“Hell” by Hans Memling, 1485 By Courtney
I pointed out (in My Atheist Manifesto) that the Bible claims that people will know Christians at first glance 'by their light,' being such serene and loving beings, and how that's actually never the case. Christians rebut this, with such reliable consistency that you could bet your house on it, by claiming that most Christians are not 'true' Christians.
Let's pretend that this is true for an instant. In that case, we can glean two things:
- It is extremely hard to be a Christian, as only very few people can pull it off despite all the millions that are trying, and
- If only 'true' Christians get into Heaven, as they say, then even MORE people than we already know of are headed toward eternal torture.
The vast majority of God's beloved creations will die and be tormented, the killers along with the nonbelievers, the stubborn rationalists who insisted upon working in the soup kitchens rather than just TALKING about caring for others, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Wiccans, the rebellious and emotional teenagers, the people who tried to be good 'true Christians' but just couldn't get the glow down, and everyone else who simply didn't buy the story or who just let their short time run out before deciding to believe it.
So if you subscribe to the notion that most Christians are not 'true' Christians, then congratulations, your God just got even scarier!
Careful! You've got, if you're lucky, 100 years max (not including your first few when you were unable to accept or reject the gospel story) to accept Jesus as your personal savior, and if you get it wrong, your 100 year crime will be fittingly punished with eternal torture! That means forever and ever, time out of mind!!
Imagine if our justice system worked like God's. You'd go to court because you were caught stealing a CD. The judge finds you guilty and sentences you to life in prison. But then you say, "I'm so sorry, I repent, I'll never steal a cd again." (Say it with feeling, now).The judge says, "Oh. OK. Sentence revoked."
You go to court for molesting and murdering a child. Gavel bangs - guilty! Life in prison! "Wait!" you say. "I'm so sorry! I know I'm a monster! Please forgive me!"
"Oh," judge says. "Good remorse. Sentence revoked."
You go to court because you told the judge, "Hey judge, I don't like you and I don't believe in your authority!"
Ohh, you got it coming now. NOBODY denies the judge. Life in prison! No possibility of parole!
And to make it more Godly, prison involves constant torture. Also, you better get as much crime and repentance in as you like while you can, because one of these days (nobody knows when, not even the high officials), the judge is gonna declare life in prison for everyone who failed to respect the judge's authority, who perhaps liked another judge better or trusted their own judgment more. See, it's not so much about the crimes you commit as the judge-dissing. He just hates it. Crime's boring, so black and white - they all merit the same punishment, they all piss him off equally. Except for the judge-dissing. That one deserves extra attention.
But then again, what am I saying? God's ways are higher than ours. Duh.
And the any-second-now-could-be-the-end-of-the-world thing is just how he keeps you on your toes.
Careful! You've got, if you're lucky, 100 years max (not including your first few when you were unable to accept or reject the gospel story) to accept Jesus as your personal savior, and if you get it wrong, your 100 year crime will be fittingly punished with eternal torture! That means forever and ever, time out of mind!! And this is the kind of psychological torture we pass on to our kids. One particularly memorable day happened when I was around 13 and in youth group. A friend of mine, after having read about the 'unforgivable sin' of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, burst into uncontrollable tears, knowing that she had in fact done just that and that she was now surely condemned to eternal torture. It was right there in black and white, between two leather-bound covers. I also became extremely concerned about the fate of my soul, wondering if I too had done it at some point. The youth pastors were useless at consoling her; they could provide no definite proof that she wasn't going to Hell. How could they rebut the Bible? They eventually asked for time to figure it out and get back to her. They came back with the simple solution: Was she hard-hearted? The Bible says only hard-hearted people blaspheme against God. No, she wasn't, she said. Therefore, the stricture didn't include her.
Classic acrobatic and flimsy apologetics, and I think it did little to comfort her. I'm sure she has issues to this day.
(On a side note, it was later revealed that one of the youth pastors and the senior pastor were having an affair. Looks like we were getting our morality from some unreliable sources.)
I also remember having nightmares about Jesus, who I had learned was an all-powerful being who can see your every bad thought. Every night he killed me in a new way, once by squashing me to death between two slowly converging giant stone walls, once by pushing me off a cliff, once by forcing me to try to figure out a puzzle on the wall made of light - if I failed, a giant crane (machine, not bird) would slowly descend form the sky to get me (some of them were quite creative). It makes me anxious to this day thinking about those nightmares.
Or how bout all the times when you really stopped to consider that in the next eye blink the world might end and if you're not good enough, you're doomed. Did that ever make anybody else's heart skip a beat and palms sweat?
Or the general anxiety you felt as a Christian trying to stay enthusiastic about God all day every day and be perfect and not succumb to the evil influences that surrounded you at all times?
But the most blatant and unashamedly brash form of this fear-mongering was the Heaven/Hell night...remember those? They'd hold a sort of play in a party atmosphere, with donuts and punch to boot, acting out the frightening 'realities' of life in Hell, and the wonderfully pleasant tiptoe through the tulips that is Heaven. You got to walk through both to see what they were like and decide which one you'd prefer. They even acted out people dying and ending up in one or the other. Some people would end up in front of the pearly gates, where a hostess would check for their name in the Book of Life. If they found it - congrats! Your limo's waiting to take you to your new golden mansion!
But one guy, oh, he screwed up. He was a teenager who died in a horrific car crash, a basically good kid but he hadn't accepted the Lord when his head was smashed in. Straight to Hell. Satan's waiting, and you better believe there are NO donuts.
Many very young kids were there of course, some of them visibly upset by the whole thing, and probably having Jesus is gonna squish me between two walls nightmares.
I'm thankful for sites like this and books that are bringing more and more light to the kind of pain and psychological issues that churches peddle regularly. It is not anywhere near OK, and contrary to what churches claim, it often does the opposite of nurturing.