Extinguishing the Fear of Hell

The other week, I received an excellent suggestion from a Daylight Atheism commenter via e-mail. He suggested I write a post on the following topic: How can a former believer overcome the vestigial fear of Hell?

I suspect this is a common problem. Many religions go to great effort to inculcate in their followers an instinctive terror of breaking the rules, and this irrational fear can often linger and continue to traumatize a person even after they have consciously and rationally decided that those religious beliefs are false. No blame attaches for this; it’s just an intrinsic part of human psychology. Cold fear, unfortunately, is often a more powerful force than dispassionate reasoning.

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins quotes one victim of this psychological abuse who wrote to him seeking help:

I went to a Catholic school from the age of five, and was indoctrinated by nuns who wielded straps, sticks and canes. During my teens I read Darwin, and what he said about evolution made such a lot of sense to the logical part of my mind. However, I’ve gone through life suffering much conflict and a deep down fear of hell fire which gets triggered quite frequently. I’ve had some psychotherapy which has enabled me to work through some of my earlier problems but can’t seem to overcome this deep fear.

Dr. Dawkins suggested a therapist, Jill Mytton, who herself escaped a cult called the Exclusive Brethren and now counsels people in similar situations. Yet even she still bears the traces of her former indoctrination:

“If I think back to my childhood, it’s one dominated by fear. And it was the fear of disapproval while in the present, but also of eternal damnation. And for a child, images of hell-fire and gnashing of teeth are actually very real. They are not metaphorical at all.” I then asked her to spell out what she had actually been told about hell, as a child, and her eventual reply was as moving as her expressive face during the long hesitation before she answered: “It’s strange, isn’t it? After all this time it still has the power to… affect me… when you… when you ask me that question. Hell is a fearful place. It’s complete rejection by God. It’s complete judgement, there is real fire, there is real torment, real torture, and it goes on for ever so there is no respite from it.”

Reading about the horrible suffering that so many believers experience, anyone with a conscience would want to help. I’m well aware that there’s no quick fix for a psychological trauma like this, and not having had a cult upbringing to break away from, I don’t claim to be an expert on this. But I do have two suggestions, so I’ll give them out in the hopes that they may do some good. Anyone who has more experience than me and can improve on them is invited to do so.

First: Most religious groups, for understandable reasons, try to instill into their followers the belief that their particular teachings are the only ones that are real or worth caring about. To counteract this, I suggest it may help to put those teachings into their proper context in the pantheon of world mythology. What I’d recommend for a struggling ex-believer is to read about all the afterlives that have been proposed – Greek, Egyptian, Buddhist, Hindu, and everything else that’s out there. Once you can compare them side by side and are used to seeing them just as stories, it will be easier to do the same with the religion you were brought up in.

Second: The best way to conquer the phobia of Hell, as with any other phobia, is to induce extinction. Expose yourself to whatever idea or image triggers the fear – in small doses at first – and prove to yourself that no harmful consequences follow. Repeat this often enough, and the mental link between the stimulus and the fear is eventually broken. Of course, rationally speaking, this wouldn’t disprove a punishment that’s claimed to only arrive after death – but because we’re dealing with an irrational fear and not a reasoned belief, I think it may be effective.

So, readers, what do you say? Can anyone improve on these suggestions?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • http://uzzas.wordpress.com/ watercat

    In my case at least, I would amend that to learning about all the afterlives that have been proposed and why they have been proposed. The more glaringly obvious become the sales techniques a con artist is using on you, the less effect they have.

  • Rob J

    I sometimes catch myself thinking “what if i’m wrong?” briefly before logic takes hold and I reassure myself that i’m not. The blogosphere spends alot of time picking apart the crazy cultists, the fundamentalists and extremists. But what about the average people who aren’t loons? The people like my family and friends are casual Christians, church on holidays and a prayer at meals, sometimes. They believe in evolution and that dinosaurs roamed the earth hundreds of millions of years ago, yet they still believe in God, Jesus, Satan and Hell.

    I think people like this aren’t necessarily crazy or stupid, they are able to see some of the illogic and hypocrisy in religion, but eternal damnation is a pretty tough pill to swallow if they’re wrong, so it’s a much safer bet to have faith in God. I think without that fear religion would fall to pieces, I think it’s the primary motivating factor in the vast majority of believers.

  • Quath

    For me, the fear of hell kept me from trying to question my beliefs. I knew opening the door of uncertainity could lead me to spent eternity being tortured.

    But that was a big relevation in itself. I knew that I was looking for proof of God. So why would he torture me for eternity if I could not find him? I realized that if God existed and if he set up hell, then he is the torturer. After all, God could just remove me from existance instead of sending me to hell. So I was able to envisision a more loving God than protrayed by the Bible.

    So I knew that God was not loving, or the rules of hell were wrong/did not exist. I decided that if God really was a being that would want to torture anyone for all of eternity, then he was evil. And I could not bring myself to worship an evil deity. I figured that if God were real, then the only real possession I may have is my own integrity. I guess I would rather suffer in hell with my integrity intact than to know I sold out to worship someone who wanted such a hell to exist.

    So the concept of hell actually pushed me to question Christianity to the point where I stopped believing in it all together.

  • hb531

    Wow Quath, I like your post. Why can’t more people approach these issues with the same reasoning. It’s so simple and clear.

    BTW, I was originally going to post this comic, it’s quite funny.

  • mikespeir

    Boy, can I identify with this one!

    Ebon’s suggestions are, I think, good. I think I follow Quath more, though. One of the main reasons I dropped out of Christianity was that for years I had struggled with the notion of Hell. I did my level best to justify it. I taught it with a fervor that became increasingly over-the-top as the absurdity of it dawned brighter and brighter. No matter from what angle I approached it I couldn’t justify it. The evidence and arguments against the Faith are staggeringly strong. Even if at some level we “just know,” it remains that these arguments and evidence are plenty good enough to at least throw the whole matter into question; to suppose what we “just know” could be a misapprehension and not a reliable reflection of reality. And if it can be legitimately questioned, there is simply no way to continue insisting that it would be just to consign people to an eternity of swimming in a lake of fire because they can’t buy it.

    Here’s some good news for the new unbeliever: the fear goes away in time. It really does.

  • hb531

    Hmmm, I guess posting images is not allowed. Here’s the link.

  • http://wilybadger.wordpress.com Chris Swanson

    I think the point you make about studying other versions of the afterlife is a very good one. It crosses my mind that back when I was about 11, I started to get very interested in Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Norse mythology. I read just about everything I could on the subjects, and now I’m wondering if that’s part of why I ended up rejecting my Methodist upbringing and arriving at the atheist space I now occupy.

  • aethertrekker

    I was terrified of hell, but just as long as I believed in it. After I shed Christianity, I became terrified of death, probably because I had never been terrified of the unavoidability of death as a child.

  • Polly

    Once again, I invoke my mother as an example (sorry)

    She takes great delight in listening to those who have “been to Hell.” She goes on about how awful it is and the details of the torture and the wretched, writhing demons that are there and the fire and all the sulphurous conditions that people report. Once, when I was over, I had to sit through this hour-long dramatization on TBN about one man’s experience of dying and going to Hell and coming back followed by the usual repentance and changed life.
    Here’s the kicker. The stories from these different people DON’T MATCH UP! Another guy who went to hell 30 years ago had very different details about the place (did they remodel?!?). But, she doesn’t seem to notice this. It’s SO frustrating!

    I probably said this before, but this is the same woman who tells me that Zombie/Vampire/Horror movies are demonic and the fact that I enjoy them (occasionally) shows something is wrong with me.

  • Polly

    I’m lucky, I don’t fear Hell…except for a split second when I make obscene religious jokes.

    Studying other mythologies’ versions of the afterlife is an excellent idea.
    I’d add that you could read “liberal” xian ideas of Hell. Some are watered-down and not all that scary. More like a lame party where no one interesting shows up and it’s all awkward pauses in the conversations. The notion that Hell isn’t permanent is also common. There is ample Biblical support for the notion that there is no Hell, if you cherry pick your scriptures correctly.

    Sure, you don’t believe it. But, some part of you still does, in a sense. Maybe if you can convince that part that Hell isn’t that bad, anyway, you might get some relief.

  • Dark Jaguar

    I’m surprised this is a problem. I myself have no such fear of hell left over from my deconversion. Of course what this basically says is that deconverting is not always the exact same story. On top of that, the “fear hell” aspect was never emphasized when I was swept up in all that nonsense. I didn’t have the catholic description of “the horrors of hell” spouted at me as a kid (and to be honest only really got into the nonsense as a teenager anyway). At any rate though, I was into the dogma as much as anyone else when I was a christian, but when I deconverted (a process that took months of studying the world around me as well as my own faith, basically I was convinced that if I was going to have a real faith, I had to have the courage to examine it, and that led me to becoming an atheist).

    For those who do suffer a leftover fear, I can only say this is a trauma beyond mere faith, clearly as you aren’t part of the faith any more but the fear’s still there. This is the sort of thing I’d call child abuse. I can only say that like any phobia, a rational explanation of why there’s nothing to fear isn’t going to help. Only exposure, or in this case since hell doesn’t exist, some simulation of exposure, can help.

  • Paul S

    I remember being a child of 9 or 10 years old, sitting in the pew of my family’s Southern Baptist church, and becoming consciously fearful of the fact that I was going to hell. I felt this way because I was never (and never have been) baptized. I thought it was a ridiculous ceremony that meant nothing except grandstanding in front of others. I had “church friends” who I watched go up to the front of the sanctuary and get baptized and I knew that baptism was a joke because these kids were so full of shit, it was hilarious. It’s amazing what kids will do when they want to get on their parents’ good side. My best friend growing up was a non-Christian, and he was (and still is) such a better person than my Christian friends, I remember thinking that it was a ridiculous thought that he would be doomed to hell. Even though I grew up going to church at least 3 times a week, I was never much into it. I now look back and regret all the football games I missed on those Sunday mornings. What a waste of time.

  • Stephen

    As well as the afterlives of other religions, don’t forget the various other Christian afterlives. The story of limbo illustrates nicely how the theologians just make it up as they go along.

  • Christopher

    Polly,

    She takes great delight in listening to those who have “been to Hell.” She goes on about how awful it is and the details of the torture and the wretched, writhing demons that are there and the fire and all the sulphurous conditions that people report. Once, when I was over, I had to sit through this hour-long dramatization on TBN about one man’s experience of dying and going to Hell and coming back followed by the usual repentance and changed life.
    Here’s the kicker. The stories from these different people DON’T MATCH UP! Another guy who went to hell 30 years ago had very different details about the place (did they remodel?!?). But, she doesn’t seem to notice this. It’s SO frustrating!

    I heard those same tales as a kid – and they are never congruent: one guy thinks he’s still alive after death, another is pulled straight into the abyss, another floats above her body, etc… Of course, I pretty much ignored those incongruities because a part of me actually *wanted* a hell to exist – as I was rather spiteful twards those like myself(at this point in my life), I could not imagine a more fitting punishment for not conforming to my own worldview.

    In retrospect I see that it was just petty and that the idea only exists in the mind, but damn it can a tempting one..

