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crackwise

Fantasy Settings: Hell and Heaven a fact - Increased motivation to be good

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If it was a fact that hell existed and it is 100% for sure that evil people go to hell - wouldn't you try to be good?

 

One thing which really bothers me is that in a lot of fantasy settings the people of those realms *know* for sure that gods and the associated powers exist. Also, it is a fact that there is a hell and heaven (or multiple hells, heavens etc.) as in Forgotten Realms or Planescape settings. 

 

For instance, in Planescape Torment, every person living in Sigil knows there exists multiple planes of hell/heaven, and you end up at hell if you are an evil person. Hell is not a nice place and a sane person would  certainly not want to spend an eternity there among demons and such. Therefore, regarding the evil characters in these fantasy settings (apart from the crazy ones), isn't there a very strong motivation for them to actually try to be good?

 

For example in real life, since it is not 100% for sure after-life exists, the only factors restraining people from committing *evil actions* (yes, very subjective in some cases) are things such as the laws, their conscience and beliefs.  I am sure people would think a second time before committing crimes etc. if it was a common fact that after-life existed and you would be punished in hell for sure (even if you were able to get away with it in real life).

 

I think you get the point. Sorry, if this philosophical aspect had already been covered on the forums, but this has been one of the questions which started bothering me especially while I was playing PS:T.  It certainly decreases the realism of any setting IMHO and lawful evil (smart evil) characters don't seem to make much sense in such settings. (Only if they pursue immortality to avoid their fate or try to redeem themselves in order to go to the neutral or good heavens)

Edited by crackwise
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The idea that people need the threat of punishment to be good is bull****. Anyone that actually goes around thinking they need, say, religion in order to not kill themselves or go on a killing spree needs help.

 

If I knew God existed - a literal God - I wouldn't change who I was just to appease some dude.

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Come on, Bryy... That's not true!

I mean, think about it... If you are a 100% certain that doing evil things makes you go to a place where you'll be tortured and suffer for all eternity, you really wouldn't think 2,3,4,99 times before making something even remotely evil?

It's not about "appease some dude". It's about going to the worst possible place for all the eternity.

Come on, dude. This would totally affect your way of living.

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I mean, think about it... If you are a 100% certain that doing evil things makes you go to a place where you'll be tortured and suffer for all eternity, you really wouldn't think 2,3,4,99 times before making something even remotely evil?

Ever read a history book? No, they wouldn't. Mostly they'd just rationalise it away as them not really being evil.

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Forgotten Realms ... where is their analogues to 'heaven' and 'hell'. I'm no expert, but I can only think of alignment deities and different planes, not a mortal's eventual 'paradise' or 'damnation'. 


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Come on, Bryy... That's not true!

 

I mean, think about it... If you are a 100% certain that doing evil things makes you go to a place where you'll be tortured and suffer for all eternity, you really wouldn't think 2,3,4,99 times before making something even remotely evil?

 

It's not about "appease some dude". It's about going to the worst possible place for all the eternity.

 

Come on, dude. This would totally affect your way of living.

You're assuming the stuff I'd do is bad.

 

There's plenty of **** in the Bible that makes you a sinner for no reason.

 

You know, like not stoning women and such.

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"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

 

 

Didn't spirit-shaman dude in MOTB say he didn't believe in their gods? - hence wall of the faithless - so isn't there still some doubt there?


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*Casts Nature's Terror* :aiee: , *Casts Firebug* :fdevil: , *Casts Rot-Skulls* :skull: , *Casts Garden of Life* :luck: *Spirit-shifts to cat form* :cat:

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Most people who do the really evil stuff convince themselves first that they're doing good. Hitler was absolutely convinced of the justness of his cause.

 

Also most people already believe without question that bad people are punished after they die, one way or the other... hell, bad rebirth, whatever.

 

So I don't think Lonely Plane: Acheron would change much.

 

Edit: also, most people are really bad at changing their behavior due to long-term consequences. Everybody knows you're likely to be "punished" for smoking, eating too much sugar, salt, and fat, and not exercising, yet lots of people do all three.

