Belief in the afterlife and some of its consequences

“It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.” – Bertrand Russell

In the United States, about 87% (according to a national poll) never question the existence of God. When asked whether they believed that Jesus was going to come back to Earth, 44% of Americans responded positively. Half of these people responded that they believed this event was going to happen within the next fifty years. These numbers are alarming, especially when found in the world’s most powerful country. Bush and his administration probably have similar beliefs about the fate of humanity.

One wonders what sort of effects the belief in the afterlife and the Rapture will have. In the Reagan administration, the destruction of the environment was aggressively encouraged because Reagan and his Secretary of the Interior, James G. Watt, both believed the Second Coming was imminent. James Watt said once, “My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns,” and, “We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber.” This and many other examples — which can be found in today’s administration — show that belief in the afterlife can cause people to perpetuate the utter destruction of our planet as they await their glorious Rapture.

Another threatening example is the situation in Israel where ultraconservative Jewish settlers, and Muslim extremists threaten to ignite a horrible denominational war. These and other numerous conflicts that have raged throughout the world spring from the immoral belief in the afterlife.

Aside from physical harm, belief in the afterlife causes much psychological harm. Crucial examples are the shameful dogmas preached to children about the sinfulness of sexuality, and the eternal torment that awaits anyone who breaks these dogmas. We will never know the extent of the psychological harm done by all the sexual neurosis, which has been spread for millenniums to innocent minds. What we can conclude is that issues of human suffering have been separated from issues of morality because of religious metaphysics.

Plainly, if a sizable group believes in preposterous religious dogmas about life beyond death, alarming consequences should be expected. The main danger about belief in an afterlife (also, the idea of a personal savior who was scapegoated for people’s wrongs) is that it provides no incentive to improve the world, while shifting the burden to the next generations. It perpetuates the needless suffering of the world’s inhabitants, while providing a fantastic paradisaical escape hatch (or comforting delusion) for all those culpable for this suffering. If we are to improve this world, we should loudly denounce this life-destroying dogma.


~ by jsacc001 on March 18, 2008.

One Response to “Belief in the afterlife and some of its consequences”

  1. What about those people whose belief in an afterlife spur their activism? I find that most people who are against religion fail to mention these Quakers, Gandhis, and other activists who also happened to be religious.

    Although I can’t refute that most Christians don’t care about the environment, the precepts of the New Testament teach me to care about people and to improve their situations in life by giving my time, my care, and my means. I don’t know how you can care about people without caring about the environment too. I also would argue that people who think that since they are “saved” they don’t have to do anything more for mankind, haven’t done too close a read of Jesus’ teachings. It makes me sad that people think of Christians as people unwilling to work, but there’s nothing I can do about that but set a different example.

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