I was just thinking about this the other day when I was discussing Bleach with a friend. He hasn't read Bleach yet and I was trying to describe some thing to him, including Soul Society. When I told him that departed souls are brought there, he asked "so it's Heaven?" And I wasn't sure how to respond. There's a Hell in the Bleach universe, sure, but is Soul Society really heaven?
I basically told him "I'll get back to you" because I didn't know what to say. When you think about it, Soul Society would make for a really crappy heaven. There's poverty, for Chrissake! Rangiku came close to dying of starvation in Soul Society... why would someone in heaven be at risk for dying of starvation? Furthermore, Ikkaku said before his fight with Choe Neng Poww that the shinigami don't have a god that they look up to, which also doesn't match up with Soul Society being heaven.
Then again, the idea that Soul Society isn't heaven leaves an obvious question: what is? Assuming it's not Soul Society, heaven has never been mentioned or referrenced at all in Bleach, and considering that many of the main characters are in the business of handling souls and their succesful journey to and from various worlds, you'd think that heaven would've come into play at some point.
So what's your opinion? And explanations, if you have any. Is Soul Society a "heaven" in the Bleach universe? I might be misunderstanding the entire structure of Soul Society as a whole; maybe it's a cultural thing that it is the way it is? I still want to know your thoughts on this, though.