Tuesday, November 20, 2018

If there is no life after this one, does our life here matter more?

"If there is no  life after this one, then what we do here matters more than ever." 

I hear this a lot. But I don't think it's true. If there is no afterlife, then the consequences of our actions will eventually fade out, and eventually not only will you cease to exist, but the human race will cease to exist, and when that happens your actions will make no difference.

On the other hand, if we have to live forever with our decisions, then the effects of our actions go on indefinitely, and are not eliminated by the fading effects of time or even the heat death of the universe.

46 comments:

One Brow said...

Our actions in this world don't fade out, they ripple out. The consequences fade in intensity, but increase in spread, affecting more people with every generation.

On the other hand, the type of "living forever" most Christians aspire to is one that primarily affects the one who lives.

Hugo Pelland said...

Either option is just some thought experiment in the end, as we will never be able to know for sure.

However, if we take a kind of 'mathematical' approach combined with one of the Christian version of salvation, then our lives are completely meaningless as it's just about accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Nothing else matters, and our lives are infinitely short compared to the infinitely long afterlives.

But again, nobody lives as if that were true so not sure there is any point to it...

Starhopper said...

"nobody lives as if that were true"

You need to get around more. Most people do not "wear it on their sleeve" but it's not hard to find those who live every moment as though they'd be facing the Judge of the living and the dead in the next.

Hugo Pelland said...

No, I meant nobody lives as if "Jesus is my savior and will forgive everything so nothing else matters", thankfully.

bmiller said...

Happy Thanksgiving.

Hugo Pelland said...

That deserved an exclamation mark. Even when being nice you're wrong ;)

Happy Thanksgiving to you too!
And everyone reading here!

To whoever cares to share, how big of a celebration is it on your neck of the woods?

Joe Hinman said...

Hugo says:

However, if we take a kind of 'mathematical' approach combined with one of the Christian version of salvation, then our lives are completely meaningless as it's just about accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Nothing else matters, and our lives are infinitely short compared to the infinitely long afterlives.

I thin the assumption behind your statement is that accepting Jesus is both the beginning and the end of Christian life. So that there is nothing beyond accepting,

That is fallacious. Accepting Jesus is not the end neither chronologically nor teleologically. it's the beginning only in either sense,The end technologically (there is no chronological end) is to know God. That is not merely acceptance but entails what we do after accepting. It involves a lot of things, an unending reality.

Joe Hinman said...

To whoever cares to share, how big of a celebration is it on your neck of the woods?

thanksgiving? we don't have that in Dallas. We have cowboys play redskins while we eat turkey day,

Joe Hinman said...

that auto correct, which I call auto screw up, changed my words it should say "The end teliogically (there is no chronological end) is to know God. "

Hugo Pelland said...

Joe, as I clarified, it was just an hypothetical example, one nobody follows that way afaik. The point is to illustrate that views regarding the ides behind the original post can be stretched in any directions.

Hugo Pelland said...

Thought of this thread here on this blog, when reading this quote in Enlightenment Now:
"Belief in an afterlife implies that health and happiness are not such a big deal, because life on earth is an infinitesimal portion of one's existence; that coercing people into accepting salvation is doing them a favor; and that martyrdom may be the best thing that can ever happen to you."

Joe Hinman said...


Blogger Hugo Pelland said...
Joe, as I clarified, it was just an hypothetical example, one nobody follows that way afaik. The point is to illustrate that views regarding the ides behind the original post can be stretched in any directions.

Yes I agree Of course there is one true way though, which is.... you know...mine!

Joe Hinman said...


Blogger Hugo Pelland said...
Thought of this thread here on this blog, when reading this quote in Enlightenment Now:
"Belief in an afterlife implies that health and happiness are not such a big deal, because life on earth is an infinitesimal portion of one's existence; that coercing people into accepting salvation is doing them a favor; and that martyrdom may be the best thing that can ever happen to you."

I disagree that belief in after life means degrading this life. At least shouldn't and doesn't have to.

It's also ludicrous to think of leading people to salvation people as coercing like you are tricking them it not being burned for eternity how cruel. So much more honest to let people burn.. Now the truth is I don't believe in hell as eternal conscious torment,but if one does then one should try to warn people what kind of creep would just let them them all burn and feel smug or whatever?

