Life After The Afterlife

Is it possible for humans to have a transcendent moral code if they no longer believe in an afterlife? Some Christians today argue that it is impossible to have any sort of morality without belief in Christ, but that’s largely a self-serving claim. God’s role in the affairs of man, in the Christian context, is primarily as the ruler of Heaven. Those, who live a moral life, a Christian life, will spend eternity in Heaven at the foot of Christ. The people who live wicked lives, will be condemned to an eternity out of the sight of God.

All of the word’s great religions have an afterlife. The Abrahamic faiths, of course, all share a similar conception of Heaven and Hell, with God ruling the former and Satan ruling the latter. Eastern religions have more esoteric and mystical approaches. Buddhists believe in a cycle of death and rebirth. Through eventual enlightenment, they hope to escape this and achieve Nirvana, an end to suffering. Hindus believe that through knowledge and wisdom, you can achieve a liberation of the soul in the afterlife.

The conception of an afterlife as a reward and an escape from human suffering is relatively new to humanity. The Greeks did not have an afterlife. A Greek lived his life so he would be remembered. Maybe his shade would end up in Hades, but that was not much of a reward. The morality of the Greeks assumed that punishment for angering the gods happened in this life. Sacrifices to the gods were all about getting good fortune now, not after death. The gods played an active role in the affairs of man, only while he lived.

The Egyptians had an afterlife, but it was only for the elite. Given their habit of burying servants with the dead, the afterlife could also include the attendants. Like the great man’s other possessions buried with him, it was assumed he would need some slaves and servants once he entered the afterlife. It does not appear that this conception of an afterlife spawned a corresponding moral code. It was not a reward for a life lived well, but a reward for having been born to the right parents and the right station in life.

It is largely believed that the people who gave mankind the concept of an afterlife, one open to everyone who lived righteously, were the Zoroastrians. They believed those who lived on the side of good spent the after life in the House of Song, which they also called the Abode of Light. The Zoroastrians taught that everyone, who followed a proper code, could live forever and that the soul mattered. Those who sided with evil in this life would be condemned to an eternity of darkness and torment.

The Zoroastrians also gave us the duality of God on one side and Satan on the other. They used different terms. Ahura Mazda is the creator of the world and father of the two spirits, Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu. The former is the “good” spirit, the latter, is the destructive  and evil one. This conflict between good and evil is central to Zoroastrianism and provided the foundation of their moral philosophy. It is also the first known example of a religion basing a moral code on something beyond the here and now.

The Jews picked this up from their time in captivity. The Pentateuch has no reference to Satan, but the Book of Job, written much later, has the familiar Satan figure. In Daniel, Heaven and Hell appear for the first time. Given the history of the Jewish people at this time, it is most likely that they borrowed these concepts from the Zoroastrians. The Satan that Jesus describes is pretty much the Zoroastrian Angra Mainyu. Christian morality is entirely built on the concept of the afterlife and the battle between good and evil.

This is why Nietzsche blamed the Zoroastrians for morality. He and most Europeans scholars of the age were familiar with Zoroastrianism and understood its influence on the Abrahamic religions. Thus Spake Zarathustra is his effort to turn Zoroastrian moral philosophy on its head. Rather than an eternity of good versus evil, he has an re-imagined Zarathustra discover his error and correct the mistake of morality. Nietzsche is a tough read, but the implication is there can be no morality without the supernatural.

The question for our age is can we maintain a moral code when no one believes in God or an afterlife? This is clearly something our betters struggle with, even though they don’t think of it in these terms. The New Religion that Progressives are trying to impose upon us has no explicit god or eternal reward for the faithful. Instead, they are forced to conjure mystical stand-ins like the “tides of history” or appeals to nature. Even their appeals to science are really just appeals to an unnamed and mystical deity.

Right wing Progressives suffer from the same dilemma. It’s not an accident that you never hear conservative pundits make explicit appeals to Christian morals or even Jewish morality. Instead, they argue that Donald Trump is immoral because he vexes the shade of Ronald Reagan or Bill Buckley. They may not come out and call these guys deities, but they certainly treat them as prophets. Put another way, lacking any moral authority they have turned Reagan and Buckley into apostles of a messiah that is never mentioned.

This is, of course, the root of our current cultural troubles. For example, on whose authority was racism made a mortal sin? If it is, what happens when you commit this crime? From whom do you ask forgiveness? If the racist and the anti-racist molder in the same ground together after death, what’s the point of being a devout anti-racist? Perhaps that’s the real reason Progs are digging up Confederate soldiers. They lack an afterlife beyond the graveyard, so that will be their heaven and only the righteous will be buried.

Now, it does not follow that we are condemned to an age of might makes right. The Greeks got along fine without worrying about the afterlife. They did have a set of gods, who had to be mollified. Otherwise, bad things would happen to man in this life. Given the shape of our nature cults and the fanaticism of our secular elites, it is clear that we have not evolved past the point of needing a transcendent morality. That suggests some new deity will replace the Christian god and we get a new conception of the afterlife.

