Michael Battalio

Friday, January 31, 2014

This I Believe (part 24):

After about four years it is time for a revisit of my “This I Believe” series. As before, I’m still having trouble defining exactly what it is I prescribe to as a worldview. I hope to figure some of what I believe here.

I was posed the questions: What are your thoughts on the new pope?  Would a liberalized Catholic Church renew your interest in organized religion, or is your personal journey kind of independent from what the Church decides to do at this point?

In this post I tackle the first question along with an argument against the existence of hell.

I am intrigued by the new pope.  He is doing a fantastic job bringing the church up to societal attitudes on many topics.  The church should recognize that if it wants a say in where the morals of vast swaths of society point it must lead on topics of the day and not repeat the draconian beliefs of the middle ages ad infinitum.  Religion and belief are fluid entities; they change as society changes and adopt the views of the time.  Thus the physical entity that embodies the religion of 1.2 billion people must also adapt.   I am thrilled that in so many words he is calling out the hypocrisy of many Christians in selectively picking verses to wail about while ignoring many fundamental tenants, including most importantly to me, charity and compassion to the poor.  I continue to be appalled every day by those who decry homosexuality or sex education in general yet in the same breath condemn the poor for being poor and greedy when in actuality they are the ones being greedy.  I am also shocked and delighted in his words about atheism.  It is refreshing to hear a religious figure not blame atheists for their atheism, embrace the fact that atheists can be good, moral people despite not having “religion”, and and say that atheists are not necessarily going to hell.  (I can think of dozens of people who are atheists that are much more moral than many of the church going Christians I know.)  So in summary, I like him.

Aside:  argument against the existence of hell for atheists.  People are created without any say in whether or not they are created, so an atheist is created by God because he loves them (in theory).  Additionally there are many people who are created with no say in the matter that are never exposed to whatever the true religion is.  How can we have true free will to choose to be atheists or whatever if we don’t have the choice to be born or where we are born?  How can we be punished for eternity for a choice we didn’t get to make? Given the choice between nonexistence and eternal damnation wouldn’t some chose nonexistence? Wouldn’t most chose nonexistence? Hell cannot exist because it would then contradict free will which is required for whole idea of reward and punishment for our actions.

I really like this argument. I find a lot of comfort in it. There may be a God, but there isn’t a hell for punishment. If God exists, perhaps you simply wink out of existence when you die, which in essence is no different than not existing at all, except that for the century you are alive, it is awesome. I can live with that.

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