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Heaven or Hell

There are lots of different types of believers in the Abrahamic God and they all have different reason for why they believe. But at the end of the day, whenever they are advocating for belief it almost always comes down to the carrot and the stick. Belief basically amounts to a threat of eternal torture or a bribe of eternal bliss.

Fundamentalists tend to focus on the threat of torture so much that there really is nothing more to be said. That tends to be their first and usually only line of argument. But more mainstream and progressive believers, the lure of eternal bliss has a much stronger appeal. This covers the arguments of what happens when we die, purpose, revelation, etc.

Either way, believers in both camps tend to focus on the after life rather than on this life. Even when a believer does talk about how their belief has changed their life… while they are still alive it is almost always in the context of giving them direction to get to the blissful Heaven or scare them straight away from the torturous Hell.

This is a real difference compared to Humanism. We have no threats, no bribes. Why believe in a god, just be good for goodness sake. The focus is on reality and our common desire to live a good life and to help others live a good life. If you don’t, you will not be tortured for all eternity. The only bribe here is that you live a life that you can be proud of and that others can be proud of you for living.

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  • http://www.travisjmorgan.com Travis Morgan

    What constitutes as a “good life” and why must we try to live a “good” life? It almost seems needlessly hedonistic which I myself cannot justify. Must one’s life be good and/or meaningful? Not necessarily. I guess, for me, I try to live a clear life, one that is close to reality as can possibly be attained through perceptions and experiences. My life doesn’t have to be necessarily good, but at least real. There are no “ought to’s”, there is only “what is.” and that is how I live. And it is not like I have a choice anyways, I am moved by causality.

    As far as believers with there threats and bribes, only fiction needs to be wrapped, packaged, and sold like such. Truth requires no such preparation and it is available to everyone as-is.

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    Well Travis, I think Aristotle made a great distinction between the good life vs. the pleasurable life. He also made a strong case for why the good life is desirable. More recently, Sam Harris’s new book makes the case. I am only on Chapter 2, but he had already addressed those points.

    While I agree with you that we are moved by causality, we still have the appearance of choice. We do make decisions in life, it is just that those decisions aren’t free decisions. They are influenced by causality.

  • http://www.travisjmorgan.com Travis Morgan

    So when you used “good life” in this article you used it with the same meaning as reflected in the first two chapters of Sam Harris’s recent book? I am only asking for clarification, because I am well aware of many others opinions on what constitutes as the good life but I was asking for yours. If it reflects Sam Harris’s first two chapters of his new book, then I guess I will have to read it to find out.

    That we have the “appearance” of choice adds no value to the reality that we have no choice. Again, I am more concerned with how things are, not so much with how they appear to be, or how we want them to be. People are attached to control, to free-will, heck, they will even settle for the illusion of being in control, they don’t care as long as they “feel” in control, despite that reality that they are not. I am sure you and I would not settle for the creationist claim that everything was created by a creator because to them, things have the “appearance” of having been created, why should we lower the standards for free-will, and accept it knowing it is nothing but an illusion. Of course, the answer is because we cannot do otherwise, we have been determined to cling to this illusion. It is more dominant then a belief in a god. Atheist don’t settle for the theist claim of the appearance of a god, but we, like all other men, DO settle for the appearance\illusion of free-will. I cannot bring myself to this, but again, it’s not like I have a choice in the matter.

    A man can surely do what he wills to do, but cannot determine what he wills

    - Arthur Schopenhauer

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    I guess by “good life” I am referring to the general idea of Sam Harris’s “Well-being,” and Aristotle’s view of “happiness.” But it is a general concept I am talking about.

    Travis, I am not sure if you are just the type of person who likes to over-analyze to the point of meaninglessness or whether you are genuinely trying to understand. But I think that the Schopenhauer quote really does hit the nail on the head of what I am referring to when I said “the appearance of free will.” We can make choices, it is just that those choices have been determined by factors related to nature and nurture. We are just not always aware of those factors when we make choices. This is not the same as saying that we are programed robots that follow a particular pattern. But that is a longer conversation for a different blog. I have written about it before so check the “categories” in the sidebar. —->

  • http://www.politicalopinionarticles.blogspot.com david

    That is because they have no life. Therefore must pray that whatever comes afterward is more rewarding, or pleasurable than what they have here. Only problem with that is that they make everybody else’s life here on earth as miserable as they possibly can before they move on to their reward.

  • MyForumDepot

    If you eliminated all religions that use heaven/hell/afterlife as a carrot or stick to encourage good behavior, say with a magic wand, how many of the former believers do you think would become criminals? In other words, how many people are kept in a good life by fear of hell or desire for heaven? Consider that most of those who do become criminals are not very bright, and could not figure out anything like secular humanism. Do you think your magic wand would bring 10,000 more murders a year? 100,000? Consider there are billions in the hell/heaven syndrome.