Why Atheists Resent Being Told We Are Going To Hell

Yesterday I was rather surprised that one of my very most politically progressive, most liberally theist, and most pro-atheist friends asked me why atheists sometimes get upset (even apoplectic) about being told we’re going to hell. This friend asked why this should bother us if we thought the idea that we were going to hell was complete nonsense anyway. Did this signify that the offended atheists held some residual fear that there may be a hell after all?

I cannot speak for all atheists of course. But let me speak for myself and other possible atheist mindsets.

First of all, I don’t have any residual fear of hell whatsoever. I think the idea of hell is epically preposterous and implausible. Once or twice in 13 years of being an atheist, the irrational fear based side of my brain has asked my reason to reassess the idea just to make sure–and promptly that fear has been laughed at by my reason.

Second of all, telling us we are going to hell is formally a threat and threats are inherently vicious and disturbing things—even if one does not believe they will be (or could be) carried out. And even if a given believer does not like the prospect of our going to hell and is desperately trying to warn us, they’re almost always quite happily on the side of the person they imagine is ultimately behind the threat.

Now there are many different ways that believers tell us we’re going to hell or, at least, that we deserve to, if we don’t convert to their religion. The nastiest believers tell us we’re going to hell with a lot of relish and with little provocation. Just being an atheist is enough to get a contemptuous, hateful attitude from them.

Other believers tell us we’re going to hell out of passive aggressive vindictiveness when we have irritated them. Sometimes an atheist may have merited anger by being obnoxious in an actual out of bounds way–but even in those cases that is no cause or justification for threats. And many times atheists have not rightly merited any such anger. All we have done is express our genuine opinions. Often we have even given rational philosophical or scientific arguments. Sometimes all we have done is mention that we’re atheists!

To have people respond to one’s identity statements with a threat is upsetting. To have someone respond to a philosophical or scientific discussion with a threat is upsetting. Such threats send the message that this person really does not believe in freedom of thought or humility about one’s opinions. They send the message that not only should you change what you think–which would be an okay thing to argue for–but that you must both change what you are and surrender your right to think freely or you will be tortured. Such believers convey that they are so certain of their views that they want to emotionally manipulate those who disagree by terrifying them into submission whenever they have not been convinced by arguments. (And, just to be clear, I don’t like or tolerate it when atheists resort to bullying behavior any more than I like it when theists do.)

In their decision to threaten hell sometimes believers also indicate that they are simultaneously closing their minds and smugly and happily assuring themselves that their god will get back at you for upsetting them. In those moments, atheists might think that believers want us to suffer in hell because we have pissed them off. It is bad enough that they choose to worship a being they believe sends people to disproportionately cruel, unusual, unjust, and everlasting punishment. But it is disgusting when they start identifying with, approving of, and vicariously imagining that god’s supposed plan to torture you. And it is even more insidious when their approval is motivated by their own vindictive, wounded ego because they have lost an argument or by their bigoted subconscious tribalism because you are simply not a member of their group.

Wanting anyone else to be eternally tortured is pretty creepy. Sometimes in anger, any of us may have thoughts that we’d like someone to die flash through our minds. If you’re like me, you’re horrified and repulsed in those moments. If you’re a violent and hateful person you may start making scary death threats. If you’re a Christian you may just baptize your hateful thought as “concern” for your irritant’s soul before it even becomes fully conscious. You call your resentful defensiveness “love” and by telling the atheist they’re going to hell you do several satisfying things at once. You signal to the outsider that not being a member of your tribe has penalties. You reaffirm your own good standing in your tribe and with your God as someone who is an obedient and appreciative recipient of your God’s gracious offer of salvation. You get to both tell someone off and call it love. You get to count yourself one of the special insiders while feeling yourself a properly humble worshipper.

But worst of all you do all this in lieu of thinking. You do this as a preemptive mental clampdown that protects you from having to reassess your views or, even scarier, reconsider your identity. Now this tendency to defensively clamp down is something that all people should be able to empathize with to an extent. We are all prone to feeling threatened and reacting defensively, on an automatic brain processing level, to cognitive dissonance. But even so there are still reasons that atheists find Christians’ and Muslims’ beliefs in hell, and mentions of it, so upsetting.

For one thing, while we can all understand being protective of one’s beliefs, it is upsetting to atheists that some Christians and Muslims want to believe in hell. Of all the beliefs to want so passionately to hold onto, this is among the very worst. This is about the least compassionate and most vile of doctrines and so why would anyone be agitated to rationalize it and insist it’s real? This is a doctrine that a being totally undetectable by the senses has the right to torture people for the crime of not seeing any reason to think it exists. It is a doctrine that finite wrongdoing deserves infinite punishment. It is a doctrine that a being who is perfect love punishes those who don’t love him as though he were a psychotically violently stalker and domestic abuser. And it’s so incredibly unrealistic as to be a childish and cartoonish threat that insults the intelligence as much as the conscience. So why defend the belief so adamantly?

I am sure many believers in hell vigorously defend it because they see it as of apiece with other beliefs they are more invested in—like the belief in heaven or in their sacred scriptures’ literal truth, etc. It may be that cognitively just accepting the wishful thinking parts of their religions without the uglier parts would involve facing up to the self-serving, too-good-to-be-true character of their implausible beliefs. They can tell that there are dimensions of their beliefs that are, at least to modern understanding, bizarre and fantastic. Part of making them feel real may be committing themselves to the parts that they don’t like as much as the ones they do. That makes it seem more compellingly like reality–which notoriously has both good parts and upsetting parts.

If they catch themselves denying the upsetting parts they may feel they are arbitrarily picking and choosing and the whole thing will unravel. Of course, they pick and choose what to believe anyway (and some believers are happy to throw away hell in the process), but it’s hard for them to do that as a self-aware emotional reaction based on their dislike of the concept of hell. Such would make too conscious for comfort the reality that their emotions are driving what they believe in ways that are arbitrary and not rationally defensible.

But what they seem blind to, even in that case, is that even if God was real and hell was just a harsh reality to accept, it is wrong emotionally to love such a being. Many of us atheists are clear on this. Were we to be convinced that the Abrahamic God was real and was like He is in the Bible and in traditional Christian and Islamic theologies, we still wouldn’t worship or be capable of sincerely loving Him any more than we would worship or love Josef Stalin or Ghadafi or Saddam Hussein or Adolf Hitler or any other sadistic tyrant who enforced obedience by torturing and murdering dissidents. Morally such a being is a monster.

Why does a Christian not only want to believe in such a being (and want this so much so that they are outright hostile to atheists simply for making counter-arguments and for existing as examples of people who do not believe) but also to love that being? Because that being is offering a blissful everlasting life? A lot of atheists find this to be a troublingly selfish motivation!

Imagine being offered that you can live forever if you go to the mansion of a sadistic torturer. He will provide you with endless amusements and happiness. He will also be endlessly torturing in the basement people who refuse his request. Would you go? Would you do so willingly? Would you go happily? Would you suck up to him and tell him he’s awesome and work yourself up into loving him? Would you make excuses for him and tell yourself he just must have his reasons? Would you get defensive on his behalf? Would you convince yourself he is the epitome of justice itself? Would you blame the people he tortures for using their free will to refuse him when they could have just loved him? To a lot of atheists the fervent desire of Christians and Muslims not only to accept such an invitation to such a mansion but also to believe in such a mansion and to eagerly defend the morality of such an arrangement is twisted.

Other believers in hell are very squeamish about the concept. They hope God will find a way to save everyone. They stress, and take hope in, their own ignorance about what God will ultimately do. They do not really know who he will or won’t save or by what criteria in the final analysis. They do not know others’ hearts well enough to judge anyone. They don’t want to be judgmental. Etc., etc. But a lot of us atheists would wish they went even further. We wish they would reconsider calling a being who even made the threat part of his holy books and religions moral in the first place. I for one wish they would decide that even if they believe in him they’ll refuse to worship him if it turns out that he sends people to hell. Again: why are these people so desperate to believe in a being who is, at best, morally “uncertain” in this regard? Why do they want heaven if they know many people they would never want tortured will be tortured by him?

Some believers are anguished because of their belief in hell, precisely because they believe their loved one will suffer. Yet, even these believers choose to slavishly and worshipfully side with the cosmic dictator who threatens to inflict eternal torment on their beloved children, friends, parents, or spouse! What abdication of loyalty and conscience! They blame the future victim of this tyranny rather than the tyrant, rather than question for a legitimate second the actual justice of the arrangement.

When God told Abraham he was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham desperately pleaded and bargained with him not to do it. He wasn’t the happy yes-man siding with his frightening god that so many contemporary Christians are. My recommendation to Christians, if it was good enough for Abraham to try to convince God to change his mind about Sodom and Gomorrah why don’t you put your energies into praying there is no hell instead of trying to rationalize why one would be fair for us non-believers?

Instead you make excuses:  “God is powerful and that makes God just no matter what he does” and “People who go to hell freely choose that fate”. Such go the rationalizations which abuse morality and language in a fell swoop.

But at least you are sincere! Right? You believe to the point of great sorrow to yourselves. And can’t we at least approve of your conscientious consistency by which you believe terrible things if you follow logically from your other beliefs? And if you proselytize us and desperately warn people to try to spare us hell—well, given your beliefs is that not more loving than letting your loved ones go to hell for fear of upsetting them on Earth? Aren’t those others who also believe in hell and yet don’t have the courage to do everything it takes to get their friends saved the truly poor friends? How could a true friend indifferently neglect their friend’s salvation for fear of upsetting them with the message they need to be saved?

To an extent, I appreciate that you are operating conscientiously and consistently within their beliefs. But I do not have to confuse this for a generally admirable conscientiousness. If you really are so damned worry about your friends you should be multiple times more scrupulous in figuring out the facts. You should research much more vigorously the arguments for evolution before calling it a lie and you would discover that the Bible’s ability to provide literal, special, divinely accurate truth is not only not at the level of infallibility–it’s at the level of colossal failure. You would also learn this if you showed as much conscientiousness about studying history or philosophy or other religions, etc. Sure, some of you might still believe in that case. But you would be far less likely to believe in the fantastic supernatural hell and far less likely to blithely adopt the crude morality of hellfire preachers.

You make choices about what to be conscientious about and what not to put any admirable effort into at all. I really can’t fault you for wanting what you really believe is best for me and trying to save me. But I really can fault you for being so lazy and shitty about figuring out what I really need.

I was once one of you. But I conscientiously did seek out the truth about what was true and what people really need. I found out I was wrong. I expect you to do the same if you’re honest, as I was. I fault you, intellectually or morally as the case may be, when you fail to do so.

But don’t worry. I don’t think you or any one else deserves (or will receive) everlasting torture for such culpable wrongness.

Your Thoughts?

For more on why the doctrine of hell is flat out unconvincing, even in its more sophisticated and positively genteel sounding forms, read my post on hell as the absence of God.

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Before I Deconverted: I Saw My First “Secular Humanist” On TV
The Collar That Choked Open Hearts
Drunken Mall Santa
Drunken Mall Santa
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

    If after identifying yourself as an atheist someone says you’re going to hell because of it, the only part that should irritate you was that the person clearly wasn’t paying attention when you identified yourself as an atheist. You should be as irritated as if someone told you Santa was going to put coal in your stocking if you weren’t good.

    Chris Rock has a funny bit about men lying. It goes something to the effect of ‘Calling a man out for lying is like playing basketball with a r****d and calling him for a double dribble… you just gotta let some s*** slide’. When someone is brainwashed enough to believe fairytales tells you you’re going to hell, whether based on vitriol or genuine concern for your immortal soul, instead of getting worked up over it, you just gotta let that s*** slide.


    I really enjoyed reading this today. Thanks.