Alternatively, the recent efforts to fashion a civic religion will founder as it lacks the necessary moral authority to induce voluntary compliance. The Christianity that flowered in the middle ages may be on the ropes, but something new will surely spring from its ruins. Perhaps the flood of Islam into the West is part of that process. That’s not to say that the West will embrace Islam, but that the soul abhors a vacuum. Maybe we are on the edge of a great religious experiment, like that which birthed Zoroastrianism.

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Member

“Christian morality is entirely built on the concept of the afterlife and the battle between good and evil.”
Not just so. The concept of Original Sin plays a big part. That we are fundamentally flawed with this problem, Christian morality is a guide to a better life now although not necessarily a prosperous one.

I like this observation: We are not so much punished for our sins as we are by our sins.

Issac
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Issac

You affirmed both of the points quoted. The Fall is a good/evil concept and moral object lesson and as you said yourself, Christian morality does not concern itself with a better life except as it relates to afterlife.

c matt
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c matt

I don’t know which Christians argue that you can’t have a morality without a belief in the afterlife. Of course you can. It is just that such a morality is completely arbitrary.

PRCD
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PRCD

The Christian view of morality is explained in Romans chapters 1 and 2. At Creation, God published the 10 Commandments on the human heart/conscience. Man therefore has inherent knowledge of right and wrong. Unbelievers can’t explain this, but they have it.

Severian
Guest

That’s the thing that has always bugged me about Progressivism: What, exactly, is the point? Marx et al were quite explicit: There is no God, everything but their precious Dialectic is atoms and void. So we manage to make our threescore and ten a bit less painful. What’s the point? Two IV tubes — one filled with nutrient broth, the other with morphine — would accomplish that, without all the gulags and secret police. Nietzsche might say that in the absence of God, the struggle itself is the point… but in Marx’s world, the struggle is over. All that for… Read more »

Ivar
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Ivar

The only reason there has to be a ”point” is to satisfy/placate the big brain that rides on top of one of the Great Apes. We pay a high price for that brain, I suspect a price that it too high.

Anonymous White Male
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Anonymous White Male

I’ve always wondered that, too. In a universe without heaven/hell, reward/punishment, or some kind of “meaning”, why would anyone be anything other than a self-serving, hedonistic survivalist? In a world like that, the Clintons would be paragons of virtue. I mean, why not? You have your 4 score life and then…….nothing. The universe is not aware of you and there will be no moment in which the “good” and “bad” will be judged. And humanity will eventually be dust, too, and then finally, the universe. Why care about your fellow man, other than…..because?

DLS
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DLS

If God does not exist, everything is permitted. -Dostoevsky

Severian
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Exactly. Why do you care so much that I’m a racist, sexist, homophobe, whatever? Because it’s mean? All we are is dust in the wind, dude. All I’ve ever done, all you’ll ever do, all are gone and neither of us could ever possibly care. As a great paragon of moral virtue once said, “at this point, what difference does it make?”

Ganderson
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Ganderson

“Philosophize with him, dude!” Excellent!

PhysicistDave
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PhysicistDave

AWM wrote:
>I’ve always wondered that, too. In a universe without heaven/hell, reward/punishment, or some kind of “meaning”, why would anyone be anything other than a self-serving, hedonistic survivalist?

You think that would be a happy life? I don’t, and I do not believe in God. And, based on over a half century of observation on this point, I have not noticed that people who live that way seem particularly happy.

Anonymous White Male
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Anonymous White Male

But, as an atheist, you are merely substituting your desire for some kind of meaning in life to substitute for the presence of “God”. What I’m trying to point out is that regardless of whether you substitute a “meaning” for your life into your mind, your life won’t have any meaning. Why? Because a reality that has no existing timeless observer will end and nothing will be recorded anywhere to give meaning to how you spent your live, how humanity spent its life, and how the physical universe existed. It will all be over and there will be no awareness… Read more »

PhysicistDave
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PhysicistDave

Well… *you* are just substituting God’s assignment of meaning for your own assignment of meaning. That is just an arbitrary choice: you don’t have to. There is just no escaping the fact that we have to choose what meanings we accept, endorse, and pursue, whether or not God exists. And, quite frankly, if there were a God who was as arbitrary and malicious as the Old Testament God, any decent person would reject him. Fortunately, that God does not exist. In fact, there is a common core of morality that is almost universal among human societies: don’t lie, don’t steal,… Read more »

Anonymous White Male
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Anonymous White Male

Look, I don’t care what you believe. I’m just telling you that your life has no meaning. You believe you will die and cease to exist. If so, your existence doesn’t matter. Your attempt to find some meaning for yourself is just something that allows you the delusion that you are more important than a speck of dirt. You’re not. I have trouble with someone that uses absolutes when speaking about something he knows nothing about. Saying that “any decent” person would believe such-and-such is virtue signaling. Saying that something that you cannot prove “does not exist” is just hubris… Read more »

