I will be expanding on this, but this point from a regular astute commenter is exactly one that I have touched upon here:
Oh, there’s a bunch of problems with heaven, but all of it anchors around the reward based-system that religion depends on. You’re never virtuous for your own sake; you’re always acting according to your own idea of virtue because you know if you don’t, you won’t get into heaven. Therefore, one could argue that by your own standards, you aren’t a virtuous person if you believe in heaven and are motivated by heaven as a potential reward. And that’s before we get into the issue of heaven dividing families and the suffering that will inevitably cause. It’s what happens when your reward system is individually based rather than focused on something like a society as a whole.The very existence of heaven implies that morality is unimportant; if morality were important and satisfying, then that would be the end goal itself and morality and virtue would be seen as an atelic activity rather than a telic one.
It’s a problem that results from all teleological narratives, actually, where they be religious ideas of reality’s nature or the historical narratives of the orthodoxy, pushing their particular brand of nationalism, or some libertarian transhumanists, who think we’re moving closer to something they call a “singularity” by virtue of their historical narrative of the endless self-improving nature of technology. All of those are wrong, just like heaven is wrong, but they’re all wrong in an understandably human way, and one that fails to account for the hedonic treadmill, which is vital to a discussion like this.
This was a joy to read, thanks.
one could argue that by your own standards, you aren’t a virtuous person if you believe in heaven and are motivated by heaven as a potential reward
I actually asked my youth pastor about this when I was around 11 or 12. She laughed and told me not to overthink it, just be a good person for whatever reason I want to.
Addendum: as I see it, if you’re only practicing virtue in the hopes of a reward, your true nature shows itself sooner or later. You can always rationalize why you’re totally going to Heaven no matter how repulsive a human being you are.
So, can you ever be truly moral, truly altruistic? It’s the classic question that I remember debating at school (even then, I surmised that you couldn’t). Either way, it’s even harder with the twin ultimate conceptual blackmails of heaven and hell hanging over you.
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