You heard me.
I've recently given up fighting with religious people; the ones don't give me a reason to bring it up, and I effectively avoid the ones I dislike by living in Brooklyn.
However, this has left me arguing with other atheists. I'm in the middle of several protracted arguments with the Hutchins crowd, to the point where I'm cutting them out of my life the same way I cut out the religious nuts and conspiracy theorists. It's not spirituality I detest per-se, it's conviction in one's beliefs. For some reason, people think this is a good thing and preach it from every end of every spectrum with noticeably humorless speeches. From conviction springs self-righteousness and defensiveness. The only belief I'm personally convinced of is that anyone who smiles while shaking their head and explaining something should be punched, hard, in whatever place will most effectively prevent them from breeding.
I digress. I'm not here to bring up my issue with the new atheist, I'm here to make fun of Christians, just to make sure nobody gets confused about which side I'll be on when the rapture hits. The answer is I'll be one of the bad guys, and I'll be killed by God's soldiers (lovingly, I'm sure) and I'll burn in Hell for eternity.
I've often been told, directly, or indirectly, that I'm going to Hell, and have joked about it with my secular friends who don't believe in it. However, the Christians... you know, there are a number of Christians I like, so I'm going to distinguish between the Christians in general and the ones I dislike by calling the obnoxious ones "Christers". It's not my invention, but it serves for now. Ahem. However, the Christers seem very convinced that I'm wrong, and they say things like, "If you don't believe in Christ, you better be right." This is the white trash version of Pascal's Wager, which essentially says that believing in God carries no penalties if you're wrong, whereas not believing in God means eternal hellfire if you're wrong, so you should cover your bets and cough up the ten percent to the priest, even if he is raping your kid in the vestibule.
The obvious problem with this argument is that the believing in God in the Christer sense carries a lot of daily burdens and responsibilities, more or less depending on whatever the church has decided to reinterpret from a book that hasn't seen a decent editor in four hundred years (It's last editor was, if you can't guess, King James). As a long time sinner, I can promise you that I've had more fun than any Christian you've ever met, most of it guilt-free, and God knows I couldn't have had a lot of it if I'd had to wake up early on Sunday. To the doubting Christer: my drugs are better than your religious experiences, my sex is more fun than your chastity, my books are better than your book, my drunken conversations are better than your prayers, and my friends are all genuine, because none of them just pretend to be nice because they think God's watching them. (Note: if you are my friend, and are pretending, you can stop. I don't care.) Furthermore, even without all the sin I've personally embraced, life is much better without some extra, arbitrary set of responsibilities tacked on to the already time-consuming struggle for survival.
The point is there is an extremely heavy sacrifice in wasting your life following a set of rules that aren't going to be enforced in the end. However, Pascal's Wager aside, I will happily go to Hell even if the Christers are right.
Primary in my thinking is that I don't want to be around a God that nabs a few and consigns others to Hell. That my life is a hard, painful test that I failed, and was doomed to fail because there's an omnipotent being making a point with his toys puts me squarely on the side of Hell. That anyone would threaten me into doing something for God makes me think God likes bullies. Or maybe God has been resorting to bullying people into the fold because he's out of miracles, and it might be too much effort to haul me up to Heaven anyway. The I'm okay, you're okay threat is that the problem with Hell is just that you're so far from the light of God. Having never experienced such light, and not being a huge fan of God, I can't say it will bother me.
The nastier threats are also pretty weak. Many temperatures are presented when describing Hell, because the uneducated are hilariously inept at trying to bring science into their pamphlets about how you should dismiss all scientific thought of the last thousand years. Well, if they're going to tell me Hell has been accurately determined to have a base temperature of 5000 degrees (feels like: 5032) then I'm going to have to bring up the point that I'm an incorporeal soul, so who cares. They might say, well, you'll have flesh down there to burn, like a human, which is fine, because at that temperature, my flesh would instantly vaporize, followed quickly by my skeleton, and it would happen so fast I would only feel the mildest pinch before I was, yet again, incorporeal. If they tell me that's not how it works, then I have to respond that the rules are clearly different down there, so whatever temperature they bring up is probably meaningless.
The cleverer existential portrayals of Hell all say that Hell is a relative torture; it's whatever you fear most, and somehow you never get over it. This would surprise me, since the mind is famously adaptable, and could probably get used to the constant torture. In order to create an effective Hell, we must suppose there is no upper bound to the fear and pain endurable by a soul. There also must be a creative driving force behind this, one that is willing to expend vast amounts of energy on torturing the already dead. Since the energy and creative will must increase constantly with each new torture and each new soul in order to keep it fresh and maximally torturous (and the driving force can't even reference earthly horrors for inspiration, because Hell must be worse than anything on Earth), the torturing force, supposedly the Devil, must have an infinite amount of energy at his or her disposal, thus must be infinitely powerful, thus shouldn't have lost that first battle for Heaven in the first place.
No, I think it's unlikely this is how Hell works. The Devil in biblical literature really just seems to be making a point. If it was an all out war, I doubt God and the Devil would be passing wednesday afternoons taking bets on Job. Furthermore, the Devil made his point so well in the first few rounds that God had to wipe out most of humanity and put his own son out to pasture just to stay in the argument.
I would suggest that if there is a Hell run by a Devil (and I dismiss out of hand Dante's petty political cartoons on the subject), I think the Devil is running more of a cheap hotel than a house of pain. He might not have the best room in the house, but I'm sure he does all right. Since sinning is an evil in and of itself, I'd expect a lot more sinning going on in Hell, as a constant fuck you to Heaven. God has always seemed much more interested in punishment than the Devil; if we sinners were all going up to Heaven to be tortured by angels, I'd be more worried. The fact that the original sinner is in charge of the sinners is really kind of comforting.
In fact, no matter how you reason it, to anyone who actually loves life and liberty, as opposed to just being someone who loves mouthing those words while signing off on genocides, Hell seems like the more honorable, and probably more interesting and fun option. The Christers will tell me that reason is what's getting me sent to Hell, but that's the point. I'm okay with it. I'm more interested in what Hell has to offer, and hearing the other side of the story, since the Devil didn't get a own book, and God's is pedantic and tiresome.
So there you go. Even if the Christers or any other popular theology is right, I would rather burn in Hell than be associated with the god that sent me there.