Monthly Archives: April 2009

I is born agin

Making heaven hellish

In the last week or so, Jerry and I have had someone close in our lives inform us that we are eternally destined for the fires of hell, since we have rejected our previously-held Christian faith. Needless to say, it was a bit of a conversation dampener.

Yet this reminded me of one of the reasons (amongst the many) of why I rejected my faith — hell. Of course, the conception you have of this place can range from the fire and brimstone variety to the obscurely-put “separation from God” — regardless, hell is not positioned as a fun place to end up, and is mainly used as a deterrent to doubt (a la Pascal’s Wager).

When I was a Christian, hell was often a shadow in our faith system — it lurked in our doctrines, but was not a concept that was often elaborated on or spoken about. Even today, whenever someone asks Jerry or I about our “eternity,” the conversation suddenly gets very uncomfortable when we ask them what exactly hell will look like. Hell is the ultimate enthymeme — it’s a place that each individual is supposed to fill in with your own “worsts.”

I can still remember watching a minister at my former church tell a group of impressionable 10 and 11 year olds that anyone who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that didn’t “have Jesus in their hearts” went directly to hell. The more distance I now get from my previous faith, the more I recognize how abusive some of its doctrines were (and are!). The moment I heard the minister say these words to a group of children — many of whom were not cognitively capable to understand their implications — that was a moment I decided that even if there was a God, particularly of this evangelical variety, that God was one I could never follow or respect.

Since that time, I have difficulties understanding how Christians can remain in the faith, particularly with this lurking doctrine in place.

One way of understanding it is to think that believers will delight in the suffering of the hellbound — a blog I read recently discussed this longstanding theological view in a post entitled “The delight of the saints in the suffering of the damned”. Here the believers are able to enjoy the pleasures of heaven more, since they recognize the sufferings of where they could have ended up.

But, seriously? If you are in heaven, and you are a friend or family member of mine (who, presumably, loves me), how can you be completely happy and at peace knowing that I’m suffering for all eternity in hell? [of course, the whole issue of "does the eternal punishment fit the crime?" is another post about hell that's waiting to happen]

I’ve had someone else in my life tell me that she’ll be forced to forget about me in heaven, effectively erasing the knowledge of me languishing in hell. But, is that really heaven? God meets you at the door, gives you a convenient mind-swipe, and then it’s off to sing with the angels?

There’s also the theological concept of annihilationism, which is another way of coping with the ultimate unjustness of the hell doctrine — but even that view is considered heretical by most.

Maybe the doctrine of hell is just another example of the cognitive dissonance that’s necessary to maintain in a belief system. Otherwise, how could you worship an all-loving god, knowing that this same divine being has no qualms in torturing souls for all eternity? [I’m tempted to talk about Christianity’s link to Stockholm syndrome here, but I should probably save that for another day]

Emma, lately

(Emma’s first pair of Doc Martens. I had to wait til I was in my 20′s, for my first official pair.)

happy earth day

This Earth day I’m celebrating by reading 200+ pages of student reports. Tomorrow I’ll celebrate by reading 200 more.

Poor trees.

Doubt as a valued commodity

William Lobdell, former religion reporter for the LA Times, and how he lost his faith while covering stories of, well, faith:

This weekend I’m giving a talk for the local freethinker group about interacting with believers. I think I’ll have to make a reference to this talk.

More on what I’m going to be talking about, soon. (or, come out and see it for yourself on Sunday!)

What she said:

Perhaps this is the strongest pleasure known to me. It is the rapture I get when in writing I seem to be discovering what belongs to what: making a scene come right, making a character come together . . . At any rate, it is a constant idea of mine that behind the cotton wall is hidden a pattern, that we — I mean all human beings — are connected with this, that the whole world is a work of art, that we are parts of the work of art. Hamlet, or a Beethoven quartet, is the truth about this vast mass that we call the world. But there is no Shakespeare, there is no Beethoven. Certainly and emphatically, there is no God. We are the words. We are the music. We are the thing itself. And I see this when I have a shock.

Virginia Woolf

And now for something completely different

The rhetorical prowess of our past president, GWB:

And the Right scoffs at Obama using a teleprompter — I think they’re just pissed that their past prez couldn’t read one.