07 April 2013

What if I'm wrong?

An atheist Facebook group recently posed the question,
Well, well! What a surprise! You have just died and found yourself face to face with God. Which God? THE God. What's the first thing you say to him?
Ignoring the fact that their own answer to "Which God?" isn't particularly helpful, I'm just going to assume they're talking about some deity of Western Monotheism. I can accept the possibility, remote though I think it may be, that I'm totally wrong about the existence of God. I can't know for certain, and neither can anyone else. Epistemic humility ought to be par for the course for any rational human being. But let's say God exists and, even though it doesn't necessarily follow from God's existence, an afterlife exists as well despite all its paradoxes and absurdities. And now, after spending most of my life as a non-believer, I'm forced to explain myself before God and hopefully avoid being fitted for a suit of flames.

Well, if that God exists, then I wouldn't have to explain myself. God, being all-knowing and all-powerful, would already know all my thought processes. He'd know what led me to deconvert from Christianity, and he'd understand. He'd see my sincerity and know that I simply could not see any justification for believing in his existence or the truth claims of any particular religion. He'd see that although I was mistaken, I was sincerely mistaken. There would be none of that "Deep down you really believed" garbage that some believers like to hurl at skeptics.

Now comes the thorny part. According to the more fundie-minded Western monotheists, it doesn't so much matter how you lived your life. It doesn't matter if you were a good person, loved your friends and family, treated others kindly, acted selflessly to help those in need, whatever; what really matters is what you believe. You didn't know you were supposed to pray to Allah and bow to the East five times a day? You didn't know you were supposed to believe all those Christian preachers and theologians? Well, sucks for you! Into the lake of fire!

If that is true – if God would punish people for having the wrong theology, then why would I want to spend eternity with such a tyrant? If one's theological opinions count for more than how they actually lived, then God should have made his existence absolutely beyond question. He should still be making appearances like he purportedly did according to the Old Testament. His existence ought to be as plain a fact as that I am sitting in a chair in front of my computer as I type, above the ambiguities of theological absurdities and contradictions.

Of course, there are those who will trot out Romans 1:20:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
In other words, they think God's existence is self-evident. Well, the whole point of being a non-believer is that we think that's bullshit. But if I'm wrong, and I'm going to go to a horrible place because I was wrong about theology, well, that God can go fuck himself. Such a scenario would just confirm the absurdity of Western theology, and I'd happily cannonball into the lake of fire.

Good thing, then, that I'm right.


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