Saturday, June 09, 2007

What's Next?

What happens to us when we die? There are many opinions, but I can boil them all down into two options that cover all possible scenarios:

(A) There IS MORE to come after this life ends.
(B) There is NOTHING more. Game Over!

Pretty simple, eh? Which view do you accept? A or B? If you choose (B) then you're in the minority. Only 19% of Americans polled by Gallup believe it is all over when we die. A much larger 81% of us believe in a literal heaven or afterlife. So, chances are you're in the (A) camp.

The (A) camp is very diverse. Within this life-after-death group there are many philosophies, religions, and belief systems. However, I can also boil these down into just three possible outcomes. For the 81% of people who believe there is more to come after this life, the next life options are as follows:

(1) Whatever is next, everyone will be okay.
(2) I am good enough for what's coming next.
(3) I may not be good enough. I need some help!

Let's call option (1) the "Blind Optimist" view. About 44% of people believe that everyone has the same outcome in the next life no matter how we behaved or what we believed in this life. However, 56% of the population disagrees. I'm honestly surprised there are that many blind optimists out there.

Option (2) believers think they are good enough for what's next. 55% of the population believes they are good enough to get into heaven based on their good deeds. I find it interesting that more than half the people polled thought their good deeds were sufficient to purchase their ticket into heaven. I guess we Americans have a high opinion of our righteousness. Still, about 45% of the population rejects this view.

Option (3) is held by an overwhelming 85% of the population. This is the view that we will be judged by God upon our death. Only 15% reject this idea. I think most people intuitively understand this because it is written into our hearts by our Creator. It has been said that next to God, heaven is the second greatest idea to enter man's heart. I've met very few people who have carefully contemplated these questions and still dismiss the idea of a final judgment.

Option (3) is not only the majority view, it is the Biblical view. Polls are interesting, but truth is not determined by popular opinion. So, what do you believe and why? Leave a comment below. I'd really like to know.

2 comments:

  1. This is really interesting! Do you have a link to that Gallup poll?

    I find some discussion-worthy stuff in options 2 & 3. Let’s not talk in terms of heaven & hell. Those are Biblical concepts. If we simply believed the Bible, we wouldn’t be trying to figure out what’s really going on.

    There’s some ambiguity in option (2). Does “what’s coming next” mean “what does come next” or “what should come next”? Are they saying:
    I believe I will get a good deal in what comes next, or
    I believe I should get a good deal in what comes next.
    The first is a belief about ultimate reality.
    The second is just positive self-evaluation.
    Probably the people answering the question didn’t even think to ask for clarification.

    Option (3) has the same ambiguity plus a lot of other baggage. Actually (2) and (3) could be a view that we will be judged by God upon our death. It’s just that (3) is the Christian version of it. But if I am good enough for what comes next, and I am judged by a just God, then I will get rewarded. Of course, Christianity would tell us that nobody is good enough to qualify for reward. You buy that?

    I know Gallup has to talk in terms people can relate to, but instead of trying to sort out the incongruities in Gallup’s categories let’s figure out the actual categories that must exist.
    (A) afterlife
    (B) no afterlife

    (A)(1) Everybody gets the same deal
    (A)(2) People get different deals.

    (A)(2)(a) Luck determines what people get.
    (A)(2)(b) A Judge determines what people get.
    (Don’t give me that law of karma crap. The only laws governing rewards & punishments are made & enforced by personal beings.)

    (A)(2)(b)(1) The Judge is just.
    (A)(2)(b)(2) The Judge is unjust.

    (A)(2)(b)(1) Everybody gets what they deserve - at least approximately. (If we demand perfect justice and it’s not available, are we gonna self-destruct?)
    Every good act is appropriately rewarded; every bad act is appropriately punished.
    Good acts are those which benefit the people (make that emotional creatures) whom those acts affect – all the creatures, not just some of them. Bad acts – the reverse.
    Appropriate means benefit & harm levels must be quantifiable.
    If an act benefits some & harms others, the benefit/harm ratio must be weighed out.
    But is it based on the intent of your action or the result of your action?
    I say it must be intent. Any disagreement?

    (A)(2)(b)(2) The Judge does whatever benefits the Judge. And the Judge is either God or somebody in God’s chain of command (unless nobody’s in charge and there’s just a bunch of warring deities). This is a whole universe operating just like Earth. The appearance of morality is upheld, but corruption is everywhere.

    It appears to me that (A)(2)(b)(1) is probable, but (A)(2)(b)(2) holds the only possibility of worthwhile life. Therefore I choose to bet my soul on (A)(2)(b)(2) despite perceived odds.

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