Friday, October 25, 2013

A Hell of a Story (fiction)

"There is no hell," explained the professor in his unorthodox dress of cut off jeans, Birkenstock sandals, and a university t-shirt. "All that religious people are trying to do is scare honest people into belief."

The university lecture all went uncomfortably silent. A few students near the front nodded their heads vigorously. They were members of the Atheist and Agnostic Society and friends (read lackeys) of the professor. A number of kids from various Christian ministries on campus were noticeably upset but unwilling to take the bait. They had seen a few brave, but ill-prepared, peers speak up on occasion, only to leave the classroom in tears.

The professor continued, "Occam's razor says the most likely explanation is usually the correct one. As such, in the case of an afterlife, we must conclude there isn't one. There is no heaven, no hell, just coffins and worm food. We would do well to teach people the brevity of life, rather than offer some sort of afterlife fiction."

This elicited more nods from the front and quiet in the back.

Then it happened...a hand.

"Yes," spoke the smiling professor to a late-teens black girl on the right side of the room. She hadn't ever spoke in the class. Most students had never noticed her before now.

"Professor, it seems to me that a belief in hell might do more good for people than the hope of feeding worms."

"But hell is a fiction, young lady, a myth."

"I'm not claiming to know for sure whether hell is real or not, Professor. I did not grow up going to church at all, but you just claimed that teaching people that life was brief and that doubting an afterlife would be better for people. I just don't think that makes much sense to me."

"Of course, it does not make much sense to you. You are young and inexperienced. I have studied the world and seen what these beliefs have down to others," explained the professor.

"Well, professor, I may be young, but where I grew up, I wish people did believe in hell. Most of my girlfriends were raped before they were fourteen. My brother was shot because he helped a friend leave a gang. My dad left my mom when I was four. I think most of the people who did all this believed along the lines you've been describing. They thought life was short and there was no afterlife. They did what they wanted, when they wanted, with whomever they wanted. To be honest, I only hope they are justly compensated in the next life for all that they've done."

"Ah, my point exactly. Your belief in the afterlife gives free reign to your anger. You want vengeance, rather than peace. Just like every religious person I've ever m...," the professor was interrupted.

"You aren't listening professor," the college co-ed was getting a bit flustered, "I'm not religious, but I'm getting to a place in my life where religion seems to offer a whole lot more answers than your textbooks. Without religion, I would pursue vengeance. I'd believe the only way to make things right in this world was to use my own hands to bring vindication. But these religions we've been studying allow folks to wait for a more just, and divine retribution."

"Which divine do you want to bring this retribution? Haven't you realized all of these religions are vastly different from each other?" demanded the professor in a sneering tone.

"You know Professor, despite all your attempts to persuade otherwise, I think the peasant prophet from Palestine looks to be the wisest route to go. Seems like a God willing to die for His people and make provision for anyone willing to repent of their wrong-doing, is the only person who would be able to exact vengeance fairly."

"Jesus? You dare to claim that Jesus is fair in my classroom. You even call him God?? Ridiculous. I won't hear of it."

"Professor, I don't mean to make you angry. I simply think an afterlife with heaven and hell and a God willing to die for others seems a bit more beautiful and life-giving than a future of coffins and worms. One way of believing will lead to reckless self-indulgence until death; the other just might lead to the pursuit of sacrificial love and justice. Seems like those religious people are trying to scare us into living a whole lot better life than what you suggest is true." At this the girl, grabbed her books and exited the class.

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