Edited by PrimeJunta
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I have a project. It's a tabletop RPG. It's free. It's a work in progress. Find it here: www.brikoleur.com

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The idea that people need the threat of punishment to be good is bull****. Anyone that actually goes around thinking they need, say, religion in order to not kill themselves or go on a killing spree needs help.

 

If I knew God existed - a literal God - I wouldn't change who I was just to appease some dude.

 

I sure as hell would. If I knew God existed who sentenced people to heaven or hell forever after their deaths based on their choices, then I'd modify my behavior accordingly, even if what God demanded seemed morally repugnant to me. I mean, what are you aiming for by defying the omnipotent, omniscient creator of everything? A sort of doomed moral victor status against an opponent who can't possibly be defeated, ever? Is that really worth an eternity of suffering? If you say yes, do you think you'd still have the same opinion after ten trillion years of it, knowing that that ten trillion years can't even be measured as the tiniest fraction of how much more time you'll be in agony? 

 

But I also sure as hell couldn't bring myself to be anything more than terrified of such an entity. It would be rather like living in an inescapable and all-knowing totalitarian state: you may do what you have to do to avoid being targeted and shipped off to the concentration camp or Gulag or what-not, but inwardly the only thing pushing that behavior is fear of retribution.

 

But wow, this probably isn't the right forum for that discussion. I'm guessing it's going to get moved. 

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I mean, think about it... If you are a 100% certain that doing evil things makes you go to a place where you'll be tortured and suffer for all eternity, you really wouldn't think 2,3,4,99 times before making something even remotely evil?

Ever read a history book? No, they wouldn't. Mostly they'd just rationalise it away as them not really being evil.

 

 

I think the big problem is with characters in settings like Forgotten Realms who are card carrying evil people, of which there seem to be an awful lot in fantasy and virtually none in real life.

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A realistic villain would only in very rare cases honestly consider himself evil, true.

I sure as hell would. If I knew God existed who sentenced people to heaven or hell forever after their deaths based on their choices, then I'd modify my behavior accordingly, even if what God demanded seemed morally repugnant to me.

No you wouldn't. You'd come up with rationalisations why your behaviour is exactly how that "God" intended you to act. Just like people have been doing since the dawn of time and are still doing right now.

 

This isn't some esoteric guessing game, we know exactly what happens. Seriously, we've got thousands of years of evidence for this.

Edited by Azrael Ultima

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What I really meant is, in Planescape setting for instance, characters can easily travel to the hells via dimensional planes. I was just brainstorming how would morality and religions function in a world where you could actually visit the places you will potentially spend time after death, while you are alive.

 

As I have also pointed out in my original post, what makes people to behave as they do is not only the fear of after-life, it is their virtues, conscience, qualities combined. However, I am just saying if people *really* knew (experienced it while they were alive) that people who murder go to hell for example, then they would certainly rethink before committing stuff considered evil.

 

 

 

People have been completely convinced that an afterlife exists where "evil" people are punished for millenia in the real world. Never stopped them.

 

 

Yes, they believed that after-life existed, many people still do. There is nothing wrong with that. What I am saying is, you can believe something if you cannot prove or unprove it. It is a matter of choice.  Now for instance, do you believe in electricity or not? Such a question is irrelevant, because electricity is already proven scientifically and can be reproduced.

 

Similarly, if you also prove the existance of after-life and were able to recreate it (planar dimension doors there lol), then the aspect of *believing* these would become irrelevant. Because then, it would be a fact. It certainly would have a lot of impact on the belief system and motivations I think.

Edited by crackwise
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The idea that people need the threat of punishment to be good is bull****. Anyone that actually goes around thinking they need, say, religion in order to not kill themselves or go on a killing spree needs help.

 

If I knew God existed - a literal God - I wouldn't change who I was just to appease some dude.

You don't need the threat of punishment to force people to be good but to obey/behave according to some rules.

 

The presence of "hells" and "heavens" in A/D&D is not about good and evil. Not in the sense of people trying to be good to avoid hell. And those who doesn't are certified nuts that end in a hell. It's not a reward system. It's more about people's actions in life defining their afterlife because every soul must go somewhere. CE people in A/D&D didn't stop being CE due to fear of ending in the Abyss as a worm. They don't care, they don't believe it no matter how much some clerics try to explain that to them or they simply beluieve that they will fare better when the times comes. LG people would still battle CG people in Planescape.

