I have long felt that what people really want to believe in is an afterlife, not in a god so much. Belief in a god serves as a gateway to belief in an afterlife but if you asked people which they would prefer (a god but no afterlife or an afterlife and no god) I suspect that they would choose the latter by a landslide. (I explained my reasoning back in 2010.)
Robert Siegel, co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered, said on the air that he is skeptical about the existence of the afterlife. He got some feedback on that and as a result he has started a series of discussions on the topic. Here is the first one with an evangelical pastor.
In the interview, Siegel asks the kinds of concrete questions that should be asked, such as “If we still possess, say, racial characteristics in heaven are we corporeal beings, do you think? Do we have to eat? Do we have to drink? Are we with our loved ones? How much like life do you think the afterlife is?”
The preacher answers in the affirmative. Of course, if you think that people eat and drink in heaven, then you have to postulate a food growth and distribution system, not to mention sewage and other waste disposal system. If you think about it for a bit, you realize that the afterlife can get complicated pretty quickly.
Siegel also asks another good question.
Let me ask you a little bit about what befalls those who are evil. There are behaviors that in their day were considered sinful and are not today, or that were considered normal and today are rejected. Slavery was once tolerated by religious authority even. Interracial marriage was once regarded as sinful by believers. Can there be a hell in the afterlife that we can understand if, indeed, our own appreciation of sin has changed so much over time?
At this point, the preacher starts making stuff up, which is the usual result when you probe them deeply on such matters.
If people really believed in an afterlife, they would have thought things through about what it is like more clearly. What they seem to really want is that they will still be around, in some form, forever.