  • Eamon Knight

    The doctrine of damnation always bothered me, and was one of the first things to go in my long slow apostasy. For a while, C.S.Lewis’ concept in The Great Divorce satisfied me: Hell isn’t a place of deliberate torture where God sends you; it’s just the place where God isn’t, and you sit around being miserable, sort of like a self-sabotaging depressive who won’t seek help. Of course Lewis’ theology in that book also opens up the possibility that it’s not really about faith in Jesus so much as whether you’re selfish and self-absorbed vs. being compassionate and open. And once you’re on that slippery slope, well, there’s no telling where it’ll wind up, is there? Universalism, “all ways are equally good”-ism…..empty Christianity of enough theological content, and you may decide that you don’t need it at all.

    • CBrachyrhynchos

      Agreed. I’m even more skeptical of hell than I am of deity. It is, in my opinion, weak theology to hold that deity is simultaneously foundational to all things and estranged from those things we call human.

    • cowalker

      So Lewis thought Jesus didn’t grasp the concept of hell? Or he was misquoted in Matthew 25:41? Or he kicking it up a notch to impress the apostles?

      “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.’”

    • Eamon Knight

      @cowalker: Lewis invokes exactly that image from Matthew in The Last Battle. In The Pilgrim’s Regress he writes (from ancient memory, so I can’t guarantee verbatim): “There are those who say to God, ‘Thy Will be done’, and those to whom God, in the end says, ‘Thy will be done’”, ie. that damnation is in some sense self-chosen. You’d have to ask Lewis (which could be a bit difficult, since the man’s been dead for 50 years) whether he could reconcile that with Jesus’ teaching. For reasons that should be obvious, I don’t give a flying fuck — I regard both the fundamentalist, and Lewis’ slightly (though only just) less noxious, versions, as a load of bollocks.

    • cowalker

      Eamon Knight says: “I regard both the fundamentalist, and Lewis’ slightly (though only just) less noxious, versions, as a load of bollocks.”

      I find it rather entertaining to observe the attempts of the sophisticated and empathetic believer to “interpret” the revenge porn that is the Bible in a way that makes God and Jesus appealing. Since the Bible depicts them renditioning humans to hell because they are insufficiently subservient this is a tall order. I’m sure someone as smart as Lewis would have made a good tale of it.

    • Liralen

      @ cowalker: The quote from Matthew is out of context. The “cursed” isn’t referring to atheists but rather to followers of Jesus who lack charity:

      41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

      44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

      45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

      46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

  • Randomfactor

    I’ve decided that hell is a potentially useful touchstone. Any Christian will tell you that there are “good” Christians and “bad” Christians (usually when playing the “no good Christian” card).

    It seems to me that a belief in a literal hell is the deciding line between the two. Maybe not causal, but a marker.

    Those Christians who believe in a literal hell may still do “good” things. But ultimately it’s not for a good reason. And they teach their children to follow.

    • Oregon Catholic

      No, No, No. You have the theology all wrong. God sends no one to hell. People send themselves there through free will choice. You have to understand that the light (for lack of a human word adequate to describe it) of God is too spiritually painful to tolerate for someone who is steeped in sin. Hell, a place without God, is actually a mercy for those who want to go there. That doesn’t mean however that it won’t be hell :-)

  • Mike W. Laing

    It’s the Dunning-Kruger effect. A large majority – 92%?, 100%? – of Christians think they are shoo-ins for Heaven. Otherwise they would have to think about what going to Hell for eternity really means. This is one reason that I have formed the impression that most of the Christians I meet don’t really believe in God.
    In any event, it’s rare, but if someone says they’re going to pray for me, or that I’m going to Hell, out of anger, I just command them to get busy and pray for me and quit wasting time arguing.

    • sg

      I don’t understand this. I mean, of course Christians believe they are going to heaven. All they have to do is believe. That is the only requirement according to Christianity. Christians don’t have to be good per se. They just have to believe that they are forgiven. That is it.

    • Mike W. Laing

      But many act contrary to what the Bible tells them is righteous. Perhaps they do believe, but belief is not purely intellectual, and their actions bear witness to lack of understanding of the consequences.
      It would seem that overwhelmingly, American, Canadian, western, Christians are self centered and greedy. There isn’t any proliferation of loving your brother as yourself, or violations of the ten commandments. Thirty to forty percent of people can’t be having affairs without a majority of them thinking about how nice it would be. The number of examples are limited by space, only, but I would be terrified of going to hell. If someone is about to kill you, you will promise, and do, almost anything to be spared, but most people do not act like they are terrified of sin.
      That is why I doubt they have understood the gravity of their situation, or else they just don’t seem to give much of a shit. If they truly believed they had the spirit of Jesus in their hearts, they would be truly repentant. That means feeling genuinely shameful for greedy and slothful and angry and vindictive and selfish and lustful and etc. thoughts and actions.
      So either a large majority, I figure, of Christians think they are far better than they really are in living righteous lives, or they don’t really believe that there is a God that will punish them for all eternity – whether that is through lack of examination and understanding, or purposeful deceit.
      Look at the Tea party, for instance. Look at everyone that wants to cut welfare for the needy, that uses monetary standards to make decisions. That is antithetical to what Jesus preaches. One of the more popular quoted scriptures around here is Matthew 25:40, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
      They are either deluded, which means they don’t believe in the right version of God, or they don’t care about the possibility of going to hell, and therefore don’t believe in it.

    • sg

      Okay, but they can confess and be absolved anytime and go to heaven according to what they believe. So, the fact that other people see them as bad doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they believe. That is what Christianity is. You confess; you believe; you are forgiven; period.

      The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

      I remember that line from a hymn from childhood. Sure, non-christians don’t buy that, but that is still what they believe.

    • Mike W. Laing

      I think you make a very good point. I looked up ‘how to get into heaven’ and took the first 5 links. A couple were ambiguous, one was definite about behaving properly, and two were mostly just needing to believe. Poor research, but an indication that just believing in Jesus’ resurrection, that he died for humanity’s sins, is enough. One even went so far as to say that still acting the same way, even after re-birth(yikes!), is perfectly acceptable!

      So, I stand swayed towards thinking that a big majority of Christians – approaching 100% – honestly feel that they are Heaven bound, and that their behavior, regardless of it’s ‘righteousness’, will not disqualify them. As far as I can tell, even last minute deathbed conversions – even if they intentionally put it off until then, are their ticket to paradise/72 virgins/etc. LOL

  • cipher

    If he believes you’re going to hell, he isn’t your friend.

  • MNb

    If some believer tells me that I will go to hell I don’t feel anger or disgust, only contempt. It’s not that I look down on religion or even the concept of hell. The point is that this believer is stupid enough and has a sufficient lack of empathy to assume that his/her announcement will make any impression pro religion on me.
    Tell me that I’ll go to hell and I give you an imaginary middle finger. You are not worth talking to and only a waste of time. Byebye, dombo, byebye.
    But if said believer catches me in a good mood I might be tempted to explain that his/her concept of hell is more attractive to me than his/her concept of heaven. For one thing the prospect of spending eternity in such company is at least as bad as any torture in hell.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      MNb, please don’t call people “stupid” on my blog. It’s counter productive, simplistic, and corrodes the discourse here. Here is why I wouldn’t call religious believers stupid for even absurd beliefs.

    • Preston B

      “But if said believer catches me in a good mood I might be tempted to explain that his/her concept of hell is more attractive to me than his/her concept of heaven.”

      I applaud you for your honesty. You would rather suffer eternal torment than worship the one Sovereign God and Creator of the universe thereby giving up your standing as your own god. Although other non-believers are not as explicit, they show that they are unwilling to give up their place as the god of their own lives when they argue that God is unjustified in punishing people for their sins against an eternal God. They don’t believe that refusing to worship God is a crime worthy of severe punishment. Non-believers often justify themselves by saying that if the God of the Bible were real he would reveal himself in an unmistakable way, yet few make an honest, open-minded attempt to understand what the Bible actually says. Instead many point to a handful of seeming contradictions or difficult texts and dismiss God’s Word without making a sincere effort to understand scripture in its context (Who is the author and audience? What is the culture?) or to see how understanding the whole of scripture allows a clearer interpretation of specific passages. I wonder how many could give an informed explanation of why so many people came to believe in the Resurrection if it was untrue, despite intense persecution. What did the Apostles, most of whom were martyred gain by professing that they had seen Christ risen?

      In our sinful nature, we want God to conform to our notion of what he ought to be. But God says, “I am who I am,” (Exodus 3:14). Never changing. Never allowing sin to go unpunished. All-powerful and all-knowing. Yet in the ultimate act of humility and mercy the Son of God, who was one with the Father (and hence is God) for all eternity, took on flesh and became a man bearing the wrath of God on a cross to atone for the sin of man. He left us with the account of many witness to confirm to future generations that Jesus was crucified and was raised on the third day, therefore confirming the authority of Jesus’s teachings.

      It is my earnest desire that as many people as possible would renounce their worship of self and idols, renounce their sins and accept Christ’s free gift of salvation. My heart especially aches for friends and family that won’t humble themselves before God. The Bible says that God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” But God’s desire to save unrepentant sinners is superseded by his will to see perfect justice carried out. And perfect justice demands that eternal sins against an eternal God be paid for either with the eternal punishment of the sinner or God’s own perfect sacrifice–Christ on the cross. I realize this sounds harsh and I understand these beliefs are offensive and threatening to some, but Christ said as much during his ministry. But, though you may think me a fool, try to place yourself in my position. If you thought that all signs pointed to the authenticity of the Gospel accounts as well as the truth of the rest of scripture, how could you in good conscience not proclaim to people what you believe?

      Please understand that Christianity is not a religion based on fear, but on hope. Although some may be impelled to convert out of fear of punishment for their sins, eventually believers should come to understand Christianity is a faith based on hope. Hope that this fallen world is not all there is. Hope that God is willing to adopt me and you as co-heirs with Christ despite whatever sins we have committed and may continue to struggle with. Hope that one day we will be one day be sanctified and purified of sin to reflect Christ’s image. Hope that one day every tear will be wiped away (Rev 21:4). Hope that one day we will see God in all his glory.

    • http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com SocraticGadfly

      Hey, Preston.
      1. How do you know most the Apostles were martyred? Church tradition? Please go read Candida Moss’ “The Myth of Persecution.” (Oh, she’s a professor at Notre Dame.)
      2. Perfect Justice? Even if believed Gen. 3 is literalistically true, eternal death for a bit out of a pomegranate? Don’t think so. Besides, Yahweh didn’t kill them that day, anyway. The perfect justice that has this same Yahweh tell Saul to even kill livestock, against the Amalekites? Pass.
      3. I don’t “worship” anybody, not even a “self.”
      Enough time wasted.

    • John Karpf

      Preston B. “In our sinful nature, we want God to conform to our notion of what he ought to be. But God says, “I am who I am,” (Exodus 3:14). Never changing. Never allowing sin to go unpunished.”
      I have two issues with this, first since there is no god, there is no such thing as sin, since sin is whatever is an affront to god, and since there is no such thing as sin, we can’t have a sinful nature. We just have a natural nature. The kind that every other living thing has. Within your own logic though, god created everything, including sin. God created the garden of eden and for some reason put what we call an attractive nuisance. The tree of knowledge. If you own a pool and you don’t put a fence around it, and some kid drown in it in the middle of the night, you’re guilty of negligence. If I put a plate of chocolate in front of a three year old with chocolate allergies and tell her not to touch it and leave the room, whose fault is it if she eats it? Your silly god, in your silly book setup the human race to fail and then created an eternal punishment. If I tell that same three year old that she has until the age of six to love me otherwise I’ll throw her in the oven FOREVER, how much love would I really be showing her? And if she did love me under those circumstances, what would the quality of that love be under such a threat? We understand Christianity pretty well. We understand that we are not the gods of our own lives, but the people of our own lives, without gods and good for it’s own sake and not for threat of eternal punishment.