 

If God (the western christian one, we know that the rest of faiths like those who believe in reincarnation are fake, right? :rolleyes:  ) where to appear to us right now and do miracles/stuff, there would people that would follow him. Some that would think of him as the devil trying to trick them. Others would believe that he is an alien. Others would think that he is a hoax of some kind. Others wouldn't care. Others...

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People have been completely convinced that an afterlife exists where "evil" people are punished for millenia in the real world. Never stopped them.

not really. in the real world, you are either a wolf or a sheep. the concept of heaven and hell was invented to give to the sheep something to hope for (the sheep will have to endure a hard life but will be rewarded, the wolves will live a good life but will be punished)... and as a means of mind control to deter them from trying to be wolves (stay in the mud and never try to make your life any better if you want the eternal reward)

now which of the 2 groups invented it (the sheep to justify their plight, or the wolves to make the sheep obedient) does not really matter

in a world where heaven, hell, gods, demons and so on were proven facts, why would anyone bother living at all?

Edited by teknoman2

The words freedom and liberty, are diminishing the true meaning of the abstract concept they try to explain. The true nature of freedom is such, that the human mind is unable to comprehend it, so we make a cage and name it freedom in order to give a tangible meaning to what we dont understand, just as our ancestors made gods like Thor or Zeus to explain thunder.

 

-Teknoman2-

What? You thought it was a quote from some well known wise guy from the past?

 

Stupidity leads to willful ignorance - willful ignorance leads to hope - hope leads to sex - and that is how a new generation of fools is born!


We are hardcore role players... When we go to bed with a girl, we roll a D20 to see if we hit the target and a D6 to see how much penetration damage we did.

 

Modern democracy is: the sheep voting for which dog will be the shepherd's right hand.

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Yes, they believed that after-life existed, many people still do. There is nothing wrong with that. What I am saying is, you can believe something if you cannot prove or unprove it. It is a matter of choice.  Now for instance, do you believe in electricity or not? Such a question is irrelevant, because electricity is already proven scientifically and can be reproduced.

 

Similarly, if you also prove the existance of after-life and were able to recreate it (planar dimension doors there lol), then the aspect of *believing* these would become irrelevant. Because then, it would be a fact. It certainly would have a lot of impact on the belief system and motivations I think.

Missing the point. It doesn't matter if they can see it when they are already completely convinced it's real. It still didn't stop them from acting the way they did because they didn't believe they'd go there.

I'm sure it'd have a lot of impact on religions, but i doubt it would be in the way you imagine.

 

This isn't about whether heaven and hell exist and can be visited, this is about psychology.

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not really. in the real world, you are either a wolf or a sheep. the concept of heaven and hell was invented to give to the sheep something to hope for (the sheep will have to endure a hard life but will be rewarded, the wolves will live a good life but will be punished)... and as a means of mind control to deter them from trying to be wolves (stay in the mud and never try to make your life any better if you want the eternal reward)

now which of the 2 groups invented it (the sheep to justify their plight, or the wolves to make the sheep obedient) does not really matter

in a world where heaven, hell, gods, demons and so on were proven facts, why would anyone bother living at all?

According to your beliefs, sure.

Alternative take: Now, which of the 2 invented that idea that it was invented?  Clever people or convinced they were being clever by Satan?

Not wishing to start a religious debate on the forum but find that atheists speak of their beliefs in the same absolutes as the faithful so need to redress the balance.

 

Back on topic:

If it were known for a fact, many people would change their ways, but as others stated, the worst tend to be convinced they're right.

In D&D land, there are evil gods for the evil people - do well enough for them and you'll do well enough in the afterlife, so there's still room for the alignment system.

In PoE, there's no alignment - what do we know of the afterlife there? - are there 'evil' gods? or are there gods of war or something that would reward acts of 'glory' that the victims would call 'slaughter'?


_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*Casts Nature's Terror* :aiee: , *Casts Firebug* :fdevil: , *Casts Rot-Skulls* :skull: , *Casts Garden of Life* :luck: *Spirit-shifts to cat form* :cat:

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A realistic villain would only in very rare cases honestly consider himself evil, true.