PhysicistDave
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PhysicistDave

AWM wrote to me: >Saying that there is a common core of morality that you think is universal, consisting of not lying, not stealing, not murdering, not committing adultery is laughable. Its not just exceptions to those rules that society makes. Just look at the history of mankind. A history of lying, stealing, murdering, committing adultery of over 4000 years. How many societies do you know of that tolerated that sort of thing routinely by most members of their own society against other members of their own society? I doubt you can give a single example. Yes, history is indeed… Read more »

vlad
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vlad

“I have trouble with someone that uses absolutes when speaking about something he knows nothing about.” Ah, that’s what I meant. None of us KNOW, we have different beliefs and/or faith, and when some state their beliefs flatly as if they were fact, it is disconcerting to others..

Gregory Pierce
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Gregory Pierce

Do you have children?

vlad
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vlad

May I just step in for a sec to say how gratifying it is to witness so many others sharing the intellectual discomfort I felt when I read this statement of opinion written as if it were full of unquestionable facts. The basic premise (the problems of believing or not in an afterlife and how that affects morality) itself is an opinion, followed by others stated definitely rather than put forth as “Though others may disagree..” or “It is my opinion that…”

Dutch
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Dutch

The Progressive version of morality is not about being kind to others and doing the right thing (though real morality is much more than that). It is about labeling others as moral misfits and using their (self-assigned) moral superiority as a bludgeon to extract mental and physical payment from others. Progressives do not believe in an afterlife, so “anything goes” in this one. “Morality” is a tool to shame others out of their belongings, mental well-being, and social stature. Because Progs use the terminology and borrow many of the elements of those who do believe in an afterlife, things get… Read more »

fodderwing
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fodderwing

I enjoyed your comment, Dutch. You hit the nail squarely on the head. I think Progressives tend toward the sociopathic, and what better tool to achieving one’s ends than to use the morality of others to defeat them.

Philhellenic
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Philhellenic

we must face the facts here. the point is, there is no known a priori point. so, what do we do? wring our hands in despair or invent one. this is a consequence of freedom. an awesome freedom. you create your own meaning and purpose. why do you get up in the morning? figure it out. no one can tell you.

Ivar
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Ivar

One of the new religions is Scientism, complete with a priest class, liturgical garments (lab coats) and an obscure to most but impressive and cool looking liturgical language (mathematics).

Anonymous White Male
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Anonymous White Male

That is similar to the evolution of the priesthood in the Dark Ages. But, because events move so much faster now, we are already at the priesthood/scientists are hypocrites and do not follow their own morality. Indulgences are equivalent to grants for research. I think that the actual practice of morality is similar to the number of negroes you let into a country. If the number of those that follow the “I’m only in it for me since there is no consequence for evil” or the number of negroes are only 10% of the population, society will maintain a solid… Read more »

Alzaebo
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Alzaebo

Those sciencematics sure are adept at reading the entrails, though.
This is my impressed face.

Edit-
“morality is similar to the number of negroes you let into a country. ”
That’s it, that’s the new “E=MC2”!

Yak-15
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Yak-15

If you take out the word “god” in the Bible and replaced it with “society” everything would still make sense. The ultimate punishment for transgressing against “society” was banishment to an area without “society.” We still retain that aspect of religion – say the N-word in a public forum and you can expect to be expelled from polite society. The prog religion does have a Nirvana – a borderless world of coffee-colored people that somehow still retain cultural diversity like Indian (Dot) Food Festivals, Balkan Dancing Troupes, Swedish Christmas Songs and Mexican Quinceñaras. But they lack the foresight and hindsight… Read more »

LoveTheDonald
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LoveTheDonald

It may well destroy the nation, but I am confident it will not destroy the white race, and may indeed have the opposite result of that which they desire. Like Haman in the Book of Esther. Or even Robespierre. It’s up to the Lord to determine the fate of a people.

Member

While I agree that there will have to be a new conception of an afterlife, our capacity for great destruction/evil increases by the day. What if we don’t get a new opportunity?

Garr
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Garr

From the Jowett translation of Plato’s Republic, Book 2, via Gutenberg’s online PDF: “And they produce a host of books written by Musaeus and Orpheus, who were children of the Moon and the Muses — that is what they say — according to which they perform their ritual, and persuade not only individuals, but whole cities, that expiations and atonements for sin may be made by sacrifices and amusements which fill a vacant hour, and are equally at the service of the living and the dead; the latter sort they call mysteries, and they redeem us from the pains of… Read more »

Burner Prime
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Jeez. Z-man appears to have done good research on religions to supply a background to this thesis, but he stopped short on how serious atheists handle this question. It is not a new one. Or maybe he knows, but left it out, because then his claim about the anchors of morality fails. There is or can be morality in the absence of religion or belief in punishing gods or ejection from a happy afterlife. It already exists. It is simply following the Golden Rule: Do unto others….”. Religions and the left-right factions all define parameters for contemporary morality (and those… Read more »

james+wilson
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james+wilson

Atheist with a healthy moral code found it living in a society in which they did not create. We have seen the societies which they create. The difference between the one and the other is, as Chesterton put it, too like polished steel to rust.

