I think in the back of every atheist’s mind is the comforting thought that, even if they got it wrong and Heaven and Hell do exist, God will give them credit for integrity. I mean, not believing in God is the expression of the very free will God granted, isn’t it? And, if we are to believe anything that the Church says at all, why not the bit that says God is love.
Or is that kind of like hedging your bets? As if we can rely on God to forgive us because he’s merciful.
But what if he’s not? What if he is actually an extremely angry and punitive Father and he really art in Heaven?
And there is definite evidence of God’s magnanimity in the Old Testament. For example, one day King Saul offers David, Beloved of God, his daughter’s hand in marriage on the condition that he kill 100 Philistines and return with their foreskins as proof. David, an early over-achiever, returns with 200 foreskins, which works out to be a really bad day for the court foreskin-counter.
Now, according to the word of God, those Philistines really came in for a hammering and many and varied are the ways in which they meet their sticky ends. Or, in this case, many are the ways in which their ends became sticky.
And I don’t think atheists should go to their own just reward with the faint hope that Jesus will stick up for them. Even he lost it sometimes, as is evidenced by his somewhat violent behaviour towards the sellers in the temple. What will he make of some left wing, smart arse intellectual who spent his life claiming he had no father?
It all sounds a bit risky to me. Perhaps, as the foreskin-free Philistines found, no matter which we you cut it, not believing in God is even more dangerous than smoking. Verily.