The mental gymnastics of many theists never ceases to amaze me. In the words of Frank Zappa:
Those Jesus Freaks, well, they’re friendly but
The shit they believe has got their minds all shut
An’ they don’t even care when the church takes a cut
Ain’t it bleak when you got so much nothin’
They seem like, mostly, nice people. They actually read and take in new information, but then it has to be pretzeled around their semi-Bronze Age worldview. It really must hurt their brain to be twisted up in knots apologizing for a god for whom there is no excuse. Just one brief example. I was thinking about plantlife after the “flood.” I found this site which compared the recovery after the flood to the recovery after the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens. Now this is completely an apples and oranges comparison. The eruption devastated only a tiny area (in the grand scheme of things) and plants and animals could move into the devastated area from the surrounding areas not affected. Not rocket science. But after all the vegetation is dead in the whole world (!) where do the plants come from to lead the recovery? Noah planted them? Whatever.
But what amazed me more was the video that played automatically when I logged on to the site. Some very reasonable sounding dude going on how about how having the creation story be true lends all kinds of meaning to my life, but if we arrived here randomly, well I am just going to end up in a hole in the ground, and my life meaningless. Of course the whole time he was saying this (so nice and calmly and sweetly) he was making what I see as a huge logical error, in two senses of meaning. He kept saying, “What you believe makes a difference.”
Now, in science we tend to say, “What you believe is irrelevant, only what is real counts.” So, for example, no matter how much I “believe” in evolution, if Genesis is true, it’s true regardless of my belief. So in that sense belief does not matter. On the other hand, to theists, belief matters a lot and undercuts some of their favorite phrases.
“God has a plan for you,” they say. “God created you and therefore you have value and your life meaning,” they say. And lots of similar things. On closer inspection, however, none of that shit rings true. And at least partially because “What we believe does make a difference,” in their theology.
God has a plan for me alright. Hell. Eternal torment and punishment. Because I don’t believe in Jesus. I am pretty much the same guy I was when I believed in Jesus. Same reading on the sin-o-meter, I am pretty sure. But now, because what I believe matters, eternal damnation. Thank you Jesus! And what goes for me goes for billions of other people who don’t believe in Jesus (the right way), God’s plan for them is hell. Some plan, thanks a lot.
But wait, maybe my atheism is part of God’s plan! Maybe I was put on earth to test people’s faith, like all those fossils buried in the earth. Probably not, more likely I am tool of the devil, and god’s plan is to send me back to hell with the devil. FOREVER. Or maybe the creationists are tools of the devil, like the Pharisees of the New Testament. Maybe god has a plan for them. Does being hell bound bring meaning to your life?
I think what astonishes me most is that deep down Christians want to make sure there is a hell. I once read an Irish poem that said that people care less about going to heaven then seeing their neighbor in hell. And I hate to say that it fits many Christians pretty well.
So, of course they would want to worship a god that creates the world, pronounces it “good” but just 1656 years later he is sick of it and kills damn near everything. “It’s all part of god’s plan!” A nice story for the kids with rainbows and unicorns. Well, he did send the rainbow and said he’ll never kill all of us again. Gee, thanks, god. But he is going to send most of the humans ever created to hell. With a god like this, who needs a devil?
Just a few years later, well about 2300 actually, Jesus comes along and dies for our sins. Well except for all the ones he didn’t die for. Like homosexuality. If you are homosexual, god has a plan for you. Hell. Unbeliever? Hell. Funny how the preachers want to pick and choose which sins Jesus died for.
Now if I were vindictive I would quote Jesus back at them:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’ (Matthew 7)
I’ve said before, there is no way that Christian theology adds any “meaning” to life. If some Christians are right and pretty much only Hitler, Stalin, Dick Cheney and Ken Lay are going to hell, then our earthly life is meaningless in that it was just a very brief stop on the way to heaven. If billions are going to hell because they didn’t believe right or whatever, earthly life is meaningless, because, as Jesus himself says, we have no way of knowing who is going to hell and who isn’t. To hear Jesus say it, lots of people (and it sounds like preachers!) are going to hell who are dead sure they are headed for heaven. When you punish your kids do you make darn sure they know what the punishment is for? That doesn’t seem to be in god’s “mysterious ways.”
Of course, if every decision I make decides whether it is hell or heaven, then my earthly existence is a knife’s edge of anxiety never knowing what the sum total of my actions have been and where I will spend eternity.
None of those three options bring any “meaning” to life. If someone devotes their life to helping the poor, but is homosexual and ends up in hell for that, what “meaning” does that bring to life? Or what if there is a horrible person who recants on his death bed and accepts Jesus with his dying breath? If he goes to heaven, how does that make life meaningful?
There is no way in which eternal life adds meaning to life. It can only take it away.