why'd you wanna do that?
The Master: Huh?
Angelus: Well, I mean... have you been above lately? It's quite nice.
- Supernatural : Heaven is basically The Nothing After Death combined with the Lotus-Eater Machine and The Matrix. With a bunch of crazy angels on the sidelines.
- Though averted in that when Sam and Dean meet people they knew who had died, those people were all very happy with their current situation. Even one of them who died pissed off at angels was very happy with heaven.
- Eben Brooks' Hey There Cthulhu, a parody of Hey There Delilah, features a cultist of Cthulhu who longs to bring the dark god to his world, fully aware of what will happen next.
- A joke that's appeared in everything from Bizarro to Non Sequitur: "Dog heaven is where the bad squirrels (or cats, in some versions) go."
- Gary Larson also postulated that Dog Heaven is Mailman Hell.
- Call of Cthulhu. Cthulhu Mythos cultists know that if the Mythos deities are let loose in the world it will lead to Hell on Earth, but they try to bring it about anyway because they're totally insane so hell on earth sounds wonderful to them.
- In Warhammer 40,000, there is a tale of a full battalion of soldiers who wandered into the Eye of Terror and landed on a planet ruled by Khorne. Now they are cursed to fight the planet's daemons to the death, only to be revived every day. Those guys happen to be Orks, so they consider it Warrior Heaven.
- The Fall of the Eldar was caused by the Eldar being so depraved on a racial level that it birthed an entire new Chaos God. Slaanesh, prince(ss) of excess, who now delights in consuming the souls of the Eldar, and whose followers inflict physical and mental sensation on each other and their enemies (pleasure and pain, but mostly pain). It turns out some of the Eldar were actually working towards this happening, as they were hoping to create a never-ending source of physical sensation. They got their wish.
- In Magic: The Gathering one of the major factions of the white mana New Phyrexians believe in the "Flesh Singularity"; when all life has been sutured and woven and riveted into a single amalgamation of flesh and metal. Only in this way can they achieve perfect unity.
- White Wolf's Old World of Darkness setting.
- Mage: The Ascension. The Nephandi have a thing of willingly wanting to bring destruction to the world, and in the case of Malfeans, want to help the Wyrm turn it into an eternal, rotting hell, similarly to their Black Spiral Dancer counterparts
- As mentioned above, the Black Spiral Dancers. They believe that the Wyrm was driven mad by being trapped in the warp and weft of reality by the Weaver (technically correct), and thus the best way to serve the Wyrm is to spread enough corruption and decay that the bonds loose and their (now completely batshit) lord and master can get loose. Whereas Gaian werewolves have sacred places that are effectively glades and oases, Black Spiral Dancers like to commune in toxic waste pits.
- Signature character of Vampire: The Masquerade, Sascha Vykos has a similar goal to this, wanting to create a 'vampiric utopia' out of the flesh and bones of thousands of people. Hilariously, he got the idea from his batshit insane teacher, Michael. Fortunately for, well, everyone, Sascha really is no closer to achieving this goal.
- Exalted has the whole hierarchy of death (the Neverborn, their Deathlord servants, and the Abyssal Exalted) directed to follow the idea that the complete Cessation of Existence that would come about by feeding all of Creation into Oblivion would bring about eternal peace and bliss. This is mainly because the Neverborn themselves have been dealing with flesh-eating bacteria of the soul for millennia on end, and can't pass on as long as Creation exists to fetter them to it. And even then, many of their Deathlord servants are in it for their own ends, with only three really preaching the blessed peace of Oblivion.
- This is also a strong theme of Cecelyne, the Endless Desert, one of the Yozis, and thus passes on to her Infernal charges via her Charm set. As she wants those who follow her to be priests of a gospel of the strong over the weak, many of her Charms rely around the creation of holy lands (by inflicting desolation on an area) and the production of manna from heaven (in the form of delicious locusts that will turn anyone who eats enough of them into a creature of darkness).
- Some of the Outer Planes in Dungeons & Dragons (where souls go after death) can be like this, since there is at least one for every Character Alignment (and they are accessible by mortals through Plane Shift and similar spells). The Heroic Domain of Ysgard probably isn't everyone's cup of tea, being basically a giant battlefield where everyone fights endlessly, only to come back to life every day. The Norse would have loved it. Olidammara's realm is an eternal party filled with wine, women, and song, but probably wouldn't appeal to a straitlaced paladin very much. Elysium is so pleasant that it's impossible not to feel good while you are there...but you will eventually lose your memories, and many would rather avoid that.
- Even some of the bad afterlives are acceptable to their inhabitants. Kobolds are the Butt Monkeys of the universe, and their afterlife (assuming they worship the evil Kurtulmak) would seem to reflect this; they are packed in like sardines in a giant hot cave, with little room to move, which would be an And I Must Scream eternal fate for most. The kobolds like it fine, however; they are safe and never hungry, which is better treatment than most of them got while alive.
