An otherwise intelligent Catholic friend once asked why it should bother me that Catholics believe I’m going to hell. She argued that it shouldn’t be a problem for me, since I don’t even believe in hell. It’s worse for her, as a Catholic that various fundamentalist sects think she is going to hell.
I thought about that for a while, and realized that the real problem is not that the Catholics think I am going to hell, but rather that they think they (and their fellow believers) are going to heaven. This belief creates a worldview for believers in immortal souls that is diametrically opposed to the reality-based view that this physical existence is all that there is.
Let’s look at a few examples, from the perspective of people who think they are going to heaven:
- Abortion: It doesn’t matter that being forced to sustain a pregnancy could have devastating effects on a woman’s physical or mental health or other aspects of her life. Her time on this world is just a short sojourn; her immortal soul is what really matters.
- Right-to-die: Suffering is good for the immortal soul (just ask Mother Teresa). What’s a bit of inconvenience at the end of someone’s life in view of the coming eternal bliss? Think of how the dying person’s suffering can help their loved ones come to understand the wonders of God’s mercy.
- Environment: Why should we worry about what’s happening to the planet? Our existence on the earth is just a blip with respect to eternity.
Pope Frank is perhaps reading the writing on the wall, noticing that rationalism is eroding his power and eminence. I wonder if he will one day understand that:
- Most people do not need a fear of eternal perdition to get them to do good
- Judging from the outcomes, fear of perdition does not seem to be particularly effective even for those who do have it.