Hugo Pelland said...

Joe, of course your version is the best ;)
And the fact that you say in your next comment that you "disagree that belief in after life means degrading this life. At least shouldn't and doesn't have to." goes to support it.

However, you have to admit that a blissful afterlife, conditional on how we behave in this one, necessarily means that the 'how' we behave matters more than the general wellbeing of all humans. It's the same as me, as an Atheist, admitting that if there's no afterlife, there's no punishment for horrible crimes committed by people who don't get caught.

These are just logical follow-ups.

Joe Hinman said...


Blogger Hugo Pelland said...
Joe, of course your version is the best ;)
And the fact that you say in your next comment that you "disagree that belief in after life means degrading this life. At least shouldn't and doesn't have to." goes to support it.

Hygo I appreciate your discussion. I've been seeking to do a blog piece for weeks on an idea I got while watching a thing by N.T. Wright on Youtube, The basic statement he made that first stimulated me was "being a Christian is not about avoiding hell." I guess I'm having a hard time starting for two reasons: fist because to me it's very obvious. Secondly it's too big subject, the meaning of religious faith particularly my own, so I guess you are helping me break it down.


However, you have to admit that a blissful afterlife, conditional on how we behave in this one, necessarily means that the 'how' we behave matters more than the general wellbeing of all humans. It's the same as me, as an Atheist, admitting that if there's no afterlife, there's no punishment for horrible crimes committed by people who don't get caught.

These are just logical follow-ups.

I would not say after life is about how we behave; that's a works oriented view. I wouldn't say being a Christian is about securing for oneself a good afterlife. I know a lot of Christian piety has been based upon that assumption but not much real theology has been.

You comment implies a exclusivity understanding of Christian faith. That would require a protracted discussion and I know a lot of Christians disagree with me but I think there is an escape clause in Romans 2:1-16."Their hearts may excuse them."

Rather than say being a Christian is about avoiding hell I would say it's about knowing God.Avoiding hell is a beneficial side effect that comes with Christian faith but it's not the point.

Joe Hinman said...

I have written a little blog piece about this discussion and quoted Hugo.

Joe Hinman said...

Does belief in afterlife disvalue this life?

Metacrock's blog


Not trying to pick on Hugo but his comments did make a good starting point for the topic

Hugo Pelland said...

No worries Joe, thanks for sharing your perspective.

To be clear though, we are not talking about the exact same thing: My comments are about the original question posed in Victor's post, to which I claim we can't really give an answer to, as we don't know whether we'll experience something after we're dead. I'm not even sure what it means frankly but that's another story. The point is thus that we can consider lots of options and they all have different logical implications. And we can also stretch the same options so far to make them mean completely different things.

Joe Hinman said...

Metacrock's blog



I do not believe that the Bible actually teaches that hell is a place of eternal conscious torment. By that I mean, hell is not a place where people who sin and disbelieve are sent to be punished and tortured. I don't believe that God would torture anyone. I certainly don't believe that hell is a place where one is conscious eternally.

bmiller said...

Hi Joe,

I see from your blog that you don't necessarily believe that the books in the Bible are authoritative.

That is an unusual historical position from a Protestant Christian. I'm referring to this in particular:

"2Pete is not authoritative enough to build a whole theology upon. Most scholars believe it is pseudopgraphal, of late origin, and we don't know who wrote it. It either copies a large part fo Jude, or Jude copies it. Neither book shares the weight of the Gospels."

If one does not consider the historical belief of the Christian Church as authoritative or even it's foundational documents then why even claim to be a Christian?

Just doesn't make sense to me.

Hugo Pelland said...

Isn't being a Protestant literally rejecting the authority of the original Christian Church, i.e. the Catholic Church?

One Brow said...

bmiller
I see from your blog that you don't necessarily believe that the books in the Bible are authoritative.

That is an unusual historical position from a Protestant Christian.


I recall a quote from Luther about the book of James being worthless, or something like that.

Hal said...

bmiller,

That is an unusual historical position from a Protestant Christian.

I dunno. Joe's views seem to be rather typical of the more liberal varieties of Christianity.

Hal said...

Hugo,
Isn't being a Protestant literally rejecting the authority of the original Christian Church, i.e. the Catholic Church?

Not to mention, they have been breaking off from each other ever since resulting in a plethora of Protestant denominations.

