The Battle for Zachary’s Brain IV: Hell

‘The atheist, by merely being in touch with reality, appears shamefully out of touch with the fantasy life of his neighbors.”

Sam Harris


“Pointing to another world will never stop vice among us; shedding light on this world can alone help us.”

Walt Whitman


Followers of the riveting “Zachary’s Brain” series of posts will remember that Zach is my 7-year-old stepson, whose task of configuring the world – his knowledge is truly minuscule! – is unfortunately complicated by spending 2/3 of his time with his stepmother (a vanilla pan-Christian, some Protestant sect or other) and father (lapsed Catholic who once refused communion because he had problems with the Church, once joined his then-wife in mocking the Pope but now wears a crucifix and goes to church with wifey – and to church retreats on his own!)…and the other third with me and his Mom, staunch atheists.

He has a 19-year-old brother whose atheist/skeptic credentials exceed mine: at age nine, he was telling other little Jewish kids that they wouldn't always have to wear their yarmulkes (skull caps).  He keeps his beliefs to himself but still gets into trouble for the slightest show of skepticism.

Conflicting world views

Zach has to manage two radically conflicting views of the world, just when he’s trying to settle on one.  My wife tearfully told me she’s sorry he has to go through this, but it’s the religious people who bring it on by trying to impose their view of truth on Zach, instead of just letting him use his mind to discover truth, as we urge him to do.

In previous posts, I noted that our strategy is pre-emptive programming, and recently my wife addressed hell directly.  She told Zach that there is a place of eternal suffering and punishment for bad conduct AND denial of the religious truth.  In fact, as he will find  out, piety is a more than adequate cover for vile conduct, from genital mutilation to suicide terrorism to child molestation. 

Zach took it all in.  He is a very intelligent and curious boy – hopefully too curious to accept religious fantasy.  No, they had not told him about hell yet.  Verrrry interesting. 

When and how are kids told?  Catholics get it at a very young age, and the guilt and can be permanent.   What will happen with these vanilla Christians?  He knows about heaven, so when does he find out about that other place?  No matter: the seed of doubt has been planted before the seed of faith. 

Bullying never stops.

But the bullying and fear-mongering never stop.  Believers must constantly be reminded of the punishment that awaits them, especially when they have the power to influence elections.

For the most contemptible example of hell-bullying, this week’s gold medal goes to the Catholic priests of Illinois, under orders from their bishop, who sent letters for the priests to read, just in case they might stray off-message. 

Last week, Springfield bishop Thomas Paprocki pointed out the “intrinsic evils of the Democratic platform.”  He wrote, in the diocese newspaper:

“…I am not telling you which candidates to vote for or against.  But I am saying that you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote, because a vote for a candidate who promotes actions and behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful [he means contraception and abortion – AMP] makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy.”

ROFLAMO.  Really, what’s the difference between this and the schoolyard bully who suggests that you give him your lunch, but if you don’t, he’ll break your jaw and kick you in the groin?

Maybe Zach won’t get such a hard line.  But he’ll be ready for whatever it is.  Someday he may even have occasion to tell a cleric to…go to hell.

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