What Do NDEs Tell Us About Morality?

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InquiringMind
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What Do NDEs Tell Us About Morality?

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I've been listening to, and reading about, NDEs recently. I like the stories and I think they do provide compelling evidence for the existence of an afterlife and for the existence of God. But I am somewhat bothered by the moral takeaways of them.

As I've said before here, I'm really grappling with how to decide what morality is. I have my moral sentiments that I feel strongly about. But I have no way of knowing whether or not my moral sentiments are "correct." There isn't any empirical test I can do to resolve some of the most thorny moral questions.

One of the most common features of an NDE is a "life review." The person is shown an augmented review of their life, where they are shown not only the events that happened in their life, but also how other people experienced those events, and how other people felt during those events. They are able to see both the good and bad feelings they caused other people and the effects their actions had on others. According to the NDE accounts, God watches the life review non-judgmentally, and when the life review is over, God does not judge the person at all, but instead allows the person to judge themselves.

Many people who have NDEs are clear about this: God never judges anyone and God never punishes anyone.

Frankly, I have some problems with this. First off, if I am allowed to judge myself, what is stopping me from being extremely lenient in my judgement of myself? If I can set my own reward, what is stopping me from giving myself a much bigger reward than I probably deserve? If God will give me whatever salary I ask for, why can't I set my salary at 100 trillion dollars? If God asks me how big of a mansion I've earned, what will stop me from saying that I've earned the biggest mansion of all time? There is a good reason why courts of law do not allow the accused to decide their own guilt or innocence - of course people are going to give themselves the most favorable judgment possible.

And this idea that God never punishes anyone. Really? Never? Not even violent criminals? Not even serial killers and mass murderers? God does not punish anyone, ever, for anything? I just can't believe that. I completely reject that idea.

If I'm going to believe in God, I want to believe in a God who has rules and who enforces those rules on some level. I don't want to believe in a super ultra loose hippie God who lets people do whatever they want without punishment.

Something else that NDE accounts talk about is God's emphasis on kindness. There's one thing God cares about the most, and that's that we treat other people with kindness. God apparently doesn't care much at all about our behavior as long as we exercise kindness. It seems that God doesn't care whether you cheat on your taxes, or are unfaithful to you spouse, or break traffic rules, or do sloppy work at your job, or embezzle large quantities of money, or walk away from your responsibilities, or disregard established safety procedures when working with dangerous equipment, as long as you treat your fellow humans with kindness. For God, it's all about kindness, and nothing else matters, ever.

Obviously I have a problem with this. There is much more to morality than just kindness and empathy, but this never seems to come though in NDE accounts. All God seems to care about is kindness.

Maybe I don't much care for God's sense of morality.
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DarkJedi
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Re: What Do NDEs Tell Us About Morality?

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InquiringMind wrote: 18 Nov 2022, 18:40 Obviously I have a problem with this. There is much more to morality than just kindness and empathy, but this never seems to come though in NDE accounts. All God seems to care about is kindness.

Maybe I don't much care for God's sense of morality.
In the New Testament accounts, Jesus repeatedly said to love one another and in there are several accounts of Jesus demonstrating love/kindness himself. I don't "know" much in relation to the gospel, but if I did know something it would be that - God wants us to love one another, which could just as well be phrased as "be kind" to one another. I think the gospel itself is very simple, and much less complicated than the church (and many other churches) would have us believe. It may well boil down to "believe" and "be kind."
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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InquiringMind
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Re: What Do NDEs Tell Us About Morality?

