There’s a being in the sky!
By human standards, he would be considered a bully, but since he’s so big, and so far away, and so all-knowing, it’s a bad idea to call him that. It’s dangerous.
The being in the sky (or in the netherworld or another dimension outside space and time and rationality, but still inside this dimension whenever he wants to be, yet still never, ever scientifically supportable) can read your thoughts. He knows everything. He cares about you, but that doesn’t mean he’s not willing to hurt you.
He made some rules, had them written down a couple of thousand years ago, and expects you to follow them. Some of those rules involve what you think. And if you think something that the sky guy doesn’t like, he’ll hurt you. And we’re not just talking about a black eye or a spanking or a lump of coal, no-no.
We’re talking eternal suffering, either by means of intense heat, intense cold, or intense loneliness.
But, there’s a good side to all this if he finds something he likes in your mind, you get a reward. If you believe that you and your species is at fault for a snake convincing a naked lady to share an apple with her man-friend thousands of years ago, and if you believe that three beings can be one being at the same time, and if you believe the sky guy visited earth and became a zombie and wants you to eat his symbolic flesh, and you DO eat his symbolic flesh, you get to go up to the sky and hang out with him after you die.
You’ve got to believe some other things, too, and you’ve really, really got to keep yourself from thinking some things. If you think about your friend’s new bike, and how you wish you had your friend’s new bike instead, you’re in trouble. If you think angry thoughts about your parents, you’re in trouble. If you indulge in a fantasy about your best friend’s girlfriend or wife, you’re in trouble.
The good news is that there’s a way out of this: you can talk to the sky guy and ask him to forgive you for what you think. He might forgive you, he might not – just don’t question the fact that, regardless of whether you intentionally talk at him in your head, he can read your thoughts all of the time anyway.
Imagine you believe what’s written above if you don’t already. Worse, imagine that you’re a child. Not only do you have to worry about Santa Claus, but you also have to worry about the big sky bully too, and the sky bully is far less likely to go away when you grow up.
Teachings like this are a one-way ticket to subservience by means of fear. Now, it is true that some old-fashioned people think subservience is a good trait to nourish in a child, and even if they’re right, it’s important to remember that while people tend to grow out of Santa Claus, they don’t so much grow out of god; and since they still believe their thoughts are not their own, they can end up suspended in perpetual mental babyhood.
Before Christian readers get too offended, here’s what this means.
Growing up is about learning, and learning is about asking questions, experimenting, and being honest with oneself. In order to grow and mature optimally, a person needs to know that his or her thoughts are only his or her own and that he or she will not be punished just for thinking them.
Why is this?
Because bad things, including bad thoughts (and yes, there are some), have their own natural consequences. They don’t require the punctuation of a wrathful god’s fist. All the fist does is distract people from their own search for oneness, spiritual and intellectual insight, and wisdom.
Sometimes, children are taught terribly scary things by adults who haven’t stepped out of intellectual babyhood yet and are still afraid of themselves. Children are taught about fire, burning, torture, and they don’t know any better than to take all of this to heart. This can easily lead to mental torture, anguish, and extended mourning in the face of tragedy. It worsens tragedy.
A child whose friend committed suicide may find that she has no option but to believe her friend is suffering in hell and will continue suffering forever. A child who was taught that sexual feelings are sinful may suffer sexual dysfunction later in life. The list could go on.
The thing with thoughts is that they’re ours, and the belief that a sky bully might read our thoughts – and punish you for some of them – directly undermines personal identity and individuality. In this, it puts a damper on freedom, and without personal freedom and comfort within one’s own skin, it’s pretty difficult to live peacefully, with contentment.