I'm wondering how much religious striving and effort at following God's word is due to the fact that there is usually some sort of eternal carrot and stick waiting for us at our demise? What if we knew:
God, in fact, exists as a supernatural being outside normal space and time and created the world.
God does not intervene in our world, but relies on laws of nature.
When we die, there is no afterlife waiting for us whatsoever.
So, this is basically a deistic type of religion. I'm using it to separate two basic human needs: our desire for meaning, and our desire to survive. In most religions, God supplies both these needs. However, how much of the meaning that God provides based on the fact that we expect to have an eternal place in the cosmic scheme of things (via an afterlife).
What if there were a competing religion that promised a great afterlife but denied that the world has purpose or guidance (our souls are simply artifacts of natural processes). Which would present the stronger case? Meaning without eternity, or eternity without meaning?