We haven't found Heaven in the heavens and nobody really expects to find Hell at the center of the Earth. So, where are they? Maybe "where" is not the right question. Maybe the right question is; when are they?
Heaven and Hell could be metaphors for our possible futures here on Earth. In fact, the accounts of Heaven and Hell appear to be lessons on the consequences of our actions. Herein lies a overlooked positive potential influence on our behavior. What if Heaven and Hell are reminders of our significant power to influence the future?
Maybe we have been selfishly focusing on our own personal lives (and afterlives) so much that we have missed the big picture. Maybe the “life after death” in this world (that we have been ignoring) is the lives of future generations.
It would only make sense that we not endeavor to kill people in the future. Remember; “thou shall not kill.” ...If we emit poisons into the Environment (that we know will eventually kill people) isn't that committing a sin? And it appears that some religious organizations are beginning to take notice.
It may be that the greatest potential positive influences of religion on humanity could be to get us to consider the long-term consequences of our actions – and to focus on maximizing happiness instead of quick profits. There is definitely a need... now... to do some well thought out evaluating (and planning) for what we really want. Our religions have the moral responsibility to take high ground on this (even if it means lower tithes for a while). And everyone who is a member of a religious organization needs to be working towards improving their religious organization's focus – even if it means fundamental change.
What our society needs to focus on now is finding the best, happiest, healthiest, most sustainable path for us and future generations to follow. What our religious organizations need to do is teach that path. But this isn't quite happening. Or at least it isn't happening fast enough to avoid a future Hell on Earth. My wish is that our religious leaders be more open to looking forward, without limiting themselves by the overpowering constraints of the ancient documents of the past. If there is a God, he (obviously) gave us minds to think with. And (obviously) we make the best decisions with the most up to date information. All I ask is that we think clearly, plan wisely, and act responsibly.
...In my humble opinion; only the lazy just pray. (That would essentially be; defining your goals, and then sitting back and waiting for them to come to you.) Instead of just relying solely on prayer for salvation, maybe humanity needs to build our salvation (our ark). Doesn't it say somewhere that God helps those who help themselves? Isn't there something about following a path of righteousness? There's a time to think and a time to act. The thinking comes first. But sooner or later we have to act.
Humanity's situation is now different from what it has ever been before. And every new day is an opportunity to re-evaluate what righteousness is. It only makes sense that we need to adjust what we perceive good behavior to be – based upon what tools we have now.
One of our most effective tools for re-evaluation (of the consequences of our actions) is our capacity to predict the future – better than we have in the past – because we are now closer to it...
Imagine if, sometime after we die; the Earth becomes a man-made-hell because of our actions now? Wouldn't that make us sinners? Wouldn't realizing that destructive potential make us more responsible? ...Wouldn't it at least make us more aware of our actions?
No ancient text gives us clear guidelines on how to deal with the consequences of our new technologies. We have to decide what the righteous path is.
Most everyone is familiar with the Terminator movies. They depict a future that has gone horribly wrong for humanity. (The movie Screamers also deserves a mention.) These films depict a future where our own robotic "tools" turn against us. In the Terminator scenario, the artificial intelligence develops its own evil intents. But in the Screamers scenario, rebels build the robotic tools of destruction that self-innovate to catastrophic proportions. Either way, humanity sows the seeds of our own hyper-violent destruction.
Most everyone is also familiar with the Isaac Asimov novel (and movie) I, Robot. Written in the 1940's, it highlights three laws of robotics. The very first law, at the top of the list is:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
And here we are now; totally ignoring that advice, and training our most advanced drones to kill people. Our drone development is playing directly into the Terminator/Screamers scenario. And we can't just vote to stop America from building drone weapons. Anybody can do it. Worldwide, dozens of designs have already been built. Some by people we call terrorists. Likely, someday soon, no one will be safe from drones.
