Christianity with no afterlife
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24-02-2015, 09:52 AM
Christianity with no afterlife
This thread will pretty much be one of pure speculation, but I got thinking about it and wanted to ask all of you.

Imagine when Christianity was founded that there was no heaven or hell attached to the belief system. Either, when everyone died, there was no afterlife or they all got the same afterlife (picture Hades or Sheol). This would remove the biggest carrot and stick associated with religion. It would also make the idea of salvation quite different, as Jesus would only be absolving people of earthy punishment. That, of course, is quite a bit more testable than notions of eternal salvation. It's pretty obvious that not every wicked person dies or suffers in this life, and plenty of righteous people do suffer.

So, to get to my question: What do you think Christianity would look like in the modern age if there were no heaven or hell taught in the religion? How would that affect the number of believers? How would it affect those that do believe and how they preach?


My guess is there would be far fewer Christians, as it's be a harder sales pitch. For the ones that do believe, I'd imagine a lot of lax believers, as they don't have a constant threat of hell to coerce them into being better. That being said, I could also see a contingent of stronger "true believers" who feel a need to be right just to be right.

For further speculation, it's possible the religion (if it survived) would have morphed to keep itself alive. So, absent of any eternal salvation and any obvious divine intervention, they might take it upon themselves to police the sinners in this world. So, if a Christian punishes a sinner, would that be divine retribution? I mean, this type of thing does exist to this day, and that's with people already believing that God will judge them, anyway.
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24-02-2015, 10:08 AM
RE: Christianity with no afterlife
(24-02-2015 09:52 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  This thread will pretty much be one of pure speculation, but I got thinking about it and wanted to ask all of you.

Imagine when Christianity was founded that there was no heaven or hell attached to the belief system. Either, when everyone died, there was no afterlife or they all got the same afterlife (picture Hades or Sheol). This would remove the biggest carrot and stick associated with religion. It would also make the idea of salvation quite different, as Jesus would only be absolving people of earthy punishment. That, of course, is quite a bit more testable than notions of eternal salvation. It's pretty obvious that not every wicked person dies or suffers in this life, and plenty of righteous people do suffer.

So, to get to my question: What do you think Christianity would look like in the modern age if there were no heaven or hell taught in the religion? How would that affect the number of believers? How would it affect those that do believe and how they preach?


My guess is there would be far fewer Christians, as it's be a harder sales pitch. For the ones that do believe, I'd imagine a lot of lax believers, as they don't have a constant threat of hell to coerce them into being better. That being said, I could also see a contingent of stronger "true believers" who feel a need to be right just to be right.

For further speculation, it's possible the religion (if it survived) would have morphed to keep itself alive. So, absent of any eternal salvation and any obvious divine intervention, they might take it upon themselves to police the sinners in this world. So, if a Christian punishes a sinner, would that be divine retribution? I mean, this type of thing does exist to this day, and that's with people already believing that God will judge them, anyway.

It would just be one of many minority cults. Asserting the ultimate form of imaginary punishment/reward is about as compelling as you can get without any real proof and that's not mere coincidence!

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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24-02-2015, 10:30 AM
RE: Christianity with no afterlife
(24-02-2015 09:52 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  This thread will pretty much be one of pure speculation, but I got thinking about it and wanted to ask all of you.

Imagine when Christianity was founded that there was no heaven or hell attached to the belief system. Either, when everyone died, there was no afterlife or they all got the same afterlife (picture Hades or Sheol). This would remove the biggest carrot and stick associated with religion. It would also make the idea of salvation quite different, as Jesus would only be absolving people of earthy punishment. That, of course, is quite a bit more testable than notions of eternal salvation. It's pretty obvious that not every wicked person dies or suffers in this life, and plenty of righteous people do suffer.

So, to get to my question: What do you think Christianity would look like in the modern age if there were no heaven or hell taught in the religion? How would that affect the number of believers? How would it affect those that do believe and how they preach?


My guess is there would be far fewer Christians, as it's be a harder sales pitch. For the ones that do believe, I'd imagine a lot of lax believers, as they don't have a constant threat of hell to coerce them into being better. That being said, I could also see a contingent of stronger "true believers" who feel a need to be right just to be right.

For further speculation, it's possible the religion (if it survived) would have morphed to keep itself alive. So, absent of any eternal salvation and any obvious divine intervention, they might take it upon themselves to police the sinners in this world. So, if a Christian punishes a sinner, would that be divine retribution? I mean, this type of thing does exist to this day, and that's with people already believing that God will judge them, anyway.

