This is going to offend some, and I canâ€™t help that. These are my thoughts on the subject, and being offended with them wonâ€™t change that. Honest reasoning might, but flames? What I expect from some.
I have my problems with it mostly for two doctrines at the heart of the religion â€“ Hell, and suffering. Suffering is the first one, because my greatest derision is for Hell.
God is defined as being all powerful, all knowing, and all loving. I wonâ€™t get into the stupid logic problems of â€œCan God create a rock too heavy for Him to lift?â€ Those are semantic games that donâ€™t really prove anything except what certain logic forms canâ€™t do. However, it is accepted by most Christians that God is all of the above.
So, we have the above defined. Now, as someone phrased it better than I can, there are three choices, none of them pleasant for Christians to think about. First is that he has the power to stop suffering and chooses not to use it. This makes him evil. Second, he knows about it but canâ€™t stop it from happening. This makes him less powerful than a God should be. Third, he has neither the power nor the knowledge to stop suffering. Why call him God, then? Those really are the three choices. To say, â€œItâ€™s beyond mortal kenâ€ is to really say â€œI donâ€™t want to think about it very hard.â€ â€œGod is teaching a lesson by having that earthquake in Haiti.â€ So what precisely is he teaching us when he kills people in the five to six figure range? â€œI do it because I can?â€ If heâ€™s got a specific lesson and heâ€™s omnipotent, donâ€™t you think he could make the lesson clearer, without killing spectators?
I canâ€™t buy YHVH for that reason alone, but letâ€™s get to the doctrine of Hell. As all the Christians Iâ€™ve talked to define it, the concept of Hell is by far the nastiest and most evil concept anyone could come up with, and itâ€™s only purpose is revenge. "â€Ever-lasting torment".â€ â€œEternal lake of fire.â€ â€œEndless suffering.â€ These are just a few ways to describe this â€˜placeâ€™.
Who goes there? Obviously the most vile and evil of sinners, like Hitler or Stalin or Mao Tse Tung, right? Well, some Christians will say yes, but the majority of this place of unending painâ€™s residents are those who did not accept Jesus Christ into their hearts when they were alive.
Thatâ€™s right. Jeffrey Dahmer, someone who apparently enjoyed his fellow man a bit more than the next guy (especially with a good barbeque sauce), was apparently saved from this place by professing to have found Jesus before the end. â€œNo Hell for you! You stroked my ego!â€ The nice Muslim man down the block who gives a significant portion of his money to work on the neighborhood to make it a place for everyoneâ€™s children to play, who once risked his life to save someone elseâ€™s life? Sorry, didnâ€™t believe in Christ as his savior, so he gets to burn.
My wife phrased it this way, and I like it, because itâ€™s a chilling description. Hell is the equivalent of seeing your baby steal a cookie, so rather than punish him then and there, you wait five to ten years before flaying every inch of skin off his body and covering him in a solution of salt, lemon juice and alcohol. You then do nothing to alleviate the pain and suffering youâ€™ve just caused, and donâ€™t tell him why you did it.
Real world, if this happened, the person would be â€“ at best â€“ in a mental institution for the rest of their life, and more likely be spending the majority of their days in prison. The parent who did this would be called all forms of evil.
But God is seen as just and loving for doing precisely the same thing. If there is a punishment, a good parent makes it clear so that you have no way of mistaking it. Saying that preachers and churches are his way doesnâ€™t cut it. Who do you listen to? Which has it right? The Catholics (who believe in the ability to pray people out of Hell, I understand, which is an amazing concept)? The Baptists? The Muslim? The Hindus? Each have their own message. In the cookie example, you stop the child right then and tell them what they did wrong, and how to avoid another spanking. In a religious example, if you have that kind of a punishment, you need to make the message as unmistakable as that spanking for the cookie theft is to the child.
And there is no unmistakable message. As I said â€“ who has the right message? They canâ€™t all be right. So we have choices:
1) God doesnâ€™t exist but Hell does. Not likely, because who decides who goes to this place? With no God, there is no Hell.
2) God exists, but Hell doesnâ€™t. This means that this Sky God is as all loving as his press releases say. Still, do you want to be faced in the afterlife with a parent who looks at you and lovingly admonishes you for wrong things done? We donâ€™t like it in the here and now, why would it be any better then?
3) Both exist. God is evil, then, because there is no clear-cut way of telling the proper path. To be taken from the evil category, assuming that this option is correct, he needs to make it much clearer. Send a sign no one can possibly miss, such as sending Jesus down in a manner that makes it clear that this is no trick. (Heâ€™s omnipotent â€“ itâ€™s childâ€™s play to do that for him.)
4) Neither exist. So thereâ€™s no God, and no Hell. We still face the consequences of our actions in the here and now. We might be good at avoiding some of them, but only the mentally damaged can get away from their consciences. There is always that part that will wish that it had shown a bit more dignity, and treated others as it wished to be treated.
So whatâ€™s the best decision? Pascalâ€™s Wager is a metaphysical threat, and requires an unproven to be effective. Using our four choices above, your best bet is to live life the best way you can. As I paraphrase someone else – â€œLive life like thereâ€™s a party at the end of time and no assholes are invited.â€ Yeah, we all act like asses occasionally, but living your life that way? Treat your fellow man with the same dignity that you want to be treated with. If thereâ€™s a Heaven and Hell, a truly loving God is going to look at your actions and reward you. If thereâ€™s no afterlife, you still get to die knowing that you made life better for other people.
And really, isnâ€™t that what itâ€™s all about? Making life better for everyone, whether or not thereâ€™s a metaphysical threat behind it?