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← Effect of the concept of hell on children

ColdThinker's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by ColdThinker

Childhood indoctrination is a powerful thing. If I told my four-year-old that there are invicible dragons in our garage, she'd believe me and would fear them. If the people she trusts kept telling her about them throughout her childhood, she'd certainly have trouble letting go of that fear and as an adult she might subconsciously prefer to park her car on the driveway, even if her intellect and knowledge of biology ruled out the existence of carnivorous garage dragons.

What makes the religious indoctrination even more powerful is the insidious idea that being a good human being is tied to your religious belief. So, in your early childhood you have been beguiled to believe that your religion equals ethical life and morality, and letting go of religious belief means letting go of the good, moral and ethical life. 

But is your belief in god even ethical? Is the idea of hell and eternal punishment fair, moral or decent? You may think about how unreasonable the idea is. 

First of all, how can you be sure that believing in the god of catholic Christianity will save you from hell anyway? Remember, there are thousands of gods that people have believed in. Most of these religions promise salvation for believing in their dogma and damnation for everyone else. They can't all be right. According to most muslims, belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ means eternal hellfire. So, if it is Allah who really is the only true god, as hundreds of millions of people believe around the world, you'll burn in hell for being a devout catholic. Are you sure your particular god is the right bet? A lot of catholic priests condemn all protestants to hell. A lot of evangelical protestants return the favour. Most people on this planet must have died believing in the wrong god, according to the catholic church. Whatever god you believe in, there is a holy man somewhere ready to condemn you to hell. 

I, for instance, do not believe in any of these gods, not even the Christian god of my own cultural tradition. I have never committed a crime, I have tried (and fairly well succeeded) to be a good person. And yet, according to a priest, after my few decades of decent living, I would burn in hell for billions and billions of years, for all eternity. For the simple reason of not believing the same thing as this priest. No matter what evil a person has committed, no matter how great a philanthropist a person has been, all that matters is what kind of supernatural beliefs this person holds at the time of death. And then this burning hell goes on for millions of years, even trillions, for eternity, even after the last star has died, the last black hole in the universe has evaporated...

Does the idea of hell really sound like the law of a benevolent creator of the universe? Or perhaps more like an ancient trick to keep primitive people obedient and submissive, originally invented by some ancient tribal sages and then sophisticated through centuries of organized religion, popes and imams, sultans and monarchs? Well, you'll have to think these questions through for yourself.

Mon, 23 Jul 2012 17:43:31 UTC | #949905