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Thoughts on God
…from an atheist who is less judgmental in recent years than just deep in wonderment, whose opinions are formed more on conversations with and observations of Christians of various types and strengths, as I have never read the Bible myself
Note on word use: I refer to God as “he” simply because it’s convenient and for no other reason. I capitalize “God” to denote I mean “the” God and not gods in general.
What point is there to Hell if...?
From people selling religion at my door telling me “God loves you,” and from conversations with my religious friends, I get the impression that God is supposed to love all of his creatures, which means every single last bug, plant and person on this planet. So if God loves all of his creatures then why create Hell, and why send any of his creatures there? One gift God gave all his human creatures is free will, and so he expects us to use it, however we want. Yet supposedly those of us who use it for what Christianity arbitrarily decides is “morally corrupt” or wrong get sent to the most evil place one can possibly conceive of to spend eternity after we die? If God is supposed to be a loving God (as I have been told and as I would like to think of him) then why would he create humans and give then free will and then punish us when we use it? As I see it, it’s the same as putting a small child in a room full of candy and getting upset when he eats it.
Christians say that the point of God putting temptation in front of us it to “test us” to see if we are good or bad, if we deserve to spend the afterlife in Heaven or Hell. That just doesn’t sit right with me. How can God, as loving as he supposedly is, gift us with free will and then just expect us not to use it (knowing full well that we will not always use it for good)? Would it make any sense for a parent to give a child a PS2 but tell him not to use it, or else he will be in deep trouble? Of course not. It’s not free will we are exercising when we act in a certain manner simply because we are scared that acting in the opposite manner will land our soul an eternity in Hell. Acting a certain way to hopefully get specific results is exercising restraint, not free will. I suppose some reading this will contest that we have the free will to exercise restraint, and that’s true. But we also have the free will not to exercise restraint. And I just do not see how a loving God would give us something and then get upset when we do not use it the way he expected or wanted us to. Let’s go back to the kid with the PS2. The obvious way to use a gaming machine would be to play games on it. But what if that kid wanted to pretend the machine was a space station and the controller was a spaceship docking at that space station? Should the parent get mad at the kid for not using the PS2 in the way the parent expected? No. Any parent who punished her child for using his imagination would simply be an incredibly unreasonable one. To that end, I refuse to believe that God would create humans to be inherently flawed creatures with free will, and then not expect us to mess up, either a little or a lot. If I were a religious person, I wouldn’t believe in a God that did create inherently flawed creatures who would inevitably screw up from time to time, or even all the time, and then send us to Hell for being the humans he created us to be. A God who would do such a thing is a manipulative bastard.
There also seems to be some grey area around in which situations practicing restraint will not land us in Hell and in which ways not restraining ourselves will. For instance, take the constant overeater. We all know that overeating is bad for your health, but I’m pretty sure God isn’t going to strike anyone down for eating too much and not taking care of themselves. Or take the alcoholic: if someone drinks too much but never hurts anyone because of it—if he is a happy drunk—who is to say he shouldn’t drink, except that it is bad for him? Both the alcoholic and the overeater are causing harm to themselves, but God gave them the free will to choose to do so, so you can’t fault them for making those choices. But in what situations should someone expect to spend eternity in Hell for not practicing restraint? On a moral level, I would argue none. Humans should not be punished in the afterlife for exhibiting the traits that God gave us. Humans are allowed to create whatever legal codes of ethics they like. And while I do think a serial killer should be caught and jailed with no chance of bail, I can’t imagine how any deity could be just by creating creatures to be morally defunct and then punish them for it. Yes God, if he existed, created people who are inherently good. But he also created people who are inherently bad, and did so for a reason. What that reason is I do not know. But I refuse to believe it was so that he could send them to Hell because they did what he effectively made them to do. And because I refuse to believe such a thing, I can see no possible way that Hell exists or that anyone would be punished for being who God made them to be by making them spend an eternity there.
God is all at once...
Supposedly God created us humans in his image. If that is true then God can in no way be perfect, since none of us are. Likewise, God is neither man nor woman, gay nor straight. Either that or he is man and woman and gay and straight at the same time, which only leaves God to be an intersexed bisexual. To a larger extent, some of us choose to live monogamously while others of us choose to live in open relationships or be swingers. So that would make God a polyamorous intersexed bisexual. Though, if you do not like the thought of that, your only other option is to believe God doesn’t exist, because there can simply not be a being or entity that is so extremely contradicting as to be at the same time a man and a woman or intersexed, gay and straight and bi, and monogamous and polygamous.
Please feel free to contact me if you think of any other option other than the ones presented here.
Fear and faith are not the same
Many, MANY deeply religious people, ones I know and ones I do not, have repeatedly given me the strong impression that they fear the idea of spending eternity in Hell. Let me repeat that: fearspending eternity in Hell. I’m sure this has occurred to many already, but fear is a fantastic motivator. We see a commercial for Gucci where the sexy lady announcer tells us women we aren’t cool or stylish unless we buy their product. There’s even some weight loss product that doesn’t even try to cover that they are using fear to make you buy the product. The announcer quickly states, “Extra body fat is unattractive,..” at which point you’re supposed to feel you are too fat to be attractive and be scared no one will like you, or sleep with you ever again, unless you use their product. In the same fashion, convincing, nay brainwashing, children (and adults too, for those who are “born again”) to believe in God by teaching them that if they do not believe and live by his sacraments that they will go to Hell is not in any form teaching children (and the “born again”) to have sincere faith in God. All that does is teach children to be “good” or else they will be punished. Ignoring the fact that children are too innocent to completely comprehend the idea of God and all that, having anyone grow up knowing if they aren’t “good” (according to arbitrarily chosen biblical rules) they will go to a good place when they die and a bad place if they are “bad” automatically deems any “righteous” behavior completely insincere. I’d strongly argue that any action taken out of a motivation of fear is never a sincere action…and depending on how descriptive a pastor is, he could really do a number on suggestible minds by describing how wretched and horrible Hell is. So anyone who says they have “faith” in God who also says they fear potentially going to Hell upon their death is not truly faithful, just REALLY fucking scared. They may like to think they have faith truly and purely, but they do not.