  • TimJ

    Very good topic. Having been raised a Christian from a very young age and dived into the fundamentalist deep end for a while early on, hell did make a deep and lasting impression. Although I’ve been an atheist many years (nearly 30) now, its presence in my early thinking can still, in some sense, be felt. When first abandoning a belief in God , my thinking was that if God was real, I should be able to find out before death and make sure I was “saved”. An important thing to not forget is that the hell left in my mind is an emotional response and not simply dispelled with rational thinking. The logic of the side by side comparisons (or even an objective review of the history of hell in Christianity) is sufficient to kill the idea at a logical level. Also, as Quath notes, the irreconcilable difference between the idea of an infinitely just, merciful, and compassionate god who is “Love”, and hell also defeats that whole doctrine entirely (as has been amply noted on this blog, ebonmusings, and elsewhere). The latter I have been able to subsume into an emotional level (sense of justice and all), but it is, in some sense, in a different compartment than the imprint of hell which still persists. At the same time, rationality overrides the emotional impact of hell in what I accept as reality.

    In my experience (perhaps not applicable for everyone), the emotional impact of hell seems to dull through time, as the knowledge of the afore-mentioned problems with hell wear it down. The process is not quick. I view it as a kind of “neural scarring” and is one reason why I agree with Dawkins that immersing young kids in religion is a form of child abuse.

  • karatemack

    As a Christian I also feel it is an excellent idea to check out other religous teachings on the subject of Hell. This serves as an excellent way to distinguish what the Bible teaches from everything else. (similar to comparisons of the Biblical Creation account to older stories such as the Enuma Elish, or the flood narrative to certain portions of the Epic of Gilgamesh)

    I think there is a lot of false teaching about Hell. Certainly I believe it is a terrible place, but I don’t view it as a punishment so much as God allowing people to choose. In Genesis God seperates things; light and dark, water and earth, day and night… God seperates a people unto Himself in the Biblical account… the idea of things being seperate is prevelant throughout scripture. How is this relevant?

    If God is light and goodness and peace and security and love and all things ‘good’… then to be ‘seperate’ from God would be to dwell in the absence of all of those things. (dark, evil, war, insecurity, etc.) When people reject God, they reject along with Him all the good He’s intentioned for their lives. God doesn’t punish people with Hell, He allows them to choose it.

  • Alex Weaver

    I wonder if playing Doom a few times might help.

    (That’s actually semi-serious).

  • Nurse Ingrid

    Wow, thanks, Ebon for this wonderful post and to everyone for your excellent comments.

    I can definitely relate to this question. I have been a happy atheist for many years now, but I am still subject to occasional bouts of irrational fear. As others have pointed out, the very idea of an omnimax god who would actually create hell and send people there is preposterous. But here’s what I can’t quite let go of. What if there IS a god…and he’s an asshole? What if he’s not only a capricious tyrant but he also finds it fun to hide from us, and then punish us for not believing?

    Ridiculous, I know. And has little similarity to any god proposed by any religion ever in existence, except maybe Sarah Palin’s. But it’s the only one that can’t really be logically disproven (well, except maybe the deist’s god), and the thought of it does occasionally keep me up at night, I’m sorry to say.

    But you know what? Same as with deism, if this is true then so what? It’s not like anything I could do would make any difference, so I might as well carry on as though there is no such god or any other. Which is, of course, what I actually believe. So that works out well.

  • Ric

    Perhaps think of the very large similarities between Satan and the boogie man. The boogie man is a story told to scare 4 year olds and Satan… well Satan is a story told to scare the 4 year old inside us.

  • http://www.synapticplastic.blogspot.com InTheImageOfDNA

    This is something I wrote on another forum but I think it is very applicable here:

    I find it very interesting that all fundamentalist descriptions of hell include things about pain on “your body” in the afterlife. So, a person dies and since they didn’t believe the right stories their SOUL goes to hell, obviously, because we just put their body in the dirt. Now the description of hell automatically goes into torture, which requires a biological nervous system and hence body to feel.

    That is a very big disconnect to fill. Soul to body. Who did it? How does that happen? Reconstituting a body is a miracle worthy of at least mention.

    They don’t mention it because they are taking advantage of human beings natural cognitive shortcuts. We have no problem conceptualizing someone’s theory of mind with which the word soul is used to describe. We also automatically associate a body, complete with pain receptors, to accompany that mind. The automatic intuitions we have are manipulated getting us (well some of us) into believing an otherwise incoherent dogma. They take it for granted that nobody will break it down and analyze it. When it comes to psychology, religion merely makes manipulative claims that certainly work on a superficial level, but is not even coherent when analyzed.

  • Derek

    I remember the first time I heard a fundamentalist sermon on Hell. It was a Baptist church and it was the last time I attended church. I mean, I had heard passing comments on it, but this was an entire sermon dedicated to Hell. I remember how I dealt with it at first. I researched it, and I eventually found enough supporting evidence against hell (mistranslations, passages supporting that all will be saved, etc.), and against eternal separation from God that I lost my fear of Hell. The research however sent me toward me thinking about all the other things I was accepting as the truth. I became an atheist and now I love researching topics in the Bible, I enjoy reading it the same way I enjoy the Odyssey.

  • Andrew

    This has been an issue for me to some degree in the past, but no longer. As has been noted the existence of hell, and the conditions of being sent there, undermine the idea of the all loving god.

    As Ebon said “The best way to conquer the phobia of Hell, as with any other phobia, is to induce extinction. Expose yourself to whatever idea or image triggers the fear – in small doses at first – and prove to yourself that no harmful consequences follow. Repeat this often enough, and the mental link between the stimulus and the fear is eventually broken. Of course, rationally speaking, this wouldn’t disprove a punishment that’s claimed to only arrive after death – but because we’re dealing with an irrational fear and not a reasoned belief, I think it may be effective.”

    The idea that extinction is successful for phobias (and other disorders such as PTSD) certainly has empirical backing. Whether extinction can be successfully applied to “traumatic beliefs” or “phobic beliefs”, that are indoctrinated via religion, is an interesting question. I am not aware of any research directly into this question, although it may exist. One line of thought, with some backing, that suggests how to deal with fearful and intrusive thoughts, proposes that a reappraisal or recasting of the thought (or in this case belief) is needed in additions to the reinstatement of the emotional response (in this case fear). The recasting of such a belief or fear of hell may be something along the lines of reminding oneself that there exists no prove for such a place as hell just as there is no prove for FILL IN THE BLANK. The human brain seems to have emotional regulatory systems (as well as memory regulatory systems) that may be crucial in changing the representation of memory in ways that effect the emotionality (or the emotion evoking qualities) of the memory (also possibly affecting the intrusiveness of the thought or memory as well). Hope this helps.

    Andrew

  • Nurse Ingrid

    karatemack:

    Do you have any evidence that your particular description of hell is the “correct” one?

  • Jim Baerg

    “Heaven for the climate. Hell for the company.” Mark Twain

  • Nes

    Sometimes I wonder what kind of weird religious upbringing I must have had… or how strange I am in general. There are quite a few things I read on atheist sites regarding religious pasts that I can’t relate to, this being yet another. I went to a few different Lutheran churches, but I don’t recall any of them going on about Hell at all, nor do I ever recall really fearing it (no more than any other childhood fear, anyway, and probably less).

    I have, however, had fearful doubts on extremely rare occasions over the past few years since realizing that I was an atheist. Maybe I’m wrong, there is a god, and he’s a dick; just like Nurse Ingrid describes above. I usually just laugh it away: if it’s true, there’s nothing I can do anyway (aside from worship an evil being… yeah, right), so why worry?

    I wish I could help with the problem, but the only thing I could think of was already mentioned by Ebon: reading about other religions.

  • karatemack

    To Nurse Ingrid:

    My intent was not necessarily to “prove” hell exists from a scientific point of view. My aim was only to give, what I feel, is a correct interpretation of the Bible’s depiction of Hell.

    Because my aim was to clarify what I feel the Bible teaches, my response as to how I came to this conclusion will be full of theological (not scientific) explanations.

    Throughout the Bible there is talionic justice. Adam rebels against God and loses the blessing God gave him. Adam was created from dirt and given life, as a result of rebellion against God’s law (and therefore rejecting God’s blessing as well) Adam will eventually die and return to the dirt. Adam’s rejection of God leaves Adam with what’s left without God…

    Adam was created to cultivate and keep the ground. Because of sin this task was no longer blessed, but now man would toil to do this work.

    Eve was created to form a marriage union with Adam, which would ultimately serve as a relational example of God’s love for us, but which would also serve as the basis for the family unit and would form the basic structure so vital to society as a whole. Because of sin this union was no longer simply a relationship, but was cursed and reflected the sinful lusts for power. Marriage would now be marked by authority and headship and strife instead of by relational bliss.

    I won’t address the need for choice, especially as if there is a creator God, it is His decision to make us robots or free will creatures. After all, if all creation was for His good pleasure, He could choose either way and still be ‘good’.

    What I will address is the need for punishment. Imagine you are in a grocery store. You observe a mother with two children who are not behaving at all. She attempts to control their behavior but they refuse to submit. Not wanting to be ‘cruel’ she simply leaves them to their disrespectful behavior, ignoring every obnoxious activity they engage in. Is she a good mother? How, then, could a God who is truly ‘good’ ignore our rejection of Him? If God is good, then He must not only be Love but must also be Just. Do we reject a mother as loving when she punishes her children? No, in fact we regard her as a good mother BECAUSE of her discipline.

    But, one could argue, God’s punishment is not a ‘disciplanary action’, it is a final and irreversable judgement. This is true, and seems quite harsh… unless you realize that God isn’t FORCING anyone to choose Hell. He is allowing them to choose it for themselves.

    What about those who have never heard about Jesus? This is an excellent question. One that I am quite confident God has an answer to. But it is a distraction to the point at hand. I do not need to possess all the knowledge of God in order to determine for myself (and those who ARE within my circle of influence) what is required for salvation. To be clear, I don’t know that the Bible is specific about people who are ignorant, but frankly that doesn’t matter as everyone I will ever speak with on this matter will not fall into that category. Perhaps that is why there seems to be silence regarding this, as no one reading the Bible falls into this category. Think of how redundant it would be for God to explain to us a condition which does not apply to us and will not have any practical application for us. Would it help us to understand God to know the answer to this? Well, perhaps better asked is if it would make us more comfortable with God. If you cannot trust, from the rest of scripture, that God is loving and just… then would a specific explanation of how God handles this situation help you any better accept Him as such? Are we without other examples of Who God is that this question somehow forms a void which leaves us without a true impression of Who God is at all?

    References from the Bible which speak about hell-

    2 Thessalonians 1 (entire chapter)

    Mark 9:42-49

    Each of these verses explain the severity of Hell… but they don’t really give us a logical expression of how the punishment fits the crime. Isn’t it really unfair that God punishes sinners for ALL eternity for rejecting Him in a span of 80 years or so? Good question. God’s punishments should always fit the crime.

    If you examine Deuteronomy chapter 28 (again, the entire chapter), you will see a mirror reflective in the text. If you compare the blessing (result of obedience) to the cursing (result of disobedience) you will see that while the cursing is severe, it mirrors the blessing which would have been obtained through obedience.

    So, couldn’t God simply (again) not curse the womb? Why could the condition not be, obey and I reward you, disobey and nothing happens at all. Here’s a theological point. You can either obey or disobey. You do not remain neutral to the commands of God. Therefore you can either have blessing or cursing. There are no neutrals.

    Think of it this way. I tell my child to turn on a light. I tell them if they turn on a light they will experience sight. If they obey, surely they will experience sight as the light fills the room. If they choose to disobey, they will surely experience blindness resulting from the dark condition. There is no neutral not-light but not-dark state for them to exist in. There are two possible conditions which have been serperated. I allow them to choose one or the other.

