Does Believing in Heaven Make a Difference?

I don’t know where I read this, but in one of the many books I’ve read someone asked this question:

“Would I really bother with Christianity if I knew for sure there
was no life after death?”

My answer: No.

In a word, what’s your answer?


32 thoughts on “Does Believing in Heaven Make a Difference?

  1. NO

    Ok, I couldn’t just leave it at one word.
    I know for sure there is no HELL. It was totally made up and added to the Bible by the new Christian Church. I know the Bible didn’t come from God, so if there is a heaven only God knows how to get there, and so far he isn’t telling.

  2. Your question doesn’t really matter to me since I don’t bother with Christianity as it is. Of course I don’t believe there is a heaven, so maybe that has something to do with it.

    The title question though is interesting to me: โ€œDoes Believing in Heaven Make a Difference?โ€ I believe it certainly does. I think that people who do not believe that our time on earth is only a small prelude to an infinite existence in paradise, tend to hold their quality of life and that of others here on earth in a higher regard, than those who believe this is an insignificant part of their experiences. If this short life is the only thing we get it is the most precious thing we have.

  3. In a word: Yes.

    Christ teaches how to take part in the Kingdom of God now. He gives broken people the power to be whole and haughty people the ability to be humble. There is so much depth, revelation and vision in the confession of faith taught by Christ (and his followers) that to abandon those teachings merely on the possibility that heaven does not exist would be to have never fully understood the cosmology intimated by Christ.

    Then again, all those who put their faith in Christ will sound an affirmative “Yes” to your question. And the skeptics will say “No.”

    Regardless, thanks for posing a provocative question.

    J *

  4. I am not a Christian, but in a word NO. If there was no afterlife, then almost all organized religion would fail. The promise of an afterlife is the motivational piviot point for almost all if not all believers.

  5. If you insert “Islam” in for “Christianity”, then my answer would be a whole hearted “NO!”

    Oh my gosh, I’m starting to scare myself… in a good way!

  6. You should’ve kept the limit to two words. One for either yes or no, and another for why.

    Since I’m not one to follow rules, I’ll use the rule that I just made up. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes. Purpose.

  7. Joe,
    Good point. I know that you are probably right. Knowing this life is it, makes it that much more precious.

    I think the reason that some Christians, including our President, go hell-bent toward war is because they believe that there is life after death and they have nothing precious to lose, since heaven is better than this life. Since no one has ever been there and back to report there is such a place (some would say, except Jesus) then we really have no evidence of it. Therefore life right now is too precious to waste on petty differences. Thanks for commenting! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. storbakken,
    I’m not so sure all Christians would say yes and all skeptics would say no, but I think heaven is the only motivator for a lot of Christians. I should say, the threat of hell is more of a motivator for Christians rather than heaven.

  9. tobeme,
    You, my friend, are correct (not that there is a right or wrong answer here).

    I believe every religious person would seriously re-evaluate their faith if they knew for a fact there is no “reward” waiting for them at death. I know for a fact there would be far less Christians if they knew there was no hell. Most Christians I know could care less about heaven, but are scared to death they’ll go to hell. Sad.

  10. Verdantair,
    Feel free to add words! I can tell the “rogue” philosophers in the audience. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes, many have said that without the thought of an afterlife, they’ve felt no purpose. I find it interesting what motivates people to do good or bad. I don’t think non-believers in a deity need that sort of motivation to do good or bad. Many atheists do good works without the thought of reward. Many Christians don’t do good works whether there’s a reward or not. It’s interesting what we need to live a purposeful life.

    Thanks for commenting! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. MOI, I have asked myself this many times, and have written a couple of articles on the topic. I left Christianity, partly because of the absurdity of the belief in Hell. With that said, I think Christianity would be easier to believe in if there were no eternal punishment or reward. Without the afterlife, Christianity would be a vastly different religion, and our churches would be very different institutions. I imagine Christianity being more of a Zen-like, ascetic religion with fewer practitioners if there were no belief in the afterlife.

    In that sense, and being honest with myself, I think it is very possible that I would be a Christian if there were no threat of hell. I have an atheist friend who told me that the greatest lie ever brought upon humanity is the belief in God. I disagree. I think the greatest lie is the belief in the afterlife. Without it, Christianity actually becomes much more believable to me.

