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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 30 2011: An important point to note is that ALL religious doctrines originate from people who claim to have some superior knowledge by way of revelation or special insight. Religious faith is first and foremost faith in the messenger(s) of that religion, and it is precisely at this juncture that we have ample reason to doubt. Since you and I have no means of verifying claims like heaven and hell (or even of God), the only faith we are capable of exercising is faith in the messengers, and that includes all the intermediary messengers who passed the doctrine from the originator to us.

    One of the critical lessons of life is that human beings are liable to believe and say things that aren't true, whether by honest mistake or by intentional deceit. This is why we have science: a systematic method for testing human claims against physical evidence. In areas where we cannot test claims (i.e. unscientific subjects), our confidence in the claim is only as good as the confidence we have in the messenger's factual integrity, which for human beings in general is not good.
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      Dec 30 2011: "An important point to note is that ALL religious doctrines originate from people who claim to have some superior knowledge by way of revelation or special insight" and how do we know they don't have that ?

      "the only faith we are capable of exercising is faith in the messengers, and that includes all the intermediary messengers who passed the doctrine from the originator to us" (laugh) I can't tell you about three religions in which you don't have to have faith in the messengers because once you practice them they are self-evident : christianity, buddhism and confucianism. We however, have to check if they were transmitted correct to us throughout the history but this is somehow self-evident too.
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        Dec 30 2011: "how do we know they don't have that?"

        We don't: we neither know they had special insight nor do we know they didn't. That is why the believer must first and foremost place *faith* in the messenger: believing the messenger to be a special person who reveals what common people cannot see.

        It would be foolhardy to simply assume anyone who preaches and/or records a doctrine is uniquely qualified to be a messenger of that doctrine, given what we know about the fallibility of human beings and the emotional biases intrinsic to religion. The only rational default position to take, therefore, is skepticism: insistence on validating said doctrines.



        "We however, have to check if they were transmitted correct to us throughout the history"

        If you have to check whether or not historical doctrines were correctly transmitted to us, then those doctrines are not, by definition, self-evident.

        If Galileo declared all objects fall at the same rate when dropped. We don't need his words to know that, though. Anyone can discover the same principle, having never even heard of Galileo.

        You cannot make the same claim for heaven, hell, Christ, original sin, karma, reincarnation, etc., etc. All these doctrines -- especially in their details -- depend entirely upon transmitted information from people we are told to trust.
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          Dec 30 2011: "We don't: we neither know they had special insight nor do we know they didn't." So you're saying that we can't know if they have that some superior knowledge by the way of revelation or by special insight . I disagree with you,we can know but I agree
          with you on this ""It would be foolhardy to simply assume anyone who preaches and/or records a doctrine is uniquely qualified to be a messenger of that doctrine, given what we know about the fallibility of human beings and the emotional biases intrinsic to religion""
          because we don't have to assume anything , we just have to look at evidences : it's simple if someone have a special knowledge by the way of revelation then the knowledge would look like something special and when applied would be proven true , that's why I said they are self-evident . The Bible have been proven true by many people throughout the history and this can be checked (just some examples St. Pavel , St.Augustine , Martin Luther , even Schopenhauer , and many many people ) therefore the rational position is to check , to make research and not the skepticism.

          When I said that we have to check if they were transmitted correct throughout the history to us i was talking about checking if they were transmitted accurate , without wrongs which could alter the meaning of what is send to us. We don't have to confuse if something is transmitted accurate with if something is accurate and true by what it is , by the content , because if something is accurate through its message it is and has to be self-evident usually when applied.You prove yourself this "If Galileo declared all objects fall at the same rate when dropped. We don't need his words to know that, though. Anyone can discover the same principle, having never even heard of Galileo." right , and I say the same thing for ( just an example) the Bible , what Bibles says is self-evident when applied and it has been proven by that many people who applied it .

          you
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          Dec 30 2011: You said the contrary :"You cannot make the same claim for heaven, hell, Christ, original sin, karma, reincarnation, etc., etc. All these doctrines -- especially in their details -- depend entirely upon transmitted information from people we are told to trust." but you didn't say why, so why ? Did you apply them and found them wrong ?
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        Dec 31 2011: Please explain how you or I could *prove* that heaven exists, or that hell exists, or that reincarnation is fact. Similarly, how can anyone *apply* the doctrine of heaven or of hell in their life? These are places you supposedly go after you die, and as such are not accessible to the living.