  • Leum

    One thing that interests me is when people say something along the lines of “Oh, we’ve moved on from the eternal pain Hell. It’s just separation from God.” Thing is, if their conception of God is correct, then Hell is a place without love, without any hope for anything but continual despair and monotony, where there is no comfort save for the worst parts of what is left of your memory, and any good memories serve only to taunt you with the reminder of what might have been*. This, we informed, is God’s tender mercy and a sign of Christianity’s moral development.

    As for the argument that Hell is chosen (rather than sentenced, I can only respond that any choice made while living regarding eternity will be made on such flimsy evidence and understanding that attributing any moral significance to such a choice is absurd.

    Back on topic, I agree with the commenters who spoke about the edge of the fear dulling with time, that’s certainly true, and extinction probably helps. I tend to think that at least some part of the fear will always remain with me, especially since it’s so closely tied to the semi-rational fear of death.

    *Probably the best depiction this new Hell is J.K. Rowling’s Azkaban.

  • Leum

    Sorry for the double post, but I have to address this comment.

    Think of it this way. I tell my child to turn on a light. I tell them if they turn on a light they will experience sight. If they obey, surely they will experience sight as the light fills the room. If they choose to disobey, they will surely experience blindness resulting from the dark condition. There is no neutral not-light but not-dark state for them to exist in. There are two possible conditions which have been serperated. I allow them to choose one or the other.

    kartemack, your god doesn’t just tell us to turn on a light and let us experience the consequences. He tells us to turn on the light and then never lets us touch the switch again, ever. Additionally, He told us to do so when we were too young to understand that we were choosing between being forever in a darkened room or forever in a lit room and too young to understand what light, dark, and eternity are.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    God isn’t FORCING anyone to choose Hell. He is allowing them to choose it for themselves.

    According to the standard interpretation of Christian theology, that is true only in the same sense that a Mafia extortionist “allows” people to “choose” to have their businesses burned down by refusing to pay him protection money.

  • agnohumanist

    Here’s a thought that helped me in my deconversion: Given the enormous implausibility of the cruel, vindictive, oppressive, capricious god of the Bible (or any “sacred” book, for that matter), it’s at least as plausible that the real god–if he/she/it exists–would reward those who reject the god of traditional religions. Mind you, as a religous skeptic I don’t think this story is very likely either. My point is that, no matter how unlikely this story is, it’s certainly no less likely than the hell of traditional religions.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    karatemack,

    I won’t address the need for choice, especially as if there is a creator God, it is His decision to make us robots or free will creatures. After all, if all creation was for His good pleasure, He could choose either way and still be ‘good’.

    Might does not make right. Simply because god made us doesn’t mean that he has free run to do what he wants with us. In fact, quite the opposite. Because god created us, he has a moral obligation to us.

    But, one could argue, God’s punishment is not a ‘disciplanary action’, it is a final and irreversable judgement. This is true, and seems quite harsh… unless you realize that God isn’t FORCING anyone to choose Hell. He is allowing them to choose it for themselves.

    I’m glad you note that this is true, because it completely undermines your argument and you have done nothing to dispell the objection.

    Each of these verses explain the severity of Hell… but they don’t really give us a logical expression of how the punishment fits the crime. Isn’t it really unfair that God punishes sinners for ALL eternity for rejecting Him in a span of 80 years or so? Good question. God’s punishments should always fit the crime.

    Yes, punishments for actual crimes (disbelief is not a crime) should fit the actual crime. So, the fact that god’s punishment does not fit the severity of the crime tells you what?

    So, couldn’t God simply (again) not curse the womb? Why could the condition not be, obey and I reward you, disobey and nothing happens at all. Here’s a theological point. You can either obey or disobey. You do not remain neutral to the commands of God. Therefore you can either have blessing or cursing. There are no neutrals.

    Why is your supposedly omnipotent god so impotent? Once again your “answer” the objection does nothing to dispell the objection.

    There is no neutral not-light but not-dark state for them to exist in. There are two possible conditions which have been serperated. I allow them to choose one or the other.

    And there’s no reason why god has to set up black and white systems where we are either rewarded or tortured for eternity.

  • Christopher

    OMFG,

    And there’s no reason why god has to set up black and white systems where we are either rewarded or tortured for eternity.

    But it must! Without black-and-white concepts of “morality” for religion to draw upon, the religious authorities lose power and influence over the social order – thus the reason that the “god” of organized religion must arbitrarily establish value and ordain excessive punishment for those who don’t adhere to those values.

    Fear is needed to keep the ignorant public in line, and what better implement of fear for a religion to wield than an eternal torture chamber? The power of religion would be greatly hampered indeed without this useful tool called Hell…

  • http://www.brucealderman.info/blog/ BruceA

    This whole discussion is interesting. Having grown up in (and still belong to) a mainline denomination, I’ve never really heard much about hell, and have never considered it a central part of Christian teaching. I read C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce in college, and Lewis’ idea of hell is much like Polly describes above for “liberal” Christians,

    More like a lame party where no one interesting shows up and it’s all awkward pauses in the conversations.

    I wonder to what extent teaching about hell, particularly the fear of hell, is a motivator for people to deconvert.

  • Leum

    I wonder to what extent teaching about hell, particularly the fear of hell, is a motivator for people to deconvert.

    A pretty significant one, in my case. I was looking for universalist Christian writers when I stumbled upon Robert G. Ingersoll. If I hadn’t been motivated to look for answers to the problem of Hell I would never have found Ingersoll, and would probably have remained a believer (of a sort—my religious beliefs were a weird mix of Christianity and deism) for a few more years, might even be one now, it hasn’t been that long.

    Quite a few of the universalist readings I did find (but can’t find now), mentioned that one of the worst parts of the doctrine of Hell is that it drives people away from Christianity, so I imagine it’s been a factor for a number of other people, too.

  • Brad

    In response to karatemack:

    I don’t see how Adam “rebelled” against God by breaking his rules. I fail to see how God’s black-or-white reward-or-punishment all-or-nothing rules reflect any sort of reasoned compassion for us on God’s part. In fact, it sounds like this serventile mindset on our part is exactly the same that children are brought up with in order to listen to their parents’ fallible orders.

    it is His decision to make us robots or free will creatures

    The human mind is filled with sexual desires, nurtured dispositions, bad moods, angry emotions, brain disorders, cognitive biases, plain irrationality, unequal intelligence, unequal maturity, and constrained capacity for concentration. The negative aspects of these features in the human mind have been a cause for detriment to human lives, for sure. So, in what sense do we truly have free will? Will God punish us for the inevitable errors resulting from programmed fallibility?

    Do we reject a mother as loving when she punishes her children?

    No, but the majority of people will scorn a mother who rejects their child and then brutally, senselessly, inhumanly beats and slaughters the child, for the sake of utterly pointless, vacuous notions of “discipline” and “punishment.”

    it is a final and irreversable judgement … He is allowing them to choose it for themselves.

    It’s not much of a choice: unconditionally submit your will to me or I will hurt you beyond imagining. And how is this a final and irreversable judgement? If people change their minds on Earth about God, I see no reason why they couldn’t change their minds elsewhere. In fact (to point to the “distraction,” which actually happens to be very significant theology here), it would be more likely for them to change their mind in an afterlife when they are given better information about God, his plan and his desires for people and what he offers, than on Earth where we are forced to trust the words of other humans about God. (Skeptics often invoke the idea of informed consent here.)

    You are, in fact, required to possess a minimum amount of knowledge about God before you can be “quite confident” he has answers to questions you are avoiding answering. You cannot reasonably trust something while being left in the dark about it. You say “ignorant” people don’t matter in theological discussion because you will never speak to them. By this you are hand-waving a very grave and serious issue about the conception of God and his relation to humans. God does have a responsibility to tell us his condition(s) for salvation very clearly, which has very plainly and obviously not been done in scripture. (Once again: informed consent.)

    You do not remain neutral to the commands of God. Therefore you can either have blessing or cursing. There are no neutrals.

    False premise, non sequitor, and false dichotomy. I have yet to see an explanation, theological or otherwise, for this presumptuous point. I ask sincerely: why can’t God go in between and allow people to happily choose independence from him, without punishment? There is nothing intrinsically wrong about independence. Your light/dark dichotomy is too narrow to hold the true possibilities for God.

  • Valhar2000

    Some of these arguments remind of a criticism I heard once of hundamentalist christianity: “[...]religious writings are full of statements that treat God like a small and not overly bright child.”

  • John

    As a Christian I would suggest to these struggling believers to STUDY The Bible, especially in small groups. Study The Bible and realize it is NOT a history book – it is a SPIRITUAL book. In doing so they will discover that we are in Hell already, and yes that means God is in Hell.(Psalm 139:8)

  • bestonnet

    agnohumanist:

    Here’s a thought that helped me in my deconversion: Given the enormous implausibility of the cruel, vindictive, oppressive, capricious god of the Bible (or any “sacred” book, for that matter), it’s at least as plausible that the real god–if he/she/it exists–would reward those who reject the god of traditional religions. Mind you, as a religous skeptic I don’t think this story is very likely either. My point is that, no matter how unlikely this story is, it’s certainly no less likely than the hell of traditional religions.

    Richard Carrier makes a very good argument that Pascal’s Wager can support atheism just as well as theism (actually better) based somewhat on that line of thought.

  • Valhar2000

    John, any evidence that the conclusions one can draw from the Bible apply to the real world? Without that, it’s a moot point.

  • karatemack

    To respond to all:

    I see where your responses are coming from. I have heard and struggled with some of these concepts myself. God cannot both be loving and send people to hell. Things don’t have to be black and white. God has a responsibility to take care of us since He made us. Why did God make me this way?

    The idea that God is love is true. But to understand what this means, you must define love the way the Bible does. Again, this is where a critical understanding of the Biblical text is necessary before you can criticize a meaning. If I saw my father’s new car is cool… you could go over and touch it and say, “No it isn’t, it’s actually very hot.”. You might draw the conclusion that I’m very misguided and should never be considered a reliable reference for temperature gauging. But, your assessment is based upon a false conclusion about what I said. If by ‘cool’ I meant in-style then I very well may have been correct. The english language changes and has changed over time. The Hebrew language is no exception. Do you know and understand the meaning of the Hebrew (or Greek) words translated “love”? Do you understand them in their original context? If not, then by your own admission you have no true understanding of what the Bible claims when it states God is love. Can God be both loving and just? Yes. But in the true sense of those words.

    Are some things black and white? Let’s consider this. When we give students exams they either pass or fail. If someone asks me if I have a job the answer is yes or no. If you ask me if I have been faithful to my wife in all our years of marrige, the answer is again yes or no. Sure there are different degrees by which a student can pass or fail… and there are good jobs and bad jobs… my point is that sometimes it is very possible to define things in black and white terms. We do so all the time. If I ever cheat on my wife, from that moment on I can no longer say I have ALWAYS been faithful to my wife. Monogomy in that relationship is forever lost, no matter how guilty I feel later. This is a consequence which is not so much someone “punishing” me as much as it is a direct “RESULT” of my choice to stray.

    This is a reply to the argument that HELL cannot exist because…

    If you feel that hell cannot exist because black and white’s do not exist, then you are wrong. If you feel that hell cannot exist because God is love (or if hell exists then God isn’t love), then I would ask you reexamine how you came to the conclusion about the Biblical definition of these terms and why you feel (from a Biblical perspective) they are incompatible. If you think that some consequences are not everlasting results of our actions, then I ask you to explain how virginity can (in a real sense) be regained. How can a lie be untold? How can a murder be uncomitted? Or are you at least willing to admit that sometimes actions do cause irreversable consequences? (the person murdered is not brought back to life because of the murderer’s guilt, or because they became enlightened enough to realize murder is wrong… that victim is still dead. The consequence of the action remains despite our human attempts to correct the action.)