I sure as hell would. If I knew God existed who sentenced people to heaven or hell forever after their deaths based on their choices, then I'd modify my behavior accordingly, even if what God demanded seemed morally repugnant to me.

No you wouldn't. You'd come up with rationalisations why your behaviour is exactly how that "God" intended you to act. Just like people have been doing since the dawn of time and are still doing right now.

 

This isn't some esoteric guessing game, we know exactly what happens. Seriously, we've got thousands of years of evidence for this.

 

 

If the scenario is 'I know God exists 100% and I know 100% what he's demanding of me', then I would change my behavior to match the demands of the psycho omnipotent entity who is threatening me with eternal torture for not complying. What you're describing is how people operate in the actual world we live in, where such certainty does not exist, no matter how much people might like it to.

 

In our world, if there is a God, he's pretty relaxed about clarifying the rules for people, at least until after they're dead, which leads to the behavior you describe. Moreover, in the real world, if I ever become convinced I know God exists 100% and that he's ordering me to do something morally repulsive, I hope my family has me institutionalized before I can actually do it.

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You might be surprised by the lack of foresight that human beings are capable of exhibiting.  As far as the forgotten realms settings go, the opportunity for power as a demon in the afterlife might actually be a tempting prospect to some individuals.  I would tend to agree that most people (in the real world) do evil out of weakness, carelessness, or fear.  But in the forgotten realms setting at least, there were at least as many gods that you could serve by being 'evil'  as you could being 'good'.  The worst thing one could do in the eyes of the gods is be a non-believer.  An important thing to consider in these settings though is that gods are not all powerful and some mortals even ascend to god-hood.

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If there was really a clear code, that images a certain behaviour to a certain afterlife, then there'd be little room for interpretation. If for example it was scientific fact that lying would bring you to hell and eternal torture, you'd have to be pretty insane to make lying your way of life.

Not that such a world would be very exciting as a setting.. and much less as a place to actually live in.

Edited by Iucounu
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One thing which really bothers me is that in a lot of fantasy settings the people of those realms *know* for sure that gods and the associated powers exist. Also, it is a fact that there is a hell and heaven (or multiple hells, heavens etc.) as in Forgotten Realms or Planescape settings.

 

A lot of people in the real world "know" that their particular god exists...only they can't all be right, because they all claim exclusive rights to monotheism. ;-)

 

Seriously though, I think it's because fantasy tends to be based on ancient Dark Ages superstition, in which they believed that if you're a liar, and you say "if I lie, may the Lord strike me down!", then you would actually be struck down with a lightning bolt. Dragons come from the same source...people declare that a 'monster' was "this big, it were! And it could breathe fire, and rend the ground apart with its claws! I saw it!" (when in actual fact it was just a particularly big wild boar that they saw).

 

Fantasy makes real all of those ancient myths, which includes the gods actually having a semi-physical presence, and their existence being manifest through their powers. That's why gods always actually exist in fantasy settings (although in the Dragon Age setting, the "Maker" is less overt and is more like the Catholic god).

 

As for motivations for being good/evil...I think this is down to one of two things: either the evil characters are convinced that they're actually doing good (just like the Templars believed they were doing God's work by slaughtering those "evil non-Christian heretics!"), or they believe that if they serve an evil deity and make him proud, they will be rewarded, and granted power, and dominion of a plane of Hell, or something. After all, there are still devil worshipping cults in existence today.


Ludacris fools!

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not really. in the real world, you are either a wolf or a sheep. the concept of heaven and hell was invented to give to the sheep something to hope for (the sheep will have to endure a hard life but will be rewarded, the wolves will live a good life but will be punished)... and as a means of mind control to deter them from trying to be wolves (stay in the mud and never try to make your life any better if you want the eternal reward)

now which of the 2 groups invented it (the sheep to justify their plight, or the wolves to make the sheep obedient) does not really matter

in a world where heaven, hell, gods, demons and so on were proven facts, why would anyone bother living at all?

According to your beliefs, sure.

Alternative take: Now, which of the 2 invented that idea that it was invented?  Clever people or convinced they were being clever by Satan?

Not wishing to start a religious debate on the forum but find that atheists speak of their beliefs in the same absolutes as the faithful so need to redress the balance.

