Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell
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27-01-2014, 11:04 AM (This post was last modified: 27-01-2014 11:35 AM by SaraMcKnight.)
Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell
Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell!
Sara McKnight

Raised in an ultra-fundamentalist family, being a good person was do or die. The concept of living my life to impress a deity I’d never met, known or spoken to, but who knew how I should act, what I should say, or think – was confusing. By the way, that’s a monumental understatement.

As a kid, I remember during Sunday talks with my dad, I’d wonder how come God gave us food and shelter, but screwed over basically millions of kids in Africa? That didn’t seem to make much sense. Maybe he liked us more. How come I was born with all four limbs functioning perfectly? But the kid in school who was wheel-chair bound, wasn’t? I remember the ever-popular ‘he doesn’t give us more than we can handle Sara’. So how come some people can’t handle it and take their own lives? Oh yeah, they conveniently go to hell. Guess god was measuring their trials in tablespoons when the recipe clearly said teaspoons. No worries, we’ve all made that mistake, right?

The math didn’t work out either. This is what I understood. For maybe eighty years (if you’re lucky enough to live that long) you’re basically doing a test. You had a couple years to prepare; most monotheist religions agree that kids up to the age of seven or so aren’t going to be held responsible for their thoughts or actions by gods. So you had maybe seven years to prepare, the test lasts maybe seventy years, then the results last an eternity. See the problem? I hope so. God is so all knowing and all reasonable that he thinks a test that lasts seventy years should be a good enough measure of what you deserve for ETERNITY. The physics teacher in me sees a slight problem with that mathematical relationship.

It just didn’t add up. But all that meant was that I had to redouble my efforts at being faithful to Him. Looking at it retrospectively, the extreme indoctrination provided by fundamentalist parents cements the religiosity of their children. It has to, it’s just that good. Eternal hell-fire, where you’re burned and tortured forever if you don’t do what He wants, is not so easy to overlook. You know, I’ve heard people argue that the parents who convince their children that the tyrannical man in the sky is real, are actually abusing them. I’m not totally convinced they’re right about that. There’s no physical harm, and the parents truly believe they’re helping their beloved child get to heaven. If I was someone who still believed in heaven and hell, I’d probably indoctrinate my kid too. But I do remember being afraid of the vivid nightmarish dreams of hell I’d often endure when I did or said something I knew He would object to. Even as an adult, I still had nightmares.

When I told my parents I was marrying a heathen (aka atheist), they took it relatively well. One thing I didn’t expect was to slowly but surely become an atheist myself. The more I educated myself on religions and religiosity, the more it really started to look like people had a predilection to convince themselves that it wasn’t all just sheer accident. Which physics says that it most likely all is. And math agrees. A happy stardust one at that. It seems startlingly obvious to me that the atrocities referred to in the religious books (slavery, rape, murder, incest, genocide) don’t quite measure up to our current moral standards. Was God’s morality just behind the times? He better catch up!

And the stories seemed reused. As an English teacher, I’ve always hated plagiarism. But religion seems to love it. Jesus’ story seemed uncannily similar to Egyptian god Ra (12 apostles, death by crucifixion, resurrection, etc.). Did someone in Jesus’ crew plagiarize? In fact, the story of Jesus can be seen dozens of times in history! Horus, another Egyptian god, has a nickname eerily similar to Jesus. And all those civilizations kinda started in the same geographical region. Coincidence? I think not. But it doesn’t stop there. I kept learning. I learned that being called a son of god was just a thing they said at the time. A term of endearment. Man did someone really misunderstand and start some trouble with that! I also learned that there’s no actual historical account of Jesus at all. His friends wrote about him at least forty years after he died. I’m sure he was a good guy, but after forty years of broken telephone, the story is prone to get a bit mangled.

But most importantly, anyone ever notice how your belief in a particular deity is strangely linked to the time and place in which you were born? Hmm … Interesting. Seems to me like religion is a story passed down through generations to keep us in line, reassure us of justice and the ever lasting life. Christopher Hitchens, (I won’t say RIP out of respect for him, since he’d roll over in his grave if I did!), Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, otherwise known as the Four Horseman have written and spoken prolifically about the rise of religion and the hope that it will fall. I learned that I tended to agree with them.

But in agreeing with them, I had to do one very difficult thing. I had to relinquish the idea of heaven, and accept death.

Let’s stop and consider this heavenly heaven that religion touts shall we? A place where you live FOREVER. And ever. Does no one ever consider that maybe, after awhile, oh say, I don’t know; three billion years, you might run out of stuff to do? I know the rivers are made of wine, and you’ll never get a hang over, but drinking is only ever so much fun anyway. An eternity of heaven sounds like a really boring, tedious hell to me.

Inevitably, that meant that I wrestled with death for awhile. It kept me up nights. I am going to die, and that’ll be it. That will really be it. I won’t exist anymore. Many sleepless nights were spent tormented by this new-found atheistic truth. But, suddenly something happened, and things changed. Fear became fever. Knowing that my life is short, and that it’s all I have, makes me want to live it as best I can. It makes me value people, because I know everything we have and will have is a direct result of us. Maybe one day, by living my life, I’ll have bettered someone else’s. I hope. I do things, say things (or don’t) now because I weigh them ethically and morally, for my own selfish need to be respected and loved. And I dole out the same to my friends, family and strangers.

So don’t think that my atheism means that I have no moral compass or that I don’t value others. I don’t need god to do that, and it saddens me that some people do. I value people because I know that we are all the same. Same feelings, same needs, same wants. Exactly the same. Colour, money, height, gender, eccentricities, short comings, all of that, it’s all phenotype. Our genotype is basically the same. Isn’t that amazing? We’re all the same.

