Why I Refuse to Fear Hell

I was forced into a conversation I didn’t want with a Christian friend last night, so I am going to share some thoughts. I am not out to upset my religious friends who may visit this site. But, I cannot and I will not share your fear of Hell. And here’s why…

Hell is… NOT REAL. As is the case for, well, all religious claims. There isn’t even the tiniest shred of evidence to back up the claim that Hell is real, and that holds true for all other religious claims, whether they are pleasant or scary.

Back in my very religious days, I once believed in Hell. I thought it was real because, like most religious people, I engaged in circular reasoning. Hell was real because the Bible said so and the Bible was the Word of God because it said so and I was assured that that was the case by people I trusted at the time. But they too engaged in the same circular reasoning for the same reasons I did. It’s a never-ending cycle, and it’s one of the reasons religion continues to survive despite the fact that the Bible has been thoroughly debunked online now for many years.

I no longer believe in or waste a moment of my life worrying about or fearing Hell, for the following reasons.

1) Hell is a morally reprehensible concept
2) There is exactly ZERO evidence that Hell actually exists
3) I cannot and would not worship a God who would create such a place or who would burn anyone for any reason for even one second, because such a God, by definition, would be EVIL. Such a God would, by definition, be a MONSTER!

According to the Bible, Hell is a flaming torture chamber where human beings are barbecued forever with no hope of reprieve and where human beings are tormented by demons non-stop, forever, with no hope of reprieve.

Does such a terrible place actually exist? NO, of course not.

If a human parent burned their child for even one second for ANY reason, we would quite rightly consider that parent to be a monster, and we would remove that child from their care immediately. But… millions of people enthusiastically worship a God who not only burns his children for seconds, but for all eternity! And this monster of a God gets a free pass, and we are assured that this God is Love and that he has good reasons for barbecuing his children for all of eternity with no hope of reprieve. We are told that this God is holy and that he cannot tolerate sin, and that if we don’t accept Jesus as our savior so God can wash away our sin and see us through the blood of Jesus, we are filthy sinners who deserve to be punished infinitely for finite sins.

But… THINK ABOUT IT. Can a God who burns his children for ANY reason be considered holy or righteous or even good? NO, OF COURSE NOT. Even if we are not his children but children of the devil if we don’t accept Jesus, is it right to burn us? Is it ever acceptable to burn anyone for ANY reason? OF COURSE NOT! When Christians had the political power to do so, was it ever right or acceptable for them to burn people at the stake? NO, OF COURSE NOT!

And, of course, it is not right or acceptable for a God to burn anyone for even one second for ANY reason… such an idea is monstrously evil, and such a God would be monstrously evil…

I reject belief in God primarily because there is not a shred of credible evidence that the Christian God or any other god actually exists. But if the Christian God did exist and Hell was real, I would reject that God on moral grounds and I would quite rightly consider him to be monstrously evil…

If you would not burn your child for any reason, no matter what they did, then why are you worshiping a God who supposedly burns human beings forever with no hope of reprieve?

And I’ll say this too… some Christians recognize the morally reprehensible nature of the doctrine of Hell, and they try to soften the concept by saying that it just means separation from God… as if that was something awful. But I will say this. I have had more peace, more joy, more happiness, and more contentment since I walked away from belief in God than I ever did when I was religious. And, I value myself and my life far more now than I ever did when I was religious. If separation from God is Hell, then I have to say that I am not suffering for it at all. Not one bit…

My 2 cents… which I hope will break the cycle of circular reasoning in my religious friends and get them to THINK about what they profess to believe… Carry on… 🙂

New Atheism, Meet Existential Risk Studies

This is very important reading, whether you are religious or not. But it’s especially important if you are religious.

From http://thehumanist.com/magazine/march-april-2016/features/new-atheism-meet-existential-risk-studies:

While the New Atheist movement isn’t, and has never been, a monolithic phenomenon, its primary motivating idea can be reduced to a single statement, namely that religion is not merely wrong, but dangerous. In fact, religion is dangerous precisely because it’s wrong: it commands believers to act according to “moral” precepts and guidelines that are ultimately based on private revelations had by ancient prophets claiming special access to the supernatural. Put differently, religion is our very best instance of institutionalized bad epistemology, and this is what makes it unreasonable to accept. And when its doctrinal systems are put into practice, they often compromise our well-being and prosperity.

