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Is There a Fate Worse Than Death? December 29, 2010

Posted by jetson in Personal.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I heard the phrase “fate worse than death” on an unrelated YouTube video, and it got me thinking about the topic. For humans, we know that we will all die one day. Of course, there are many who believe, or at least hope, that there is some kind of life after death. These beliefs are all over the map in terms of details, but they are quite popular. I don’t even have to wonder why this is the case, as I myself do not want my life to end. Or, so I say.

My personal belief is that when we die, we revert back to the same state we were in prior to conception. Which is my way of describing to others the state I believe I will be in; that of non-existence, and with no ability to recognize or acknowledge my existence. Before the egg and sperm united that created me, I was not, nor was I even intended. I was a rather rare luck of the draw, so to speak. And so it will be, I presume, after I die. But for some, there is a fate even worse if one considers death to be a bad thing.

Christianity claims that those who do not get accepted into heaven will be doomed to Hell. And Hell is described in most sects as an eternal lake of fire, or an eternal burning, gnashing of teeth, etc. Sounds awful to me. Yes, it sounds far worse to me than being a corpse, even if my body were cremated, the burning stops once the fuel (my body) is consumed. But Hell is an eternal burning of my body, while I am aware and alive, and while I can always feel the burning! This sounds horrific. To be fair, not all Christians believe in this type of Hell.

But, no matter how I look at it, if rejecting God, Jesus, or Christianity is going to land me in this awful place, this fate, then I don’t see any way to call Christianity a loving or peaceful religion. I don’t see how I have been given the “free will” to accept or reject this god, if this punishment exists. There is nothing more evil and despicable in my book. As a parent, I would never hold a punishment so severe over my children, for any reason. It is simply not necessary. However, I hold no delusion that fear is not the greatest motivator for most humans. And if Hell is real, it has certainly scared many people enough to keep them at least pretending to believe.

I know there are Christians who will say that the love of Jesus and the promise of Heaven are far greater rewards, and that this is the reason they choose to accept Jesus. But those same people refuse to renounce the punishment of Hell. In other words, they claim that they are not afraid of Hell, because they believe, but they simultaneously claim that we have a choice to believe or not. So, if I don’t believe, they prefer to claim that I don’t want to be in Heaven, or to accept Jesus as my savior. And they believe that it is always my choice to believe, or go to Hell.

If there are in fact only two fates, Heaven or Hell, then the only rational choice, according to believers, is to believe! It never occurs to many of them that a reward alone should be enough to gain believers. It never occurs to some of them that the reward of eternal life would still work for most believers, and that NOT making it to Heaven is punishment enough. Why add Hell to the mix at all? Well, if you’re a god like the one in The Bible, you can add Hell as the ultimate punishment, thereby cutting off all options and choices for everyone. What choice does anyone actually have if the reward and punishment are equally eternal, and at polar opposities in terms of fate?

I do not want to die. But then again, do I really want to live forever? We’ve all seen enough fictional movies to see where eternal life could get awfully boring. For me, Heaven is a human idea designed to ease the finality of death. You don’t come back, as they say. And if that’s what it takes for many humans to accept the finality of death, that’s OK with me. I know I have one shot. And I know it is relatively short.

I can say that at this point in my life, I am happier than I have ever been with the knowledge that I was able to be so lucky to be here, and that I was able to experience the love of my family and my children. I want to be there for my youngest son, and for my grand-children, but I know that I cannot be here forever. That makes everything I am doing right now even more important. It makes me want to be as kind and helpful as I possibly can. It makes me want to share my knowledge, help others in need, and smile a lot more.

But what do I know, I’m just a godless heathen!



1. Team Oyeniyi - December 29, 2010

Very similar thoughts to my own. I once wrote an entry about why I am an atheist. Like you, I can’t imagine living forever either and I’ll never understand people’s fear of death – what is that all about? Nothing surer than death and taxes, as they say.

As for a fate worse than death, I suppose not literally so (as in once one is dead that is “The End”) but I think being held in limbo by circumstance and living each day in fear is probably close. Admittedly, I am not personally in danger – think of the millions in squalid refugees camps the world over, for instance, is that for many a fate worse than death? Where they live in hope of rescue and battle the horrendous conditions every day only to die in the end anyway? Perhaps I have answered myself – I think a fate worse than death is possibly a protracted death.

jetson - December 29, 2010

Yes, I should have made it clear that there are some humans who probably feel they are living in a fate worse than death. Excellent point!

