Regardless, I have always been fascinated, actually, by people's enjoyment of being scared. From the haunted hayrides, the corn mazes, the creepy houses, the horror flicks, the screaming and the blood--it boggles me more than fundidiots!
I personally have never liked being scared--indeed, even mild suspense can sometimes get to me, although I will state that I love a good suspense flick much better than a horror flick. My brothers would actually make fun of me when, if they happened to be watching a horror movie or show on the television, I would vacate the living room as soon as I thought something even remotely horrifying was about to make an appearance. Whether suddenly having to go to the bathroom, or making up some other such excuse, I would take that time to play the "for-once-not-being-played" Nintendo, or have the bedroom for silent reading. (We three boys shared a bedroom until I was seventeen and demanded my father build a wall in the basement at a key point in which I could finally secure my own room...)
I sometimes wonder if this is how I try exert control over my environment? Or is this me being a slave to my fears? I don't fear fear--in fact, there isn't much I do fear! I just don't like that feeling of unknowing, of the surprise that's coming, and ultimately, of the nightmarish stories my subconscious imagines in the dead of the night! I remember I once made it through (what I now realize is the cheesiest flick ever made) a whole screening of the movie Alligator, and for years afterward, I had a nightmare in which a giant alligator was coming down Toll Gate Road, trying to gobble up my family... And while I can appreciate the cheesiness of it all now, back then I was terrified at the idea of loose alligators. Go figure, eh?
I must then ask myself, why doesn't the fear of eternal damnation hang over me, or even my subconscious, to the point where I must err on the side of "caution" and "believe" just to save myself the fear of hell fire? Is it that, as an adult, I can appreciate the "cheesiness" of fire insurance for a consciousness that won't survive past my heart beat? Or, on the flip side, is it my survival instincts of self-preservation that keeps me from even contemplating the notion, much as I wouldn't contemplate watching a horror movie?
I think it must be the first, as the second, the "contemplation," has been discussed both here and on other blogs, about the ludicrousness of such a netherworld created by a being to punish beings he created and doesn't want to punish... The circular, anti-rational logic of it all, is more reminiscent of a fire insurance policy, nay, perhaps even a panic button people can hit at will in an effort to absolve themselves of misdeeds and "less than nice" thoughts or actions!
In the ultimate of ironies (much like having a spoon when all you need if a knife), one must remember two key tenants: One, that you need Jesus blood to "wash away," or "cleanse" your sins, even though through some sort of loophole, you still end up paying the price of sin (i.e, death), but end up with life "eternally" in the presence of the one who died for you; and Two, even though you have been "washed" or "cleansed" of these sins, you will still commit acts of "wrongness" or "misdeeds," and thus continually need to regret and repent of these misdeeds (although it must be pointed out, in most Christian circles, misdeeds do not end your salvation, just a close relationship with said god).
And you have to wonder (or, at least, I have to wonder) why wouldn't "salvation" erase the sin nature, thus leaving you sinless the remainder of your life? OR, barring some sort of telelogical law about such a scenario (although a study of the holy book will reveal no such block to sinless nature through salvation), why not then BAM! automatic everlasting life? Why the need to still die if Jesus truly paid the price for all our sins?
As you can see, it reduces into an acrimonious harmony of illogical thought and circular rational...
Fear, at its core, must be substantive, if it is to remain effective as a motivator (much like "justice" and "mercy" must have finite, measurable punishments for finite, measurable deeds, but that's for another time...). Fear is defined by Websters as "1 a: an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger." In other words, you need a reason to be afraid, to have fear... Otherwise, your fear is considered irrational, and thus, is categorized as a "phobia." Phobia, from Websters, is "an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation."
Hell, or even the once-removed cousin through marriage thought of eternal punishment, is a christological phobia. An irrational fear. Inexplicable, illogical, and brought on by an exaggerated fable of yesteryears beliefs. The reason hell has lost much of its umph in driving hoards to a "saving knowledge of Jesus" isn't due to a sudden gambling urge against Pascal's Wager, but by a continuing body of knowledge which points in the direction of logic, not pointy-tailed red-horned devils on one shoulder and beatific angels on the other...
And while my primal subconscious may still be dealing with the supposedly very real threat of being eaten by alligators (or its related off-shoots), I can rest easy in the knowledge that
- Alligators are real.
- Alligators have eaten people.
- Alligators do not live in northeastern Pennsylvania.
And, and this I believe is most fundamental, fear, while maybe not widely recognized as such, is the sole motivator of continued religious belief, and it flourishes best in the minds of people who entertain false logic and hypotheticals...
Perhaps, as humanity continues to advance sociologically and psychologically, more people will confront the irrationality of god and his supposed eternal promises (not to mention punishments)?
It almost stretches one's faith in humanity to think so...