Hell pisses me off. It took one sick, evil fuck to come up with the concept of believe-or-burn-eternally. Brilliant, though: terrify believers and potential converts with the worst possible fate if they don’t do what you say, then give them relief from that terror by promising heaven if they just follow instructions. And really, it doesn’t take much to convince them, because you catch people while they’re young and/or vulnerable, ensuring those threats of eternal torment grip them and refuse to let go.
Of course, the people making this threat are generally sure they’re saved and have nothing to worry about. Or they’re just parroting what they were taught as children. And they don’t think of the consequences, don’t care, or actually want their listener to cower in mortal terror.
Hell is the gun religion holds to your head to ensure you’ll never leave. A thing so awful that you won’t risk questioning, just do your utmost to believe.
People: that gun is empty.
You may be one of those folks whose childhood was tormented by fear. I know people, far too many people, who spent entire nights awake in their beds, frantic, terrified they hadn’t prayed the right way or didn’t believe strongly enough or had made that one fatal mistake that God would never forgive them for. Children who sobbed in the darkness and repeated the Sinner’s Prayer again, again, again, hoping it would save them. Praying again to hedge their bets:
Now I lay me down to sleep… I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I loathe the people who did this to them. Oh, I know many of those folks were convicted Christians, utterly convinced this was the right thing to do for their kids. I know many of them just wanted to make sure their kids were saved. Hey, say these words, and hey Presto! God won’t let Satan burn you forever! Problem solved!
While the children cowered with that gun to their heads, waiting for the trigger to be pulled.
The gun is empty.
And then some of them grew into adults who still lived in fear of hell. Trying to walk the narrow path. Trying not to piss off God. Still lying awake some nights, crying, begging Jesus to save them.
Some of them grew into adults confident in the knowledge they’re saved. And they’re so relieved the gun’s no longer pointed at them that they turn it on others.
The gun is empty.
Some of those kids grew into adults who gradually, after a long and terrible struggle, had the courage to look for bullets, and discovered that the gun wasn’t loaded. Either they came to believe God was too loving to condemn his children to suffer forever, or they realized there almost certainly is no God who gives a shit what humans do, or they found the evidence pointed overwhelmingly to no gods at all. No gods, no Satan, no hell. All made up. They were lied to.
But that lie is so horrific, the idea of hell so vivid, that some never can stop wondering if there might be a bullet in the gun after all.
People, the gun is empty.
In fact, that gun never even existed. Just a finger pointing from a pocket, an illusion created by a human hand.
Don’t let it threaten you any more.