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DarkJedi wrote: 19 Nov 2022, 06:06 In the New Testament accounts, Jesus repeatedly said to love one another and in there are several accounts of Jesus demonstrating love/kindness himself. I don't "know" much in relation to the gospel, but if I did know something it would be that - God wants us to love one another, which could just as well be phrased as "be kind" to one another. I think the gospel itself is very simple, and much less complicated than the church (and many other churches) would have us believe. It may well boil down to "believe" and "be kind."
One way of thinking about this is that NDEs are mostly meant for the person who experienced them and are not easily generalized for everyone else. Each NDE may tell that person what they need to do in their life, but may not be helpful for others. It may be true that some need to be kinder, but perhaps others may need to grow a spine and start standing up for themselves, and they may have a different NDE. Some NDEs (about 5-10%) are actually distressing rather than pleasant, including Bill Wiese's 23 Minutes in Hell. These NDEs are much less likely to gain widespread publicity and are probably less likely to even be reported.

Some people do have NDEs where the are shown the flames of hell and are told that they need to accept Jesus into their life. It is probably more the universalizing, non-judgemental, pleasant NDEs that get most of the publicity.

I have been hoping that NDEs may offer some kind of evidence-based way of figuring out what morality is. But maybe that isn't going to work. It seems that NDEs tell us about the people who have them, but not about everyone else. I may have to go with my own moral sentiments and assume that's how I need to live because I don't have anything else to go on.
Watcher
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Re: What Do NDEs Tell Us About Morality?

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InquiringMind wrote: 18 Nov 2022, 18:40 I've been listening to, and reading about, NDEs recently. I like the stories and I think they do provide compelling evidence for the existence of an afterlife and for the existence of God. But I am somewhat bothered by the moral takeaways of them.

................

Many people who have NDEs are clear about this: God never judges anyone and God never punishes anyone.

Frankly, I have some problems with this. First off, if I am allowed to judge myself, what is stopping me from being extremely lenient in my judgement of myself? If I can set my own reward, what is stopping me from giving myself a much bigger reward than I probably deserve? If God will give me whatever salary I ask for, why can't I set my salary at 100 trillion dollars? If God asks me how big of a mansion I've earned, what will stop me from saying that I've earned the biggest mansion of all time? There is a good reason why courts of law do not allow the accused to decide their own guilt or innocence - of course people are going to give themselves the most favorable judgment possible.

And this idea that God never punishes anyone. Really? Never? Not even violent criminals? Not even serial killers and mass murderers? God does not punish anyone, ever, for anything? I just can't believe that. I completely reject that idea.

................

Maybe I don't much care for God's sense of morality.
I will begin with my personal opinion that I do not believe in near death experiences as a death experience even though I have had one or something similar to one. Frankly, there are too many inconsistencies for me. Perhaps I would be less skeptical if someone returned from an actual death experience - a returning a couple of months after being embalmed or cremated.

I would, however, speak opinion as to G-d not judging us or punishing us. As far as judging – Let us consider the “Light of Truth”. What is the point of lying when all have access to truth? Kind of like watching a video of an event or instant replay in sports. One could say that they did not grab their opponent’s face mask – but what would be the point of that, when all could see that obviously they did indeed grab their opponent’s face mask? The only possibility of a lie is the lie one tells themselves. The only one being deceived by such a lie is the one attempting to perpetuate the lie. The lie becomes its own punishment. It seems to me that; any enactment of a forced punishment (other than what someone brings upon themselves) is not in reality justice but a really poor substitute for justice. As a side note here – as a parent it seems to me, especially with small inexperienced children, that we provide punishments in order that children learn, before it is too late for them, that certain behaviors (that we have learned as adults) are more likely to eventually bring misery than joy.

As to the mansion in your example. I would reference something Jesus the Christ said about the good people in heaven. He said that the greatest in his Father’s kingdom were the servants. What is the logic in rewarding oneself with a servant’s mansion if one is expected to receive service rather than provide it? If someone finds adultery fun and exciting – why would they have any desire to spend the rest of eternity in a community where no one else would have anything to do with adultery? I have heard many say they want to be with their friends after they die. There is a saying that birds of a feather flock together. In other words – the logic is that humans tend to enjoy being around others that enjoy the same things they do.

