Subject yourself to literary hell, first!
Disbelievers, take note! Michael Patton over at Reclaiming the Mind has written a letter to his atheistic friends explaining how to prepare for hell. Now, aside from the obvious (put ice in the cooler; remember your address book; pop your collar), he has the following to say.
Though what I am offering to you is still as far from heaven as the east is from the west, it may do some good
We’re on a sphere, dude. East is actually pretty damn close to west.
, I admit, I could be wrong too. But if I am wrong, what awaits me? Eternal darkness? Nothingness? Fine and good. However, if you are wrong, something terrible is coming. I can’t prepare for nothingness. You can prepare for Hell
The obvious response is that he overlooks the third possibility: we could both be wrong. Is he preparing for Cehennem? No?
But the point I want to make pertains to this line: I can’t prepare for nothingness. That’s where he’s wrong. He can, and should, prepare for nothingness. As a Christian who believes in a literally hell, he has not even begun to fully grok the situation facing him. This is his only life, and when he dies, it’s basically lights out. Instead of preparing for his inevitable oblivion and beginning to fathom all that entails, he has instead created an imaginary friend. This is preparing for nothingness like dropping out of high school is preparing for college – it’s a way to avoid preparing to live your life nowlike it matters, like it’s more than a test.
All those people – all those six billion other people – are in the same boat. No one is up there, looking out for us. No one cares if we’re happy, or devastated; if we’re hungry, or hungover; if we’re in love, or in loss. No one.
Except other humans like Michael Patton. They can know those things about others. They can even help others. Sure, ultimately, we’ll all be nothing in the end. But we can prepare for our deaths by preparing a lifetime of fond memories of each other. We can prepare to accept that this was our shot, and we made the most of it, and isn’t that fantastic that bits of animate stardust made each other smile on a lonely rock cooling around a giant nuclear reactor.
You not only can, you should prepare for nothingness. It may even inspire you to actually act like Jesus – for they were hungry, and you fed them, because otherwise they’d have gone hungry; for they were strangers, and you invited them in, because otherwise they would have been lonely and cold; for they were sick, and you took care of them, because otherwise they would have suffered more. Not because
Santa God is watching – because in a materialist world, there are consequences, and because needless suffering is morally indefensible.
But enough of my antivangelism. Back to this letter:
I elected to have Christ take my penalty; you elected to stay in the line of judgement and stand on your own.
Yes. It’s fundamentally immoral to let another person be punished in your place. It’s reprehensible. It’s outrageous. I refuse to have a whipping boy.
However, there is an invitation given to everyone in the line of judgement. It says that God loves us and does not desire that we should stand in this line and be judged. It says that Christ took the judgement upon himself for all those who will accept it. It says that who ever wants to leave this line and stand behind Christ can do so.
Great! So like, I can just leave the line after I have a reason to believe the lines exist and —
these lines become permanent upon death (i.e. the Bible does not present an after death chance to change lines),
So Hank won’t give us a million dollars until we leave town forever?
Hell is your decision; it is not the decision of God who loves you.
Why do you make me hit you, baby?
Next post: the actual suggestions.