Saturday, June 8, 2013

Let's Talk about God Part IV

The last leg of my journey is where I discover some of the answers I had been seeking for the better
half of my life.  The people that knew me best, knew that I have always been hard on myself when it comes to my moral shortcommings.  Whenever I would express my grief and utter disappointment in myself, they would always say to me "you're only human."  Out of a sense of deep moral conviction, and much out of a fear of going to Hell for being an immoral douche, I would always say "well, I want to be better than human."

For a long time I felt like that was what God required of us--that life is nothing more than a test to see who can rise above their own humanity.

I didn't really care much about going to church at all, and nothing I did could ever recapture that magic that I had felt in boot camp.  My wife (at the time) and I had actually made a concerted effort to go to church while we lived in Norfolk, but once we moved back to Columbus that desire had all but disappeared.

It wouldn't be until the middle of college that I would finally find the solution to my crushing guilt and hopelessness.  It was a dark time in my life up to that point, and that partly contributed to the downfall of my marriage.  It's not easy to live with someone who truly grieves at the sad state of the world.  For some time, I actually felt guilty for having a child.  How could I bring this poor, innocent child into a world of such misery and horror?  How could I create another life that is doomed to die and to likely spend eternity in Hell with the rest of us?

But a professor of mine introduced me to a concept that wasn't necessarily new to me, but given that this professor is profoundly Catholic, it was almost shocking to hear it from his mouth.

What if Hell doesn't exist?

Now, this professor wasn't saying this as a way to challenge morality or ethics, but rather posing a question of psychology.  How would modern Christians be if the concept of Hell itself never existed?  That begs the more important question of why are some Christians so "faithful?"  Why was my dad always so concerned about my eternal soul?  How could he never bring himself to question his own faith?  One word blew the whole damn thing wide open for me.


This is not an indictment on all Christians.  Most Catholics don't even really think about the concept of Hell and eternal punishment.  But what I've noticed is that, historically, there has been an awful lot of fire and brimstone talk.  Look at the Great Awakenings in American History: all spawned from an overwhelming fear that the nation's people were doomed to damnation.

I asked myself "if God wants us to truly love him, then why would he threaten us with an eternity of pain and suffering lest we shower him with worship?"  That sounds awfully stupid, because a love born out of fear of the alternative is not love at all.  Just as well, why would an all-powerful being really care that we love him anyway?  Sure, I want my children to love me: they're my creation.  But I won't punish them if they don't love me.  I won't beat them until they're too afraid to hate me.

Maybe life is not all about making sure we go to heaven.  Maybe life is just about . . . wait for it . . . being good for the sake of being good.  It's difficult to be altruistic, but to love God because the alternative is being flayed and anally raped by demons for eternity seems a bit selfish to me.

And so I planted firm and I made my determination.  The world is a terrible place, and I can't always be completely good.  But I'm going to do my best to do what I think is right.  I will try to be just, compassionate, and empathetic.  If I fail, then I fail.  What I will not do, however, is allow fear to be my moral compass.  I will do what I believe is the right thing, and if for that reason God wants to send me to Hell, then so be it.  That would not be a God I want to party with anyway.

I don't believe in a God that is so petty that he required a human sacrifice.  I don't believe in a God who is so narrowminded that he sends 90% of every human who ever lived straight to Hell simply because they didn't buy into the whole Jesus thing.  And I don't believe that a book written 2,000 years ago by humans who barely understood the world around them should be taken literally.

I'm going to do my best to be the best as I can given the world around me.  If that makes me a bad person, then "God" can kiss my ass.


Silverfiddle said...

"But I'm going to do my best to do what I think is right. I will try to be just, compassionate, and empathetic."

Echoes of "...thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..." there.

To borrow from cheesy contemporary lovespeak, God "completes us." Why else would you seek Him, as deeply stung as you are?

Doing his will on earth may not bring us earthly happiness (indeed,it often brings trouble and scorn,) but it does bring us a soul-satisfying coherence and meaning.

