Sunday, February 26, 2006

God's Big Kick

I just don't understand how a kind and just god can possibly punish me for eternity simply for behaving as a rational human should. That just doesn't make any sense. I'm a good guy. I'm not an evil villain or some sheep-raping pervert. Hell, I'm not even gay. I'm just a normal heterosexual dude with a wife and kids and who works almost as hard as he should. I help people out and I rarely try to screw them over. I've even given to charity a few times. So, what could God possibly have against me?

And let's face it: It isn't rational to believe in God. I'm not saying that as a put-down; it's just a fact. Belief in God is irrational. Even if there is a God, it isn't sane to believe in him. Not under the current conditions, anyway. He hasn't given us any solid clues as to his existence, yet he expects us to believe in him without reservation? That's nuts. If we were talking about anyone other than God, everyone would instantly realize how loony it all sounds. Again, that's not to say that none of it's true. It just sounds screwy. Like if you knew some adult who really believed in Santa Claus. It's possible that Santa Claus is real too; but it really wouldn't sound right to admit belief in that.

But again, I'm not complaining about faith. I'm just saying that I don't see how a just god could possibly use eternal damnation to reinforce a negative trait. That's supposedly his big kick, right? That he wants us to toss aside rationality and objectivity and believe in something that is intentionally unknowable; or otherwise risk spending a gazillion-plus years in Hell. But God doesn't want us to believe in everything, right? He only wants this faith stuff to work on him. So what gives? Why is he trying to punish me for using the same standard that he wants us to use regarding everything else? If he doesn't want me believing in Hinduism, Scientology, or Supply-Side Economics; then he should probably give me a break for not believing in him too.

And what does he get out of it, anyway? I mean, he's already omnipotent and omniscient; and he's still not satisfied? He's got to have our unending love too? What an egomaniac! They say a lot of celebrities get that way, but I always thought that was the cocaine talking. Might God also be a cokehead? That sure would explain a few things. But seriously, what is he getting out of this? Why can't he just accept the fact that I'm a proof kind of guy, and let this one slide? I don't believe in him. I'm sorry, alright. But I just can't believe. It doesn't make any sense, and I've always been kind of preferential towards sensible things. I refuse to believe. And I don't see what his beef is with that. I don't hate him. I don't treat his people any more poorly than I treat anyone else. Hell, I've been known to help out with church activities on a few occasions. Just earlier today I helped put address labels on a bunch of church newsletters, and not once did I write some nasty "God Hates You" message in any of them; though the temptation was certainly there. And God's still going to punish me, just over the whole belief thing? I'm not buying it.

And honestly, would Hell be such a bad option if the only alternative was living in a Heaven with an unjust egomaniac god who insisted that we love him all the time? After all, belief alone would not be nearly enough, as it's really not that hard to believe in God when the Big Guy is standing in front of you all the time. So you're going to have to play it extra heavy with the love. And if we're talking about an unjust god who would punish good people simply because they didn't love him; do you really want to mess with the hassle? I mean, there's only so much kiss-assing you can do before you have one negative thought; and that might be enough for him to punish you for all of eternity. They never talk about people getting kicked out of Heaven, but I really don't see why not. What else would they do with the trouble-makers? There couldn't possibly be a jail in Heaven, so I'm sure they'd just boot-out anyone they wanted to.

And how bad could Hell be? I mean, really. Sure, maybe it really is the whole burning hellfire thing, or maybe some complicated Sartre-style nightmare. But the new fad among all the more intellectual Christians is a Hell that doesn't have any kind of punishment system at all. Just being away from God is considered its own punishment. And God doesn't send you there; you send yourself there by rejecting God. And that's pretty clever and everything; but I can't figure out exactly how that's supposed to work. I mean, all the people in Hell are going to be freewheeling party-people who are used to doing their own thing. So how is it possible that such people wouldn't start their own social circles and even form an economy? And then eventually even forming a government and just recreating how things were here? Heck, that might even be where we are now! And wouldn't the partying orgies be spectacular? Huge mounds of thousands of people humping away like nobody's business. Sure, there'd also be a lot of Muslims, Hindis, and other True Heathens whose only mistake was to be born in the wrong country. But once they realized that their religion was bunk, they'd probably be the hardiest partiers of them all. A lot of steam those people have to let-off; and while they might not get their 72 virgins, there would be no shortage of less-than-virginal women. Overall, I don't see why Hell wouldn't be the place to be. I much prefer hanging-out with the Hell-bound people here on earth, and I don't see why it wouldn't just be more of the same there. And this is again to be contrasted with a vengeful, jealous god who demands full love all the damn time.