Copious evidence substantiates this contention. On the one hand, history is overflowing with bloody conflicts driven by antagonistic religious dogmas held by fanatics who cared more about the otherworldly than the worldly. And, as the 2014 Global Terrorism Index affirms, religious extremism constitutes the primary driver of terrorism around the world today. Even more, numerous empirical studies have shown that, to quote the sociologist Phil Zuckerman, secular people are “markedly less nationalistic, less prejudiced, less anti-Semitic, less racist, less dogmatic, less ethnocentric, less close-minded, and less authoritarian” than religious people. And the most secularized countries tend to be the happiest, the most peaceable (according to the Global Peace Index), and, as reported by the Economist’s think tank several years ago, the “best places to be born.” While Christopher Hitchens’ declaration that “religion poisons everything” might be somewhat exaggerated, religious belief is consistently associated with diminished levels of human flourishing.

I’m an ex-Christian, an Atheist, and a Humanist. I believe that we could build a beautiful world right here and right now if we just were willing to put aside our differences and work together. But the most important thing we can do right now is to fight the religious extremism that is threatening our very survival as a species. I’m certainly not one of the biggest atheist names on the Net right now. But even so, the realities in this article are why I speak out against religious belief and why I feel it is so important for us to leave religious belief in the dustbin of history as the bad idea it was and is and move on to much healthier ways of believing and living in this world.

A part of me just doesn’t understand why so many people still cling to religious belief when it is so manifestly ridiculous. I mean, come on, Christianity is based on the belief that the world is as it is because a talking snake convinced two obviously mythical people to eat magic fruit from a magic tree. And the mission of Jesus? He came to earth to magically undo the magical damage that the magic fruit caused (1 John 3:8). And after Jesus magically undoes the damage that the magic fruit from the magic tree caused, He’s gonna kick the Talking Snake’s ass once and for all.

How much more ridiculous can religious belief get? Christianity is absurd and it’s very easy to refute, yet millions of otherwise intelligent people cling to it and believe in it very strongly. In a way, I understand that because I was there too for fifteen years of my younger life. But I realized it was bullshit and I walked away and, of course, I’m much better off for it. I wish for everyone to be FREE! That’s why I speak out, so that hopefully I can leave the world a better place than I found it.

Glory!

If Jesus is the Word of God…

Christians consider Jesus to be the Word of God, based on at least two verses of scripture.

He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. (Rev. 19:13 ESV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 KJV)

And the Bible is considered to be the Word of God, so when you read the Bible you are reading Jesus! Glory!

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16 KJV)

Christ-returns-white-horses-Rev19-bylined

If Jesus is the Word of God and the Bible is Jesus in written form, then the Bible must be Perfect, right? And, indeed, Christians do believe the Bible to be inerrant and infallible. Believing that Jesus is the Word of God sounds great…until you consider the contents of the Bible. Let’s take a brief look at just a few troublesome verses.

It doesn’t take long to run into trouble. In fact, the very first verse of the Bible is wrong, and things just go rapidly downhill from there.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1 KJV)

The universe was not created by a god, and billions of years separate the beginning of the universe from the formation of our solar system and the earth.

Genesis chapters 1 & 2 contain contradictory creation myths and the account degenerates rapidly into a ridiculous myth involving two obviously mythical people (Adam and Eve), a talking snake, and magic fruit from magic trees.

adam-and-eve

If the Bible is the Word of God, shouldn’t it reflect reality as it actually is instead of containing ancient mythology? A real creation account from a real, existing omniscient God would make the fields of cosmology and astronomy and astrophysics superfluous because all of that knowledge would be there for us to simply read, courtesy of God in the Bible.

Christians believe that Isaiah 9:6 refers to Jesus, calling him the prince of peace.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 KJV)

Back in the late 1980’s, Twila Paris had a hit song entitled “Prince of Peace”, which I loved back in my Christian days.

But, if Jesus is the Prince of Peace, shouldn’t the Bible be a book of peace? Shouldn’t it promote love and tolerance and understanding toward all of mankind? What we find instead when we actually read it is a book absolutely loaded with shocking brutality and violence.

Jeremiah 19:9 – “And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them.”

Hosea 13:16 – “Samaria will be held guilty, For she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, Their little ones will be dashed in pieces, And their pregnant women will be ripped open.”

Psalm 137:9 – “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!”

Leviticus 26:29 – “And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.”

