Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Joke's on YOU

Back in April, Robert over at Superstition Free had a post "The Doctrine of Hell". I made a few comments, but kept most of my ideas to myself as I contemplated the overall topic a bit more. It should come as no surprise to any of my regular readers that I don't believe in the concept since I have no way of knowing whether or not there is a thing called an afterlife. In addition, I find the overall concept to be primitive and brutish.

Be that as it may, most modern religions -- many primitive ones too -- have a description of a hell-like place within the structure of their mythology. In most cases, a person is extended a reserved seat in the fiery place based upon their many misdeeds in this life. Once a person dies, they are forced into a one-way trip to the deep dark place.

If it were to turn out that I am wrong -- that there actually is a thing called hell -- I still think most people have it all wrong; it's not a specific place, it's a state of mind. If THAT turns out to be true, then the joke's on them and the deity is up there laughing away.

For religious adherents -- particularly Christians, only because this is the religious tradition I understand the best -- most of them are living in hell right now. They must navigate a gauntlet of earthly "sins" and, every time they behave like an average human, each must punish and beat up themselves to no end.

For example, psychology teaches us that sexual fantasies are a normal part of life. If you're a religious person, however, each normal sexual fantasy sets off those infernal internal warning alarms -- "Danger Will Robinson. Danger Will Robinson. Sinner Alert!" You now must spend inordinate amounts of time and energy chastising yourself for wondering what it might be like to have a foursome with two of The Beatles and a 6-iron.

Covetousness -- particularly when combined with those dreaded sexual fantasies -- is another big NO NO.

Let's say your next door neighbor is one of these people who is always overly enthralled with all things new. This person collects things and people. As long as it's new, it's fun and exhilarating, but once the newness wears off, it's on to the next conquest. You befriend this idiot's spouse and come to lament the fact that he/she has now been thrown to the side. If, for a moment, you imagine how well this fine lady/gentleman would be treated if you were their spouse...oh no, the sirens are going off again! Over your internal loudspeaker you hear: "Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200."!!

The examples I could provide are endless. Almost any passing thought could mean trouble. So what's a person to do?

Well, the only normal religious thing to do -- beat yourself up!! Tell yourself what a miserable excuse for a human being you are. Literally or figuratively bash your head against a brick wall until it falls off. Make yourself read unintelligible religious tracts until your eyes pop out of your head. Most importantly, tell yourself over and over and over again what a sorry wretch you are and how you don't deserve any mercy.

Since these passing thoughts and urges bombard us every single day, the devout religious adherent ends up spending most of their time tormenting themselves for their perceived shortcomings. It's a never-ending cycle of selfish self-abuse. Hmm. Hell?

Of course, some truly devout religious adherents don't like to beat themselves up. So, they beat up everyone around them, particularly those who are committing the same foul actions they are. While, on the surface, it may appear that each is skating around hell, things aren't always as they appear!

If the life you're living is a lie (think Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker or Ted Haggard), then you've got to keep track of your real life with the one you're projecting for others. I'm sure it must be a kind of living hell covering your tracks constantly and ensuring that your lies don't contradict each other. So, while it may appear to the observer that all the wrath and indignation is pointed at others, that same wrath and indignation is poisoning your own well too.

I'm certainly not suggesting that philosophical Taoists, atheists or humanists don't beat up on themselves too. Almost everybody has a mental picture of themselves and we can get upset when we don't walk our talk. That said, our inner struggles aren't compounded by visions of fiery furnaces, so I would think we end up enjoying a bit more bliss and contentment than those plucking their own eyes out in the hope that this act will win them a better seat for the matinee!


  1. Sorry RT, but I kinda got stuck on
    "You now must spend inordinate amounts of time and energy chastising yourself for wondering what it might be like to have a foursome with two of The Beatles and a 6-iron."

    Did you say anything else important?

    ; )


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