A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What If I'm Wrong About This?

Having just acknowledged that I can be wrong and be perfectly aware that I'm capable of being wrong, I come to the topic of being wrong about gods and the afterlife.

Hell is a particularly insidious concept that really epitomizes the effectiveness of the carrot and the stick approach to coercion. On the one hand you've got this fairy tale place commonly referred to as Heaven where there's no more suffering, no more worry, no more sickness or death. In Heaven you experience an eternity of bliss while you reunite with loved ones and sing the praises of the all-powerful God. But if you reject God (and thus Heaven) then your only option is Hell, a lake of fire and brimstone where you experience unending torment and shame for all of eternity. I've listened to more than a few stories of people who were traumatized by fear of Hell as children, and a few adults who struggle with religion only because they're afraid that leaving it might actually send them to Hell. It can have that much power over our minds.

Unconditional Love Nowadays I can easily laugh it off. If you tell me I'm destined for Hell, I'll tell you I'm going to punch you in the aura. Neither threat has any power over me, but it wasn't always that way. I used to worry that my journey away from religion might actually be sending me to Hell. It's a common question that occurs to anyone with even a shred of self-awareness: what if I'm wrong?

If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong. We're wrong about things all the time. Do I have the chicken or the fish? Let's say I choose the fish and it makes me sick. I had no way of knowing the fish was prepared improperly so I was wrong because I didn't have enough information to make the right choice. There are things we can't know beforehand that necessarily impede our ability to choose.

So if I'm wrong about this and I end up in Hell it won't be because I'm rebellious or obstinate. It will be because the god who puts me there doesn't care enough to make sure I have the information I need to make a good choice. That's his fault, not mine. I don't believe in auras, elves, unicorns, leprechauns, gods or the afterlife. If it turns out I'm wrong about any of those assumptions then I'll be wrong because I have no reason to believe in them, and that's the right reason to be wrong.

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