The Bible contains many shocking atrocities, too numerous to list here, many of them depicting God either ordering or directly committing mass murder or genocide. Relevant link:

http://infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/atrocity.html

The brutal beating that Jesus took while supposedly paying for our sins would be considered an act of brutality today, and if it was in any book other than the Bible, most people today would be repulsed by it.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5 KJV)

christ_passion_movie_cross

I wrote about the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, a barbaric idea by today’s standards, not too long ago. Relevant link:

http://religionisbullshit.me/doctrine-substitutionary-atonement/

I could go on, but I think this post is getting long enough, and I think I have made my point. Glory! 🙂

Ending Biblical Brainwash

This glorious article appeared several years ago (circa 2002) on a now-defunct website.

Imagine that you’re a psychiatrist. A new patient comes to see you and says that he regularly talks to an invisible being who never responds, that he reads excerpts from one ancient book and that he believes wholeheartedly that its contents must be accepted implicitly, if not taken literally. The patient goes on to say that that the world is only 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs never existed. He brazenly rejects modern science’s observations and conclusions, and subscribes to the notion that after death he will live in eternal bliss in some alternate dimension. And throughout your meeting, he keeps handing you his book and urging you to join him, lest you end up after death in a far less desirable alternate dimension than him. Is this a mentally healthy person? If you were a responsible psychiatrist, how could you answer yes? These symptoms border on delusional schizophrenia, which the American Psychological Association’s DSM-IV describes as involving a profound disruption in cognition and emotion, assigning unusual significance or meaning to normal events and holding fixed false personal beliefs. So, should you insist on follow-up appointments along with some strong medication? Well, quite obviously, the patient is a religious fundamentalist. So he would most likely not be diagnosed with a psychological problem. In fact, such a diagnosis could land you in hot water; the patient’s religious beliefs are constitutionally protected. Yet, perhaps it’s time this changed, and that we made religious fundamentalism a mental and cultural health issue. People should be able to believe what they like, but only so long as their convictions don’t harm others or, arguably, themselves. Fundamentalism, however, breeds fanaticism and often leads to terrible violence, injustice and inequality. If society can force drug addicts into rehabilitation because they’re a danger to themselves and the public, then we should be able to compel religious fundamentalists to undergo treatment as well.

Religion as virus of the mind

The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins considers religion an opportunistic and dangerous virus of the mind. Comments such as these have a long history, as religion has been a particularly popular target in the post-Enlightenment age. Marx claimed that religion was the opiate of the people. Freud claimed that it was an infantile need for protection in place of the parent. Ayn Rand thought that belief in God was demeaning to man. Nietzsche put it this way: “Is man one of God’s blunders, or is God one of man’s blunders?” Dawkins’ theory has much merit. He describes religion as a “meme,” an idea that gets passed from person to person and generation to generation like a virus that infects hosts to reproduce its genes. Under this view, religion is a potent memeplex that works at a cultural and psychological level. Some psychologists even believe that the human brain is hardwired for spirituality, perhaps to help rational and intelligent organisms remain sane and functional while dealing with the confusions of existence. Regardless, the human psyche has proven fertile ground for religious memes, which have evolved and withstood selective pressures over time and, as a result, now “organize” their hosts in such a way that institutions, including the legal system, have come to their protection. Evangelical memes — such as those of Jesuits and Jehovah’s Witnesses — are some of the best at reproducing.

When faith goes bad

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Under memetic theory, any idea that gets reproduced is a meme. So when do religious memes go bad? What distinguishes fundamentalism from other types of religious belief systems? Philosopher Daniel Dennett, in an essay called “Protecting Public Health,” provides some guidance. “As science and technology eliminate the barriers and friction that have heretofore constrained our human powers and thereby limited the scope of our moral choice, mankind’s need for a reasoned, consensual, and open-minded ethics will become ever more pressing,” he writes. Dennett is concerned with the fallacies and misinformation that people cling to — including conspiracy theories, superstitions, mysticism, astrology and, especially, fundamentalism. He states, “Fanaticism of every sort, on every issue, is bound to compete for our attention…[and] unfortunately, many people cling to the simple wrong answers, and are even prepared to die — and kill — for them.” Intervening in people’s thinking, however, is a sensitive issue, as it touches upon freedom of speech and freedom of religious expression. People have the right to be foolish, naive or dogmatic, just as they have the right to smoke cigarettes and drink too much alcohol. So at what point do a person’s convictions become a health issue? In my opinion, the answer is this: A belief becomes cognitively unhealthy when the believer’s free will and normal critical processes have been damaged by the belief system’s dialectic. I argue that fundamentalist religions, insofar as they cripple a believer’s ability to have free will, exhibit rational choice and appropriately assess the nature of the physical environment, have already passed this threshold.