    In my view, hell is where we’re all headed. If not for the Grace of God to save us through our Faith in Him, then we would all surely end up there. Hell is the result of rejection of God… it is not some arbitrary place God designed for people he dislikes.

  • Stargazer1323

    Nes,

    I don’t think you had a weird religious upbringing. I was also raised Lutheran, and I never remember much talk of hell either. I certainly was never given the impression that it was a place of eternal torment, at least not a specific enough vision that it ever instilled any fear in me. I was also never told that I was going to hell. Not being part of a ‘born-again’ religion, I guess it was always assumed that since I had been baptized that I was a Christian, and would remain so, and therefore had nothing to fear from hell. As a child, I remember believing that no one *really* went to hell, except maybe really, really evil people like Hitler, and it wasn’t until I was almost a teenager that it was really impressed upon me that hell was a place where non-believers went. My impression of hell was changed around the time that I lost a very close friend who was not religious, and the thought of not being able to see friends and family members who weren’t Christians after I died was what traumatized me, and was ultimately my first step towards atheism.

  • heliobates

    @karetemack

    If you feel that hell cannot exist because black and white’s do not exist, then you are wrong

    Neat. Insist that your preferred definition of “black and white” is the definition of black and white and then pretend that this definition is binding on everyone else.

    Yes, it’s possible to define “black and white” in terms that support your particular interpretation.

    Can God be both loving and just? Yes. But in the true sense of those words.

    Do you have anything besides “appeal to inappropriate authority” and “argument from adverse consequences” to privilege one definition of “loving” above all others?

    You’re firmly in Dungeons and Dragons territory here.

  • Piotr

    That things will be red around? Well, my room is orange, that’s even a warmer colour… That I will be alone? I’m already alone, COMPLETELY, since over a year! I’m alone with my mind (and the Internet, but I mainly use it for things related to my thoughts). That I will cry and jump? Well, that gives you some relief; most self-consciousness, most awareness and “soul” is when there is a stimula, but no easy reaction (then, impulses circulate in your brain’s associative centres, without reaching motor centres). – And finally, all ideas which are about “100% suffering” or “100% happiness” are naive: there is no will. Will needs a predecessor and a successor: it goes from suffering to relief. When one of the sides is missing, then there is no will. – Also: life is about what CHANGES. The constant part of a signal is removed, like with C in electric circuits. That’s why “final failure” or “final victory” is naivity.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    karatemack

    But to understand what this means, you must define love the way the Bible does. Again, this is where a critical understanding of the Biblical text is necessary before you can criticize a meaning.

    Oh come on! We are talking about a hypothetical omnimax deity here. If HIS word is so ephemeral that it can’t stand a a couple of millennia of translation and re-interprettion what is it worth? look, I know what I mean by love and I’m pretty sure most people through the ages did too. The OT god doesn’t fit any recognisable definition of the word.

  • Brad

    karetemack,

    You revise the definition of love itself, based solely on the “authority” of a very clearly unloving god. If a friend told you, “I love children!”, but then you let the friend babysit and she/he tortures and kills your child, for “discipline” and “punishment”, you have absolutely no choice but to call that person unloving. God’s supposed punishment is sadistically disproportionate and uncalled for, and you believe him when he says he’s a loving god? In my opinion, that would be disgraceful to the concept of love.

    And I think I may also be able to accuse you of bait-and-switching the meaning of “love”:

    If you cannot trust, from the rest of scripture, that God is loving and just… then would a specific explanation of how God handles this situation help you any better accept Him as such?

    Also, you give us another analogy to tell us what “black-and-white” means, but you have provided exactly zero reason as to why God operates in such an absurdly-obvious unloving way. How are we supposed to believe you when you claim this analogy describes the truth? In your analogy, there is clearly an inevitable dichotomy in choice. But from God’s perspective, he has much more option and room for compassion, love, understanding, and mercy. In fact, in a question you have yet to give an answer to, you even outline another of God’s options:

    Why could the condition not be, obey and I reward you, disobey and nothing happens at all[?]

    Once again, your light/dark dichotomy is too narrow to hold the true possibilities for God. And once again, I ask, sincerely: why can’t God go in between and allow people to happily choose independence from him, without “punishment”?

  • http://bridgingschisms.org Eshu

    @karatemack

    Do you understand them in their original context?

    No, do you? If so, please enlighten us. Also please tell us why your translation is better and more accurate than the one commonly accepted. Note: “I need it for my argument” is not a valid justification, that would be back to front.

    Hell is the result of rejection of God… it is not some arbitrary place God designed for people he dislikes.

    But God made everything, right? Including Hell. Plus, He makes the rules.

    The more powerful you are, the more responsibility you must take when bad things happen. If you’re all-powerful, then you’ve really got a lot to answer for.

    He could’ve just caused the people who didn’t accept him pop out of existence in a completely humane way. That would’ve been a bit more moral, wouldn’t it? Still not fair, but not the same as letting people be tortured for picking the wrong god.

    You will probably be saying, “God has a different way of definition of morality to humankind”, in which case why call his attributes things like, “morality”, “love”, “justice”?

    Why not bundle them all up and say, “He’s very Goddy”.

  • prase

    The idea that God is love is true. But to understand what this means, you must define love the way the Bible does.

    Can God be both loving and just? Yes. But in the true sense of those words.

    There is no true sense of words. Language is a convention, and I think you realise it since you’ve stated languages are changing. If the word “love” doesn’t translate well the supposed Hebrew or Greek biblical equivalent, just translate it differently. Or are you trying to persuade us that all translations of the Bible are flawed? It seems to me that you are rather trying to keep using the word “love” with its emotional content and associated persuasive power while redefining its meaning to fit your doctrine. It’s a typical sort of intellectually dishonest argument.

    Sure there are different degrees by which a student can pass or fail… and there are good jobs and bad jobs… my point is that sometimes it is very possible to define things in black and white terms.

    No doubt there are questions with yes/no answers, which is, probably, what you are trying to say by the black-and-white analogy. This is a trivial fact and you still have to demonstrate how this relates to the existence of hell. At most, I am ready to admit that you have shown us that it is very possible for God to create hell – but you are arguing that it is necessary for him to do so, aren’t you?

    If you think that some consequences are not everlasting results of our actions, then I ask you to explain how virginity can (in a real sense) be regained. How can a lie be untold? How can a murder be uncomitted? Or are you at least willing to admit that sometimes actions do cause irreversable consequences?

    Strictly speaking no deed is reversible. Anything you do cannot be taken back. You can do a lot of things to compensate some of the unlucky effects but you can never return the state of things to the exact original state. Does it mean that infinite punishment is all right? I think you have a bit strange perception of justice.

    And all your arguments are non sequitur.

  • Jeff T.

    I think my favorite answer is the one mentioned above where fire needs a physical body to torture and obviously a soul is immaterial so what difference would fire make? There are also many translations of Sheol (the grave) and Gehenna (a garbage dump) which do not support the accepted translations of hellfire and brimstone. Jehovah Witnesses, may the FSM bless their soul, actually have very sound arguments against the concept of hell.

    I for one got tired of listening to men yelling from the pulpit and threatening me with eternal torture and then a few minutes later passing an offering plate around. It didnt take too much for me to put 2 and 2 together.

  • karatemack

    To answer the question which keeps coming up of ‘how do you know your interpretation is correct’? Excellent question. Men have argued over the proper interpretation of LITERATURE (not just the Bible) for centuries. Personally I apply a historical-grammatical exegetical hermeneutic as it has proven the be the most reliable over all forms of literature. I won’t lecture what this means as it would take far too long. But the method I use is the reason for my confidence in translation.

    Use of words. I think I’m failing horribly to convey my meaning (obvious by your responses). I only mean to point out that you cannot say God has lied about Himself unless you properly understand what He has said about Himself.

    I want to make sure I’m understanding the logic you state I’m missing.

    1. The Bible states God is love.

    2. A loving Being could not send people to an eternity in hell.

    3. God sends people to hell.

    4. Because God sends people to hell he cannot be loving.

    If this is your logic, then I would suggest you are also holding to another logic.

    1. Love is the primary concern when love is possessed.

    2. Any being which puts any concern before love does not possess it.

    Perhaps you’re angry that God doesn’t make love His primary concern. Certainly I believe God does love us, but I don’t think that is God’s primary concern. If it were, then I would (just as you) find it very hard to believe that anyone would go to hell.

    Does this make God sadistic and self-absorbed? The question I mean to pose is not whether or not it is wrong to be self-absorbed but WHY is it wrong to be self-absorbed? God, being the ultimate being in the universe, is working out all things to His Glory. I believe that is God’s primary concern. You will bring God glory despite any of your decisions (rejection or acceptance of Him). If God bringing glory to Himself is His primary concern and His love for you a secondary concern, then is God unfair to act in this way? I think not when you consider that God created us to worship (glorify) Him in the first place. He has allowed us to choose how we will glorify Him, either as He shows His infinate grace and forgiveness to us or as he justly judges and carries out punishment upon those who reject Him.

  • Brad

    I am uncertain of the benefit of phobia extinction on the idea of hellfire. Just because it isn’t a reasoned belief doesn’t mean a person won’t use reason to keep the phobia. (Or rather, rationalize keeping the phobia.)

    One method I am optimistic about in breaking fear is to see the big picture. If hell is from the Bible, then the Bible’s own words should work to dispel this fear some. I think the Bible has some things to say on love which contradict the doctrine of torturous hellfire:

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    (1) It is unkind to torture and torment. (2) To infinitely punish simple disobedience is to be easily angered. (3) To put someone in hell for wrong acts committed in life is to keep a record of wrongs. (4) God should always protect. He should “save.” But if He is the one He is saving people from, he is self-evidently an unloving god. (5) If God “always trusts, always hopes”, and is merciful and forgiving, he would not give a final and irreversible judgment on a person’s past, but always try to invest in that person’s future. (6) If God decides for us to be tortured and tormented in hell, we can simply observe that His love, whatever it is, would not be persevering but rather dissolving.

    I am well-aware that by just pointing out the unjust nature of torturous hell the irrational fear of hell is not extinguished. Irrational fear does not work on the basis of rationality. However, when we show the person of God to be conflicted on the nature of love and torturous hell (assuming the truth of the doctrine), it shows him to be a person who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. How can we take the threat of such a God seriously if he has lost his marbles when trying to explain the concept?

    Didn’t God send his son to die out of love for us? Why would he do that, and then turn around and torture us? The Bible says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child” – does this sound like the doctrine of hell? I hope that train of thought can help people some. In fact, here are some more verses from the Bible:

    Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

    There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)

  • karatemack

    Another consideration…

    The “love” you are suggesting requires dictatorship. If I really LOVE my kids, I will NEVER let anything bad happen to them because I love them. If God knows that humans will go to hell unless they accept Him, He MUST force them to choose Him or He isn’t love. What if God’s will for us to have the ability to choose Him (which would bring greater honor to Him than would ‘forcing’ beings to choose Him) was His primary concern? For if God forced us to love Him, then we could never experience fully love itself as love is a conscious choice. Perhaps God’s will was that we would be able to experience and understand His love for us, which would require that He allow some of us to reject Him if we chose to…

  • Brad

    karatemack, you are equivocating. The problem we have been talking about is not that love is a “secondary” concern of God’s. Rather, the problem is that hell is the antithesis to love. If hell does not contradict love, then neither do the ovens in the concentration camps, or the conspiracies of Satan himself, or any other equivalent evil imaginable.