Member

Having read the bible twice I don’t recall much mention of a heaven in the Yid part.
Don’t recall much mention of Abraham in the Christian part.

Garr
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Garr

Romans 4 (from the Geneva Bible online PDF): 1 What shall we say then, that Abraham our father hath found concerning the flesh? 2 For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath wherein to rejoice, but not with God. 3 For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. 4 Now to him that worketh, the wages is not counted by favor, but by debt; 5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. 6 Even as David declareth the… Read more »

Alzaebo
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Alzaebo

Now you’ve done it, bilejones.
I just knew somebody would start the monkeys barking.

Garr
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Garr

He said “Don’t recall much mention of Abraham in the Christian part.” I count 8 mentions of Abraham in Romans 4, which is “in the Christian part.”

Garr
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Garr

in the last 3 minutes, scanning my King James hardcopy, I’ve also found Abraham mentioned in Acts 7:2 and in 1 Peter 3:6.

PRCD
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PRCD

“Before Abraham was, I AM” John 8:58.

Also, Hebrews 11.

Member

Yid is inexact but I’ll try…
Genesis – Jacob’s ladder – where were the Angels going.
The Prophets caught up to heaven.
Abraham was discussed by Paul, is in the Gospels, and Hebrews, and I can’t help you if you can’t use a concordance or Google.
The key verse is when the Pharisees questioned Jesus about Abaraham seeing this day
See the Gospel of John, chapter 8.
You all but quote the pharisees.

Zeroth Tollrants
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Zeroth Tollrants

What part of the Bible are you calling the “Yid,” part, because Jews DO NOT follow the 1st 4 books of the Bible. That is a lie.

TomA
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TomA

Our species is unique in that we adapted complex language skill over a 100,000 years ago and have used it to reprogram our young after birth with acquired wisdom that enhanced their survival in the ancient environment of our evolution. As any parent knows, transferring wisdom to your kids is not an easy task and history teaches us that religious practices work better and the extant religions are the ones that have succeeded at this the best. Apparently the use of a supernatural deity and reward system is very helpful. And the mysticism part was necessary to deal with all… Read more »

Alzaebo
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Alzaebo

Oddly, it follows a ‘family’ guideline- how natural for a social species.

Right now they’re calling for Mommy to come back and make the Bad Daddy go away. This divorce is going to sh*t.

Based Millennial
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Based Millennial

It will be a true horror if the West embraced Islam. Unlike Christianity, Islam creates a mental trap from which you cannot escape. To illustrate, Christianity under Thomas Aquinas allowed for the use of Greek and Roman philosophy to show that Christianity was true. Christianity allowed outside systems as God was considered perfect and his system was the best of all worlds, so any philosophical system would come to that conclusion. Also, the Bible was written by second hand sources, so outside systems could interpret it anyway they could. Islam lacks this. Islam is more akin to the totalitarianism of… Read more »

vlad
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vlad

Thank you…waiting or that.

Stiggs
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Stiggs

Job is the oldest book of the Bible, it was not written much later than Genesis as you state but in 1660bc, vs Genesis, ca 1440bc

Karl Horst (Germany)
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Karl Horst (Germany)

Many people assume Christians go to heaven in the afterlife, however that’s not the full story. If you read Rev 21:1, you will find there’s “…a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” So from this we can speculate there will be a new earth. The question is whether or not this new earth is in a completely different universe (dimension) given the concept of time will most likely become irrelevant since we will be immortal. The idea does makes for some interesting discussions.… Read more »

Member

As a Catholic I never was taught or got the impression that eternal life was granted that easily. Granted probably is the wrong term, achieved would be better. Narrow is the way and few will find it….
There are a lot of cheap knock off Christian sects who make it so easy but saying don’t make it so.

Alzaebo
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Alzaebo

Boy howdy is that the question.
Well done. Reporting from the front lines.

Member

The error is assuming the linear time we experience on earth applies in Heaven. It doesn’t. I’m not sure what does. Beyond that God – the Trinity – exists in an “eternal now” where they don’t experience Time as such as they created Time itself (so asking about God chose and omnipotence v.s. omniscience is just out of context as it requires Time).

Steveaz
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Steveaz

Medicalism is one of the Progressives’ new, secular faiths.

And it is one which shares its pews gleefully with many ersatz Conservatives.

There’s a strange convergence between the Left and the Penny Loafer Right in this particular Progressive church that should get more attention.

