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.


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