But I'm just not buying it. Because if there is a creator, I think that he made things too good for him to be a mean guy. Maybe he'd punish the truly bad people. But I don't see how he'd consider rationality such a horrible offense. And I don't care how bad you were on earth, eternal punishment is simply absurd. I don't even care if you're Hitler, Stalin, and Bush combined (no moral equivalence intended); eternity is a damn long time to suffer. I could see a hundred years of sheer agony. Maybe a thousand years. Even possibly a million years. But eternity? That's just stupid. Who could believe that? Even Santa Claus lets you start over the next year, and the worst you've got to worry about is a lump of coal. God, by contrast, is clearly over-reacting.

And frankly, I can't help but think that this is all some ruse the Christians came up with as a marketing gimmick. Sort of like a never-ending chain letter. And it's not like there's any good evidence to suggest that this belief thing is at all necessary. Even if there is a God, there's no good reason to believe that he's going to punish me for eternity, simply for not believing. Sure, it says that kind of thing in the Bible (though it's not emphasized nearly enough, for how entirely crucial it supposedly is); but the Bible wasn't written by God. It was written by man. I can tell because the handwriting isn't the same. God always dots his i's with a little heart. And so even if I did believe in God, I still wouldn't put faith into that whole faith system they keep touting.

So I'm just going to fall back on the old standby of relying on logic and not believing. And if God has a big problem with that, then that's his problem. I just hope that my wife ends up in Heaven, so I don't have to ask permission to join the orgy mounds. But she's a nonbeliever too, so I suppose we'll be the two monogamous losers in Hell. But I guess they don't call it Hell for nothing, huh.

Update: For further reading, please see: Faith After Death.


Anonymous said...

For a nonbeliever, you expect too much of God.

Years ago, a Jewish poet told me that there's a line of Jewish thinking that says it's okay not to believe in God so long as you maintain a dialogue with him. I like that thought.

Then again, maybe you're on the right track: maybe God isn't perfect. Maybe he's been surrounded by too many yes men in the last three thousand years who sing his praises too much. If science has taught us anything, it's that nothing is as simple as we think it is.

Anonymous said...

Hey Doc,

I wanted you to know that I stumbled by total accident on your blog a couple of minutes ago and read this entry and I gotta be honest, it's one of the best reads that I've experience in a quite a while and that's coming from a full-fledged Christian since a young age whose also a pastor to students full-time.

I'm not here to condemn you by any means, I'm just here to perhaps offer a couple of observations and yet ask a couple of questions...take em' or leave em.

I gotta tell you, for someone who doesnt really want anything to do with God and thinks the whole thing is a load, you sure do write about the subject an awful lot.

I think its really fascinating on how we all have such different views on God. Nevertheless, here's my take on the whole "hell" thing...

Granted, this may sound like the Christian thing to believe but it's the basis for why I believe what I believe...

First, God didn't create hell for people; it was created for the devil (Matthew 25:41). When someone turns their back on God, they are following the way of the devil (That is what he did.). It would be like leaving America to join the army of an enemy. This person would be considered a traitor and would not be allowed to return to America as a citizen. They would be a citizen of the enemy nation. People who turn their backs on God – that is, they reject His Son, Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins – are not able to go to Heaven when they die because they have chosen the citizenship of God's enemy, satan.

Somewhere, rooted deep down inside of me, there are questions that I have just like you but I guess that the whole basis for believing in Christ is that I have to believe that it's not about just the "heaven or hell" thing that its more about the choosing to live for Christ thing.

I've asked myself, what would happen if there wasnt a God? If when I died, I didnt go anywhere at all. The only answer that I can come up with is that I'd be dead and so I wouldnt care that much. :) But what would I have lost?

I'm just convinced that it's better to love than to hate.

I'm convinced that its better to give away than to receive.

I'm convinced that its better to forgive than to hold feelings in.

I'm convinced that this world just didnt happen by circumstance and by chance.

I'm convinced that its better to live by faith than by sight.

On the other side though, what if there was? What then? Eternity, as stupid as it sounds, is a "hell of a long time". Speaking from a mind of subjectivity, it makes little sense not to believe.