Member

A moral code without reference to anything transcendent or an afterlife is a purity spiral. Eventually all fail and must be cast out, save those doing the spiraling and casting-out. We see that today with everything from racism to sexism to #metoo-ism to environmentalism. Instead of liberation from oppressive morality, an oppressive morality blankets all life. At least Christian morality has space for moral liberty where Christian morality is silent. ====================== Nits: 1. Satan appears in Genesis, part of the Penteteuch. 2. Lower-case “o” orthodox Christianity requires belief in Christ as savior for salvation. Works count more or less depending… Read more »

fishlaw
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fishlaw

“The Pentateuch has no reference to Satan,”
Actually it does. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, the serpent stands for Satan. That is why God said that eventually the offspring of the woman Eve (offspring meaning Jesus) would bruise the serpent’s head–understood as Satan. Genesis 3:15

John Smith
Member

Boys, I have been through the proggie wringer. My parents sent me to a school where kids were expected to “find their own way”. Self esteem was more important than education. The strap got binned as barbaric. There’s always a second chance. When I got out into the real world I took it in the shorts as I learned about jobs and responsibilities. It was even worse when I had kids of my own. Couldn’t spank them AT ALL because spankings were child abuse. Rinse and repeat with the warm fuzzies I grew up with, except magnified by a factor… Read more »

MAA Shyuejinn
Member

I agree with almost all of your points. I used to be a sneering (in private) agnostic who maintained minimally polite relations with Christians. After my divorce, I came down with legionellosis, a life-threatening illness. Catholics and Protestants stayed with me in the hospital night and day , brought a me homecooked food and prayed for my recovery. Afterwards, I was very weak, so a missionary couple (coworkers) let me stay in their home for one month, but made no effort to convert me. That’s when I made a concerted effort to study the Bible (on my own initiative) and… Read more »

Jacksonian Grouch
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Jacksonian Grouch

@Glenfilthie –

in a word: Inspiring.

Don’t shut up, Fraters – In Cristo, Libertatis

The JG

Tom
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Tom

I’ll suggest that actually there is a universe full of gods. Some are interested in us, most are indifferent. The ufo phenomenon may have some relation. I like Jacques Vallee, so much.

Hardvanger
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Hardvanger

Vallee is an Establishment diversion agent. Has been for 50 years.

Alzaebo
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Alzaebo

Can’t use it, so I’m neutral.
Same with the God As Creator Of The Entire Universe thing.

One of those “could be” things, a fun puzzle and enlivening speculation, but can’t find any clear guidelines in it…

Except one.
“Kneel! Kneel to Zod!”

A.B. Prosper
Guest
A.B. Prosper

Given the divergent experiences with the Divine, Pantheism seems pretty likely to me more than any of the Monotheist religions being “the One” or Atheism

J.M. Greer’s A World Full of Gods discusses this idea at length. I’ve yet to read the book so I can’t comment on his reasoning though other material of his on Ecosophia and the now gone Archdruid Report were always worth a read

Din C. Nuffin
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Din C. Nuffin

Commandments 6 through 10 of the Decalogue, murder, adultery, theft, lying, and desiring your neighbor’s things, all dealt with establishing a harmonious here, not a hereafter. Had Moses not run out of stationary, he might have added “Thou shalt not coerce thy neighbor, against his will.” (The Jews kept slaves at that time, which might have exposed him to charges of hypocrisy.) If the goal is a harmonious society, the Decalogue works okay. When the goal is changed to a more “equitable” society, dissention replaces harmony as re-distribution of property is necessary to achieve some concept of equity. “From each… Read more »

Alzaebo
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Alzaebo

Yes, leading us to “all cats must be fed”, even the feral and rabid ones, the morality of the toxoplasmic cat ladies that rule us.

Ivan
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Ivan

Christianity and Communism have a lot in common. Look up the Anabaptists, basically medieval communists. They were put down by the Catholics (the church+state version of Christianity)

Al from da Nort
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Al from da Nort

Z Man; Another deep essay. You do a great service in carefully examining the exact religious underpinnings of today’s Progressivism in order to find means to beat it. The crazy thing is that today’s Progs are all reflexive post-modernists and yet there’s supposed to be transcendent standards of morality for them to appeal to. If there are any such standards then their core faith is false and one need look no further. Specifically, any post-modernist must claim that there *cannot* be such a thing as absolute truth. This statement is absurd and contradictory on its face.* Yet that absurdity (like… Read more »

Eddie
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Eddie

I see two complete and total misunderstandings of Christianity in the first paragraph. “Some Christians today argue that it is impossible to have any sort of morality without belief in Christ, but that’s largely a self-serving claim. ” I’m sure some Gomer McChurchpew might say this, but not anyone with theological education. The argument that Christians (and other religious people, for that matter) make is that non-religious moral codes are inherently arbitrary, and in fact most non-religious people more or less adopt the moral code given to them by the dominant religion of their culture, even if they deny the… Read more »

