Pat Tillman In Hell? (Or “How NOT To Proselytize”)

John writes in to trivialize the tragic death of Pat Tillman because he was *gasp*—an atheist:

I wanted to leave a comment about Pat Tillmans death in afganistan, while it is tragic, the greater tragedy is that if he was an athiest, He died not knowing ( or not believing )that Jesus died on the cross for his sins. To say there is no God is to deny the existance of yourself & that there is nothing beyond this life. Everything & everyone was created for a higher purpose, Pat was looking for this in all the wrong places. I am sorry for Pats death, and for everyone who rejects Gods ultimate sacrifice(through his son Jesus) so that man could be reunited to God…….This is not just my opinion, this is truth, if anyone is truely searching for the absolute truth, they will find it in God ,the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit..I do hope you find it, hold fast to it and never let it go!

Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he would lay his life down for his friends”.  Pat Tillman walked away from the lucrative, glamorous, professionally and athletically fulfilling career as a famous, world class football player in the NFL in order to put his life on the line for his country.  He disastrously died under friendly fire.  His country disgracefully both tried to misrepresent his death and to exploit it for propaganda purposes.  And when his family insisted on true answers from the military, an army investigator insultingly accused them of being so persistent only because, as atheists, they could not come to terms with their son becoming “worm-dirt” for “nothing”.

And yet John here responds to my post of a video about the offensive treatment of Tillman and his family, with a trivializing declaration that the real tragedy was that Pat Tillman died without becoming a Christian.  The implication?  Pat Tillman is in hell.  Why?  Because membership in John’s cult is the only way to go to heaven.  Following in Jesus’s (supposed) example and laying down your life for your friends?  That’s not enough to go to heaven.  And following in Jesus’s (supposed) example and being killed because of your friends?  That’s no more tragic and no more cruel a fate for Pat Tillman than not being a Christian was!

I get it that John probably feels himself genuinely concerned with Pat Tillman’s ultimate well-being and John really fears that Tillman is in hell right now.  But I do not think that is an excuse for saying such remarkably offensive, judgmental, and trivializing things as he does when he implies it is less tragic for a heroic person to die due to an avoidable accident and less tragic for that heroic person to be exploited by his country and have his family lied to and dishonored.  I think there is little excuse for not using your reason just enough to question whether a morally good God could do something as patently immoral as eternally torture a genuinely and honorably self-sacrificial, dutiful person simply because his intellectual conscience leads him to doubt His existence.  I think there is little excuse for not being able to overcome the petty tribalism that views even heroic figures as worthy of hell simply because they do not belong to your group of gullible believers who blithely and uncritically accept obviously barbaric, antiquated, mythological fictions as truths.

And I think there is little excuse for putting your unchecked need to dogmatically assert your rationally baseless and clearly ludicrous beliefs above any considerations of respect for other people’s intellectual consciences or the memory of their dead.

And there is little to respect in a view of the world so false and so distorting that it leads people to treat real death and real exploitation as of less importance than the fantasized punishments a cult has made up for the manipulative purposes of scaring people into joining them and scaring people out of ever leaving them.

And I am 100% certain that the Christian God is an entire work of fiction.  No omnipotent, morally good being would tolerate people like John–who deeply care on an abstract level for people’s imaginary souls while showing little concern for their actual lives–representing him or her with such remarks.  The proposition is, frankly, beyond all possible belief for me.  It is utterly and completely absurd.

There is no God.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Steve

    “I get it that John probably feels himself genuinely concerned with Pat Tillman’s ultimate well-being and John really fears that Tillman is in hell right now.”

    I don’t think John, or those like him, truly feel concerned for the souls of others. Maybe superficially they do, but the real issue for them is justification of their religion and worldview. They cannot wrap their brains around NOT believing in a supernatural something and when someone else rejects their faith and how they perceive the universe they throw out the line:

    “To say there is no God is to deny the existance of yourself & that there is nothing beyond this life.”

    The first part of his statement is nonsense and the second…well…that is true. Either way John is not showing concern for Pat Tillman’s “soul” so much as he is reinforcing his own belief system and projecting what he perceives as the consequences of rejecting that faith onto others. Yet again, it is about fear.

    Finally, we get: “This is not just my opinion, this is truth,…”

    A truly pretentious and self-serving statement.

    I agree with all of what you said, but I would not assume there is genuine concern for others on the theist’s part.

  • George W.

    I almost forgot that people like this existed until one came to tear down my personal testimony post. I can’t imagine what a family grieving the loss of a loved one must be feeling when comments like this are made.
    The whole tone of John’s comment is arrogant and boastful. “I am right and everyone else is wrong”, “I’m going to heaven and you’re going to hell”.
    The ultimate irony, as Dan pointed out, is that Tillman lived in a more Christ-like way than John is even capable of.

  • Turnipseed

    If the reasoning is that one must be a Christian in order not to be sent to hell, then I guess Jesus went to hell. He was definitely Jewish, not Christian.

  • Jonathan

    Well… I’m not going to pull any Punches or Judgements on either side. I will say this though If Atheist are correct then life is over and there is nothing. If Christian are correction then there’s heaven or hell.

    Now Christians shouldn’t Judge where Pat Tillman is because Judgement and Death is set when (GOD SAYS IT IS) not when earthly blind Men conclude. God is and never was bound to earth’s time space continuum … Many Atheist have died and come back from a Near Death Experience: See You Tube : Howard Storm

    There Seems to be a Gray Zone or Neutral Zone on the way to your Final destination Heaven or Hell. These stories have come back similarly atheist who find themselves falling or traveling towards Hell or Fiery place realizes where their heading to and do cry out to Jesus. It seems every time Jesus Comes and Halts their Descent and Save them if they have a change of Heart.

    St.Faustina Wrote this witnessing of a dieing soul & Jesus:
    Conversation of the Merciful God with a Despairing Soul.

    1486 Jesus: O soul steeped in darkness, do not despair. All is not yet lost. Come and confide in your God, who is love and mercy.

    -But the soul, deaf even to this appeal, wraps itself in darkness.

    Jesus calls out again: My child, listen to the voice of your merciful Father.

    -In the soul arises this reply: “For me there is no mercy,” and it falls into greater darkness, a despair which is a foretaste of hell and makes it unable to draw near to God.

    Jesus calls to the soul a third time, but the soul remains deaf and blind, hardened and despairing. Then the mercy of God begins to exert itself, and, without any co-operation from the soul, God grants it final grace. If this too is spurned, God will leave the soul in this “self-chosen” disposition for eternity. This grace emerges from the merciful Heart of Jesus and gives the soul a special light by means of which the soul begins to understand God’s effort; but conversion depends on its own will. The soul knows that this, for her, is final grace and, should it show even a flicker of good will, the mercy of God will accomplish the rest.

    And Lastly another Section St. Faustina Says Jesus Spoke…

    1452 When the clock struck twelve, my soul immersed itself more deeply in recollection, and I heard a voice in my

    Do not fear, My little child, you are not alone. Fight bravely, because My arm is supporting you; fight for the salvation of souls, exhorting them to trust in My mercy, as that is your task in this life and in the life to come. After these words, I received a deeper understanding of divine mercy. Only that soul who wants it will be damned, for God condemns no one.

    I will not be shocked to see Pat Tillman in heaven period..