TED Conversations

Roy Bourque

Aerospace Education Officer for Cadets, Civil Air Patrol


This conversation is closed.

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: Its funny the athiest and non-believers usually value life in the present moment, more that the believers! a good part of society equates atheism with satanism. I live with an atheist and she enjoys every moment, every day. What she doesn't tolerate is mis-truths, half-distorted facts and predjudices. Being from Alabama, a lot of her time is spent in discussions about basic religious truths and human rights, which to me isn't very enjoyable. For me, death is not to be feared or barganed with. I choose to stay present and it will happen exactly like it's supposed to.
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      Mar 28 2012: I never saw an atheist as a Satanist, but I was concerned for their attack on religion. The funny thing is, even though I consider myself as a true believer in God, according to the religious concept of God, I am an atheist because I don't believe in God as a "quote" person.

      I am finding that most atheists believe in something greater than themselves and some believe that life goes on, but not as most religious people think. They don't believe in a separate heaven or hell where God torments non-believers for all eternity. For that matter, neither do I. I believe in an afterlife, but I believe that it is dependent on how well we took care of the world we were entrusted to. You don't love and praise your father by singing songs to him and telling him you love him, you demonstrate it by showing the world how well his son or daughter turned out to be.
      The scripture says not by works but by grace are ye saved (Ephesians 2:8) because some are born with physical or mental deficiencies. If we were all saved by works, some would be lost from the start. But that doesn't excuse us from doing the best we can when we are able. We must strive for excellence. Jesus didn't get a following because of grace, he did so because of his works. And if we say we believe in him, then we must strive to do the same.

      What concerns me most are atheists (or anyone for that matter, believer or not) who exploit the planet without seeking proper guidance from a higher source, and thus depleting the planet from its capacity to support life, or driving whatever life there is into a state of anguish. Anyone who could kill or destroy to promote their own agendas, whether in the name of God or not, are a threat to our existence.
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        Mar 28 2012: Thank you for the topic and the response. The Truth of it is what a person thinks is the absolute truth for that person. that simple statement is been proven by quantum mechanics, religion, philosophy, etc. Ones thoughts and beliefs are exactly correct for that person. My concern like you said is the dominionist idea that because of a verse in genesis that man is superior to all other creatures we share the Earth with and they feel they have rule over the Earth itself but, and no offense, if one thinks the earth and universe came to be like the bible says, we probably need to have a earlier starting point for a discussion. Like, the fact science, geology, astronomy, ect. proves we didn't get here from there. I happen to be familiar with atheists who are Wiccian. Probably most Atheist I know value the here and now and total ramdomness of life and do all they can to protect the earth. I would also suggest Rob Bell's book, Love Wins to get an inside view of how people of the same faith can have totally seperate views of the meaning of the bible. I like to use at least two books when I quote facts.
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          Mar 28 2012: "I like to quote at least two books when I quote facts" That's where it all starts. It's easy to quote scripture out of context, but then the controversies in the bible are what make you have to think about it first. Yet even with 66 books, it still isn't enough if you really want to know why it says what it does. Take the tabernacle for instance; Moses was given orders on how to build the tabernacle. Nowhere in the bible does it say why that layout was chosen. You can find the answer in Eastern philosophy.

          Religion's modern version of hell originates in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. It isn't found in Genesis, so why is it found in the modern church. I can tell you why, and it's a twisted road that it has travelled.

          We base truth on what we can prove by repetitive results. It sets the foundation of what we have come to know. Religious truth is in how it has affected lives, not on what is written in this or that book of the bible. It needs to be searched out and its virtues revealed. I don't take anything for face value because I have seen too many things twisted to make a point. It's what science refers to as "cooking the data" to make it say what you want it to say. Jesus says "by their fruits you will know them", not by their claims. Actions always speak louder than words.

          When people truly love each other, they help each other out. They don't dangle you over a sea of flames to persuade you to follow them. They draw you in by their acts of kindness. Keep searching and revealing what it has shown to you. You have a good handle on things.
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        Mar 29 2012: Point taken, which in a round-about way takes us back to my point that what ever a person believes, no matter how they arrive at those beliefs, that person will assilimate information to back their view so now it's become Truth. I was in church for about half my adult life. didn't get saved till I was 27. Studied theology and had a goal to lead in the church in some aspect. But just as Rob Bell and others have asked questions about the language and linguistics and syntax and translation and absolute unavailability to anyone except choses church leaders, obviously begs the obvious observation any person hearing the development of the bible without knowing its the bible would say, there is no way the kjv we read is anywher close to what happened. If you study communication, as it pertatins to a societys development, its obvious the bible was written by a class of higher educated men, who chose to use fear, punishment and reward to progress a moral code or way of life that was self perpetuating. The great commission, is an example of that. The total disfunction of the church and the in fighting between denominations show, to everyone but thoses in the grips of this belief system, its simply the word of man. That being said there is truth in all things, jesus being one of those things. He, like you and I, shared his thoughts, and his words had wisdom not seen in that time. Just like Gautama Buddha, whose life and words, too similar not to be written by the same groups of people telling similar stories and traveling the world using geography to mold its characters and events. Of all persons, the Dala Lama has done more that any one to unite humanity in peace and understanding. See, what scares everyone who isn't a christian and is american, is the fact christians already showed no care for anyone but themselves with the Crusades and what I hear from christian collations about muslims and the Chinese and any communist country is basically a Jihad
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          Mar 29 2012: Paul said we are ministers of the new testament, not of the letter but of the spirit. It is only by the spirit of God that we can truly understand God's word. It requires that we seek to know God and not allow ourselves to interpret God's word for him. That two way communication with God is what allows God to speak to us.

          Too many people today are trying to interpret God's word without God's spirit to guide them. As a result, they cook the data to make it say what they think it should say, not to understand why it says what it does. Case in point; atheists claim that the story of Jesus being crucified at the place recorded in the gospels must be wrong, because Romans crucified persons on the road so that people would be in fear to upset the Romans. What they fail to realize is that the Romans didn't want to crucify Jesus. It was the Jews who demanded it. The Romans knew that Jesus had many followers, so they wouldn't have wanted to display him for all to see. They would have been concerned for an insurrection, as this was the time of the passover where all the Jews were assembling. They broke with protocol because the road is the last place they would have wanted to put Jesus.

          Another case in point; there are two genealogies concerning Jesus, one in Matthew, and one in Luke. They don't agree which is a problem with atheists. What they don't understand is that Jesus had two parents, and some believed in the virgin Mary, so one genealogy traces his roots through his mother Mary, whereas the other traces his roots through Mary's husband Joseph.

          Without the spirit of God to guide you, it just becomes a complicated mess.
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        Mar 29 2012: Also , according to the bible, hell is an absence from god. I don't think god is here with me now, and yet I know i'm saved, just as much as you are. As far as eastern pillars of wisdom, the Tao Te Ching, is the one helped illuminate my path. In addition, having studied quantum theory, cosmology, some genetics and a little evolutionary psychology it brings me to this present moment which is absolutely true for me. All I can offer is, when I totally focused and was truthful with myself, when I got to know who "I" truely was from that point I was able to awaken, advance, find balance, accept, have faith in...whatever the words people use, it all means the same thing. When you can see yourself in others and in nature your on your way. Peace
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          Mar 29 2012: God is with you always. He is everywhere. Sometimes we just can't comprehend that, probably because the Catholic church took God out of reality after their attack on Galileo. If we believe that lie, then we think that God is not here, whereas God can never be not here. We just have to find him within ourselves, and then we connect.

          Since you understand quantum theory, understand this; quantum fields are everywhere. They are invisible. They are the source from which all things come and back to which they Go. They are what is doing the creating. They have all the qualities attributed to God. Hopefully you can figure out the rest.
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        Mar 30 2012: the zodiac
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        Apr 1 2012: The fact you require "sources" for my opinion, I find to be utter nonsense.

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