Saturday, April 30, 2005

What's your motive?

If a person believes in the afterlife, he will often act in the best interests of the afterlife, even if it short-changes the interests of this life. This is because after-lifers tend to put primacy on the next life rather than this life. And the more passionately they hold their afterlife beliefs, the more they short-change their life and the lives of those around them.

George Eliot had some strong things to say about motive, God, and artificial canals. I know of no God belief that does not include some significant form of afterlife belief, so I think that what Mr. Eliot said is also applicable to the afterlife:

Accessory motives may aid in producing an action, but they presuppose the weakness of the direct motive; and conversely, when the direct motive is strong, the action of accessory motives will be excluded. If then, the glory of God is to be ‘the absorbing and the influential aim’ in our thoughts and actions, this must tend to neutralize the human sympathies; the stream of feeling will be diverted from its natural current in order to feed an artificial canal.
-George Eliot, Evangelical Teaching, 1855


Lets take Mr. Eliot's concept and see how we can apply it to the afterlife:

The afterlife concept presupposes that this life is not our first priority. But when this life is our first priority, afterlife belief is discarded. So if the afterlife is to be the primary consideration in this life, it will neutralize our consideration for ourselves and each other in this life.

When this is the only life a person believes in, it becomes much more valuable, because it fills up the #1 priority slot that the afterlife would otherwise fill. It tends to make a person more moral and humane. Without God and afterlife belief, the happiness of you and your fellow man in this life is the primary motive.

Through the month of April, I have shown that the afterlife is unevidenced. I have shown that available evidence indicates that consciousness is purely material, and dependent upon a material brain. I have shown that people want their consciousness to continue to exist, and that they believe in the afterlife as a coping mechanism. I have shown that they start with the conclusion of their coping mechanism (there is an afterlife), and then provide emotional and fallacious reasons to hold that conclusion. And now I have shown that believing only in this life provides for a direct (and superior) primary motive: itself.

15 comments:

Sosiosh said...

I don't know if I can agree with your statements that just because our we don't believe in an afterlife that this lack of belief "tends to make a person more moral and humane" or that "the happiness of you and your fellow man in this life is the primary motive." It may be true or it may not. I just don't see anything that supports that supposition.

However, I think it may be more accurate to say that in the absence of a belief in an afterlife that anything can become a priority. It's precisely that freedom that is so great about not being bound by superstition.

Aaron Kinney said...

sosiosh,

Thank you for the comments. I guess I could defend my statements with some evidence.

Europe has the highest concentration of atheists and "non-afterlifers" in the world as a percentage of the population. They also have the least amount of morality legislation in the developed world. They also have lower crime rates, lower teen pregnancy rates, lower STD infection rates, higher life expectancy rates, lower disparity rates, lower substance abuse rates, and smaller percentage of incarcerated citizens, than the United States of America.

Europe serves as a superior social model for the rest of the world. They also believe in religion the least. That is because they give primacy to their happiness in this life, and they put their fellow man first on the priority list, as opposed to some deity or next life.

E-Rock said...

Another point on motive; knowing that this life is the only one we get, then what we do to the planet matters. A theist can ignore the damage we do to our earth, and know that he will have his afterlife. But what about his kids, and their kids? They will all get their afterlife as well.

To a theist it really does not matter what we do to this earth. It makes it easy to burn dirty coal, strip-mine forests & mountains, destroy entire ecosystems. If they screw it up, it will all be OK in the end - god will provide sanctuary.

Theists use religion to indirectly justify the way they are destroying the planet. No one wants to think about what will happen 500, hell, even 50 years from now. Just go to church and you will go to heaven. Don't worry about the toxic waste dumps and the drastic climate chages - when you die all will be well.

To discard the afterlife requires deep thought and hard work regarding maintaining this planet. This does not mix with the theist idea that god gave us the Earth and we can do whatever we want to it. That is a pretty strong motive to believing in an afterlife.

Personally, I don't like betting my children's future on an imaginary friend for adults.

Bahnsen Burner said...