Dante brought us the concept of a fiery hell. In reality, it is a permanent separation from God. A prospect much more horrible, if you think about it.

Anonymous said...

Well, you are certainly entitled to believe whatever you wish Silver.

Here is my main problem with the way the people of faith explain things of this nature: they start out with the conclusion already known, and then find evidence to support that conclusion, ignoring evidence that doesn't.

Take for instance the bible and it's plethora of interpretations, I have heard people twist scripture to make it sound accurately prophetic, finding meaning and accurate predictions where I can see none at all.

Furthermore, if you did find something profoundly accurate, instead of dismissing it as coincidence, they come to the conclusion the entire body of work must be true.

So with that being said... I predict that tonight it will get dark, the sun will set over the horizon, and the moon will be visible. Also, Rand Paul will turn into a werewolf and disembowel Ben Bernanke.

You call it seeking "God" I call it seeking the truth. "God" to me is just a concept, a hypothesis. That would be like me as an agnostic saying to you "The Sun is responsible for life." which you would probably find laughable.

you can't convince someone to change their outlook by being insensitive to their outlook. I don't really care either way what you believe, that is for you to explain to yourself, find an explanation that works for you and roll with it.

The other day at a high school, a kid made the news by destroying his valedictorian speech and reciting the lord's prayer. I personally have ZERO issue with this. None. Nada. He is allowed to say whatever he wants. People generally rallied behind this kid and called him brave.

Now, when the same situation happens and it's an Atheist that rips his speech up and starts explaining why he feels that steadfast belief in the supernatural leads to an incomplete view of reality, I wonder how many people would support and rally around him.

Silverfiddle said...

"you can't convince someone to change their outlook by being insensitive to their outlook."

I didn't think I was being insensitive. Jack has posted his thoughts, and has invited comments.

I knew I should have stayed unplugged...

Jack Camwell said...

It's not that I'm seeking God per se, more of just seeking the answers--answers that I know I'll never find.

The problem I have with some Christians is that they are only good because they believe it will get them to heaven.

You've said once or twice, I believe, that if it was somehow irrefutably revealed that there is no God, then morality wouldn't exist and many people would simply just do whatever they please.

That's why I think people like myself are infinitely more righteous, and that's why I think moral atheists have stronger moral centers than some Christians. Because if you don't believe in eternal reward for your good deeds, nor believe in eternal punishment for your sins, then your actions have greater altruism to them.

For me, selflessness is the true indicator of a pious heart. Doing good simply because one is afraid of the alternative doesn't amount to much other than the extrinsic positive effect it may have. Doing good for the sake of doing good--doing good purely because you WANT to, and not because some otherworldly force told you to--that is infinitely more satisfying and a true use of one's free will.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, Silver ALL of that wasn't directed at you. That part in particular wasn't. You aren't trying to convert Jackie, I was mostly adding fuel to his fire.

Jersey McJones said...

My favorite book of the Bible is Job. It points out the hypocrisy of the belief in God; we're blessed in good times and damned in bad. Well, duh.

You can see the world through the lens of religion if you choose, but it has no bearing in what the world is really doing around you.

And belief in Heaven is really no different to belief in Hell. Just two sides of the same coin. It's either a bribe or extortion. Either way it is an unethical expression of a selfish love.


Jack Camwell said...

Well, Job was a pious man according to the story and considered blessed even as he was going through the trials. So it sort of teaches the opposite of what you were saying.

The book of Job was more meant as an explanation of why bad things happen to good people. The bible does make it seem like we're blessed in good times and damned in bad, as you say, but I'm sure the people of the time saw that this fact was not always the case.

Of course, if there is a God I don't think he has house parties with demon lords and shit, but it's just another story created by peoples who had limited understanding of the world around them.

"If there is a God who loves us, why does he let us suffer?" Because God chills with Satan every now and then, and they place bets on who has the most loyal subjects, of course!

Jersey McJones said...

I understand what Job teaches. I also understand what it shows.