It sounds like you've had some pretty crappy experiences in your past relating to church from reading some of your other blogs.

In any rate, I want you to know that I really respect your views and think that your analogies are just genius. Sometimes, the church makes me pretty sick as mentioned in my blog just a couple of days ago.

In any rate, I'll keep reading b/c I like your style with hopes that you're cool with it.


Anonymous said...

I most prefer the God in the comic series Preacher. He's a bit schizophrenic, bouncing back and forth from Old Testament Wrath to New Testament Love, but what he's really all about is vanity. He has Borderline Personality Disorder. He wants people to like him, but he realizes that it doesn't mean anything if he forces it, so he pathetically begs for their love. And since it doesnt make sense to ask for love and faith in a perfect world he fucks with people more and more and more, tries to see just how much he can get away with and have people still turn back and say 'I believe.' That kind of God really makes sense to me. That's the God that, as Bill Hicks would no doubt say, just wants to fuck with us, because He Himself has insecurity issues.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Speaking from a mind of subjectivity, it makes little sense not to believe.

But as I argue in my post, I seriously don't think that belief is the criteria that a god would hold us to. And what if there is some other god? And what if he doesn't like folks who worship the Christian god and punishes all of them? Or what if this god prefers people who explictly act on their own principles and morality, and hates people who follow religious teachings? Or what if you're wasting your time believing the wrong Christian god? There are tons of different versions of the Christian god, and what if you're believing in the wrong one; and he thinks you've rejected him because you don't handle snakes, or because you don't sit in a big auditorium waiting for him to heal your illnesses through a faith-healer(unless you do both of those things).

To me, it's just impossible to know if you're believing in the "right" god, and it's irrational to be expected to do so. So I say I'll live my life the way I think a life should be lead, and hope for the best. I think that that's the best that can be expected from any of us. And the main reward is that I get to sleep-in on Sundays. Sometimes, that extra sleep after a wild night can seem like eternity.

It sounds like you've had some pretty crappy experiences in your past relating to church from reading some of your other blogs.

Not at all. I've just always found it extremely boring. My dad still tries to get me to go to church whenever I visit him, especially when it's a Mass he's doing; but I'm just not having it. As I've explained to him, even if I did believe in God, I would still be too bored with church to bother going.

And I'm about as far from believing in God as anyone could be. It's an interesting topic to think about, but I just find the leap into belief to be the mental equivalent of me jumping to the moon. The other night, my dad took me out to dinner with a priest friend of his, and I was honestly worried that they'd ask me about why I don't believe in God, because I think I had a good chance of converting that priest to my way of thinking (he was one of those younger, hipper kind of priests). And the Catholic Church needs all the priests it can get, especially the younger guys, so I'd feel real guilty if he dropped out of the priesthood based upon something I said. As it was, we had a nice discussion, but barely touched upon the religion thing.

Anonymous said...


Thanks, doc, that was fun.

And though I believe in G-d, I most emphatically do NOT believe in life after death, and certainly not in eternity in hell for disbelief.

I suspect that those who insist on eternal hellfire share the belief apparently held by dusty: that one can only hold "it's better to love than to hate...better to give away than to receive....better to forgive than to hold feelings in" as part of religious faith. Sorry if I'm misreading you, dusty. If you don't think this, there are plenty who do. Anyway, if you believe that ethics must derive from faith, it makes a little more sense to condemn the obdurate unbeliever to damnation. Although even then, geez, why not try rehab therapy? Harsh!

The thing is though, I know too many fine upstanding atheists to believe this. Morality simply does not stem from faith for many people. In fact, given the number of faithholding jerks I see about me, I suspect the two only come together in rare individuals.

Larry said...

The worst part of Hell is going to be the incessant praying

pat said...

I sometimes replay this fantasy scene where Job is talking to god after his ordeal, and he says,"So, let me get this straight, this was all for a bet?"

Anonymous said...

'I'm convinced that its better to live by faith than by sight.'

Why? That simply makes no sense.

'On the other side though, what if there was?'

What if the Muslims are correct?

'What then? Eternity, as stupid as it sounds, is a "hell of a long time".'

You sir sound really silly and scared.

'Speaking from a mind of subjectivity, it makes little sense not to believe. '

But believe what? Why not Islam then, Hinduism, Scientology?

