Imagine that you had two options, and you could choose now, with no chance of going back later:
Choice A: there is no heaven or hell; no afterlife, no consciousness after you die.
Choice B: there is an afterlife, in heaven (eternal bliss) or hell (eternal torment), and you have a 10% chance of going to hell.
Which would you choose?
To me, if you don’t choose A instantly, you have never thought for a minute about what “eternal torment” – or even just the “eternal” part – means. Because the mere possibility of that, no matter how remote, should be enough to make anyone live in absolute terror.
Even eternal boredom is infinitely worse than the worst of monsters that ever lived deserves. Because there’s no escape, no reprieve, absolutely no hope of an end, of a sweet oblivion.
Now, as an atheist, I believe there’s no choice here: it’s A whether we want it or not. A theist probably believes the opposite.
Why don’t theists live their lives in abject terror? Well, some of them will use the “my god isn’t a monster and doesn’t send people to hell” argument. Of course, since that deity has no biblical basis, it’s obvious that it’s a god they’ve made up, with the traits they believe God should have. Since I don’t think belief shapes reality, I can’t accept that the god you or him or her or them – or me, if I wanted to – have invented can possibly exist. (As I’ve said many times on this blog, if you believe in a good god, you’ve made him up, and he can safely be dismissed.)
Others will believe that hell exists, but will be certain that, somehow, they’re completely free – or “saved” – from it. They’re sure that they have the proper “get out of jail free” card. Because they have faith in Jesus, because they have said the magic words, because they obey most of Moses’ law or Mohammed’s rules. Somehow, they’re certain that they belong to the right religion – the right branch of the right religion – even though most of the world doesn’t. They probably have the same religion as their parents, making their religion – and, according to their beliefs, whether they’re saved or not – a matter of chance, of geography.
And they don’t think there’s a non-negligible chance of ending up in eternal torment. They’re not in complete terror every moment. They can lead normal lives.
It boggles the mind.