Hi Aaron,

Something I was thinking about that might interest you... We know that human beings are conscious. Christians want to say that our consciousness survives the death of our bodies (thus any alleged "unity" of body and mind is neither inherent nor integral - the one comes apart from the other like a stage of a rocket after take-off). But Christians typically don't say this about other animals. We know that dogs, cats, chimpanzees and koala bears are conscious. And yet their consciousnesses are not said to survive their deaths. So the Christian cannot claim that consciousness per se indicates an afterlife. The Christian will probably say that man's consciousness is different in that man is "created in the image of God." And even though this claim would prove nonsensical upon analysis (how is that which is finite reflective of that which is infinite? how is that which is ignorant and fallible reflective of that which is omniscient and infallible? how is that which faces a fundamental alternative between life and death reflective of that which does not? etc.), it misses the speciality of human consciousness: the conceptual level. We can arrange the animal kingdom from the most primitive to the most advanced life forms in terms of their development of the conscious faculty, showing their evolutionary progression. I think the very fact that organisms other than human beings possess consciousness poses a tremendous obstacle for the afterlifers.

Anyway, just thinking out loud. Thought maybe it could give you some fodder for future insights.

Best regards,
Dawson

Aaron Kinney said...

Yes I do love that angle. Christians - actually, all the Abrahamic religions I think - say that only humans go to heaven or hell. How funny! They assume a sentience over "animals" (acting like we arent even animals ourselves), and I even heard Gene Cook say right in front of my face that he "realized" one day that he wasnt an "animal"! How ridiculous. They arbitrarily draw a line at what they think makes it to heaven.

I called him on it and asked him "did cro magnon get into heaven or neanderthal?" and some puritan nearby said "well of course we dont believe in those"

sigh...

Hannibal said...

This is 'todangst' from the infidelguy.com site, and I just wanted to say I like your posts, and your blog here.

Christopher said...

e-Rock said, "This does not mix with the theist idea that god gave us the Earth and we can do whatever we want to it."

Um, I'm pretty sure that it's mainly the the abrahamic religions that hold this belief. I think an idea like that would be pretty foreign to most Asian, African, Australian and American religion.

Why does the afterlife neccesarily take precedence over this life?

Aaron Kinney said...

"Why does the afterlife neccesarily take precedence over this life?"

It doesnt always, but according to ones afterlife belief, it should. The better a "believer" the person is, the more they will put primacy on the afterlife.

Because the afterlife is 1) after this life, and 2) forever, and 3) more important, usually in the form of a "final" or "grander" destination than this life.

All of these attributes are assigned to afterlife concepts, in part, to control the behavior of the believer, and to give comfort as a consolation by overshadowing the obvious temporal-ness of this mortal life with a grander, happier, and usually eternal one.

I talked about the consolation/comfort factor in my post "Comforting Evidence."

Let me ask you Christopher, do you believe in the afterlife? Why or why not? And if you do believe in the afterlife, do you give it primacy over this life? Why or why not?

Anonymous said...

I want to say that not all Christians believe that the afterlife is more important than this life. I believe that what we do in this life is very important. How we treat others and the earth is just as important as worrying about what comes after. If not more so. God made everything and said that it was good. If you believe in God, how can you disregard the fact that he created the world and called it good.

And worshipping God does not mean just going to church on Sunday or following a set of formulas. You worship God just as much in your everyday behaviour, in how you treat other humans, animals and the earth.

And any true Christian will tell you that the afterlife is not the ultimate end. Life after life after death is what is important. Christ not only died on the cross but he rose from the dead. And he promised that he would raise us from the dead as well. It is not about floating around in an un-embodied blissful heaven. It is about the earth and humanity being renewed, being the way they were created to be. That is why the Lord's Prayer says, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN." Because heaven will one day come back down to earth and we will live in a renewed creation.

God is not about a set of rules. God is about relationship. And if you truly love Jesus first (as the great commandment says) then you will want to show your love for him by loving your fellow humans and the earth and taking care of them. Why else was Jesus always talking about taking care of the widows and the orphans? Why else was he worried about the outcasts and not the Pharisees who thought they had everything figured out?

And I think that if you are a true follower of Jesus then you are more concerned with this world and the people around you then less.

Aaron Kinney said...

anonymous said:

"I want to say that not all Christians believe that the afterlife is more important than this life."

I contend that those you describe are not really Christians. Or at least, when a Christian doesnt put the afterlife above this life, that Christian is not following the doctrines of his/her faith.