    Second, it doesn’t matter what question you mean to pose. You ask, is self-absorption wrong? Or is the thirst for glory and ego a righteous urge? I won’t respond to this question. But indifferent self-absorption contradicts love. The Bible indicates this: “it is not self-seeking, …”

  • Brad

    Once again you are equivocating, karatemack, shifting the blame and the subject of discussion elsewhere. We are not talking about free will. We are not talking about allowing us to choose him or not. What we are talking about is God’s own choices. Your premise seems to be this:

    If God knows that humans will go to hell unless they accept Him, …

    Hello? Why does God decide to make hell in the first place! Why would a loving parent, in preparation for a baby, build a torture chamber room to use on their future child? You have spectacularly failed to answer this conundrum.

    The reason is plain: hell is absurd! The more people that know this, the better.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    karatemack,

    Perhaps God’s will was that we would be able to experience and understand His love for us, which would require that He allow some of us to reject Him if we chose to…

    You still haven’t covered the following problems:

    1) Why does God not make the choice more clear? After all, I don’t ‘reject’ God. I’m not aware that there is a God to reject. Similarly, Hindus do not look at their options and conclude that even though Jesus is God they would prefer their own system of worship. They just aren’t aware that Jesus is God.

    It’s true that parents who love their children also allow them to make their own decisions. But no parent who loved their children would withhold vital evidence relevant to their child’s decisions if that evidence was in their power to give.

    2) Why does God not allow us to choose to cease to exist when we die if we would prefer that to eternal torment?

    Nobody would choose eternal torment, all other things being equal. I fail to understand how it is that you have convinced yourself that so many people do.

  • whattheduece?

    Brilliant deductions! There are some deep theological ideas in these readings and comments. I am impressed how far you have gotten in your thinking. I would guess your around 18 years old and trying to piece life together quickly because you have been overwhelmed with the task of understanding the entire universe around you. Some of you have probably “perfected” your belief sysetems, reaching a later age than the one previously mentioned and have taken a more mature approach to atheism. I am guessing you all have been unsatified with the answers given by your churches or by over-zealous evangelicals. Pertaining to the subject at hand; however, it is saddening to hear that you were ever scared into Christianity. I mean, if you have been forced all your life to believe in an faith driven by “ignorance”, then it is human nature to rebel from such oppression! However, I must state that the core of Christianity is entirely much more sophisticated than “God is the answer.” It is true, some do follow Christianity in an ignorant state, but they are simply not as methodic in their understanding as many of you are. However, don’t be deceived into thinking that Christianity is 1 dimensional. For example: (and I will leave you with this); many Christians don’t even believe hell exists. As in, when you die you don’t go to hell, you simply don’t enter the kingdom of heaven. You are annihilated from existence. You are nothing. Just something for you to chew on. By the way…who ever said that Christians who converted to atheism go to hell? The Bible says that once your saved, your always saved. As in, your experience with atheism is just a trial helping you grow in your theology. If you gain anything from my inherent ramblings, know this. There is more to God than the Bible, rational thought, and Church.
    Sub-lime-e-null

  • http://bridgingschisms.org Eshu

    Personally I apply a historical-grammatical exegetical hermeneutic…

    Truly, you have a dizzying intellect!

    I won’t lecture what this means as it would take far too long.

    Is this code for, “Trust me, I’m an intellectual”?

    God, being the ultimate being in the universe, is working out all things to His Glory.

    What exactly is His Glory and what sort of things would make him more or less glorious?

    Actually, forget that question – please, please answer the ones above from Brad and Lynet, starting with why God chose to create Hell.

  • mikespeir

    Personally I apply a historical-grammatical exegetical hermeneutic as it has proven the be the most reliable over all forms of literature. I won’t lecture what this means as it would take far too long. But the method I use is the reason for my confidence in translation.

    And your arrogance is dizzying, too, karatemack. If you knew how many people on this site know just what you’re talking about and could probably explain it better than you, you’d get a lot more humble real quick. We don’t need your lecture. What you should take away from the above arguments isn’t that we don’t understand what you’re selling, but that we do understand and just aren’t buying it.

  • karatemack

    The “I won’t lecture about this” must have seemed very condescending. Well, it was taken that way because it is written that way. My apologies.

    And yes, many of you are definately older than I am, and have a much more ‘concrete’ belief system than I. But I wonder if your age and experience automatically makes me wrong? If that is the case then I hope everyone reading this is voting for John McCain who is much older and more experienced than his opponent. Of course, if this argument doesn’t hold up for the next leader of the free world, then I doubt I should give it much validity here. Truth is truth.

    Why would God create hell? Perhaps I can give another illustration of what I believe. The Bible says God seperated the water and the land. Let’s say that God occupies all the water. Let’s say He chooses to be everywhere the water is, and no where else. Then to choose to be without God would only leave you with everything that’s left.

    I’ve already shown that black and white’s do exist. Your main problem is still to cry that God isn’t fair. How is it not fair to choose God and get all the blessings that go along with it, or reject God and get what’s left?

    If I choose to cheat on my wife and reject her as my wife, if she is any kind of woman she will no longer have sex with me despite her love for me. If she does then she is a sad slave to my will. But then I guess she’s torturing me, for surely we could still have ‘oral sex’ or some in-between. She doesn’t have to cut me off completely from the relationship does she? I would say she does unless she’s again willing to become a slave to my personal will.

    The question is really then if all good things dwell within God. Does the Bible teach that? James 1:17 says that every good and perfect gift is from above. So, the Bible teaches all good things come from God. ALL of them. So when you reject God, you simply get what’s left. Again the idea is not “listen to me and get what you want” “reject me and I’ll make sure you pay”… the idea IS “I want to have a relationship with you, choose me and you’ll get all that goes along with that relationship, reject me and I’ll certainly let you, but you’ll get everything that exists apart from me.”

    What is dark? Is it not simply the absence of light? If it is something in and of itself then please send me a dark bulb.

  • Ubi Dubium

    By the way…who ever said that Christians who converted to atheism go to hell? The Bible says that once your saved, your always saved.

    Now that’s truly frightening, moreso than any “fire and brimstone” evangelist’s description of the torments of hell. Are you saying that, because we were subjected to indoctrination as children, even though we have gotten over it, you think we’ll have to spend eternity in the company of smug bible-thumpers and their mindless followers? Ugh, I’d rather have the brimstone, please.

  • heliobates

    Truth is truth.

    You need to read Richard Rorty.

  • prase

    karatemack,

    What is dark? Is it not simply the absence of light? If it is something in and of itself then please send me a dark bulb.

    In our context, is this to be understood that torture is simply the same thing as the absence of love?

  • karatemack

    Is self-inflicted pain torture?

  • mikespeir

    Your main problem is still to cry that God isn’t fair.

    Actually, no. We don’t believe in a God who’s fair or a God who’s unfair. What we have is a sneaking suspicion that a god of the magnitude of the Christian God, if he existed, wouldn’t feel he had to prove anything to anybody.

    The only reason any being reacts violently is that it feels threatened. The reason people say God would react that way is only that they react that way and assume any being–including God–would. But an invulnerable being would never have the need.

    Here’s a thought experiment I tried. I asked myself: If I had some kind of super-advanced belt I could put around my waist that would make me invulnerable to any known power in the Cosmos and would make me as strong as Superman, how would I act? Would I become angry when some person threatened me? Would I retaliate, despite the fact I was never in any danger at all?

    In fact, I probably would be angry. I hope I would exercise self-restraint in retaliating, but the temptation would probably be there. That bothered me. If I–who in a very real sense had become a god–would react that way, how could I then revolt against the notion of the God of the Bible doing the same?

    Then it hit me. The reason I would react as a man despite having become a god was that I would still, at heart, be a man. I grew up human. More importantly, I’m the result of a long line of evolution that has instilled into me the “fight or flight” response instinct. You see, nature never suspected I would someday be a god. It equipped me like a frail, vulnerable creature that might have to defend itself to survive. Just becoming invulnerable and immensely powerful later on wouldn’t change my basic nature. I would still react as a man.

    But what about God, who, presumably, has always been a god; who has never had any need to develop these reactive instincts? Why would he respond like a man? Isn’t the likeliest answer that he has been designed by men, who modeled him after themselves, to include both their virtues and vices amplified astronomically?

    We’re calling it like we see it, karatemack. We simply wouldn’t expect God–any real god–to ever be so bothered by any human deed that he would impose limitless punishment in retaliation. What we see represented in the Bible is a man with an invincibility belt–somebody portrayed as all-powerful, but still subject to falling into all-too-human snits. No matter what kind of light you try to shine onto him, no matter what lens you hold up to our eyes, that’s what we see. To us, this guy doesn’t make a very convincing god.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    karatemack,

    The “I won’t lecture about this” must have seemed very condescending. Well, it was taken that way because it is written that way. My apologies.

    Considering that you can’t understand our arguments, it’s pretty bad form for you to be condescending (hubris anyone?)

    But I wonder if your age and experience automatically makes me wrong?

    No, it’s your bad arguments, question dodging, and inability to engage in what we are saying that make you wrong.

    Why would God create hell? Perhaps I can give another illustration of what I believe. The Bible says God seperated the water and the land. Let’s say that God occupies all the water. Let’s say He chooses to be everywhere the water is, and no where else. Then to choose to be without God would only leave you with everything that’s left.

    And this does nothing to answer the question of why god would do this.

    I’ve already shown that black and white’s do exist.

    No one has disputed that black and white situations do exist. What we asked was why god would create such a situation in regards to heaven/hell. This, you have utterly failed to address.

    God, being the ultimate being in the universe, is working out all things to His Glory. I believe that is God’s primary concern. You will bring God glory despite any of your decisions (rejection or acceptance of Him). If God bringing glory to Himself is His primary concern and His love for you a secondary concern, then is God unfair to act in this way?

    Yes. It is unfair for god to create us simply to glorify himself. It’s petty, cruel, and immoral. If god is glorified by sending us to hell, then god is a monster.

    Why would a perfect being need us to glorify him anyway? Didn’t god already have maximal, infinite glory by virtue of being perfect?

  • prase

    Is self-inflicted pain torture?

    No, it isn’t. You haven’t still answered any of the question you have been asked, so I would suggest you to try responding to few of them before asking your own ones.

    Especially it is still not clear to me whether you really think that the only logically possible alternative to “personal relation with God” (whatever it means) is an infinitely long horrible pain. I am not at all concerned whether the pain can be interpreted as self-inflicted or not.

  • mike

    karatemack,

    The “love” you are suggesting requires dictatorship. If I really LOVE my kids, I will NEVER let anything bad happen to them because I love them.

    Pretty bad analogy. A good parent lets their children make their own mistakes and suffer the consequences (and only when sure that the child can safely handle those consequences) so they can learn from those mistakes. In what sense does being sent to hell allow me to learn or grow as a person? I am stuck in hell forever, permanently, irreversibly. The opportunity for self-improvement is over. After I have “learned my lesson”, I’m still kept in perpetual misery. A parent who never lets their child forget its mistakes is a terrible parent (not to mention a complete jackass).

    The only purpose infinite punishment can serve is to induce terror (before it happens) and inflict wrath (while it is happens).

