Well, thinking in quantitative terms, maybe we can actually figure out the literal worst thing that could happen. First, assuming that each person can experience some pretty bad stuff, on a continuum of awfulness, then how about we just calculate the worst thing a single person can experience and scale it up to everyone. Ever.
So that would mean that the worst thing — literally — that could happen is if everyone, everywhere, ever, got horribly tortured, without even dying (because dying would be a deliverance). So you have maximum awfulness (A), applied to everyone (E), for an infinite amount of time. I call this entirely hypothetical, maximal appallingness Help — because you would want to help this from ever happening.
AE∞T = Help
I guess if we dial down some of the variables it’s still so close to the maximum bad that it might as well be rounded off. So if we said not everyone ever but, like 99.9% of people ever — then that would still be virtually the worst thing that could ever happen: Help. Why would there be an arbitrarily small amount of people who didn’t end up in Help? Well, maybe there’s some rule where you end up there if you do anything on this massive list of rules, most of which preclude basic innate human behaviours like sexual attraction to other people, or lying, etc. So obviously everyone does this, but theoretically there might be one or two people who somehow died before they did anything on this absurd list. Also, this assumes that everyone knows about the list of things you can’t do, but it might even be a thing where only some people, who speak a certain language and who existed after they had writing to even make lists and who were told about the list. That’s if anyone could avoid all the things on the list if they knew about it, which I doubt they could anyway.
This has gotten really weirdly specific and completely implausible — obviously this kind of situation is me just speculating, daydreaming, following some dubious logic to an absurd conclusion. But, the point is that this idea is so horrible that seriously contemplating it is worse than contemplating other horrors that have occurred, like the Final Solution, or the worst excesses of the conquistadors, or the degradation of humans occurring in the Democratic Republic Congo, or even just the millennia of constant suffering that afflicted early homo sapiens; ghastly, debased terrors that when you actually consider them (let alone witness them, or have them befall someone you know or yourself) make you depressed and disconsolate. It’s important to learn about such things but obviously — I mean it goes without saying, I’m not sure why I’m elaborating it — you wouldn’t tell this kind of thing to young children: that would be tantamount to child abuse. The only thing sicker would be warning or, worse, threatening, small children that they will be in Help if they don’t do what they’re told. That would be completely fucked up, partly because Help doesn’t exist, it’s just an invidious thought experiment I came up with out of morbid curiosity but also because it’s an inherently scary and traumatising notion. So telling small, impressionable, vulnerable children about such a place would be a needless, cruel, fundamentally sick thing to do.
Can you imagine the shit we would give someone if we found out they’d abused and mindfucked innocent children by telling them there’s an eternal torture palace they’ll end up in if they fail to follow a set of unrealistic, self-contradictory, outdated rules? Hell, we’d lock people like that up because they’d obviously be suffering a severe, non-harmless delusion which they were inflicting on kids.
Again, purely hypothetically, even if the person said they didn’t belief this abject guff literally, I’d still want them kept away from children. If they happened to be going around saying that they didn’t really believe in Help but that it just happened to be packaged with some other quasi-metaphorical beliefs, a bit of a grabbag ranging from the harmless to the not-so-harmless to the outright weird, even then we’d all be so freaked out that they had this one, diabolical idea still on the books that it would be worth junking all of the other stuff too — just keep this claptrap away from everyone, apart from academics studying sadism, psychopathy and child abuse. So (and justly) reviled would these deranged villains be, that we would never, for example, let them anywhere near the writing of our school curricula, because of the anti-learning aspect of their plainly made-up ideas and also because of the malevolent, menacing tenor of their Help doctrine.
Worse still would be if we began to temper the sane and entirely warranted criticism of these sinister weirdos, out of some misguided attempt at fairness or parity, that seeks to level equal criticism at the ones who propagate the barefaced and evil falsehoods, with those who criticise them (legally and non-violently) for doing so. Particularly egregious would be a bizarre scenario wherein a perverse misallocation of condemnation was in place so that people who didn’t believe in Help themselves (because they recognise the basic illogic and obvious wickedness in the idea) nonetheless feel that those who denounce the idea of Help or denounce its spokespeople are in some sense just as bad as the ones they criticise. Or, more ludicrously still, what if there had been thousands of years of Help advocates running society and summarily killing or torturing anyone who disagreed with them (in some kind of grizzly manifestation in reality of their own demented dystopia)? And then, what if the opponents of this madness used a few books and non-coercive, non-violent, non-compulsory lecture tours and debates to make their point and then otherwise liberal, secular non-Help-freaks said the opponents were just as fundamentalist as the religious zealots they are criticising.
Luckily, such a staggering lack of proportionality could never actually unfold. I assume. Because to attempt it would be to try and stake out a position that defended, against some basic rhetoric and book-writing, a group of people who, at best, tacitly endorse, or, at worst, actively and tyrannically promulgate: the idea that the worst thing that could ever happen is in fact true; that this should be used as a threat to children to keep them in line with an all powerful arbiter of self-contradictory rules; and that he can read their minds when they sleep, so that he might send them to Help when they die.
It certainly sounds like the worst thing that could happen. Some people might say this is only the worst thing that could happen to humans, what about other lifeforms and the ecosystem? Good question. I guess some kind of other scenario where there was a catastrophe that affected the entire Earth’s biosphere, killing plenty of humans but ruining the built environment, institutions, interests, health and hope for survival but also wiping out the plants and animals too — would also be pretty bad. Especially if it was caused by some kind of needless, insane technology humans had stockpiled themselves and attached to an alarm system which we knew was fallible. That would probably rub salt into the wound. And then the topper would be if really smart people defended it, not by saying that it was actually not that dangerous, but by somehow arguing, with recourse to dubious game theory models, that this hair-trigger apocalypse security system is actually responsible for keeping the peace. And then it would be extra shitty if everyone pretty well swallowed this and kind of forgot about it day-to-day, save for the occasional heavy-handed, self-righteous satirical diatribe tacked on to the end of a thinly-veiled antitheist lucubration. END HOMILY