    • Michael Schnaars

      Preston B., while your comment is lengthy and deserving of an in-depth answer to all your points, I would like to address just one small part of it here. You wrote, “I wonder how many could give an informed explanation of why so many people came to believe in the Resurrection if it was untrue, despite intense persecution. What did the Apostles, most of whom were martyred gain by professing that they had seen Christ risen?”

      I would ask you to honestly consider, how many present-day believers, today, would profess that the resurrection of Jesus is true, even though they believe and were persuaded by faith alone and not by first-hand evidence? What I am getting at, is that there is an assumption in your statement, that because early apostles were willing to be martyred, they must have had strong proof in the form of factual evidence to convince them. But isn’t it true that someone can have the kind of religious conviction of the kind required to be martyred, without having proof? And if they have no proof, what does their conviction mean? It means only that they believed, not that what they believed in was true. Strong belief in a claim does not entail the truth of the claim. To be clear, I am not passing judgment on anyone’s belief; all humans form beliefs, and many beliefs are not based on strong evidence. Nevertheless, we cannot rationally accept incredible statements as true, just because someone, somewhere, fervently and sincerely believed. Our belief-forming processes are all too often apt to go astray.

    • Preston B

      1. There is room for debate about how many and which of the Apostles were martyred, but there is strong evidence that at least some of them were and there was widespread persecution of Christians in the first century. Acts mentions the martyrdom of James the Less and the stoning of Stephen (who was a Deacon, not an Apostle), the end of the Gospel of John alludes to Peter’s martyrdom (which must have occurred after most of the New Testament was written since Peter’s epistles were written some time around the mid-60s.) Many New Testament books were written from prison and persevering in spite of persecution is a theme common to most New Testament books.

      Here is a passage, widely accepted as authentic, from the Annals written by the Roman historian Tacitus referring to Nero scapegoating Christians for the Great Fire of Rome: “But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”

      If you’ve been around academia you will realize that researchers have an incentive to write articles/books that are contrary to common belief because they are more likely to be read and cited than if they write something less controversial.

      2. I think aspects of Genesis 2 and 3 are allegories that reveal basic truths about the relationship between God and man, namely that there was a time that mankind was able to fellowship with God, but because of willful disobedience man was cursed and the world is fallen as a result. Whether the literal act was taking a bite out of a fruit isn’t really important, what Genesis is conveying is that God created man free from sin, but man used his free will to rebel against God, leaving the unregenerate man in his present state: slave to sin.

      As I said earlier, God wishes to save people (though that is not his primary objective) so by his grace we are given ample opportunity to repent of our sinful nature. But ultimately God sees to it that all sin is paid for.

      In the Old Testament, God chose to reveal himself to and through Israel. They were given a vast array of laws and commands that were meant to demonstrate aspects of God’s character and to set them apart from the surrounding nations and tribes. Although there were laws that allowed aliens to join the nation of Israel and take part in his covenant, in general the Old Testament took a very hard line about anything that would dilute the laws and practices of God’s people. The example you cite I believe has to do with this. Why was it important that they retain the laws/ceremonies/practices that God gave them? For one, many ceremonial laws were given as a foreshadowing of Christ, for example Deuteronomy 15:21 says that animals sacrificed to God could not have defects (foreshadowing Christ’s sinless life). If you read the Old Testament you see that to their own detriment Israel frequently decided to follow the practices of surrounding nations, be it having a king or idolatry.

      3. I’m sure you don’t bow down or pray to any Gods or idols or to your mirror, so in that sense you don’t worship. But mankind has a tendency to always have something on a pedestal that they revere as of supreme worth, and we shape our lives accordingly. For some it’s money, power, sex, sports, politics, beauty, music, a spouse, children, etc. Whatever we put on that pedestal above all else, though it may be a good thing, is in the place that should be reserved for God. This is idolatry and it is a sin I believe everyone is guilty of.

    • Preston B


      There is a very important difference between people who are led to a undying, sincere faith by others who claim to have the truth (whether right or wrong) and those who actually claim to have seen something and yet persevere in the face of severe persecution. The latter are in a position to know with certainty. If, as many people seem to think, Peter, James, John and the other Apostles got together and conspired to come up with the story of the resurrection for their own gain, wouldn’t you think that they would backpedal sometime around when they start seeing people getting stoned and crucified and burned alive for professing their faith? The sinner in me has tried to read the New Testament to convince myself that it was all a hoax and I could therefore go on living my life for me. But when I read the Gospel accounts and the letters the 1st Century Christians were writing to each other, they strike me as sincere and authentic. Given that I believe that the Apostles sincerely believed, I either must believe their eyes all somehow deceived them or that their accounts are true.

    • http://twitter.com/Arachne110 Arachne

      Preston, we already have people in our own century willing to die for their beliefs. Please look up the “Heaven’s Gate” cult and the Branch Davidian cult. Also, the suicide bombers in the mid-east. They have strong beliefs as well. Does that make them all true?

    • Preston B


      First I think you are right that if there is no God, there is no sin. Your statement is reminiscent of Romans 3 and Romans 7 which explain that there is no sin if there is no law, but that through the law comes knowledge of sin.

      I think your analogies are inaccurate in that you imply that Adam was like a 3 year old child in the garden and he couldn’t help but sin since he didn’t know better. Adam was made in the image of God, without the corruption of sin. He was originally made as man was intended to be, not the fallen creatures you and I are. He had completely free will and was aware that he was transgressing against God, even if he didn’t grasp the implications. It is also notable that when the devil tempts Eve he tells her that by eating the fruit she can be like God. This suggests to me a more serious rebellion; whatever sin Adam and Eve committed was in some sense rejecting God’s headship over them.

      God did not create sin. God created man who was initially endowed with a completely free will. Since God is omniscient he knew that although man was made without sin, he would choose sin and become enslaved to it. But God uses the evil acts of men to achieve greater good, just as he did when he allowed Judas and Caiaphas to hand Jesus over to be murdered on a cross, thus redeeming humanity. So it is with the fall. Perhaps because redeemed mankind will be able to feel greater joy and gratitude in its fellowship and worship of God than if man had never fallen? Perhaps because God’s glory and mercy are more perfectly revealed because he allowed the fall and because of how he made provision for grace?

      Finally, even though God punishes unrepentant sinners severely that does not mean his love for them is weak. Speaking of Jerusalem Jesus says, “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matt 23:37). Remember Christ (part of the triune God) died on the cross that he might save people. This involved more than a torturous physical death, but also unimaginable spiritual anguish as he bore the wrath of God. God’s love for humanity is great indeed as I don’t believe any mere mortal could suffer the physical and spiritual anguish that He did in order to save another. But ultimately man is not the center of God’s story, God is. As much as God the Father loves each sinner, saving that sinner is not worth disrupting the natural order in which The Father, Son and Spirit are rightfully honored and glorified above all else.

      I hope that as a fallible man I am doing an adequate job of conveying God’s truths in humility, knowing that there are surely many things in my theology and in my life for that matter that I have wrong. I remember after reading the Bible the first time, I thought I pretty much got it. But the more I learn, the more I realize I do not know and understand about the faith I profess.

      Best Regards,


  • Lauren F

    I’m sure that accepting the bad because it justifies the good is part of it for many Christians. I distinctly remember being taught that we know Christianity must be true because it has so many things in it that people don’t like, and so it obviously couldn’t be made up because why would people make up a religion with things in it they didn’t like? It was convincing at the time… because as a teenager I hadn’t yet realised exactly how eager people can sometimes be to flagellate themselves for no good reason.

  • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

    Thanks for this. I am religious, but I’ve always found the “if you don’t think like me (or believe in my God) you’re headed to hell” argument to be everything you rightly diagnosis it as: threatening and full of cognitive dissonance. Indeed, during a rather lengthy agnostic walkabout, I left the Christianity of my youth precisely because I found the vision of hell that I’d been taught to be abhorrent. I refused to be bullied into loving God.

    I’ll confess that I’m still sort of partial to the Catholic insistence that the concept of Hell is necessary (even with the granted possibility that there’s nobody in it) since it represents “the radical possibility of human freedom,” though that may just be the result of some lingering enchantment with Existentialism. I’m certainly much more sympathetic to the idea that a truly benevolent Deity would not coerce us into a relationship (which certainly need not be thought solely as an explicitly religious relationship or even as a relationship that speaks in theistic terms)—no matter how good that relationship might be—than I am to the idea that a Deity would condemn people to hell simply because they displeased him.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Thanks Broken Whole. Can you explain this idea of hell as “the radical possibility of human freedom”? That’s new to me. Did you (or could you) read my “hell as the absence of God” post, by any chance? Do you think it misses some arguments a Catholic might (or could) make that I don’t know about?

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      On that note, I had actually replied to that dialogue on my blog, which what I thought you were missing, although I don’t claim that it definitively proves anything:


    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Thanks V.S. It’s good to see you. I need to catch up on a lot of your reply articles.

    • Theodore Seeber

      Of course, by the Catholic definition, atheists aren’t going to hell. They’re already there.

    • Theodore Seeber

      One argument you missed in “Hell as the absence of God” is the possibility that the atheist is the abusive spouse in the atheist/God relationship.

      Kind of like the long suffering wife who keeps the house clean, does the dishes and the laundry, while her spouse runs around with other women and is a workaholic who is never home.

    • Drew

      Ha! That’s a good one Theodore.

      Oh, you weren’t joking? I was assuming you were being ironic. I mean, to me it is more abusive to say “do what I say or I will torture you for eternity” than to say “I don’t really see a reason to think that deities exist”. If god does exist, he really shouldn’t take it personally that we don’t believe in him. After all, which god is he supposed to be? About which of the multitude of gods in whom humanity has believed are we supposed to be convinced, exactly? Yahweh? He’s not very convincing. Minor god on the Hebrew pantheon who was retcon’d in after the fact by some overzealous Romans seeking political power.

      But I digress, since I’ve…you know…read a book.

  • Stevarious

    The part that really bugs me about the hell-botherers is that they, to a one, believe that this being that has chosen to torture billions of people in hellfire for all eternity deserves to be loved and worshiped. They very idea that you could love a being that is supposedly deliberately responsible for a literally infinite amount of suffering is repulsive to me.

  • Amber

    You had me until the end. Such a great article, hitting each point directly but not aggressively. Thorough and succinct it was just a pleasure to read.

    Right up until the close with responding to the best a person may have to give (good intentions combined with consistency within their belief structure) with shifting the gears and made it about the person and not the character of god and the qualities of hell. It lost focus and went directly into “when faced with what are otherwise admirable traits, let’s attack instead their inability to appreciate evolution as a response to the literal interpretation of the bible.” It was such a break in coherency to the article that I wonder why it was even included.

    An appeal to those people who do behave by motivations we can at least somewhat admire would have been the cherry on this. Appealing to that same good nature instead of casting aspersions that those same people must be lazy or stupid that they didn’t come around to your conclusion. Just hurts the credibility there.

    If I ignore the last four passages starting with “To an extent, I appreciate that you are operating conscientiously and consistently within their beliefs” then this article is damn near perfect in organization, tone, thoroughness and did it all with a rather charming voice. Very well done for that! Very well done indeed!

  • phantomreader42

    I consider the dogma of hell obscene, in the legal sense, in that it is vile, disgusting, immoral, harmful to children, appeals only to a prurient interest, tends to deprave and corrupt those who believe it, and is utterly devoid of any redeeming social, artistic, or moral value.

    • Elemenope

      I’d quibble only on the “artistic value” prong. Much entertaining (and aesthetically and historically valuable) poetry has been written imagining it. Horror and beauty are certainly not mutually exclusive.

  • Hitchslapper

    I just smile at ‘religionists’….. and tell them that they’re already living in Hell!