If my source is correct this is similar to Islam. Islam does have a hell but it is only temporary. Everyone eventually goes to heaven. Not sure if you would count that. Also I think there are some Christian sects which believe that everyone goes to heaven.

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24-02-2015, 10:49 AM
RE: Christianity with no afterlife
There are Christian atheists.

There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. -Camus
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24-02-2015, 10:51 AM
RE: Christianity with no afterlife
(24-02-2015 10:30 AM)TarzanSmith Wrote:  Also I think there are some Christian sects which believe that everyone goes to heaven.

Universal reconciliation.

There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. -Camus
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24-02-2015, 11:01 AM (This post was last modified: 24-02-2015 11:06 AM by Tomasia.)
RE: Christianity with no afterlife
(24-02-2015 09:52 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  My guess is there would be far fewer Christians, as it's be a harder sales pitch. For the ones that do believe, I'd imagine a lot of lax believers, as they don't have a constant threat of hell to coerce them into being better. That being said, I could also see a contingent of stronger "true believers" who feel a need to be right just to be right.

This would assume, that the appeal of Christianity rests on heaven and hell. That a belief in hell actually coerces people into being better, than they would have been without it. While there may be some outliers who came to believe based on these things, it's doesn't seem faithful to the overwhelming arc of conversion experiences, found at any alter call, or mission field, or even in the writings of converts.

The greater appeal of Christianity, seems to rest more on it's concepts of redemption, forgiveness, a God who loves us, grace, and a God who is ultimately relatable in the person of Jesus, rather than out there somewhere.

It offered people who saw their lives as empty, and unfulfilled, plagued by their own failures, to believe they can be redeemed in this life, start anew in this life, and be brought back into fellowship and community with others.

You'd hardly find conversation stories of folks who became Christian because they were so terribly afraid of hell. In reality we encounter these stories as part of folks considering deconversion, of folks hanging on to the last leg of belief, who are in the process of become unbelievers. These individuals and their predicaments shouldn't be conflated with the reasons for conversions.
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24-02-2015, 11:30 AM
RE: Christianity with no afterlife
(24-02-2015 11:01 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  
(24-02-2015 09:52 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  My guess is there would be far fewer Christians, as it's be a harder sales pitch. For the ones that do believe, I'd imagine a lot of lax believers, as they don't have a constant threat of hell to coerce them into being better. That being said, I could also see a contingent of stronger "true believers" who feel a need to be right just to be right.

You'd hardly find conversation stories of folks who became Christian because they were so terribly afraid of hell.

That is not my experience while a believer at all, the majority of altar calls had an implicit or brazen threat of hell included.
Something like: "If you were to die tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?"

Here's a list of 32 ways to botch an altar call:

How To Botch An Altar Call

A quarter of these points are related to threatening hell to the unsaved.

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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24-02-2015, 01:36 PM
RE: Christianity with no afterlife
(24-02-2015 09:52 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  This thread will pretty much be one of pure speculation, but I got thinking about it and wanted to ask all of you.

Imagine when Christianity was founded that there was no heaven or hell attached to the belief system. Either, when everyone died, there was no afterlife or they all got the same afterlife (picture Hades or Sheol). This would remove the biggest carrot and stick associated with religion. It would also make the idea of salvation quite different, as Jesus would only be absolving people of earthy punishment. That, of course, is quite a bit more testable than notions of eternal salvation. It's pretty obvious that not every wicked person dies or suffers in this life, and plenty of righteous people do suffer.

So, to get to my question: What do you think Christianity would look like in the modern age if there were no heaven or hell taught in the religion? How would that affect the number of believers? How would it affect those that do believe and how they preach?


My guess is there would be far fewer Christians, as it's be a harder sales pitch. For the ones that do believe, I'd imagine a lot of lax believers, as they don't have a constant threat of hell to coerce them into being better. That being said, I could also see a contingent of stronger "true believers" who feel a need to be right just to be right.

For further speculation, it's possible the religion (if it survived) would have morphed to keep itself alive. So, absent of any eternal salvation and any obvious divine intervention, they might take it upon themselves to police the sinners in this world. So, if a Christian punishes a sinner, would that be divine retribution? I mean, this type of thing does exist to this day, and that's with people already believing that God will judge them, anyway.

It would die the death! The Bible talks about the injustices of this world that are only fully corrected in the next. If Stalin is forgiven in the next world, what a merciful God! If Stalin suffers for snuffing millions of lives and oppressing 100 million others, what a righteous God!

