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.