    • Theodore Seeber

      And to me, atheists are- by my definition of Hell, which is the same as Pope John Paul II’s and which laughs at the Walt Disney/Futurama version.

    • Randomfactor

      On the plus side, we atheists are already in heaven, too. And it’s just as good as we make it.

  • articulett

    I’m one of the atheists who is not bothered by being told I’m going to hell… to me it seems so silly– like someone telling me Santa won’t bring me presents. I’m embarrassed for adults who believe in such things. I always wonder if they believe because they are afraid that they might go to hell if they didn’t. I also wonder if the threat of hell they use on others was one of the manipulations that their indoctrinators used to get THEM to believe. (It must take a lot of mental work to convince oneself that a god who has his “beloved creations” infinitely tortured for not believing the right magic story is a GOOD god.)

    • Jay

      Hi, former Christian here. The concepts of God/heaven/hell seem like nonsense to me *now*, but I can sincerely attest to the deep visceral horror and terror those concepts can evoke in someone who has been brainwashed into them from birth – like me. It’s hard to shake loose no matter how intelligent you are. Human beings are driven by emotion at least as much by reason (much as I am loth to admit it), so it didn’t matter that I had been having doubts about religion since the age of 12. The very last thing I had to let go of in the deconversion process (10 years after my first doubtful thought) was that tiny little voice that kept going, “But what hell *is* real? If there’s even the tiniest little chance it exists…you don’t want to go there, do you?”

      That’s the power of brainwashing. Intelligent kids are still kids, still susceptible to being deeply molded and influenced by the adults around them. When you’ve had something burned into your brain for as long as your conscious memory exists, it’s super easy to mistake it for a fact of life.

    • http://twitter.com/Arachne110 Arachne

      It is the why that makes them insulting to me. There are 2 reasons that people think that atheists are destined to hell. Reason #1 is the prejudice that all atheists are bad people who have no morals and cause the bad things in the world, which is insulting. Reason #2 is that just the fact that being an Atheists means that you reject god and therefore deserve eternal punishment for a thought crime. This kind of ethic is something I reject and would actively fight against. The idea that I would then embrace the idea of that kind of god after that is insulting to my intelligence.

  • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole


    Thanks for your response. Just read your “Hell as the Absence of God” post and there are a few points on which I’d be inclined to put some pressure, though I think you raise some powerful and difficult objections to the idea. To respond I’ll first try to lay out in a bit more detail what I meant by my comment and then I’ll try and respond to your post.

    Digging into the Catechism, I see that it is technically “mortal sin” which is described as the “radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself.” Though, considering the link the Church makes between unrepentant mortal sin and hell, I don’t think I’m making too great of a leap. [To avoid a really long excursus into theology, but also to try and clarify some potential misreadings of my point, I think it's worth noting that the Church recognizes mortal sins not merely as a set of particular acts but as the commission of those acts under certain conditions—including knowledge on the part of the actor that the sin has the potential to be mortal—and that many Catholic moral theologians would restrict "mortal sin" to a few extreme cases.]

    I think my particular reading of this idea of Hell is influenced by my reading of the Catholic theologian Richard McBrian, who writes in Catholicism:

    Neither Jesus, nor the Church after him, ever stated that persons actually go to hell or are there now. He—as does the Church—restricts himself to the possibility. If someone really and deliberately rejected God, this is what he or she would be choosing instead of God.: a totally isolated existence. Even in this sense, hell is not the product of divine vindictiveness. Rather, it is God yielding to our freedom. To reject God is to reject life in community. Conversely, it is to choose life in community. Conversely, it is to choose life in isolation. Hell is absolute isolation. The radical sinner chooses that. God does not impose it as a punishment. [McBrian goes on to gesture towards the possibility of annihilationism over standard conceptions of Hell as eternal torment.] (1176)

    I think there’s a possibility to misread McBrian here when he suggests that Hell is the possibility of someone who has “really and deliberately rejected God.” I don’t think that McBrian is simply referring to Atheism here, which is basically a rejection of the concept of “God.” (I’ll avoid further quotation of McBrian here to back this up; suffice it to say I think this is the most reasonable interpretation of his position). I think that McBrian is pointing towards something much more thorough, like a rejection of “Being” (and we could imagine other words here that suggest a similar transcendent function, like “Justice” or the “Good”). In the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, after acknowledging the possibility of the salvation of Jews and Muslims who “acknowledge[d] the Creator,” the document says “Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.” This has certainly been interpreted by many in the mainstream of Catholic thought as an implicit theological endorsement of the potential salvation of atheists (I think in particular of Fr. Robert Barron’s thoughts on the life and death of Christopher Hitchens as being fundamentally religious in its striving to honor Justice).

    I’ve spent a lot of time in this response trying to indicate what the rejection of God is not because this is where I think I (and certain strains of Catholic thought) depart from your characterization of the “Hell is the absence of God” argument—though I think that the post overall does a fine job of raising some strong objections to it. I’m not going to try to argue per se with your rebuttals to the argument, I’m just going to point to a couple of places where I don’t think it’s a completely accurate depiction of all the articulations of the argument, particularly if articulated through a Catholic lens.

    You write:

    But my life as an atheist not even believing in your god is not miserable. Why would it be any more miserable were I sent somewhere after life where I wasn’t around your god either? Why would this suddenly start eating me up inside then, when it certainly does not now?

    Obviously your life as an atheist is not miserable without a concept of god, but it is fulfilling in part because of a relationship to Truth, Goodness, etc. (at least from what I’ve garnered from your posts and from your interest in questions of ethics) and your life is possibile because of a participation in Being (at least if we think “Being” in something like Heideggerian terms, which perhaps you don’t). If these transcendent things were God (I’ll leave aside your reasonable objection that we need not think these things in personal terms and I’ll ask you to just briefly stick with the “if”), then the absence of these things would seem to result in either (1) misery or (2) non-being.

    Where I think your characterization of the argument most strongly goes awry is your assumption (or the assumption of your imagined interlocutor) that the only way to be “saved” is to develop a personal relationship to Jesus Christ that is articulated as such. Returning to the points raised above, it seems to me that relating yourself to goodness, justice, etc. is a relating of yourself to God, if we follow the assumption (again, not going to wander into justifying that assumption here) that God is these things and not merely another being in the world possessed of these things. Catholicism would certainly hold that Jesus plays an important mediating role in reconciling us to God, but the explicitly understood and articulated “personal relationship to Jesus Christ” demand of your interlocutor sounds out of keeping with a lot of Catholic thought (though it’s certainly present in conservative Protestantism). I’d argue that the demand that one must love—or orient oneself towards—Justice or Truth or Goodness (or even the demand that one must simply desire Being over non-being) is less immediately ethically fraught than the demand that one must arbitrarily love a particular supreme being (often depicted more as “the biggest baddest being among beings” than as a more scholastically understood concept of the divine as Being) about which one can never be certain of one’s knowledge.

    Sorry for the long-winded response but I hope this helped sketch some points of difference between your “Hell as the Absence of God” and my “Hell as the radical potential of human freedom” idea.

    • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

      This was obviously meant to be a response to Dan’s response to my original post—sorry about not properly placing it within the thread!

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Sorry for the long-winded response

      Not at all! Thank you very much. I am always looking for new arguments to sink my teeth into.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Okay, just actually read what you wrote. Yes, I veered back to Evangelical Protestantism after dabbling with the Catholic hell as absence concept. I think that once you abandon the need to explicitly believe in and accept Jesus and start allowing that just loving Truth, Justice, Goodness, etc. makes one connect to God, then not only do you open the floodgates for atheists (and numerous other non-Christians) you make the Church, the Bible, the whole superstitious and frequently irrational tradition a dead weight to cast off so that we can pursue those things unencumbered without by having to square our every thought and deed with the very flawed Catholic tradition.

    • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

      I think that once you abandon the need to explicitly believe in and accept Jesus and start allowing that just loving Truth, Justice, Goodness, etc. makes one connect to God, then not only do you open the floodgates for atheists (and numerous other non-Christians) you make the Church, the Bible, the whole superstitious and frequently irrational tradition a dead weight to cast off so that we can pursue those things unencumbered without by having to square our every thought and deed with the very flawed Catholic tradition.

      I certainly concede that this is a possible reading, but I don’t think it follows as a necessary consequence. Just because one doesn’t need to explicitly believe in Jesus doesn’t seem to necessarily imply a negation of theological truth-claims about the divinity of Christ or the role of the Church as a privileged site of sacramental communion with the Divine. Simply because I don’t hold that a specific belief or religious practice is necessary to salvation doesn’t immediately suggest that the system itself is thereby useless, that it’s objectively wrong, or that it can’t in some way be integral to the process of pursuing truth and goodness. Obviously, cases can be made for it being useless, irrational, flawed, etc., etc. (and you have certainly laid out some yourself in other posts), but I don’t know if the paradigm articulated by my previous post would necessarily make Catholicism more vulnerable to those arguments than it would be otherwise by rendering it, as you say, a “dead weight.”

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      I think the onus would be on the Catholic in this case to explain why the Church is not superfluous and what it provides that cannot be had elsewhere. And, as always one must look at the Church’s unimpressive past when it comes to leading the way on Truth, Justice, etc. rather than dragging its feet clinging to the past and to corrupt power while the Enlightenment has lugged it against its will into each new century.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      The idea here would be that while it isn’t necessary to develop the right sets of values and virtues, it would provide a useful framework for developing them, as it follows directly — or, at least tries to follow directly — from the tradition of Jesus. Being a human institution, it gets some things wrong … but there’s just as much and likely more of a risk of someone working outside of that tradition and outside of the intellectual processes of the institution for getting it wrong as well.

      Note that your comment about its past reflects the heart of what I found problematic in your original dialogue: you judge it based on your view and not theirs, assuming that yours is right and theirs is wrong. The Catholic Church has certainly gotten things wrong, but it isn’t clear that the Enlightenment values are necessarily the right ones, and so some of the objections aren’t as clear as you imply.

    • Mike W. Laing

      Thanks, Broken Wheel.

      I’d argue that the demand that one must love—or orient oneself towards—Justice or Truth or Goodness (or even the demand that one must simply desire Being over non-being) is less immediately ethically fraught than the demand that one must arbitrarily love a particular supreme being (often depicted more as “the biggest baddest being among beings” than as a more scholastically understood concept of the divine as Being) about which one can never be certain of one’s knowledge.

      This captures, in a nutshell, my view of the message attempted in the Bible, which are, of course, universal truths. It is behind my opinion given to Christian friends, of the danger of reading the Bible literally, and my view of the Bible as a metaphor.
      I agree that it can be had elsewhere, Dan, but is it a matter of sophistication of people, still? It is unfortunate that so many struggle with abstract concepts, but if ‘The Church’ were to quit literally acting out the explicit role of God in the Bible, assuming the right to use fear and judgement and make commands over lifestyle(thinking of contraception and the like/abortion), and instead assumed a leadership role in teaching, properly, a universally accessible study of the Bible, there would still be a place for it.

    • Theodore Seeber

      That’s the other answer as well of course- that the only reason atheists aren’t in hell now, is because they don’t know the definition of God, and are hating a straw man construct instead of the real thing.

    • Brian Westley

      Ted, you still don’t understand that atheists don’t “hate” god at all; they don’t believe such an entity exists.

    • Randomfactor

      There IS no definition of “god.” That’s part of the problem. Theology, a wise man once noted, is the only “science” which cannot even define its subject.

  • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

    I think the onus would be on the Catholic in this case to explain why the Church is not superfluous and what it provides that cannot be had elsewhere.