"I believe that what we do in this life is very important. How we treat others and the earth is just as important as worrying about what comes after. If not more so. God made everything and said that it was good. If you believe in God, how can you disregard the fact that he created the world and called it good."

Well, he (the Christian God) did curse all humans with original sin, and set the criteria for entry into heaven as putting his son Jesus first in ones life. When God created Satan, did he call it good? When God created Hell, did he call it good?

"And worshipping God does not mean just going to church on Sunday or following a set of formulas. You worship God just as much in your everyday behaviour, in how you treat other humans, animals and the earth."

Yes. And you worship God by putting Jesus, who resides in heaven, first in this life. Christianity commands one to sacrifice this life for the priorities of the next life. Christianity commands one to love Jesus more than one loves their family or community.

"And any true Christian will tell you that the afterlife is not the ultimate end."

Yea right! Where does the Bible say that? By the way, the Landover Baptist Church trademarked the "True Christian" phrase, and I doubt they would agree with what you just said ;)

"Life after life after death is what is important. Christ not only died on the cross but he rose from the dead. And he promised that he would raise us from the dead as well. It is not about floating around in an un-embodied blissful heaven. It is about the earth and humanity being renewed, being the way they were created to be. That is why the Lord's Prayer says, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN." Because heaven will one day come back down to earth and we will live in a renewed creation."

Regardless, its still an afterlife belief in that it refers to a different dimension of existence after you body in this life expires. How many afterlifes that exist after this one is irrelevant. Whether theres one, two, or an infinity of afterlifes, my statements still apply.

"God is not about a set of rules. God is about relationship. And if you truly love Jesus first (as the great commandment says) then you will want to show your love for him by loving your fellow humans and the earth and taking care of them."

You said God is not about a set of rules, but then you turn around and say that the greatest commandment (aka rule) is to love Jesus first. You agree with me that Jesus (in the afterlife) is the #1 priority/rule/law for Christians. So you already give me too much ammo to use against you. Im saying that your admitted rules of Christianity devalue this life and your fellow man. You cannot love your spouse or children or parents first and still be a good Christian. Jesus said that anyone who loves their family members more than him is not worthy of him, and that is why these afterlife beliefs are inhumane and evil. That is why they devalue this life. In my worldview, I say that you should love your family and community first and foremost.

"Why else was Jesus always talking about taking care of the widows and the orphans? Why else was he worried about the outcasts and not the Pharisees who thought they had everything figured out? And I think that if you are a true follower of Jesus then you are more concerned with this world and the people around you then less."

Bold claim, but you didnt support it. You claim that Jesus belief will make you more concerned with this life, but all the evidence you present goes against what you claim. You admitted that Jesus demands you love him the most. How is that compatible with your claim that it will make you more concerned about this life and your fellow man? It simply isnt compatible.

You have to support your assertion. So far you have claimed that Christianity makes you more concerned with this life, but you havent supported that assertion at all. Christianity forces concern for the afterlife mostly. Do I love Jesus enough? Will I end up in heaven or hell?

Godless materialistic humanism, on the other hand, asks Do I love myself and my fellow man enough? Will I do good works in this life and make this reality a better place for the next generation?

Anonymous said...

What I was trying to say is that Christianity is not supposed to be about doctrines, it is supposed to be about relationship: relationship with God and with others. Most of Christianity today has become as self-serving as the Jews were in the time of Christ.

And Christianity shouldn't be about whether you will go to heaven or hell. No one can love Jesus enough and no one can be good enough to go to heaven. It is about accepting that you are not good enough and that no one is, realizing that there is nothing in you that can ever make you good enough. And if you are worried about whether you are then the odds are that you have nothing to worry about.

Most of Christianity today is more concerned with what an idividual can do to earn salvation. It should be about loving God and loving creation and our fellow humans. Jesus came to show us how to love and 'we' killed him because we didn't like it. Our goal is to try and follow his example so that we can show a little bit of heaven to others.

I don't understand how you can say loving Jesus is imcompatible with being more concerned with this life. Jesus/God loved this world so much that he was willing to come and die for us. He wept at the tomb of a friend. He was hurt and upset by all the suffering around him. If you truly one someone then you will try to share their interests and passions. And if you truly love God/Jesus then you will try to share his love for this world. And it doesn't say to love God first...it says to love God with all of your heart, soul and mind (with all your being) and to love your neighbour as yourself...which means you shouldn't try to put yourself above them.
And I think the greatest way to show your love for God is to express it through love for this world and the people in it.

