3/17/2013 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Carl S ~
Several years ago I posed a question on a Christian website. I began by telling a personal experience following the death of a co-worker who died at the age of 44 from a heart attack. Because his young daughter and mine attended school in the same classroom, we had a connection. I went to the funeral home to pay my respects. The evening after his funeral, I got a call from his widow, who was VERY troubled about her husband’s fate. She thought that, because he did not go to church services, he was “in hell.” After nearly an hour of trying to persuade her to the contrary, because he was a very good and caring man to her and his children, so that he deserved heaven, I concluded that she ended up the conversation somewhat relieved because of our talk. (A couple of decades later, I asked a question related to this topic, to two different pastors on two different occasions: Would I get into heaven if I was a good, virtuous, man, though a non-believer? One answered “Of course”, and the other said “No.”)
Here was my question on the website: Just suppose that, after a person dies, Jesus/God reveals himself in all his glory, to an essentially moral, virtuous individual? That non-believer, faced with the evidence, would accept it, and would immediately gain entrance into heaven, right?
Interestingly, all the respondents said NO. They maintained that AFTER death was TOO LATE. You had to believe and accept without evidence BEFORE you died. This is a dogma of Christianity and Islam. Interesting, also, that all believers claim to believe in a god whose mercy “lasts forever,” who is all-fair. My “solution” - actually proving without a doubt the existence of such a being - would be fair. (I mean, give a guy a break, already!) The purpose of it would NOT be for their god to say, “See! I AM real! Ha ha...now go to hell.” And yet, this is the message I get.
One of the most emphasized doctrines of Christianity is that of FREE WILL, which states that, among other things, their god does not send a non-believer to hell, but that the individual chooses to go there as a result of free choice! BUT, free will, as important as it is made out to be, has no place in heaven or hell - only on earth. In heaven, for example, you cannot choose to do the “wrong” thing. Let's not forget that the same doctrine of NO possibility of changing one's mind once “in eternity,” teaches that a former famous resident of that paradise was thrown into hell as a result of making a free choice! (Let that be a lesson to you, whatever that lesson is.) Nope, no free will options open to you my friend. Tell me, though: what ARE you without free will, but a slave? You call that “heaven,” with NO “exit” sign?
Free will aside, just what is the value, the PURPOSE, of this heaven? What can you contribute to a place where everyone is supremely happy? What can you do to make it better than it is? It sounds like a frustrating version of hell to me. What’s the good of a world where you cannot alleviate and eradicate needless suffering, where nothing remains to be discovered because that “someday we'll know” is known? Where learning is not to be tolerated which contradicts their scriptures, as Christians on earth are taught. Where it is unacceptable to be angry, to question dogmas and impossible to mourn or feel sad over the losses and pains of others, especially those in hell? And what about the absence of a body to experience sensual, sexual, pleasure, or the relief of scratching one's own or another's itches?
Speaking of heavenly rewards: Once I had the experience of being a guest of a Christian Right family, naturally totally saturated in dogmas 24/7/365. The wife, in finding out that I'm an atheist, decided to take advantage of a captive audience, to use her brainwashed arguments on me to accept “salvation,” i.e., convert me. Pascal‘s Wager had to be used, of course: Take a bet and choose her god, what have you got to lose, etc. With my wife sitting near us, she asked ME how my wife would feel without me in heaven with her. I didn't think of it at the time (I was solo, with my hands full already), but, if she's a believer she would believe my wife would be completely happy without me in that place, because as a believer there, she'd HAVE to be. So - what's the problem?
What I've concluded from this woman's preaching, and all other’s, is that it's ALL about SALVATION, a.k.a., save your ass. Sure, I’m aware that missionaries, clergy, and individual fervent believers put out their doctrines and efforts to “save” others, but the bottom line is “save your ass by believing what we tell you to.” It's that simple. This is the UTMOST selﬁshness , to bask in “I've got mine and screw the others,” in heaven, like Sadaam Hussein or Stalin and their god, living in lavish luxury in palaces, all the while knowing that others are continually being tortured. I couldn’t tolerate that, and yet this is what they preach I should sacriﬁce, support, even strive for!
Free will [...] has no place in heaven or hell - only on earth. In heaven [...] you cannot choose to do the “wrong” thing.You can see some reasons why I ﬁnd that heaven idea disgusting. I LIKE to relieve and eliminate suffering, and treasure the anger I feel when humans are denied basic rights, when another person suffers as that widow did because of stupid, unthinking, dogmas. These problems drive me do something about them. I'd be useless in a heaven. I MATTER, here. The destitute, hungry, poor, the hopeless and disenfranchised and ignorant need my information, money, time and skills. NOW. (And why would I waste ANYTHING I have to offer and give it to any religions, with the so-called “guarantee” that by doing so I'll save my own ass?) What could I do if I were dead, a.k.a., in heaven? The residents “there” would tell me: NOT needed. Go someplace else. Go to hell.”
Now THERE'S an idea! A place REALLY needing me. A place of intolerable, unremitting torture, and ALL of this brought upon the victims because they couldn't FORCE themselves, nor conceivably ACCEPT beliefs that make no sense at all to them! Hell is the punishment for, again, free will choices unacceptable to their god. It’s the PERFECT place to alleviate suffering - except the “Merciful God” won’t allow anyone to do sol (Those who believe “prayer works” have not thought about this: All the prayers said by millions over the centuries cannot deliver one soul from hell.) Now, religious dogmas claim to be “hopeful,” and yet hope is NEVER allowed for anyone like me who wants to ease and end the pains of those in this hell. Even through assisted suicide. Could there be anything more hopeless for everyone? HELL has to be one of the most bizarre inventions of twisted, demented, minds of all times. And just as USELESS as heaven. (And by the way; what the hell is the purpose of hell, anyway?)
Getting back to Pascal’s wager: there is ZERO tolerance or chance of free will, of opportunities to be rebellious, to make your and other's lot in life better off in either this heaven or hell. Impossible, according to those “hopeful” faiths.
Be GLAD those places are imaginary. Be grateful that you and others can experience life as fully as you can, as it is, and that you can improve this only life we're certain exists. Be very glad that you won't have to be condemned to mythical places after you die.
Heavens and Hells are for gods and angels who make irreversible choices, not for human beings. Leave them there and get on with your life.