If one chooses to follow a god that harnesses the power to either reward him with a seat in Paradise or punish him for eternity in Hell, wouldn’t he be inclined to suffer from incessant spells of nervous paranoia? In the book of Matthew, Jesus claims that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Now there’s a threat if I’ve ever heard one.
If one accepts this notion, it seems to me that he would be forced to subject himself to a level of anxiety that no one is truly fit to handle. Jesus is essentially saying here that if you intend to be materially successful, don’t plan on enjoying your time after death. Now, he also makes it clear that following the untouchable Ten Commandments is a requirement for the realm of eternal bliss. This is an even more frightening mandate; being poor on purpose wouldn’t be all that hard, despite the discomfort one would be bound to feel. But obeying the commandments under the scrutiny of a dictator who is always – always – judging you, is something that, if taken seriously, should make every Christian rattle with fear and anxiety
People, in their inclination to think wishfully, tend to ignore the fact that they are submitting themselves to an unseeable, dictatorial figure who proclaims his way to be unchangeable, unalterable, and perfect, and who threatens eternal damnation upon anyone who merely chooses not to believe in his power. It is a very scary and manifestly dangerous prospect to claim that one entity’s perspective is untouchable, that his word is an irrefutable law that not even the most intelligent among us are worth challenging. It is particularly scary and dangerous to conceive that this notion was in fact determined by humans themselves, ancient and uneducated and fanciful ones at that. My wording here may seem hyperbolical, but I would be surprised if someone could deem my statements inaccurate.
It is the willful action to soften these alarming facts with rhetoric of love and hope and joy that keeps otherwise rational people involved in religion; behavior that modern religious moderates have perfected. Yet from what post can they criticize the fundamentalists, the extremists, the terrorists? All of whom are mere examples of people who actually take their gods seriously. Through common sense and secularism, moderates have watered down their scriptures to embolden the good parts and dismiss the bad, twisting their way around atrocities and injustices and evil with the often cheap argument that the message was simply contorted in its interpretation. One can truly be dumbfounded by the way devoted moderate Christians attempt to interpret certain passages in scripture in a radically distorted way in order to make it acceptable by today’s secular standards. And all this effort just to justify the moral uprightness of a book written two millenniums ago.
It should be vividly clear, and fortunately so, that these so called “holy” books are not inspired by an omnipotent entity who holds the power to banish us to Hell for all of eternity, but instead are manmade myths that have survived the admirable leaps of science and knowledge by riding the coattails of human desperation and frailty. Millions of religious moderates cling to their god for hope and comfort, yet ignore his true essence if he is who he claims to be, and similarly ignore the terrifying consequences of this rather unlikely possibility, either because they choose not to think that deeply into the issue, or because they have convinced themselves through arduous internal debate that it makes sense. Personally, I am extremely relieved to be rather confident in his nonexistence. To have someone watching me, judging me, critiquing me, shaming me, absolutely nonstop, and to truly believe that he has the power to cast me into a realm of eternal suffering if he so chooses, is one of the most horrifying concepts I can imagine, and is an obvious mechanism for people to assert their own will upon others. Inherently, I don’t think one can make a legitimate claim that this sort of figure is one of pure, unadulterated love; the power he so casually uses to threaten his subjects does not demonstrate love, but rather an insatiable appetite for power and control. He can throw you into the fiery depths if he so chooses, he has his hand in the most minute and trivial aspects of your life, he has the capability and will to watch you like a sleepless stalker, he demands not only that you believe in him, but that you love him and make him the unrivaled center of your universe and the first priority in each and every endeavor you take on, he created you in his image but you are inherently flawed, so all the burden is on you to fix yourself. But he loves you. This I know, for the Bible tells me so.
If you can handle the pressure of carrying the full weight of this burden with you, every second of every day, without succumbing to a state of utter anxiety and fearfulness paranoia, then by all means, be my guest. But there are some of us who have chosen to liberate ourselves from the enslavement of this manmade divine dictator. And even with Pascal’s petty wager in mind, I assure you, it is worth the risk.