Nothing would please me more than to reach a point where I don't feel the need to talk about religion anymore. Every time I write about it, I tell myself that it will be my final word, and that I will move on to other things. And yet, I cannot resist coming back to it given the kind of insanity I see on an almost daily basis. The other day, in the newspaper, I read an opinion piece by a local resident saying how America will always be a Christian nation, no matter how long time goes on for, and anyone who's anyone will turn to Jesus, the only path to salvation, and all others will be punished for all eternity.
Although I personally don't believe in the idea of any sentient creator, I really have no objections to people believing that there is some sort of god, and some sort of afterlife. Simply believing that there is something, without presuming to know for sure what, seems relatively harmless. However, claiming to be 100% certain that it is your god, and your holy book, and that all others will be tortured for all eternity in hell is ludicrous. I'm not going to rehash why it makes no sense to believe literally in any one particular faith. I've done that to death. Instead, today I am going to argue why the character of the biblical god is not worthy of your worship in the first place, and why the entire concept of hell is monstrously unethical.
First, let's recap what god's basic shtick is, shall we? He commands that we believe in him on no evidence. Clearly, if he wanted to, it would be trivially easy for him to give us proof of his existence, but he doesn't care to. It seems that having faith with no evidence is part of his test. He apparently values blind faith without critical thinking, questioning, or reasoning. He demands that we worship him, have complete faith in him, believe in one particular book, above all others, with no evidence, and surrender to him in totality. Compliance is rewarded with an eternity in heaven. Failure to comply results in eternal torture in hell.
Yeah, so, that's the deal, apparently. Great guy! Now, it's extremely important to note that this picture of the afterlife isn't even what's depicted in the bible, and yet, this is the idea that most people seem to be walking around with. Most people don't even know what it is they believe in or why. The Hebrew bible and old testament don't even mention hell, and descriptions of it in other versions are incredibly vague, and do not speak of a realm of eternal fire and torment. The "lake of fire" that so many Christians refer to doesn't come up until the book of revelations. The modern, stereotypical concept of the fiery hell was cobbled together from pagan religions, Greek mythology, and various other scraps. The modern concept of heaven isn't really what's in the bible, either. Most people have this idea in their heads that when they die, their soul will be transported to some ethereal, blissful paradise where they will be reunited with loved ones and live in joy with god for all eternity. The bible doesn't actually describe anything like this, however. According to the bible, at some point in the future, the end times will arrive, at which point there will then be a final judgement, and the sinners will then be annihilated, and the believers will be reborn on Earth, which is to be restored into the idyllic paradise it allegedly was in the time of Adam and Eve. That's what the book actually says, but the vast majority of believers still walk around with these cartoonish images of heaven and hell in their minds. I'm not even going to get into how and why this version of the afterlife was made up, or why it persists, but let's just run with it for the moment.
Most devout believers tell others that they will face eternal torment if they do not accept the biblical god and Jesus. This paints an image of a god who cares more about being worshiped than about how people treat each other, and who tortures and punishes people for simply not being convinced of the legitimacy of a particular book. They might be the nicest, most honest, decent, compassionate, altruistic, selfless people in the world, but because they weren't convinced that the bible is true, they face an eternity of agonizing torment. There is absolutely no getting away from it: such a god is a cruel, immoral, selfish, vindictive, petty, vain, narcissistic, manipulative, evil, barbaric, tyrannical monster. That's the truth, plain and simple. Only such a monster could torture and punish good, honest, kind people for simply thinking critically, and not being convinced of a particular religion.
Moreover, there is no moral justification for hell in the first place. I submit that no finite crime, no matter how egregious and heinous, is deserving of infinite punishment. No matter how horrible a person's action in the mortal world, there would come a point when the torture in hell would exceed it. There would come a point when they had gotten what they "deserve". I'll be the first to admit that when I hear of evil being committed, I often wish an eternity of suffering on the perpetrator, but a few moments spent imagining what eternity really means should be sufficient to reach the conclusion that no mortal being, no matter how evil, is deserving of eternal suffering. Once again, finite crime is not deserving of infinite punishment.
But even if hell were real, it should be reserved only for truly evil people, but so many would have us believe that the Christian god is one that inflicts infinite suffering on good, kind people just for not complying with his unreasonable demand to worship him with no evidence. Why would such a monster even be deserving of worship in the first place? Most devout Christians claim that morality comes from god. So... the ultimate arbiter of morality, justice, and wisdom in the universe is a vengeful monster who punishes all who even so much as question him by throwing them into fire and brimstone for all eternity? I could throw a rock and hit a far better role model than that.
Which brings me to my next point: throughout all of history, without exception, when civilizations become more enlightened, they become less violent. Torture and casual murder as forms of justice are customs that are left behind as people grow more civilized. I already explained why I remain agnostic on capital punishment in a previous piece, but it's absolutely clear that as societies grow more enlightened, they begin to question and decrease the death penalty. I have no doubt that a futuristic, utopian society would have a restorative justice system, and capital punishment would be a distant memory. As we've evolved, we've learned that hurting and killing those who have hurt you, tempting though it may be, is wrong, and doesn't help anyone. Revenge never leads anywhere worth going, and every utopian picture of the future is one where humankind has outgrown the need for it. We mere mortals have figured this out, and yet the biblical god apparently tortures and punishes people simply because he thinks they deserve it. This supposedly omniscient, infinitely wise being is, I would argue, less morally evolved and enlightened than we are. There is nothing moral or wise about eternal punishment. I submit that an infinitely wise being would be beyond petty retribution.
This vengeful version of the biblical god is a monster undeserving of worship or admiration, and yet it's the image that so many Christians have in their heads. The real kicker is that, as I said, these modern concepts of heaven and hell aren't even in the bible. They were made up, and this pernicious and ubiquitous idea of hell is used daily to poison and terrify young, underdeveloped minds. Teaching kids this nonsense often scars them for life. It's child abuse, plain and simple. A massive amount of religious people continue to preach the image of a monstrous god and a horrible torture realm, and they don't even know how, where, when, or why these ideas came about.
I reckon that many Christians don't subscribe to the idea of the vengeful god, but instead believe that god is a nice, compassionate, and all around decent dude who rewards honesty, kindness, and compassion, regardless of spiritual beliefs or lack thereof, and only punishes actual cruelty. Although I will always argue that adherence to any organized religion makes no sense, a belief in this type of god seems relatively benign by comparison. If you think that simply being a kind, decent person is the only requirement for admittance to heaven, then you're unlikely to cause much problems for anyone. What I want to see an end to is the idea that eternal suffering awaits any who don't follow one specific book to the letter. I wrote this piece to discourage the hell meme. Stop spreading it. This is one meme that desperately needs to die. The idea of hell and eternal punishment for worshiping the wrong deity is probably the most insidious thing ever created by humankind, and I'm f*ckin sick of it. I'm sick of the fear mongering, threats, hatred, and child abuse, and I'm sick of opening my paper and seeing letters from my neighbors telling me that I'm going to burn for eternity. If you still believe in hell and a god who would condemn people to it, then ask yourself why, and where these ideas actually come from. Ask yourself if such a god is actually moral and worthy of worship in the first place. I'd wager that you're probably wiser and more ethical than your god is.