Ron Winkleheimer
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Ron Winkleheimer

the idea that living a moral life is sufficent — or even necessary — for salvation has never been Christian teaching. Yes, I’m a Lutheran and this is stressed at my church quite often. I appreciate his essays, but his understanding of Christian theology is faulty, at best. But then, so is that of a lot of Christians. The fact is, if you stood at the door of a Church and asked the congregants as they left what they would say to justify being allowed into heaven after they died many would tell you that they would talk about all… Read more »

post+tenebras+lux
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post+tenebras+lux

exactly. jesus came to do what we could not do for ourselves

slumlord
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slumlord

If you define morality as a set of rules that governs people’s behaviour then, yes, you can have a morality without God. But does that “morality” matter? Who gives a shit about Kumbayah Ethics once you’re dead. A moral code without consequences for flouting that code is meaningless and a simple matter of personal preference rather than something more substantial. The power of the Judging God is what gives the moral code some teeth. Being judged in the afterlife means that even death provides no means of escape for those who flout the moral order. An eternal unchanging God means… Read more »

Member

1. I’m not sure we need a new religious revolution. 2. This from the Greek book of the dead attributed to Homer: Then I saw Lede, wife of Tyndareus, who bore him those Stout hearted twins, Castor the trainer of horses, and Polydeuces the great boxer, both of whom are still alive, though the fruitful earth has received them in her lap. For even in the world below they have been singled out by Zeus; each is a living and a dead man on alternate days, and they are honored like the gods. Also, Greek funerary art commonly shows the… Read more »

MKR
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MKR

“Those, who live a moral life, a Christian life, will spend eternity in Heaven at the foot of Christ.” While often stated thusly, the sentence above wholly misrepresents the Gospel. Morality is a good thing, but no one is saved by living a moral life, whatever that means. Rather, the Bible teaches that those who will spend eternity with Christ are those who have faith that Jesus was crucified and died to pay the debt of sin for the whole world and rose again on the third day. Salvation by morality or rule-keeping is the rule in all other religions… Read more »

Member

Christianity is either true or not, and I believe it is true. Others have detailed the subtleties missed in the post. But to the point, at some point, even if a trillion years from now, if we do not have souls, whatever form humanity takes then will end. Entropy. Heat death. The last livable planet. The star providing the last human brain computer servers goes dark. Yet if we are immortal souls, it changes everything. If we all have a dirt-nap in a few years or decades, then pleasure is to be maximized, and at best if you happen to… Read more »

Member

Isn’t this the basic premise of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”?

Be excellent to each other, y’all.

Robert
Guest
Robert

I recommend you all read the book “Conversations With God” by Neale Donald Walsch for some very interesting ideas about God, Christianity and the Afterlife. He proposes a friendly God of all things, not the Jesus-is-the-only-way one of the Bible. Far too much to summarize here, but I, as an old man facing imminent demise, found it fascinating reading.

Christopher Chantrill
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Christopher Chantrill

The whole point of social animals is to minimize expensive force. The most cunning way we have done this is with divine judgement, and God “willingly and vigilantly” culling the transgressors after death.

The problem with the progressive plan is that there is no divine judgement to deal with the malefactors after death. Thus the rulers must do the divine judgement thing with real and fallible police and political force right here on Earth. I would not say they are doing very well with this plan.

WanWeiLin
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WanWeiLin

Theodore Beal (aka Vox Day) makes the case that Jesus was a racist by his slight of the Samaritan woman.

vlad
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vlad

It was a kind of test. Others got their own, individualized. She passed.

Ganderson
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Ganderson

I’m a not all that devout Catholic. I fell away from the Church as a college student but like many, after the kids arrived, I realized my principled opposition to organized religion was based mostly on an unwillingness to get up on Sunday mornings. I was a Lutheran for 20 years, but left when we called an openly gay minister. So it was back to the one true church for me- it’s still holding the line, sort of, at least if I pretend that Catholic Charities doesn’t exist. Any philosopher that I am, I have come to the conclusion that,… Read more »

PhysicistDave
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PhysicistDave

I realize this post was not meant to be a Ph.D. thesis on religious history, but a lot of this was really more complicated. Greek heroes could end up in the Elysian Fields. The Egyptians had a myth about the heart of the deceased being weighed to see if he had been a good person, and the concept of the Egyptian afterlife was being democratized as time passed. And, officially in Buddhism, Nirvana is the cessation of existence, not really an afterlife (I realize that popular forms of Buddhism vulgarize the concept). Anyway, the great “salvation religions” only go back… Read more »

Al from da Nort
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Al from da Nort

I can’t do that Dave: It wouldn’t be progress 🙂

vlad
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vlad

the cessation of individualized existence.

