What if there is no afterlife? No heaven, no hell. The afterlife is one of the most manipulative doctrines of the Church. It’s an eternal system of rewards or punishments for those who do the church’s will (god’s will?). Tragically, many Christians live so dominated by the afterlife that they miss out on life. People will do almost anything to avoid the fear of death. If I can promise you you’ll live forever, and you believe me, you’ll listen to what I say. If I promise you rewards in eternity, you’ll work very hard for me. If I threaten you with hell, you’ll do anything to appease me and gain my forgiveness. This is god’s message–this manipulation!
The afterlife is dangerous. So many wars on planet earth have been fought for the biblical idea of afterlife. Right belief becomes a matter of eternal consequence. What you believe isn’t just personal; it impacts me and those I love. If your beliefs threaten mine, I could end up in hell, or my loved ones might end up there. I need to oppose scientific progress, women’s rights, gay marriage, and even fight people in Crusades in order to protect people from hell… and to make sure I live forever. Literally millions have died in religiously-motivated wars. Killing yourself in an act of terrorism makes sense if you’re convinced it works out better for the afterlife world.
How many lives have been lost, how much genius has been wasted, to an a religious fantasy of living forever? Over half the planet is under the sway of this doctrine. If you were free of afterlife attachment, you might be more present to now. So much energy, and so much human capital would be freed up to do all kinds of good if the ideas of heaven and hell were not with us. So much Christian teaching is geared towards “living in light of eternity.” We are told to deny our earthly desires (often our humanity and personal dreams) because we’re living for eternity. Eternity is what really counts, this life is just a blip on the screen! How many careers, how many dreams have been sacrificed on the altar of heavenly riches? Heavenly rewards mean slavery to a false promise that you will never, ever experience because it’s a fantasy. Anything that takes you away from living fully in this now is not good, it’s not god–even if it’s heaven.
It’s OK to dream and imagine about what happens after this life, but not to sacrifice this life, not to sacrifice your earthly present soul and existence. The promise of afterlife is a false hope, those who imagine it promise it frequently do so based on devious motives–give us your obedience, work according to our system and our rules, believe in what you say, and you will be rich in heaven. Don’t and we’ll torture you and your family (hell). And if you don’t spread our message to other humans–we’ll torture them with fire forever, and you’ll be responsible for not evangelizing them. This is manipulation. If there is any kind of afterlife, it is not this biblical version. Whatever afterlife there may be, it must be one that makes us face our fear of death, not pretend death isn’t real. Whatever afterlife there may be, it must be one that makes us face life fully as a human, not sacrifice it to the whims of a deity or human institution.