10 Aug 2014

The Importance of Willpower and Wisdom

Religious 19 Comments

My son and I were discussing spiritual matters and came up with these observations, which may interest some of you:

==> If you give your soul to the Lord, you may suffer greatly in this life (look what happened to Jesus, who obeyed His Father perfectly), but you will receive eternal bliss.

==> If you give your soul to the Devil, you may bask luxuriantly in this life (we can’t know, but probably some members of the Bilderberg Group come to mind), but you will receive eternal torment.

As I told my son: “Not everyone believes in this stuff, but suppose for the moment that that really is the tradeoff: What’s the wise choice?”

Now, for those of you who don’t “believe in this stuff,” notice that it still serves a useful metaphorical role. People talk about “selling your soul” all the time, even atheists; this is a real thing.

19 Responses to “The Importance of Willpower and Wisdom”

  1. K.P. says:

    Maybe those atheists have just traded one god for another and don’t realize it.

    • Z says:

      I make a prediction. The beating that religion has taken in the public mind in the last twenty years at the hands of atheism will be replicated. Only this time it will be moral nihilists who will do the same thing to secular humanism. It may take a longer time, but it will be done.

      • K.P. says:

        Ok, I’ll take the something of an opposite position (just for fun). That is, the “atheism” that has slowly surpassed Christianity in the West has only done so by means of replacement of God with Man (or some other lesser deity, like the Party or the State). Moral nihlism will never be able to replicate their success simply because of what it is, it offers people nothing. And who wants that?

  2. landa says:

    that’s Pascal’s wager essentially, is it not. Consider a global warming version: act NOW to stop global warming and keep the planet in a decent shape, OR ignore the imminent catastrophe and enjoy your short-sighted consumption. What’s your choice?

    the point being Pascal’s wager doesn’t really work. In any case the sole important question is: is it true? Not: given that it might be true, what would you do?

    • NHayes says:

      Exactly. When taken to its extreme Pascal’s Wager becomes an argument AGAINST Christianity. Considering that so many religions promise a happy afterlife AND allow you to worship other gods while Christianity only allows the worshiping of one, a gambler would hedge his bets and NOT worship Christ but would worship the many other non-discriminatory gods.

      See here:

  3. Futurity says:

    The biblical perspective is that we are of the Devil and that only if God draws us to Him then we can be saved.
    John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”
    We do not choose God, God chooses us.

    • Gamble says:

      Spoken like a Calvin.

      • Z says:

        I thought Hobbes said that.

  4. Harold says:

    If you do not believe, then what exactly is the metaphor? “Selling you soul” colloquially means something like taking action that will be harmful to someone else for your own short term gain.

    Some quote about selling your soul in a metaphorical manner:

    “You could be selling your soul by agreeing to the ‘Terms and Conditions’ and you would never know it.”

    ““Doesn’t everyone sell his soul? I tell you, sir: the devil does not exist, there is no devil, yet I sold him my soul. That is what I am afraid of. To whom did I sell it? That is what I am afraid of, my dear sir: we sell our souls, only there is no buyer.”
    ― João Guimarães Rosa, Grande Sertão: Veredas

    “It seems like the only way you could be a big shot now a days is by selling your soul.”

    “If it makes you feel icky when people do it to you, don’t do it to your customers. Sell without selling your soul!”

    The last two sum it up, I think. Selling your soul is crossing some moral line for your own gain. Lance Armstrong and cycling springs to mind. The only way to win the Tour de France in those days was probably to take drugs because it was so rife. If you wanted to win, the only way was to sell your soul.

    There are two ways doing so is not worth it. Either you get caught, and the penalties are greater than the rewards. So for Lance, he may well think selling his soul was not worth it. the other is because you feel guilt and remorse over crossing the moral line. So even if Lance had not been caught, he *may* have felt it was not worth it because he got his rewards illegitimately. Or he may have felt the deal was fine. This will depend on his uindividual morality. In practice, there is always a worry that you will be found out. The seller who makes himself feel “icky” may feel guilty, but he will always worry that his methods will be exposed and he will lose credibility.

    If you believe, then there is presumably no such doubt. You *will* be found out. Rather like Armstrong cheating, if you were certain of being caught it presumably makes it not worth it.

  5. Jon says:

    The symbolism is unclear to me. Does “giving one’s soul to the lord” mean being a virtuous person of any faith, or lack thereof, or does it require explicit Christian faith?

    If it’s the latter, then Hey, that’s a neatly gentle way of imposing the threat of hell. Bravo!

  6. knoxharrington says:

    Is your son Blaise Pascal?

  7. Innocent says:

    So Bob, maybe this is a little different perspective. I don’t think Christ suffered all that much, or at least not much more than your average criminal that was also put to death on a cross.

    I also think that Christ was completely at peace and understanding. The problem with love, unconditional love, is that you understand and can forgive the most egregious actions of others. To be honest it sucks. How can you stay angry at someone when you understand them perfectly?

    I suppose I come more from the perspective that people damn themselves more so than God damning them. The suffering is of their own creation. Both in this life and the next. The distance from God no different. For what is damnation other than the absence of God. I may suggest that the only difference is that the knowledge of the distance will be more acute for at that time you will know with perfect clarity that you can never have that which was so generously offered before.

    Anyway, simply a difference of philosophy about what true torment is and what true pain is. Physical pain is of no moment. it occurs and may occur for a long time ( my foot for example has hurt me for years now ) yet still this is of no moment and is one of the reasons for ‘mind over matter’. So even while the Christ was in horrible pain and agony he could have still been completely at peace and full of joy. Interesting is it not?

    • Raja says:

      I think there’s a difference between enduring the pain with dignity and being joyful about it.

  8. NHayes says:

    Ultimately, the lesson is that what comes around goes around. There isn’t much in that lesson that comes from Christianity (in any form) or any other religion specifically. It’s a life lesson that is often learned pretty quickly. Basically, your actions have consequences.

  9. Jan Masek says:

    What if you lead a wicked life and only give your soul to the Lord on your deathbed, i.e. in the last five minutes of your life? I understand you still get to go to Heaven. Then there would be no trade off to speak of.

    • khodge says:

      You can have a deathbed conversion. If, however, you have spent your life wickedly, will you be able to break a habit developed and practiced for an entire lifetime?

    • Gamble says:

      Ultimately, death bed conversions will be decided by God when you face him. Deathbed conversions don’t leave any time for the fruits of the spirit, faith, works, repentance, etc..

      Matt 7:23
      …22″Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23″And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

  10. Grane Peer says:

    Dr. Murphy, what is eternal bliss that we should seek it? What does one actually do in heaven?

    • Gamble says:

      Great question Grane. One thing is for sure, in Heaven, we would all have to be fundamentally different of we would simply muck that place up also. Some say evil would not exist in Heaven but I always figured the evil was inside me.

      Good question.

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