Would humanity be better off if the promise of a heaven or hell or next life wasn’t a realistic possibility?
Would people make more of this life and their children lives and secondarily those around them?
Is eternal life really worth it? I for one get bored fast, can’t image doing something for eternity.
Would humanity be better off if the promise of a heaven or hell or next life wasn’t a realistic possibility?
You ask a great question. One of which I’m sure many people will answer in a variety of ways.
In regard to heaven and hell I believe it is beneficial in how people treat other people. For instance, typically in more religious/spiritual (particularly Christian) -based societies, they tend to put greater value of the individual — aka the human rights of that person.
Where as more collectivist / atheistic formed societies place a greater value on “population rights”, “community rights”, “nation rights” etc., rather than the individual.
This is because in that particular worldview, humans only about 70-some years while whole nations might live to be hundreds of years (or even thousands). So in that frame of mind humans, as an individual, aren’t regarded with especial importance in contrast.
However, in the more Christian idealogical societies, human beings are eternal creatures. They’re made “in the image of God”. So from the Christian perspective entire nations are but “dust in the wind” compared to an individual person, whose life is eternal, and whose value is significant.
The other reason why I think heaven and hell, are beneficial is the concept of “cosmic justice”. A person of faith will say “God sees what I’m doing, even if no one else sees. Therefore I will act with good behavior”… A person without this awareness or this “fear” may cheat on his science test, because he can get away it. Maybe he’ll try and steal that candy bar from the store… Or maybe it becomes much, much worse than that, and that person considers cheating on his wife, unbeknownst to her, or perhaps kills someone in a rage, and then hides the body.
In a world without heave or hell, or God, there is no “justice”. Genghis Khan lives and dies in just the same way as the most righteous person.
If there is no heaven and hell, would people as you say, “live to the fullest”…? Well it depends on how you define “fullest” and how you define “happiness”.
In the Gospel it says, “Jesus came so that those that belief in Him might have life… And have it more abundantly”. So in the Christian worldview it’s not just about heaven and hell (although that is a huge part of it). The more “abundant life” is following the teachings and ways of Jesus Christ, in THIS life. The more abundant life is “loving your neighbor as yourself”. The more abundant life is not in subjecting yourself to sin, and thus becoming a slave to it.
What about the severely depressed people. Would they live “life to the fullest” if they are convinced that there life has no meaning?
Hopefully I’ve answered some of your questions, Patrick.
This question goes right to my core. I have a severely depressed younger brother. He is just one year younger than me and has had a very similar life experience as I have had. We both went to Catholic school and have received the same 1960’s catechism. His beliefs are the completely opposite of mine, his are very close to Dante’s inferno. Really 1960’s Catholicism with all the guilt. sin, confession, Bless me father, stuff. Even his priest doesn’t know how he can be suck in 1960’s doctrine when the Church doctrine has changed so much. His beliefs provide no comfort to him. He is locked into his severely depressed world. Certainly he not living life to the fullest, instead living a life with no meaning, no purpose. It is very hard seeing him like that. He says he is going to hell because that is what he was told as a child. I poofed hell out of existence, his mind is living in it.
I’m very sorry to hear about your depressed brother, Patrick. It sounds like you two went through some traumatic experiences. I’m not Catholic, myself, so I’m not sure what growing up around Catholics are like — however I did attend a Catholic funeral once, and it was a somewhat awkward experience. The whole group would repeat everything the preacher said, word-for-word, after he said it… it sorta creeped me out.
The way I see it there are two ways the world views Christianity. There is the one side that sees Christianity as being portrayed by the Westboro Baptist Church, that go around with signs telling everyone how much God hates them, and God is going to send them to Hell. Then there’s the other side the see Christians going around telling them, “God loves you. Jesus has a plan for you.” etc.
