The Need for Purpose and Control
The need for humanity to depend off of a leadership role to define right and wrong goes far back in history; in fact it goes beyond what is known! There are many reasons why one creates a deity with set rules. One reason circulates the idea that our psychological evolution has been based around becoming civilized enough to thrive in a group. In order to do so, one must create a set of rules and their opposites to promote that control to maintain a certain societal behavior. Following these set rules, is a deterrent and reward factor. If one disobeys and engages in what is societally considered as wrong a punishment must follow; if one obeys and engages what is considered write within a culture a reward must follow.
Of course, this can just as easily be established through a law. The need for a God also runs deep into the need for a purpose; a reason to live. In a world that is surrounded by su ch significant physical and psychological suffering, a hope and purpose is seen as vital to many. After all, what is the point in residing in such a terrible world if there is no God or reward following this terrible existence? Humanities flaw of overlooking the best beauties in life has resulted in a constant search for something better. This search has likewise resulted in the need for a purpose in a world where humanity is inflicted with self awareness and therefore aware of the brutal suffering that would hold no meaning if not for an esteemed God.
That being said, with the combined need for a God and moral societal control, it has been established through the idea of paradise and great suffering the idea of right and wrong. A founder of religion, and the leaders of that modern version of the religion then have the ability to manipulate morality so to fit their image. This is proven by considering some of the things that were once considered right or wrong in the past and how those beliefs have changed in modern day. Morality itself is subjective to the generation of man, and therefore the definitions of good ad evil held by an esteemed god are defined likewise with a reward and punishment following every action.
The mission was clear. They had said. Go, find the intel that you need and put a stop to this disaster. No pressure, God will not be angry. We fear him but he is with only compassion of a true heart.
I dipped my toes - sparkling white shoes - toward the elevators that lead there. I knew I should have changed. The filth only grew deeper into the darker depths. The lights continued to lower. I tried to look up slightly but all I could see was the black abyss. I kept wondering, why did I not turn back. I had always been so squeaky clean, but my white dress was easily starting to turn black with mold and unconceivable smells...I kept looking up. Finally, before I hit the bottom, I slipped into tears staring up into the wild abyss. Begging, pleading - this isn't the end!
I can walk back up - I can change and I can clean these stains that I've bumped and inadvertently turning into.
Please, I beg....I do not want to be this way, I will change. I can. I want to and I will whole-heartedly devote it.
I feel a warmth slightly...I feel arms curl around me - stop.
My legs are covered in a black mass - pulling me down.
I shiver and cling to the arms.
No, I can change.
"Let go of which one you wish to keep." A solemn voice speaks above me.
"Let go and be who you are meant to be." An impatient voice provokes me.
I let go.
A Seductive Story
The lesson begins on the day we’re born. We learn about cold versus warm, hungry versus satisfied, or being left all alone or held in the warmth of our mother’s embrace.
And so as the lesson continues; we learn that late in the afternoon the cheerful sun goes to sleep and leaves us in the dark. The dark is where we are left cold, scared and alone. Next we learn about plants, animals and people, how they taste and act and behave. Then one day the lesson gets real: we learn about death. We learn that pretty flowers wilt or get eaten by bugs, animals can get sick and then are no longer around. And finally we learn that the mother who provides the warm embrace will, some day, pass away, and that we will suffer the same fate.
And so as we learn more about the horror and beauty of the world, we discover things that are even worse: injustice, famine, pandemics and even genocide. Loss of hope.
And we know in our heart that those pretty flowers are not coming back, that our beloved dog is gone forever and whatever disease or dictator caused all the death is not going away; and even worse, we are powerless to fix the injustice, stop the dying or even punish the ruthless dictator.
So as we sit in a dark corner crying, we are told a story. Death isn’t final, there’s a better place where we go afterwards. We don’t have to say goodbye forever to our parents that we love so much, we get second chance. And those mean and evil dictators will be cast into eternal hellfire.
This is a seductive story. As a child we believe it. We surround ourselves with others who believe it. It makes us happier and helps us to sleep at night. And this is how the story took root and flourished.
Benefits of Heaven and Hell
There are some practical benefits for people to behave well both individually and as a society. Who wants to share life with someone trying to kill or exploit you? If folks are "good" we can get along, if not, evil runs the show and everyone is out for his or her self.
And leaders--familial, tribal, community, national, religious etc.--find threats of force, death, and hell useful for managing people's behavior. Direct violence loses some of its effectiveness the further people get away from it, but if the threat is supernatural we have the basis for influence flexible enough for a civilization. Especially, if we have a priesthood and religious practices to foster unity.
So, social cohesion and the restraint of evil are utilitarian (material) benefits of belief in heaven and hell. But if an after-life judgement is entirely a human creation then compliance is irrational because. We would have the "benefit" of better relations, but it would all be based on a fabrication. If we get real with our atheism then we remove any lasting benefit to being "good." Whether we are good or evil makes no real difference. Psychopaths live that way and if a significant number of people embraced such a material mindset we would have the culture of a prison without the guards.
There might be another reason that people in all cultures from the earliest of times have believed in God and a day of judgement for deeds done in the flesh besides the utilitarian benefits. We might believe it because it's true.
Even if there was no God, the concepts of heaven and hell would still exist. Because we, as humans, feel the need to be validated. We can’t do good just to be good people. We want to do good things and be repaid for it. People want a prize, an award for being good. Heaven is just that. You get into Heaven, a place with all of your desires fulfilled, if you are good enough. No one will ever do you good without expecting something in return.
There is also this need to punish what is bad. Some people just need to feel in control. They curse you to go to hell so that they can sleep better at night. To feel like they have control over your fate and destiny. Other people can’t personally get revenge and just hope that someday, somehow, the ones that wronged them will be punished. And believing that after death they will be punished according to their wrong-doings, in a place such as hell, where they will suffer just like you did, brings people comfort.
Heaven and hell are just concepts that bring us security, comfort, they make us feel safe. Like everyone will eventually get what they deserve. Whether it is for revenge, to feel in control, or just a reward for our good deeds, people will always need the concepts of heaven and hell.