TED Conversations

Roy Bourque

Aerospace Education Officer for Cadets, Civil Air Patrol


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how has a belief in an afterlife affected the quality of life on earth?

I see this as multi-faceted. Starting with those who believe;

A-1: Some believe that life hereafter is dependent on how well they have upheld the golden rule.
A-2: Some believe that life hereafter is only determined by adherence to religious ritual and doctrine.
A-3: Some believe that they have a duty to uphold God's law and to defend it with whatever it takes in order to get God's approval.

Now to those who don't believe;

B-1: If this is all you have to give, give it all you have to offer.
B-2: He who dies with the most toys wins. The losers are just a bunch of stupid people anyway.
B-3: If life doesn't go on, why should I live in poverty while others live like kings? Let's take the world by force; Might makes right.

We all know what category Richard Dawkins is in; B-1. He sees religious people as not caring about this life because religion steers them in that direction. He abhors those who would kill in the name of God, and I don't blame him. People in this category see religion as a threat to the preservation of this planet.

What category are drug cartels and human traffickers in? They don't kill you quickly, they suck the life out of you over time. Is A-3 any better or worse than B-3? there are many who choose not to do evil because they believe in divine retribution. Would taking away that belief make them better or worse?

I don't see this question as black and white. I would like to see A-1 and B-1 come together and work to eliminate all the others. Can we do that, and what would it take?

I am open to anyone else's thoughts on the subject.


Closing Statement from Roy Bourque

I have found in the comments that it can go both ways. Many feel that a belief in an afterlife has caused many to have a contempt for this life. Some feel that they are connected to something greater, but don't see it as God. Some have left the church they were in for something that has more meaning in the present life.

What a person believes is largely dictated by what they were taught unless they choose to seek for themselves. I believe that religion was originally meant as a guide for seeking, but has been monopolized by institutions to promote their beliefs. Many others feel the same way, but differ in how they chose to seek.

Today, science has taken the lead in many person's tools to understand the world. Some have gone beyond their faith but still use the tools of science to augment how they see the world. For them it is not one-sided, but a compromise between the two, gleaning from each other to expose the truth wherever it may exist.

Adriaan presents links on Swedenborg. It offers teachings by one who has lived a spiritual life.

The negatives to the debate are concerning those who would do terrible things to please God because that is what they have been taught. They see an afterlife as a way out of a wicked world. Churches use fear, punishment, and reward to promote a moral code and lock their parishioners into a belief system that is unswerving.

The positives are concerning a connectedness to a greater whole. Some find solace in believing in an afterlife in a world that has left them with little to hope for in their present life.

I see an afterlife as an extension of our present life. Should we return here, why not leave the planet better off. If science can tell us how to do that, then so be it. Should we go somewhere else, why would God choose someone who couldn't take care of the world they were entrusted with? Should we go nowhere, why not learn all we can about the world we live in?

Find the truth however you can, and share it.

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    Mar 28 2012: Hi Roy.
    I believe I have eternal life for one reason & one reason only. Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for my sin, period. no Golden Rule or adherence to commandments will make one iota of difference
    That said, I try my best to reciprocate the love that he shows for me by loving him back, & loving folks I meet, just as much as I can. It's not rocket science.
    Believing that I have eternal life with my creator does have a profound effect on the life I live. I am quite content with things as they are, I prefer chatting to folks, rather than joining the rush to add to my possessions. I try & persuade others of the reality of the afterlife, & am very conscious of the fact that my Christian friends are friends forever. To be honest, I don't fancy growing infirm with age, and related problems, maybe I won't have to. However I trust God & I know for a fact that this life is nothing compared to what is in store. Oh how I wish more could see the reality of it all !

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      Mar 28 2012: Hello Peter, nice to hear from you.

      Your reply is one of the reasons that atheists detest religion; "I am quite content with things as they are". Things are not very good in most parts of the world. They believe that the religious belief in an afterlife is the very reason that things are not getting any better. Unless we do something about it, how can it get any better?

      I believe in an afterlife, but I don't believe that I am off the hook in trying to make the world a better place. Jesus said how can you say that you love me and not do the things that I say? He never said that the ten commandments no longer matter.