Danger to society

Moreover, the effect of fundamentalism on society is as detrimental as the effect of fundamentalism on believers. Fundamentalists are the ones who fly planes into skyscrapers and murder doctors that perform abortions. They are the ones who deny the existence of proven physical phenomena while rabidly insisting on the existence of clearly unsubstantiated marvels. They are also incapable of recognizing that they have a problem, and are often amongst the most intolerant people on this planet, commonly referring to non-believers as pagans, heathens, or infidels. And historically, underdeveloped sciences, mystically perpetuated pseudo sciences and false assumptions about the nature of reality have resulted in misery and countless social injustices. The more rational the understanding that humans have about their existence, the better off they are in dealing with the hazards of life and developing humane moral philosophies.

Acceptable belief systems Of course, some beliefs and worldviews are more debilitating than others (both to the believer and to the society around them). Orthodox and literalist theologians apply a very limited worldview to reality, often basing their perceptions of existence on ancient texts and mythologies. Fundamentalist Judeo-Christians are no exception, as many still believe in Creationism, a 6,000-year-old earth and Noah’s Ark. But what about more moderate beliefs? What about belief in an immaterial soul? Or that Jesus performed miracles? Is it mentally unhealthy to believe such things? When do we cross the line and infringe upon constitutional rights? Ultimately, belief in the soul or Jesus’s resurrection is not so unhealthy as to render believers dysfunctional. Some of the brightest and most creative contributors to society were (and are) staunch Christians. It was Bach, after all, who composed music for the glory of God. Furthermore, most people in the West rarely think about the deeper ramifications of their existence and humanity’s relationship with God. Sermons are no longer fire and brimstone threats but, instead, poignant stories about why we should love and help our neighbors — issues that I would categorize as self-evident truths, and hardly the monopoly of religious doctrine. Modern religions are useful in that they have taken on the character of moral philosophies which help followers with interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. Religions form an important, if not essential, role in society. They offer community, existential explanations, compassionate and valuable moral codes and an outlet for the human need for spirituality. (Personally, I am agnostic, as I recognize just how sublime and mysterious the universe really is.) Also, neither modern scientism nor any other contemporary belief system is perfectly healthy. In fact, stubborn Western empiricists could learn a lot from Eastern philosophies. As Freud once said, “It is a mistake to believe that a science consists in nothing but conclusively proved propositions, and it is unjust to demand that it should. It is a demand only made by those who feel a craving for authority in some form and a need to replace the religious catechism by something else, even if it be a scientific one.” The differentiating factor must be this: A belief system is a mental disorder when it causes believers to deny the observations of empirical methodologies. With fundamentalists, this involves denying the nature of the physical world as it is being presented in favour of archaic and unyielding irrational orthodoxies; their brains have been infected and debilitated with unsubstantiated nonsense. Kill the meme, not the patient Since I’m arguing for categorizing something as a disease, it only makes sense for me to also propose a cure. And it is this: Engineer fundamentalist memes out of existence. Fundamentalists have been mobilized by an unconscious meme that seeks to protect and propagate itself at all costs, even at the expense of a host’s mental well-being. Viruses do exactly the same thing, often killing a host as they seek out transmission vectors. The best way to prevent a meme from gaining a stranglehold on a host is to prevent it from reproducing in the first place. With religious fundamentalism, I propose two key elements for memetic immunization. The first is responsible and accountable education and reporting of information to the public (including educational institutions, the media and the government). Children who are taught Creationism rather than natural selection, for example, are being primed for memetic infection. The second is raising the standard of living of all people. Assisting Third World nations would help alleviate problems of disenfranchised youths who become desperate and turn to religious fanaticism. As proof of this strategy, we need only look at how the Taliban recruited members: They attracted poor and uneducated boys who easily accepted radical Islam as an outlet for their frustrations. And without proper education they were unable to properly distinguish religious gibberish from fact. An important point needs to be made here, however: Killing a cultural artifact is not analogous to killing people. Culture is not self aware. Irrational fundamentalists should be treated as we treat others suffering from psychological ailments and offered immediate help. We should see them as suffering from a disease and help them to accept a more moderate religious stance and develop a more balanced life. Hopefully, this will return to them free will, rationality and self-respect. In my opinion, these are the elements that give human lives meaning and purpose.