- Planescape's Beastlands could definitely fit this bill, despite being considered Neutral Good. The dead are reincarnated as animals and "nature red in tooth and claw" is exaggerated for Black Comedy. The reborn animals retain their sapience. Anyone want to sign up for the life of a sapient rabbit or other prey animal just waiting for some other intelligent being to hunt you down for dinner?
- A common theological question raised amongst D&D fans is "why would anyone in this setting be evil when the Outer Planes where evil souls go are so uniformly unpleasant?" The inevitable answer to this question is one part this trope, and one part pointing out that most consciously evil individuals are so arrogant that they expect that they'll get special treatment upon death, rather than ending up at the bottom of the infernal Food Chain of Evil, while others either don't see themselves as evil in the first place or are simply too short sighted to worry about the afterlife in the first place. Of course, many evil doers simply try to cheat death by becoming immortal or attaining godhood, while others actively worship dark gods and fiends in return for favourable treatment in this life and the next.
- Played around with in Demon: The Descent. All demons are looking to achieve their Infernal Paradise, their personal Hell, as part of their end-goal, but what that actually is varies between demons, and some are particularly surprising. For example, there are demons who seek a Suburban Hell, which is literally nothing more than settling down to a nice, quiet, normal human life with family and friends somewhere.
- Perhaps the closest examples of this are the Colonial Power and Hellscape paths for Hell-seekers presented in the Demon Storyteller's Guide. Colonists want to escape the God-Machine by seeking refuge elsewhere, to the point of trying to found colonies in defunct timelines, alien worlds and the setting's various Dark Worlds. The Devils, on the other hand, want something similar to the Colonists, but deliberately stylized to resemble more classic depictions of hell — as in, stocked with not only loyal servitor-monsters, but also damned enemies suffering in endless torment for the Devil's amusement and pleasure. Other demons almost invariably turn on Devils once they realize what the Devil's Hell actually entails.
- Crazy cultist Claudia in Silent Hill 3 is convinced that the deformed monsters, bleeding walls, rusting landscape and all the other lovely things the Dark World has to offer are a beautiful example of God's love and the wonderful paradise she's building. Vincent responds with the above quote. Word of God has said that everyone's vision of Otherworld is different, and the player only ever sees it through the main character's eyes. It's likely that Claudia, at least up until that point, really was seeing paradise. Which, if you think about it, is actually kind of sad. An Alternative Character Interpretation is that she was seeing exactly what Vincent was seeing. It's just a matter of conditioning; since Claudia was brought up as part of the Cult, her worldview is so alien that she genuinely does see the resultant Dark World as paradise despite its hideousness, because that's what she's been conditioned to believe.
- The Mana cult in Siren has an unique take on the whole ever-lasting life thing. Not everybody involved knows just how sinister their religion actually is, but the various religious objects you can collect in the game still paint a rather creepy image of the paradise these people yearn for.
- The demons from Disgaea would have you believe that their worlds are like this. Given that the cinemas describe seas of sulfur, hordes of terrible monsters and Home-Ec classrooms that you may never return from, they might have a point.
- A more subtle example: as part of a deal with The One King, Valfred and his followers in Suikoden Tierkreis aren't erased from existence when the One King is summoned, instead living in the "one true world" of perfect order. The heroes actually get to see this world, and it's a "Groundhog Day" Loop of each person's perfect day. But that's not this trope. What's this trope is when they realize that their memories don't match, and they can't all have lived the same day. Then they see this "paradise" from the outside, as those in it blindly wander through the ruins of the normal world, hallucinating the presence of their friends and family. And Valfred knew it was all an illusion—he simply could not let go of the family he lost, and he was willing to sacrifice everything and everyone for their imaginary resurrection.
- Geist. The main antagonist describes his plans involve blotting out the Sun, boiling the sea, and setting fire to the landscapes, turning it into a "paradise".
- The Mythic Dawn's afterlife in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is called "Paradise" but is actually quite hellish for the formerly human residents. A few of them do seem to like it there; most don't.
- A point of conflict among certain werewolves in Skyrim is that, because of their wolf-spirit, they are destined for Hircine's hunting grounds when they die instead of the Valhalla-esque Nord afterlife of Sovngarde. A few are looking for a cure to fix this, while others count it as a benefit and go willingly.
- Turgor's Void is a bleak, purgatory-like realm on the brink of destruction. The Brothers call it their heaven, and not unjustly so, given that they come from the Nightmare, an even more hellish world. On a grander scale, every Limit is heaven to the ones below it and hell to the ones above it; were there any Limits below the Nightmare save Absolute Death, the Nightmare would seem like heaven to them.
- The Twilight's Hammer cult in World of Warcraft is all over this.
