Sixth place (tie) — Trevor Jansen: Enjoy life, go to hell

By Trevor Jansen

Trevor Jansen

The afterlife is truly the perfect carrot on the proverbial stick for any religion. It promises pleasure and happiness beyond anything attainable on Earth, guarantees that those who believe in it will do whatever it takes to get there, and, best of all, it cannot be refuted or shown to be less than what was promised since it only comes after death. The afterlife is how every business wishes it could reward its employees — an empty promise they have no obligation to keep in exchange for a lifetime of loyalty.

The intrinsic problem with the promise of an afterlife is the fine print. There’s plenty of extra conditions in religious texts that ensure only the “right” people get to be happy when they die. No gays, heathens, bastards, blasphemers, freethinkers or mixed-fabric wearers are getting into the Christian heaven. Obviously, they get to suffer eternal torment in the pits of hell, but only because God loves them.

Noticing these stipulations was a big wake-up call to me, and should be to others as well. Why does God punish homosexuality when he created it? Why did God give us free will, but sends us to hell when we decide to question him? What happens to people who worship different religions and don’t even know Abrahamic religions exist? Ask these questions of any religious practitioner and you will no doubt hear a litany of their characteristic mental gymnastics and cop-out answers.

The real reason you should be opposed to the presented idea of an afterlife is the damage such an idea causes. By trivializing death to the point where being dead is actually (supposedly) better than living, you create a mindset where believers have no reason to care for their health or happiness on Earth. With the promise of heaven in front and the threat of hell behind them, people will make themselves miserable by denying sexual urges, accepting primitive conditions, abstaining from pleasurable activities, and even killing and dying for a meaningless cause. Cults like Heaven’s Gate and The People’s Temple get all the bad press for convincing their members to die to reach heaven, when Christianity and Islam do the same thing on a much larger scale.

Promising an afterlife encourages people to ignore the life they already have in pursuit of some goal that is always just out of reach. Being pious and reaching heaven is antithetical to living your real life to its fullest and experiencing everything it has to offer. Frankly, if all the religious people are in heaven, I’d much rather go to hell.

Trevor, 18, attended La Plata High School in La Plata, Md. Trevor also enjoys travel, as he has been all over the United States, as well as France, England and Spain. He will be attending the University of Maryland – Baltimore County, where he plans to study biology and hopes to become a pathologist.