The Obligation of Swimmers

Medieval illustration of Hell in the Hortus deliciarum manuscript of Herrad of Landberg, early twelfth century

It would be nice not to have to say this, but so many people believe it, I feel the need to say it: Hell is a mythical place those who designed Christianity and Islam created to coerce people through fear into believing in their god and his alleged earthly manifestation Jesus or his messenger Muhammad.

There is no horrible place full of torture and misery waiting for you after you die for refusing to believe such a ridiculous and hateful thing. Hell is a human invention (just as god is). It is, moreover, the invention of sadistic and manipulative minds carried forward by ignorant and irrational thinking.

That people would feel compelled to teach their children this terrifying myth testifies to the irrationality ubiquitous in Christianity and Islam. I am so lucky to have had somebody in my life who had the good sense and common decency to catch me at a young age and free me from a terror that my immature mind might has assimilated into its core before I was cognitively able to see the ridiculousness of such a notion.

Why smart people believe nonsense is the consequence of letting adults, themselves victims of mythology, inject things into developing brains.

Another of the objectionable features of Christianity and Islam, and this is tied to the previous objection, is the way belief in these myths dispossess people of common moral sense. No proper guardian with the extensive control over his domain claimed by the followers of this god (the latter is a plagiarism of the former) would punish forever those he says he loves for refusing to accept that which his followers not only have neither evidence nor reason to believe, but which contradicts everything a thinking person could know about the universe she actually lives in.

To think such a terrible thing—to love an abusive father, to revere a psychopath—expresses damage to one’s capacity to love. Is it any wonder that so many Christians and Muslims are so incredibly hateful and judgmental of those who not only don’t believe their hogwash but—and this one falls especially on Christians—believers who fall short of the glory of which they claim everybody falls short?

When a person is told to believe something on faith, that person is being told to put aside their critical faculties and believe in the unbelievable. It sets people up to accept all manner of absurdities on faith. Faith teaches that there exists beyond this world something more important than this world, that something exists beyond humanity that is more important than human beings.

Faith-belief prepares the ground for perpetrating and tolerating all manner of terrible things, from shaming and stifling young and impressionable minds to burning bodies at the stake to free their souls. Asking that we accept the promise of a life that extends beyond the one we have is an invitation to limit our lives by fear and unreason. That a perfect being who says he loves us would test us in the flesh before judging whether we should enjoy eternal life. What a truly immoral notion.

Some think I should be happy that I escaped it and leave it there. That’s like leaving people to drown when you know how to swim.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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