There I sat in a booth at Panda Express as a very old friend of mine, with tears in his eyes, tells me how much he loves me and that he doesn’t want me to burn in hell. He quotes to me John 3:36 and assures me that if I die on this “journey” that I’m destined for hell. God won’t look at my heart and allow me passage into heaven. I’ll be cast from his sight and tortured for all eternity.
My friend’s concerns and pleas have been echoed in the faces, letters and discussions of a large percentage of my believing friends and family.
This rouses several feelings in me, not the least of which is pity. For one thing I’m touched that they care enough to voice their concerns for my well being. I know it can’t be easy to be so direct as to tell someone you love that they’re going to hell.
Another thing it made me feel was anger. Anger at a belief system that so effortlessly and without evidence draws lines in the sand of “us and them.” A belief system that has such massive baggage of fear. One very dear person to me wept uncontrollably at the thought of me not being in heaven with them. “It’s such a terrible thought, Nate! I can’t take it!”
Which brings me to the last thing I felt, pity. Pity that these smart, caring and good natured friends and family have their minds enslaved to such a horrific idea. The idea of hell is so terrifying that they’ll cling to belief in a rather sad display of Pascal’s Wager while never understanding how poor a reason for belief it is.
Long and hard I’ve pondered on what grip religion would hold people in without the fear of hell. What a sales pitch! “Accept my Son as the One True God and spend an eternity in paradise. Reject him and burn in hell for eternity.” Wow. If a sane person truly believed that these options are the reality, then only a loon would choose to reject Jesus. So much for free will when such coercion is being paraded around like a toddler with a gun.
One thing that these encounters kept bringing to my mind over and over again was how loving these people are. They’re good people. They care about me. They love me.
The big revelation happened when I was responding to my friend at Panda Express. It hit me that he was more loving than his god. Here he is, warning me about my impending doom while the god he believes in sits there and lets me stumble and fall without a seeming care in the universe. All the while knowing that he’s going to toss me in hell.
Please allow that to sink in and then apply some logic. The god I’d always loved and believed in had allowed me to stumble in my walk. Then it allowed me to work and try and find him because I’d always been assured that “all truth is God’s truth.” Then, when I didn’t find him anywhere, allows me to lose all reason for belief. What kind of deity or god allows such a thing to take place? I see only 2 options: one that doesn’t care or one that doesn’t exist. When your god has everything to gain by strengthening your faith and refuses to, you have to wonder where it’s priorities are or if it’s even there.
So, I’d come to the realization that all my friends worrying over my soul and proactively working to save it are more loving and caring than the god they serve. They showed up. Their god didn’t.
Please don’t think that god put these people here to share himself with me. If he can’t be bothered to do a bit of his own work then why should I assume that he empowered somebody else to? Especially when these people are giving such weak arguments for god and all without evidence because who arms someone for verbal combat so poorly? It all comes back to faith and as I’ve spoken of briefly in the past, it’s not a good thing to have. It’s believing in something that has no reason for being believed or to put it as Christopher Hitchens did, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
As a believer you may bristle or balk at the idea that your god isn’t loving, but it’s how I and every atheist I’ve come to know view him. Think about it. Would you ever consider sending someone to a place of eternal torment? Even the worst of psychopaths doesn’t deserve it for all eternity, let alone someone for committing the thought crime of unbelief. Is having someone tortured for eternity love?
Your love for your fellow man and helping with food drives, money, time, resources, relationships and energy all display love for people in far greater ways than your god ever can or will.
Certainly you can, and more than likely you already are, telling yourselves of all the times “God showed up” in your life and showed his love, but how do you really know this to be god? Is your church helping you pay some late bills really god showing up or is it the tithes of your fellow church goers going into you bank account? Is your doctor catching an early sign of cancer god showing up or is a person that’s spent years in training doing their job? Is you finding a parking space at the mall on Black Friday god showing up or is it just the ebb and flow of traffic? Is the rain holding out on your wedding day god showing up or just weather patterns with no cares about you? Does every coincidence have to be draped with the blanket of god showing his love for us?
With no way to evaluate god’s love for you or how much he shows up in your life how can you even assume that he’s ever been there? Hell, I still have things happen to me that, in the past, I would have attributed to god. A close call at a stop sign not long ago reminded me of how I used to always think that that was god looking out for me.
You are a better and more loving being than your god has ever been. Such empowering thoughts are not only true, but entirely freeing of the ideas of a heaven or hell.