Eternal Rewards + Punishments

August 2, 2011

Growing up I was warned to stick to the business at hand… and NEVER discuss religion, politics or personal beliefs with colleagues. Perhaps that’s good advice. For the record, I have little respect (actually none) for beliefs or subjects deemed too taboo to question. In fact, I encourage everyone to question most, those deemed most unquestionable. That said, in the spirit of harmony… and to not alienate readers, I’ve bowdlerized this post. Yes, showing restraint and hitting the delete key can sometimes be painful : )

Recently, I posted this question on Facebook, “To live a moral life, do people require the promise/threat of eternal rewards or punishments?”

It received many interesting responses… several were sent to me personally. For pantheists, atheists and others, my question posed little challenge. While some religious practitioners suggested eternal rewards and punishments were extra incentives, the majority claimed they would continue living a moral life, regardless of afterlife consequences. While concepts of heaven and hell appear in many religions, I’m limiting my discussion to monotheistic religions of the Abrahamic tradition, since many FB responders identified themselves as such.

I must confess, this subject intrigues me. My grandfathers were evangelical preachers… need I say more? I’ve spent many years discussing theology, studying religion, philosophy… and pondering life. But like Odysseus, I’ve ordered myself tied to the mast as to stay on topic during this post.

If the promise/threat of eternal rewards or punishments have little (if any) influence on people’s moral behavior, why do they exist? In the early Bible, the concept of heaven, hell or Satan didn’t exist. Should someone have referenced these subjects with a Hebrew from the time of Moses, they wouldn’t understand. What changed? Why propose such an idea? No doubt, such questions will generate countless responses. Let me propose one—it explains why those who follow God’s law are sometimes punished on earth while those who don’t, are sometimes rewarded. It offers the promise of retribution. With this belief in place, the just find earthly injustice more tolerable. While a perceived problem is sometimes an unseen solution, the opposite can also be true. The intended and unintended consequences of believing in eternal rewards or punishments is readily evident. Just pick up a history book or turn on the TV. Read more

In the End… We Are All Mentors and Mentees

November 14, 2009

MentorNote: The names in this post have been changed to protect the innocent.

Eighth grade wasn’t the first time I had been kicked out of class… nor would it be my last. While many of my trips to the principal’s office were well deserved, this one (in my opinion) wasn’t. That said, I’m glad it happened. Like many things in life, it was a blessing in disguise.

It started when we were asked to pick a student from the class ahead of us that we admired. Someone we considered to be a positive role model that we could emulate… a mentor of sorts.

I didn’t know at the time, but the word “Mentor” comes from Greek mythology. When Odysseus left for the Trojan War, he put his friend Mentor in charge of his palace and his son, Telemachus. These days “mentor” typically refers to a trusted counselor or teacher… an experienced person who provides guidance.

Back to the assignment… my classmates had little trouble picking a mentor. Most chose the likely suspects… popular kids, cheerleaders, athletes, members of student council, and so on.

Before long, everyone but me had made their decision. Unable to think of a single person I wanted to emulate, I raised my hand. “What happens if you can’t think of a mentor?” My simple question created quite a stir. Read more