I was on a first date a couple months ago, and the woman I was with asked me the question, “what does John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ mean to you?”
I was like… whoa! It was quite the question for a first date. And I wasn’t very satisfied with how un-thought-out my answer was to her.
I didn’t think too much about it right after the date, but it did for some reason eat at me until I finally sat down and wrote out my answer to her question.
I wrote it out for myself. I wrote it out for my own understanding of my own beliefs surrounding Lennon’s message. I wrote it out so that the next time a pretty girl asks me such a thought-provoking question, I’ll have a better answer. No other reason. I never intended to share it with anybody.
But you know me. I have a habit of sharing that kind of stuff anyway…
Imagine there’s no heaven.
What would happen to us all? Imagine living a life in which choices weren’t made based in the fear of where one’s soul will go once he closes his eyes for the last time. What would the result be? Would mankind survive a world in which the majority weren’t driven by faith in something that could only ever be hoped for and never proved?
Imagine a world where people didn’t have any idea what was coming after death.
And they were strangely… okay with that.
I have to wonder. Are people inherently good? Or are they characteristically evil? What do you honestly believe? And what are you? When you take away heaven, and you take away religion, are you a good person or are you a bad person?
And what makes you that way?
I’m serious. Think about it for just a moment. If you were to take away your religion right now… If you were to wake up and suddenly believe that there was no heaven (it’s easy, if you try)… What if you were to believe that there was no hell below us. What if the only thing above us was sky?
Who would you be? Right now, what would you do?
Would you murder those who crossed you? Would you take that which was not yours? Would you abandon those you love most? Would you double-cross others wherever possible? Would you be more hateful? Would you enjoy witnessing the pain of those who surround you? Would you lie more? Cheat on your lover? Beat your children?
Imagine, just for a second, that there’s no heaven. No hell. Just for discussion’s sake. I don’t know if there is or not. I don’t really care. I just want you to imagine.
Would you help others less often? Would you refuse to tip extra? Would you get sucked into a life of drugs? Would you be less cautious with the tender feelings of others when you speak?
I don’t think so. Not for one second.
You are a good person because you are a good person.
You are not a good person only because you fear what will happen to you if you are a bad person. You are not a good person because you only care about the promise of future rewards that will never be received in this life.
You are a good person because being a good person works better. You are a good person because being a good person makes you happier. It’s because being a good person makes you love yourself a little more. And when you love yourself more, you see amazing things happen around you.
You know you are a good person. You know that with or without religion, you would be there for the ones you love most. You know that with or without religion, you would still do your damndest to be the best person you could be.
Yet, you are the exception, aren’t you. You are the one who would remain good and kind and incredible while the rest of the world quickly spiraled into anarchy and self-destruction. After all, without religion isn’t that exactly what would happen? Without set rules and guidelines and promises of reward and punishment, wouldn’t we all plummet out of control?
Maybe. If you are indeed the exception.
But if you are the exception, then your brother is, deep down and in all reality, a bad person. Your sister is, deep down and in all reality, a bad person. Your mother, and your father, and your children, and your friends, and your relatives, and your neighbors, and all those who you love and respect… they’re all, by nature, bad people. Right? If they each were to be put into a world with no religion, they would bring about the demise of the human race as fast as anyone else, right?
I hope not.
After all, you surround yourself with good people, right? You believe in the kindness and the love that lies within each of them, right?
I hope so.
But what about every other person? Is the rest of the world, by nature, bad? Is your social circle all that is left that is actually good in this world?
Or is it possible that the majority of people are inherently good? Is it possible that with or without religion, good people will still do what’s right. They will do what is good. They will strive to make this world a better place. And though they will mess up from time to time, they’ll recognize that and try to do better the next time around…
Imagine there’s no heaven. No hell. Just for discussion’s sake.