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Answered 2013-03-01 15:14:27

"Pie in the Sky " means a reward that comes after death. It refers to the Church's promise of an eternal, catered party in Heaven, but only if we submit quietly to the malnourishment it allows on Earth. The phrase was coined by Joe Hill in 1902, in his song The Preacher and the Slave, a parody of the Salvation Army hymn In the Sweet Bye and Bye. The chorus goes:

You will eat, bye and bye/ In that glorious land above the sky;/ Work and pray, live on hay/You'll get pie in the sky when you die.

The phrase wasn't taken up until the Second World War, when it began to be used figuratively to refer to any prospect of future happiness which was unlikely ever to be realized. For example, this report from the California newspaper The Fresno Bee, November 1939:

"The business world is fearful that Roosevelt's obsession with war problems will mean a continued neglect of questions which still restrict trade and profits. They are highly skeptical of Washington's promise that they will 'eat pie in the sky' solely from war orders, which they decry publicly.
Some people confuse this phrase with the idiom "building castles in the air ( or in Spain)", referring to unrealistic plans or hopes.
Pie in the sky is a pipe dream - a very unrealistic wish, dream or desire.

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