I'm told atheists on forums like TTA are bitter and angry. If you are not, your posts to me will be respectful, insightful and thoughtful. Prove me wrong by your adherence to decent behavior.
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24-02-2015, 02:26 PM
RE: Christianity with no afterlife
(24-02-2015 10:30 AM)TarzanSmith Wrote:  Also I think there are some Christian sects which believe that everyone goes to heaven.

That's what my wife believes (although that's not the official stance of her denomination).


(24-02-2015 11:01 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  This would assume, that the appeal of Christianity rests on heaven and hell. That a belief in hell actually coerces people into being better, than they would have been without it. While there may be some outliers who came to believe based on these things, it's doesn't seem faithful to the overwhelming arc of conversion experiences, found at any alter call, or mission field, or even in the writings of converts.

It's definitely an appeal. I noted that salvation could be an appeal, but it does lose that selling point.

And whether or not it's the appeal, it's a big enough drive to make it the driving pitch of noted apologetics like Pascal's Wager, and Ray Comfort's laughable parachute analogy. I don't know what other sites you frequent, but if you go to a Christian-centric site where non-believers can post, you will quickly run into Christians who won't/can't debate, and instead opt for bragging about how they're not going to end up in hell. It's disturbingly common.


(24-02-2015 11:01 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  The greater appeal of Christianity, seems to rest more on it's concepts of redemption, forgiveness, a God who loves us, grace, and a God who is ultimately relatable in the person of Jesus, rather than out there somewhere.

It offered people who saw their lives as empty, and unfulfilled, plagued by their own failures, to believe they can be redeemed in this life, start anew in this life, and be brought back into fellowship and community with others.

Again, I noted the possibility for salvation to be a draw, but really, that already existed in Judaism anyway. They just got to stop making burnt offerings.


(24-02-2015 11:01 AM)Tomasia Wrote:  You'd hardly find conversation stories of folks who became Christian because they were so terribly afraid of hell. In reality we encounter these stories as part of folks considering deconversion, of folks hanging on to the last leg of belief, who are in the process of become unbelievers. These individuals and their predicaments shouldn't be conflated with the reasons for conversions.

Agreed. Fear of hell probably kept me from fully admitting my disbelief for no less than six months. Given that, I wonder how much faster people would walk away if this threat were absent.


(24-02-2015 01:36 PM)The Q Continuum Wrote:  It would die the death! The Bible talks about the injustices of this world that are only fully corrected in the next. If Stalin is forgiven in the next world, what a merciful God! If Stalin suffers for snuffing millions of lives and oppressing 100 million others, what a righteous God!

Yeah, I think that's why heaven and hell were written into Christianity. They were notably absent in original Judaism, where everyone went to Sheol, and reward and punishment were promised in this life. Obviously, it doesn't always play out that way, which leaves people feeling very disaffected. It also likely leads to more victim blaming (see the notion that people with afflictions being punished by God, often from birth).
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24-02-2015, 02:27 PM
RE: Christianity with no afterlife
I can distinguish 3 basic concepts that are present on mainstream middle eastern religions:
- Afterlife --> This is fundamental to religion because it gives people hope. No one wants to know that life is, in the grand scheme of the universe, meaningless. Religion tells you that this life is just a temporary state of existence that will evolve into something greater. This is silly and false, but it's captivating and it may make people feel better, the belief that once you die your body will perish but your soul will live, as if our personalities were immortal
- Heaven --> You do good things, you go to heaven. The concept of heaven is meant to teach people how to do or do not certain things. It's a moral guidance. A very bad one, but I believe it's intended as such
- Hell --> Works together with heaven, and it's where you'll end up if you screw up. It's a frightening concept and it scares the shit out of people, its purpose is to stop you from doing bad things.

--> Heaven and Hell are basically two sides of the coin, one is for good people and the other is for bad people. If you do good, you go to Heaven, if you're bad, you go to hell. The afterlife (excluding the limbo) is the ultimate goal of religious people (for Abrahamic religions) and it gives meaning to their actions.

In my opinion it's not that Christians would disappear, but if there was no heaven and hell I think Christianity would never have been so successful for so long in the first place - Hell scares people, and heaven is a worthy moral goal, if we take away these concepts the afterlife vanishes as well, and as such there is no inherent meaning for life because regardless of what you do you'll end up in the same state (after you die), and since god is controlling you, might as well do what you please.

So yes, there would be fewer Christians because you are speculating on the non-existence of one of the biggest pillars of Christianity (probably the third biggest next to Jesus and god)

"A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything" - Friedrich Nietzsche
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