There is no love or compassion on the side of WBC. No one is going to be convinced of God’s love is all you share is God’s supposed “hatred”. As I’ve heard, in analogy one time: “You can hit a dog over the head with a beef-steak, or you can lead that dog TO the beef-steak”… in other words you can beat someone over the head with a Bible… tell them they’re a sinner etc. But in Christianity there is no respect of persons. We are all sinners, and thus all have opportunity to go to heaven., through belief and through trust. Making mistakes, in this life. does not impede’s one path to heaven… it’s unrepentance that does that.
I know that you don’t believe, but simply for your brother’s sake, I wish he would have had a more fruitful, rather than harmful, experience in the faith. That he need not feel depressed nor discouraged and know that God has a plan for everybody… as is recorded many times in the Bible, God picks very flawed people to carry out his missions.
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My brother is an interesting case. We (family and mental health professionals) tried to find out if he was ever abused or traumatized as a child. No, not really. We both grew up in a normal" home, school and town. Everything he experienced as a child, I did also. But he always had a very fearful approach to life. Every situation was a struggle to him. Little decisions he would think about excessively. Should I do that or this. He would get everybody’s opinion, pray on it, reason it out, study it, contemplate the various outcomes. But every time, immediately after the decision is made, he knew it was the wrong decision. He knew he should have done it differently. How could he done that. He lived (and lives) life looking in the rear view mirror. He lives in the past. There is no present and no future, just the past.
It is no wonder you get bored quickly, You live in a superficial boring universe.
Wake up and enjoy…
I am. I am reading your book!
Depression is a mental illness. I think it’s sad that the church has a bad history of treating it as a spiritual problem and not acknowledging the biological pathology that is often involved. People don’t generally expect someone to get over cancer with prayer and will power and listening to uplifting music and reciting the proper Bible verses, but they have no problem doling out that level of unprofessional advice when it comes to any number of personality disorders, chemical imbalances, depression, and other situations of mental unhealthiness. I’m sorry about your brother.
I personally believe that “heaven” is a continuation of life on earth, but in a redeemed and restored creation. And “hell” is being denied the chance to participate in that New Creation. I think we will have all the things that make life meaningful; the production of culture, the enjoyment of relationships, the fulfillment that comes from meaningful work. So for me, heaven is not a promise of a paradise that makes putting up with a sucky life now worthwhile. It’s the vindication for and consummation of all the truly valuable things we have been pouring our hearts and lives into in this broken world.
You are right that sitting on clouds strumming harps for all eternity is nothing to look forward to.
Patrick, I am a ‘Cradle Catholic’ and was taught religion by nuns following the Baltimore Catchism. We may start out in life somewhat as a ‘blank slate’, but early experiences (and the lack of them) reinforce certain of the brain’s circuits and let other die of disuse. Furthermore each ‘blank slate’ is genetically disposed to respond to certain stimuli more strongly than others. So even with identical twins, the outcome is not totally identical. So is God playing dice with us? The kind of life each of us faces as an adult is not totally the result of our own good (or bad) behavior and our parents good (or bad) intentions. On being asked who was at fault for one man’s blindness since birth, Jesus replied that sometimes apparent evil has some good arising from it. That’s pretty weak consolation for the person who is suffering. But I have seen it happen. In fact in has shaped the last half of my life. It’s just not some ‘bit of wisdom’ one can easily pass on to those afflicted.
Amen to that, Christy!! Heaven to me is NOT the absence of problems. It is being given challenging, and worthwhile problems that have some realistic chance of being solved.
Do your kids appreciate the guidance and wisdom they are being exposed to? I hope so!
Thank you for the kind words. I can’t count the number of really good people with really strong Christian faith have tried to reach (help) my brother. But all have failed to get him to think positive about himself or positive about the future. The professional just label it as “failure to thrive”. I just can’t see it, a physically healthy man, educated, professional, two grown up beautiful daughters who feels he doesn’t have anything to live for. He is the judge, jailer, and jail of himself. As Christy says, it is a disease of the mind due to brain chemistry and purposeful wiring of synapses to relive the past ever more negatively time and time again. It is one of the saddest things to watch.
