I have some thoughts about the afterlife for those of us who aren’t saints. Or at least some opinions on the Christian view of this matter. For the moment, I’ll talk about the traditional monotheistic God who loves us all. I’ve talked some with Ariana about her beliefs as one of the most Christian people I know, and whenever we get into such topics, it’s given both of us plenty to think about.
People love to talk about the forgiving, loving, omnipotent, omniscient nature of God, and yet firmly believe that there is a Hell where people who did wrong will be placed. It’s kind of hard for me to argue against the idea of a Hell for people on the scale of humanity’s genocide leaders, but at the same time, if God is loving, all-knowing and into forgiving people, he sees into the heart of every person ever and understands why they did what they did, even the really awful people. Love is about accepting a person for who they are, even if they’re not healthy. Forgiveness doesn’t right any wrongs that were done, but if God can understand someone’s failings and love them anyway, I can’t picture him condemning his children to the worst and most eternal punishment he can come up with (and being God, I doubt that even medieval humans’ ideas come close on that). I think he would basically put them in the corner for a time-out, or guide them through practice making better decisions until they learned to do it right. If there is an omnipotent, omniscient God, then he has to have a better way of dealing with misguided children than anything humans can come up with.
It must be nice, sometimes, to believe in this God who will forgive you completely when you simply apologize for the wrongs you’ve done. To know that no matter how incomprehensible your decision was to anyone else, there is someone who knows where that decision fits in the puzzle of your mind, and will still love you afterwards. But if it works that way for people on the street, then it would have to work the same way for the despots and genocide-perpetrators too, right? That they can just ask for forgiveness? How do you sort that out, how would God sort it out? People say that only God can judge, but humans are pretty darn good about judging on their own.
I think that heaven and hell (or even including purgatory) are too black-and-white for the God that (may have) created the universe.
Although I am certainly not as good at tolerance as I should be, I’m proud that Unitarian Universalism encourages universal tolerance and acceptance of the people in the world. I’m hesitant to make general statements about our beliefs, since we tend to behave as much like a herd of cats as we can manage, but I think it is safe to say that most UUs disbelieve the concept of hell. I believe that if there is an omnipotent, all-loving higher power, he/she/it understands the hearts of every single human being who has ever lived, and could never condemn even the most terrible person to an eternal hell as described by other, more judgmental, religions. I admit to the hope that the really terrible horrible people get a little less saving – but I doubt there are people who really say “I’m going to do my best to make the world the worst it can be,” and this higher power must understand a bad person’s reasons and love that the person tried to make the world better, even if their “better world” was actually a terrible idea – and find an appropriate solution for them.