It is very logical to me that when we go before G-d to be interviewed at what is called the final recommend interview (final judgement) that the only incentive is to be honest as to what we desire for eternity. I can imagine that G-d shows the greatest blessing of heaving (opportunities to serve) and the one being interviewed says – “That is not what I thought the highest glory of Celestial Kingdom would be.” Then G-d in his great wisdom would say, “I have a place prepared for you that is exactly what you desire.” To which once that person has seen what has been prepared that they will, with great joy, thank G-d for his wisdom, kindness and mercy. That they will be in a place that they can complete their every desire with those that desire for the same themselves as well.
Roy
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Re: What Do NDEs Tell Us About Morality?

Post by Roy »

That is a beautiful idea Watcher.

I had an experience that changed my understanding. In the depths of my grief over the stillbirth of my daughter, I received what I believe to be a revelation. I felt impressed that I was known, loved, and accepted by G-d just as my stillborn daughter was known, loved, and accepted by G-d. This was perplexing to me because how could me and my daughter be judged the same in G-d's estimation? If she was so advanced that she had no need of a mortal probation and just stopped in to grab a body then surely she is greater than I am. OTOH, I have had a life full of both great achievements and great mistakes - how can I be equal with someone with a fresh slate? I conclude that G-d's calculations of individual worth are not the same as ours.

My experience is mine alone. I do not pretend to know if it applies to anyone besides myself and my daughter. It has been rather transformative for me.

I feel that it has helped me to choose good because I like the good and not because I expect a reward for choosing good.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
Roy
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Re: What Do NDEs Tell Us About Morality?

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I also do not believe that NDEs offer "proof."

I remember the experience of Colton Burpo that claimed to see Jesus riding a rainbow colored horse. I do not think that anyone has suggested that horses in heaven are rainbow colored.
InquiringMind wrote: 18 Nov 2022, 18:40 And this idea that God never punishes anyone. Really? Never? Not even violent criminals? Not even serial killers and mass murderers? God does not punish anyone, ever, for anything? I just can't believe that. I completely reject that idea.
I don't have answers but I do have questions. For example, what would the purpose of this punishment be? If G-d is punishing us without a purpose then that changes my ideas of who G-d is.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
Watcher
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Re: What Do NDEs Tell Us About Morality?

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Roy wrote: 21 Nov 2022, 13:01 That is a beautiful idea Watcher.

I had an experience that changed my understanding. In the depths of my grief over the stillbirth of my daughter, I received what I believe to be a revelation. I felt impressed that I was known, loved, and accepted by G-d just as my stillborn daughter was known, loved, and accepted by G-d. This was perplexing to me because how could me and my daughter be judged the same in G-d's estimation? If she was so advanced that she had no need of a mortal probation and just stopped in to grab a body then surely she is greater than I am. OTOH, I have had a life full of both great achievements and great mistakes - how can I be equal with someone with a fresh slate? I conclude that G-d's calculations of individual worth are not the same as ours.

My experience is mine alone. I do not pretend to know if it applies to anyone besides myself and my daughter. It has been rather transformative for me.

I feel that it has helped me to choose good because I like the good and not because I expect a reward for choosing good.
Thank you for your input. I enjoy reading your posts. I know it is more exciting to disagree and disagreements are more likely to cause retrospection and learning. But I also think it wise, when appropriate, to simply say that I agree.
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InquiringMind
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Re: What Do NDEs Tell Us About Morality?

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Roy wrote: 21 Nov 2022, 13:12 I also do not believe that NDEs offer "proof."

I remember the experience of Colton Burpo that claimed to see Jesus riding a rainbow colored horse. I do not think that anyone has suggested that horses in heaven are rainbow colored.
InquiringMind wrote: 18 Nov 2022, 18:40 And this idea that God never punishes anyone. Really? Never? Not even violent criminals? Not even serial killers and mass murderers? God does not punish anyone, ever, for anything? I just can't believe that. I completely reject that idea.
I don't have answers but I do have questions. For example, what would the purpose of this punishment be? If G-d is punishing us without a purpose then that changes my ideas of who G-d is.
For starters, punishment works as a deterrent - you avoid doing bad things because you want to avoid being punished for your bad behavior. But beyond that, the entire concepts of "good" and "evil" become meaningless if you try to remove the consequences of people's actions. If your evil actions will have no negative consequences for you, what does "evil" even mean? Removing the consequences of people's actions removes the basic idea of good and evil.