Anonymous said...

'I'm convinced that its better to live by faith than by sight.'

Physics vs. faith. Ignore your senses and venture out for a day. You're going to get hit by a car or fall down a stairwell pretty soon.

Anonymous said...

"I'm just convinced that it's better to love than to hate.

I'm convinced that it’s better to give away than to receive.

I'm convinced that it’s better to forgive than to hold feelings in.

I'm convinced that this world just didn’t happen by circumstance and by chance.

I'm convinced that it’s better to live by faith than by sight."

I believe in those things too. I also believe that this world was created by the trickster Smoking Mirror, to suit his contrary personality. While we do have a spark of the divine, this world was made as a work of art, or a joke. god does not care for us personally, nor does he claim to. Moral actions should be adopted not because god wants us to (In fact, he'd really rather we didn't) but because they help us to live better lives. In other words, we've got to want to do it for ourselves.

Now, for the big money question: Do I go to heaven or hell?

Obviously, my actions and philosophy are in accordance with those of your god, save that I don't believe in him. I don't want to die, nor do I want to be separated from god's love for all eternity, but I think that Christianity is a ridiculous farce.

So where do I go?

Let me take this a little further, since Socratic dialogue takes so long on a message board. There are a few common answers I want to go over:

1. Yes, you do get into heaven, because you want to go and it shows in your deeds. Okay, but then why bother with Christianity in the first place? Your religion says that all the other gods are false. This doctrine of falsity has been behind countless atrocities; In fact, just about every atrocity committed by Christians has been rooted in this philosophy. And it’s not in the past; to this very day Native Americans are feeling deleterious effects from Christian programs of genocide.

If it doesn’t matter what god I believe in, then why did your god argue that it does matter, and in fact it matters a great deal?

2. No, you don’t get into heaven, because you made the conscious decision to reject Christ.. All right, but what if I had been born an Aztec, and died in 1450? I have not made a decision to reject Christ, because I’ve never even heard of him. Do I get to go to heaven?

2a. Yes, because you still acted in Christ’s name, even though you didn’t consciously believe in him. This just leads to the same question as number one; Why bother with Christianity at all if heathens can get into heaven?

2b. No, because you need Christ to enter heaven. Then your god is a piece of crap who condemns people for the crime of being born in the wrong place, and I want nothing to do with him.

So, to sum up, I have two basic questions:

If Christianity is not necessary, then why create it, knowing it would cause so much pain and destruction?
On the other hand, if it IS necessary, then why limit it to such a narrow space, and condemn millions or even billions for no reason?

Zeno said...

Speaking from a mind of subjectivity, it makes little sense not to believe.

Shades of Blaise Pascal! Well, at least Dusty from Dallas is in good company. And I'm sure it's much, much easier to be a believer in Dallas than a nonbeliever.

I had a friend who thought Pascal's wager was just a killer of an argument. You've got to bet on the big pay-off, he'd say. I pointed out to him that Pascal might have gotten a bit carried away with Occam's razor when he cut the outcomes of his wager down to two: eternal happiness vs. eternal nothingness. There was no reason for Pascal to assume that he would manage to pick the right belief system if he chose to be religious. Most religionists are happy to condemn other sects to hellfire. (My sweet Catholic mother used to mutter "Blow it up!" whenever we drove by a Protestant church. It was kind of an unfunny running gag with her.) By the time you list all of the incompatible religious belief systems, your chances of picking the "right" one diminish to something close to ... zero!

Since we're all pretty much doomed, then, you may as well relax and take it easy.

NickM23 said...

Dusty's wager argument is convincing to a lot of people - I've seen it used again and again. The general point is what good does agnosticism do me? But knowing the truth, or at least pursuing it, is a good in and of itself.

I liken it to this analogy. You go to the doctor for your annual checkup. The doctor takes some X-rays and asks you to sit down. "See this right here?" she says, pointing to the X-ray glowing on a screen behind her. "It's a tumor, it's inoperable, and you have six months to live."

Those who argue in favor of taking Pascal's wager in the spite of the lack of evidence of God or an afterlife would, it seems to me, also argue that the best thing to do in the face of this evidence is to ignore it. What good is there in believing something unpleasant, although quite possibly true? Better to believe the thing that is pleasant without regard to its truth. In this situation, though, few of us probably would take this path.

