One question that every atheist has gotten when an a-athiest (think about the double negative!) discovers their disbelief goes something like this.
What if you’re wrong? What will you say to God when you die and are judged?
It’s almost as if the theist thinks the person that renounced his faith never thought about this question. But nothing could be further from the truth. I know I spent a ton of time thinking about this ramification. It is comfortable after all to just keep on towing the line and acting like you believe, just in case there really is a God ready to judge you when you die. It is a supposition essentially born out of fear. It is the last bastion you hit when you are desperate to cling to your belief. I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to what is in essence Pascal’s wager on the afterlife.
As Homer astutely points out, Pascal’s wager is actually pretty absurd if you step back for a moment and consider all the possible deities that might be judging you in the after life. Allah after all isn’t all that pleased with Christians. Jesus is gonna cast any that don’t believe in him into a fiery pit to eternally burn. Even Mormons in their effort to let everyone win besides the outer darkness folks still end up banning you from having an eternal family unless you are totally Mormon.
And that is just two religions that account for 75% of the planet and a relative small 0.2% that I mention only because I was personally in that category. There are literally hundreds of religions and God’s actively worshiped on earth today. and thousands that have come and gone in the past. (Anyone worship Zeus anymore?)
The person asserting pascals wager as a defense is making an assumption. They are assuming they picked the right religion. Which most of the time just happens to be the one they were raised in. This is pretty normal because religions lay claim to knowing the absolute truth. Sometimes they call other faiths abominations and sometimes more moderately they just say those other guys didn’t get it quite right. But the end result is belief that their particular faith has some secret sauce that others don’t. 1
This gives the believer a sense of purpose, which is a very attractive proposition. Who doesn’t want feel important after all? Of course you are required to practice humility even though you are one of the special elect. So that keeps you from realizing your own haughtiness most times. In that sense religion feeds a very human imperative. The desire to be needed.
So there is reason to realize the ‘what if your wrong’ question is pretty silly at the outset. But when you are questioning your own beliefs it is far more personal. I did put myself in the shoes of being wrong, not about any other religion that I had no faith in, but being wrong about the one I personally was losing faith in.
What if I left the only true faith when it was already in my grasp? Scriptures condemn the person in my situation. In the best case you don’t have freedom to be with your family at your will and worst case you get stuck in outer darkness for the rest of eternity. 2 Either way if I was wrong and the Mormons were right. I’d be facing judgement one day and I wondered what I would say if I met God. (The Mormon one, not Zeus or Allah. I wasn’t ever scared of those guys condemning me before so I honestly didn’t think much about them.)
If I’m wrong and I end up before the judgment bar pleading my case, my question for God will be simply why? Why did he make things like eye worms that burrow into kids eyes blinding them as they eat their way out? Why did he allow little girls to be raped and murdered ignoring their prayers while helping some other person find their car keys? Why did he give me this ability to think and to reason and to question and then tell me to shut off my brain and just believe?3 Because for the life of me. (pun intended) I can’t think of a remotely reasonable answer to those questions. Sure the default position is protecting peoples free agency and all that jazz. But that excuse falls really flat if you actually think much about it. I mean should this doctor not infringe on an eyeworms free agency?
It really is that obviously dumb to consider when you think about it. There is so much needless pain and suffering in the world that God must have created for the religion I believed in to be true. Why let tsunamis wipe out tens of thousands of people in painful drownings? Does a wave need free agency? Why did he make a world that is so full of pain and remorse when it was totally in his power to minimize it? That is what I’d ask him sitting there on this throne on judgment day. Because when I am honest and when I face down my fear of condemnation there just isn’t a good answer to this question. Sure it can be sort of treated like a test of a father where sometimes he lets a kid fall on his bike and skin his knee to learn a bit about life. But, skinned knee = a painful childhood cancer death? Really? Is there any decent parent you know that would not try to save their child from a painful terminal illness so they could have that experience? I don’t know any.
So what does it mean when your earthly father has more compassion than the one in heaven? I discovered that if God didn’t want me there because I wasn’t willing to bow and tell him how awesome he was, it didn’t bother me. Because I realized ultimately he was the one responsible for all the pain and suffering in the world and that is not a reason to love someone. It is human nature to do so though. Battered women often profess love for their abusers. I realized the only reason I had honestly felt a need to worship this guy was actually fear, sure I called it love but that was a cop out. Like a battered woman in a failed marriage I was very afraid to go it alone so I talked myself into it being ok. It was after this honest assessment that I decided to not be afraid.
It is amazing what happens when you decide you are not afraid. I am honestly not afraid of meeting my maker anymore. If he exists, I have some tough questions before he banishes me to whatever hell the theist imagines for a person that mocks God like I do. Because it is patently obvious he could have done a lot better job if he wanted to.4
And who knows. Maybe this life really is a test. Maybe the Fridge is God and when we are all up there he will congratulate all the Atheists for seeing through the bullshit and having the courage to face their fears and examine their own evidence for flaws. He might commend us for seeking truth at the expense of eternal reward and the courage it took to do so. If that turns out to be real instead of the afterlife you are thinking about. I promise you this. I won’t laugh at you for being fooled by all those other non-Fridge faiths and I’ll do my damnedest to get you into heaven too!5
- Random thought, religions are like burgers. Everyone wants it their way, but they don’t all like the same secret sauce. 🙂 Food analogies prove the Fridge is true yet again! ↩
- After all, my experience with belief went all the way to hearing audible voices which I later decided was my own brain doing its damnedest to keep me believing in spite of a shelf full of contradictions. So if that was really the Holy Ghost, I definitely denied that fact. Before I considered that possibility I would and did testify knowing the church was true as sure as I knew the sun shined. Denying that experience comes with heavy consequences. Look up the scriptures, it’s a sin worse than murder. ↩
- You are even expected to shelve your own moral imperatives and feelings when it comes to things like murder and child sacrifice just because God says to. Is that really reasonable? ↩
- If my tiny human brain can see all the ways he could have done it, imagine what his infinite brain could have come up with! Just a thought for any believers reading this and thinking they are just too dumb to understand God’s ways. ↩
- OK, I might giggle a little bit like when you see your best friend turf it, but you give him a hand up and you both laugh about it later over a cold one from the Fridge. 🙂 ↩