In this video about empathy, Jeremy Rifkin claims that our knowledge of mortality is a foundation of empathy. If that's true, doesn't religious belief in immortality,
that alleged second life in a secret magical place,
prevent believers from empathizing with humanity more than narrow in-groups?
In other words, isn't religious pandering to wish-fulfillment beyond harmless false "hope" and "comfort"? Isn't it a direct barrier to the global cooperation needed for a sustainable future and a threat to species survival?
On a related note, in Christianity V. Empathy Pepe Lopez Waldron claims that "the doctrine of Eternal Punishment weakens the empathic drive."
A belief in hell puts an unbearable load of dissonance between what the mind believes, what the heart feels and the connection between the two. It’s much easier to have your compassion and sense of universal kinship reach to those who hold different beliefs, when you don’t believe they are headed for the lake of fire. To do so would be to take an impossibly burdensome load.
There isn’t enough room in a human heart for the damned, and so the Christians do not often have much compassion for those who hold different beliefs.
People have to harden their hearts, he suggests, just to cope.
It seems the dark side of immortality has the same effect on caring as the expectation of eternal paradise.
It does seem to cause empathy to be displaced and compassion deferred. The greater part of my circle of friends comprises Christian fundamentalists. In response to a statement of distress by one, reactions of others is often, rather than actual help, along the lines of "I'll pray for you" and, "It will all be resolved in the next life". Even among non-fundamentalists (relative -- this is the US South) you hear of worldly trials offset by heavenly reward, or toting-up karma points. To this heathern it smells of cowardly avoidance of adult social responsibility by slinking into conservative blinkers that simplify thought by obscuring most of the current situation. Hang the carrot of heaven before a blinkered mule and it wil plod dogmatically with little distraction by wider reality.