Redated from March 2009.
I was a Christian recently enough to remember what it felt like to really believe the Creator of the universe talked to me, to really believe I would go to heaven and unbelievers would go to hell, to really believe that prayer made a difference.
It sure felt like I really believed that stuff. And other Christians tell me they really believe that stuff, too.
But something’s not quite right with that.
Supposedly, my parents really believe that I am going to hell now that I’m an atheist. They believe their son, whom they love dearly, is going to be tortured forever. Literally.
And yet, they don’t seem very upset by this. Sure, they’re upset that their son has rejected most of the values and “truths” they tried to instill in me. They’re upset that I reject their way of life as both deluded and immoral. That’s a major blow for any caring parent to take.
But they don’t seem upset that their beloved son will be tortured forever in hell. And that seems odd.
If they really believed that, wouldn’t I see some serious mourning? Some pleading? Some great distress?
But it’s not just my parents. It’s Christians in general. I had these questions even when I was a Christian.
A question for Christians
This is not a post for attacking Christian beliefs or promoting atheistic views. This is a post about understanding. I’d like to understand Christians better. So, Christians: I have a question for you.
If you really believed some of the people you love dearly were going to spend an eternity in hell, wouldn’t that motivate you to try harder to save them?
Let’s say we all lived in Poland at the start of World War II and you got word that soon, the Nazis were going to invade the town where several of your friends and family lived. The Nazis were going take everybody off to concentration camps in chains, and possibly kill them. And let’s say this information came from a very reliable source, so that you really believed this was going to happen.
Would you just go on about your life? Would you just mention this to your friends and family in passing, and send them the occasional tract with information on the threat of the Nazis? Would you merely pray for them to see the threat and save themselves?
Or, would you do everything you could to save your friends and family? Maybe you would drive out there and try to convince them of the threat until you were blue in the face. Maybe you would refuse to leave until they came away with you. Maybe you would… I dunno what, but it would be pretty drastic. I know if I were in that situation, then I would do some pretty drastic things to save my friends and family.
But this is not what Christians do for their friends and family who they really believe are on the verge of falling into eternal torture, even though they say they really believe this, and even though they feel they really believe this.
So something weird is going on. Millions of Christians really believe this stuff, but they don’t act like it.
As best we can tell, humans always act so as to fulfill the strongest of their current desires, given their beliefs. But I very much doubt that Christians do not have a strong desire to save their spouses, their children, and their best friends from eternal agony. So there seems to be something weird about the belief end of the equation.
Do Christians really believe what they say and feel they believe? What’s going on here?
If you really believe this, you shouldn’t have to tell yourself, “You’re right, I really should try harder to evangelize.” No, if you really believed, you would already have that motivation! You wouldn’t need to try to manufacture it!
And if you really believed, you wouldn’t need to constantly repeat the doctrines of Christianity to yourself, and do everything you can to “build up your faith.” I don’t need to remind myself that the Holocaust happened or that gravity is real. I don’t need to constantly “build up my faith” in the existence of magnetism.
Something is fishy here, and I don’t get it. Any thoughts?