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    To further the problems with the parent analogy, if a child asked to learn to swim and the parent had foreknowledge that the child would drown if the parent allowed it, should the parent allow the child to drown and die so that it will learn its lesson? Of course not. If god knew ahead of time that people would go to hell and suffer for eternity, should god have created those people? Of course not.

  • Polly

    If God bringing glory to Himself is His primary concern and His love for you a secondary concern, then is God unfair to act in this way?

    We’d never accept such self-aggrandizement at the expense of others from a mere mortal. So, what is the basis for your special pleading for god to act in a way that we’d never tolerate from mere humans? Being the “ultimate being” doesn’t clarify this at all.

    And speaking of Hell and glory, quite clearly, there are a great number of beings for whom the idea of Hell only detracts from his glory.

    What is “glory” and what is the source of “glory”, anyway? It can’t be from god himself since he needs to introduce third parties (at HUMONGOUS cost) in order to obtain it. That also indicates to me that he’s not self-sufficient.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    whattheduece,

    I would guess your around 18 years old and trying to piece life together quickly because you have been overwhelmed with the task of understanding the entire universe around you. Some of you have probably “perfected” your belief sysetems, reaching a later age than the one previously mentioned and have taken a more mature approach to atheism.

    How very charitable you are in your condescension.

    I am guessing you all have been unsatified with the answers given by your churches or by over-zealous evangelicals.

    That and the logical impossibilities of the conceptions of god.

    I mean, if you have been forced all your life to believe in an faith driven by “ignorance”, then it is human nature to rebel from such oppression!

    Considering that theistic belief in inherently irrational, I fail to see how anyone could not come to faith through ignorance.

    However, I must state that the core of Christianity is entirely much more sophisticated than “God is the answer.” It is true, some do follow Christianity in an ignorant state, but they are simply not as methodic in their understanding as many of you are. However, don’t be deceived into thinking that Christianity is 1 dimensional. For example: (and I will leave you with this); many Christians don’t even believe hell exists.

    If it is not 1-dimensional, then please tell us how it isn’t. And, most Xians do believe in hell, although some do not. Big deal.

    By the way…who ever said that Christians who converted to atheism go to hell?

    Why the Bible says so, it’s the only blasphemy that can’t be undone (i.e. denying the holy spirit).

    As in, your experience with atheism is just a trial helping you grow in your theology.

    Wishful thinking I presume.

    If you gain anything from my inherent ramblings, know this. There is more to God than the Bible, rational thought, and Church.

    Considering that rational thought is ruled out by faith, your sentence is mostly gibberish here, unless you are admitting that god is “beyond rational thought” as some Xians do (i.e. that you can’t rationally believe in god). Either way, I certainly didn’t gain anything from your ramblings.

  • karatemack

    To OMGF:

    It’s not suprising you accuse me of not responding to you. It is a common defense in argument for people to state their opponent has ‘dodged’ a question or ‘failed’ to answer a question. In fact it is you who have failed to answer any of the points I’ve raised. You continue to raise straw men, then destroy the non-existant arguments which no one has raised other than yourself.

    The answer is that there is no good apart from God. You cannot seperate yourself from God and experience anything good.

    “Yes. It is unfair for god to create us simply to glorify himself. It’s petty, cruel, and immoral. If god is glorified by sending us to hell, then god is a monster.”

    You also begin with the false premise that the same moral code applies to both a superior being and an inferior being. We understand this concept to be false and lacking any support in the real world. It is morally alright for parents to subjegate their children to certain rules and restrictions they understand to be for their child’s own good. However it is not acceptable that a child would try to gain this same type of control over the parent. The relationship between parent and child suggests certain differences of role which dictate different moral responsibilities for each party involved. A parent is required and expected to provide for the child, and yet the child is not expected to fulfill this same role in the relationship. There are differences in a relationship based up on your role. If there are distinctions between parent and child, how much greater a distinction we should expect between God and mankind.

    Prase:

    “No, it isn’t. You haven’t still answered any of the question you have been asked, so I would suggest you to try responding to few of them before asking your own ones.”

    Your question was based upon a false premise, which you have here admitted. That is why your questions did not receive an answer, but a question.

  • heliobates

    @whatthedeuce

    I must state that the core of Christianity is entirely much more sophisticated than “God is the answer.”

    Every version of Christianity and Christian theology reduces to “God is the answer.” That’s as true for Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps as it is for Alvin Plantinga and John Shelby Spong.

    You’re welcome to substantively refute this. I’ll cross my fingers but I won’t hold my breath.

  • mike

    The answer is that there is no good apart from God. You cannot seperate yourself from God and experience anything good.

    Yes, we get that. But saying “there is no good apart from God” is not the same as saying “If you separate yourself from God, you get eternal suffering and agony.” What about “If you separate yourself from God, you get nothingness (i.e., you just cease to exist)”, as has been suggested several times already? That is also consistent with “no good apart from God”, and also more in line with his supposed love for us. Why is the eternal torment part necessary?

    You also begin with the false premise that the same moral code applies to both a superior being and an inferior being.

    Be careful, it sounds like you’re agreeing with us. It sounds like you’re admitting that if we judge God by our own human standards of morality, we can only conclude that he is an immoral monster. If this is not the case, then by which standards should we judge a hypothetical God? It is not enough (at least for me) to just say “God’s methods are not for us inferior beings to judge.” Then how could we tell the difference between a benevolent God and a malevolent God? When I hear about a God who creates flawed creatures and then allows them to suffer for eternity because of their flaws, my logical inference is that he must be either malevolent or at best indifferent.

  • heliobates

    When I hear about a God who creates flawed creatures and then allows them to suffer for eternity because of their flaws, my logical inference is that he must be either malevolent or at best indifferent.

    Eurythro Dilemma, meet karatemack. karatemack: put some ice on that and the mark will fade eventually.

  • Brad

    To some of the above commenters here: let’s try and not make this personal.

    Anyway, karatemack,

    How is it not fair to choose God and get all the blessings that go along with it, or reject God and get what’s left?

    I will answer this question. This is unfair because “what’s left” is all still God’s perfect design: torture that is instigated and made by God. The Bible calls hell “the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” And of course, God feels the need to cast little us into the lake of fire to burn eternally. This is all in God’s full knowledge that he could just leave us alone in independent existence instead of torturing us. Or is not receiving infinite torture the equivalent of a privilage under God? So, a third time, I ask sincerely: why can’t God go in between and allow people to happily choose independence from him, without “punishment”? You have merely asked rhetorical questions about fairness, and “illustrated” what your “black and white” belief means, but you have not answered my question.

    Also, there needs to be informed consent in choice to make it fair. Ebonmuse’s Argument from Locality, coupled with the facts I gave about how the human mind is set up for failure, shows how the type of “choice” we collectively have in this matter is a very ugly one, and unfair.

    However, if you reject these Bible verses, and instead believe that hellfire is completely “self-inflicted,” then you still have to back that belief up. Your claim, in conjunction with the Bible, implies that most people on Earth would hurt themselves if they were separated from God. Given that the average joe lives practically as a secular in this world, I don’t see why self-inflicted torment in the afterlife without God would be probable. You also have to explain why this torment would be eternal. I note that people often change their minds on Earth, especially when new information comes to light, so wouldn’t it be very probable that people would accept God if they were given explicity, irrefutable proof He exists after death? And if they had time to mull it over, I would expect most people would turn to him sometime in the course of an infinity. In the end, this is where your cheat-on-wife analogy fails. You can apologize to your wife and be sincerely sorry to her any time. But God turns you away, for eternity, without any more mercy, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, or love.

    Also, your attempt at moral relativism fails. You can label any person as un-empathetic and hateful, or gracious and loving, without caring about what they personally label themselves. Hitler could slap the word “loving person” on himself and just because he’s powerful it wouldn’t make it correct.

    If there are distinctions between parent and child, how much greater a distinction we should expect between God and mankind.

    Indeed, that is my impression from the Bible and reality.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    karatemack,

    It’s not suprising you accuse me of not responding to you.

    Once again you make straw of what I said. What I said was that you were not answering questions – I did not state they were mine. Since everyone else is also saying that you haven’t answered some direct questions aimed at you, you might want to get the hint (and you kind of even admit that you aren’t answering them).

    It is a common defense in argument for people to state their opponent has ‘dodged’ a question or ‘failed’ to answer a question. In fact it is you who have failed to answer any of the points I’ve raised.

    What points have I failed to answer?

    You continue to raise straw men, then destroy the non-existant arguments which no one has raised other than yourself.

    What strawmen have I raised? And, might I add that this is particularly ironic from someone who starts talking about the existence of black and white situations and claims that this somehow knocks down the argument against god needlessly creating such situations. The only straw I see flying about is coming from you.

    The answer is that there is no good apart from God. You cannot seperate yourself from God and experience anything good.

    The answer to what?

    And, I fail to see how this would get god off the hook for anything. god has still set up a system where there is a black and white outcome of either heaven or hell – something you have yet to address. Also, god has a moral responsibility to us because he created us. He has the obligation to treat us in a moral fashion. Putting two doors in front of us and saying, “Choose,” and letting those who choose erroneously to suffer in torment for eternity is not a moral position. This is especially problematic when god is not asking us to choose to be moral or not, but to choose whether we can interpret the fact of his existence correctly or not (i.e. whether god exists or not). This is an arbitrary and capricious way for god to decided who gets into heaven and who doesn’t.

    This is further problematic when one considers a couple things. First, god says clearly that he grants mercy on those he will grant mercy upon and that we are all destined for hell unless god grants us mercy. This clearly denotes that we don’t actually have a choice in the matter, and that god will put us into hell unless he arbitrarily decides to save us. Second, free will is inherently impossible with an omni-max deity, so there’s no way for us to decide to go to heaven or hell anyway.

    You also begin with the false premise that the same moral code applies to both a superior being and an inferior being.

    You should take that up with your fellow Xians then who claim that morality is absolute and not relative. However, I see no reason to give god a pass for acting immorally simply because he is god.

    We understand this concept to be false and lacking any support in the real world. It is morally alright for parents to subjegate their children to certain rules and restrictions they understand to be for their child’s own good. However it is not acceptable that a child would try to gain this same type of control over the parent.

    We find that the parent acts in certain ways to protect the child because the parent has a moral obligation to the child! If the child had knowledge that the parent didn’t – knowledge that would protect the parent from some danger or harm – and wished to share it with the parent, then it would NOT be immoral for the child to speak up. Morality isn’t about control. Parents don’t morally control their children. They teach their children to be moral agents and try to keep their children from coming to harm. This notion of morality equals control that you seem to be saying may be part of the problem in your inability to see how god can be an immoral being.

    A parent is required and expected to provide for the child, and yet the child is not expected to fulfill this same role in the relationship.

    Again, it is because the parent has assumed a moral obligation to the child by virtue of bringing the child into the world and because the parent should have more knowledge and cognitive ability. I fail to see how this gets your god off the hook.

    If there are distinctions between parent and child, how much greater a distinction we should expect between God and mankind.

    It doesn’t matter how great the distinction between god and mankind, sending people to hell is immoral and unjust. Things that are immoral in every situation that we can imagine do not simply become moral because god does them.

    Your question was based upon a false premise, which you have here admitted.

    Not to speak for Prase, but I don’t see where he admitted anything of the sort. Please show us all where this happened.

  • Brad

    The answer is that there is no good apart from God. You cannot seperate yourself from God and experience anything good.

