Questions needing answers: Heaven and hell or not

In my quest for knowledge about myself and my beliefs, I have struggled to answer the question “Is there a God?” Remember I have no theological or philosophical background; therefore the only basis for my beliefs, prior to this quest was what I thought, without any other knowledge. Yes, I knew what the Bible says, but there is the question of whether the Bible is fact or fiction, another question to answer, and of course the big question, is there a heaven and a hell. This led me to even further questions, one of these questions which relates to some of my political writings on the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

That question is: Even if the Bible is a work of fiction, what is wrong in believing in it, especially the teachings of God and of Jesus? Look at the Ten Commandments and the “Sermon on the Mount”, there are many good rules to live by. There is nothing written there which if followed, could ever steer you wrong. Even if you don’t study the meanings of some of the parables which Jesus says or dive deep into the beatitudes, just on the surface these are good rules to live by. 

Even when I wasn’t what I’ll call a “true believer”, defined by me as one who reads and studies the Bible, I always believed there was such a person or thing or being as God. However I wanted to define it at any particular time, I figured there had to be something or someone out there calling the shots. Therefore I figured it would be a good thing to live a fairly good life just in case. Now I haven’t necessarily done that, which is another story and something I am trying to correct, but I always figured it was a roll of the dice.

Like the whole heaven and hell thing, is there either one? Does anyone really know? If you are dead, you probably aren’t coming back from either one, so how does anyone really know? As I my Dad lay in a coma and I had to make the decision on whether we should take him off life support, I asked him to do me one favor and that was if he made it to any kind of after-life to let me know. I’m still waiting for his answer, although I admit there are times I think he is still in the house. So his lack of letting me know means either that there isn’t an after-life or there is but there is no way to communicate this fact to those of us left behind.
So what to do, what to believe? Again, before I started reading the Bible and really examining things here is how I looked at it. It was a roll of the dice. There could be a heaven and hell or there couldn’t be. If there is, then which would I want to be in? Heaven, which always sounded to me like it would be a pretty cool place or hell, or hell, which sounds a little warmer? So I could live a good life, trying not to screw up to badly so I would go to heaven and what would I lose? If there isn’t an after-life then the worst that would happen is I would have lived an okay life. If there is one then I would hopefully go to heaven. Of course the other option, which I admit has always been pretty tempting, and admittedly I have been on that road, is to live the way you want, the old “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” theory, and enjoy yourself without worrying about the consequences of sinning figuring there is no after-life. Of course if you have guessed wrong then eternity in hell is a long time.
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I was reading something recently and I have learned that this is not a new theory. A man named Blaise Pascal, (1623 – 1662) who was a mathematician, physicist, writer, inventor and catholic philosopher seems to have come up with this way before my time. He penned something called Pascal’s Wager, which to paraphrase it, says it is a gamble, you can choose to life a good life and be wrong, but what have you lost? You still lived a good life. You can live a sinful life and find out you guessed wrong and end up where you don’t want to be.

So whether you believe in God or not, believe in eternity or not, or whether you think the Bible is fact or fiction, do you want to take the chance you are wrong? Wouldn’t it be better to err on the side of caution and assume there is a heaven? 
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