Stated bluntly, faith or belief in an after-life is the single-most cause of suffering and foolishness inflicted upon the human race, by the human race, and for several reasons:
- It negates the immediacy and value of human life right here and right now.
- It corrupts the collective unconscious of the species in such a way as to affect behavior. Believing in an life-after-death, making the assumption people don’t really die, subconsciously legitimizes capital punishment and the death penalty, abortion, territorial wars, religious wars, turf wars, gang wars, terrorist attacks, ethnic cleansing, murder, suicide cults, political assassination, et al, since people aren’t really dying after all–they’re just continuing on in another stage of existence.
- It allows people to postpone action in this life (whether humane or humanitarian) in favor of the life yet to come, allowing for political and religious boundaries, derision and division, separatism and succession. Hence there remains global hunger, border skirmishes, illiteracy, disease, poverty and pestilence, all because the problems of this world are deemed ultimately not as important when measured against the life yet to come. With the idea of an after-life always simmering in the back of people’s mind, they don’t try as hard to really instigate change in this world, strive for peace, alleviate suffering, fight for global changes. After all, eternal life starts at death so why should folks get all worked up over sixty or seventy years?
- It offers people hope for a solution to their problems at some future time and enables them to not make a conscious effort to begin making the necessary changes or do the necessary work now. It allows them to postpone taking responsibility for their own lives or education (since god will enlighten them and fix everything once they get to heaven) and permits them to sit on their hands in ignorance and inertia while life passes them by. Why make a serious search for truth if truth will be revealed on the other side?
- It legitimizes the use of persecution and torture in the name of saving souls for the after-life.
- It allows religious leaders to control their people by offering hope in the next life, promising rewards, threatening punishment, even sentencing eternal damnation (through papal bulls, excommunication) all by invoking interpreted church doctrine.
- It assumes a mind-body (or soul-body) dichotomy, a disembodied spirit that is mystically and temporarily ‘housed’ in human flesh while blissfully ignoring the inescapable synthesis of each person’s material surroundings, environment, cultural prejudices, parental influences and biases, birth order, sex, physical appearance, shape, size, color, health, biochemistry, electrochemical reactions, stored memory, bones, flesh, blood, eyes, ears, mouth, and steady oxygen supply to shape personality. Everything we think we are we owe solely to the state of our flesh and empirical surroundings, a process impossible to remove from the intrinsic network of matter. With all the above in absence, what would remain exactly to “stand” in judgment before the throne of god, and what mechanisms (or lack thereof) would drive interaction with the divine inquisitor?
- It rewards laziness, complacency, ignorance, superstition, irrationality, religious fervor, and blind faith with promises of an other-wordly victory and assurances of everlasting retribution.