Arms buildups such as this follow an inevitable trend. Humanity builds tools to kill each other. We develop more and more effective tools. And eventually, these tools become too dangerous to use. We've seen this with chemical and nuclear weapons. Eventually, we become too good at killing each other. And yet ironically, many people are still looking for the next big bad killing machines. It appears we've found them in Terminator drones. But this time, the development of these tools is out of our control. No one will be able to turn them all off.
It only makes sense that some people would predict that if we don't figure out a way to stop wars, eventually we will invent the tool that will result in Hell on Earth.
...Or then again, maybe we already have.
Our “Hell on Earth tools” don't have to kill us all directly – and instantly.
All they have to do is make things worse – and there be a lot of them.
And all these “tools” have to be... is perceived as indispensable.
Corporations are tools also – “tools” for making money. And like all tools, there are consequences for using them. I shouldn't have to tell you how our “tools” are trashing the planet. One might even argue that these corporate “tools” have developed hyper-efficient super powers of turning everything of any real value into money. Sounds great for now, but in the long term, the consequences of world-wide exploitation will be horrific.
The fossil fuel industry provides us with the fuel to run our civilization. But the industry has long outlived the accumulating consequences of mining and burning fossil fuels. We are altering our atmosphere and poisoning ourselves.
It is likely that a third of all disease is caused or exacerbated by man-made chemicals. And what does the chemical industry do about it? They manipulate our regulators – not to regulate – to keep our money flowing in – at any cost (to us). And what does the fossil fuel industry do about it? They manipulate us into believing that millions of us burning poisons has no significant effect. And what to we do about it? We keep right on burning fossil fuels we know are changing the climate and using chemicals we know cause disease.
The most frightening realization is; we can't turn these corporate “tools” off, no matter how dangerous they are – because we believe we need the services and products they provide.
Have we been conned by the monopolistic providers of our own tools?
- We think we need money. But what we really need are food, clothing, shelter, health, and love – in a environment sustainable indefinitely. Ironically, the process of the accumulation of money often reduces, degrades, or destroys what we really need.
- We ignore better options and better designs because we don't see advertisements for them – or companies buy up the patents or overregulate to keep anyone else from utilizing better designs than their profitable ones.
- On top of it all; we buy the biggest gas powered (artificial) “muscle” cars we can ever imagine wanting – for the longest trip we could ever imagine taking – and then manically drive them around (filled with stuff we don't really need) to places we could have ridden a bike to. (Of course, we have the same attitude about homes.)
It appears that our biggest mistakes in life most often involve the misuse and poor design of our tools. We waste. We pollute. We impoverish. We kill. Because that's what we've made our tools do.
The next two Laws of Robotics (in Isaac Asimov's I, Robot) are applicable for all of our tools, business structures, and economic systems:
- A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Our systems aren't doing that. Our systems actually compel us to do wrong sometimes. In fact, you may have noticed our corporations, political parties, countries, and even religions have taken on their own artificial “lives” – and are sometimes more concerned about protecting their own existence than ours. Moreover, when these organizations do obey orders, they ignore the vast majority of us – at our expense.
One could even claim that our systems have already consumed us and now we exist as merely organs of a planet sized super-organism that is obsessively maximizing profits above all... and consequently hell-bent on self-destruction.
Of course, organizations are only people. But these organizations are often organized to essentially force those who make decisions to choose what's best for the organization over the employees, humanity, or even life on Earth.
But we know this...
and for the most part, we feel powerless to stop it.
These unruly systems are our inventions, and at least for now, some humans control them.
The key is to take responsible control over our destiny.
We need to plan for the future.
We need to plan far beyond the next quarterly report.
We want to create something more like Heaven than Hell.
We need to design a civilization that does not reward preparing for and committing war.
We need to design a society that rewards sustainable behavior.
And we really should develop belief systems that truly reinforce walking the path of righteousness.
This is our duty.
This is our mission.
And as far as future generations are concerned; if we fail, we will be committing mortal sins of utter ignorance.
Besides... following a path of righteousness beats creating your own Hell.