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Heaven is the Christian concept of eternal good life after death. How one gets there is disputed amongst Christians, but if it’s possible to even get there is a matter debated by philosophers and scientists. If the existence of a life after death can be disproved, then it follows that there is no necessity for behaving morally to achieve life after death. Even if heaven does exist, it does not necessarily mean that one has to behave morally to get there.
This statement assumes the existence of heaven and the ability to behave morally. The existence of heaven is only held by Christians, therefore anyone who does not believe in God would not see behaving morally as a means for getting into heaven, as it does not exist.
Furthermore, the ability to behave morally is not necessarily true. From the viewpoint of determinism we are unable to behave morally as we are already pre-determined in our behaviour. This can be justified from both religious and scientific viewpoints. An omniscient and omnipotent God creates determinism by definition. If he knows what we are going to do, and has the capability to prevent it, then we are never truly free. Such hard determinism can also be seen in a non-religious context such as the belief of behaviourism, were we are forever determined by our environment and have no freedom or dignity to act within such constraints.
The Christian view is the most dominant one that would agree with this statement. From the 10 commandments, Jesus’ teachings and the Bible, it is clear that God commands a person to behave morally. While this may be obvious, the link between behaving morally and getting into heaven is a bit more tenuous. It is often down to the individual’s interpretation of the literature of Christianity that one decides if behaving morally is a necessity to get into heaven. For example, liberal Christians would argue that heaven may not exist and that as D Z Philips says, it is the misinterpretation of language. Whereas literal Christians would believe that heaven does exist and behaving morally is how you reach it.
For some Christians, such as Irenaeus, heaven does exist but you do not have to behave morally to reach it, everyone eventually will get there. This view is often used against the case of the problem of evil. However, if we do not have a need to behave morally then how can we grow as humans (especially imago dei) if we are free to go against God’s teachings and still end up in heaven? Other Christians such as Augustine argued against this point, saying that only those who do behave morally will get to heaven.
This view has it’s own problems. What of those who cannot behave morally, for they cannot distinguish between right and wrong? And is it right to punish a man for eternity because of one act he did in his time on earth? This former criticism is further justified through the existence of determinism. If he was pre-determined to act amorally, then he should not be held eternally responsible. Furthermore, this only works for Christians. He does not take into account any other religions, non-believers and agnostics. Therefore, only Christians would agree with the above statement, and only those who believe in judgement day would agree with Augustine’s ideas.
As the statement relies on the assumption of a life after death, those who dispute its existence are obviously going to criticise the need for behaving morally. For example, Dawkins, who is a firm criticiser of religion argues that there is no need to behave morally as not only does heaven not exist, but nor does any form of God. Similarly, Dawkins would also dispute the need for behaving morally to get into heaven as God does not exist, and everything that religion seeks to explain can or will be explained through science. However, with little proof of such claims, both Dawkins and Darwin hold very little above that of religion, as neither has too much proof for what they claim. And without proof both are making very bold statements that criticise people’s purposes for living and many Christians would disagree with their theories.
The statement also implies that behaving morally is a direct commandment or creation of God’s. The anthropologist Feuerbach argues that morality is an autonomous creation, not part of God’s plan ‘The study of theology is the study of anthropology’. This is further reiterated through the ideas of Freud and Jung. Both agree that morality is not a construct of God, but created for a function. Freud argues that morality is the concept by which we suppress our primal instincts, and religion is a neurosis.
Jung’s theory is perhaps more tactful in his approach, arguing that religion is a collective unconscious which we all share. If these theories are right, then the only reason for us to behave morally is for our own purposes and desires, not that of God’s and in no way a means of getting to an afterlife. While there is no proof for heaven, there is no proof that one doesn’t exist either. If we take this approach that morals have come from society and individuals, then the concept of a conscience is destroyed. For without universal concepts of morality, then what we perceive as such through our conscience is far from given by God.
Kant’s moral theory points towards a God. He argues that morals are absolute and exist outside of us. On one level Kant would therefore agree with the statement. However, he also outlined why we should act moray. He argued that we should only act for duties sake (categorical imperatives) and not on the basis to achieve something (categorical imperatives). Therefore if we act morally not for duties sake, but to get to heaven surely we are using a categorical imperative?
In conclusion, it is not clear if it is necessary to behave morally as it is not clear whether it is required to reach heaven, or in fact if heaven exists. It is clear that behaving morally should be an agenda of all, regardless of their beliefs of life after death however.