Q: Does God ever give up on some people? I have a cousin who just laughs whenever anyone starts talking about God, and he says he’ll just take his chances when it comes time to die. Several of us in our family pray for him regularly but he looks like a hopeless case to me. — S.Y.
A: The possibility that any gods exist is extremely remote. The chances that the god you believe in are even more so. It then follows that heaven and hell do not exist and your cousin is not in danger of eternal punishment in any hell. Belief in gods and religions initially arose as attempts to explain the existence of the physical universe and mankind’s place in it and as a way to impose order and rules on society. Since these roles are no longer necessary (thanks to scientific discoveries and the emergence of democracy throughout the world), established religions attempt to maintain their status and power by dictating their (oftentimes ridiculous) rules under threat of eternal damnation. If the word “hopeless” were relevant here, it would apply to your belief that prayers to your god will have any effect on our reality.
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