Sunday, August 16, 2009

The "Question of Coercion"

I recently came across this challenge to the faith in an Amazon book review:
My belief in God, if not out of love or a want to establish a relationship with God, would be based on nothing more than coercion:

I want a pleasing and pain-free after life; I want to be as happy in the after-life as I am with life, but I don't have or have a desire for a relationship with God; therefore, I may be cast to hell (which, according to this book, I've created). If I want to be happy in the after-life, I need to establish a relationship with God. I don't want a relationship with God either because I don't believe one can exist or I don't believe a relationship with God is beneficial for either participant; however, I want to avoid discomfort and joylessness. I'll establish a relationship with God so I do not experience pain or joylessness.

Unless I missed it, Tim doesn't address this, and I think it's quite possibly the most difficult obstacle for any organized religion; I would like the author to address coercion without resorting to "you've misunderstood the point of God's love."
I would say that the first problem with this "question of coercion" is that it ignores what Christians believe heaven and hell are. Heaven is a place where we are happy because we are in a relationship with God; therefore, if we truly want to be in heaven, we want a relationship with God. Basically, what the one who asks this question wants is to have a part of something without having the whole. He wants to live in a man's house without asking that man if he can come in, and without acknowledging the man once he is inside. He wants love without a lover, a smile without a face. He is separating the inseparable.

The alternative, hell, is terrible because we are separated from God. That is why we go to hell. We didn't want God, so he let us be alone. But, since God is the source of all good, we are left with no good, and thus no joy. This is a deranged choice, but we men make deranged choices all the time.

We cannot separate cause and effect. I cannot ask for sunlight, but without the sun. I think we all ask for such absurdities sometimes, and that is more-or-less the definition of sin. We want to live on a diet of candy, but without gaining weight, rotting our teeth, and having stomachaches. We want to walk through fire without being burned, but burning is inherent with fire.

1 comment:

Harvey H said...

I find it frustrating whenever someone thinks of religion as either a carrot or a stick (or both). It's a sign that we, the current generation of evangelists, aren't doing our jobs right.