1st place — Matthew McFadden: Sacred tyranny, holy violence: Religious hell on Earth
FFRF awarded Matthew $3,000.
By Matthew McFadden
All persons are children of God, benevolently formed in his heavenly image, the objects of his unconditional and everlasting love, tenderly envisaged within his divine plan. Gratifying though it may appear, beware this ostensible narrative of solicitude. When contrasted with St. John’s pronouncement in John 3:36 (KJV), “He that believeth on the son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” a starkly more pernicious account is revealed.
Created with supposedly boundless love, the subjects of God are commanded to reciprocate this affection upon threat of perpetual anguish. “Adore me or incur eternal misery!” is the mandate of the lord. Omnipotent and all-knowing, he nonetheless conceives of multitudes of beings foreseen to be destined for his incontrovertible vengeance. These persons, given no say in the matter, are designed, thrust into being, judged and callously condemned by the very engineer of their existence, enrolled in a form of ethereal Russian roulette in which the finger of heaven pulls the trigger. Forged as a mere plaything of his enjoyment, this creation seems more a product of jaded narcissism than love. Far from the charitable and caring deity naively portrayed by his children, this father is a jealous, egotistical, greedy, possessive, insecure sadist who abhorrently revels in the compulsory worship of his creation. This father is a celestial dictator, starving for tribute, quick to punish anything but blind credulity.
Not solely reprehensible in essence, this belief readily becomes a moral pretext for the imposition of brutality. Warfare, torture, terrorism and forced conversions, each categorically borne out in religious history, carry no ethical misgivings when juxtaposed to the presumed alternative of unceasing hellfire. Inaugurating hell on Earth is a small price to pay for an eternity of paradise.
Is it not some God whose word may be interpreted as justification for the dismemberment of limbs, torching of heretics or suicidal mass murder? This God must either be purposefully arcane, and thus delight in the bloodshed his species unnecessarily doles on his behalf, or be profoundly and paradoxically incompetent, capable of crafting the cosmos in all its complexity, but unable to effectively communicate with a species of advanced apes. In either case, I am uninterested in making this God’s acquaintance, let alone squandering an eternity with him.
I maintain an utter lack of defensible ground by which any fellow mortal may admonish me against supernatural punishment. Even were this mythical jabberwocky to ultimately exist, I would not wish to everlastingly abide with the indifferent architect of human suffering. I do not wish to obsequiously venerate this megalomaniacal tyrant into perpetuity. I do not wish for God. I am unafraid of burning in hell. I am an unabashed anti-theist.
Matthew, 19, from Dana Point, Calif., attends the University of California-Los Angeles. He plans to minor in neuroscience and eventually wants to pursue medical education and employment in psychiatry.