Believers in God deserve to have the What if...? gambit turned back upon them.
They enjoy telling atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers in a supernatural divinity that nasty things await them -- hell, for instance. Failing to accept the reality of a world beyond this one supposedly leads to undesirable consequences (in this life and an imagined next one).
But what if the atheists are right and believers are wrong?
-- What if you, believer, are right about there being a God but picked the wrong one?
-- What if you're right about God but picked the wrong religion to worship Him, as Muslims, Jews, and Christians mutually claim about each other?
-- What if you're right about God and your religion but wrong about which denomination, sect, or church has it right?
-- What if no demomination or person has figured it out correctly yet?
-- Can you, in your little corner of faith, in your tiny denominational box, shaded by your own personal perception, interests, likes, and dislikes, really be so sure that all of these billions of others have it wrong and that you have it right?
-- What if you are wrong about God's existence?
-- What, then, are you doing with some or much of your life?
-- How much time and effort are you wasting chasing fairy tales out of a book that is ancient literature turned social-control manual?
-- What are you doing to yourself, to your psychological well-being, when you must constantly lie to yourself about your worldview, which does not match your view of the world anywhere you look without relying on rationalizations and contortions of facts?
-- What are you ignoring or failing to learn about the world or yourself because you think you already have answers or because you want them less than your cherished beliefs?
-- What are you doing when you support inhuman social policies, hold back education, suppress healthy expressions of sexuality, oppose beneficial measures in regards to sexual health, deny others their basic human rights, curse the names and lives of your enemies or go to war with them, vote for idiotic politicians because you like their beliefs, held without evidence, enough to act without regard of their backwards ideas on key matters of policy?
-- What are you asking from those of your friends, your family, and your community who do not believe and yet are currently all but forced to listen to and to pretend to respect your religious beliefs, delusional rambling, misplaced thanksgiving, and unflattering solipsism?
-- What actions and thoughts do you deny or attempt to deny yourself on the grounds of your faith, activities and mindsets that might bring enjoyment, pleasure, meaning, or fulfillment to your life?
-- Which of those do you do anyway, needlessly hating yourself for it even while you do it?
-- What do you do only because you hope for bonus points with your imagined creator, selfishly trying to improve the chances that you will get your reward?
Several of Lindsay's questions reminded me of an email exchange I had with a woman who was in a religion that had a rule: No Sex Outside of Marriage. She was in a close sexless relationship and wondered what I thought about this.
Here's part of my reply:
Don’t let irrational fears about the future interfere with your present day happiness. Religions prosper because they make people fearful. They claim that unless people act in a certain way, they are doomed.
Problem is, different religions have different moral codes. In truth, the way I see it, there is no absolute right and wrong. Just how individuals and cultures view right and wrong. So follow your heart, not someone else’s moral code.
...Life is short. The time for joy is now. You seem like a caring woman who wants to do the right thing. Relax. You’re doing the right thing if you love someone and want to have sex with them. This is a natural part of life. It brings two people closer together. Enjoy yourself.