2. bradley - December 29, 2010

Nice post.

One thing I don’t get, though, is how there is “no choice” about heaven/hell. On the surface it makes sense, but…

That’s kind of like saying there’s no choice between healthy living and the unhealthy alternative. On the surface, yeah ok… Why would anyone choose to eat unhealthy foods and not exercise? But, here we are… and that’s not even a debatable topic, as is the afterlife.

Instead of being angry at the “junk food peddlers” and “entertainers for the lazy” that are set to make a profit from tempting everyone into relinquishing their freewill, you seem angry at the machinery of the human body… and propose that health & fitness coaches are simply hatemongers.

Nice post, though.

jetson - December 29, 2010

I have trouble sometimes explaining the choice issue. But maybe you can weigh in on this: why not offer eternal life in heaven, or no eternal life in heaven? Why add Hell to the mix?

It would be more palatable to me if my choice to remain a non-believer didn’t automatically place me into an eternal lake of fire. Or maybe “no Heaven” is a metaphor for Hell, and all it means is you’re not going to Heaven?

Could it be that no torture is far too easy, and would not recruit followers? Maybe eternal life in Heaven wasn’t sweet enough for some, so the torture of Hell was added to raise the stakes.

Team Oyeniyi - December 29, 2010

I think the concept of Hell came merely as a control mechanism. Fear is a great control mechanism. For kings, chiefs, rulers in general to a certain extent religion is a form of controlling the masses. Hell = fear = control.

As I don’t believe in heaven, I don’t believe in hell. Still think it is about controlling the masses: i.e. the choice is effectively no choice.

3. bradley - December 29, 2010


I can see how non-believers associate hell–>fear–>control. Man does this with all sinister motives imaginable. It COULD be where the inspiration came from. I wouldn’t be surprised. I run into some difficult tension to work out with that assumption, though.

The only thing I, a christian, have to gain from “ruling” over you by invoking fiery torture for “misdeeds” would be to control you into a habit of loving your neighbor, thereby selfishly making MY world a better place. So, I would be using sinister means for a loving end, for selfish reasons. I would be fueling a “love machine” 😀 with hate. I’m not sure that makes any sense.

I don’t really know why hell exists. I, personally, believe John (I think it was) may have been inspired by thinking about what life would be like within and without the presence of God.

Merely ONLY having a “destination” called Heaven doesn’t quite work, as Heaven exists as a continuation of life, without the material death of our flesh. If that WAS the case, though, simply being denied at the pearly gates DOES make sense.

However, if our original purpose was for life, there needn’t be any additional real estate created to support us. All was created for our existence. When the material rots away we are left with only the presence of God. Spiritual death seems like the foreign state for our souls here. So what happens to the spiritually dead?

It COULD be metaphor… I don’t really know. I don’t have any reason to NOT believe, but it IS hard to think about people suffering in Hell.

jetson - December 29, 2010

Yeah, I’ve been in discussions where some believe your memory does not come with you, so you don’t have to worry about a family member who is in hell, for example. But I would hate to lose my memory of those I loved the most!

Others believe they meet up with all of their loved ones, and live happily ever after. I wonder if they just suppress the possibility that a loved one doesn’t make it…

bradley - December 30, 2010

Just for kicks… I think a plausible occurrence, somewhat loosely based on the concept of an afterlife and judgment, would definitely deal with the memory… depending on how memory is actually stored. In theory, it seems like it COULD be possible for our memory to remain stored after death. I really have no idea about that science. 😀

But, IF it is possible then our life’s memories (good and bad) would continue. Our “good” memories would continue, meaning we WOULD be surrounded by our loved ones. The bad part would be the “bad” memories. If the memories we have repented for were also encoded with an understanding of forgiveness, these would not “haunt” us any more. If not, we would have no way of escaping… as we would have no means of making NEW memories.

However, if the memories are all that remains, then there would be no way to process the memories over time until remorse is felt. So unless we felt remorse for a bad memory before death then there would be no hell after death.

Well, that’s just some half-baked theory to explain how the bible could be true without it ACTUALLY being true… and I’m pretty sure that’s not original. Makes me feel like passing the bong to the left. 😉

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