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'If there is no life after death, there is no point in behaving morally.' 'If there is no life after death, there is no point in behaving morally.'

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As a secular humanist, I believe the exact opposite of this thread topic. Since there is no afterlife, all that matters is how we treat those around us every day. The only impact we have is here on Earth, now, while we are living. Kudos to poster #8, by the way. I've heard that I'm somehow "immoral" at several different points in my life due to my lack of faith in an organized religion. Yet on the contrary, I find myself rather liberated by its absence, and I am pleased with the fact that I am using my reason and critical thinking skills as a human being to determine my own morality. Which, as I've mentioned, consists of practicing kindness, compassion, and acceptance for others while I exist.

I would also dare suggest that those who follow moral guidelines based solely on their belief in an afterlife are in fact selfish, rather than altruistic as they may imagine themselves.

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Mervin Ridley eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Let us, for a moment, adopt a completely agnostic point of view, and regard the afterlife with complete ambivalence. Even if we do that, though, one has to ask the introspective question: "What do I want people to say about me at my funeral?" Even if your soul isn't going anywhere, your memory and your behaviors remain long after your personal mortal departure.

Picture the scene: Your casket/urn/whatever is up front, and people in the gathering are whispering one of two things:

1. "What a great person. He/she will be sorely missed. They lived a wonderful life."


2. "Thank God and Greyhound they're gone. The world's a better place without them."

Which do you choose? Our moral behavior (no matter how abject that term may be) is the determinant of our perception by others. That's just the way it is, during life and thereafter.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The previous posts which emphasized the idea of "law and order" as being critical to acting morally were quite accurate.  If the notion of self indulgent lawlessness were embraced by everyone, there would be complete chaos and there is little in way of civilization would be able to advance.  Even if one were not going to focus on the judgment of the soul, the interests of others, their ability to be left alone and not be intruded upon by others, would be justification enough to act morally.  The need to protect the negative liberty of others would compel one to act morally, or at the very least, act in the manner that does not detract from others.

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lynn30k eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Unfortunately, this is the mindset that leads to people believing that those who do not have a religion are evil. Just the opposite, in my opinion. Those of us who do not believe in an afterlife know that because this is the only existence we get, it is our obligation as humans to make it as good for ourselves and others as possible. The "promise" of an afterlife has been commonly used throughout history by the rich to keep the poor in line--don't worry about how bad you have it here on earth, if you just stay in line, things will be better after you die. On the other hand, if the threat of eternal damnation is the only thing keeping you acting decently towards others, by all means continue to believe.

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ask996 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I won't address the spiritual ramifications of this philosophy other than to say that I pray the original poster finds eternal life through the salvation of Christ. I would ask, however, that dancer7 consider this: If all humanity believed as your post indicates that moral behavior is only contingent upon the potential for life after death, would you be willing and happy to exist in a world where the immoral choices others made affected you, your family, your friends, your environment, and etc. What if some person decided they could murder or rape your family simply because no life after death meant moral choices weren't necessary?

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lrwilliams eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Are you willing to take the chance that there is no life after death? Also, can you imagine the chaos if everyone had that believe. It is important that as a society we impress upon others our principles and morals through example.

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enotechris eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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...except that your actions live beyond your years.  How you live your life serves as an example to those around you; those younger learn from you and carry on, whether the example be good, or not so much.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Totally disagree.  Although I hope that there is life after death, I am still motivated to behave morally.  There are a number of reasons why there is still a point in doing this even if there is no life after death:

  1. If you have kids, it sets a good example for them and teaches them how to be good people.
  2. The world as a whole, and individual communities, relationships, etc work best when the people in them act morally.  A world of selfish hedonists would be hellish indeed.
  3. I don't see how anyone could feel good about themselves if they acted in ways that were against their own morals.

These are my top three, in no particular order of importance.

On the same sort of subject, it has never made sense to me for God to say "do good or I'll punish you" anymore than it makes sense for me to make that be the major way of interacting with my kids.  I want my kids to do right because they know its right, not because they fear punishment.

I've always thought that a person who acts morally out of fear of punishment is not truly admirable and may not even be acting morally.  If I were God, I wouldn't want to reward such a person.  What do you think?

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frizzyperm | Student

Just because there is no life after death, that does not mean it is our best interest to hurt others.

being good is a very selfish thing... for example: I don't want to be murdered, so I'll make a deal with you; I won't try to murder you if you don't try to murder me.

...from this very basic social contract we can extend and extend our agreements. I will be nice and friendly and 'good' to you, because then I can demand the same and we can both live in peace, freedom and happiness.

I am good because I am selfish. A good society is the best place for me.

Fear of God's anger is one way to define this 'goodness'. Intelligence is another.

mkcapen1 | Student

Morality can exist even when people do not believe in life after death.  Morality is the code of conduct which a person chooses to live by.  It is a belief system of what is right and what is wrong.  There are many persons who consider them selves to be atheists that demonstrate good moral behaviors.  At the same time, there are also people who profess to have strong beliefs in God and the afterlife who exhibit immoral behavior. 

Many religions do not believe in the after life but they still have a code of ethics that underline how a person should behave.  The behaviors expected of the followers of the religion are moral behavior in relation to their religious beliefs.

Being good and kind is something that each person makes as an individual choice.  If the only way to attain moral behavior is by fear of punishment or reward then there are many people who are at a loss. I have had the opportunity to observe good deeds performed by good moral people who have different beliefs than those of Christians and I have seen Christians exhibit some of the most immoral behaviors. 

In addition, I have to agree with #10.  Behaviors that are defined as moral change depending on the beliefs of the social system and religion of the person. 


krishna-agrawala | Student

There is a lot of confusion about what is moral behavior. There is definitely one concept of moral behaviour by which if you sacrifice your happiness in life to make others happy, you will get much greater benefits in your life after death. If you accept this is accepted as the right view of moral - that is, it takes away from your happiness in your present life - then there is no point in being moral if there is no life after death.

But there are other views of moral. Particularly Hindu philosophy, which incorporated doctrine of Karma, advocates a form of moralistic behaviour that is designed to promote the common good of all the people in their current worldly life. The complete philosophy can be rather complicated, to be discussed in full here, one of its practical implication is that if you work honestly, acting in ways that are most conducive for creating wealth and happiness for entire society, rather than just stealing what you want from others, then chances are that you will be better off in this life. In addition you will also earn credits for your soul which continues to live beyond the death of your body.

We can illustrate this concept by a simple example. If no one in this world produced any food by farming and other methods, and only tried to procure food by stealing from others, then there will be no food available for stealing, and this world to come an end. Therefore stealing food is not a alternative that will lead to betterment of society. And if the whole society becomes poor and hungry, all the people in the society will suffer. Against this, a person who is productive and useful, creates wealth for the society, and also benefits himself by retaining and using part of the surplus created.

It is quite clear that the above type of moral conduct will benefit individuals, irrespective of whether or not there is an life after death. The benefits of moral behavior will be higher if there is life after death. Even if there is no life after death, the benefits during the life will still be there.

epollock | Student

That would be true if you believe that there is no life after death. And if you behave immorally then whatever punishment you receive in this world would also have no consequences. On the other hand, if there is life after death, then maybe it does matter.