It is imagined by naive unbelievers that religious people sign up because they get to have pie in the sky. It’s thought that we poor ignorant folk follow our faith because we have been promised eternal life and happiness forever, and that the whole thing is a huge case of corporate wishful thinking.
Is it? I think the Christian believer’s position is actually quite thoughtful and shrewd. We weigh up the possibilities and choose the path of least risk, and the least amount of wishful thinking. You see, Christian belief is only wishful thinking if the God we follow is a happy Colonel Sanders in the sky who is jolly and welcomes all in with a family bucket. If this is the God we believed in, then we could be accused of wishful thinking. If our God was a sort of Coca Cola Santa Claus, then yes, we’d have to admit wishful thinking.
However, the God we believe in is not only a merciful Father, he is a righteous Judge. We believe that we will be held responsible for our decisions and actions, and that there will be a price to pay. He’s making his list and checkin’ it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Heaven is by no means a sure thing, and I might end up in the other place. If I were thinking wishfully, this is not what I would have wished for.
In contrast, the agnostic or atheist who denies life after death is the true wishful thinker. They believe that when it is all over, it is all over. Death and then oblivion. Isn’t that peaceful oblivion a kind of pie in the sky? Furthermore, the result of their wishful thinking is that what they do here doesn’t really matter. They can have fun and do what they like and there will never be hell to pay. Isn’t that the most extreme, risky, naieve and terrifying version of wishful thinking?
You remember what Padre Pio said when asked what he thought of liberals who did not believe in hell?
He replied, “They will believe in Hell when they get there.”