In a previous post on the fears of Evangelicals Don brought up a GREAT question in the comment section. Whenever he talks with evangelicals on the fear factors of their beliefs he asks
"Why do you need this fear?"I absolutely love thought provoking questions like these and although this question isn't directed towards me I will still attempt to tackle it. I think believers choose to believe in a vengeful God and an eternal place of torment because the alternative seems too scary for them: living in a chaotic world. They would rather live with the lesser fear, a judgmental God in control of the cosmos, than the greater fear, a random and chaotic world with no guarantee of an afterlife. They've created a scenario in their minds where these are the only two options in deciphering reality.
Believers who accept the first option are gambling (Pascal Wager style!) that it is better to take a change at living a life in fear of a god which may grant them a minute chance at eternal life than not attempting to gamble at all. I understand their reasoning (you can't win the lottery if you don't play) even though I don't believe in the game of heaven and hell. All of this is driven by the ancient and primitive instinct of self preservation. We know death is coming and we obsess over it throughout our culture, from our popular media and advertisements (think about how many products and slogans focus on "happiness") right down to our daily rituals. Tick tock tick tock, death is coming, death is coming. Survive, survive, survive. It's no wonder that people are driven to religion for comfort and escape.
And yet, all of this is an obsession over something that will eventually happen. Evangelicals need this fear because it is easier to swallow, it offers a mental escape from the inevitable. The set back is that mankind is so preoccupied with the uncertain future that we waste our lives in the present while our eyes and heart are fixed in the future. To live in the present is perceived by some as foolishly letting your guard down of what may be waiting to pounce on us just around the corner. Pastors and doomsday preachers feed off of this fear like parasites engorging themselves with followers and self-righteousness as they weaken the frightened flock. The look on the faces of church goers after an old fashioned fire and brimstone sermon is heart breaking, and their attempts to hide their fear behind trinket smiles is devastating. I can find nothing uplifting about waiting for a chance at happiness in the afterlife (IF you believe and behave). Yes this world is painful but along with it comes the chance to experience moments of happiness which if we truly live in the NOW becomes all the more precious as death approaches.