    Perhaps I have not satisfactorily responded to this claim. First, how can anyone even exist independently without God? Where do you exist? Second, if self-torture is the only thing that can come without God, that means everything that is “good” is directly of God. The decision to do good things, including choosing God, would be itself something “good.” Therefore our good decisions exist only because of God’s choosing. And thus, it makes no sense to say we have free will if our good choices are mandated by God and that he will punish us for not choosing him.

    Either humans have the power for good themselves, and do not torture themselves in hell, or we have no free will at all.

  • heliobates
  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    karatemack,

    I’ll concede the coherency of the idea that in creating hell, God simply created a place where he wasn’t. I’ll also concede the coherency of a (hypothetical) God allowing human beings to choose to go to the place where he wasn’t. However, that hypothetical situation is not identical to saying, in this world, that “if you don’t believe in God you’ll go to hell”.

    This thread is enough of a mess that you can be forgiven for not answering either of my questions. You probably didn’t see them. They’ve been asked by others, though, and as far as I can see, even given my concessions above, your argument is still vulnerable to both of them.

  • karatemack

    Lynet:

    To be fair, I haven’t responded to your questions. For the sake of this forum I don’t think I will.

    Someone suggested at one point that my comments would be more appriate on my own blog. I don’t know that that will actually happen, however you all have motivated me to pick up some fresh books on apologetics.

    This conversation certainly has been interesting, and I appreciate all the references given so I can look further into these topics as I seek to broaden my own understanding.

  • Adam

    karatemack,

    Awesome work in explaining your position.

    God bless,

    Adam

  • Adam

    Lynet,

    I’ll concede the coherency of the idea that in creating hell, God simply created a place where he wasn’t. I’ll also concede the coherency of a (hypothetical) God allowing human beings to choose to go to the place where he wasn’t. However, that hypothetical situation is not identical to saying, in this world, that “if you don’t believe in God you’ll go to hell”.

    This is a fantastic comment.

    TO EVERYONE ELSE…This post is only for those who already have said, as Lynet did:I’ll concede the coherency of the idea that in creating hell, God simply created a place where he wasn’t. I’ll also concede the coherency of a (hypothetical) God allowing human beings to choose to go to the place where he wasn’t. If you have not already conceded this, then I understand that you’ll have huge problems with what I am going to post!

    Lynet,

    If you’re interested. I think, to your surprise, that the Cathecism of the Catholic Church might help answer your questions of: “that ‘if you don’t believe in God you’ll go to hell’”.

    Here is the link to the part of the CCC that I think you would want to read: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a12.htm#1035

    Starts with the THE PARTICULAR JUDGMENT, paragraph 1021 and read on…skip the puragtory part if you want, then read on. (see the references at the bottom as well)

    You might also be interested in Mortal and Venial sin: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a8.htm#1861

    start with paragraph, 1854

    1860 is key to answering your question!, I’ll post it here:

    Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.

    Directly related to your question is CCC, 597: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p122a4p2.htm#597

    I hope this helps a bit.

  • mikespeir

    You’re reading way too much into Lynet’s “concession,” I think, Adam. There’s nothing there that concedes the rightness of the notion of Hell, only that the doctrine can be constructed such that it’s internally consistent. When I write a novel I make it internally consistent. That doesn’t mean it’s not pure fiction. It’s still incumbent on you and karatemack to show that Hell exists in reality. (Or, for that matter, in morality.) You haven’t come close to doing that.

  • Brad

    I really don’t think you’ll surprise Lynet, Adam. What you linked to is 100%-filled with pure assertions, and no support. So it won’t “help” answer his question.

    Plus, the points raised in this discussion about the ontology of hell (how does evil exist without God’s supporting it? Magic?), the infinitude of hell (Why can’t people change their minds? It seems probable they would, after eternity. Why would God not allow come-backs, if he is loving, forgiving, merciful, and gracious?), and the informed consent involved (Locality and our programmed-fallible minds).

    These points, plus the Bible’s own definition of love that I outlined above, make the Bible’s notion of hell incompatible with a loving God. In this sense, I can confidently say that I don’t see the doctrine of hell to be coherent.

  • Mat Wilder

    OT – @ heliobates:

    Rorty? Really? Eww. I wouldn’t suggest him to karatemack at all. Rorty is the epitome of mental masturbation.

    There are far better philosophers, like Cavell, Leiter, or more “classic” philosophers like Hume, Nietzsche, or Quine.I also highly recommend Baron d’holbach, Vincet d’Onfray, and Christopher Hitchens.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Adam,

    It would be a lot easier for me to know what your argument actually is if you put the reasoning in explicitly. I have difficulty constructing a sensible argument out of the long list of passages you have indicated for the following reasons.

    Firstly, most of them assume boldly and without explanation that faith in God is the only thing that God could possibly accept as a reason to forgive people.

    Secondly, it seems to be assumed boldly and without explanation that eternal punishment is a sensible and natural consequence to certain kinds of misdeed, whereas it seems fairly obvious to me that eternal punishment is not a just consequence to any misdeed.

    Even if I granted the first of these (and I see no reason to), it just takes me back to my first question to karatemack. Since knowing, or at least believing, that God exists is a necessary prerequisite to having faith in God (I use ‘faith’ in the sense approximate to ‘trust’, here), why does God not make his existence more clear?

    Moreover, given that eternal punishment is not a just consequence of anything, there is still nothing to prevent a just God from allowing sinners to choose to cease to exist rather then experiencing eternal torment. So my second question has not been answered, either.

    Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man.

    I wasn’t talking about ignorance of moral law. I have strong feelings about morality, even though I’d describe it relative to the welfare of human beings rather than to any law set down by God. I was talking about ignorance of the existence of (or nature of) God, which would prevent those who would otherwise ask for forgiveness from doing so in the ‘approved’ fashion. If you think that all human beings know that in their hearts, you’re ignoring the evidence provided by the vast variety of sincerely held religious beliefs in the world.

  • heliobates

    @ Matt Wilder

    Rorty is the epitome of mental masturbation.

    Well, there’s no accounting for taste, I guess. But I find a statement like this:

    Truth cannot be out there—cannot exist independently of the human mind—because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of the world can be true or false. The world on its own—unaided by the describing activities of humans—cannot.

    …to be perfectly sensible and germane to my discussion.

  • Christopher

    Heliobates,

    Truth cannot be out there—cannot exist independently of the human mind—because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of the world can be true or false. The world on its own—unaided by the describing activities of humans—cannot.

    I’ve been essentially saying the same thing all the time I’ve been here: fact may exist independent of us, but “truth” is just a construct of the mind – a human interpretation of fact!

    It seems that when I say it, no one takes me seriously – but when that Rorty fellow says the same thing all of a sudden it’s worth noting.

  • heliobates

    It seems that when I say it, no one takes me seriously – but when that Rorty fellow says the same thing all of a sudden it’s worth noting.

    I’ve always taken that aspect of your postings seriously, Christopher. Sorry if I’ve never given you props for that, but you—how should I put this?—didn’t seem like the type that needed them.

    Then again, get tenure at an ivy league university, pull the rug out from under the feet of Anglophone analytic philosophy and get yourself into a debate with Pascal Engel and you’ll get all the props you could ask for.

    ;o)

  • Richard P

    I gave up on religion 15 years ago when I was 22 years old. When I did I had never heard of atheism, nor did I know anyone that vocally spoke out against god. I just knew none of it made any sense. I spent the first year, so depressed and angry I didn’t want to live, But to scared that I could be wrong to die. I am sure there was not a day in the first year that I did not think of god, hell, and what if I am wrong.
    This is how I over came my fear.
    I decided that If there really was a god and he could not accept that I could not associate myself with such hypocrisy, then I would rather go to hell than be associated with him. I resigned myself to this fact.
    I then decided that what I really wanted was just to be happy. I decided that to do this then I needed to live the best life I could. All I could offer god (if he existed) was to live my best and if this was not good enough to hell with him anyways.
    All I wanted was the best for me, and the best for all of those concerned.
    This has become the core belief for my life.
    I resolved that I will live my life doing my impeccable best. This did not mean I decided to become an over achiever, But that I would be responsible for me, my life, my actions, my survival, and that I would refuse to be held responsible for the lives of others. (Hell, I could barely hold my own life together, I had no right to try to be responsible for others.) This part was the hardest, I was taught the need for self sacrifice.
    I learned that the only way to be able to give your best to your fellow man was to give your best to yourself first, not the other way around as religion teaches. You can only really help others when your healthy and strong. The best help you can give others is to let others learn to accept responsibility for their own lives, so they can become healthy and strong too.

    It took years of coming back to the core, that to be healthy and happy I am responsible for me, and I all I can do is my impeccable best.

    I also learned how to deal with guilt. We all know that if you’ve learned to be a christian, you learned to be guilty. I learned feelings of guilt are only feelings of violating a belief. I learned to observe my feelings and determine if the guilt was from my religious training or a violation of what I believe now. If I found that these feelings manifested themselves from my religion I would ponder on what it is I really believe, once this was established I found the feelings of guilt and fear would dissolve, and I could proceed acting according to what I now believe guilt and fear free.

    Now when confronted with the question; “what if your wrong?” I can say, I have done my best to live my life doing my impeccable best, if that is not enough, to hell with him anyways.

    Now 18 years later I have stood back from religion long enough to see what a horrible lie it really is. How it is only there to suck your energy from you and to leave you an empty shell, sick, dependent, and desperate for approval.
    It is good to be free and it is even better to know I am not alone.

  • Adam

    Lynet,

    Allow me to try and be more clear.

    I’m am trying to explain why this statement: “that ‘if you don’t believe in God you’ll go to hell’”. Is not true…given some conditions:

    Allow me to pick the passages that are most relevant, but let me say that if you read all of the passages, you’ll get a better understanding about why the statement is false.

    First of all, one must define grave matter, and sin: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a8.htm#1854

    CCC 1854 Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity.

    CCC 1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”131

    ***This should answer your question right here. One can not go to hell for not believing in God without full knowledge and deliberate consent of their actions***

    Let me go on though.

    CCC 1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end.

    And, just as the Jews can not be blamed for killing Jesus, the son of God, because of “ignorance”, so to can man not be blamed for not believing in God (given that the conditions for a mortal sin, as defined, are not met).

    see CCC 597
    http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p122a4p2.htm#597

    Again, if you read it all, I think you’ll understand the points I have made even more clearly.

    Therefore, if you concede this:

    I’ll concede the coherency of the idea that in creating hell, God simply created a place where he wasn’t. I’ll also concede the coherency of a (hypothetical) God allowing human beings to choose to go to the place where he wasn’t.

    Then according to the Catholic Church and it’s teaching on mortal sin, one can not believe in God, and still not go to hell.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    karatemack,

    To be fair, I haven’t responded to your questions. For the sake of this forum I don’t think I will.

    Oh, so now you admit that you haven’t answered the questions that you claimed you did, and instead of actually answering them you’re going to take your bat and ball and go home. Nice. Well, I’m going to assume it’s because you don’t have an answer for those questions if that’s all right with you.

    Adam,

    ***This should answer your question right here. One can not go to hell for not believing in God without full knowledge and deliberate consent of their actions***

    So, you are now saying that no one goes to hell? Cool. Unfortunately that is not in line with what the Bible says, but hey, whatever.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    Adam,

    Thanks for the clarification. It’s nice that Catholicism does not necessarily teach that all who do not believe in God will go to hell. Mind you, I suspect that there are enough mortal sins out there that we’ve all committed one of them at least once, so I’m not sure how big a difference it makes.