 

Back on topic:

If it were known for a fact, many people would change their ways, but as others stated, the worst tend to be convinced they're right.

In D&D land, there are evil gods for the evil people - do well enough for them and you'll do well enough in the afterlife, so there's still room for the alignment system.

In PoE, there's no alignment - what do we know of the afterlife there? - are there 'evil' gods? or are there gods of war or something that would reward acts of 'glory' that the victims would call 'slaughter'?

 

im not an atheist... i just dont believe in the fairy tales religions tell about the "invisible man in the sky". because i dont know who or what god is, but he is definitly not something as small and petty as the limited imagination of humans 2k+ years ago made him out to be.


The words freedom and liberty, are diminishing the true meaning of the abstract concept they try to explain. The true nature of freedom is such, that the human mind is unable to comprehend it, so we make a cage and name it freedom in order to give a tangible meaning to what we dont understand, just as our ancestors made gods like Thor or Zeus to explain thunder.

 

-Teknoman2-

What? You thought it was a quote from some well known wise guy from the past?

 

Stupidity leads to willful ignorance - willful ignorance leads to hope - hope leads to sex - and that is how a new generation of fools is born!


We are hardcore role players... When we go to bed with a girl, we roll a D20 to see if we hit the target and a D6 to see how much penetration damage we did.

 

Modern democracy is: the sheep voting for which dog will be the shepherd's right hand.

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im not an atheist... i just dont believe in the fairy tales religions tell about the "invisible man in the sky". because i dont know who or what god is, but he is definitly not something as small and petty as the limited imagination of humans 2k+ years ago made him out to be.

I agree, He's not.

Nonetheless, I also disagree on your interpretation of the text.

Find it odd that you can be 'definite' about any of it.

Let's leave it though - plenty of threads on this topic on other forums.


_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

*Casts Nature's Terror* :aiee: , *Casts Firebug* :fdevil: , *Casts Rot-Skulls* :skull: , *Casts Garden of Life* :luck: *Spirit-shifts to cat form* :cat:

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I don't subscribe to the idea that in some indefinite time in the past, people were very sure about heaven and hell, and now they're not really sure anymore because "science" or I don't know. Believers still believe and unbelievers still don't believe. Beliefs and behaviors haven't really changed. Believers still do plenty of evil despite fully believing in hell, and they're no different than 50, 100 or 1000 years ago in that regard.

 

The thing is that human beings are amazingly oblivious about the long-term consequences of their actions. We could ask a similar question: why don't people save for their old days if they know they will need money then? Well, because it's a long time away. We're just not wired to prioritize long-term consequences.

 

Hell also has a very intangible characteristic as no one alive has seen or experienced it. It's even more difficult to care about something essentially abstract in your mind.

 

So, I don't think the question is what would happen if people were really *sure* of its existence, because we can already see that people are simply not rational enough to always or even most often take that into account. However in D&D, the presence of Gods is a lot more tangible, so it could indeed make an impression on people. How exactly would be an interesting question.

 

I personally think that fantasy settings typically make for interesting and tense adventures, but day-to-day life for their inhabitants seems miserable and absurdly dangerous. Monsters everywhere, large-scale wars, arbitrary magic wreaking havoc, evil gods and demons roaming freely... At the same time, all the "gods" aren't "God" in the monotheistic sense of supreme beings, they're merely particularly powerful beings with the strange property of gaining power when people worship them - the best analogy in our world isn't really God but politicians. So people would live in constant fear and try to gather behind what they think is the most benevolent or otherwise advantageous deity. But if human nature is what it is here, they'd still pay way too little attention to the matter of their afterlife and some would certainly end up abandoned forever in some desolate place by their own negligence.

Edited by Zeckul
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Also, in a setting like Forgotten Realms, morality is all relative to the deity you worship - it's just a matter of flavor whether you want to follow an "evil" or "good" or "neutral" one. Either way, if you're faithful enough you'll get a pleasant afterlife. In FR, heaven and hell isn't really a matter of doing good or evil, but of being faithful to your god or not. There's no basis for objective morality anyway - the closest to that would be Ao, but he doesn't actually do anything as far as I know.

Edited by Zeckul

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