What seems like every few weeks I will recieve a random email from a theist reminding me that I am going to Hell.
They often follow up by saying, “It’s nothing personal, it’s just what I believe.”
The caveat, however, is that if you don’t share their belief and believe exactly as they do, then the threat against your life–in the after life–is that you will be forever punished, tortured, and as the Christ, meek and mild, reminded us (no less than seven times) there will be a “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
So dreadful is this message of the punitive punishment we nonbelievers will receive in the fiery furnace (after death) that, for some reason, believers feel they are doing us a service in reminding us of it.
This is the sort of mail I tend to get:
“You are going to burn in hell. I hope you realize that.”
Others state things like:
“If you accept Jesus into your heart, then you won’t have to fear the punitive punishment of Hell.”
Others are more straight foreword in their concern for my everlasting soul when they sate:
“Go to Hell atheist pig!”
Christian compassion runs deep.
But let’s step into the nonbeliever’s shoes for a moment. Let us ponder how absurd this entire belief in Hell really is.
For me, the concept of Hell carries no weight whatsoever. Mainly for the obvious reason that it has as much evidence for its existence as the imaginary place called Candy Land. This makes it really hard to take such people serious when they get all worked up over the state of my eternal soul, because to me, when they state their belief that I will go to Hell, all I really hear is, “Go to Candy Land atheist pig!”
Needless to say, such absurdities don’t keep me up at night.
Additionally, stating it’s not personal, as if that was some kind of threat against my safety–and that you couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it–makes me question your integrity as a human being. It may be what you believe, but if you truly grasped how cruel, absurd, and needlessly hurtful holding such beliefs really is… then as a good Christian… you would keep it to yourself. Why flood some guy’s in-box who you don’t even know with messages about the horrible torture he is going to receive? Doesn’t that sound morbidly sick and twisted to you?
I also have a strong opinion about Hell. I believe anyone who believes in Hell is most likely delusional. I’m sorry, that’s just what I believe.
The difference between my belief and a religious person’s belief, however, is the evidence for the delusion is squarely on my side–while the evidence for Hell is completely lacking. Still, even though the odds are completely against them that Hell is actually real, they never seem to bat an eye when reminded of it.
Yet the bigger question is, it seems to me, that when a person who is clearly wrought with delusional thinking wants to engage nonbelievers in a dialog, and asks us to take what they are saying seriously–and on top of this demand to respect their beliefs asks us to hear them out–how are we supposed to put faith in anything they have to say when the delusional quality of the belief is overshadowed foremost by the obscenely absurd nature of it?
Opening a dialog up with believers is important, but I still haven’t been able to find a way to entertain their unfounded beliefs without finding them both silly and frustrating, especially when both sides are demanding equal respect for their beliefs. I suppose they could very well say the same about atheism, except for the fact, that atheism isn’t claiming that imaginary people and places exist, but rather, is making the simple observation that such has never been observed nor confirmed. If you are going to play the “respect card” then, in my estimation, you have to at least back it up. When it comes to the doctrine of Hell, believers are without an excuse (i.e., there is no clear reason why anyone should believe in such a thing), and so I find no reason to necessarily dole out respect for such a belief simply because someone holds it.
If that troubles you, then I’m sorry, that’s just what I believe, and for good reason. For the record, my beliefs are quite harmless. They are a threat to no one. They cause no one anxiety or grief. Indeed, if you don’t share my beliefs–there are no unforeseen consequences. Surely, you will not be tortured. But I know through personal experience that thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of young children under the yoke of absurd religious beliefs really do grow up with an unhealthy dread for a myriad of imaginary fears. Fears instilled in them by their believing parents and religious community. If only there was a way to console them and say to them:
“Look, your parents and religious leaders are blowing hot air up your ass. Hell isn’t real. What do they know? They can’t know! And if they did know… if they had a shred of human decency.. then surely they wouldn’t use your fear against you and try to blackmail you with it. It’s a cruel trick to make you cower before their authority. Sort of makes you wonder about the integrity of your parents and community, doesn’t it? Just know, if you ever get fed up with their obscene absurdities, then there is a whole world without these petty and primitive delusions. A world in which you don’t need to fear imaginary things. A world where you can grow up and mature beyond the absence of faith. And let me tell you, as someone who has personally made the journey, it is better and more wonderful than anything religion can provide you with. So what do you want to do–spend the rest of your life being miserable and afraid–or do you want to grow up and take control of your own life?”
Maybe having an open dialog is the only way we can get the message out there? Perhaps, atheists will have to suffer the obscene absurdities of religion, and tolerate fundamentally bankrupt beliefs, simply to be able to spread the good news. At least, that’s what I’d like to think. We’re waging a war of ideas, and simply ignoring the absurd ones won’t stop them from remaining absurd. As such, I think it is important to point it out–lest people continue to face irrational fears for no good reason.