And if someone is caught in a cycle of bad behavior, probably the worst thing you can do is try to shield the person from the consequences of their actions. If you remove the consequences of bad behavior, that's a guarantee that the person will keep doing the bad behavior.

And that's point of the point of what I am saying - without fear of punishment, what will stop anyone from "gaming the system" by intentionally behaving badly with no fear of punishment?

And for Colton's description of the horse as "every color of the rainbow." To me that is attempting to describe something that is far more visually vibrant than an ordinary rainbow, and probably more vibrant than anything we would usually see on Earth.
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Re: What Do NDEs Tell Us About Morality?

Post by Roy »

InquiringMind wrote: 21 Nov 2022, 21:32 For starters, punishment works as a deterrent - you avoid doing bad things because you want to avoid being punished for your bad behavior. But beyond that, the entire concepts of "good" and "evil" become meaningless if you try to remove the consequences of people's actions. If your evil actions will have no negative consequences for you, what does "evil" even mean? Removing the consequences of people's actions removes the basic idea of good and evil.

And if someone is caught in a cycle of bad behavior, probably the worst thing you can do is try to shield the person from the consequences of their actions. If you remove the consequences of bad behavior, that's a guarantee that the person will keep doing the bad behavior.

And that's point of the point of what I am saying - without fear of punishment, what will stop anyone from "gaming the system" by intentionally behaving badly with no fear of punishment?
There is a section of the D&C where G-d talks about misleading people with the name "eternal torment" or "eternal punishment" in order to act as a deterrent. Since "eternal" is one of the names for G-d, it was technically true even if the punishment does end.

In that scenario, the threat of eternal punishment might be enough without actually carrying through with eternal punishment.

Once we are no longer in this life, are we still capable of committing evil? If not then any punishment would be for mistakes made in the past that we are no longer capable of making.

I admit that this is entirely speculative given how little that we know about what might come after death.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13
Arrakeen
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Re: What Do NDEs Tell Us About Morality?

Post by Arrakeen »

InquiringMind wrote: 21 Nov 2022, 21:32
For starters, punishment works as a deterrent - you avoid doing bad things because you want to avoid being punished for your bad behavior. But beyond that, the entire concepts of "good" and "evil" become meaningless if you try to remove the consequences of people's actions. If your evil actions will have no negative consequences for you, what does "evil" even mean? Removing the consequences of people's actions removes the basic idea of good and evil.
If God used punishment as a deterrent, you would think he would make it much more obvious what the punishment is, and what things warrant it. Deterrence isn’t based on the punishment itself, but a person’s belief and fear. Unless everyone knows they will be punished for certain things, then the existence of an actual punishment does nothing to deter bad behavior. Especially if people won’t really know where they stand until after they’re dead.

All actions have consequences, but not necessarily the way we want. Evil actions may be evil not because of the consequences for the person doing them, but because of the consequences for the victims of those actions. I do not believe the universe has any obligation to be fair. There are people who get rewarded in this life for things that harm other people, and people who suffer because of helping others. I suppose many believe the next life will sort all that out and somehow redistribute consequences to be fair, but I personally don’t count on that happening. I’m not sure there is really any way to separate out everyone’s actions and their associated consequences on an individual basis since we are all interconnected.

And if good and evil are defined by rewards and punishments, then isn’t morality just self-serving? Doing the right thing would be to get a reward and avoid punishment instead of doing the right thing to help others. It would basically be a morality of whatever is good for me is right, and whatever is bad for me is wrong.
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