Thursday, June 14, 2007

American’s belief in Heaven and Hell

A few days ago I wrote about a Gallup poll which asked about the American peoples' belief in the theory of evolution. On today's daily briefing yet another interesting poll was presented. This time Gallup had asked whether people believe in God as well as other deities. Depending on how the question was phrased 86-76% of the American people say that they believe in God (you get the lower figure if you distinguish between God and "A universal spirit".



A perhaps more interesting result appeared when people were asked whether they believe in God, Heaven, Angles, the Devil, and Hell. You can see the results of this question in the figure above. Apparently, more people believe in Heaven than in Hell. I would like to ask any Christians out there how this result can be explained. If good people go to Heaven when they die, shouldn't bad people (or atheists like my self) logically go to hell? How can you believe in one and not the other? Don't get me wrong though, I think it is good that people pick the nicer parts of religion, it just seems odd.


Another question that I ask myself is what people think hell is like? Do they really believe in a hell where the devil is forever tormenting you (like in south park), or is it something of a more metaphysical nature? Do they believe in it just as an abstraction (whatever that means)? It is probably superfluous of me to state my opinion here, but I will do so anyway. I think that the idea of hell is extremely unlikely and really quite ridiculous. Enough so that I am never afraid of what is going to happen to me after I die. But if any of you hell believers out there are right, I guess it will please you to know that my afterlife will consist of eternal torture…

15 comments:

Alvaro said...

Hej Anders,

Kul att se att du har hittat din "grej". Jag blev glatt överaskad när jag läste lite på din blogg, du har ju utvecklats till en hyfsat förnuftig kille ;-). Måste dock erkänna att jag blev förvånad över att har kategoriserat dig så pass, allt ifrån atheist, humanist och pragmatiker. Hursomhelst, en gammal klasskompis som jag är, det vore trevligt att snacka lite om hur det är, hur det har varit och vad som händer i framtiden. Maila gärna till int_alvaro@hotmail.com så kan vi snacka lite.. Det vore trevligt!

Hälsningar
Alvaro

Justin said...

Hey I thought you had some very good points. you mentioned that good people will go to heaven and bad people will go to Hell, at least according to what you think Christianity teaches. Is that what you think it teaches. Then if that is right, then what is the standard for "good" vs. "bad" according to what you have understood it to be.

rasmussenanders said...

My understanding is that in order to be a "good" christian you need to follow the moral that is advocated in the bible, such as don't kill and respect your parents and all that. I suppose that means that a good person should also kill people who work on the sabbat. Kind of an overreaction if you ask me, but hey, its what the bible says.

I guess maybe some people relies entirely on the new testament and they should have a different understanding of good and bad.

I think that we should, based on lessons from history, and based on moral philosophy should develop up to date moral guidelines. Perhaps something like the human rights according to the UN

John said...

Speaking of heaven and hell, or really DEATH why not check out:

1. www.easydeathbook.com
2. www.dabase.org/dualsens.htm
3. www.adidam.org/death_and_dying/index.html

Justin said...

Okay,
Well I think there is one standard that would define God in Scripture and it runs throughout the Bible. You acutally alerted to it in your post, "the moral" which is the ten commandments. Anders would you consider yourself to be a good person?

rasmussenanders said...

I consider myself to be a fairly good person, and I try to live what I think is a moral life. However, according to the scriptures I am quite sure that I am a evil person. After all I am spending a fair amount of my time critisicing God...

I think that some of the ten comandments are good moral guidelines, but I see it as preferable to use a code with no "bad comandments". Why follow a code if you only agree with some of it when you can make up your own?

Justin said...

Anders,
Thanks for your honesty.
Have you ever told a lie?

rasmussenanders said...

I have yes, both white lies as well as just blatant lies. However, I lied much more when I was younger. Now I try to keep it at a minimun, and if someone asks me a straight question I do not lie, that would be hard on my consciousness.

Why the question?

Justin said...

Anders, just curious really to see your answers. If someone tells lies, what are they called. Put it this way, if I told you a lie, what would you call me?

rasmussenanders said...

I lier I suppose... But it would depend quite alot on the particular situation, and what the consequences were. Some lies are justified if you ask me.

Justin said...

Have you ever stolen something, irregardless of its value at anytime in your life?

Beda said...

Hej Anders.