  12. HIS,
    I agree totally with the idea that Christianity would be vastly different without belief in the afterlife. Hell is a cruel and horrible doctrine. Heaven isn’t much better. Why would we want to spend eternity in worship? Bleck.

    Interesting even more is your assertion that you would believe were it not for the afterlife doctrine. I’ve never looked at it that way before, but it makes sense. Helping people live better lives here an now is a far better motivator than “saving a soul” for an afterlife. I mean, what’s the point of that?

    Thanks for the insight!!

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  14. **Helping people live better lives here and now is a far better motivator than “saving a soul” for an afterlife.”

    I very much agree with this, because we have concrete proof as to what’s here and what would make things better. We don’t have that for an afterlife. That’s simply taken on faith (or not taken at all).

  15. Heather,

    You write: “we have concrete proof as to whatโ€™s here and what would make things better. We donโ€™t have that for an afterlife. Thatโ€™s simply taken on faith (or not taken at all).”

    And that’s it exactly. We are expending huge amounts of energy on the unknown. Yet, human beings are right in front of us every day. You know, others may read this post and think, “HMMM. Here’s another believer who got it all wrong. Who looks for reward in order to be a Christian.” But that would be so far from the truth.

    If there is no afterlife then there is no need for religion, hence my answer.

    The old reward and punishment system is sooooo Daddy-in-the-sky. There comes a time when we all have to grow up and want to do good simply because it’s good to do. Not because it’s “right.” Not because if we don’t we’ll be consigned to everlasting torment (shudder at the hateful message this sends). We do good to fellow human beings because they are our fellow human beings, not because some god told us to. Now THAT takes faith!

    Thanks for the excellent comments, as usual. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. I want to add that the only reason Christianity exists is because Jesus “promised” to save us from something to something; specifically to save us from death to live forever in heaven or hell. If there is no afterlife then Christianity is of no purpose and following Christi is like following any other prophet. The afterlife doctrine is KEY to religion. Would Muslims practice Jihad if there were no afterlife? Would Christians proselytize if there were no afterlife?

    In a word, NO.

  17. Pop culture (and much of the Christian church) has vastly distorted the true biblical heaven and hell. It’s sad.

    Redemption is what Christ promised. It has been fulfilled in part now, and will be completely fulfilled later. Heaven is more of a “waiting room” that beats the suffering we experience in this life, but is only temporary and will be unnecessary once the earth is fully restored and healed.

    Jesus said many times that the “kingdom of God” is already among us. To view our current life as insignificant and hold out for heaven is as wrong as totally rejecting heaven or redemption.

    “I agree totally with the idea that Christianity would be vastly different without belief in the afterlife. Hell is a cruel and horrible doctrine. Heaven isnโ€™t much better. Why would we want to spend eternity in worship? Bleck.”
    1.) How can we have moral standards (right and wrong) without having the same in an afterlife (heaven and hell). For God to be just, He must have some standard of judgment.
    2.) And worship… hehe, I don’t believe we will be singing prom songs to God for eternity in heaven. That would be boring. Worship as defined by scripture is far more holistic and is more akin to “living” and not just “singing” to the glory of God. Make sense?

    I know I broke the rules a ton, but the topic seems to be bursting them at the seams. Good question, though.


  18. Hehe, yes well, I try to take Peter seriously when he said to “speak the truth in love.” It’s a principle anyone can aspire to. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. The apostle Paul gives us a good answer to this question: โ€œIf in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable.โ€ And ask the Christian martyrs; theyโ€™ll tell you the same thing.

    And as the hymn says, “The eternal glories gleam afar, to nerve my faint endeavor; So now to watch, to work, to war, and then to rest forever.”

  20. Daddy-o,
    I think Christianity does promote that “men” are miserable in this life. I’ve seen evidence of this attitude and it makes the rest of us miserable as well.
    I however, choose to make this life far from miserable.

  21. Yes.

    As a Christian, I am in it for Christ not heaven. In fact, the term Christian means “Little Christ” and was first used as an insult to describe those who tried to imitate Christ.

    Mysterofiniquity – I have to disagree. Christianity doesn’t teach that we are miserable in this life. I thoroughly enjoy my life. And a great many people do outside of Christ. They just find new purpose, once they meet Him. Which makes this life seem so much sweeter and gives it so much more meaning.