>"And any true Christian will tell you that the afterlife is not the ultimate end."

>Yea right! Where does the Bible say that?

Rev. 21:5 - Behold I come to make all things new.

My main point is that not all Christians are focussed on the afterlife. Some of us want to reflect God's love here, and God's love is greater than any love we could have for each other in this world that is focussed on self. You may say that love for community and family should come before love for God...Well, I say it should come before love of self. And love of self is the force that motivates most of the world today.

Anonymous said...

"But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom. 8:11)."

And Jesus rose with a physical body that could be touched. And he broke bread and ate with them.

Anonymous said...

And God didn't curse humanity with original sin. The orignal sin was that humanity chose to become their own god - ultimate idolatry. They decided to worship themselves rather than God.

And the Bible doesn't say anywhere that God created Satan. It is not concerned with where the snake came from but with the fact that humanity was tempted to choose themselves over God.

And God didn't create hell, at least not in the burning torment sense. The bible does not actually mention hell...it mentions Hades which is the place of the dead and Gehenna which was a garbage heap outside of Jerusalem on which the Romans burned the Jews when they destroyed the city in 70 AD.

God is life. If you choose to separate yourself from God than ultimately that will lead to death, for how can there be life apart from the giver of life? So those who choose to live a life that is outside of God's love (by exploiting the weak and poor and not caring about the world around them) when they die their life will be over, there will be no afterlife for them....only death.

And worshipping God is not just putting Jesus first. You worship God when you take a walk, when you spend time with your family, when you help your neighbour, when you go to work, etc. Everything you do can be done to His honour and glory.

Aaron Kinney said...

anonymous said:

"What I was trying to say is that Christianity is not supposed to be about doctrines, it is supposed to be about relationship: relationship with God and with others. Most of Christianity today has become as self-serving as the Jews were in the time of Christ."

I disagree. It is about the doctrines themselves which command your relationship with Christ. The Bible is the centerpiece to Christian faith. It is the doctrines and rules handed down by God (supposedly) to command humans how to have a relationship with Him.

"And Christianity shouldn't be about whether you will go to heaven or hell."

But it is.

"No one can love Jesus enough and no one can be good enough to go to heaven. It is about accepting that you are not good enough and that no one is, realizing that there is nothing in you that can ever make you good enough. And if you are worried about whether you are then the odds are that you have nothing to worry about."

Agreed. This is one of the reasons why afterlife and God beliefs are so inhumane and immoral. Your religion gives man a "guilty until proven innocent" verdict upon birth! Ridiculous! Evil! Horrible! I cant believe you think God is love when such horribly devaluing and dehumanizing doctrines come from that Bible of yours.

"Most of Christianity today is more concerned with what an idividual can do to earn salvation."

Exactly. This is why the afterlife takes precedence over this life when you believe in such an afterlife.

"It should be about loving God and loving creation and our fellow humans. Jesus came to show us how to love and 'we' killed him because we didn't like it. Our goal is to try and follow his example so that we can show a little bit of heaven to others."

Jesus said that loving him first was the greatest commandment. By definition, that puts love for fellow man in second place. You are proving my points with each sentence you type.

"I don't understand how you can say loving Jesus is imcompatible with being more concerned with this life."

Thats just because you dont understand the logic of having a #1 priority. If Jesus is your #1 priority, then your fellow man has to be #2 or lower. But me, being a humanistic materialistic atheist, put my fellow man and this life in the #1 spot. I love my fellow man and this existence more than you or any "true" Christian ever could, because your own religion forces you to put Jesus (who lives in heaven) in the #1 priority slot. Its simple logic my anonymous friend.

"Rev. 21:5 - Behold I come to make all things new."

Bertrand Russel once said that the Bible is known for many things, but clarity is not among them. Can you clear this up for me? How do you relate Revelations 21:5 to meaning that the afterlife is not eternal? Are you saying all those decomposed bodies will recompose and those "souls" will repossess those recomposed bodies?

"My main point is that not all Christians are focussed on the afterlife."

