Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Faith After Death

As a follow-up to my last post: Say that God doesn't send you to Hell, but that you send yourself there by rejecting him; as many Christians believe. I can accept that, I suppose. I still think Hell would be Party Central with non-stop orgies, but maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part. But what I want to know is, once you're already there, can you then decide to accept God? I mean, I don't have anything against God or anything. He sounds kind of like a creep in the Old Testament, but I could see accepting this New Testament God. But my big problem is with the belief thing. I just don't believe, and as I mentioned in the comments section of my last post: For me, the leap to belief is the mental equivalent of me jumping to the moon. It's just impossible. I can't believe and I don't believe. I’m not even sure how one goes about starting to believe.  Again, it's nothing personal against God or any other supernatural beings; I just don't believe in things that I can't objectively observe, and I fail to see how that’s a problem.

But were I to go to Hell after I die, then all that changes. Because belief would no longer be an issue. I'm no fool and I believe what I see. And if I were to see that I was in Hell and that the Christian God was real, belief would no longer be an issue. I wouldn't just believe; I'd know he was real. So at that point, is it too late? Catholics believe that you can redeem yourself on your deathbed. But is it too late to find God once you're already dead? If so, that sounds kind of like a test and that God is punishing us for having failed that test. But if it's not a test, and it's simply a matter of me choosing to reject or accept God; I'd have no problem with accepting God...were I to be in Hell and to know that God was real. Because again, my thing isn't about rejection; it's just about the lack of proof.  And being in Hell would certainly be enough proof for me.

And for that matter, God doesn't even need to bother with the Hell thing. If after I die, he took me straight to Heaven, you can most certainly bet on the fact that I'll accept God; assuming he's not too much of a creep. Who wouldn't? I don't care how hard-core a Muslim terrorist you are, or whether you're a fire-breathing atheist Christian-hater; I think that everyone would accept God, were they to meet him in person. And that's certainly the case with me, so he doesn't even need to bother sending me to Hell first. I'll choose Heaven immediately; assuming that he's not some big jerk about it.

So back to the Big Question: Is it too late to accept God once you're already in Hell? If not, is there a time-limit after which you can't be allowed into Heaven; or is it always open to anyone who accepts God? And if that's the case, then what exactly is the problem? Why do I need to believe on earth, if I can always change my mind in the after-life? And if we can't change our minds, how is this not just a big test? How is it me rejecting God, if he's not letting me change my mind once all the results come in? Because he’s pretending like this is all on acceptance and love, but he apparently is basing that judgment almost entirely on whether you have faith in his existence.  I mean, come on!  That’s like basing IQ-scores solely on whether they show up to the test on time.  

But honestly, I still come back to the conclusion that this is all just some big marketing gimmick by the Christians in order to get people to join their church; rather than some big design that God planned for us. I can see why the humans want to make such a big deal out of this stuff, but I don't see why God would even bother. My life's been pretty darn good so far, and I fail to see how any being that created it this way for me could possibly be such a bad guy. If there's an untrustworthy component of all this, it's the human element. Gods, I trust. Man, not so much. And unfortunately for any supposed gods out there, until they make their argument in person; they're stuck with a damn untrustworthy messenger.    


Mumphrey said...

Bear in mind that I'm not a theologian, but I am a committed Christian, and I take it pretty seriously.
I believe that we can all come to God in many ways. My God is awesome enough that I believe God can show God's self to many people in many ways. My gut says that when God tries to reach Hindus, God reaches them as a Hindu God; that when God tries to reach Muslims, God does so as Allah.
I don't know how God chooses to try to reach atheists or agnostics, but I don't doubt that God does so. It could be that atheists and agnostics who lead the kind of life that believers would think of as being basically godly are really following God's ways, without even meaning to do it.
So my point is, I don't think people end up in hell who don't willfully and persistently chooses to do evil, and then die without paying the price.
The price most of us pay when we do something wrong, or bad, or evil--aside from whatever punishments society might hand down to us--is feeling sorry, feeling bad.
I know from my own life that when I've done bad things, I feel truly bad about them and about myself. It's its own kind of punishment. Most of the time, I ask God's forgiveness and try to do better next time.
Many people kind of look at this with rolled eyes. They say, "Ahh, that means you can do any kind of crap you want, and all you have to do is say you're sorry, and you get off scto-free. There's no punishment at all. You can kill and steal, and still go to heaven."
That misses the point, though. The sorrow has to be true, and the plea for forgiveness has to be sincere. If they aren't, if I just went through the motions, saying, "Yeah, sure, God, sorry, sorry. Now forgive me so I can go out and do it all over again with a clean conscience," then it would all be fake, and it wouldn't count.
What I'm getting at is that I don't believe that people go to hell for bot saying the right prayer, or for not going to the right church, or even for not believing in God at all.
People go to hell for squandering their greatest gift from God: for squandering their souls. After all, our souls are the only things we have that are truly, and forever our own.
Hitler did it; Stalin, too. I guess there are others, too, who have pissed away their souls in smaller, but not necessarily any less sordid ways.
These are the ones who end up in hell.
But I don't quite believe that redemtion is beyond the grasp of even Hitler, Stalin and other fiends. I once heard a sermon in which fire was described as a cleansing agent. I can see the fires of hell, whether literal or figurative, as a way to redeem oneself.
I think people who end up in hell end up there not understanding or apreciating the hurt and destruction they have wrought on others through their lives. I wonder if a spell in hell might not be a way for the damned to purge themselves, to come to appreciate and understand, and feel sorrow and guilt for what they did, and to help them to be able to truly and sincerely ask for forgiveness.
Anyway, I don't see you spending any time in hell unless you have a side career as a mass murderer I don't know about.

Bora Zivkovic said...

I hope you send both posts to the Carnival of the Godless!

Doctor Biobrain said...

I've already sent a different post to the Carnival of the Godless. I'm looking to pimp these two at some other carnival. It's kind of discouraging how few I can find.

Anonymous said...

Doc, have you read Niven & Pournelle's book, Inferno? It asks the same questions you are.

In a sense, so does the Dante version. But it's less fun.