  22. Kevin,
    I didn’t say Christianity teaches misery in this life, even though Daddy-o says it does. I said that Christianity promotes it and men perpetuate it. Without promoting this life as miserable, Christianity has nothing to sell you. Without threatening with hell, there is no imperative to create more Christians. But, without the doctrine of heaven and selling that idea, there is no incentive for non-believers to believe either.

    Jesus said to make disciples. I can follow Christ’s teachings as well and not believe in heaven or hell or any other dogma the church creates. Anyone can. There is no need to be a member of Christianity to do so.

  23. OK, Mystery, of course I disagree, here’s why:

    James 1:2-3
    “2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

    Christianity does not promote misery. Misery sucks, it is a part of this world (I can’t think of anyone who would deny that, thus no one should argue that humankind perpetrates misery), but God uses for good what man intends for evil. Misery and suffering should instead be seen (according to scripture at least) as “sanctified affliction,” that, while it sucks a lot, is an unfortunate and unintended part of life on Earth that God uses to better us in the end. Many who have “lived a hard life” appreciate the growth and maturity they gained from it. God also seeks to RESCUE his people from suffering (far from promote it):

    Hebrews 2: 9-10
    “9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, SO THAT BY THE GRACE OF GOD HE MIGHT TASTE DEATH FOR EVERYONE. 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

    If, as James says “Faith without works is dead,” the reverse is also true: Works without faith is meaningless. So while being a disciple of Christ includes following His teachings (while I argue that Christ Himself defines it VERY differently), where does this following lead to? To what end does it even matter in following in body without following in heart?

    And also, can you explain: “and not believe in heaven or hell or any other dogma the church creates.” The idea of heaven and hell were around thousands of years before the Christian church as we know it came around to create it as “dogma.”

    Thanks for such a provocative topic. I mean all due respect and do not seek to break ANY of the rules you have set out in your page titled as such.

  24. Brad,
    I’m just tickled pink that you even READ the rules! Thank you for that.

    I find myself assuming the role of devil’s advocate here because while I would dearly like for there to be an afterlife, I acknowledge that there is no evidence for it apart from what people have written.

    When I said that Christianity promotes misery, I can’t really explain clearly what I mean. What I see in Christianity, underlying the obvious message that suffering is supposed to be good for us, is the other message we get all the time about how awful our lives would be if we weren’t Christians. You see it all the time on Christian TV, on Christian radio, in sermons, etc. The teacher tries to overemphasize how awful our lives are, but with Christ it will vastly improve. The premise being that the world is so awful, only Christ has the answer. For some whose lives are miserable, this may be true. But I don’t think the message should be that Christ and God are some Divine band-aid. That’s what I mean by promoting misery. It may not be stated outright, but it’s implied in everything I’ve ever heard in church, et al.

    People who are not Christians follow Christ for the message of peace, or for treating others in a specific way (ala Good Samaritan). While these are not specifically Christian virtues, others see Christ as a prophet, a good man, and one worthy of following. Heaven or hell doesn’t even enter the picture.

    My points, as an agnostic, is that no one can prove there is a heaven or hell, and since we cannot prove it, promoting one and threatening the other should not be motivators for good behavior.


  25. Hahaha, well I am happy to have read the rules page. I also read much of the “about me” and “this page” pages. Even more impressed? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I can appreciate a devil’s advocate, as the Christian faith was never meant to be a “don’t ask, don’t tell” where we never question. Conversely, questioning in search of answers will always lead us to Christ (IMHO at least).

    “What I see in Christianity… is the other message we get all the time about how awful our lives would be if we werenโ€™t Christians. You see it all the time on Christian TV, on Christian radio, in sermons, etc. … But I donโ€™t think the message should be that Christ and God are some Divine band-aid.”

    *sigh* For the love of everything that is good and right in this world, please don’t let the televangelists and radio hosts define our faith! As widespread as it is, I can’t say that I blame you. I watch some of those shows for entertainment value alone (only when REALLY bored, though). I often want to punch them in the throat (righteous anger, trust me) for misrepresenting the Gospel in a way that may get people to believe initially, but will never stand real trials of this world. The core of that overemphasis, is itself quite true however. Christianity does provide hope. It provides hope that our suffering is not senseless or meaningless, and that God is there even in the pain. Think of it less as a Divine band-aid (awesome illustration btw), and more as a two way relationship with the divine (a la parenting or mentoring). The analogy may not be particularly creative or original, but I can’t think of anything better.

