Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

Heaven & Hell

 

John Shook has a great piece on the Center For Inquiry blog about how religion isn’t about hope, but personal wish-fullfillment, control, and our secret desire for revenge.  Here are two paragraphs that nicely sum up what I want to talk about today:

Heaven and hell are more about enforcing moral retribution upon everyone, and not about loving consolation for everyone. I said earlier that religion personally is largely about private wish-fulfillment. But at the social level, religion is mostly about imposing a public moral system. And not just any moral system – religions with heavens and hells have moral systems about obedience, vengeance, and retribution. With heaven and hell, private wish-fulfillment nicely pairs up with public moral-expectation. God delivers love to us because we feel deserving of that love. God delivers vengeful retribution upon others because we wish we could do it to them ourselves.

When believers say, “My God is all about Love!” what they are actually saying is that God really loves them and doesn’t love others. These are the kind of people who can’t feel truly loved unless someone else doesn’t get that love. Such a childishly selfish attitude, barely tolerable from the three year-old pushing the older sibling away from the parental lap, is entirely despicable from adults. Yet religious societies take this to the public level, effectively frightening members into obedience, and warning outsiders not in that good company that they will suffer for it. Join our religion, the message rings out, or else you’ll get hell for it!

I’ve read several blog posts today about this subject of heaven and hell and how you can’t have a heaven without a hell.  Except for Unitarian Universalists, all most no religion, especially forms of Christianity, has a concept of Heaven without a corresponding hell.  The problem with this, besides the horrific fact that so many people seem to take pleasure at the potential eternal suffering of others, is that hell just doesn’t fit in with the concept of a god of love.  God is seen as a parental figure, someone who makes the rules and rewards or punishes and who we always want to try to please.  What parent would willingly send their child somewhere where they would be tortured and tormented?  Only an sick, sadistic parent would.  So if there is hell, then god is a sick sadist.

Religious belief like this is, as John says, childishly selfish.  It has pain and punishment for those we are jealous of built right in.  The only real love there is the love for those we choose to love and for ourselves.

This is why I take a humanist approach to life.  Humanism has at it’s core the wellbeing of all people, everywhere.  When you put all people on a level playing field and treat them all equally, then you can’t help but act in the best interests of everyone.  Of course we have to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, but humanist ideals say that we shouldn’t do that at the expense of others.

As John sums up in another of his posts on the same subject:

Give me a morality, a humanist one, that finally centers on the one life that we all know we have.

March 20, 2011 - Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion | , , , , , , , , ,

15 Comments »

  1. God delivers love to us because we feel deserving of that love. God delivers vengeful retribution upon others because we wish we could do it to them ourselves.

    spoken out of pure ignorance of grace

    When believers say, “My God is all about Love!” what they are actually saying is that God really loves them and doesn’t love others

    God isn’t all about love HE IS LOVE God so loved the world that he gave his son to die for everyone even when we were his enemies
    you so much misappropriate scripture to spew your own hatred…pleaase get a bit of understanding before you regurgitate these false characterizations about Christ on the internet.

    Comment by Kerry | March 20, 2011 | Reply

    • @Kerry

      I’m afraid I am going to have to ask you to provide better arguments than that. How do you consolidate this “love deity” (Aphrodite?) with the vindictive petty god of the Old Testament? Assuming you, of course, believe in the triune god, but, then again, one can never know these days.

      For the record, when you set forth to antagonize, you will, most assuredly, garner an impassioned response. Jay did not say any of the “misappropriations” of which you were so offended, he was merely quoting the crux of the blog from which he was referencing.

      Comment by Oscar Rivera | March 21, 2011 | Reply

  2. *watching conversation with popcorn & keen interest*

    Comment by prosey | March 21, 2011 | Reply

  3. I’m pretty busy right now, but I’m going to read it as soon as I can. Thanks for the link and the mention of my blog there. I always love finding new bloggers to follow!

    Comment by Jay Walker | March 21, 2011 | Reply

    • Thank you for the introduction, Prosey! I just popped a bag and am settling in…

      Comment by Brick Window | March 21, 2011 | Reply

  4. the junk spewed forth by Kerry is really sad and sickening.

    No two Christians faiths can even agree on what Christianity is.

    Gods love, miracles, prayer. What I see is a god that, if it existed, is vengeful, vain, vindictive and petty.

    I think I will go have a drink now.

    Comment by fribnit | March 21, 2011 | Reply

    • *raises her glass*

      Comment by prosey | March 21, 2011 | Reply

  5. is it possible to have false characterizations of a fiction?

    Comment by fribnit | March 21, 2011 | Reply

  6. I had this Hell Conversation recently–at a business meeting of all places. (I am very out.) This woman was going on about how her pastor told the story of his conversion in their service the day earlier. She told about how the minister had been so “fallen”–drugs, prostitution, the whole nine yards. One night he woke to hear god calling his name. God told him to repent and dedicate his life to preaching or go to hell.

    So at this point, I am really annoyed, and I say, “WOW! God gave him that ultimatum? I would have said FUCK YOU”

    The woman telling me the story, trying hard to be nice to this terrible atheist in front of her says, “Well, you expect your children to obey, don’t you?”

    I say, “Of course, but when they don’t I don’t kick them out of our house forever and ever and never speak to them again.”

    At that, she stands up, huffs and puffs and tells me, “I can’t talk to you about this stuff!!” To which I reply, “Exactly. This conversation has no business in a business meeting.”

    Religion never came up again, thankfully.

    Comment by Brick Window | March 21, 2011 | Reply

    • I love the parent analogy because as soon as you use it in the context of god as a parent it is obvious that god is a terrible, abusive parent. No parent who truly loves their children would ever treat their children the way we are told god treats us.

      Comment by Jay Walker | March 24, 2011 | Reply

      • Yes, it’s quite ironic that even with all the vindictive petty atrocities committed in the Old Testament, it’s not until the arrival of Jesus, meek and mild, that hell is talked about.

        Comment by Oscar Rivera | March 24, 2011

  7. For the record, when you set forth to antagonize… For the record that is exactly what my intention was… I have refrained from this activity in the past. However it seemed necessary in order to get a response. Which I did. I would be extremely happy to engage anyone in an intellegent and respectful dialog. (which has been my approach for months now…to no avail)
    So now that I have got your attention, I do apologize for sounding harsh
    (My friend Jay I believe understand why i felt this course was necessary)

    Comment by Kerry | March 22, 2011 | Reply

    • Well, I will have to take your word that you intentionally spewed out banalities that is typical of an irrational proselytizing Bible-thumper, simply for a response. I’m all for dialog, but if you want to get on topics other than hell, I would suggest a different venue as it is really not appropriate to hijack this post for a debate.

      Comment by Oscar Rivera | March 24, 2011 | Reply


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