"I'm not sure I even want to have kids."
"They'll bring along a more mature side to you, a reason to grow more compassion rather than focus on yourself. If you die without any kids, all that will be left of you are books, which are good, not many people have even that, but you wouldn't have family."
"I don't want my family to suffer the loss of me. I don't want them to go through pain like that."
"Well that's why people believe in a heaven, so that they have an easier time letting go of those they love. I often wonder what it would be like if heaven didn't exist to the human mind."
I made a point that he really liked; a point that deserves to be applied to my following essay. He challenged me to persuade him that humans shouldn't have to have a paradise such as heaven in their hearts to survive. He challenged me to basically devise a world through fact and imagination that supported the beliefs of NOTHING when someone dies. I take it that he wants to know what a world without religion would be like.
The following definition of Religion comes from The Free Dictionary Online.
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
The first definition defines that Religion is a way for people to cope with phenomenons of this world, and to have something worthwhile to hang on to, even though they may not be completely sure it's what they think it is. Heaven is a good example of this. The average Christian human believes that Heaven is a place after death where their spirit dwells and lives a lighter, more comfortable life after the challenging life of Earth. It's where they meet their loved ones who had passed, and another way for them to be together. It's an emotional healer for grief and misery pertaining to death.
Most people cannot fathom what it would be like after death, because eternity is an intangible thought that the human mind can't grasp for very long without getting weary. It's like holding onto a vertical bar and suspending you in the air for a short period of time until you get tired. Your feet connect with the safety of the earth, and you walk as easily as normal people think about their day. A man could walk to work, safe and sound upon the ground, and think normally about his business calls and his family at home. Say the man should sit down in his office chair and frown at the blank computer screen, seeing nothing but blue. His current thoughts may be reviewing why it's taking so long to load. This man has no religion. He sits next to a very religious interviewee who believes deeply in the LDS standards and won't open his mind to new experiences and thoughts. The man, upon staring at the screen, suddenly wonders what it would be like if he were to die suddenly and see nothing. What if he felt nothing, heard nothing, tasted nothing and smelled nothing? What if that was how his life would go. He does not believe in a place his soul will go to after this life. Had he told the interviewee next to him about his sudden realization, the interviewee would look at him simply and say "Your soul will peel away from your body and float to a holding place, just before heaven, where you will become a missionary and take a trip to Hell and make the nasty souls there wish they had done better in their lives." For the man with no religion, this would sound absurd compared to the simply blackness after life. Despite either belief, the man would think about this realization more often then not, subconsciously finding himself a lot more cautious of anything dangerous.
If the entire human race hypothetically didn't believe in anything after death and didn't have any religious system to follow; pain, war, and life would be an ocean's width of a difference than it is now. Had people believed in blackness after death, cold and stripped of your senses, with no soul and nowhere to go; life on this earth would seem a lot more worth living for.
The most common situation that happens to us as a human race included something that has to do with pain or depression. We have emotions that have the potential to be bigger than us and control our lives every day. Take the weather, for instance. The man, who spends most of his afternoon in an office cubical, where the weather couldn't possibly effect him, feels sad when he realizes that it is a rainy day. He could pretend that within his confined office space, it was sunny outside, but the sad feelings still lurk inside him. He had no control over it, and felt gloomy all day. It was because his emotions are teased by little things in his life that shouldn't be. When it comes to pain and suffering, we are weak. When there is no such thing to look for after death, the pain and suffering are decreased with caution, in hopes to keep living and get enough of the world and life that by the time death is close to you, you will accept the blackness that will swallow you whole. Everyone is different, and if some still take risks and live their life to the extreme, it will only state that they don't have a fear of the blackness that could be so far away, yet so near.
When you see a young man enlist in the army during a time of bloodlust and horror, you wonder why he was signing up for the death and despair that awaits him. People who believed in an afterlife would have an easier time watching this young man sign up, knowing that they would be preserved in a good place until you reached him upon your death. You would be with him. Say there is no paradise after death. Say there is the unrelenting darkness described in this piece that would devour every last bit of you before you had a chance to fully live life. Would you be so quick to allow that boy to sign up for his death? War in general would be given a second thought. If there is no reincarnation and no way to see your loved ones after death, would generals and dictators be so quick to diminish their units of human life? What if there was a limit to the souls entering this world through birth? Bloodlust would seem a lot less desired for. If Heaven didn't exist, neither does a Hell. Committing murder would not be thought of as a sin that you had to be punished for, yet there would be no influence to even do it, if any satanic creature was not devised within the creation of Hell. War would not be so brutal. Temptation could be over scrutinized. Wrong doings in the world would have no meaning unless it brought pleasure to the occasional psychopath.
To be quite frank, without a paradise more grand than life on this earth today, you would think more highly of your job and opportunities that followed when you saved up money for a ski-trip. You would consider the pleasures of a full stomach and the iPod in your hand rather than the empty feeling of surrounding nothing after you die. Assuming no one believed in Heaven after death, there would be less suicides statistically, and more determination to push through the rough times in life. Heaven is used for weakness. When you cannot handle the challenges in this life, you believe that if you killed yourself, you would lead an easier life, away from financial potholes, abuse, and obesity. You would be perfect and skinny, and your soul would be free so long as you do not kill someone and get yourself planted in the fiery consumes of Hell. Knowing that what awaited you after the painful passing of death was nothing, you would be more careful to say hello to a neighbor one morning and exercise more to keep you feeling the best you can.
A life without a tempting paradise afterwards seems a little less grand, but a lot more worth it. However, as the definition above states that humans use religion to help them explain things that science cannot, it is a cushion for those who cannot bear to be told that death rewards nothing. Sometimes these cushions however, become a cover of clouds that cushions one's entire mind. They think that it is the only way, and that others should believe that way as well. Thus leading to missionary and prejudices against other beliefs. Another mess that would be avoided if the human race had no religion.