The Importance of Being of No Consequence

Over the years, I’ve often posed this question to many people, “If I could somehow give you an eternal afterlife, but with the caveat that you cannot take God with you, would you still take the afterlife?

Because the question is unprecedented, it at first takes the person by surprise. After all, most Western people still connect an afterlife with the God they were raised to believe in. It would not normally occur to them to have one without the other.

So, there is often hesitation, but not for long.

While the sampling size for my afterlife question is small, it is significant that not one person said no. No one was willing to turn down an afterlife just because God didn’t come with the deal.

One of the great demarcations that divide most humans are those who believe in life after death and those who do not; those who do have an unerring desire to secure for themselves life beyond life.

Sure, they likely have strong feelings for their God. They will love, defend and even kill for him. But when push comes to shove they’d dump old boy in a heartbeat if it meant that they would have what they want more than anything else – life eternal.

It turns out that God runs the risk of being neither here nor there, where in the matter of immortality he is liable to be merely hypothetical and of no importance, relevance or consequence.

Humans are generally fickle as it is, but never more so than when it comes to their beliefs.

Comments | 18

  • Unpresedented

    So much of what you write is has not been generally written before. I know you write novels. I’ve read Boomers’ War and I like your historical fiction. But this kind of intellectual prose is a very different mindset.

  • Inquiring Minds Want To Know...

    Great question! Did any of the people you asked question what their afterlife would be like before they said they would take it? I’m not someone who believes in “GOD” or a god – at least not in the way that he/she/it is presented to Western believers. So, not having God along would make no difference to me. I would be concerned on what my afterlife would include. Would it be a pleasant afterlife? Would there be other people? If so, who? Could I choose exactly what I wanted my afterlife to be like?

    • It's the afterlife they want

      “Did any of the people you asked the question to, asked what their afterlife would be like before they said they would take it?”
      Could I choose exactly what I wanted my afterlife to be like?

      You’ve made great important connections.
      The answer is yes; yes.

      So, I told them that they can have whatever afterlife they wanted or envisioned, but they still had to take it without god. Would they still take it?

      No one said no. It’s the afterlife they want.

      • quid pro non quo

        I wonder how blurry this tapestry becomes the more you shake it out? Did you ask anyone of faith, if you could have your God, without an afterlife, would that be fine and dandy?

        • respondit, si in quaestionem

          Either way they would answer the question, the relevance of faith is native to their answer. The form of faith they might have had is irrelevant.

          • Does Heaven offer a Rollover?

            It does however speak to the nature of their belief structure. For example, if they accept God but no afterlife is He/She/It/ like a boss at a job that offers no retirement plan?

            Is faith predicted on perks that come with the turf, rather than a result of unconditional acceptance?

          • I faithfully went to Sunday

            I faithfully went to Sunday School and church as a child. Somewhere I may still have the Bible with my name engraved on it in gold leaf that I was given for learning the most verses of scripture. It was very much drilled into our malleable little brains that if we believed in God; if we were “good” and gave ourselves over to God then our reward would be an afterlife in Heaven – supposedly with not only God but all our family members, friends and pets that had died before us. I have many family members and friends who are deeply religious, absolutely believe in God and Heaven and Hell and trust and believe that when they die they will get to enjoy their afterlife in Heaven. It seems that God and an afterlife go hand in hand- worshipping God gives them a path to Heaven and when they get there they will be greeted by their God. Since that “reward” has always been held in such high esteem – in fact, the reason why many Christians try to be “good” people is for the promise of an afterlife. If there is no afterlife why devote yourself to honoring and worshipping God. Shouldn’t you get something for all that devotion? Maybe not.

          • Rewards and Punishments

            Spinoza poses an important question. Ever since, as a child, I questioned what I was being taught: It seemed to me that right and wrong were being falsely equated with reward and punishment. Is it the mark of a decent person to obey in order to be rewarded?

