A question for religionist (and Mambo)

I was raised to be religious. I activly rejected that belief system of my own volition.

My question, well two actually, is/are:

1.If you REALLY believe, why do you all sin? If I believed I were going to be rewarded with Heaven, I would make Ghandi look like Jack the Ripper.

2.Why are you afraid to die if you think you are going to a better place? And I don’t mean lip service, if I pointed a gun at any random religious person on the street and told them I was going to shoot, they would quake and beg for their lives. This would also include the smaller things like fear of heights or falling. To my mind, and I’m being serious, the though of a religious person (who really belives) being afraid of heights is ludicrus.

Grrr…sorry spelling…

Heh, I was (and still am being) raised to be very religious. In fact, I’m going to be going to church this morning. I don’t, however, believe in a god anymore. I just go so my mom stays nice and happy, cause I hate it when my mom is sad.

Anyway, for both points, you have to ask yourself, for all the people that say they believe, how many of them have true faith? How many are true believers?

Personally (no statistics or whatnot to back it up) I believe that most people who consider themselves religious and call themselves religious really aren’t as devote as they say they are. I used to think I believed, that I had faith, I was wrong. How many other people think they believe but truly don’t? It’s a big step from saying to doing.

Besides, if there is a god, and he/she/it created the human form, well, he/she/it also gave that human form the desire to live, and, unless one has a firm hold on oneself, that desire to live will overpower anything else one might otherwise say or do.

As for the first question, do you mean to tell me that you’ve never done anything you knew that you’d regret? You’ve never lashed out at a friend or family member who you knew you loved, but were really mad at? You’ve never put off studying until the night before the exam? Just because a person has sufficient motivation doesn’t mean she’ll be able to sustain perfect behavior indefinately. As hard as you try, sometimes you slip up. I think that whether the motivation is your own self-interest in earthly affairs (e.g. healthy relationships or good grades), the prospect of a rewarding afterlife, or simply because it’s the right thing to do, perfection is unattainable.

Besides, in Christianity at least, one doesn’t have to be perfect to get to heaven. There’s a law of love instead of a law of fear, and God judges the heart. I don’t avoid sin because I’m afraid I won’t be rewarded in heaven, but because I want to do what is right, and because I don’t want to taint my relationship with God.

And I think the second question is sort of a matter of instinct. Natural selection encourages creatures with a strong sense of self-preservation, and in a moment of crisis instinct takes over. This instinct is very useful in many circumstances, and if we didn’t have an innate fear of death I don’t think our species would last very long. I think that there are a many people who would be terrified of dying if the threat came suddenly, but would be able to accept a more gradual death, where thought and faith is stronger than instinct, with more ease.

Also, for me, the main reason I don’t want to die is because I haven’t really accomplished anything with my life yet. I’m not afraid of Hell or oblivion, but I don’t think I’ve filled my purpose yet. I don’t want to die without my life bringing some net benefit to the world.

warmgun asks:

So what stops you, an unbeliever, from committing any act you wish? If there is no Heaven or Hell, why not?

Or if you believe in some moral system, do you ever transgress against it? Why aren’t atheists perfect?

Perhaps. Read She Said Yes or the history of the early church for some examples of those who neither quaked nor begged. For that matter, read the accounts of the crucifixion of Christ. I suspect crucifixion is worse than being shot, but His response was to ask forgiveness for those who were doing it to Him.

For that matter, why are atheists afraid to die? They believe they are going (I guess) nowhere. What’s to be afraid of in that?


This has been discussed [and is being discussed] in such threads as “A Question for Atheists” and basically any of the GD threads with religious implications so there’s no need to say all that again.

Now I’m not an atheist persay, but if this is my ONLY chance to exist/be/make a difference/feel anything, and at least at this point I suspect it is, then I sure as hell (get it?) don’t wanna give it up any time soon. At this point in my life I don’t feel like I’ve done nearly enough for my fellow man and would like to at least once before I die feel that euphoric chemical rush that one supposedly gets from benevolence on a large scale.

