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: The funny thing is some people believe in an afterlife and still do horrible things that they believe might end them up in hell. Perhaps there are some more categories or sub categories.
    Suggest some of the Catholic drug runners probably believe they are going to hell.
    Suggest some of the human traffickers believe they will suffer in the next incarnation

    I think this reflects our base instincts, that life is competitive, that something now, often has more power than something later - recency etc.

    There are lots of benefits tied up with religion and the afterlife - social connection, consolation, avoiding being stigmatised as an outsider or killed as a heretic.

    There is also a point that many people are consoled by the thought of an afterlife. Seeing their lost ones again someday. The net result from the belief might be positive even if they are deluded.
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      Mar 28 2012: I accept the benefits of a belief in an afterlife. You make a good point that some do horrible things even when they believe that they will suffer for it in the end. Is it possible to change that mindset, or am I asking for too much?

      Very good point about NOW having more power than later. Is it that their beliefs are short sighted and weak? Religion was intended for spiritual growth. Today, it seems to have stagnated while science has the world's attention. What has happened? I have a Noah Webster's Dictionary 1904 edition. when I compare the word "faith" to that of Webster's New World Dictionary (original copyright 1953), you wouldn't know it was the same word.

      I don't want to add to the categories, I was trying to keep them simple and yet get the to gist of the whole problem; that good and evil exist on both sides of the fence. Getting rid of one does not get rid of the problem. The problem isn't one-sided. If we are going to make changes to make the world better, we need to make changes to both sides as a whole. There is no black and white here.
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        Mar 29 2012: Thanks Roy
        You mention how the meaning of the word faith has changed
        I guess views on the afterlife have changed over time as well.
        I agree that a belief in Heaven and Hell hasn't really helped improve the human condition.
        Suggest you don't need it. There is a dark side to human nature shared by the religious and atheists.
        However it is the atheist who accept we are what we are and it is up to us to take responsibility to live well, whereas the Religious say god created us as sinners or original sin, the devil made me do it, god is telling us how we should live. And some of these instructions are evil. And some evil things are accepted by god, like slavery, sexism, murder.
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          Mar 29 2012: Hello Obey;

          I found it amusing to discover that according to definition, I am an atheist even though I have had spiritual encounters with God, soley because I do not confirm to the Catholic church's definition of God as a person. I never saw God as a person, and my own encounters have confirmed that fact.

          I wrote a book "The Merging of Two Worlds" that addresses concerns about what people believe and why they believe it. The modern version of hell originates in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. It isn't found in Genesis because it's not supposed to be there. Yet it was dragged back into the church because fear gets people's attention. I show how it evolved into the modern church.

          Heaven and hell reflect the two extremes of the human condition, one being bliss, the other being agony. We can move from one condition to the other based on our understanding of how things work, or in reverse because we choose to ignore the laws of the cosmos. What causes agony will never change, which is why it is eternal. But a soul doesn't suffer for eternity, that was a misconception where two ideas got twisted together. The bible says the despicable acts committed by humans never entered the mind of God (Jeremiah 7:31, 19:5), but mankind in an effort to redeem itself, equates God as being far worse.

          There are many misconceptions being taught by churches that need to be weeded out. They warn us of the master of deception, and yet they cannot see him in their own dogmas. They are right about one thing, deceptions can be deadly. It was what fueled the witch trials for nearly 400 years.

          Genesis and the Garden of Eden is a historical myth. Adam and Eve are mythological characters that represent an entire culture. What happens to them is what happened to that culture, not on a warm Sunday afternoon, but over several thousand years. You have to see beyond the words. It's like looking at a 3-D poster. Once you get your focus right, you see what's really there.
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          Mar 29 2012: Hi Bridget,
          I know very little about the Zohar and Jewish mysticism.
          I guess there are advocates for many different ways of reading the bible.
          I guess a kabbalistic interpretation has more or less merit as some other ways.
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          Mar 29 2012: Hi Roy, I agree there is some scriptural as well logical cases against the christian mainstream view of eternal damnation. It seems strange that this very important point was not discussed much with gods chosen people in the old testament.
          And way would a loving god eternally torture us.

          As to how we are supposed to interpret the early books in the bible - I don't know which way is right. I note Bridget has another interpretation.

          You'd think god would have made everything clearer if this .

          And perhaps more accessible. A chosen people, say 1% of the worlds population for thousands of years. The Americans only started to hear about the biblical god 500 years ago.
          Other than your religious experience, don't you think it looks odd?
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          Mar 29 2012: Hi Bridget,
          Without having studied the Kabbala, you pretty much paraphrased what I put in my book. The spirit of God revealed much of this to me while I was reading the bible. Your comments have confirmed to me that I didn't just make it all up. Thanks for your input.
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          Apr 1 2012: Try to rember, the person you are speaking with may or may not be as far along the path as you. Words are like lamp post, they light the path, and yet they are not the path itself. Peace

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