    On this I agree with you—indeed, I think the onus would be there regardless of how the church framed its doctrines of hell and salvation. The arguments I articulated above certainly don’t, by themselves, get us to any rigorous apologetic for Catholicism—but, as you suggest, they perhaps frame the terms in which the apologetic would need to articulate itself. (I would, of course, be less inclined to read the Church’s history—horrible as it sometimes was and sometimes still is—as an illimitable parade of backwardness and corruption or to read the Enlightenment solely as a positive agent of progress. The facts of history rarely conform to such neat narratives. But that’s for another time when it’s not scandalously past my bedtime….)

    • Theodore Seeber

      One thing it provides that is not provided in science or any Protestant form of Christianity: 2000 years worth of documented research into the best way to live as a member of the species homo sapiens.

      Only Zen Buddhism does better.

    • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com Broken Whole

      Not sure if I’m totally on board with Theodore here. It seems to me that philosophy—tracing back to the ancient Greeks—has spent plenty of time thinking about the best way to be human and, while it has yoked itself to religion at various points, it doesn’t seem to have to be theological in order to engage in rigorous inquiry on this point nor do the Middle Ages invent such modes of inquiry even if it was a privileged period for such inquiry.

      I’d be more inclined to point towards things like the ecclesiastical roots of the modern university system, the development of just war theory, and the degree to which medieval mysticism and negative theology significantly predate—but also have provided a productive starting point for—a fair amount of poststructuralist critiques of the Enlightenment (though the “good” of that might depend on one’s own philosophical inclinations!). In all of these cases, I think we can point to very historically significant epistemic shifts—which continue to influence contemporary thought—that either originated within Catholicism or, at the least, were significantly developed and refined by it.

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      @Theodore Seeber

      One thing it provides that is not provided in science or any Protestant form of Christianity: 2000 years worth of documented research into the best way to live as a member of the species homo sapiens.

      Just because it has been around for 2000 doesn’t mean its worth anything, or that what it has to say about living a good life is worth anything. And determining what is good by presupposing that the Bible is true and then accepting as the “best way to live” those ways of living which can be argued for via sufficiently complex exegesis of biblical passages is research, sure, but only into what the Bible can be interpreted as saying. Which isn’t really worth anything without that initial presupposition.

  • John Karpf

    If the religious who believe in heaven and hell want to know why we get upset, ask them to search their feelings if you were to get in their face and just as gleefully as they tell us we are going to hell, say this; “When you die, you will be going straight in the ground and your existence will be over. You will never see your grandmother again, everyone whom you ever loved will join you in the dirt and you will never see them again. Your existence ends with your death and anyone who is comforted by believing that they will see you again one day are fooling themselves. Just like you are fooling yourself that you will be in the bosom of Jesus and will see your dead loved ones, because you won’t it. It’s over. Done. They are all just dead and one day you and them will all be forgotten and no one, especially Jesus will know your name.” I can’t imagine an evangelical NOT getting upset. And if they are then you say’ “See you wouldn’t get upset if you didn’t know it was the truth.”

    • Theodore Seeber

      “When you die, you will be going straight in the ground and your existence will be over. You will never see your grandmother again, everyone whom you ever loved will join you in the dirt and you will never see them again. Your existence ends with your death and anyone who is comforted by believing that they will see you again one day are fooling themselves. Just like you are fooling yourself that you will be in the bosom of Jesus and will see your dead loved ones, because you won’t it. It’s over. Done. They are all just dead and one day you and them will all be forgotten and no one, especially Jesus will know your name.”

      Or in other words, you’re going to hell. Because that’s pretty much the definition of hell.

    • John Karpf

      Theodore Seeber, that may be the definition of hell for you, but for me nothing could be more frightening than ETERNAL life. I’m almost 60 and the idea of living another 10 years makes me tired. The thought of the ennui after the first thousand years, let alone the first ten thousand or million is mind boggling. Imagine a future with millions of insane beings. Is that heaven? I was not in pain in before I was born being nothing, I expect the nothing after I die will be the same. And no matter what you speculate, that’s all you can expect too because your experience of heaven and hell is the same is mine.

    • Ted Seeber

      Living another 10 years in this body makes me tired and I’m only 42. But no eternal life theory I know of denies Tempus Fugit Memento Mori. This body will die. And it should!

      Having said that, I do indeed like the Greek Orthodox version. Christianity claims we were created to, in the end result, praise God. The conversion to heaven isn’t just about being reunited with loved ones, it is (as one atheist once put it to me) to be converted into an eternal mindless praisebot.

      If you love God and have learned to love God, that’s Heaven. If you have instead learned to hate God, that’s Hell- but it is *exactly the same state either way*.

      You reject Eternal Life just because you can’t handle ennui? Hell’s already here.

  • Al Cruise

    No one really knows what happens after death, all these comments are just guessing.

    • Eamon Knight

      For quite reasonable values of “know” (ie: according to all the evidence we have on how the mind works), we do indeed know that physical death of the brain means permanent oblivion, the final extinguishment of consciousness. All other views are mere assertion based on wishful thinking and special pleading. (And yes, that includes those based on the accounts of “near death experiences”).

  • Al Cruise

    Eamon your still guessing, you can’t prove it.

    • Eamon Knight

      There’s a *lot* of middle ground between “prove for absolute certain” and “just guessing”, and most of the things we commonly consider as “knowledge” fall into it. That there is no afterlife is, in my considered opinion, among those things.

  • Al Cruise

    Also if you know for sure how consciousness ends , explain how it begins in detail.

    • Matthew

      Why? Knowing how a process ends doesn’t require us to understand everything about the process itself. We can understand evolution quite well without having worked out all the details of abiogenesis.

    • sg

      You can understand mutation and selection without all the details of abiogenesis, but you can’t understand abiogenesis without all the details of abiogenesis.

  • Al Cruise

    (Why?)………That means you don’t know for sure , and your just guessing.

  • John Moriarty

    Simple answer: “That is your belief, said to shock no doubt. I’ve heard it many times, and each time it has even less effect. Now, for the sake of fair play, will you allow me tell you what is going to happen to you?”
    If they are civil, you can perhaps converse; if not, you have shamed them without staining yourself, (in the eye of neutral person).

  • Random Q. Gadwell

    I, personally, dislike it because it’s a blatent attempt to bully you through fear into accepting their point of view. ‘You’ll burn in hell’ isn’t a rational arguement, it’s a psychological attack. It makes me angry because I know there are atheists who report that as children, they were in constant fear of hell, and it’s just so pointless. There are enough real things to be frightened of without burdening vulnerable minds with hell.

    There’s a kind of ugliness to it as well. It’s usually used by people who can’t answer the questions you’ve asked them, and it’s said in a spirit of vengence- ‘you may have defeated me with arguement, but my God’s going to burn you alive forever, hah-hah!’ . I don’t respect people who argue like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/agni.ashwin Agni Ashwin

    Once saved; always saved.

    • John Karpf

      My mother used to say that a lot. I was saved for years. Now I’m an atheist. Does that mean I still have fire insurance? And don’t tell me that I wasn’t really saved, because I was as saved as anyone. I KNEW that Jesus was real and that I communed with the Lord from the time I woke up until the time I slept every day. My path to atheism was a long and daunting process fraught with much pain. Change hurts. I’m as happy now as an atheist as I was as a child of god. Only now the awe I experience in nature is of the wonderful complexity of the universe and not of the working of god’s hands.

    • Eamon Knight

      When I told a Christian friend from undergrad days that I was now an atheist, he launched into a string of evangelicalese about how I was “sealed for eternity” and my name was still “written in the book of life” yadda yadda. I don’t think he noticed my eyes glazing over, and I refrained from saying, “What makes you think this makes the slightest difference to me? Don’t you get that from my POV, you’re talking a very large boatload of the purest bullshit?”

    • Ted Seeber

      Once Saved Always Saved is just an excuse to party.

  • rvs

    Does the concept of heaven intrigue you, or is it equally preposterous by your logic? Thanks for this provocative post.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com M

      For me at least, they’re equally preposterous. Our consciousness dies when our brain dies, and we simply cease to exist. We didn’t exist before we were born and we stop existing after we die.

    • sg

      Uh, you do exist before you are born. You know that, right? You develop for nine months before birth. Your DNA has existed for much longer.

  • vandelay

    If someone tells you that you’re standing on train tracks and there is a locomotive bearing down on you, you haven’t been threatened, you’ve been warned. You might look around and see no train, and you might look down and see no tracks, but that’s clearly not what the other person is seeing.
    I’m an agnostic with many Christian friends who have expressed their worry regarding my ultimate fate. I understand that others have had different experiences, but the warning of hell is most often given from believers with the hope that you’ll step off the tracks, not that you’ll stand still.

    • John Karpf

      Sometimes. Sometimes, they say it with glee. My experience is that they are just trying to get me in line. It’s natural to want people to conform with you because it bolsters your belief that you’re right. They’re not trying to save your immortal soul, they’re looking for an emotional justification for their own beliefs and prejudices. If you get everyone to agree that you bought the best car in the world, you avoid buyer’s remorse.
      Try telling them that there are no tracks and no train and no such thing as a soul or sin and that from your vantage they just might be deluded. You may very well be met with an angry response. Your lack of belief is a threat to their worldview. I have been accosted, screamed at, lost friends, lost family, was kicked out of the house at 16, and lost jobs and clients, just simply because I mentioned that I was an atheist. The real question that we’re not dealing with in this thread is not why we get upset when they tell us that we’re going to hell, but why they want to hurt us when we tell them that we’re atheists.

    • thompson_wp tds.net

      why are so many christians and other believers so eager to see us roast in their hell? and why are they so desperate to get us to believe what they believe? surely a good christian or muslim or whatever else is out there would be secure enough in their own beliefs to allow ours…John, you nailed it perfectly. Somewhere in the back of their belief is the feeling that “I’m gonna die and what if I’m tithing my life away for nothing…”
      The human brain requires group activity to validate what it has been taught. Not what it KNOWS, but what it’s been taught to believe, no matter how off the wall or dreadful it may be to outsiders.
      Muslims have no patch on Christians for blood thirstiness, not if you read the OT with a jaundiced eye and a willing to suspend reality. They need the church, the religious trappings, the group (always the group) efforts of prayer, of community, to keep them going.

    • Stevarious

      “but that’s clearly not what the other person is seeing.”

      No, it is not at all clear that they are seeing any such thing.

      Nobody in this analogy actually sees a train at all. In fact, there aren’t even any visible tracks, and no evidence that tracks or trains EVEN EXIST. For the purposes of the analogy, we are standing in an open field, and the religious fellow is saying, “So there’s these big metal things, right? And they go really fast on these metal tracks. Now, I know you can’t SEE any tracks, but you’re totally standing on them! And this big metal thing is going to come down these metal tracks that you can’t see and smash you to bits. Of course, I can’t prove any of this – in fact, the only reason I know about it is because someone claimed that a magical being told him about it, and he told someone else about it, who told someone else, who told someone else, who told someone else, who told me about it. But it’s totally true!”
      (Awkward pause for MAXIMUM CREDIBILITY.)
      “Oh, and did I mention that the magical being put you on these tracks deliberately because he knew before you were born that you would be such a terrible loathsome person that you would DESERVE to be smashed by a huge metal thing? So yeah, since all of this is 100% for certain, you need to spend the rest of your life doing what I say.”

      For it to be a legitimate warning, the claim has to be reasonable. The religious person may FRAME the claim of hell as a ‘warning’ – but in most cases it is wielded as a threat to compel a change in the non-believer’s beliefs and behavior.

    • Eamon Knight

      They subjectively may see it as doing you a favour, but they are dupes and tools of a memetic system which has the threat built into it as a means of extending itself. And the ones who aren’t gleeful about it — ie. those who aren’t sociopaths — should be required to justify the concept of damnation as something they themselves endorse, no falling back on “not my responsibility, that’s what God says”. Because to kick the problem upstairs is moral cowardice; it’s the Nuremburg Defense (yes, I’m going there), and it forces them to confront the fact that the evangelical God is a right bastard, and emphatically not the author of a system of sublime morality.