        This is what I mean by these claims depending entirely on someone's recorded revelation. Unless you can present some practical test to tell whether or not these claims are true, I hold to my original position: these doctrines depend entirely on transmitted information from people we are told to trust.
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          Dec 31 2011: The truth is that the tools and methods of empirical science would remain powerless to confirm the existence of a transcendent metaphysical God even in the event that such a being existed. It’s just not the sort of question science can answer. – Daniel Loxton
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          Dec 31 2011: Hi Tony :

          Thomas can't be more right than quoting Daniel Loxton .

          Well , how can I prove that heaven exist or that hell exist ?
          All I said is that if we apply what the Bible says it becomes for us self-evident because it is usually proven true when applied , the Bible don't say anyone to apply 'the doctrine of the hell or of the heaven' , it's absurd , (this are doctrines created by humans starting from the Bible, and it's nothing to apply from this doctrines) and no religion according to my knowledge ask you to do that , we apply what can be applied and doing so we prove that what can be applied is true , after that we believe that we have enough reasons to accept the entire Bible , (the same thing with buddhism ......).

          Best.
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        Dec 31 2011: I rest my case then: the doctrines of heaven, hell, reincarnation, etc. depend entirely on the testimony of people. Therefore, the only reason we would have to believe in them is to accept the pronouncements of people claiming to have special knowledge or revelation. Therefore, faith in these doctrines is first and foremost faith in the messengers themselves.

        Eduard, if I'm understanding you correctly, you say that since other doctrines of the Bible have proven true in your own life, then we are safe to trust all the other doctrines recorded in the Bible. This is a huge assumption, and does not logically flow from the facts.

        We know without a doubt that this kind of reasoning is faulty because it leads to contradictions. We can examine every religion on the face of the earth and find within them certain things that are true, wise, inspirational, etc. However, all religions taken together contradict one another. Even taking the two religions you cite (Buddhism and Christianity), the Buddhist doctrine of all suffering being the result of personal craving contradicts the biblical view that suffering is the result of Adam's sin. The Buddhist and Christian views of salvation are also starkly opposed to each other. According to the New Testament, salvation is found through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and reincarnation is conspicuously absent.

        The only thing I find self-evident in the doctrines of heaven and hell is peoples' emotional biases. Everyone would like to believe in an afterlife where we can spend an eternity in peace, and where all wrongdoings are remedied. I think the reason people are so eager to believe things they cannot prove is because they *want* those things to be true.
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          Jan 1 2012: Tony:
          "Eduard, if I'm understanding you correctly, you say that since other doctrines of the Bible have proven true in your own life, then we are safe to trust all the other doctrines recorded in the Bible. This is a huge assumption, and does not logically flow from the facts." Not exactly, because : - some(the most) doctrines of the Bible are proven ture in the life of many people , not only mine and how the Bible have consistency there is no assumption to make when I say that using some texts of the Bible I can prove the others .An argument which I think is enough to destroy the idea that I made an assumption is the simple fact that have been many people who proved the truth of some texts of the Bible in their life and after that have used that texts to prove not practically but theoretically in a rational way the truth of the others. Do you wanna start string here hundreds of names ?

          Looking further at what you're saying : some doctrines from a religion are proven correct and with them it's proven the truth of the entire religion ; comes another religion which have some other doctrines and they are proven true too and with them there is proven true entirely this second religion which is in contradiction with the first , how is this possible ?

          Firstly: I won't talk about specific doctrines from different religions ; I’m not sure how much you understand them and I don’t understand them completely either .
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          Jan 1 2012: We have to understand first that none of our propositions are completely true , every our proposition contains an amount of falsity and an amount of truth : this is called fallibilism( from one of Karl's Popper books ). Giving it, is logical to think that what we comprehend from different holy scriptures it's not completely true , it meaning that our doctrines (let's not forget the doctrines are created by humans) are not completely true ; when we apply them it’s proven true what is true from that doctrine .
          “all religions taken together contradict one another.” Maybe, so what ? I don’t see how is this an argument against what I said because : - I never talk about religion as being self-evident but about what can be applied , if what can be applied from a religion (some doctrines) are in contradiction with some others from a second religion , both set of doctrines being proven true, then we have a problem because we have two contradictory truths ………. A logical problem, not a religious one .It’s a naivity thinking if two doctrines/religions/propositions are in contradiction they both are false.
          In rest knowing we are fallible and that we build our religions (starting from some holy scriptures) it’s easy explainable how we reached contradictory positions even though we start from some proven truths .
          "Everyone would like to believe in an afterlife where we can spend an eternity in peace, and where all wrongdoings are remedied. I think the reason people are so eager to believe things they cannot prove is because they *want* those things to be true" I don't want those things , the hell and the heaven aren't about that.

          Best.
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        Jan 1 2012: Hi Eduard,

        "It’s a naivity thinking if two doctrines/religions/propositions are in contradiction they both are false."

        I apologize for not being clearer in my argument; I did not mean to imply the mutual falsity of two contradicting religions. What I am saying is that the logic of accepting an entire religion based on the proven truth of *some* of its claims is fallacious. This is what the contradiction of multiple religions (with each one having its own demonstrated truths) proves. To quote you directly:

        ". . . we apply what can be applied and doing so we prove that what can be applied is true , after that we believe that we have enough reasons to accept the entire Bible"

        As you and Thomas correctly point out, we have no way of testing certain religious claims. The veracity of these claims rests entirely on the people who proclaimed them. However, just because the writers of the Bible made some true statements does not mean *all* their statements are true, practically or theoretically. The fact that people can be partially correct is at the very center of my argument. So long as our only source of information about heaven and hell is through the mouths and pens of fallible human beings, there will be significant uncertainty on those topics.

        Religious faith downplays this uncertainty, treating it as less of a problem that it is. Faith, as the Bible defines it in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1, is to "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see".


        "I don't want those things , the hell and the heaven aren't about that."

        The Bible is clear that heaven is a place without suffering or strife (i.e. a peaceful place) and that hell is where infinite justice is dispensed (i.e. wrongdoings remedied). Perhaps I was unclear again in conveying my thoughts, but I think we can both agree the promises of heaven and hell appeal to peoples' natural desires, and this influences people to believe.
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          Jan 1 2012: Hi Tony
          I agree with Eduard. I did get to the stage where sufficient of the bible was making sense, that I accepted that the rest of it was true on faith alone. there is so much in it that a lifetime would be insufficient to get to the bottom of it intellectually. We have to make a step of faith; & trust God, things then are easier to understand. I have been studying it for 25yrs or so & find it fascinating how the 66 books Intertwine. There is also much that didn't make sense until the time was right. Eg the middle east standoff, & the emergence of a cashless society.

          :-)
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          Jan 1 2012: Hi Tony:

          So your main objection is that the results of our logic are in contradiction with the others and because both of them can't be tested we have to have faith in the people who transmitted to us among many other truths the results of their logic . I gonna say what it doesn't mean : -it doesn't mean our logic is wrong
          -it doesn't mean our results are completely false
          -it doesn't mean we can't trust the people who however a bit earlier said us some very deep and unusual truths .
          But there is a way out of here : - as I said and how we agreed this people prove with their life some truths; many of this truths are of a moral nature (to not lie , to forgive , to be gentle....to be holy in the end ) and as we know from the reality it takes an entire life period to prove this truths : therefore the possibility that this people to lie to us (to compromise themselves ) it's almost zero , to suspect them of misleading us it's a bit strange and it's not correct at least morally .
          And not forget : the most part of the truths proclaimed and the most important one are self -evident when applied .

          "Faith, as the Bible defines it in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1, is to "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see"." (lol) really I don't wanna talk about it (my apologize).

          "I think we can both agree the promises of heaven and hell appeal to peoples' natural desires, and this influences people to believe." This happen , but it's not like that for everyone who understand deeper the Bible :I don't wanna go in details but a true christian live only under the God's influence , his desires as a man have to disappear gradually in time .... and many other things.