I’m an atheist for many reasons, but in part because I refuse to subscribe to any religious belief that uses hard cold raging fear to convince it’s patrons to be “good.” If I ever created a religion it would be one where Hell simply isn’t talked about, and for that matter where Heaven isn’t mentioned either (for what is the need for Heaven if Hell doesn’t exist?). It would be one where there is mention of God (or some other loving being) who simply loves you no matter what, who only wants it’s creatures to love one another and be good to ourselves and others. God would not be “worshipped” because he wouldn’t be above any of us. He would be more akin to a really good close friend, possibly an older and wiser one. My religion would create true faith because there would be no reward/punishment system, thus its believers would only subscribe to it because they loved God purely and sincerely, with true love in their hearts, the way God should be believed in.
144,000 souls? (my apologies for my lack of attribution for sites where the population figures came from)
Confidential to Jehova’s Witnesses: So you believe that only 144,000 souls will make it into Heaven? If that’s so, what’s the point in trying at all to be good in any way, shape or form? If the 144,000 are preordained, then those souls will go to Heaven no matter what their bodily vessels do while on Earth, so those souls in human form could be murderers and rapists and still make it into Heaven. If that’s not a convincing argument, look at the numbers: Seven billion (the number of currently living people) divided by 144,000 equals 48,611.111, or two percent of the current population. That’s not considering all the people who have died throughout time. The two percent chance you have of being one of the 144,000 drops considerably when you take all of them into account. To give you an idea of how much that number drops, one hundred years ago the Earth’s population was about 1.6 billion (I’m using hundred year increments because it’s safe to say most of the people alive today were not alive one hundred years ago and so not counted in the seven billion of today). In 1812 the population was roughly one billion. A hundred years before that it was about 600 million. Add those together to get
2,600,600,000. Nine and a half billion divided by 144,000 is 65,972 or 1.5 percent chance of being one of the 144,000. Clearly there is no way I can account for every person who has ever been alive through time (or any of the people who have not been born yet for that matter). But I can safely say that were I able to do so, the percentage would be much lower, perhaps less than one percent. So I repeat, if the chance of you being one of the 144,000 to make it into Heaven, what’s the point in even trying? Go be good people for the sake of being good people, Jehova’s Witnesses. Or if you ever felt like saying, “Screw it! I just want to be bad for a change,” then go be bad. Have premarital sex, get a tattoo, stay out drinking all night…’cause I doubt that with your odds being one percent or less, you will be one of the lucky 144,000.
Religion has "all" the answers huh?
Among the many varieties of Christians, there are a few who feel compelled to come to our homes with the soul intent of convincing us their religion is “the” way and that we are lost unless we allow them to guide us on the path to righteousness. I’m glad for them that they are SO secure in their faith that they know their way is the only way and that it’s so amazing they just have to tell everyone about it. These religious door-knockers claim to have all the answers to life’s problems and wonderments (maybe that’s just Scientologists), but do they really?
Next time a religious door-knocker comes to my door I’m going to test them to see if they really have “all” the answers: What does God have to say about how I should invest my 401K? Is a Roth IRA better than a regular IRA? What financial planning company is the most informed and has the fairest prices? What’s the best way to treat Crohn’s Disease? Should I run a few miles every day to get rid of this extra fat, or would my body respond better to swimming and some light weights? How do I know if I’m suited for marriage? How will I know when I’ve met “The One” or if there even is a “One” for everyone? What’s a good way to tell I’ve found the right job for me? How can I figure out what I’m truly passionate about without jumping job to job until I find the right fit?
My point here is that no, the Bible and those selling religion in no way really have “all” the answers you are looking for. It would be just dandy if someone showed up on my doorstep with all the answers to the above questions, but I’m positive no one single person does, no matter how committed to their faith they are. Though if you do not appreciate people coming to your door to sell you religion, you could try overwhelming them with all these questions just to catch them off guard. I’m sure it will scare them right off.
If the goal is the same, why does which religion you embrace matter?
Most every religion claims that their path to righteousness is THE one and only way to make it up to Heaven (I have yet to encounter a religion that is so humble they can say they don’t have “all” the answers, only an approach to life that will create positivity and a peaceful mind and heart). But if the ultimate goal of every religion is to get to Heaven/ reach Nirvana/ etc, why does it really matter which road you take? I say stop trying so hard to figure out which form of religion is going to get you to that ultimate afterlife, and just find the one with the belief system that fits you the best. As people, whether religious or not, we all have the same goal—to live happy, healthy, positive, fulfilling and productive lives…and then to die happy with feelings of fulfillment. Some of us just choose to involve God or some sort of spirituality in our lives to give our lives some of that sense of fulfillment and happiness. So if we all have the same end goal, then why does it matter one bit how we choose to get there? Simply, it does not.