I often hear people say that we are all god's children, particularly Christians. He is said to reward those who are good and to punish those who are bad. I used to think that this analogy made sense when I was a believer. But, the more I think about it now from an outside perspective, especially as a parent, I am appalled at such an idea. Now, I am basing this off of the god that I used to believe in and that most people in America believe in. The god of Christianity. Here are some examples of why this comparison bothers me:
1. As a parent, I need to be there for my child. Could you imagine if you grew up without any real evidence that your parents even exist, and having to grow up without their clear guidance?
2. Interactive dialog between a parent and child is imperative. As parents, we try to do everything we can to make things better for our children. Help them when they need it, answer their questions when they have them. Sometimes we have to let them learn the hard way, but we first give them warnings, in case they will listen. Sometimes they are also not ready for a thorough answer for a question they may have, but they still need some kind of answer. Would you let your child's questions go unanswered? Would you not help your child when they ask for it?
3. Would you expect your children to worship you? Could you imagine, even if you had created your children out of raw materials, expecting them to believe in you, even though you're never around? And even expecting them to get down on their knees and praise you and go on and on about how wonderful you are?
4. It has been said that if the bible is fallible, it is because it was written by god through man, man being imperfect, has produced a flawed final product. Imagine if you told your children what to do through a grapevine of various people, often conflicting with each other.
5. In Exodus, god hardens the Pharaoh's heart, so that he will not let the Jews free from enslavement, and puts him further at odds with god himself. If you could, would you purposely make your children disobey you, just so you could punish them? Furthermore, one of the punishments god casts on the Pharaoh and his people is to kill all of their firstborn son's. Could you imagine killing your own grandchildren? Even worse, for something their parents did?
6. In the book of Job, it is said that god allows satan to come down and do all sorts of horrible things to Job, a man who was "blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil". Could you imagine first of all that you would feel any need to punish your child if they were blameless? Furthermore, could you imagine allowing others to hurt your children?
7. And finally. Hell. The lake of fire. Whichever you choose to call it. The modern concept of hell is a misunderstood concept. In the bible the word that is translated as hell is often referring to the old English word hell, which simply meant a place of darkness or unknowing. It would be much more accurately translated as the grave or oblivion.
However, the modern concept of hell did not come from just anywhere. It came from "the lake of fire". The lake of fire is a place "that burns with sulfur", and is "where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever". The bible says that there will be a book of life, listing all who have been saved and "if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire". So clearly the lake of fire is our modern concept of hell.
When I was a Christian (and to this day) I was troubled by this. The idea that god would literally torture those who did not believe in him. Those who had not said a simple prayer confessing Jesus as their lord and savior. I've heard all of the arguments to soften the blow of this. For instance, that this is metaphor of the pain those who turn away from god will feel when they are completely separated from him. I find this to be ridiculous as it very literally says that they will be "thrown" into the lake of fire, that it burns with sulfur and they will suffer forever and ever. Another one that has more recently become popular is that there is no place of suffering. A great deal of circular logic is used to turn the verses that talk about this very well documented (biblically) place of punishment into a much happier peaceful conclusion that simply comes down to god not sending anyone to any such place of eternal suffering.
Now we come to the part about parenting. You see I list this one last for two reasons. 1. it is, to me, the biggest. 2. It is often mentioned the most in parenting terms. Because god loves you he doesn't want you to go to this place that he made in case he feels the need to send you there. You see it comes down to this. It's very simple really. Hell or the lake of fire, whichever one you want to call it, is equated with the idea of punishment. And at first that makes sense. Until you really think about what punishment is, what it is for, and what it is NOT.
Punishment is supposed to be temporary. It is supposed to show a child that their negative actions have an equal negative consequence. It is not revenge! It is a device used by parents to TEACH their children. If you punish your children by throwing them in an everlasting torture chamber, what exactly will they learn, and when will they have an opportunity to use this newly acquired knowledge?