The second realization came when my young son began to realize what death was, and connected what he heard of Hell and demons in church. He became terrified of his parents dying, and then his death, and then everlasting torture. I opened my mouth to explain the sacrifice of the Lamb, and why he'll never see Hell if he loved Jesus and then it hit me like a freight train.
As a father, I was about to tell my terrified son the fairy tale equivalent of this: "If he didn't want to end up locked in a dark, dank basement filled with spiders and child molesters and murderers, then he should love me with all his heart and soul, and if I believed he was sincere, then I wouldn't lock him down there forever. I would tell him I sacrificed myself to work very hard for him, and that I was giving him this gift of a chance to live upstairs with me forever. However, if he didn't want it, then it was out of my hands and he would have to go to the basement and be locked in there, away from the warm beacon of my love forever."
I couldn't tell my child this. I couldn't tell him that invisible demons were real.
Christians always want to tell me about god's love. God loves me, I should love him back. He loves me so much, he created me. He loves me so much he sacrificed himself to himself to change a rule he himself made. He loves me so much that if I don't love him properly, he'll send me to Hell forever and I will be tortured for all eternity . . . um, wait, that's not love.
I would never, never ever ever, do that to anyone I love. I wouldn't do that to anyone I hate. I wouldn't do that to anyone at all. That's not love. Love is the desire to protect someone, to see them happy, to see them safe. Love is not punishment and torture. Love is not threats and pain. Love is patient, love is kind . . . how the fuck is that the same book about the same person, anyway?
"Oh, but you hurt god by not loving him back." I've heard that one more than once. Yes, I have loved someone who did not love me back. It sucks. It hurts and it's humiliating and no one likes rejection. I still wouldn't torture the object of my unreturned affection just because they didn't love me back. That's no part of love.
"Well, how can you comprehend the divine?" That's a better explanation, in a way. How could I possibly understand the motivations of an omnipotent, omniscient being? Just immortality alone would change how you see things, let alone having the ability to create universes. I could not understand god.
I do understand this, however, love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous or boastful or proud. Those things are true. If it is not patient and not kind, if it is jealous, boastful or proud, it is not love. And torture, even one second of torture, let alone an eternity, is no part of love. So stop calling it that. Your god as you imagine him does not love anyone, by his own definition in his own book.