Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What the Terrible Tragedy in France Reminds Us Of

147 people were killed today when their plane crashed in the French alps. They were headed from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany.  It’s a very tragic and sad story. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. We always hear that air travel is safe, and generally it is the safest method of travel. But usually when a plane crashes, the consequences are very serious. None of those people thought they would die today. There are thousands of flights each day, and statistics overwhelmingly tell us we’ll survive. But then a tragedy like this happens. What it shows is the impermanence of life. It can be snuffed out in an instant without warning.


We need to be ready at all times. I especially need to remind myself of this. Death could be just around the corner and the stakes are so high there is no time for fooling around. I was watching a show the other day about a lady who was in bed asleep and a psychopath broke into her house and murdered her. There was no rhyme or reason for the attack. She couldn’t have anticipated it. The stakes for death are so high because of hell. If it were the case that when we die we just rot in the earth, then fine you can do whatever you like. It won’t matter in the long run. But if you could potentially spend an eternity in hell, then the risk is so unbelievably high, it would make absolutely no sense to ever take that chance, no matter how remote.


Think of it statistically. I remember an idea about expected value. Basically it went like this: A 10% chance of winning $1000 is the same as a 50% chance of winning $200. Both have an expected value of $100. When it comes to hell, the stakes are infinite, i.e. an eternity in hell. So even if you have only a 0.000000001% chance of dying in a particular day, when you multiply this by infinity, the results are still infinitely bad. Therefore we should always strive to be in a state of grace.


It reminds me of Pascale’s wager. He basically said there are four possibilities. Either you act morally good or you don’t. Then with each of these hell either exists or it doesn’t. If hell exists and you act morally you go to heaven, but if you don’t act morally you go to hell. If hell doesn’t exist and you act morally, you rot in the ground, which is the same result if you don’t act morally. So in one out of four of these possibilities, you end up in heaven, one you end up in hell, and two you rot in the ground. The point Pascale goes on to make is that you’re better off living a moral life on the possibility that hell could exist than risking that it doesn’t. Even if you are an ardent atheist, even the slightest possibility that hell exists should motivate any person to act morally.


Many people talk about the end of the world, but really what we should be concerned about is our end. Whether we die before the world ends or we die as a result of the world ending is really immaterial to the question of our ultimate salvation. Also, as an addition to Pascale’s Wager, you can choose to either believe everyone goes to heaven or you can believe it’s very hard to get to heaven. Statistically speaking you’re much better off believing it is difficult to enter heaven than not. You won’t lose anything in the end by following the stricter morality. This is what always boggles my mind about preachers who try to soft-peddle the last four things (death, judgment, heaven, hell). Are they really prepared to put all their money on the possibility that it’s easy to get to heaven? What if they’re wrong? In their moral code, is it possible to be “too” strict and thus be prevented from entering the Kingdom of God? As if God says “Sorry you were too humble… you were too patient.” How absurd! Maybe they believe that by saying you could never go to hell, that makes it the truth? I really see no logic in this way of thinking. Again, you’re better off being “too” holy than not enough.


I think in light of a tragedy like the one in France, we should be on our guard as Jesus Christ warns.