Honorable mention — Benjamin Manzo: Why isn’t there a ‘sinner’s heaven’?

By Benjamin Manzo

Benjamin Manzo

I personally reject the Christian idea of the afterlife because the concept of “believe in me or you’ll go to hell” is incredibly facile. There are many contradictions in the bible itself, mainly concerning hell and what happens when you go there. I don’t quite understand why a guy (some would call him Satan) who disagreed with God would be allowed to rule hell, would be willing to torture those who disobey God, and would still want to mount a holy war against heaven. Seems to me he would rather create a sort of “sinner’s heaven” for those who disobeyed God rather than punish them. Wouldn’t he want to reward those souls who thought the way he did?

Instead of worrying about getting into an afterlife that may or may not exist, we could be spending time working toward a brighter future. Organized religion has really messed things up on this planet. Thanks to religion, we had a dark age that set technology back about a thousand years. Science could have progressed much further, much faster, and we probably could have colonized the moon or Mars by now.

The idea of an afterlife is counterproductive to enjoying life because people, instead of doing things they could actually enjoy, will spend their life trying to get into an afterlife that may or may not exist by following a strict set of rules that may or may not result in their happiness or the happiness of those around them. Following those rules will also likely prevent us from improving this world. For example, missionaries in various third-world countries will provide food to those who need it, but only to convert them to the missionaries’ religion. They are coming to help the “poor people,” but really coming to help them become part of “organized religion.”

This reminds me of the way schools are so concerned with standardized tests. Teachers spend a good amount of time “teaching to the test,” basically cramming information down the kids’ throats that they will need in order to pass the test. What about all the rest of the information the kids could be learning — the really helpful information that could spur them on to someday find the cure for cancer or the way to world peace?

Are not all people of who believe in an afterlife doing the same thing — living their lives just to “pass a test”? The Ten Commandments are now Cliffs Notes for getting into heaven — not!  It’s an opportunity cost and it doesn’t balance out. People are giving up the things that they want to do, or could do, to do those things that they believe they “have” to do. That’s what has kept humankind from evolving to achieve all those things that are possible for us. Does an afterlife exist? Who knows for sure? But our life right now does exist and we should focus on that.

Benjamin, 18, graduated from Elyria High School in Elyria, Ohio. He has volunteered at a local animal shelter and for the past three years has volunteered at a summer camp for kids who are on the autistic spectrum. He will be attending Ashland University and is enrolled in the journalism and digital media production program. His goal is to work as an editor on film and television shows.