          (if my way of talking in English it's a bit strange , sorry for that : someone here on TED said to me to not be so proud ......... I'm not....... but...)

          Best
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        Jan 1 2012: Hi Peter,

        "We have to make a step of faith; & trust God"

        Trusting God is one thing. Trusting a human messenger is quite another. Problem is, you cannot accept certain doctrines such as heaven, hell, original sin, etc. without placing unflagging faith in the messenger's accuracy, unless of course you happen to have a direct line of communication with God to corroborate. So long as the messengers are human and we lack communication with the divine, it leaves us in an position of uncertainty stemming from the fallibility of human beings.

        I've never communicated with God, and one cannot build trust in someone they've never had any contact with. At best, all you can do is trust the person who claims to speak for God. This is why I say religious faith is first and foremost faith in the human writers of the holy book(s).

        There are a thousand ways this thread could diverge. In the interest of keeping the exchange manageable, I'll try to keep focus on the original point: "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?" It is my contention that without exposure to a religion (i.e. exposure to certain messengers of allegedly inspired doctrine) neither you nor I would arrive at the any religion's concept of heaven or hell except by random speculation. These are concepts beyond the exploration of mere mortals. Thus, these doctrines inescapably depend on the veracity of the messengers, as our confidence in any untestable claim can only ever be as good as the confidence we have in the messenger's factual integrity.
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          Jan 1 2012: There is possible to communicate with God .


          I gonna be missing for some days from TED , if you'll post an answer to my comments check for my answer after some days.......... thanks and have a great time !!
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          Jan 1 2012: Hi Tony
          I understand your scepticism. The bible was indeed penned by mere mortals. Is your contention then that a being capable of creating the universe is incapable of directing men to write a book? Presumably you also doubt his ability to communicate directly with we mere mortals ? God has promised to draw near to those who try to draw near to him. The ball is in your court.
          On the question of heaven and hell. As they are described in the book, that is my source, so it is doubtful if I would have known about them otherwise. We are assured that our eternal state will reflect the opportunity we had to know God, and how we used these opportunities. As far as I knew, I was destined for worm food. When I was given an outside chance of eternal life I could see no valid reason to spurn it. The truth or otherwise of the bible for me hung on whether God kept his word if I obeyed him. He did, & the rest is history. Folks have absolutely nothing to lose, but most refuse what is the option of eternal life. Why ? Beats me; pride I guess.
          BTW God & I are now in regular contact, as are most Christians.

          :-)
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          Jan 1 2012: Hi Tony,
          I agree with you, if we did not have the Bible, or organized religion, we would not have believe in heaven or hell. Just from mere observation of life around us, we would conclude that there is a cycle of life. Things are born and things die. That's it. And as has been stated already, the belief in an afterlife precede the Bible.

          Two days ago I posted some information on this.

          And as far as what Peter says, I say with all due respect to him, that my faith is not blind. I do not accept any teachings without researching them. The Bible itself encourages us to dig for "understanding" to search for "wisdom" as if hidden treasure. I did not believe part of the Bible, and then assumed the rest was true. I continue to learn, as faith is something that can increase just like knowledge and understanding.

          At John 17:3 Jesus said to take in "accurate knowledge of him and his Father". And at 1 Timothy 2:3-4 Paul says that God's will is that "all sorts of men....come to an accurate knowledge of truth".... and furthermore at Romans 12:1 Paul entreats Roman Christians to serve God with their "power of reason".

          I really and truly understand why so many refuse to even talk about religion/God/Bible. Many who claim to have faith say "Just believe". I can't.....I need to study, and research, and make sure of all things with my power of reason. When my faith is based on accurate knowledge, then, motivated by love of God and my fellowman I will be able to "make a defense before everyone that demands of me a reason for the hope in me", but I will be able to do so with a mild temper and deep respect.
          God wants us to love him and love others, but like a loving Father, he respects our freedom of choice. We choose.
          If we truly want to find the truth about the God of the Bible, then look at what the Bible says of him: "Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you" James 4:8

          Anyone reading this is welcomed to ask me about my faith. All my love Mary
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        Jan 2 2012: Hi Eduard,

        My main objection is when people express certainty in claims that cannot be tested. I'm not saying all the doctrines in the Bible are false, any more than I'm saying they're true. What I am saying is that many of the Bible's claims are uncertain to us human beings. The biblical message of faith, however, is that we need to be *certain* about things we cannot "see" (this means things we cannot verify).


