Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism
"Think about it" Thursday: Life and Death
Um, you'll go to Hell?
I appreciate this question. In short, I've spent a lot of time thinking about it. The way I read your question, a murdered person may find immediate salvation as death was sudden and god's judgement might be lenient. Demonizing murder shows human selfishness, because humanity doesn't want to lose a friend, husband, wife, lover, son or daughter. Religiously speaking, murder brings home god's people faster. If heaven is real, those who lose loved ones to murder will certainly see them again in heaven. Xuxana, I'm confused. Are you referring to the murderer or the murder-ee? The Terry Shiavo case comes to mind here and also the Christian story of the criminal on the cross who gets a last-minute pardon. Ugh. Like you say, it should be able to stand up to scrutiny ...
I think the question is, if there is an after life what makes murder so very, very wrong, because even if you kill some one their not really dead they are just living in the after life?The answer that was always given to me was that we are on earth for God’s own purposes, and if we kill someone we are taking the power from God to have that person die when it is in God’s plan to have them die. Or that we are cutting sort the time on earth of the murdered person and so that person may not have learned everything he/she needed to in mortality.I of course think the real answer is because none of us want our selves or our loved ones to be murdered so our ancestors made a law and then attributed the law to their god and called it a commandment.Interestingly enough when I was a missionary for the LDS church I ran into some Jews who told me that most Jews don’t really believe in an after life the way Christians do, and that the commandments were only given by God for their benefit in life. Also not keeping the commandments pissed god off royally so it was best to keep them.
Humans in general -- atheist, theist, non-theist, whatever -- believe murder to be wrong because if we didn't think it was wrong we never would have evolved to where we are now. We would have literally killed ourselves out of existence a long time ago. W've necessarily evolved a "morality" that causes us to see murder as "wrong." How we interpret that innate feeling varies widely. Personally, I'm an ethical naturalist. In the words of E.O. Wilson, "ethics... is an illusion fobbed on us by our genes to get us to cooporate." It's a grim interpretation of morality and life but it doesn't stop me from being a good human being and loving people.Other people, who believe in a God, must fit it in with their preconceived notion of God. I think XR4-IT hit the nail on the head: a lot of people say that murder is a crime against God because of free will and it angers God. Which I suppose if you jam it in hard enough, can fit into the twisted logic that exists in theists' heads (I mean, what if it was God's will that that person be murdered? Obviously causing someone's death is a justifiable act, considering the right wing's acceptance of war and capital punishment...)I think a better question is why is death a bad thing? Why are funerals a sad thing? I suppose you'll miss the deceased loved ones, but only for several decades, at most! That's not even a blink of an eye compared to the eternity you're likely to spend with them when you pass.
I think other commenters have already covered pretty well why murder is wrong regardless of your faith, so I'll try to talk a little more about why death might be troublesome even to those who believe in an afterlife.Julia Sweeney was mentioning on her blog some letters she received in response to her monologue show, "Letting Go of God." She says, "One letter I got was from an oncologist who said that he found that people who were religious seemed comforted by their faith at first, but then many had a hard time towards the end, if it looked like they were going to lose their life in their battle with cancer. And that people who were not religious and had a naturalistic world view, and didn't think their life was going to go on in the hereafter - they had a harder time at first but then an easier time accepting death. This is just one man's observations, and of course I am inclined to believe it's probably true about people. I often wonder how much religion and God and the idea of an afterlife helps."I think when a naturalist approaches death, he has probably already prepared himself for "the worst"—that is, that your consciousness dies with your body and there is no afterlife—and therefore there's not a lot of suspense surrounding death. They've made peace with the worst, and if consciousness continues after death, it will merely be a pleasant surprise; but they're not expecting anything.On the other hand, I think confronting certain death might be a more suspenseful and stressful experience for a religious person, because death is the moment when the ultimate proof of your faith is finally revealed (or not). I imagine approaching death might be a time when doubt creeps in for a lot of people. ("What if it's all false? What if I picked the wrong religion?" etc.) And I imagine, for a religious person, when loved ones die—aside from the fact that they're going to be apart for a few decades—those same doubts might in the back of their minds.
If there's an afterlife, then killing is okay:"Kill them all, God will recognize His own"mikasaur2000: I don't think "humans" in general believe that. I rather think that's what you believe. As for E.O. Wilson, if he were right and our morals are just social instincs plus some flashy bells and whistles, then we would find it wrong to kill our own people-- we'd find pretty okay to murder foreigners: social primates do it all the time.Even some states in America find it okay to murder criminals by electrocution, hanging or whatever method. Fortunately, our morals is not in our genes. We should ask Dick Lewontin about it anyway.
Imagine that we lengthen human lifespans to about 1000-1200 years. Now just think what a much more terrible crime it will be to kill a 90 year-old.Everything changes, because how long we live is also arbitrary.
"If there is an afterlife, then what makes murder so very, very wrong?"God. God makes murder very very wrong. (You did put the word IF at the beginning, right?)After all, He/he/She/she/it holds the carrot and the stick.[http://asbojesus.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/800/]To Jose and mikasaur,There have been cultures where it would have been only wrong to kill, as it was said, 'our own people.' It's only a relatively recent phenomenon that we have included all humans to have human rights, or thought all humans to be worth considering in ethical terms. So I think even our morality is progressing... well ok maybe I should just say changing.