At the end of the Pyeongchang Olympics Opening Ceremony, right after they lit the torch, they began an emotional song calling all people everywhere to unity. The song was “Imagine” by John Lennon. Although it has a catchy tune and generally points towards unity, it totally ruined the moment. The reason is that the song directly contracts reality; it looks for unity in all the wrong places. “Imagine there’s no heaven … imagine all the people living for today.” This is exactly how to ruin the world. If you want to build a good world, you need to live for another one.
Living for today sounds good, but leads to evil. The people who honestly live for today are drug addicts and thieves. Their focus is to maximize pleasure now. Their thinking is contracted - long term consequences are subservient to the needs of the present. Why save money for a house if I have a roof over my head today and money can give me something I want? They are not acting irrationally, their focus is in the wrong place. John Lennon doesn’t want us all to become thieves and drug addicts, he just wants us to focus on the problems of this world. He sees the suffering of his fellow people: hunger, pain and conflict, and he wants us to do what we can to fix them. This is an admirable goal. Additionally, he sees religion, especially the emphasis on the next life (heaven) as a barrier to this goal. If people are really worried about the next life, then their attention will be at the very least divided. The clear thinking atheist has the energy to focus on fixing this world, with no distractions.
But what happens when these clear thinking atheists try to fix the problems in the world? They mess it up. You can see this historically with Communism or you can see it in socialist Europe today. Under Communism, the needs of the state were put ahead of the needs of the particular individual people. In socialist Europe, the needs of the next generation are subservient to the needs of the current generation by means of debt. Both exemplify tunnel vision, in their attempt to make the world better, they make it better only for a small segment of the people at the expense of everyone else. In effect, they exemplify the same vice of the drug addicts and the thieves - their focus is in the wrong place.
Ironically, if you focus on saving the world, you will ruin it. The only way to help the world is to live for the next one. Human beings will actually live forever, that is why they are so much more important than making society fit our ideas. Heaven frees us up - we don’t have to make sure that we receive justice in this life or save the world, instead we can take care of the people around us and trust that God will take care of the big things.
Unity and ending suffering are great goals, but the only light that makes sense of them is Resurrection of the dead. If you are living for this life, your techniques will only give from some people to others. If you are living for the next life, you can give of yourself to help others, and the world will actually become a better place.