The Price of Paradise — My Case Against Wanting Eternal Life
I was raised in a Christian household, and I took those beliefs and the role/identity that came with those beliefs very seriously. Up until I graduated high school, I was fully convinced I was going to become a pastor. I was sure God had a plan for me, and that I was going to do everything I could to live up to that plan. However, something changed.There are lots of reasons I ultimately walked away, but I won’t dive into all of them today.I’d also love to dive into the 3 years of “what the hell do I believe,” which was a really destabilizing time for me full of uncertainty about everything. I can’t wait to talk about the amount of joy and peace I have in my life now as an Atheist, but today, I want to focus one something that people of many faiths look forward too. Eternal Life.
The life of a devout follower of a religion isn’t supposed to be an easy one. Life, in any arena, isn’t supposed to be easy. The Latin root of Passion is to struggle, meaning even the things we love the most are supposed to bring us some form of pain so we can ultimately experience the reward that comes with it. The religion of Judaism, if practiced to the book, is probably the hardest religion to follow. You ever read the Old Testament of the bible? Well, the Jews don’t have the luxury of The New Testament which essentially nullifies some of the really gross and hard parts of the faith. I’m not sure how that tradition has held up for thousands of years when the rewards are so far and few between. Jihad is a key focus of the religion of Islam. I don’t just mean killing oneself in defense of the faith (which is significant, and I’ll talk about how liberals terribly fail to understand just how significant it is to doctrine of the Islam), but the ‘personal jihad’, or the struggle of losing oneself to the principles of the faith is also important. The sort of self-sacrifice that most faith’s encourage.
These other faiths are important in our world and worth talking about, but I’m much more comfortable in my backyard of Christianity. Most of Jesus’, Paul’s, and the other disciples’ teachings talk of the struggles of being a devout follower of the faith. Its not supposed to be easy standing up to the ‘darkness’ of the world, but followers should find joy in the fact that God is ultimately on their side. The New Testament argues that Christians are almost supposed to be persecuted. Christians are supposed to be poor as a result of their generosity if anything. Suffering is guaranteed in this life. Such is the result of the sin that Adam and Eve brought into the world, but there is a silver lining.
Matthew 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God
Paradise. Jesus came and died for us. He paid the ultimate price so that even though we are fallen creatures, as long as we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord, we will be saved(Romans 10: 8–9). Back in my believer days, when I would talk to my non-believing friends, I would try to show them how easy of a price this is to pay. All the more complicated stuff, they could figure out as they go, right?
I think the price of ‘simply believing’ that Jesus “is Lord” is deceiving. That’s actually a large pill to swallow. Most young modern Christians have a tendency to believe that God is just a loving guy in the sky who answers prayers and is there to comfort us. That’s not the case. God is God. Not a god, but The God. The bible describes him as omnibenevolent (all loving), but he is also all powerful and all knowing. God claims to be a just God. He is also a very jealous God. There is great significance behind the 2nd of the 10 commandments being a command against building idols on the same field or before God. He doesn’t like the competition. I mean, if you believe the bible, he created the entire universe and everything in it! How dare we exalt anything in his creation or anything in our imagination to the same plane as him??
Paradise comes at a price that, if I believed God were real, I’m not so sure I’d be prepared to pay. We like to think that after this lifetime of suffering for His plan, we’d get rewarded with a big ole party that lasts forever with all of our friends, family, and the heroes of the bible, right!? Not quite. Revelations 4: 8–11 gives us a taste of how John, one the OG Christian disciples, describes what our experience in Heaven will be like. Any of the ‘crowns’ we are given in heaven for the suffering we did on Earth in the name of God, we will simply throw back at the feet of Jesus and praise him forever with the rest of the creatures and beasts worshiping him! How rewarding /s
We all like to think of heaven as a big party where we have perfect bodies and eternal joy with everyone that matters. But actually, we will simply be at a very intense worship session… for all of eternity
Forever is a pretty damn long time. Forever means there is literally no hope or remote possibility of an end. Recorded human history goes back 10,000 years maybe? The Earth itself has been around 4.5 billion years. The universe is roughly 13 billion years old. After a while, those gargantuan time slots will appear as mere blips in the scope of our eternal existence. Think about it. If you made it to Christian Heaven, you would NEVER be able to stop worshiping. Never.
That’s Just The Beginning
Okay, so heaven might not be as pretty an idea as we think. If God is real, what are the alternatives we have to choose from after we die? Purgatory has no biblical evidence. It’s a place created by the medieval catholic church to trap followers into spending more time praying and, more importantly, paying. There is no way to turn the lights off. Once we die, we either are going to be stuck in paradise singing praises forever, or…
The existence of hell is questionable in the bible. Allow me to share some verses that convince me, if God is real, it does exist
Luke 13:28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.
Revelations 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Matthew 25: 45–46 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Forever is a pretty damn long time. Forever means there is literally no hope for or remote possibility of an end.
Who is the most evil person to ever exist? Hitler comes to mind. 6 million Jews dead because of his ideology? Straight up evil. About 5 million other non-combatants died at the hands of the Germans during WWII and the holocaust. We have modern equivalents. Millions of North Koreans have died under the Tyranny of Kim Jung-Un and Kim Jung-Il. Stalin? More people died throughout the Russian revolution and under Stalinism than the holocaust. These are the first examples of the evilest men to walk the earth during the 20th century.
I tell you this now, with how evil these men were, even they don’t deserve an eternity in hell.
The horrible evil and pain that they inflicted on the waves of unfortunate souls who found themselves under the grip of their tyranny eventually came to an end. The suffering, starvation, torture, all of it reached a peak and they ultimately died. There experience tuned to nothing. The human body doesn’t feel pain in death, it doesn’t feel at all. No matter how intense the suffering, it ultimately resulted in the person’s lights turning off and then… nothing.
A lifetime’s worth of torture? One could argue that would be an appropriate punishment for these evil sould. The most painful death possible? Sure! An 1,000 years of deep hunger? Hell yea, give it to em! An eternity though? I don’t have the stomach to condemn someone to that. Pain and suffering, with the sweet release of death not being an option. What vile and disgusting being with such little empathy for the conscious experience of others could condemn even one person to such a cruel existence?
None other than our loving Lord and Savior.
The Price Paid To Deserve Hell
The hard part about Hell is that no one has to do anything really bad to be sent there. Receiving a one way ticket to hell isn’t reserved exclusively for the nazis, the racists, the murderers, or the rapists of the world. No. Its reserved for the people who simply fail to complete the task set out for them in Romans 10:8–9
Romans 10: 8–9 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Christianity claims to be a religion of grace. Even the once darkest sinners can find salvation if they truly turn from their wicked ways. Jesus made sure of driving this point home by spending lots of time with tax collectors and prostitutes, people who were seen as the real dirt of that time. You can be a disgusting person and do imaginable cruelty on your fellow man all your life, but as long as you have a genuine change of heart before you die, the blood of Christ is powerful enough to save you. Our salvation isn’t founded in our deeds or lack there of. Its based on our faith and outward expression of that faith.
The parable of Jesus knocking on the door comes to mind. Jesus is always knocking, always trying to reach us all, all we have to do is let him in. Why should we let him in? Because he’s trying to save us. Save us from what? What he’ll do to us if we don’t let him in. It’s like a really messed up version of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf.
Imagine the love a parent feels for ones child? A truly good parent loves his or her child regardless of whether or not the child lives up to the life they originally planned for them, right? The bible describes God as the perfect father, but I’m not convinced.
Looking the Other Way
The response to many after closely examining this odd relationship of the price of heaven vs the price of hell might be simple. Why the hell not just worship God then? I mean, maybe we will do a little more than just worship while up there? Maybe we’ll have at least SOME free time to watch the ESPN Bible Highlights together or something? You’re a smart guy, anything is better than hell!
Even in my confident atheism, the possibility of hell still terrifies me. I think if one is to truly utilize reason, one must always be asking the question, “Could I be wrong?” Its possible I have this whole God thing wrong. I could be walking my soul down a path to the most epic form of destruction. I have great reason to think not, but its possible!
I don’t know how I’ll feel in my final hours. Will I retain my current perspective on the universe? Or will I cave to the beliefs my upbringing planted into me? I won’t know till the moment comes, I guess. However, I have good reason to think I will stay true for the simple reason a God who has condemned billions of his children to an eternity of suffering does not deserve my worship, regardless of their intentions or efforts. If the only crime they have truly committed is not telling God how great he is, than he has no idea what true justice really is. If he is so jealous that he can’t bear the idea of his Creation not being in complete servitude and worship of Him, how majestic and all-powerful is he really?
The book of Romans talks about the concept of predestination as well. I could tag that into this discussion, but that throws such a large screw into the case of Christianity that it deserves its own future blog post.
The first step I took back from God was because I recognized the true price of paradise. Even though I fully believed he were real, and that he was God and Creator of everything, I began to question if I even wanted his salvation. Not just because heaven didn’t sound as perfect as I imagined it while I was a child, but how could I look the other way?
I have so many wonderful, loving friends who do not believe in God. Those wonderful friends have families. How many other wonderful non-believers in the world are there? Sure, they might not be perfect! But how can the cruelest of punishments be the only alternative to eternal paradise? How could I look my God in the eyes and tell him, “thank you” as majority of the rest of my friends, colleagues, and distant family are actively burning in a pit of sulfur and fire for the rest of eternity.
I knew that if God were to save my soul, it wouldn’t be because of my good deeds or my kind heart, but rather his ‘grace’ and ‘forgiveness’ of my sins. But at the same time, the souls being tormented in hell wouldn’t be there because of their misdeeds or malicious intentions, but because of God’s immense jealousy.
If you find yourself in the Christian Heaven one day, I hope you enjoy the air conditioning. I’ll wave up to you from time to time.