I was asked by a man in a parking lot holding something in his hand to delay getting in my car earlier today. I'm not entirely sure why I thought it was a good decision to wait. My first impression was that it was a cop, finally charging me with an actual crime for my terrible parking. But it turned out it was a man distributing pamphlets called "Steps to peace with God," by Billy Graham. And because I am a sane and responsible human being, I stayed and talked to the man trying to convince me that there was a man in the sky who wanted me to believe his son was murdered and that means I get to spend eternity in monotonous bliss.
The man's position was that I was going to go to hell, that hell is a terrible place full of fire, demons, and fire (he was very adamant about there being fire), but that if I believed in his version of god, I could go to heaven.
I asked him what he thought heaven was like, because I find most people seem much better at imagining transcendent pain than transcendent pleasure.
In his vision, Heaven is a planet (Like the hellfire, he was adamant that heaven is a planet) with beautiful meadows, and crystal oceans so clear you can see all the way down to the ocean's floor. I have to hand it to him, he did a nice job on the heaven imagery. I can't fault him on that.
Billy Graham gives four steps to peace with God:
- Understand God's purposes -- peace and eternal life
- Admit the problem -- our sin and separation
- Discover God's bridge -- the cross
- Embrace the Truth[1. In the pamphlet these are all in all-caps, so I'm just guessing that he meant uppercase-T Truth.] -- receive Christ
There's plenty in this pamphlet I could pick apart, but better writers have done it better than I can. There's just one sentence, at the very end of the very last page, that annoys me enough to respond to specifically:
"Thank you for the gift of eternal life!"
This is part of a suggested prayer to Jesus. What kind of gift is that? I would very much like the gift receipt, please. I'm not particularly interested in an eternity with no emotional growth or progress, and I'm definitely not interested in an eternity of proactive torture. If there were a god, this would be kind of a dick move on its part. You don't get to give people stuff that's just going to be a pain in the ass (Either way -- either I have to kiss up to Jesus for the rest of my life, or spend an eternity suffering afterwards) and call it a gift.