Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Is heaven a bribe? C. S. Lewis on mercenary motives to do good

Is the only religious motive morality the fear of hell and the hope of heaven? Couldn't religion motivate someone to do what is right for other reasons, such as the desire to fulfill one's true purpose as a human being? 

“We are afraid that Heaven is a bribe, and that if we make it our goal we shall no longer be disinterested. It is not so. Heaven offers nothing that the mercenary soul can desire. It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man's love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by definition, seeks to enjoy its object.”


― C.S. LewisThe Problem of Pain

10 comments:

John Moore said...

Fear of heaven and the hope of hell? What kind of religion are you pushing here??

Jakub Moravčík said...

the fear of heaven and the hope of hell

Shouldn't it be writen vice versa?

Anyway, the situation is different in cases when hell exists and when it doesn't. Because if it exists, and if one sees as better for oneself not to be at all than to end up in hell (as me), then it's hard to be motivated by something else than by the absence of hell, especially if one lacks love for God.

oozzielionel said...

The descriptions of heaven that appeal to our baser desires can convert the promise of heaven into a bribe, but a false one. If "streets of gold" appeal to your greed, it is a bribe but one that may not pay out as your greed would wish. Instead, you may discover that the gold you lust for is transformed into mere pavement.(http://www.ahajokes.com/hea21.html)

Lewis' point is that only the pure of heart want to see God. He might now contrast that appeal to a multitude of virgins promised by others.

If heaven is more accurately described, I suspect that more would honestly refelect their true heart and fear heaven and hope for hell.

Ilíon said...

"If heaven is more accurately described, I suspect that more would honestly refelect their true heart and fear heaven and hope for hell."

The world is full of such folk already, who fear heaven/life and hope for hell/death (well, except for the self-honesty part); they are commonly called "atheists".

im-skeptical said...

The world is full of people who have the temerity to say that they know what heaven is like or what God thinks or wants.

Ilíon said...

Im-a-projectionist: "The world is full of people who have the temerity to say that they know what heaven is like or what God thinks or wants."

Overlooking the high humor of someone who has the temerity to continually insist that God is not, despite continually being shown wrong, faulting *anyone* for having the temerity to do what he doesn't want them to do --

Im-irrational-and-damned-proud-of-it seems to be saying that that it's in some way *wrong* for people "to say that they know what heaven is like or what God thinks or wants". For, if that's not what he's saying, then his complaint-and-accusation is senseless.
Of course, I realize that we can't rule out the possibility that the complaint-and-accusation is senseless. I mean, considering the source.

Still, on the assumption that it's a sensible complaint-and-accusation, and honestly offered, let's explore whether it's a valid complaint-and-accusation.

As I noted above, the complaint-and-accusation can sensibly mean only one thing: that for one reason or another, it is *wrong* for people "to say that they know what heaven is like or what God thinks or wants"; that for one reason or another, people *ought not* "say that they know what heaven is like or what God thinks or wants".

But, this is just to say that it is immoral for people "to say that they know what heaven is like or what God thinks or wants".

But, this is just to say that God doesn't want people "to say that they know what heaven is like or what God thinks or wants".

Thus, we see that the complaint-and-accusation is self-refuting.

Sheesh! Don't 'atheist' even *try* to think-through these things?

im-skeptical said...

Let's explore whether Illion can honestly address a question about the intellectual honesty of people who claim to have insider knowledge about God and heaven. Uh ... no.

msgrx said...

Given that most atheists are consequentialists of some variety (when they're not denying that moral values exist, that is), why should they care whether or not love of Heaven is mercenary? As long as it gets people to do good things, does it really matter how pure a motive it is?

Papalinton said...

"Given that most atheists are consequentialists of some variety (when they're not denying that moral values exist, that is), why should they care whether or not love of Heaven is mercenary? As long as it gets people to do good things, does it really matter how pure a motive it is?"

If one could be assured theology/religion only turns people to doing good, then it wouldn't matter. But history tells us it does not, can not, and never has.

"If religion cannot restrain evil. it cannot claim effective power for good." M Cohen, American professor of Philosophy and Law.

For too long religion has been given a free pass. Today, it must earn its stripes in the marketplace of ideas.

msgrx said...

"If one could be assured theology/religion only turns people to doing good, then it wouldn't matter. But history tells us it does not, can not, and never has."

Great, but that's not the issue the original post was talking about.