- In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, the titular order's true agenda is to bring about "mankind's greatest wish": the reign on earth of Count Dracula. Ecclesia's leader, Barlowe, 'reasons' that since Dracula draws his power from the evil of men's hearts, and he continues to resurrect time and again, humanity clearly desires his presence.
- Shin Megami Tensei: No matter which utopia you get humans do NOT have it easy. On the one hand you have Chaos, which has as its ideal world one where the strong do whatever they want no matter how horrible with no laws or organizations to stop them and the weak are constantly preyed upon. The alternative of a Law utopia? Well, the strong in society wouldn't be allowed to do anything like that to the weak. Because God is going to be the strongest, morally ambiguous at the best of times and usually doesn't tolerate any dissent or strife...
- The Third Option in the original game is to screw both sides and create a more balanced, humane society in which people have freedom, but with restrictions to protect the weak and rein in the strong, and in which different philosophies and both humans and demons are allowed to coexist... but canonically, both the Chaos and Law sides exploit the freedom, fairness, and permissiveness of this society to undermine it and enact their own "utopia," with Law ultimately winning out and creating the society we see in Shin Megami Tensei II
- The Sithrak cult from Oglaf are eager to tell you that Sithrak will torture your soul for all eternity, but why not worship him anyway?
- Subverted — it turns out Sithrak is actually a pretty nice guy who was just an angsty teen when he wrote down the poetry they're taking as holy texts. The cult assumes he's toying with them and even more sadistic and cunning than they imagined.
- Sacrimony: Every soul is sentenced to an afterlife based on the virtue or vice they exhibited the most; good souls go to districts in Dawn to be rewarded, bad souls go to penal colonies in Dusk to be tortured. This would be okay except good souls in one district are forcefully banned from visiting their families in other districts, let alone their less than perfect families in Dusk. The god in charge of judging spirits sees the majority as deranged, and treats all souls as convicts to be sentenced to reward or punishment, forcing good souls where they see fit even if the souls want to comfort their family in hell. This is exactly as screwed up as it sounds, AND the district of the Loyal is in complete shambles: a desert city filled with crumbling buildings, disfigured effigies, and lots of sand in the face. Most in the Loyal district become agitated and angry from their pitiful reward, and being separated from their family and ancestors by law doesn't help things. Meanwhile, The Fundamentalist group spends their days doing nothing but endless prayer to broken statues and silent gods, content with daily life and convinced that true heaven requires further obedience, abusing any who show signs of rebellion. As stated by the ruler of the Loyal district (who has become a massive dick from being imprisoned in a gilded cage for far too long):
Siphram: Ankhiel and Dawn are full of lies. They lure you in with the promise of a grand reward, but you never truly get the reward you wanted. You will never see your loved ones ever again and you will wander lonely, eternal and aimless. A golden kingdom is nothing without the ones you wish to share it with.
- If the Church of the Broken God of the SCP Foundation universe ever manages to reunite all the pieces of their "god", the result will most likely be everything on Earth (including the Earth itself) turning into clockwork.
- More Communist than the Communists by Darkmatter2525, which compares Heaven to Communist regimes.
- The Salvation War: Heaven is portrayed as an okay place...if you're an angel living in one of those homes made of jewels. If you're a human who has been totally and blindly faithful, you get the ideal standard of living in the Middle Ages: becoming a serf to an angel, where no bandit will steal your crops, but you will be forced into working for a demon Then there's the concentration camp that Michael establishes.
- South Park: Elder Garth from the synagogue of Anti-Semites, who wants to defeat Moses and bring forth the age of Haman.
Pete: I thought that when Cthulhu rose from the dead all was gonna be darkness and pain. I thought at least school would be canceled!
- This is how the Goth Kids saw their worship of Cthulhu. They grow disillusioned when things more or less go on like normal, despite the Dark God teaming up with Cartman to destroy hippies and synagogues around the world.
- The Saga of Biorn: the protagonist seeks honorable death to gain entrance to Valhalla, however he makes the mistake of helping a convent of Christian nuns...
- Heaven for Viking men was an endless cycle of fighting battles, followed by drinking mead taken from the udder of a magical goat that heals all wounds. After a night of feasting, the men would battle all day once again. It was expected that all Vikings should think that constant battle and feasting is just awesome.
- Many atheists see monotheistic / Abrahamic depictions of Heaven as this, since they'd be forced to spend eternity with a group of devoutly religious people. Or in regards to some scriptural depictions of heaven, like spending all of eternity singing repetitive praises to God while living with the knowledge that many many people, most likely including loved ones are suffering forever in Hell. Worse, some Christians like Thomas Aquinas have said watching the damned be tormented will be entertainment for them in Heaven.
- Some Christians believe that Revelation 21:4 means that God will provide divine comfort to those whose loved ones will not be joining them in Heaven.