Now as for the OP. The most religious people I know truly do the best they can to live a sinless life. Now it is interesting to note that this is not necessarily required. I mean Christianity teaches that even if you have sinned, if in the end you accept Jesus as your savior and all that, you’re going to heaven. So then if you ask why they feel the compulsion to still remain completely sinless, the answer is (except for those who have been led to believe they absolutely have to remain sinless), the same reason any atheist or non-believer would. Its just the right thing to do. Now maybe all our standards of morality are arbitrary and maybe what the Bible lays forth is for the most-part bullshit. But some people simply say “I’ll never know the truth about this world in this life, so I’ll just trust the Bible”

Also I would note that in other religions such as Islam, where there is no “savior cop-out”, their goal really is to get into heaven by doing everything possible to serve God and live a life on God’s terms. It is for this reason that I often think less of Christianity: by providing an ultimate clenser, you make your religion a one-time-only thing. That said, it also enables people to worry less about dogma and try to find their own morality and worth, since they don’t have to worry about heaven or hell (cause suposedly they’re already set). Thus the dichotomous dilemma…

**Warmgun wrote:

1.If you REALLY believe, why do you all sin? If I believed I were going to be rewarded with Heaven, I would make Ghandi look like Jack the Ripper.**

First, let me pick this nit; you use the term religionist, yet by your usage, you seem to mean the Judeo/Christian/Islamic faiths that have an idea of sin and redemption built into their doctrine. Not all religions have this idea of sin and redemption, so please chose your words more carefully in the future.

Now, to you first question. What exactly do you mean by sin in this context? To me, sin is a willful, malicious act. Simply making a mistake is not a sin. I make mistakes all the time, I’m only human and still learning, after all.

Also, while I believe in an “afterlife” I think of it as only a stopping point, before I move onto my next incarnation. In this afterlife, I review what I did in my previous life and try to learn from those experiences. I see what I did wrong and what I did right. So, the afterlife isn’t a place of rewards for the good and punishment for the bad. Therefore, there’s no rush to get there.

2.Why are you afraid to die if you think you are going to a better place? And I don’t mean lip service, if I pointed a gun at any random religious person on the street and told them I was going to shoot, they would quake and beg for their lives. This would also include the smaller things like fear of heights or falling. To my mind, and I’m being serious, the though of a religious person (who really belives) being afraid of heights is ludicrus.

Not all the religious people I know would “quake and beg for their lives.” I know several ex-military types who’d probably disarm you and either beat you with your own weapon or haul your ass to the nearest police station to report an attempted.

The reason being for this, is that in the hear and now, this incarnation, many NeoPagans (my own faith) believe that we’re here to learn a many lessons. Suddenly ending your life (for whatever reason) is like dropping out of school yet still expecting to ace the Final Exam. It leaves you ill prepared for the next incarnation. That’s the reason we want to stick around.

Freyr, I did enjoy your “dropping-out” answer to the death question… I may use that next time I’m asked the same question.

My question for you is this: Do you presently have any recollection of your past lives? If not, then what good do these purgatorial (pardon my expression) epiphanies have? If so, what drugs were you on and why aren’t you sharing? If this was what happened, by now wouldn’t everybody follow this kind of system? If we remembered our past lives or the realizations we had in the brief “afterlife”, then we shouldn’t be wasting our time with other religious or philosophical viewpoints since we have pretty much cleared that mystery up.


From what I have read so far on this subject, one’s lifetime on earth is to apply and test what one has learned and counseled on between lifetimes, therefore, there is little reason to recall them while on earth.

And from what I have read, evidence of the Essene’s belief in reincarnation has been asserted by some researchers. The Essenes were a third sect of the Jewish faith which may have included John The Baptist as a follower, as well as others.

I think the mysteries are cleared up when we are ready to receive them.


My fear of heights would be based on pain and injury, not “death” itself. I’m looking forward to your answers to some of the good questions asked by other posters.

So you’re saying that our lifetimes on earth are just sorta random samples, uninfluenced by our “between lifetime” selves, so that our “between lifetime” selves may look on them and find common links and see what went wrong in them and that sort of thing?

Glad to oblige, Edlyn.
Let’s start with JadedNaive. I’m not talking about waiting until the last moment to study for a test, I’m talking about cheating, stealing or telling a lie. Or coveting, etc… But this is the sort of retoric I expect from Christians - let’s take the least offensive sins as a model.
Then goes on to say (I’m paraphrasing) that being perfect isn’t required so why sweat it. THIS seems like a sin to me. Maybe I’m just a black and white kind of guy, but if it being good is what God wants - do it! What’s so hard about telling the truth?
Now my pet-peeve part. Natural selection? I though that was a scientific concept. And if we all go to Heaven why is it so important that the human race be saved? God could just create another one. This is another version of Christians using the 2nd law of thermodynamics to ‘prove’ science wrong. The 2nd law of thermodynamics IS science!
Finally, what could you possibly accomplish on earth that could even remotely compare with what you could do in heaven? That’s like saying, “I’ll have to put off curing cancer because I have to do laundry”.

