The belief that a subsequent life will be higher in quality than the present serves as the singularity to religious belief. It's often thought that a fear of death is necessary for religious belief, but it's not, as the Muslims and has demonstrated time and time again through eagerly performing their mortal duty because they're convinced the next life is paradise. It follows that they'd welcome death.
Understanding what people truly think about personal immortality is nebulous because even though they may be dedicated to their church, proof and evidence are not required or welcomed in any way, relinquishing the ability to communicate on a basic level to non-believers. I understand theological-minded believers study text and play the intellect card, but what they're studying is still man-made accounts of a subjective, human-centric paradigm. Evidence is not evidence if it merely affirms what we already want to believe. So even without looking at the religious theories, doctrine, etc., we have a fundamental disconnect of humanity between those who want (and think they need) to believe, and those who have no such need.
Whether or not you believe in an afterlife, the here and now presents very pressing matters because the world that surrounds us is so much larger and more significant than us. If I died tomorrow, the world wouldn't be affected. Even when someone socially significant dies like Steve Jobs, even though it causes people to dust off their old cliche's for touching water-cooler talk, the world doesn't care, nor is really affected. Someone took his place, and the market who used his products as heroin found the drug somewhere else. The here and now--even if some magical place existed and showed itself to everyone--is inherently more pressing because it's the world we engage.
It may seem like I'm stating that religious believers don't recognize the urgency of the here and now because they're preoccupied with another place they've never been, but since humans are animals which actively engage the environment, most of our attention--both conscious and subconscious--goes toward this engagement. Even the most flighty, space-cadet of a person spends most of their biological and mental energy engaging and responding to their environment. We're animals, it's what we do. This observation is wildly understated.
Not only does this energy-routing demonstrate that we are naturally geared toward participating with our natural surroundings, but it demonstrates how we are a part of the natural fabric. Religious and superstitious belief actively attempt to override our immediate environment, either by shaving it, devaluing it, or reinterpreting it to self-affirm. In order to lease and leash believers' minds, the religion's self-affirmations must continually occur because we're surrounded not by the heavenly deities and such, but by a real, pressing, natural environment. This is why it makes sense to me that religious believers, even if they aren't Christians, are tortured people. They contort their perception like a funhouse mirror, oddly baffled why non-believers don't think exactly as they do, or how other religions have the audacity to state falsities so outwardly. (That response I find most entertaining.)
Orwell makes an insightful observation on page 585: "Never, literally never in recent years, have I met anyone who gave me the impression of believing in the next world as firmly as he believed in the existence of, say, Australia. Belief in the next world does not influence conduct as it would if it were genuine...Most Christians profess to believe in Hell. Yet have you ever met a Christian who seemed as afraid of Hell as he was of cancer?" Even the most devout believers I've met manifest their everyday problems more urgent and pressing than the thought that the sin they committed last night could be soon judged wrong by their Lord. And they're right, because even if their religious paradigm was an actual existing entity, this world and their affairs in it are the only things within their control. As the modern philosopher Parker Kristhoffer says, "Your life is a balance between what you can control versus what you can't." Our moral decisions precipitate from honesty with what is indeed within our control and what isn't.
I know the function of religious belief--to make people feel better about the unknown future, amidst the biggest known, that's we'll die someday--but looking at its structure I'm not so sure it's well suited to the task. Humankind has burned through thousands of religions, each one believing that its interpretation is the final, best, and sole flavor. It makes some people feel better, but only by muting the most medicinal and significant factor in our lives: the urgent and pressing needs of our personal affairs, and the Nature we're immersed. "I says that such belief has no reality. It is a sham currency, like the money in Samuel Butler's Musical Banks." (p. 585)
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