Bob wants to know why we humans believe that, after we die, we would be sent to a place based on what we did when we lived. He wants proof that Heaven and Hell exist.
We have no proof that Heaven or Hell exist, of course. We have some evidence, but not proof like “2 x 2 = 4” kind of proof. That’s not to say that one shouldn’t believe in Heaven and Hell, of course…only that we can’t prove they exist by scientific methods. After all, as the saying goes: you can’t weigh a chicken with a yardstick. How would one go about proving that Heaven or Hell exist? Certainly not by mere observation. We can only suggest that they may exist using logic.
Some suggest that we ourselves are evidence for Heaven and Hell. We seem to have a built-in understanding that justice exists…that complaining about the bad things that happen means something, as if things are not as they should be. This appears to be more than simple personal preference. Nobody says simply, “I don’t care for injustice,” as if injustice is merely less preferable than justice. It’s more of a sense of the way things “ought” to be. From where we do get this “ought”? If justice exists, rather than only mindless and meaningless life and death in an automatic world, then someone outside of the world must provide it. If the demand for justice is a universal human trait, doesn’t that imply that God exists, and that we understand that He SHOULD make things right? It seems a reasonable conclusion.
In addition to our cries for justice, we also seem to have a built-in hunger that this life can never fill. CS Lewis wrote about it this way:
If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
He’s not alone in this observation, of course. Others have written similar things over the years. I would suggest (without proof, certainly) that every desire we have is evidence that God exists, and that there is a life after this life, and that we can find justice and fulfillment there. We get thirsty, so we drink. The problem is that we get thirsty again. There’s no reason, on the surface, to think that our cravings for food and water and sex have anything to do with some supreme being outside the universe…but we also crave truth, and beauty, and knowledge, and self-fulfillment. None of those things can be tested scientifically, and there’s no strictly physical explanation for them. That’s why Jesus said that He would provide living water that would finally satisfy our thirst once and for all. It’s a metaphor, clearly…but the implication of the metaphor is that our ‘thirsts’ are something we can’t satisfy on our own. We need someone to provide that fulfillment, and Jesus is that someone. That also seems like a reasonable conclusion.
What do you think? Is it possible that hunger, thirst, our sex drive, loneliness, and our desire for beauty and self-actualization have their ultimate fulfillment in God?
As for why we believe there’s an afterlife, and why our actions here might affect it, I couldn’t say. Certainly I’ve seen no rational materialistic explanation for it. Maybe it’s because it’s true, and that God creates all of us with some rudimentary understanding that our actions have consequences, that justice will one day be done, and that all of our hungers might finally be fulfilled. I like the question.
Thanks for asking, Bob.