    • Eristae

      If the person who is telling me that the train is coming does so with the belief that the conductor of the train knows that I am there and is going to willfully run me down and agrees with the conductor that I should in fact be run down, it stops being a warning.

    • sg

      So, if I warn you that I think a killer is coming and you are in a dangerous spot, it is not really a warning? Why?

    • Drew

      sg you’re misrepresenting the analogy.

      For it to work, you would need to both love the killer and condone his actions.

    • Casey G.

      A more appropriate analogy would be that the you are being warned that you are in the process of killing yourself and that God will allow you to do it out of respect for your autonomy.

    • http://OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com Y

      Humans are the greatest earthly manifestations of that which is called “God. ” We count on bonds with each other to save us from throwing ourselves in front of trains. If nobody cares enough to bond with us and risk their own physical comfort for us, there is no “God” in our lives.

    • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

      Point of order #1.
      The analogy you present assumes that we haven’t heard this at all before. So, to the entire world of people trying to convert other people, stop using this analogy. It sucks. We’ve heard it, again and again and again.
      Point of order #2.
      Most times we’re given this “warning”, there’s a joy at the notion. “You’re going to Hell” is said as though this is right, just, and a good in and of itself.
      Point of order #3.
      You’re not warning of an impending train and that we should get off the tracks. You’re acting as the mouthpiece of a being you believe tied us to the tracks in the first place. You’re siding with the bad guy and calling it good.

  • Bob


    First off, no one is “sent to” hell – anyone who goes there, goes because he wishes to. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “The gates of hell are locked from the inside.”

    Secondly, you’re confusing threats with warnings. Would I be threatening you if I told you, “Don’t step off that cliff, or you’ll fall to your death?”

    (I’m probably repeating someone, but I wrote this before reading any of the comments.)

    • penn

      Bob, actually the only one with any choice in this matter at all is the omnipotent omniscient being who set up the entire system (in the Christian worldview). None of us chose to be created. None of us chose to create a system where one’s beliefs and/or deeds in their finite lifespan determine whether they get to live in eternal bliss or torture. None of us chose to have God reveal himself only to primitive peoples who lived millenia ago (you can’t receive revelation 2nd hand, it’s a contradiction in terms). We are imperfect and ignorant creations and we followed the evidence we saw as best and as honestly as we could, and you’re trying to argue that we chose eternal damnation?

      If a parent treated their children like God treats his creations, the parent would be locked up in prison.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/amilliongods/ Avicenna

      First off, the requirements to go to hell require you to actually believe in the entire concept. A belief that has no proof. One may as well worry about behaving well around Santa Claus.

      Secondly, you are warning us about a non-existent thing. It would be like me telling you to not rub yourself in steak lest the dragon smell you.

    • sean samis

      No one chooses hell. If anyone ends up there it is because God (if there is one) failed to give them the information or strength to stay out. If anyone goes to hell, then God is evil.

      sean s.

    • http://www.facebook.com/WingedWyrm Charles Scott

      Your first off is linguistic trickery, an attempt to take responsibility away from God for those actions you actually believe God has taken. If God is so great, he can be a grownup and take responsibility for his actions, which include the creation of the hell.
      Your second off ignores God’s responsibility for God’s actions. It isn’t “don’t step off that cliff” it’s “please love God so he pulls you back from over cliff where he’s holding you for your entire life.”
      Part of the anger at being told that I’m going to Hell is that the people doing the telling are consciously siding with and making excuses for the torturer.

  • Clement Williams

    There is another view of hell that I heard not too long ago. As an atheist, you already believe that when you die, there will be nothing and the theist view I mentioned sees it as the soul of the person will not be in the light that is God.

  • steve

    Truth is, whether one believes it or not. Whether that’s religious, scientific or philosophical. I’m with you in the point that Christians should know what they believe better, but overall I think you’re wrong. Wisdom is folly to those who are perishing… it’s somewhere in first Corinthians.

  • Poqui

    Thanks for the article, I enjoyed reading it.

    As a theist, my belief of Hell is pretty simple, I think. I don’t see it as a place but as a state of mind. Jesus said, “In my Father’s House are many mansions…” I don’t see it as a clear-cut Heaven/Hell but more of a continuum. Hell, then, is when you realize you could’ve been so much more but failed to reach it because of your choices.

    Meh… it works for me.

  • Puck Bacchus

    Whether one goes to hell or simply ceases to exist doesn’t seem like a cheery choice to me. Either way, things aren’t going to end well for an atheist. If there is a God, you’re probably screwed. If there isn’t a God, you’re definitely screwed. Luckily, until then, you can change your mind. The door is open, and the porch light is on.

    • Andrew Paladino

      …because if (since, rather) there is no god, then everything after death is definitely miserable. What evidence led you to this conclusion exactly?

    • penn

      Puck, what is there to fear in oblivion?

      I didn’t exist for 13.8 billion years before I was born, and the universe will go on for trillions of years after I’m gone. This is my time to experience sorrow and joy, to love and cry and to be excited or fearful or experience anything at all. Some day that will all end, and I will feel nothing; I will be nothing, and I’m fine with that. The universe doesn’t owe me a thing.

      As far as I’m concerned, this is the only life I’ve got, and I’m going to live it to the fullest, and not worry about some unknown or unknowable life afterwards.

    • Randomfactor

      Moths have the same concept of heaven.

    • Mike W. Laing

      Did it ever occur to you that if there is a god, you are screwed? What if there is a god that despises naivety? Thinks people that worship unsophisticated, internally contradictory, scribbling are to be despised? Mocked?
      Did you ever hear that Pascal’s wager doesn’t make sense – also known as a false dichotomy?

    • INTJ

      A somewhat incomplete restatement of the classic “Pascal’s Wager.” Simply put, you have four options: If there is a God, said Pascal, and you follow the rules, you are eternally rewarded. If there is a God, and you don’t follow the rules, you are punished eternally. If there is no God, there is no difference between following the rules or not. Therefore, Pascal concluded, the most rational act is to behave as if there is a God, just in case. While the argument is not perfect, logically, it does bring up a valid point.

    • Mike W. Laing

      What point? There are so many flaws with it that the idea that there are thousands of gods is the least of it. It is a tautology.

  • http://www.thelittleredblog.typepad.com Jack Shifflett

    I’m an atheist and I have no objection to anyone telling me that I’m going to hell because (a) I don’t believe that there’s a hell and (b) if there is one, I certainly belong there. What I do resent, though, is having believers tell me that they’ll pray for me–listen, if I want to my case to be plead to a non-existent deity I’ll do it myself, thank you; and if the non-existent deity wants to speak to me, he knows where to find me.

  • INTJ

    I will not argue one way or another on the relative merits of religion versus atheism, nor an apology for religious people in general. I would say, though, there are interesting observations in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt, for the intellectually curious. I merely comment on the interpretation of the scenario presented.

    In Marlowe’s The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, Faustus asks Mephistophilis, upon being told the other is a spirit damned to hell, “How comes it, then, that thou art out of hell?” To which Mephistophilis replies, “Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it.” His point being, of course, that hell is nothing more than the denial of eternal bliss, and need not be a literal place of torture, above and beyond daily existence without hope. So taken, the concept of hell as the lack of an eternal reward, entirely determined by one’s own actions, doesn’t sound particularly unfair.

    As for whether “you are going to hell” is a threat coming from a Christian, that’s patently absurd. If you don’t believe in hell, it can’t possibly threaten you, because there is no potential consequence. Nor, I would point out, can any person sentence another to hell, in any case, so it cannot by definition be a “threat.” Additionally, in most cases, the sentiment is clearly not intended as a threat, but rather as a warning to the recipient, such as “you’re about to walk into a pit you can’t see!” At which a true atheist ought to be able to laugh, since he doesn’t believe in the invisible pit, any more than the average man believes someone who tells him, “you will be attacked by pink unicorns!”

    Agnosticism is the absence of belief in the absence of proof and it has the benefit of being logical, if somewhat cynical. The problem with atheism, however, is that it is, strictly speaking, its own religion. It requires the positive belief in the non-existence of something which it cannot objectively disproven. There is literally no way to prove that God does not physically exist, any more than a Christian can prove that Zeus or Zoroaster does not truly exist. Atheists also like to proselytize others, like other religions, and tend to be as unhappy as evangelical Christians when their pitch falls short, since belief is self-evident to them. So ultimately, when an atheist is told he is going to hell, his belief system is being challenged, and his reaction, like any other challenged believer, is often defensive and, sometimes, disproportionate.

    My advice? Pay it no mind. If you’re not, you really need to ask yourself why.

    • penn

      “The problem with atheism, however, is that it is, strictly speaking, its own religion. It requires the positive belief in the non-existence of something which it cannot objectively disproven.”

      This statement is 100% false and shows your complete ignorance of the subject at hand. Name a single well known self-identified atheist who makes this claim. Even Richard Dawkins, the great atheist bogeyman, makes no such claim. Atheists claim that there is no positive reason to believe in a deity, so they do not believe in one. They don’t believe in god(s) just like you don’t believe in unicorns, leprechauns, minotaurs, or Santa Claus. There is literally no way to prove that Santa Claus does not physically exist, yet you still have the audacity to say you don’t believe in him, and that he’s not real!?

    • INTJ

      You conflate atheism and agnosticism. Modern atheists, by definition, believe that God does not exist, something they cannot prove. There is no value judgment in that statement; it is simply a fact. Review any Madeline Murray O’Hair broadcasts if you disagree. Thanks for proving my point for me, though. Defensive and over-reactive. Your belief system was challenged, and you responded exactly as predicted, as any other true believer. For the record, a religion based on Santa Clause, which regularly and materially rewards good behavior and punishes bad, doesn’t sound like the worst idea ever.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ Daniel Fincke

      Your belief system was challenged, and you responded exactly as predicted, as any other true believer.

      Please don’t generalize and exacerbate the conflict.

    • http://OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com Y

      Santa Claus is another invention of the “haves” to shame the “have nots,” just as the Abrahamic religions have made up criteria by which they are chosen and deserve rewards that others have never heard of.

      I believe in incentives for responsible behaviors, but not combined with fear of punishment if the behaviors are not within one’s ability to perform them.

    • penn

      “You conflate atheism and agnosticism. Modern atheists, by definition, believe that God does not exist, something they cannot prove. ”

      I am not conflating anything. I am an atheist who regularly reads atheist books and blogs, and I don’t know of a single well known atheist who believes what you claim modern atheists must believe. You’re making assertions instead of arguments.

      Dan Finke, the writer of the blog you are currently reading and commenting on in his My Atheism (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/my-atheism/) page has a great discussion of how atheism doesn’t mean the certainty of belief in the non-existence of god(s).

      Here’s Greta Christina covering the exact same topic (http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2010/03/16/atheist-meme-of-the-day-atheism-is-not-about-absolute-certainty/).

      You can also read how Richard Dawkins covers the subject of certainty in disbelief in The God Delusion (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_God_Delusion).

      Those are three well-known self-identified atheists who don’t believe as you say. Would you tell them all that they aren’t actually atheists?

      “Review any Madeline Murray O’Hair broadcasts if you disagree.”

      Can you actually quote Madalyn Murray O’Hair saying that atheism is defined by certainty in the lack of god(s)? The only quotes I found of her defining atheism were these, that define it more like humanism (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Madalyn_Murray_O'Hair).

      “An Atheists loves himself and his fellow man instead of a god. An Atheist thinks that heaven is something for which we should work for now – here on earth- for all men together to enjoy.”
      MURRAY v. CURLETT, Petition for Relief, 1959

      “An Atheist knows that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist knows that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated.”
      MURRAY v. CURLETT, Petition for Relief, 1959

      “Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a lifestyle and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and the scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds.”
      American Atheists charter

      “For the record, a religion based on Santa Clause, which regularly and materially rewards good behavior and punishes bad, doesn’t sound like the worst idea ever.”