      Your philosophy is probably a lot healthier than those who run the rat race to add to their possessions. You say no golden rule, and yet I get the feel that it is a part of you. It's what Jesus in you leads you to do. That is the part that most atheist don't get. Your belief makes you a better person because of how it has affected your life. Thanks for your comments. I would feel safer with more of you in the world.
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        Mar 29 2012: Hi Roy.
        "Your reply is one of the reasons that atheists detest religion"
        I am content with my personal circumstances; I probably would be regardless of what they were. I am not content with the state of the world, &, in common with most Christians, do my bit to change things

        I am sure however that Atheists & Christians have entirely different perspectives on what will improve things. I believe that when people & nations obey the will of God they will be blessed, & when they don't they won't . That's quite straightforward.
        I'm not sure what an Atheist agenda would be, but I doubt the will of God would be a prominent feature. :)

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          Mar 29 2012: Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it. That is why I don't want atheists trying to do away with religion. What they learn and can share with the world is often a blessing. But without God's guidance, they may be opening Pandora's box. It takes a joint effort between the two views to keep us on the straight and narrow.
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          Mar 29 2012: The problem with the rhetoric about the will of God is that it is most frequently used to avoid the will of God. Jesus put it this way: Treat others the way you want to be treated, that is the whole of the Law and the Prophets. All those who spend their time finding biblical reasons for being mean and selfish or trying to undo science did not listen and have not submitted to God.

          The Bible lends itself to this behavior if one does not approach it with a critical eye guided by the benevolent spirit defined by the Golden Rule.

          There is nothing "revealed" that should not be subject to this critical eye. Jesus put it something like this: when others claim to be prophets, test them by their fruits. The truly good tree only bears good fruit.

          The Bible clearly does not only bear good fruit. We should be in search of that which does.

          The Bible can help only to the exent we read it critically, looking for that which only bears good fruit.

          Religion is good when it grows out of and does not conflict with the best fruits of our "reason" defined as our search for the cause of good fruit.
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        Mar 29 2012: @inthegarden beyondthecave, well said. it is by the fruits we were told to recognize the truth.
        Jesus also said that his disciples would be preaching the good news of god's kingdom during the time of the end.
        It is not wise to follow religion blindly like so many do. many find churches and religions that suit their needs. hence the appropriate question posed by roy.
        It comes down to the first lie uttered in history. satan the devil throwing his voice into a defenseless little creature told the first woman, you will positively not die if you eat of that fruit. and ever since then, humans have been following that big fat lie thinking that death is not the end. that we have something that separates from us.
        Well, what if nothing separates from us, what if this is the only life we have. if our love of god is true, we are in it for pleasing him, and making him proud of us, like a heavenly father, and not for selfish motives. then we will have proven satan a liar, just like job did in the bible book that bears his name.
        I stronly agree with you, "we should be in search of that which bears good fruit". And we have to do it with our "power of reason" like we are urged to in the bible. Faith is not blind, it has 20/20 vision, like someone on here said in another conversation.

        Enjoyed your comment, thought i would put in my pennies worth.
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          Apr 1 2012: C Sarrin,
          The death that Adam and Eve were warned about was not a physical death but a spiritual one. It has nothing to do with the body. The forbidden fruit is anything that entices you but leaves you destitute if you partake of it. Today we see it in the form of drug addictions, compulsive gambling, sexual infidelity leading to unwanted pregnancies, abortions, and STD's, domestic and gang violence, involvement with political corruption and organized crime, and a host of other things. They are all branches of the same tree because they all have the same effect, thy drain the life right out of you. The tree is as real now as it was then, and people are still eating from it.

          As for science, it has a multitude of blessings. But the master of deception is still on the prowl trying to undermine the truth that it reveals. The character, Satan, is not what is real, it is what the character represents. Adam and Eve died the day they ate of the forbidden fruit because their lives were forever changed from one that was blessed and nourished by the creator, to one that had to deal with the consequences of what they had done. It is all a metaphor that one needs to understand, not just accept as literal.

          I think you see beyond the words, but I don't think you understand what death means from a biblical perspective. In Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, the son took his inheritance and squandered it in lustful living. When the money was spent, the son found himself destitute and homeless. He went back to submit himself to the father. The father declared that here is my son who was dead and has come back to life.

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