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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

7th place (tie) — Emma Rosen: As long as you’re not there

FFRF awarded Emma $400.

By Emma Rosen

Emma Rosen

I cannot possibly recall all the times I’ve been told I’m going to hell. This silly notion meant to be an insult has been flung at me mainly because I’m Jewish (though I’m a secular Jew) and whenever I’ve exhibited behaviors that religious people deem damning. It’s almost funny how little an effect this has had on me. These people, holding their righteous anger close to their hearts and waving it around like they’re wielding a piece of their God’s power, like to let me know I will be burning eternally. It has about the same meaning to me as someone telling me I’m going to Atlantis, or Middle Earth, or Hogwarts. And the cure for this straight-to-hell diagnosis? Let Jesus into your heart!

Arbitrary rules abound when it comes to who’s going to heaven and who’s going to hell. The concept falls apart when you consider the fact that by evangelical standards, a serial killer could end up playing a harp in heaven as long as he repents and becomes a stringent God-lover. Furthermore, the concept of hell itself seems to contradict what missionaries on the street tell you. God loves you, they say. Jesus loves you. If God and Jesus are so loving, why do they condemn a significant portion of the population to be tortured in a fiery pit? Now, the Old Testament God, the God of the Jews, seems like the kind of deity who would remand you to the flames. This guy was vengeful, violent, and could seemingly care less about the majority of human life. Humans are doing things that displease God? Send a flood, wipe them all out. Moses was frustrated after leading the Israelites out of Egypt only to be lost in the desert? Too bad Moses, you don’t get to go to the promised land anymore because you doubted your God for a second. That God wouldn’t think twice about his “children” burning in hell.

Yet, it’s the New Testament fans who take to the concept of hell. Religion itself is like a bunch of fables and parables being used as justification for anything and everything. People choose what they want to follow and believe: God’s an a la carte buffet. If you’re gay, they think you will burn in hell because the bible says so. But the bible also commands you to keep the Sabbath. And yet, people work on the Sabbath all the time. But they’re not going to hell because they didn’t grab that commandment for their a la carte self-righteous feast.

A man tried to save my soul once. He said, “You should be one of those Jews for Jesus, because if you don’t, you’re going to hell.” My response? “As long as you’re not there.” I’m an unabashed atheist secular Jew, unafraid of burning in hell, because hell doesn’t exist. If there was a God who sends his more unruly people to hell, why the hell would you want to follow that guy? If there was a hell, and a God who sent me there, I think I’d enjoy it. Hell would be filled with interesting people, my friends and family, and probably all of my heroes throughout history. We’ll just avoid the murderers in the corner.

I do not reject religion out of disdain or anger. I reject religion because following a doctrine blindly leads to horrible occurrences. This has been proven again and again. I do not expect all the people in my community to fully understand where I’m coming from, as religion is personal and sacred to family members and some friends.

Sometimes not believing in God is a lonely burden. The religious might see me as a heathen for this. Maybe they’ll even tell me to my face that I’m going to hell. Well, as long as you’re not there.

Emma, 24, is from Cincinnati and attends LIU Global. She has worked as a preschool teacher, an Americorps VISTA at a nonprofit for the homeless, an English teacher in Israel, an English teacher for recent immigrants, a newspaper editor, a nanny, a high school youth adviser and a tutor.