            Or would a truly moral person act decently, even despite knowing that they will be punished for their ethical conduct? This question has little to do with one’s religious beliefs: It has more to do with character.

          • A multitude of tangents

            This one question I pose is meant to be a mental exercise only to show the irrelevancy of a god.

            However, anyone can go on a multitude of tangents of their own that stray from the original premise, and, that is the prerogative of the comments section.

          • Thank you...

            Vidda, for permission 😉

          • Greasy smear

            I gave no permission and my statement in no way implies that.

          • It is really a simple binary

            My respondents, by virtue of answering the question either as a yes or no, are acknowledging two conditions: a god and/or an afterlife.

            Spinoza’s question, “Is faith predicted on perks that come with the turf, rather than a result of unconditional acceptance” is irrelevant (BTW, that is not meant to be dismissive, just indicating it’s off topic as my question is posed.)

            My question is merely meant to establish the straightforward implementation of the relevance of a god to those desiring an afterlife, not relevancy of a faith structure.

            For example, people who answered “I believe in a god, but not afterlife,” in a market research context, would statistically be tallied as an “other.”

            However, only one person in NYC answered I believe in god, but not an afterlife.

  • I wonder if people who

    I wonder if people who believe they have an afterlife, with or without a god, are indifferent to other living things.

    • Interesting question, Dover

      There is undoubtedly a correlation between people who believe they have somewhere to go when they die and having a callous disregard for other life forms. That’s not true for all believers, so what the percentage is cannot be tallied.

      It’s a troubling prospect. The notion that people who claim an afterlife for themselves can do anything they want. As an example, suicide bombers readily kill other people believing they are justified, but more importantly because they believe they have somewhere to go when they die.

      Take away the belief in a promised afterlife and people may not be so ready to give their lives for a false promise.

  • reincarnate

    I wasn’t taught the belief in a western God, so I eliminate that part from the question (irrelevant! to me). The question then becomes whether I’d want an eternal afterlife or not.

    …if it is to sit on clouds and strum a zither, no thank you.
    …if it is a boss-less job with no retirement, no thank you. I have that in this lifetime.
    …if it involves being reincarnated as something different, perhaps. I don’t think I’d object to my spirit moving about.
    …if it just hanging out in paradise forever, no thanks. It would get dull.

    I’m fairly happy with the time I get on this planet as me, and part of the bargain is that it will come to an end sometime. I don’t see life-extending technologies as good for the planet, at least as far as the efforts to keep rich people alive forever go.

    At the same time, I feel a bit of an obligation to do as much of ME as I can while alive, to leave my minor marks on civilization and the historical record.

    A question for you Vidda – suppose for a moment that there really is a God. Does it matter?

    • god is made in man’s image

      Since I am not an atheist because it would place me in the awkward position of being without something that does not exist, I might not be the right person to ask that.

      As a nonbeliever, however, the question of whether god matters, even for a moment, is a hypothesis that I use more in a philosophical exercise. In that sense, god doesn’t matter. However, to too many other people he certainty does. It’s too bad this mythological creature in people’s minds is such a dangerous, violent, sexist creep.

      Of course, god is made in man’s image, so what else could we expect.

  • The stark limitations of intellectualism

    If you had experienced Spirit/God you would not even be asking this question. Spirit is knowable in this physical lifetime.

    • Points of digression

      Your title is an intended as a derogatory attitude towards intellectualism in general, and targeted to me specifically. Expressing intellectualism as having stark limitations is merely meant to be disparaging to me, and not intellectual in and of itself.

      It also shows a misunderstanding of the original question. This is not a debate of the experience and/or existence of a god and/or spirit. My article is about attitudes towards the idea of an afterlife without a god tagging along. Attempting to turn this article into a larger, subjective debate of belief attitudes is pointless.

      (As an aside, not all humans consider a “Spirit” to be a godhead, or even part of a godhead.)

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