By Blake Miller
Growing up in a religious household, I count myself fortunate that reading was so valued. There is no surer route to atheism than actually reading the entirety of a religious text. How can you believe those that chant “God loves all his children” when you have read the texts showing him to be vengeful, sadistic, jealous and murderous?
When I was a child, I attended preschool and daycare exclusively through church. The first time I realized I didn’t believe in a god or hell was during that time in my intellectual development. The teacher was reading excerpts from Genesis (which I had heard read aloud at home since I was born) when I noticed something I did not understand. Thinking there was a deeper lesson in the story, I raised my hand. When I inquired, “Why did God lie to Adam about dying on the day he ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil?” I never expected to be put in the trouble corner. Sitting there upset and confused, the realization struck me that I was in trouble not because I had missed some grander point (or genuinely done anything wrong); I was in trouble for questioning. Today, I am an unabashed atheist not afraid of burning in hell.
I am unafraid of hell for the same reason that I am unafraid of Tolkien’s Nazgûl: They are both constructs of human imagination. How could a book composed of multiple separate texts, written in different time periods, in different geographical locations, for completely different reasons be considered a trustworthy coherent single source (especially considering those texts don’t even agree with one another)?
To accept the concept of hell, you must employ a very particular style of selective reading and ignore the entirety of the Old Testament (as hell, per se, does not exist within those pages, which were penned after a few thousand years of oral storytelling as the only means of their record-keeping). Putting critical thinking aside concerning the validity of hell, the morality of such a place is even more alarming. An all-powerful deity who creates the cosmos on a whim — and claims to love its creations — puts its creations on a world it made full of pain, disease, death and evil. Then, while giving no indication or proof of existence of itself, it dictates that if you don’t believe it caused all of existence, you get thrown into a firepit to be tortured for all eternity. Any reasonable human (who has not been indoctrinated since childhood never to question any biblical teaching) would be incredibly skeptical of such a place and horrified at the implications of what qualifies as love to those who believe the claimant.
What person could look another in the eye and pass such a sentence (other than one who means to control others through fear)? No love has ever called for the eternal torment of those who do not reciprocate the emotion. Imagine yourself to be the creator. Would you bother creating evil or death or misery? The god of Judaism, Christianity and Islam was created in the minds of people to reflect the world they saw. Religion is simply an early science. It attempts to explain why everything is. However, humanity had not advanced to the later, more beneficial, steps of the scientific method, namely peer review and replicable results.
Because I love, unrestricted by the wisdom of a bronze-age goat herder, because I think skeptically on all claims made, and because we, as a species, have grown past the need for a creator explanation, I am an unabashed atheist not afraid of burning in hell.
Blake, 22, is from Avon, Ind., and attends IUPUI. He worked as an editor in the film industry for a few years before taking a few semesters at Ivy Tech, then transferring to IUPUI. He also works at the Avon Washington Township Public Library.