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If you did not have religion or never exposed to religion; how easy would it be for you to believe in a heaven and hell?

I will start by saying I was raised in a religious home; we attended church 3 times a week whether we wanted to or not. In my mid-30's I started to recognize subtle similarities to various world religions and the religion I grew up believing. This made me wonder...if not all religions teach of a "heaven" or "hell" as where one goes when one dies based on how the person lived on earth...would those who are not exposed to religion believe in a heaven and hell or something similar?


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    Dec 28 2011: Excellent debate, Ms Capito, and one which leads to a variety of very good questions. However, in order to respond to how EASY would it be to imagine a Heaven or Hell if we did not have religion, I would say it would be very easy. The reason being is that we as humans have so many different beliefs in life after death and so many different religions and as you can tell from the comments, so many different ideas. Not only do we each have various ideas, but our concepts can even change several times over the course of our lives. But the ONE things that we all have in common is some sort of idea that there is a life beyond what we see. This is what ultimately sets us apart from other creations.

    Therefore, I believe that our belief in an afterlife is as instinctive as eating when we are hungry. The creation of religion is simply like making a meal: it feeds that need.

    Now, for dimple answers to difficult questions: we do not "know" that Heaven and Hell exist. Those of us who believe in that concept go by Faith, which is a belief in the truth of something when there is no empirical evidence either for or to the contrary.

    Last question: yes, there is great historical and cultural evidence that proves that Heaven and Hell have been used as control devices, which churches worldwide have used subjugate and subdue dissent.
    What is the great sadness in all of this is that the religion and practice of Christianity has in a way separated us from the message of Love Peace and Salvation through Jesus Christ. It has led us to wander down many other paths and come up with many ideas that fit into the way WE want to see the world, sometimes leading us to a corrupt and singular view. While it is wonderful to explore and to think I also believe we should always testour beliefs to say "is this the truth or just what I want to be true?". If it's the latter, then we're probably wrong.

    Again, great questions, and wonderful answers with great perspectives. Thank you
    • Dec 29 2011: "Not only do we each have various ideas, but our concepts can even change several times over the course of our lives."

      BINGO! This is where I am now. Once I started to read about and learn more on other religions this is where my questioning started. Not that I have lost faith in the religion I was brought up in, but more I have opened my eyes to the possibility that there is never going to be a one way religion that is all knowing and the only way to whatever version of heaven one believes.

      I remember the very thing that changed my thoughts... I was raised to believe that the Catholic religion is wrong; praying to priest to talk to God and praying a rosary, using statues, Saints...etc., then the thought crossed my mind...how could the God I believe in send a grandmother that is a dedicated Catholic her entire life, never harmed a soul or said a foul word to anyone to hell just because she is a Catholic? This is the moment I said SOMETHING ISNT RIGHT with that thought.

      With or without a documented religion I personally believe that there may not be the heaven and hell I was taught about. So its not so much I am living to die just to get my "mansion of gold". I am living to take care of my family, be a kind person, do kind things, take care of the less fortunate, and not allow anyone to take advantage of those that I love. I have never stolen, harmed another, or done anything I was not willing to do at that time so I cannot have regrets on past choices.

      I question because I am human; have a willful way about me and never want someone to tell me this is the only way you can believe or you are doomed to some version of hell. To me, some religions are nothing more than a control device to keep those that free think in a tiny bubble and limit them to only certain thoughts which is nothing more than communisim religion in my way of thinking.
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        Dec 30 2011: Christy, I was raised in a faith that taught heaven or hell also. And, when my grandmother got very old, and I was in my twenties, I started thinking of the hell that awaited my grandmother, how is it that the Bible says God is love, and then he will punish humans eternally for only 60-70 years of imperfect life. I still had faith in God's existence, but I started to question christendom's religious teachings.

        Religion in my humble opinion, has shaped the thinking of many people who do not want to search for truth. Here are some verses that someone showed me in my own copy of the scriptures, and at the time my grandmother died, they were very comforting to me. Why? Because they showed me what death is. Death is the opposite of life. We are not sent anywhere. We simply go to sleep.

        "The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all." Ecclesiastes 9:5

        "There is an eventuality as respects the sons of mankind and an eventuality as respects the beasts, and they have the same eventuality. As the one dies, so the other dies; and they all have but one spirit, so that there is no superiority of the man over the beast, for everything is vanity. All are going to one place. They have all come to be from dust, and they are all returning to the dust."
        Ecclesiastes 3:19-20

        When Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, he said..."I am journeying there to awaken him from sleep'...John 11:11,14-44 has the entire account.

        Death is a state of sleep according to the Bible. There is even the following statement about the soul: "...The soul that is sinning-it itself will die" Ezekiel 18:4

        God promises a future where death will not exist....but now, we die, and are buried. Nothing separates and goes somewhere else. At least not according to the truth revealed in the holy scriptures. Many people believe what they hear from a pulpit.....few read the Bible to learn for themselves. Each of us is responsible.....
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      Jan 7 2012: I'm not so sure the concepts of heaven and hell would always pop up in a religion free environment.

      Sure, we'd ask what happens after we die. If the environment had the science we have today, then perhaps most people would accept that our consciousness ceases when our brain stops working. I expect the proportion of people who believe this in a world infused with religious beliefs is pretty high. Perhaps top 10 versus any particular specific view of the afterlife assuming even Christian related sects have different interpretations

      Expect, some might still explore ideas of souls or spirits or what is life. This might lead to afterlife ideas. Still its a big jump from this to a heaven and hell without the other religious stuff floating around

      However, a lot of afterlife concepts are historical to particular cultures shaped by thousands of years initially without science. Even without science initially different cultures don't share beliefs in heaven or hell as per some sects of Christianity. A lot of religions today have roots pre-science and these concepts born in ignorance have infused "following generations.

      Anyway a religion free environment is hypothetical. Thousands of years of beliefs, mostly contradictory if taken literally still shapes modern life.
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      Jan 8 2012: Verble, appreciate your comments.

      I note heaven and hell and the seeds of most surviving and even relatively new religious beliefs/movements developed in times of great ignorance. I doubt the concept of heaven and hell or an afterlife is as instinctive as eating when hungry.

      Many of us don't believe in an afterlife even when surrounded by the leftovers of millions of different religious beliefs. Imagine how many more would believe life simply ends when our brain/body stops if they had the benefit of modern science and weren't exposed to the remnants of dead religions and those still actively that have developed from their predecessors.

      Suggest, the question about what happens when we die is close to universal, but question whether the jump to an afterlife, let alone heaven and hell is instinctive, especially if given the benefit of modern science. It certainly isn't to me and lets say 10- 20% of people, and we've been surrounded with religious ideas since birth.

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