    On Jesus as a great teacher and prophet… I don’t know. While it is true, it seems very limiting and circumspect. The guy couldn’t have been that great of a teacher if He taught that His death and resurrection would save us from the same, and then He stayed dead.

    C.S. Lewis writes that Jesus, considering His huge claims and teachings, can only be one of three things: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord.
    If he is a Liar, what is is motive? The guy went willingly to the cross. What did he lie for? What did he profit from? What did his disciples profit from (who, with the sole exception of John were all brutally murdered)?
    If He was a lunatic, why did so many follow Him? As Nicdemus points out in Acts, Chapter5:
    “35 And he said to them, Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.”
    Jesus’ disciples have done anything but disperse…. What then is the alternative? Is there a 4th or 5th option? If there is, I certainly can’t see it.

    It is also encouraging to see an agnostic who knows what it means (not able to know as opposed to the usual collage of beliefs)!!! I disagree that it is impossible to know if heaven and hell exists (or God and Christ for that matter), but let me think about this one for a while first. I want to give an educated response that, while it will include scripture, is also evident in other ways.

    Whew. Good stuff, here. Again, Your rules were very comprehensive, and I don’t mean to proselytize, only engage in good conversation. Thanks for engaging!

    In Him,

  26. Pingback: Heaven and Hell: Real Motivation? « Confessions of a Seminarian

  27. Brad,
    My rules can be a bit over-comprehensive and over-bearing but it’s for self-protection mostly. For some reason, people can get a tad nasty in the comments.

    Despite how it sounds here, I do consider myself an agnostic theist. I did have a “Jesus experience” 23 years ago and spent that long in churches, both Protestant and Catholic. However, I’ve never been one who follows the crowd or accepts what I’m taught meekly. Imagine. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Jesus is important to me. I think people get the impression that I’m not a Christian but I still consider myself one. I’ve just given up on church. I’m not a biblical inerrant-ist but I see no problem with that stance and being Christian. I believe God can speak through just about anything and doesn’t limit himself (sic) through the pages of one book.

    So, I’m not sure where our discussion is going at this point either. ๐Ÿ™‚ I too, need to think about it.

  28. Hahahaha, what? Christians be nasty and judgmental? NO WAY! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I hate to shoot my own team in the foot, so to speak, but we have been guilty of reading the judgment part of the bible and skimming over the grace part. Let the change begin now.

    For most of my life (20 of my almost 23 years) I couldn’t stand Christians. The only experiences I had were “you are going to hell because you don’t go to church.” Sadly, I let people ruin my perception of the truth. When I had my own “Jesus experience,” which was really more of a year long process, I continued to hold enmity to those types of Christians as I discovered my own faith.

    One of the things that I’ve realized, with the help of far wiser and more mature Christians (many of them professors at my seminary), is that my motivation for that is pride. I still cut down my own team instead of acknowledge and confess their sin of judgmentalism, and then seek to help in repentance.

    I say this because, I too gave up on the church. But Jesus says that the church is His body, and where “2 or 3 of (His) disciples are, there (He) will be also.” The church has many flaws, just like everyone else. I say this, not to judge you for your own “giving up” on the church, but to encourage you to maybe be an advocate for reformation. While it is far more difficult to say, stay in a denomination that cares more about their programming than their social justice, it is far more beneficial to reform from the inside than throw rocks from without.

    Again, I feel I may be coming off as just as judgmental, but this is a lesson I am preaching to myself as well. It sure isn’t easy.

    And I’d be really interested to hear more about your “Jesus experience” some time. This discussion is just freaking fascinating.

  29. Brad,

    I’ve created another web site to chronicle my religious experiences. So if you want to wander over there, you’ll probably learn more than you ever want about my journey out of fundamentalism. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Here are the first two posts where I reminisce:

    Either I am the world’s worst judge of church character or there’s something inherently wrong with me, because I’ve had nothing but frustrating experiences with church people. I know that I’ve done my best to mea culpa and trying to get along. So, to quote the Doctor on my favorite Star Trek Generations episode “Remember Me”, “So, if there’s nothing wrong with me, there must be something wrong with the universe.” ๐Ÿ™‚

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