PhysicistDave
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PhysicistDave

You asked: >The question for our age is can we maintain a moral code when no one believes in God or an afterlife? This is clearly something our betters struggle with, even though they don’t think of it in these terms. Does religion actually affect people’s moral behavior? I decided not to be a Christian when I was a child largely because I noticed that not a single Christian that I knew even respected the idea of trying to live up to what the adults told us was Christian morality: turn the other cheek, give all you have to the… Read more »

Al from da Nort
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Al from da Nort

Dave; Respectfully, there’s only one sure way to avoid being a hypocrite: Have no standards at all. Otherwise, at some point, you too will fall short. Are churches full of hypocrites_? Absolutely_!!! That’s because we’re all sinful, fallen human beings and NO body can live up to God’s standards. The great news is, we don’t have to. What we do have to do is accept God’s free gift of Christ’s death on the cross in our place. And then after that to do our best, knowing it will never be enough, but also knowing that the matter is settled.

Robert
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Robert

“What we do have to do is accept God’s free gift of Christ’s death on the cross in our place”

All due respect, Al, but this simple statement is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to wrap my mind around. And I cannot, at this point, honestly say that I do. Therefore, the loving, Christian God will send me to hell for eternity. Some God, some “free will” choice we have to make.

PhysicistDave
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PhysicistDave

Al,

You misunderstand what I was saying.

What bothered me was not that they failed to live up to their own standards but rather that they exuded enormous contempt for the very idea of someone actually trying to live up to those standards.

I.e., they thought that someone who systematically turned the other cheek, gave all he had to the poor, etc. was quite bonkers.

And, I agree: why shouldn’t a person defend himself?

But, that shows that there really is something seriously wrong with Christian morality and therefore with Christianity.

Tekton
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Tekton

@ Dave and Robert.. You both have had a similar experience common to most (former or current) Christians. That is an early exposure to contradictory, nonsensical doctrine and hypocrisy. Yes Dave, you’re right–it is hypocrisy when people attack others within their own religion who are only making an honest attempt to follow its tenets. Maybe some envy too… But it happens a lot. What you guys need to understand though is that most Christians aren’t deliberate hypocrites or irrational religious nuts, but are merely products of their religious education. That’s to say, they’re mostly deceived in what they think their… Read more »

PhysicistDave
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PhysicistDave

Tekton wrote to me: >What you guys need to understand though is that most Christians aren’t deliberate hypocrites or irrational religious nuts, but are merely products of their religious education. Of course. I do not hate most of the people in the church my parents took me to (though I am still a bit angry at those adults who tried to “scare the Hell” out of kids). But Tekton also wrote: >So instead of lamenting how others have failed in their religion (or have represented something which sounds like nonsense or wickedness), why not get your own copy of the… Read more »

Tekton
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Tekton

“And, the doctrines I quoted are really in the NT.” They are not. You imagine they are. I’ve also been a life-long student of the Bible, so I understand your confusion. But I can also attest that the Scriptures do not contradict. It is you who do not understand… When you read the scriptures with the idea that you already understand them, you will get out of them exactly what you expect. Or nothing at all. No doubt your ‘church’ indoctrination preceded your own personal study of the Word. Therein lies your problem. You really want to know why you… Read more »

PhysicistDave
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PhysicistDave

Tekton wrote to me: And God in fact CONCEALS His Truth to all but those who earnestly and humbly seek Him out. Well. That pretty much says it all. Look: I have spent a good deal of time over the years studying the Bible. There are numerous clear and obvious falsehoods and contradictions. But… you tell me that if only I study it harder using your secret superlative super-human methods… well, then I will understand what God “CONCEALS” from most readers. Maybe. And maybe if I spend the rest of my life studying the writings of L. Ron Hubbard or… Read more »

vlad
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vlad

Jesus taught that there were many levels to what he was doing. He taught the disciples things that the Bible does not touch upon. Perhaps at another point in your life, you will see the whole concept of what “fighting back” entails differently than you do now. I have realized levels and layers of Christian teachings at various times of my life that did not occur to my before. I believe most of us, the older we get, do this more. We only understood parables as a child. Now we understand more, and this increases the more we communicate on… Read more »

vlad
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vlad

another interpretation of that is to turn the other cheek as a way of showing that you are so beyond that that it is of no difference to you, in a way that is shared by Buddhism and Stoicism.

pyrrhus
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pyrrhus

Quite a few of us believe in the immortality of the soul, and in reincarnation. Read the accounts written by Eben Alexander (Harvard neurosurgeon), Anita Moorjani (Dying to be me), or Dr. Brian Weiss (Yale psychiatrist and head of psychiatry at a prominent hospital) (Many Lives many Masters).Not to mention billions of people in Asia. And many of us have had near death experiences or other profound spiritual experiences…Many quantum physicists became mystics of one sort or another, because the double slit experiment shows that consciousness determines physical outcomes.Entanglement presents similar problems…
Western materialism has failed, because it ignores reality.