First, let me say that I really like your blog, it is rational, courteous and intelligent. That is not to say that I agree with everything in it of course, but after all that would be pretty dull!! And I hope you don't mind me making some comments on some of these areas...:-)

So, I think it fair to point out that this idea that "if you do good you go to heaven, and if you do evil you go to hell" does not really capture the Christian concept. After all, it would lead to some very bizarre situations. For example, one can imagine saintly do-gooders going to heaven, and obvious baddies going to hell; but most people sit in the middle somewhere. Then, there must be a sort of boundary where some people just make it into heaven and enjoy endless bliss, and yet those just a *bit* more evil go to hell and are tormented forever. Unlucky. But neither classical nor reformed Christian thought see it like this, despite their surficial disagreements.
The thrust of Christian thought is that salvation is something that God does, not humans; humans do not "earn" salvation. Because at least classical theology sees God as willing everyone to be saved, there has always been a strain of Christian universalism: ie the view that everyone, "in the end", will be saved. Notable thinkers who have held this view include Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and a whole host of more modern theologians.
There is a difference between the opinion that everyone "must" be saved (which is certainly not orthodox) and the view that everyone "can" be saved; and this latter view leads to the Christian hope that that will be the case: ie that God's will will eventually prevail. Certain traces of this latter view can be seen in the more cosmic sides of Paul's letters, such as in Romans.
I think this persistent universalism explains why there is an asymmetry between heaven and hell believers.
Still the other side of the coin is: is it possible for humans to reject salvation in such a way that they cannot be saved? If one thinks that, then hell must be a possibility. Some people have thought that heaven and hell are essentially the same; it is just that for those "in hell" the vision of god is unbearable, whereas for those in heaven it is a delight. This view is particularly prevalent in Eastern Orthodoxy.
"beda"

rasmussenanders said...

Thank you for your words of appreciation, and thank you for your comments, they are indeed most welcome. Like you said, how dull it would be if people did not disagree, so keep questioning me and my posts.

I don't have much of a respond to what you said about heaven and hell. My post I guess did not take into account the entire sophistication of the theory, rather it was based on a simplistic view. To my defence it seems that a great many "fundamentalist" churches in the United States and elsewhere does have such a conception of heaven and hell. I know that in my Godfathers church in Texas, they say that you go to hell if you write like I do and that hell is a place where you burn forever...

Beda said...

I think one of the boring things about the "science/religion" war (at least as concerns Christianity) is that it is typically just slugged out on a very dull pitch, ie that provided by a certain type of evangelical theology.
Both sides of the debate simply accept the same premises about what god "must" be like, how one should read the bible (ie like a foreign language phrase book), the nature of faith, etc etc. But for everyone else, this is all pretty alien. For example, atheists typically characterise religious faith as being a sort of blind dogmatic adherence to some sort of belief in the face of all evidence to the contrary. But this is, to put it politely, balls. :-). I mean, if that was really the case, then why would someone like Aquinas spend his career writing millions of words in rational defence of Christian theology, rather than just laying out the things one "must believe"? Just as an example.

Whilst a Christian (and a pretty orthodox one at that) I simply reject a whole row of these assumptions, as has, incidentally, the bulk of christianity through the ages and indeed now.

The encounter with Islam is even more egregious, of course. I won't comment much on this as I know rather little about Islamic theology. However, the casual identification of an entire culture - one that was considerably more accomplished and civilised than the west during certain periods - as a bunch of towel-headed psychotic maniacs strikes me as being not entirely helpful...

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that in order to be a "good" christian you need to follow the moral that is advocated in the bible, such as don't kill and respect your parents and all that. (NOT QUITE. SALVATION DOESN'T DEPEND ON DEEDS. YOU COULD BE A GOOD PERSON AND STILL GO TO HELL. WHY? BECAUSE SALVATION HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH WORKS. IT IS MAKING THE CHOICE TO ACCEPT JESUS AS YOUR SAVIOR. THAT IS IT.. YOU ARE SAVED. END OF STORY.)I suppose that means that a good person should also kill people who work on the sabbat Kind of an overreaction if you ask me, but hey, its what the bible says.( ACTUALLY JESUS WORKED ON THE SABBATH. YOU ARE REFERRING TO THE OLD TESTAMENT, WHICH WAS REPLACED BY THE NEW TESTAMENT)

I guess maybe some people relies entirely on the new testament and they should have a different understanding of good and bad.(AGREED. IF YOU ARE TALKING JEW VS MODERN CHRISTIANITY)THEN AGAIN IF YOU DON'T ACCEPT THE NEW TESTAMENT YOU MUST ALSO DENY JESUS CHRIST. SO I GUESS THAT WOULDN'T MAKE YOU A CHRISTIAN NOW WOULD IT.

I think that we should, based on lessons from history, and based on moral philosophy should develop up to date moral guidelines. Perhaps something like the human rights according to the UN (WE DO HAVE UP TO DATE MORAL GUIDELINES. IT'S THE NEW TESTAMENT. THIS LAW WAS LAID DOWN BY A PERFECT GOD. ANY OTHER GUIDELINES INSTATED BY MAN, WHO IS FALLIBLE, WILL COLLAPSE.)

HOPE THIS HELPS