      That’s a very glib response. Do you claim to be agnostic as to the question of the existence of Santa Claus or unicorns or minotaurs? You would never say that Santa Claus isn’t real or is fictitious, because you can’t positively prove his non-existence?

      “Thanks for proving my point for me, though. Defensive and over-reactive. Your belief system was challenged, and you responded exactly as predicted, as any other true believer. ”

      That’s a nice double-bind you created with the “defensive and over-reactive” claim. Basically, you can assert whatever false notions you like, and if someone points out they are false and provides evidence, then you can just dismiss them for acting like “true believers”. It’s a nice bit of preemptive tone trolling. Bravo.

  • http://www.march7media.com Cyril Jones-Kellett

    I am a Catholic who can honestly say I hold and believe all that the Church holds and believes. At one time I called myself an atheist, but I found it intellectually entirely unconvincing. The author seems to have had the opposite experience. Well, the one thing both believers and non-believers share, if we are honest, is doubt. None of us can claim infallible certainty.
    I just wanted to say that I found this article really interesting, and insightful. The author did not seem to have much understanding of the doctrine of hell (Come on, thousands of theologians and philosophers have tackled this subject in a way shows clearly that the reality of hell has nothing to do with God being a torturer), but she sure had an understanding of us Christians, which was great.
    She was respectful of us, I thought, but called us out on the fact that we should never be vindictive. Such vindictiveness is completely inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    For crying out loud, it is inconsistent with basic manners.
    Who are we to revel in the idea of another person going to hell? That really is “creepy.”
    I would only add that in most Christian communities if a person ever does revel in the idea of others going to hell they will quickly find themselves urged to shut up, and her suggestion that we pray for those we think are going to hell is taken up every day by millions of Catholics who pray the Rosary with the repeated words, “lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy.”

    • penn

      You ask “Who are we to revel in the idea of another person going to hell?”, but none other than St. Thomas Aquinas said “In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned. . .So that they may be urged the more to praise God. . .The saints in heaven know distinctly all that happens. . .to the damned”

      And if we are to believe Wikipedia “Thomas is held in the Roman Catholic Church to be the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood, and indeed the highest expression of both natural reason and speculative theology. The study of his works, according to papal and magisterial documents, is a core of the required program of study for those seeking ordination as priests or deacons, as well as for those in religious formation and for other students of the sacred disciplines (Catholic philosophy, theology, history, liturgy, and canon law)”

      So, the most influential philosopher in Christian history whose works are still taught to every ordained member of the church thought and taught that those in heaven should and will take glee in the torture of the damned.

    • penn

      Sorry to follow up on my own reply, but I just had a question.

      Let’s take it as given that the saints in heaven know fully the fate of the damned (even those they loved in life), and that the saints do not feel the slightest twinge of empathy, guilt, or sadness for their suffering (how could it be eternal bliss if they did?). Both of these positions have a long history in Christian tradition, so let’s not quibble over them.

      How can you even be said to be you in heaven if you’ve been robbed of the basic ability to empathize and care for your own loved ones?

    • http://www.march7media.com Cyril Jones-Kellett

      Well, your elipses cut out a lot of what Thomas wrote. I hope you will go back and read the whole passage in the Summa. For example, consider this from a nearby passage: “A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy.”

      The fact is, it is kind of hard to follow Thomas’s points on Hell, but he does not believe the saved will take direct pleasure in the suffering of the damned.

      That is to say, it is wrong to revel in the idea that someone might suffer Hell. Please note that in the section on the damned, Thomas says that we must pity those who are still alive but at risk of Hell because there is still hope for them. He is in no way endorsing the idea that we should ever revel in the possibility that someone we know — say an atheist acquaintance — might go to Hell. To do that is wrong and it contradicts Gospel love.
      Thomas Aquinas, if I may add, wrote a long time ago and in a style that is no longer very familiar to us. It is easier to misunderstand him — especially when quoting him partially — than to understand him. And, despite being the greatest of the theologians, he was no more than one man. As much as we may revere him, he is not the TRUTH incarnate.
      Great Catholics from Jaques Maritan to John Paul II have held out hope that no one is in Hell. Catholic teaching on Hell is diverse and subtle. One chopped up Aquinas quote just will not cover it.

    • penn

      Sorry for the broken up quote. The ellipses were in the version I initially found in a Google search, and I didn’t dig any deeper. It is clear that the saints will at least find indirect joy in the punishment of the wicked as a display of perfect justice, and that is the most offensive part of the whole doctrine: that it’s perfectly just to eternally punish non-believers (or anyone for that matter). The idea that we are to rejoice in the justice of eternally punishing an atheist who used his senses and reason to honestly pursue truth, and in so doing rejected belief in deities, but still lives a good life is reprehensible.

      And you can quote people hoping that no one is in hell, but that’s just a sly game to get out of moral complicity. Dan handles it well in his previous post (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2012/01/hell-as-the-absence-of-god/) on hell as the absence of god. The catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that “Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.””, and apostasy and heresy are both mortal sins in eyes of the Church, so I don’t see how hoping your perfectly just god doesn’t actually do what he said he’d do and what the Catechism claims he’ll do actually changes anything.

  • Troy Jones

    Charity is the attitude of giving another the benefit of the doubt. Rather than presuming another has the worst of intentions, assume they have the best of intentions. This post is among the least charitable I have ever seen.

    An atheist who tried to convince a believer there is no God is showing concern for the other. A Christian who tried to convince an atheist to believe is showing concern. A person on either side which acts with anger is acting without charity.

    • Troy Jones

      Imagine there is a God. He is as defined with all the “alls and omni’s.” One of those is source of all-good. He makes an eternal home for all who want to be with him and another eternal home for those who do not want to be with him. Since he is the source of all good, do you think a place where he is not welcome or present is going to be a place that is good?
      That and my first comment said, I do think there is something those who desire another’s conversion should recognize is that leading with the consequences of non-belief may not be an effective means to convince. A threat to punish my children for not doing what I want will unlikely convince them to internalize my desire as good for them.

    • penn

      Why can’t an atheist be acting with charity when they are trying to convince a believer that there is no god? It’s a question that matters a great deal to how one thinks and behaves. To an atheist we only get this one short life, and to waste it worshiping a non-existent being is an absolute shame, especially if that being is telling you to hate people or deny science and to teach your kids to hate people and deny science. It can certainly be an act of charity to try to convince a believer to give up their wrongheaded beliefs, so they can live their life to the fullest.

  • stephen lionel

    Jesus spoke often about hell. The real question is NOT “why an atheist is bothered by the doctrine of hell?’ , but rather why so many “believers” embrace the promises of Jesus: heaven, forgiveness, etc; but ignore the warnings about eternal damnation to the disobedient and unbelieving. Jesus: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believes is not condemned, but he that believes not IS ALREADY condemned because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation: that light has come into the world, but men love darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.”

  • stephen lionel

    The truthful irony is: atheists think more about hell, (and God,) than most self professing Christians.

    • Mike W. Laing


    • penn

      That assertion is wrong and loaded with selection bias. You probably only interact with atheists who are talking about religion on the internet because it’s where your interests intersect, but most atheists aren’t internet atheists. They don’t spend their time reading and commenting on atheist blogs, articles, or forums because it’s just not that interesting to them. They just live their lives without any thought of god(s) or heaven or hell (like a lot of Christians). You probably know some atheists like that already. You just don’t know they’re atheists.

  • http://OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com Y

    It seems to me that Abrahamic religions are simply a form of Stockholm Syndrome. The worst part of this belief system is the justifications it claims for abuse by figures of power and authority over others.

  • http://www.melcthompson.com Mel C. Thompson

    Christians and Muslims are the great one-way communicators of world history. They are used to blaspheming all other religions, condemning all non-believers to eternal torment, and/or helping God along by getting the torture and killing done before God does it. But then, you know, they want respect. They refuse to denounce all of the genocide, mass murder, and (in Revelations) planet-o-cide. So if you read the scriptures or watch You Tube, (I do both), you see that they get freedom to bash, hate and spiritually slaughter all other faiths and those with no faith, yet they want you to tip your hat in deference to them, or at the very least never call them on all their hate speech and the fascism that permeates all Judeo-Christian-Islamic scriptures. In short, they can dish it out, but they can’t take it. They are, indeed, the ultimate cowards, intellectually. Monotheism, for some reason, is lately just the most intellectually dishonest trip I see on the planet.

  • http://www.melcthompson.com Mel C. Thompson

    Even half the Atheist and Agnostic liberals I know, the ones the Islamic-Christian-Judaic scriptures advocated mass-murdering — even they usually mumble, when confronted with things like The Book of Joshua or The Book of Revelations or the Koran’s multiple songs about the endless torture awaiting polytheists and non-believers, they usually respond with, “Well, they’re doing no harm,” or, “They need their faith,” or, “I don’t know about any of this theology stuff.” Ah, but they do know. The truth is, the ugly truth about the Monotheistic trifecta of Christianity-Judaism-Islam, that has ruined, and is ruining, the world — well, it’s an ugly business to call them out on what their books really say. By the way, oddly, it is my fellow liberals who get mass-murdered and purged first, whenever Sharia Law takes over, so it’s totally Stockholm syndrome that they are the most artdest defenders of Sharia Law types. Strangeley, the very Neo-Cons who actually battle the Muslims for control of the earth are not the ones that will be purged under the Caliphate. They will merely be taxed extra, but otherwise get to remain conservative Christians, (this can be seen in Iran, where conservative Christians and Jews still live). But rather, what you don’t find in Iran, are liberal Socialists. They all got murdered. Oops, so the very liberals that helped them overthrow the Shah got offed, but nothe Christians and Jews, (well, except for some show trials now and then). But, en-masse, the Jews and Christians are permitted to existe there, but not Communists or Socialists or Free-Expression Liberals. Those are all under torture. Very hard for American liberals, and I am one, to wake up, like I did, to the fact that we, not the “Crusaders,” are the ones the Caliphate will purge. You see, the Caliphate just sees the Christians and Jews as strong, worthy competitors for monotheistic power. Once victorious over them, they will be allowed to live as second class citizen or allowed to free to what few parts of world won’t be under Sharia Law. But secular folks, that’s where the real slaughter will ensue. Secular folks are hiding out from this. So they, in a way, or more guilty and enabling than the Neo-Cons themselves. The Wahabis can forgive a good war opponent, but they cannot forgive free-speech blasphemers, (which means all us liberals). My fellow liberals, Wake Up!

  • stevarious


    The fact that you have to quote a women dead for decades for your evidence of what ‘modern’ atheists believe clearly demonstrates the paucity of your position. Atheists do not respond emotionally to your simpleminded assertions because we are somehow ‘fundamentalists’ defending our ‘religon’. We tend to do so simply because we are wearisomely tired of correcting arrogant individuals like yourself who repeatedly lie about what atheists believe to make themselves sound superior to both sides.
    To whit:
    Theism/atheism speaks to what you *believe*. Gnosticism/agnosticism speaks to what you *know*. One can claim to be a gnostic theist (very common), an agnostic theist (far less common but not unusual), an agnostic atheist (virtually all atheists are this), or a gnostic atheist (these are incredibly rare, and will usually clarify their position by stating that they only take this position regards to specific god claims, as Matt Dillahunty does). Richard Dawkins, easily the most famous atheist advocate, calls himself an agnostic atheist, because he does not believe, but he does not claim to know for certain.

    I find it nigh-impossible to believe that you have not received this explanation before, which is why I called people like you liars. If you have not – if this is genuinely your first time exposed to this explanation – then you have my apologies.