I guess I used to think of it as losing my religion (circa R.E.M.), but it’s not that. Losing religion, was gaining freedom. It’s the freedom to see the universe for what it really is. A cosmic wonderland, where impossible things happen every day. A place where impossibilities are explained by great minds, human minds.

It’s the freedom to know that my thoughts are not going to convict me to an eternal damnation. That it’s okay to be weird, to make mistakes, to follow my own path. It’s the freedom to see everyone as equal, and shed divisive dogma. It’s the freedom to make up my own mind, based on reason and evidence. It’s the freedom to enjoy MY life for ME.
I see the news, and every day there are religious sects fighting other sects, wars raging because two groups don’t share a god or a religious narrative. But we share DNA people. We share evolutionary and cosmic history. We’re the same, remember?

However, undoubtedly the most important thing I’ve learned since becoming an atheist actually came from the illustrious Sam Harris. The idea that the human brain and body are a system. (Undoubtedly, many scientists have worked hard to contribute to our understanding of the human system, but Harris is doing a great job of communicating that to the public. Much respect is due to all the scientists involved.) A complicated neurological, chemical, biological and mechanical system of inputs and outputs. And I like that knowledge. It’s encouraging to know that there’s always a chance for personal fulfillment and betterment as long as I continue to optimize my system. I’m not stuck to a destiny written by a mystical man on the moon. My genes and experiences wrote my history, but I’m writing my own present and my own future. (Or at least I feel that way, granting that I’m the product of a chain of events, and the debate on free will, determinism and compatibilism still raging on and all.) That has been profoundly empowering, and inspired a love of life that I never had as a theist.

It saddens me to see people die for something that isn’t real. I wish they could see that religion is a tool. A tool created by man (and I say man as no accident here) to direct and control. But it has had it’s time. Now, thankfully we live in the age of science and reason. We used to believe in asinine ideas like slavery, the world being flat, babies being full formed in sperm, blood letting as a cure for disease, segregation, but as society evolved we cast those antiquated and completely false ideas aside. We cast them aside for the Truth. Because you can’t ignore the truth. It’s what you can see, what you can measure, what you can add up, what we can all experience, it’s what is universal. The only universal that I see, the actual universe.

That’s why the atheist in me is overjoyed to see the trend continue. More and more people every day are turning away from false prophets, and turning towards the real ones. The doctors who save lives. The biologists who explain them. The inventors who better them. The physicists who elucidate them. The journalists who report them. The comedians who bring joy to them. The writers who describe them. The painters who draw them. I could go on and on. These are the characters we should revere. The only ones worth a damn anyway.

If you’re reading this and thinking that I’m insulting you or your religion or your god, then you’ve missed the point entirely. I’m revering you, the HUMAN, I’m putting you up on pedestal. An amazing creation of billions of years of evolution. A sentient being, with the capability to travel out into the universe that created it. A way for the universe to know itself (as the great Carl Sagan once said). Thirteen point seven billion years ago a tiny and yet super massive dot expanded, and now we’re here. That is impressive in a way that no writer can ever suitably describe. So, why hold on to a mystical concept, when the real thing is so much more magical?

Because you shouldn’t, that’s why. Or at least I didn’t.

So you can hold onto your beliefs theists, and I’ll respect that. I’ll even fight for laws that protect your right to disagree with me. But I’ll never go back to them. I like my science and I’m stickin’ to it!
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27-01-2014, 11:16 AM
RE: Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell
TL;DR
But I love your conclusion Tongue

Atir aissom atir imon
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27-01-2014, 11:21 AM
RE: Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell
(27-01-2014 11:16 AM)Im_Ryan Wrote:  TL;DR
But I love your conclusion Tongue

Glad you liked the conclusion at least.
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27-01-2014, 11:23 AM
RE: Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell
Fuck, Im_Ryan beat me to it.

[Image: 7oDSbD4.gif]
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27-01-2014, 11:33 AM
RE: Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell
(27-01-2014 11:23 AM)Vosur Wrote:  Fuck, Im_Ryan beat me to it.

At least we all agree on sticking to science.
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27-01-2014, 11:36 AM
RE: Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell
(27-01-2014 11:33 AM)SaraMcKnight Wrote:  
(27-01-2014 11:23 AM)Vosur Wrote:  Fuck, Im_Ryan beat me to it.

At least we all agree on sticking to science.

Laugh out load
Haha Vosur Tongue
But seriously though, most people (including me) have the attention span of a gold fish on here. Try to refrain from the "wall of text" unless you're dealing with a personal issue in the appropriate thread. Those all get full consideration.
Just friendly advice Smile

Atir aissom atir imon
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27-01-2014, 11:37 AM
RE: Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell
BTW, welcome to the forum Thumbsup

Atir aissom atir imon
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27-01-2014, 11:37 AM
RE: Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell
[Image: proof-that-heaven-is-hotter-than-hell-re...x10241.png]
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27-01-2014, 11:40 AM
Shocked RE: Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell
(27-01-2014 11:36 AM)Im_Ryan Wrote:  
(27-01-2014 11:33 AM)SaraMcKnight Wrote:  At least we all agree on sticking to science.


Laugh out load
Haha Vosur Tongue
But seriously though, most people (including me) have the attention span of a gold fish on here. Try to refrain from the "wall of text" unless you're dealing with a personal issue in the appropriate thread. Those all get full consideration.
Just friendly advice Smile

Thanks for the heads up, it's an essay I wrote that I thought I'd share with others. It's cool if you're not up for reading the whole thing.
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27-01-2014, 11:41 AM
RE: Heaven Sounds A Lot Like Hell
(27-01-2014 11:37 AM)Luminon Wrote:  [Image: proof-that-heaven-is-hotter-than-hell-re...x10241.png]

Great image!
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