“Aren’t you terrified of hell?”
A Catholic friend of mine asked me this question over the weekend. He can’t seem to grasp my reasons for leaving the church; I can’t grasp the reasons why he stays.
“When I was 10 years old I did.”
The Roman Catholic god is the god of the ego. This is the terrifying demiurge who demands unwavering fealty and belief in him under the pain of death. That is what hell is for Catholics – an eternal living death. Hell is a conscious death eternally aware of paradise lost, which is torment enough, but still only the tip of the devil’s pitchfork. The Roman Catholic god is a sadist in the truest sense of the word. God may actually be the first entity to have ever developed a bi-polar disorder.
“You can’t have heaven without hell.”
“Says who…theologians who have created an imaginary academic discipline around a potentially non existent being?”
God is love
Yet god condemns a person to eternal torment for the simple offense of non-belief. This is biblical. Post Modern theologians and priests try to whitewash this. They gloss over it and talk about the moral progression of the scriptures from beginning to end. But theology is based on a belief of an ancient tribal god. The moral progression they speak actually renders this god nonexistent.
“Hell is a choice. It’s the result of your use of your free will.”
Free will is a specious argument in Roman Catholicism, god’s omnipotence and omniscience rules against his creation having free will at all. God created the world ex nihlio and knew from the get go that humanity would fall from paradise and right down to which individuals would be saved and condemned. The reality is under this god you have only two choices: your actions either serve or glorify god or they don’t. It is that ridiculously simple.
This god created a world in which sin and misery was possible. Supposedly free will was given so that we could choose to accept or reject god, yet god knew beforehand the terrible penalty he would mete out for those who rejected him. This is what makes our creation a selfish act. God didn’t create for humanities sake; he created for his own divine pleasure and nothing else. These are all acts of an inflated ego – the god of the ego. The Christian dualists rejected the creator god and knew him to not be the true “Father of Lights.”
These heterodox Christians viewed the material world as hell. The human being was born a prisoner and his or her sole function was to escape. We modern Neo-Gnostics view hell, the demiurge et al. to be complex pieces of mythmaking. Gnosis is a psychological process and not so much a spiritual one (At least those of us of the ABiYA Gnostica tradition). Spirituality (derived from espiritus) literally is from or of the “breath of god,” that animating force of life. Since we start by “forgetting God” we also give up this need for spirituality. Spirituality is of the creator god or demiurge at best. He is the warden of the prison we are trying to escape. Why would we accept anything from him?
Don’t forget the Gnostic recognizes all of this as mythmaking. We are dealing with the psyche. For us this is all psychological processes to be mapped out and understood. Is there a reality beyond this one? Maybe and maybe not, we have too many epistemological barriers to answer this accurately. Gnosis always starts with the “self.” This is tricky enough and prone to delusion as any path of knowledge. So keeping god out of the works is beneficial – at least for now.
“Hell is a reality that isn’t eliminated by not believing in it.”
This gets me back the whole concept of fear.
I once had the pleasure of listening to a Rabbi deliver a wonderful sermon to a room of non Jewish people on the subtleties of the Hebrew word for “fear” in relation to god. Fear for this learned scholar and, indeed many, is heart trembling awe at the power that created the universe. It’s an existential response to the majesty of the universe in both its complexity and utter simplicity. It’s an awe that drives us to our knees because we cannot respond any other way – with, perhaps, the exception of curiosity.
I can be down with that. The problem is that this awe can take us in a number of directions philosophically each logically reasoned from whatever worldview you start at. An atheist can be in as much awe as a person who believes in deity. The rational process of the scientific method and the curiosity that drives us to learn and understand is as much a response as the more primitive urge to worship what we don’t understand. In many ways, science may be the more sublime response. A mystery solved is no less breathtaking.
But, this is not the kind of fear that a belief in hell engenders.
Heaven, Hell and purgatory (Which many more liberal priests try to ignore, but is still an official part of Catholic teaching) are the ultimate reward and punishment system. Its crime and punishment on the level of eternity and makes love and forgiveness quite conditional, which is a human trait and not a divine one. The reason god seems to act like both the best and worst in us is due to the fact that we created him in our own image and not the other way around. God is the god of the ego or to be more pointed the god of the human ego. This is what the Gnostic must overcome.
“The Devil’s greatest lie is that he doesn’t exist.”
“We counter that by suggesting god’s greatest lie is that he does exist.”
But, it’s a lie of the human ego and its perpetuated ad infinitum by the most superstitious and credulous among us. The Gnostic joins with the scientist in it’s proclamation that the universe works well without god and that there is no proof of his existence.
“But, neither science nor you can prove that god doesn’t exist either.”
True enough. But, the dictates of logic put the burden of proof on the positive assertion.