        "But there is a way out of here . . . many of this truths are of a moral nature (to not lie , to forgive , to be gentle....to be holy in the end ) . . . therefore the possibility that this people to lie to us (to compromise themselves ) it's almost zero . . ."

        A person does not have to lie to be wrong. This is why I never questioned the moral integrity of the biblical authors, any more than I question the moral integrity of my Mormon friends, or my Jehovah's Witness friends, or my Sikh friends, or even you. The fact that people of good conscience can strongly disagree on fundamental claims about God, heaven, hell, and other critical doctrines is proof positive that the human capacity for assessing spiritual truths is very poor even under the best of conditions. It is precisely out of respect for people of differing faiths who prove their integrity by their very lives (and in some cases by their deaths!) that we must admit uncertainty.


        "if my way of talking in English it's a bit strange , sorry for that"

        No apology is needed. I greatly respect you for conversing with me in English about all these deep topics when it is clear English is not your first language. I consider you a gentleman, and I have enjoyed our exchange so far!
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          Jan 3 2012: Hi Tony:

          I agree with you with the idea that even we are moral we can be wrong , there is need of a bit of faith and Peter take the lead with some explanations on this , I don't have time to continue , sorry .
          I just wanna say that there aren't so many claims which can't be tested from the Bible and as I said somewhere above all this claims are of a relatively little importance (even of no importance for being in the bible language 'redemeed').

          Thank you .
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        Jan 2 2012: Hi Peter,

        "Is your contention then that a being capable of creating the universe is incapable of directing men to write a book? Presumably you also doubt his ability to communicate directly with we mere mortals?"

        Clearly no. By the same token I also don't doubt Barack Obama's ability to call you on the telephone tonight and brief you on top-secret matters of foreign policy concerning the present situation with Iran. However, if you told me tomorrow that the President of the United States did exactly that, I could not believe you unless and until you could prove to me that you were in such a position as to be privy to this kind of information. Even then, I would need some reasonable evidence demonstrating that such a thing did happen, after having established the fact that it could.


        "Folks have absolutely nothing to lose, but most refuse what is the option of eternal life. Why? Beats me; pride I guess."

        Please consider that a position of non-belief could spring from humility rather than pride. I, and others like me, consciensciously refuse to place faith in matters like heaven and hell when the spectrum of alternative possibilities is so broad. Speaking on behalf of all those people who do not have a direct line of communication with God, we simply have no rational basis for certitude in these areas. To ask someone in this position to make a positive leap of faith in certain doctrines is tantamount to requesting they lie: asking them to claim to know something they do not in fact know. What this person stands to lose by making the leap of faith is their integrity.

        The promise of eternal life in heaven for making this leap only makes the proposal sound all the more suspicious.
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          Jan 2 2012: Hi Tony
          To answer Mary's point. I do not advocate blind faith either. We will never in this life attain empirical certainty on everything in the bible. However as we endeavour to understand more, & the bible continues to be vindicated, our faith in the accuracy of the remainder is strengthened.
          Many people have a capacity for faith from the get-go. It seems akin to an instinct; my wife, a radiographer, is like that. I am more like you, I look for proof. I guess this really depends on your present worldview . I guess I had the basics of heaven & hell & such, but never paid it much heed. I had gone as far as I could with evolution & wasn't sold. My wife got saved in 1985 & I set out to prove her wrong. This was the first time I'd taken the bible seriously. I guess I cottoned on to the creation literature first as this was my 'thing'. Long story short, the bible made sense, it fitted the facts, as I saw them.
          I see no danger to your integrity from following what you believe to be right. If you are lost in a dark wood & you call for help to anyone who may be there; is that a lie? For me, I could see that the stakes were so high that what others may.think was irrelevant.
          :-)

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