Since I read God Is Not Great, I have been experiencing great discomfort. Hitchens' arguments were persuasive, his logic impeccable, his knowledge complete.
His point of view - atheism - may not be the definitive answer, but there is powerful logic behind it.
I have been squirming intellectually ever since. It hit me that I had allowed myself to believe passively in an afterlife, some sort of afterlife, any kind of afterlife and that it comforted me. I wasn't out there preaching about it, my point of view was that I don't believe in this heaven and hell stuff but I wanted to believe in life after death.
Because I am afraid. I don't want to live 75 years and disappear. I want to live on.
Hitchens forced me to question that approach and now I am on shaky ground.
So I went back to The Sermon On The Mount to see what kind of inspiration I could find there.
It's hard to read, a lot of it is general and the specific stuff is difficult to understand.
What the hell are beatitudes? Had to look that up. "A state of utmost bliss." Apparently if you follow the twelve teachings in this section, bliss can be yours.
I got some issues.
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." The meek might inherit heaven, but on earth they will get run over by the Koch brothers and what they stand for. (If you don't know who the Koch brothers are look it up - they own you).
11 and 12 are a combo deal, saying that if you take a beating like the prophets did, "for my sake", you are blessed. This ego thing pops up continuously and I think it is un-godlike.
In the Light section, Jesus tells you to let your light shine to illuminate your good works and to
glorify your Father. Ego again.
Under the Law section, we are told we must surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees to enter heaven. Scribes had knowledge of the law and could draft legal documents; Pharisees believed in resurrection and in following legal traditions. If all we have to do is surpass the righteousness of lawyers, we got it made.
Under Anger, 22 ends in "but whosoever shall say Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." I've said worse, I'm already on my way to hell.
Under Adultery Jesus says just to think about committing adultery is to commit adultery. If we are condemned for our thoughts there must be a waiting line in hell. Do you think they serve hot coffee in line as a joke?
Under Oaths Jesus says not to swear by heaven, for it is God's throne, nor by earth, for it is his footstool. Earth is God's footstool? That is not exactly a ringing endorsement.
I want to believe that Jesus in his humble way was doing his best to interpret his Dad's words and maybe got confused. Except Jesus is his dad. And the Holy Ghost too. Sorry, Holy Spirit.
I'm being superficial, I am not equipped intellectually to understand this stuff. But then again, scholars, both religious and secular, cannot agree on a definitive interpretation of The Sermon On The Mount. And it is considered a powerful document within religious circles.
It bothers me that Hitchens can knock me off balance so easily and religious dogma cannot bring me back.
I am comfortable with eastern religions based on the limited reading I have done, but there are similarities throughout all religions that require a suspension of disbelief.
I have a bible. I am going to read through The Book Of Revelation. I hear it is one hellacious read.
My intellectual curiosity has been sparked by Hitchens, goddamn him, and is being fueled by my advanced age.
The most frustrating fact is knowing that even if I make the effort, all I will arrive at is an opinion. Not an answer.
The answer won't come until the Devil dances on my grave. And if I'm hearing rhythmic footsteps six feet above me I'll know I should have made better choices.
Maybe that's what hell is. When the knowing comes too late.