    I myself claim to be mostly an agnostic atheist. To the specific claim of the christian god, I will go so far as to claim gnostic atheism – not because of any special knowledge on my part, but simply because I have yet to hear a description of this deity that passes so much as basic logical coherence. There may yet be a god – but if we do discover one someday, it won’t be the one the bible talks about.

  • http://carloscabanita.blogspot.com Carlos Cabanita

    Let’s imagine a ‘friend’ of mine tells me: “You will suffer a violent car accident. You will be hospitalized with several broken bones and grave wounds. Your recovery will be long and painful.” Even if I know that person has no power to make it happen, it is not a good thing to wish upon me. That shows me that person hates me instead of being my friend. And remember, an eternity in hell is supposed to be a lot worse!

  • http://carloscabanita.blogspot.com Carlos Cabanita

    Car accidents are real and hell is not, but Christians do not know that.

  • Muneerah Bennett

    Our loving heavenly Father, Jehovah God, would never burn anyone in an eternal hell. The scriptures explain that the dead are simply sleeping (John 11:11). They are not conscious of anything at all (Ecclesiates 9:5,6). Once we die, we have been freed from all of our past sins (Romans 6:7).

  • Just Saying

    The world is Orwellian to say the least. Most of the inhabitants are slaves to either drugs, money, sex, food, power, whatever. Yet these same inhabitants feel they are free because there is no god and that is the only bondage they recognize. One essential truth Jesus gave involved turning away from those material things that hold you in bondage. Your life is finite. True freedom is living unencumbered by worldly wants. The physical world we live in is not the true reality, it is a bizzaro and upside down reflection of the perfect spiritual world that does exist. The fabric of spacetime we live in was created by God. The spiritual realms of Heaven and Hell do not exist within this created spacetime. As creatures living in spacetime it is difficult to imagine existance in a realm that is a single, eternal, state of being. There are no calendars in Heaven and Hell. The reverse is also true, God became flesh in Jesus and brought us the keys to freedom and eternal life. Jesus’ kingdom is not about obeying rules. It is about being truly free, in community with God. Doing what is right, not because it is written in a book, but because it comes from your heart. Jesus is the truth and belief in Jesus does set you free. It’s too bad the ultimate, and simple, truth of our existance cannot be sensed by most people. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

    • http://OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com Y

      Jesus had his followers pray that the kingdom come “on earth as it is in heaven.” Was he simply blabbering nonsense?

    • penn

      @Just Saying

      Could you provide evidence for any of the assertions you make in your post? Why do you think we should listen to you, if you’re just making blind assertions without evidence?

      You say “Most of the inhabitants are slaves to either drugs, money, sex, food, power, whatever. Yet these same inhabitants feel they are free because there is no god and that is the only bondage they recognize.”

      Most people aren’t atheists, so these two statements can’t be true. Do you mean that most (all?) atheists are slaves to such things and feel they are free because they don’t believe in god? That hasn’t been my experience at all. I know very few people who are slaves to such things.

      “Your life is finite.”

      Here’s something we can agree on. We’ve only got one shot, and we’ve got to make the most of it.

      “The physical world we live in is not the true reality, it is a bizzaro and upside down reflection of the perfect spiritual world that does exist. The fabric of spacetime we live in was created by God. The spiritual realms of Heaven and Hell do not exist within this created spacetime.”

      Where’s the evidence for any of this? How do you/we know we can trust the Bible (a book written and edited by people over centuries) more than our own senses and reason? And if we can’t trust or own senses and reason, then how can we possibly know we’re interpreting the Bible correctly or that we should actually be reading the Bible instead of the Koran, Bhagavad Gita, or various Sutras?

      “It’s too bad the ultimate, and simple, truth of our existance cannot be sensed by most people. ”

      How do you know what you’re sensing is the truth? Millions of Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists also believe they are sensing the truth, but you can’t all be right. Sensing something to be true is a dangerous thing to base a lifetime of thought and behavior on. Fanatics of all stripes sense the obvious truth in their beliefs; every suicide bomber is certain in the truth of their beliefs and the justice in their actions.

    • Just Saying

      Actually it was “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. It was also prefaced: “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”. Again, the point is true community with God.

  • sean samis

    It’s amazing to see all the different descriptions of Hell. If you say you don’t believe in hell, you’re gonna have to be more specific: which one don’t you believe in? WHAT? NONE?

    Yeah. None.

    sean s.

  • http://mittens-stonesoup.blogspot.com/ judyt

    the bible is open to as many interpretations as hell and heaven are: and considering that the new testament came AFTER jesus, there is also the very real possibllity that it was all a marvelous PR job concocted almost from whole cloth to match the so called revelations about a coming messiah. If you read OT carefully you see the emmanuel mentioned never was connected to jesus. That said, if jesus was a put up job by the apostles, then surely hell was too. Dante made a big deal out of hell, and that somehow got translated back into ‘the bible says’.
    One of my old nuns had it right, I think, as far as ‘does hell exist”. she said, it isnt a place, as such, it is the sense of loss you feel when you realize you have lost heaven forever… And we all know that feeling of utter loss, right here on earth. it makes more sense, too.

  • sean samis

    In spite of the many assurances given on this thread, no one ever gives up heaven, no one ever chooses to reject God.

    What we have is people given Free Will (if!) and only muddled information about what to do with it. Iff (not misspelled) we have Free Will, iff God gave it to us, it was as irresponsible a gift as giving a loaded gun to a young child along with vague or misleading info. Responsibility for the harms fall on the one who provided the gun, not on the child. Free Will (if we have it) does not explain our failures or justify God’s judgment of us.

    The Problem of Evil does not disprove God, but it does limit our choices to one of these four:

    0. There is no god.
    1. God exists, is Good, but has limited power. Evil is instrumental or unavoidable.
    2. God exists, is all-powerful but evil. Evil exists for its own sake; this must be if God is omnipotent.
    3. God exists, is Good, is all-powerful and is Totally, Completely outside human comprehension or logic.

    Every justification of Judgment, of heaven-or-hell falls into one of these. Every one.

    sean s.

    • penn

      I’ve thought similarly with regards to the problem of evil. It actually seems like the obvious answer is #2 (well I wouldn’t say evil, just not omnibenevolent). God is all-powerful and he knows everything, and you better do what he says, or he will fuck your shit up. The god of the OT definitely comes across like this at various times. He’s not perfectly good; he’s petty, vindictive, cruel and violent, and that’s all the more reason to worship him (you have a lot less to fear from a god that’s perfectly good). He also doesn’t come across as all-knowing at times (e.g., in the garden, with regards to good people in Sodom and Gomorrah) or all-powerful (e.g., chariots of iron), but he knows enough and is powerful enough to end you, and that’s all that matters.

      I honestly can’t understand why any all-powerful, all-knowing being would care at all about being worshiped. All-powerful means he has no reason to feel inadequate or insecure, and all-knowing means he should be perfectly empathetic to all of the reasons we have not to worship him. Any all-powerful all-knowing being would see his creations inevitably fuck up and would perfectly understand and forgive.

  • http://mittens-stonesoup.blogspot.com/ judyt

    The problem I have with Free Will is that it implies there is such a thing as No Free Will, with all the ‘”Puppet Master” implications that go with that, and at any minute God will point a finger and revoke the priviliges.
    Each of us is God. We carry our own beliefs inside us, and what we do with them, either reject or accept, is our choice and ultimately our own business. When we pray we pretend to be praying out and up, to where we have been told God is. What we’re doing, actually, is looking inward and finding whatever answers exist inside us. God is the mantra, the flame we focus on. Nothing more. If someone chooses to dress him up to look like a human, or to look like an Indian 16 armed lady, or an Egyptian cat, that’s their privilege.
    As atheists we have no image of God to work with, and therefore the god-believing people feel contempt , and pity and maybe even jealousy that, like spoiled children, we can do what we want, while they’re burdened by the ‘reality’ of a decision making God who will gleefully condemn them to the bowels of hell for one indiscretion .
    And therein lies the ‘freedom’. We have the freeedom to take the credit for our own successes and the blame for our failures. It can be drafty out there with no god to hide behind and no devil to blame, but I think atheists are made of sterner stuff. After all, at one point or another we have had to come to terrifying grips with the reality that after this life the only thing waiting is nothing. A big blank nothing. Hit that wall at 2 am some morning, and it gets really real. That can grow you up very quickly.
    However. The next step is when we realize that since this is all we have, and ever will have, it might be a good idea to leave our little plot in better condition than it was to start with, before we leave for good.
    And I think, too, that because we have no God to tell us right from wrong, believers perceive us as being heathens, wastrels, uneducated and unable to control our passions or our tempers. My only response to this kind of nonsense is to ask them what they’re so upset about, and walk away with my best heathenish strut.

    The problem I have with Free Will is that it implies there is such a thing as No Free Will, with all the ‘”Puppet Master” implications that go with that, and at any minute God will point a finger and revoke the priviliges.

    • Mike W. Laing

      Knowing this is all we have also inspires me to make other’s time more valuable. I don’t want anyone to miss out during their little bit of existence, because of my compassion and empathy. If anything, it makes me all the more altruistic knowing that this is it.

  • http://djh122242.blogspot.com Don H

    Hell isn’t really part of the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus makes passing reference to a place like hell — in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, etc, but I don’t see him using this as a threat, merely a description of the possibility of losing out. Jesus talks about the “gates of hell” not prevailing against his church. In his time thinking on the afterlife was in flux; some believed in physical resurrection from the dead, others not; many believed in a “sheol” , a shadow world where souls went after death. The point is that whatever Jesus meant by hell, I don’t think we can relate to. The book of revelation has also been used to “describe” hell, but scholars know that it is an apocalypse, meant to describe in veiled terms the point in the future where everything will be made right. Early Fathers of the Church had varying opinions; Origen, for example, believed that in the end all would be saved. Flash forward to Dante and the “Inferno”. This is probably the single source of our vision of Hell. Even Milton borrows from Dante’s imagery. But even there, Dante is speaking philosophically. Careful reading of the poem shows some interesting things. Every damned soul is there because they hope for something they can’t get, and they throw their whole being into trying to get it. Over the gates of Hell (which are in ruins — you can leave anytime you want!– there is the statement “abandon all hope you who enter here”. If you want out of hell, just quit chasing what got you there in the first place. As a believer and a Christian, I think Hell is best described in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The son comes back from burning through his inheritance and throws himself on the Father, who accepts him and throws a great party. But the older son refuses to come in to the party, because he can’t let go of his anger and his ego. The older son is in hell. God didn’t put him there. I would never presume to tell someone they are going to hell. God wouldn’t either. It’s your choice.

  • Observer

    From my experience, having been both warned about and threatened with hell many times, it’s fairly easy to distinguish between two. When somebody warns me about hell I’m not particularly bothered. I’m pleased by their concern and saddened by their devotion to what seems to me a nonsensical idea. Being threatened with hell is another thing entirely. First, it happens far more often than the thoughtful Christians who post here would like to think. Second, although I have no fear of going to hell, the threat is usually delivered with such glee that it’s hard to escape the anxiety that they might try to hasten my journey.

  • ortcutt

    Telling me I’m going to Hell doesn’t bother me on a moral level, but it does bother me on an epistemic one. Ultimately Religionists justify their claims about Hell by their faith. There are obviously epistemic problem with them basing their beliefs on faith, but why on Earth should their faith-based beliefs be convincing to me?

  • Y. A. Warren

    Sadly, the Abrahamic religions seem to all be caught up in the assumption of their physical bodies into glorified real estate, just as they have here on earth. I pray that as people become more aware of Cosmic Energy, they will move past this antiquated belief system. All energy simply evolves, but it can become anti-energy. I choose to believe that humans have the ability to direct the path of the energy over which we are given earthly stewardship so that it stays in the universe as a positive or negative natural force.