Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Afterlife – a Moral Necessity

As many people have noticed, in this world, the wicked frequently prosper while the righteous frequently suffer. For example, Mao and Stalin lived long, successful lives while many people who opposed tyranny met early and painful deaths. Considering this, it would seem clear that, in many cases, virtue is foolish and evil is smart. Crime can indeed pay very well.

That is, unless one believes in an afterlife.

The afterlife means that ultimately, justice will prevail. Virtue is always the smart choice and evil is always foolish. Whether in heaven, hell or some future incarnation, all accounts will be balanced out and good will triumph.

Of course, like any concept, the idea of an afterlife can be misused. Evil leaders can promise their followers a reward in the afterlife if they will do evil. However if one believes in a loving God who wishes us to help others and who will punish destructive behavior, then the belief in the afterlife is a powerful incentive to be a kind, patient and generous person.

The atheist, however, has no such incentive and on the contrary will quickly learn that dishonesty, selfishness and violence are often rewarded and, unless he simply has a very good natural temperament, he will behave accordingly. Atheism not only permits vice, a really virtuous atheist is simply a fool. His behavior contradicts his beliefs.

A belief in positive moral principles and an in an afterlife, where virtue is rewarded and evil punished, would seem to be the foundations of a successful society.

9 comments:

Orthoprax said...

JP,

What is the value in doing wrong only to help yourself? It's ultimately meaningless.

Most atheists are humanists and believe that the only meaning we have in this universe is with each other, hence we must be good to one another since we're all we've got.

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Chris said...

atheists can be good people and this does not make them 'fools'. Religion is only one reason to live a good life: people can have morality without religion

jewish philosopher said...

If they do, it's for emotional reasons not rational reasons, or because they want to fit in to a moral society.

Cruz Davis said...

Hey just a question. But what about the fact that observence of the law allows the Lord to purify us in this world. Doesn't this play an important role in why we are supposed to do good things and follow the commandments?

jewish philosopher said...

That's true too, however I'm not sure if that alone is always enough to motivate people.

Cruz Davis said...

I completely agree with you. I was just trying to clarify whether or not there was more of a reason than "other-wordly" motivation to do good. But I agree with you completely. It seems that it would be completely counter-intuitive for an athiest to think we should do these "good" deeds even though it gains you nothing in the immediacy of this physical life. It also interests me how the moral code is installed deeply within all of us but many people do not feel the need for recognizing the One who installed it.