Life, we are told by many religions, is a kind of a test. A test of unimaginable importance since it is supposed to decide something as extreme as if someone will get the most sadistic eternal torture forever and ever or eternal paradise. With a test that is so crucial, it is only natural that the criteria for deciding the results should be very well-defined and important.
What exactly are people judged on? For most people, what comes to mind is if they lived a good life or not. While this is said to be part of the equation, it is not the most important part. According to these religions, a person can live a very good life and still go to hell if they do not accept god as their savior. In addition, while it is a matter of disagreement between religious people, many also think it has to be a certain religion for one to be saved.
On top of all of this, there is the fact that most of these religions teach that all can be forgiven if one takes god into their heart and repents before they die. Therefore, a person who lives a good life can be doomed for all eternity for not believing in god (or the right one) while a person who murders or does other evil things can get eternal paradise for repenting or choosing the right religion shortly before death (and someone facing death can really mean it). This leads to a situation where the murderer can make heaven while the murdered, if he was a nonbeliever) endless torture.
Therefore, according to many religious traditions, how people live their lives, treat others and influence the world takes a distant back seat in determining their fate to their beliefs. With belief given so much importance, it is should be well-defined and qualities that contribute greatly to a better world.
Inexplicably, belief is anything but well defined. To this day, the disagreements people have over religious belief lead to conflict and bloodshed. Not only is there conflict between religions, but there is also conflict within them. If any god put so much importance on belief, would it not make sense to show exactly what that belief was in a way that left no doubt? Surely a being with the power to create the universe could find a way to tell humanity something so that no sane mind would doubt. This would save both souls and conflict on earth, something a merciful and just being would certainly take every precaution to do.
Without any kind of hard evidence to support their beliefs, what exactly is it based on? While there have been claims of divine proof for virtually every religion people have ever followed, there is nothing that can stand up in court. Therefore, all these beliefs are basically based on stories. Not stories directly heard from any source, but stories passed down for many generations from a time when there was little real fact checking, let alone documentation, to prove claims.
Who believes such stories? In general it is:
- The less educated and skeptical.
- Those who have been indoctrinated from a young age.
- People prone to indoctrination (be it from their upbringing or mental processes)
- If only one religion is true, those with the luck to have been born in the right time and place.
While many of these people certainly are nice people living moral lives, there is no guarantee that such people will be good. In fact, history has shown that those who are less questioning and easily indoctrinated are some of the most likely to commit atrocities or lesser crimes when put in the wrong situations. Therefore, once again, the criteria for deciding if someone gets heaven or hell seems to have little to do with morality.
Mind and place
In addition, the mind itself is a poor device to determine the fate of an immortal soul. Everyone knows that a mind is relatively delicate and easily damaged, and some people are born with minds that do not function properly as examined in the brain and heaven and hell.
Secondly, the place a person is born has an unfair influence on the fate of the eternal soul. This goes beyond being born into the right religion or being born into the wrong one. Who is to say that even those who lived the most saintly lives would not have done horrible things if they had been in a situation where they were brutalized to be cold-blooded killers from a young age (such as child soldiers)?
People like the idea of some kind of eternal justice, and this has made the idea of punishment and reward after death attractive to many However, for it to be divine justice, the criteria for the test needs to be very good and the test should be conducted in a perfectly just manner. By all rational standards, the system does not seem fair for even minor decisions, let alone to decide someone’s fate (particularly heaven or hell) for all eternity. Even those who accept the idea of eternal punishment and who do not think it is excessive (see: torture for all eternity) should be troubled by the standards of this test.