Freyr: Standing unafraid BECAUSE of your faith in God should certainly put you way up there in His book. And the dropping out of school bit, I look at it as turning down a millon dollar a year job to finish college. For most, making more money is the PURPOSE of college.

Shodan: Yes, I have a high moral code. And sometimes I make bad desions that I regret because of it. But I honestly believe if my mortal soul depended on it, I wouldn’t slip. A lot of Athiest are great, moral people but are not perfect because they don’t have the fear not to be.

Lastly, Kaje: Most Christians I know DO NOT go out of their way to lead a perfect life. They go to church and assume they are covered. But I say again, if I believed, truely belived, I think I could lead a perfect life. If you are not chasing money, power and the opposite sex it shouldn’t be that hard to do. And I could put up with any amount of crap or hardship on earth if the pay-off was everlasting, eternal life.

What do you expect? That’s what they’re taught. The way I see it, Christianity is almost a certificate. Want to pursue your own meaning in life? Arrive at your own personalized morality? Can’t do that and still go to heaven with other religions: they impose a meaning and morality upon you. Come to Christianity! Listen to us for a little while until you find Jesus and then move on along your merry way. Don’t worry, you’re still saved!

That seems one of the benefits to the religion actually. Of course, there are those who don’t see it that way, and think its just another source for imposed morality and meaning, but why bother with that stuff if you’re saved. Don’t go around chopping people’s dicks off or something, but you needn’t strictly abide by this little book here, except the finding Jesus part.

Might I add, that your comments about Christianity are like saying to somebody, “But, you don’t like Pink floyd. I would if I were you.” There are plenty of characteristics that could describe any person or religion, but because one doesn’t have one of those, doesn’t make it completely retarded (there are other reasons for that). If you want a religion where making yourself perfect is the goal, there are plenty out there. Judaism in many respect, Islam, Hinduism. In all of the basic dogma is: you really need to act like X if you want to reach Y.

Sinfulness has been a permanent condition of humanity since the Fall. We created a chasm between our world and the world God had prepared for us. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we all are given a chance to be judged according to God’s mercy and not according to our sins. When you turn to God and confess your sins and receive Him, you receive the Holy Spirit which gives you a taste of what’s to come in the next chapter. Posessing the Holy Spirit does not mean that you are free from sinning, but you are free from the condemnation your sins should have brought you.

The key is to pick yourself up each time you sin and turn to God. Those who do this are better able to resist temptation in the future and are the ones have more revealed to them by God.

I don’t think true Christians are afraid to die. St. Stephen wasn’t afraid of death but I have a feeling that he wasn’t happy about the stones that actually hit him. There are many martyrs (millions) who chose to die rather than recant their beliefs. I am not afraid of death but I am slightly afraid of the dying process. I don’t want to die a painful or humiliating death. But I am not worried about the day of my death itself. It will happen when it happens.

I’ll offer some analogies for warmgun, analogies that don’t involved God or faith in any way. We’ll see if this helps him understand the problem.

EVERYBODY knows that cigarette smoking causes cancer and a host of other diseases, correct? And we knows that absolutely NOBODY wants to get cancer, right? So… it must follow that NOBODY on Earth ever smokes cigarettes, doesn’t it? Uh…

EVERYBODY knows that promiscuous, unprotected sex is dangerous, and can result in a deadly STD, like AIDS. And since everybody knows this, it follows that NOBODY is out there engaging in promiscuous, unprotected sex, right? Well…

EVERYBODY knows that overeating leads to obesity, and obesity leads to heart disease. So, knowing this, EVERYONE in America is eating a low-fat diet and exercising vigorously. Right? Umm…

It’s obvious, isn’t it, that human beings do all kinds of dangerous, reckless things, even though they KNOW perfectly well that their actions could lead to pain, suffering and death in the long run. Why do they do it? Mainly because the pleasure of junk food, sex, or a cigarette is IMMEDIATE, while the long run is… well, a long way off!
The moment of my death FEELS like it’s a long way off (though it may not be), but that triple cheeseburger looks so good RIGHT NOW! I may die of lung cancer, slowly and painfully, thirty years from now… but I could sure go for a smoke RIGHT NOW!