And they are either not Christian, or they are practicing un-Christian behavior.

"Some of us want to reflect God's love here, and God's love is greater than any love we could have for each other in this world that is focussed on self."

I disagree. If this was true, then God wouldnt have invented evil, he wouldnt have created hell, and he wouldnt have given original sin to every human just because Adam and Eve ate an apple from an evil tree that god put in his supposedly perfect garden.

"You may say that love for community and family should come before love for God...Well, I say it should come before love of self. And love of self is the force that motivates most of the world today."

If you dont love yourself, how can you love anyone else? If you dont think your own self has any worth, how can your love be worth anything to anyone else?

Self-respect and self-appreciation are the first steps to truly understanding what mutual love and respect is. You should read some books about self-esteem or something.

"And God didn't curse humanity with original sin. The orignal sin was that humanity chose to become their own god - ultimate idolatry. They decided to worship themselves rather than God."

If God didnt do it then who did? Man? Are you saying man can create things and do things against Gods will? If so, then your God is not a God. Gods will shall always be fulfilled, and nothing can exist without God willing it to exist, including original sin. If man got sinful, it was because God wanted it to be so. What you are experiencing here is the problem of evil.

"And the Bible doesn't say anywhere that God created Satan. It is not concerned with where the snake came from but with the fact that humanity was tempted to choose themselves over God."

Hah! You are wrong. Genesis clearly indicates that God is the creator of all, including the angels, of which Lucifer was one. If God didnt create Lucifer, then who did? IF something other than God can create angels, then that means your God is not a God. If Lucifer got an ego and ended up rebelling, who gave him that ability? If not God then who? And if God didnt give him that ability, but someone else did, then your God is not a God because he doesnt have ultimate power.

"And God didn't create hell, at least not in the burning torment sense. The bible does not actually mention hell...it mentions Hades which is the place of the dead and Gehenna which was a garbage heap outside of Jerusalem on which the Romans burned the Jews when they destroyed the city in 70 AD."

So do you think hell exists or not? If you dont think hell exists, then your whole Christian-carrot-stick approach to life is a failure. For if there is no hell then there is no punishment and then there is no incentive to follow your arbitrary Biblical rules.

"God is life. If you choose to separate yourself from God than ultimately that will lead to death, for how can there be life apart from the giver of life? So those who choose to live a life that is outside of God's love (by exploiting the weak and poor and not caring about the world around them) when they die their life will be over, there will be no afterlife for them....only death."

Sounds alot better than living in heaven forever! Can I please get the opportunity to no longer exist when I die? I cant believe you call non-existence a punishment. We all used to not-exist at one point, were we being punished then?

"And worshipping God is not just putting Jesus first. You worship God when you take a walk, when you spend time with your family, when you help your neighbour, when you go to work, etc. Everything you do can be done to His honour and glory."

Of course! Everything is done for His honor and His glory, as if he needs some from us. How can God even need anything, including our supposedly worthless worship? You admit again in this statement what my blog fights against: The fact that God/afterlife becomes the motivating factor for everything in ones life, rather than a persons own happiness being the motivating factor. I refer to this in my quote of George Eliot in my blog entry: "What's Your Motive?"

Rich said...

My motive? Hard to say because I don't believe or disbelieve in an afterlife, I'm of the "whatever happens, happens" mindset. I will always be like this until I see actual proof for either case.

However, I find it sad that so much effort is being put into destroying other people's beliefs. Shortly before my grandmother passed away, she was becoming scared as death approached. She
wasn't religious, but my mom, who is Christian, provided her with comfort by telling her that she would go to heaven. She actually smiled and cried joyfully. She went peacefully. Regardless of anything you might have to say, I hardly find this "inhumane". How far will you take your particular brand of "enlightenment". What would you tell terminally ill children when they ask you what's going to happen to them, that they're going to rot in the ground?

You use scientific data to show that belief in an afterlife is for comfort. Yes, the brain has built in ways of providing comfort. Why are you trying to go against nature? Isn't that in itself immoral?

Personally, as someone who originally studied to become a psychologist, I think you should check you OWN motives. Your entire blog has nothing to do with "helping" people, and seems to be more about your own intellectual gratification.

I'll be around, your site is like a train wreck.