Starhopper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Starhopper said...

(Re-posted to correct typo)

I see nothing wrong with considering some books of The Bible (e.g., Obadiah, 3 John, Judith) as "not sharing the weight of the Gospels", but that by no means makes them less authoritative. It simply acknowledges the fact that they have less to say.

But what they do say shares the same authority as the "weightier" books of the canon. 2 Peter is actually a good case in point. Some of the profoundest theological statements in all of scripture can be found in its relatively short text, such as:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation.

[Sinners] promise [others] freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.

With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

There are some things in [Paul's letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.

bmiller said...

I agree with Bob. Just because a work is shorter and covers less ground than another doesn't mean it is false or that it should be ignored.

While Protestants have historically rejected the authority of the Catholic Church, they have relied on scripture as being authoritative.

The canon of the new testament has always been shared by Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants (afaik). The first formal declaration of the canon being around the year 382 AD.

Hal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hal said...

None of that negates the fact that liberal or progressive forms of Christianity respond to (or treat) the New Testament very differently than more conservative forms. I haven’t found anything Joe has written to be outside of those more liberal forms.

bmiller said...

I think it's a mistake to apply the term "liberal" or "conservative" to Christian belief since it isn't at core political. Better terms would be "unorthodox" or "orthodox".

Take the LDS church for instance. Most members are conservative politically, but are considered unorthodox Christians.

Hal said...

I see nothing wrong with my usage of these terms in the context of this discussion.. Please see the Wikipedia articles on “Liberal Christianity” and “Progressive Christianity”.


Joe Hinman said...

George Bush and Reinhold Niebuhr, Discussion of the nature of political reality. The will to power and the nature of politics, is there no solution?

Metacrock's blog

Joe Hinman said...

Blogger Hal said...
None of that negates the fact that liberal or progressive forms of Christianity respond to (or treat) the New Testament very differently than more conservative forms. I haven’t found anything Joe has written to be outside of those more liberal forms.

December 04, 2018 10:25 AM
Blogger bmiller said...
I think it's a mistake to apply the term "liberal" or "conservative" to Christian belief since it isn't at core political. Better terms would be "unorthodox" or "orthodox".

Take the LDS church for instance. Most members are conservative politically, but are considered unorthodox Christians.

December 04, 2018 8:56 PM
Blogger Hal said...
I see nothing wrong with my usage of these terms in the context of this discussion.. Please see the Wikipedia articles on “Liberal Christianity” and “Progressive Christianity”.

the terms liberal and conservative are used of theology. Liberal theology is an official term and liberal seminaries define themselves with that nomenclature.
Conservative is not so much used It;s liberal vs evangelical or fundamentalist.

bmiller said...

But what would you call LDS?

Starhopper said...

I class the LDS in the same bucket as Islam. Lip service to "the Book" but their own scriptures are what's really important to them - the Koran for the Muslims, the Book of Mormon for LDS.

Hal said...

I usually just call them Mormons. :-)

Maybe you should ask them. Do you think they would like being called unorthodox? Personally, I doubt it. That term can carry the implication that they don't belong to the true Christian faith.
As Joe, mentioned above, there are Christians theologians who call themselves liberals. So it seems appropriate to call them that.

Starhopper said...

"That term can carry the implication that they don't belong to the true Christian faith."

They don't.

Victor Reppert said...

Did you hear about the hippie who took LDS instead of LSD? He went on a mission instead of a trip.

bmiller said...

Groovy.

Hal said...

They don’t.

Mormons believe they do. As an atheist I see no reason to privilege one claim over the other. That is one reason I try to avoid using terms such as “non-orthodox” in this case.

bmiller said...

What would you call an atheist that believes in God?

Hal said...

Confused.

Hugo Pelland said...

Haha, accurate answer.

What was the point of your question bmiller? (If any)

One Brow said...

bmiller said...
What would you call an atheist that believes in God?

Did you mean a theist who has no particular set of beliefs about this God, outside of the fact they exist? "Agnostic" accompanies the position that any particular God/god is unknowable.

bmiller said...

Hal,

Confused.

That's how orthodox Christians view LDS.

Hal said...

bmiller,

I am well aware of the negative views some groups of Christians have toward other Christians. Am not interested in taking sides, as
I mentioned earlier.