bad guest
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bad guest

“Is it possible for humans to have a transcendent moral code if they no longer believe in an afterlife? ” Kind of. Something like that goes on daily in large swaths of other hemispheres. See Theravada Buddhism in Thailand and SE Asia. It’s worked quite well for about 2500 years. I’ve contended for many years that Buddhists act more like Christians than avowed Christians do. Of course, having no experience of it, being conditioned by the indoctrination of their cultural upbringing, and not really caring much about these things to begin with, nobody pays much attention. I don’t expect to… Read more »

vlad
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vlad

Too generalized to put all Buddhists and all Christians into boxes in that way. Besides, there can be quite an overlap — also with other disciplines, as mentioned above, esp now with quantum theory. I have found my faith grows as I read the Bible with an open mind and communicate with God in the same way…it has about as much to do with the churchgoing I did as a child as quantum physics has to do with arithmetic. That churchgoing was only to provide a grounding, a basis, a framework, for later spiritual development and Christianity in my life,… Read more »

Dr.+Mabuse
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“That suggests some new deity will replace the Christian god and we get a new conception of the afterlife.” But what new deity? From where? There’s nothing on the horizon. Islam doesn’t qualify; it’s not a new religion. It’s old. It’s been around for 1500 years, long enough for people to have thoroughly examined it and found it useless to all but the most primitive tribes. It has no secrets, no fresh revelation. We’ve seen everything it has to offer, and it’s no more convincing now than it was a thousand years ago. Like multiplying bacteria in an infected wound,… Read more »

A.B. Prosper
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A.B. Prosper

Humanity survived eons without a dominant organized religion , relying on folkways and folk customs and tradition for moral teaching This works fine except perhaps its doesn’t scale to larger societies in the way Christianity does. That’s a valid concern but its kind of predicated on scale being a good idea or more importantly it being possible The later is far from certain, we may well be entering a new Dark Age and larger societies simply will have no place in it for a few centuries In any case it take a mere few decades to create new traditions (c.f… Read more »

Ron
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Ron

Not a new deity, but a new age to be herald in by God, who created us, the Millennium. The signs are there. If there is no God and the event doesn’t come on its own accord, well, the best we got to look forward to is any number of dsytopia’s, and the worst, extinction by any number and combination of events, becasue its plain as day we cannot solve our own problems, and are victims of our flaws.

PRCD
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PRCD

In Christianity, one does not and cannot earn heaven. Since the Fall of Adam and his posterity, man knows good but does evil and daily increases his guilt before God. One goes to heaven by believing in Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, as the final sacrifice and payment for sins.

StanFL
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Thank you for the interesting article. Even the comments were intriguing. I have been an atheistic Buddhist for many decades, so some of the assertions were hard to take, but one thing really caught my eye: the claim at the end of the post that something new was in the wind. I have a blog dedicated to that concept:
http://improvingbuddhism.bravesites.com/

Ron
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Ron

Beauty is a testament of a God, of a Grand designer, and an eternal afterlife. Otherwise we are all mad to allow ourselves to be transported by good music and visuals to the stratosphere, feeling more than human and more like angels with endless possibles to match our passions and ambition. Would practical, utilitarian evolution really play such a grand joke on humanity just to hard wire us to create and revel in such artistic explorations and delusions as a mere mental narcotic to help us pass the time before we become food for the worms? I think not. As… Read more »

vlad
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vlad

Some problems. 1. It is not “self-serving” to have an opinion that is different, any more then a person writing an article like this is self-serving when he calls OTHERs’ motives that. It is a difference of opinion; we start sounding like the left when we gratuitously slur the views of others. 2. “The Abrahamic faiths” sounds as thought there are several. There are two. islam is a totalitarian political ideology created a by a man whose life example did not warrant the followers he has, most of whom are born or brainwashed into the cult. Sad, but true. 3,… Read more »

StanFL
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This post is based on the unstated assumption that human beings are semi-rational, rational enough to figure out how to get some promised afterlife, but not rational enough to see the obvious logical flaws in any such afterlife. Why make this assumption about future humanity?
It also makes the unstated assumption that acceptance of a religion is a rational process, when everything indicates it is an emotional one, not a rational one. The design of a new religion depends greatly on which assumption you adhere to. I have a blog discussing this in more detail:
improvingbuddhism.bravesites.com

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The Anti-Gnostic
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The Anti-Gnostic

Late to the show. “The Egyptians had an afterlife, but it was only for the elite.” No, it varied depending on whether you were royal or nonroyal. You brought with you your valuable possessions in the afterlife to enjoy the fruits of your labor if you were a member of royalty. For those who lacked that distinction, you were buried with your meager possessions, but you would still experience life after death. Everyone desired to be mummified as elaborately as possible and be placed in well-kept tombs. Of course, not everyone could afford an equal kind of afterworld. The elite… Read more »