Re: Anthropology and Religion

Julie Locascio (
Thu, 19 Oct 1995 18:09:55

>Why should a person want to go to heaven anyway? What is the benefit of
>going to heaven? If doing something virtuous for someone meant that one would
>burn in hell forever and doing something of vice such as raping someone
>caused one to be rewarded with a gold crown in paradise would it not be
>better and braver to choose to go to hell?

The point is that doing evil things can often result in short-term benefit,
but should be considered for long-term implications. How about the classic
example of the child who cheats on a math quiz and passes it? Fine, he passed
it, but he will suffer in the long run by not having learned the math. And,
conversely, most religions also prepare us for the concept of suffering:
that, yes, sometimes good deeds do seem to go punished in the short-run, which
is why we should hold onto faith and teach other people that good deeds are
what brings long-term benefits. We can listen to what religions teach as well
as listening to our own conscience: there are Moslems who believe certain
acts of terrorism will send them straight to heaven, but most Moslems do not
believe that.

Most religious AND non-religious morals and parables are there to try to
illustrate for us that things need to be thought out carefully, and that our
behavior always has repercussions--some of which we cannot see when we are
young and naive, but which we will learn sooner or later, either by being
taught by our elders or learning for ourselves. Guilt is not entirely a
learned concept, either.

> Is good that which gets one eternally rewarded
>and bad as that which gets one eternally punished, or are good and bad
>what they are regardless of whether one is rewarded or punished?

If you do something "bad" by your own definition, are you not already
perceiving that you have done something detrimental? If you are capable of
judging it yourself, you already know what the right thing to do is. Doing
the right thing should be enough reward, but it never helps to have extra
rewards thrown in!

>Also what comfort could a God take from knowing that his followers follow
>him (even if this was not the only motivation) because they wanted to
>gain crowns in heaven and avoid frying in hell?

Some people believe that warnings of Hell are really just warnings that people
straying on the bad paths will eventually end up in their own personal hells,
and that people who struggle for self improvement and assistance to others
will eventually arrive at their own personal bliss. I don't know, but if you
already believe in God, how can you think God would be so simplistic and
pointless as to invent a world simply for the sake of scaring the wits out of
people? We do need warnings--we need to see people age so that we value our
youth, we need to see people sick so that we value our health, we need to see
people die so that we value our life. And I think we do need to see the
concept of hell so that we understand that something spiritual is accumulating
in us as we go through life, and it is up to us as to whether it will be a
darkening accumulation or an enlightening accumulation.