Human beings are weak and they’re short-sighted (I am not excluding myself from this sweeping statement, btw). It’s not easy or natural to think about the distant future when a pleasurable temptation is staring us right in the face. It’s no easier for a sincere would-be Christian to think of God’s will at moments of temptation than it is for a smoker to think about cancer when he’s dying for a Marlboro.

<shrug> Most sins are little ones. It’s easier for most people to relate to name-calling and small lies than to murder and carjacking. But I didn’t mean to imply that not studying is sinful. My point is that everyone does things that they know they shouldn’t do, whether the reasoning for not doing it is moral or self-serving in nature. Religious people are not alone in that. Just as you might lose your temper with a friend and say something you shouldn’t, or otherwise go against your moral code or act in a way which is not best interests, people of faith also end up doing things they know they shouldn’t. For those of us who truly have faith, and truly care about our beliefs, we do try to live our lives without sinning. But it is difficult to be on one’s guard all the time, to always be patient and loving with everyone, to be honest when you know it will hurt. Humans are weak, and the most wholehearted attempt to lead a holy life will still have some degree of failure.

As a Christian, I believe that one of the most significant differences between us as God is that God is perfect and we are not. Perfection is an unattainable standard. If you become too focused on perfection, you’re more inclined to give up when you fail. Instead, I try to become closer to perfection, closer to holiness, avoiding sinful thoughts and actions and becoming more patient and loving. But it takes time, and I’ve only been a Christian for a little over a year. Perhaps if you tried, you could go your entire lifetime without so much as thinking a sinful thought, but most of us cannot.

As for Christians who have the attitude “I can do whatever I want and I’ll go to heaven, so @&#! the rules and I’ll live my way,” I don’t really think of them as Christians, because in their hearts they aren’t focused on serving God. And it is what’s in the heart that truly matters.

I don’t understand your point. What does the second law of thermodynamics have to do with anything, and why is it unacceptable to use science in my answer? Science and religion are both relevant to the question, in my opinion, because fear of dying would be heavily selected for as life evolved on the planet. Human psychology is hardly impervious to scientific principle.

Why can’t God’s work be done on Earth? Have you seen the sorry shape of things on Earth lately? We have intolerance, hatred, war, bigotry, greed, despair, and injustices galore. The people affected are dear to God, and thus should be important to Christians too. The second greatest commandment in the Bible is to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Luke 10:27). If you love someone, you want to help them. The only way I know to help is to be alive. So I would do my best to stay alive–short of sacrificing my morals. I would not place my own welfare above that of anyone else in the situation. I would not denounce God. But I would give a mugger my wallet.

LATELY?!? I’m sorry, but this is one of my major pet peeves, when people act like the world used to be perfect and only in the past 10, 20, 50 years did it acquire “intolerance, hatred, war, bigotry, greed, despair, and injustices galore.” The world has always been a greedy place, there has always been war, and if anything only NOW do we finally have governments which strive to eliminate intolerance, bigotry, and injustice. I’m not saying its a perfect place NOW, but its certainly no worse than it was 100, 500, 2000 years ago.

[nitpick/hijack] Do not read “She Said Yes” unless for some reason you find fictional accounts of saintly martyrdom to be uplifting. The Cassie Bernall story has been pretty thoroughly debunked. It’s a nice sentiment, but there’s no truth in that book.[/nitpick/hijack]

Of course things have always been this bad. They’ve been a lot worse. It’s only been in the last few decades that de facto segregation in American schools has ended, that interraccial marriages have gained wider acceptance, that homosexuals have been more accepted (although we still have a long way to go there, mental health care is more effective and compassionate, etc. But human nature certainly didn’t change for the worse recently, and I don’t know why anyone would say it has. Of course, I’ve only been around since '82. I don’t know firsthand about any other era. I used the word “lately” to indicate that the problems are not all in the past.

Not exactly, Kaje. What they are saying is that freewill, karma, and our spirit’s journey towards a Christ-like level are woven into life here on earth. In that sense, our lives here being a “random sample” would not be accurate. Lessons not learned from one lifetime would be carried over into another to be faced again.

While you are correct to point out that intolerance, greed, hate, and all the harmful effects upon others stemming from the initiation of force have always been a part of life on earth, I disagree that we have government to thank for that lessening a bit. Governments cannot not exist without individuals. The credit belongs to those who are more spiritually enlightened or matured who strive to love their neighbor as themselves.