That is why I encourage you to “seize the day” everyday.
I like the way you think Christy! Many people have that “clouds and harp strings” idea of heaven. But it doesn’t make sense to me Christianity teaches people to be selfless and serve The Lord, enduring trials and tribulation. And when you finally accomplish that your reward is an eternity of being selfish and 100% pain free? Heaven comes down to Earth (according to Revelations). It’s not somewhere “out there” but it’s somewhere down here.
As it says in Luke, “the kingdom of God is within you.”
Ha! They appreciate my desserts and my mad skillz at doing character voices for bedtime read alouds.
I don’t think humanity would be better off without heaven or hell. Heaven or hell means that what we do now matters, not just for our lives now, but it echos into eternity. People that believe they are going to heaven don’t think that they are going to heaven based on what they do, or their own goodness, but based on God’s goodness and the fact that He died for us. So why does it matter how we live then? Because when you get to know God for who He TRULY is, you love Him and you want to please Him just as you want to do what pleases other people in your life that you love. But God also promises more rewards to those who obey Him apart from going to heaven. This is why you try to make the most of your life and to positively influence those around you. Eternal life really really is worth it and there will be nothing boring about eternity.
I certainly wish there wasn’t such a place as hell, that people could rather just cease to exist into nothingness as atheists believe, but God in His wisdom determined that it will not work that way and I believe He is perfectly just in all His ways. We have more than enough time and knowledge to decide for ourselves where we will spend eternity. The Bible states that all men are without excuse. One thing we will not be able to do is stand in front of God and say we didn’t know. The Bible also say that some people mockingly refer to the fact that Jesus didn’t return yet and that everything is just going on, cycle after cycle as usual, but the reason for this is so that more people can repent, since God does not want them to go to hell.
We have a choice, and choices have consequences. Here in South Africa, we often hear reports of people being senselessly murdered, in fact my aunt was shot while sleeping and they didn’t even steal anything. She just died without reason. They never caught the murderers, and I don’t believe they ever will. I certainly want justice in this situation. This is just the thing about hell…it is God’s justice against sin and evil. Looong preach, just my opinion
Thank you for your response. It is well thought out. Can I ask you a two questions?
Would it be okay for me to crash an airplane full of non-believers into a building full of non-believers if I honestly believed that God would approve and bring me to heaven moments after impact?
Would it be okay for me to crash an airplane full of believers into a building full of believers if I honestly believed that God would approve and bring us all to heaven moments after impact?
No to both questions. It would not be ok, and in both situations, the persons honestly believing that they are doing the right thing are deceived since you can be sincerely wrong. Flying planes into buildings for whatever reason doesn’t jel with who God is, or with the Bible.
Thank you. So I can be deceived by others (and my mind) into thinking what I am doing is right when it really is disastrously wrong. How do I know what is truth?
Your brother’s story is indeed a sad one. Whereas many non-believers say that faith is the problem of Christianity, his problem is a lack of faith, lack of faith in himself and lack of faith in God Who created him. He should know that even when he makes a “mistake.” God forgives him.
God loves him for who he is, not because he does not make mistakes. Humans are called to take chances knowing that they will make mistakes. They are called to live by faith, trying to do right, not because they will always succeed, but because caring and trying are what it is to be human.
From before you are right in not overthinking as he does, but you also seemed to advocate not thinking at all. You need an organized system of decision making where you make a decision and live with it. If it proves to be wrong, move on and learn from the experience.
I go to see him on Friday’s. I will print this out and show him that other people are thinking of him. Thanks for caring. Appreciate it.
btw. I practice a sort of non-thinking meditation. Sort of calming the mind by not thinking about anything. Not chasing random (mostly negative) thoughts. Stillness while fully aware and present.