I had this weird dream once. I woke up and everyone was gone. My family, my friends, my wife – everyone I had ever known was missing, and I was left alone.
The world was quiet. But still I went about my day normally. I clambered out of bed, I had a shower, I got on the train; I went to work.
The only sound I could hear was my own footsteps. The only voice in the universe was my own. The clouds remained still and refused to move. Time had stopped dead, but I continued to exist while everyone else had left… inexplicably. I had no idea where I was and I felt forgotten and alone.
I woke up, not terrified, but empty.
My wife is comfortable with the fact that I will never be a Christian, but once in a while it genuinely upsets her. Because if by some miracle it turns out that I’m completely wrong – that there is a God who loves us, that Jesus did die for our sins – then there is a very good chance that I won’t go to heaven. My wife and I will be separated; I’ll be damned to some form of eternal punishment, or simply rot in a grave somewhere, while she starts a new life in eternal bliss. Without me.
But the logic of Heaven and its unique barrier of entry confounds and troubles me. John 3:36 states that “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Simply put – if you don’t believe in Jesus you don’t get to go to heaven.
And that bothers me a bit – what kind of Godly being would be so egotistical? ‘Believe in me’, he demands, ‘love me – or I’ll stomp my feet and watch you burn’. According to John 3:36, if I don’t believe in the divinity of Jesus I’m maggot bait – at best. At worst I’ll be cast into a fiery lake of sulphur to burn for all eternity. Christianity and Jesus have given me a choice here – believe in me or die.
A bit harsh wouldn’t you say?
Possibly. But the possibility of heaven, and, ultimately, the fear of death, invigorates Christians – it spurns them towards action in their community. It brings out the best in them. It inspires them to help others, to feed and clothe the poor, to donate money and time to charity, and that truly is a beautiful thing.
But according to the bible, any positive action I take doesn’t count. If I do good all my life, if I dedicate my life to feeding the poor, defending the innocent – that is not enough, because I didn’t do it in the name of Jesus. All my “righteousnesses are like filthy rags,” claims Isaiah 64 – I am infested with sin, and therefore can only be cleansed with the blood of Christ.
According to the gospels, God doesn’t care if you are good or bad. He only cares that you believe in his earthly incarnation; that you nurse his insecurities by loving him, and that isn’t the kind of God I can ever see myself believing in, let alone worshipping.
I’ve had Pascal’s Wager recited to me more times than I care to remember, but it’s meaningless to me. By choosing to not believe in God I’m denying myself a shot at eternal life, but I’m fine with that. I understand that the consequences of denying God exists may be grim, but I have to be truthful to myself above all else – I don’t want to believe in God because he promised me a chocolate biscuit if I do. That’s dishonest, and the wrong thing to do – period.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not simply being stubborn. If there’s a heaven, I want to go – but I want to go for the right reasons. I want to go so I can be with my wife, not because I’m afraid of death. I want to go because I was a good person in life, not because I sucked up to an insecure cosmic checker.
And I don’t think I’ve got a strong enough poker face to get past God!
Stuck in Church on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter