October 11, 2008

Faith, Religion, Atheists, and Hell

Ch. 3

There is an over-whelmingly large population of believers all throughout the world. Go to any part of any country. There will be those who either give thanks to a higher being, those who ask a higher being for better fortune in the future, and those who simply just need someone to blame for any injustice in the world.

When we see so much tragedy in the world (which is broadcasted more effectively than ever thanks to technology), it is hard to imagine there couldn't be life after death to balance out the atrocities. There needs to be a place for those of us that done good in this world, and those of us who did nothing but use and abuse. Right?? Societies all around the world have this expectation that there will be something more after death. Something for the babies that die in the womb, something for those who suffer through years of dialysis but finally succumb to cancer, and something for those murderers and rapists of the world, too.
So we reject the concept of just ceasing to exist. St. Peter has to be waiting for each of us at God's Golden Gate. That three-headed hellhound has to be guarding the River Styx. The Rainbow Bridge that connects us to our dead pets will be open 9 til 5, the 7th Circle of Hell really is where the nastiest of individuals burn, and for us "good" ones - we will get to be with that list of loved ones that have left us years - decades - before... and the philly cream cheese will have never tasted better.

Being removed from this earth and everything on it that we are familiar with is impossible to comprehend. Pi Patel was perhaps one of the more enlightened of us since he had the opportunity to investigate and realize the merits of hinduism, christianity, and islam at a young age. After some hassling from his parents/cleric figureheads about choosing 1 religion, Pi declares that he "just wants to love God". His strength through faith shows us that even a young boy can survive on a raft with a tiger, orangutan, and a hyena for 270 days or something. He understood that the probability of his family's survival was nil yet he didn't cave in either. Which of the religion's heavens might have he been welcomed in to? What if he didn't have the strength to carry on and ended his own life by jumping overboard? Would he suffer in the 3rd or 4th circle of hell for all of eternity for this? What if his family did one while he did the other and was therefore separated from them after death for all of eternity - him in (some) Heaven and his family split between various fiery realms ruled by Satan, or vice versa???
Another question that I have is how do we put a value on a life? I touched on this before in some blog about some of the horrific stories pertaining to animal cruelty. Recently laws were passed saying that docking a dog's tail is now illegal since the animal can feel the pain. Renown kennel clubs weren't happy to hear this since fewer dogs will meet the breed standard. But they do feel pain. The argument might go that domesticated animals are only worth sparing any pain. We all need beef burgers after all. So when I torture ants by frying them with a magnifying glass, this is okay. And when I tame a lion with the crack of my whip, or I beat my horse with a piece of leather urging it to get around the track faster, that is also just fine. But if we have such a hard time drawing the line for domesticated animal cruelty, then I suppose it would also be difficult to determine how and when lethal punishment of human beings is acceptable in our society. How can a guy like Robert Pickton - who obviously not have any respect for life or people at all, have his own life spared through a bureaucratic system funded by our own tax dollars in this very just democracy? How can a guy like James Rozko be spared from living a life here on earth being hated by essentially everyone and instead just leave this world? Is it his fault that he didn't have the support networks like so many of us have which resulted in him becoming a murderer? Does becoming a murderer deserve an eternal place being tortured in hell? Can that kind of a murder really be distinguished from the murder of your cousin when she was killed by the idiot drunk driver in the pick-up truck??

There are a lot of people out there who have nothing. They might include Vancouver East Side heroine addicts, Ethiopian coffee farmers, First Nations drug dealers, Romanian refugees. When asked to list there children, they will list both the living and the dead, the latter often being higher in numbers. In Craig Ferguson's book "Between the Bridge and the River" he emphasizes how the people with the least count on religion the most. They pray and pray and give dollars to the church/preacher in hopes that by doing so, they will be rewarded. They are begging for a break. Where will these people go when they die?

We can all appreciate the Great Circle of Life thanks to Simba, Mufasa, and Rafiki. Even cartoon lions and baboons believe that there's a place in those stars - a heaven - where those long gone shine down on us. It might just be far too much to believe that when we die, our bodies die and become the grass, and the antelope feed on the grass, and that in some way of form, millions of years from now, we will be re-invented into some other life species, through mass preservation principles. Our soul must leave us, and go someplace else. Then what about politicians???
There are a lot of cop-outs. A lot of people declare themselves as "spiritual" and not religious. Some people that have been exposed to the church might find some of their ways a little bit outlandish - bordering on cult-like, with repetitive responses and hymns sung in 1 tone. Sit, stand, kneel. "What up wit dat, yo!" There are historical battles between Christians and Protestants and Jews vs Non-Jews. How can there be 1 heaven for all of these "believers" to go to, when there is sooooo much hatred - enough to spill blood over - between the various groups? A Barbara Walters special from about a year ago (my initial motivation to write on this) included her interviewing religious leaders from around the world including everyone from the Dali Llama to members of extremist groups. One argument against might include with the decreasing numbers of Christians around the world, and the immense and growing populations of lesser Christian countries, how could "my" religion be the right one? What about strength in numbers? Could that many people be wrong about God and the afterlife? What if I don't agree with some of those ideals and principles within that one religion, even if it is - in truth - the only one right religion? Would to even think different about simply lead to eternal damnation?? Is by fully supporting the traditional values of my religion the only way to ensure that I have the best eternity to exist in for all of time? Good Little Catholics, for example, are supposed to go out and make more good little catholics by avoiding condoms/birth control. If by choosing not do so, am I up the creek? Also, is it really even a good parental decision to have children - to attempt raising children in a world filled with war, poverty, and corruption? Wouldn't it be more effective to adopt a child born into poverty? Maybe God would appreciate that more... What if I have an impure thought about 2 certain girls and myself? Does that bump me into some other whole new Circle of Fiery Hell? If so, then are the homosexuals of the world going to burn even more? What do I need to believe in in order for me to have a painless eternity? I think I am good to most people, but sometimes tempers can flair... So where is the line that Thou Shall Not Cross in order for us to ensure that we can at least have some peace - Do we cross that line by simply suggesting that there may be no afterlife at all?!
Facebook suggests that there a lot of apathetic agnostics out there that either don't have much to believe in or are just tooo busy in this fast-paced world to worry about being religious. They may have a blind faith in God such that if they were killed on their way home from school or work in a freak accident, their families can say "through his faith in God we have the piece of mind that he will be resting in peace with his creator". Some people are just sooo upset with the disparity/inequality in the world, they don't even care and wonder even "how could hell be any worse?"

Dante's Inferno, though written and translated from an Italian poem, was a challenging read, yet something I knew I had to get through. It's vivid description of the prices that people might pay with various levels of sin are quite disarming. It makes me wish that I could be a better person and that I had some better guidance as to where I should look for answers to this insane experience called life. Craig Ferguson's book also ties in Dante's Inferno and I am glad that I got through them both so close together. You should read them too.

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