Instead, it would be better and more rational to accept the evidence for what it is, accept that you don't like reality, but then go out and try to make the next six months the best of your life; make peace with feuding relatives; take time off from work; start writing that novel you've always thought you had in you, etc. The truth may be unpleasant, but that does not mean that we should ignore it in favor of fictions that aren't true but make us feel better.

It's the same way with religious faith, I believe. There's just no proof that any religion is correct - which is why they all come up with such different answers to fundamental questions. Anything basically could be right or wrong. In the face of this, although it might be more pleasant to believe a fiction, the better option is to accept that what we're presented with are a range of pleasant fictions, that the reality is a bit scary, but that it can be dealt with, and get on with it.

Anonymous said...

It's clear that people get hurt by churches and people claiming to be Christians, or whatever, everyday. It's because hurting people, hurt people. It happens, but instead of the snowball effect for evil forces, why don't we just naturally turn around and do the 'right' or good thing? Even those of us who call ourselves Christians, hurt?

Well, we would all be better people no matter what we label it, if we followed the Spirit of Christ, by exercising Grace and Love in our own lives and extend it to others. As we remember (What Jesus did for us on the cross, and Why He shed His Blood) we can be thankful, and work out our salvation before God, daily in prayer and thanksgiving.

This is pretty interesting, and is understandable if you listen with your 'Spiritual Ear'... God is Light, God is Love, God is Spirit. It's not a physical love of the flesh, but an attitude, so to speak; what is in your mind to do, and how are your thoughts? Who or what do you follow? If you're human, your thoughts are probably some good and some bad. And you probably think your thoughts are best so you probably go with what you think, huh? But God, (who is Love) knows what's best. God's Way is much higher than our way. God cares. God loves you and me, the sinners, but hates the sin (an evil, ill, bad nature and bad thoughts). God wants you and me to be forgiven, and for us to forgive others, as He forgives us. God, who is Light, Love, and Spirit, has mercy, gives grace, and inspires hope... that is why God sent His Son, Jesus (Jehovah is salvation) Christ (Anointed, which means to anoint, a smearing on or over, like a balm or ointment) is the meanings in Hebrew, Greek dictionaries.

The Good News is for: all who believe in the Name of Jesus, who have their hope in salvation, who trust in and love God... for without faith, it is impossible to please God.

It's pretty obvious that you do believe in God or you wouldn't have such enormous thoughts about Him. You are on a Spiritual Journey whether you know it or not... just keep seeking Him with your whole heart, and you will find Him. It's a prayer and a hope that God will reveal His Word, and make Himself known unto you in a very special way, in His timing. Praise God for His everlasting mercy, and grace.

1Cr 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
1Cr 2:10 But God hath revealed [them] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
1Cr 2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
1Cr 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
1Cr 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
1Cr 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned.
1Cr 2:15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
1Cr 2:16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

Doctor Biobrain said...

It's pretty obvious that you do believe in God or you wouldn't have such enormous thoughts about Him.

Uh, no. I just happen to be one of those lucky people who can think hypothetically about things without actually endorsing them. Rather than only seeing one possible point of view, I enjoy delving into all sorts of possible realities and find the ones I don't believe in to be more interesting than the one I already know. I don't believe in the existence of ghosts, aliens, hobgoblins, vampires, angels, demons, gods, or anything else I haven't seen; yet I fully enjoy discussing the possilbities of these things with anyone who wants to. And I don't see how doing so somehow commits me into believing in any of them. They're just a few of the infinite number of possible realities that are interesting to think about. To limit myself to the existence of a single god would be incredibly boring.

And that's why I find it impossible to believe in any sort of god. Even if I did find it necessary to believe that one existed, which I certainly don't, I would have absolutely no way of deciding which god is the proper one to believe in. Nor do I think anyone is adequately capable of making such decisions, which is why they generally go with the one they were raised to believe in. And the few people who don't do that either pick a belief system they prefer better or they just go without any gods. But again, I think these people suffer from a lack of imagination, as they seem incapable of seeing outside of the belief system they were raised in.

That's not to say that I'd knock anyone for choosing to believe in gods, aliens, vampires, etc; but I personally think they're mistaken. And I won't knock anyone else's beliefs just as long as they allow me to not believe what I choose not to believe and don't try to force their morals on to me. That's just the fair thing to do.

BTW, I think you need a new bible. Nobody talks like that anymore.