    I still think the idea that anyone should go to hell is kind of wrong, but thank you for the information.

  • Adam

    Thanks for the clarification.

    You’re welcome

    Mind you, I suspect that there are enough mortal sins out there that we’ve all committed one of them at least once, so I’m not sure how big a difference it makes.

    You’re right, we all sin. But we all have another chance…many chances for that matter..As a catholic I have confession, for non-catholics if one admits they are sinful and repents of their sin, God’s mercy saves.

  • Adam

    So, you are now saying that no one goes to hell? Cool. Unfortunately that is not in line with what the Bible says, but hey, whatever.

    I appriciate your fervor on this sight, but that is not what I said. According to the Bible people definately go to hell.

  • Mathew Wilder

    OT again – @ heliobates:

    I’m not sure of the point Rorty is making. I don’t see the relevance of the fact that if there were no humans, there would be no sentences describing the world. Yeah, so then no one would be able to say true propositions, but so? If we suddenly disappeared, it would not make any of the propositions that we accurately use to describe the world false or meaningless. There just wouldn’t be anyone to understand or think or say those propositions. But saying that doesn’t imply that truth or propositions are some sort of entity, some sort of Platonic Form say, that makes sentences true.

    I decided not to waste my time with Rorty after reading this paper by Brian Leiter.

    Leiter puts it better than I can, in his abstract:

    This is an invited commentary on Richard Rorty’s Dewey Lecture, given last year at the University of Chicago Law School. “Pragmatism,” says Rorty, “puts natural science on all fours with politics and art. It is one more source of suggestions about what to do with our lives.” I argue that the truth in pragmatism – that the epistemic norms that help us cope are the ones on which we rely – is obscured by Rorty’s promiscuous version of the doctrine, which confuses the criteria for relying on particular epistemic norms (namely, that they work for human purposes) with the content of the norms themselves (most of which make no reference to human purposes, but rather criteria like causal or explanatory power). We need presuppose no Archmiedean standpoint to conclude, as Richard Posner does, that moral inquiry is feeble in a way physics is not; we need only take seriously our best current understanding of the world, how it works, and the epistemic norms that have proven most effective in making sense of it.

    The stuff about morality isn’t really germane to the discussion, but I think the epistemic norms stuff is. Truth talk doesn’t need to be construed as metaphysically “spooky.”

    Okay for some reason when I try to make a link above it makes most of my post disappear, and the rest into a link. Here is the address to the paper:

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=955037

  • Christopher

    Heliobates,

    I’ve always taken that aspect of your postings seriously, Christopher. Sorry if I’ve never given you props for that, but you—how should I put this?—didn’t seem like the type that needed them.

    I wasn’t talking about you in particular (rather that was directed at the posters on thi site in general) and I wasn’t asking for props so much as commenting on the irony of the situation – two people attempting to communicate the same idea, but one being regarded as a “troll” (there are a number of people who regard me as such here, and I say elt them think that) whilst the other receives praise for insight.

    It seems like the messenger is more important than the news he brings – and that paradox struck me as something worth commenting on…

  • Christopher

    Sorry, that should say “let” – damn I’m tired this evening…

  • karatemack

    To OMGF:

    “Oh, so now you admit that you haven’t answered the questions that you claimed you did, and instead of actually answering them you’re going to take your bat and ball and go home. Nice. Well, I’m going to assume it’s because you don’t have an answer for those questions if that’s all right with you.”

    I didn’t answer Lynet’s questions. You are good at taking people out of context. And that wasn’t a call to retreat. But if I am to answer a question, I must be fair to my own critique and make sure I understand the point of view from which it comes so that I might better be equipped to answer it.

    After all, teachers learn the psychology of children and youth so they can better be equipped to teach them. If I am to answer your questions legitimately I feel it only fair that I gain some insight on the way the mind works of the person I am seeking to answer.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Adam,

    I appriciate your fervor on this sight…

    No you don’t.

    …but that is not what I said. According to the Bible people definately go to hell.

    What you said is that people can not go to hell without full knowledge and deliberate consent of their actions. Only one being, according to you, can have full knowledge of anything, so people can not meet the requirement of having full knowledge. Perhaps that is not what you meant?

    If you mean to say that people DO go to hell, then you still have yet to counter the criticisms against hell and why god had to set up a system that included hell.

    karatemack,

    I didn’t answer Lynet’s questions.

    And you cried foul when I pointed that out.

    You are good at taking people out of context.

    Pot, meet the kettle.

    And that wasn’t a call to retreat.

    Didn’t say it was. I said it was a retreat.

    But if I am to answer a question, I must be fair to my own critique and make sure I understand the point of view from which it comes so that I might better be equipped to answer it.

    That’s BS. They were straight-forward questions, and you’ve refused to answer them.

    After all, teachers learn the psychology of children and youth so they can better be equipped to teach them.

    Which is a completely different situation.

    If I am to answer your questions legitimately I feel it only fair that I gain some insight on the way the mind works of the person I am seeking to answer.

    The only difference is that we don’t uncritically accept the unsupported and unevidenced assertions of a particular religion. Figure out why you reject Islam and you’ll understand us completely. We aren’t developing minds like children, we are fully formed adults that have one less assumption. There’s no reason for you to not answer the question, except that you know that there is no good answer – no answer that leaves you able to tout the love and compassion of your god while simultaneously defending his assent and complicity in putting people in eternal torment.

  • karatemack

    To the question of what happens to those who have never heard of Jesus or the Bible. This is from the Book of Romans chapter 2:

    “12All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”

    It seems to me that those who do not have the Bible or other forms of instruction about God will be judged according to their conscience. Again, this requires they follow the law of God (as written upon their hearts) in faith.. Faith would still precede the action in this case. Also compare this to:

    “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. (Luke 12:47-48)”

    This indicates varying degrees of punishment in hell which some christians believe in. I don’t know if that will help you consider God ‘just’ or not. I would argue that anyone who has truly accepted Jesus in faith without having heard the Bible message (through the law written upon their hearts) would accept the Biblical message as soon as it was presented as they have already placed their faith in Jesus.

    Why then preach? Don’t all roads lead to God in this model? No, faith exhibitied through obedience (true faith) is the vehicle which brings us to God’s grace by which we are saved. I find it very unlikely (though possible so men are without excuse) that men would choose to follow the conscience of their heart. God in His love for us provided not only the means of Salvation (through Christ’s death) but provided us with the Bible and witnesses of God to speak clearly the choice we have.

    These verses also speak to the question of those with diminished mental capacities. As they would be accountable for the things they DID know, not by their lack of ability to understand.

    To Lynet:

    “1) Why does God not make the choice more clear? After all, I don’t ‘reject’ God. I’m not aware that there is a God to reject. Similarly, Hindus do not look at their options and conclude that even though Jesus is God they would prefer their own system of worship. They just aren’t aware that Jesus is God.”

    I believe God has made the choice clear. He gave us His Word. He gave us a conscience. He gave us the witness of those who are living a life of faith. When I was looking for a place to study martial arts, I would go into the building and sit to watch an initial class. I would focus mostly on the black belts and higher ranked individuals because these were more than likely the ones who were the most committed to their training. In every school I visited there were black belts who looked like they didn’t deserve a white belt, but then I would find them. The diamonds in the rough. The people who were taking the class seriously and who were putting their all into their techniques. These were the students who either affirmed my decision to stay and train, or leave and go somewhere else. I understood that I if I were to train at that studio, that I would more than likely become just as those who were training. So I used those who trained sincerly as a way to gauge the teacher’s ability to make me the martial artist I wanted to be.

    Similarly, if you weed out those who have only put a shallow effort into their faith and look for those who sincerly follow God with all their heart you will find a great way to gauge God’s instruction. This is where most who claim to be christians have caused unbelief. They refused to apply God’s teaching themselves, and in doing so made a mockery of the very faith they claim to defend.

    So now to the question of the idea that God is somehow still loving and just while at the same time sending people to an eternity in hell. The question of being both loving and just is flawed because it assumes that love must be a ‘permissive’ love. As such there is no good answer to the question of a being which is both loving and just as it is a flawed question. But then, the claim has been made that God is NOT just in sending people to hell.

    “2) Why does God not allow us to choose to cease to exist when we die if we would prefer that to eternal torment?

    Nobody would choose eternal torment, all other things being equal. I fail to understand how it is that you have convinced yourself that so many people do.”

    Is God just in sending people to hell for an ETERNITY for sins committed within a 70 (or so) year lifetime? This question is flawed because it suggests there exists a connection between length of time to committ a sin and the severity of punishment which is appropriate. It may take me a half hour to load up all the contents of my neighbor’s house, but only a few seconds to pull a trigger and end someone’s life. Certainly the murder took much less time than the theft, however the thief’s sentence would not necessarily be a ‘life’ sentence, whereas the murderer’s would be.

    Is God just for sending people to hell at all? Well, this is a question as to the severity of the crime. After all, they only ‘rejected God’. Does that warrant eternal suffering? I suggest that crimes are more or less heinous based upon the person they are committed against. If I punch someone who is insulting my wife some may consider it justified, however if I punch a young child who has insulted my wife it would never be considered “right”. In fact, quite often crimes against children are considered more vile than the same acts committed against adults. Torture is considered wrong, but torturing a human is considered much worse than torturing an animal. Again, the same act, but the one whom the act is committed against determines the severity of the crime.

    How much more severe then, is any crime against God? If the torture of animals constitues a fine, and the torture of humans results in a life-sentence or in the death penalty, then there is a very significant difference between the punishment based upon the creature whom the crime was committed against. If we understand the difference between man and animal to be great, how much more unfathomable is the difference between man and God. So that any crime against God, being so much higher than man, would require a sentence much more severe than for those crimes which were committed against man.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    karatemack,

    It seems to me that those who do not have the Bible or other forms of instruction about God will be judged according to their conscience.

    So, you are allowing that they don’t need to believe in Jesus or in god? So, by virtue of having lived in a time/place where I’m aware that there are people that do believe in god/Jesus, that mandates that I must also believe or else I go to hell, whereas a similar person with the same moral choices and decisions will not go to hell if they happen to live in a place where they never hear about Jesus/god? This seems just/fair to you?

    Again, this requires they follow the law of God (as written upon their hearts) in faith.. Faith would still precede the action in this case.

    I fail to see how faith has any place in this. If one follows a secular moral standard and does what god wants, will that person go to heaven or hell if they have not heard of the Bible? How does that person somehow have faith in god if they’ve never heard of god or been introduced to god?

    This indicates varying degrees of punishment in hell which some christians believe in. I don’t know if that will help you consider God ‘just’ or not.

    Two things. 1) Do you accept this idea of varying degrees? You seem not to since you said hell is complete separation from god. If you don’t agree, why are you presenting it? 2) Eternal torment is eternal, whether I get 20 lashes a day or 10 lashes a day. Added up over infinity, there’s not much difference.

    No, faith exhibitied through obedience (true faith) is the vehicle which brings us to God’s grace by which we are saved.

    What about those that don’t have faith but do what is morally right?

    God in His love for us provided not only the means of Salvation (through Christ’s death) but provided us with the Bible and witnesses of God to speak clearly the choice we have.

    If god loves us so much, why do we need to be saved at all? And, who are we being saved from? (Answer to the second is god.)

    I believe God has made the choice clear.

    And yet the existence of other religions and irreligion is empirical evidence that this is not so.

    The question of being both loving and just is flawed because it assumes that love must be a ‘permissive’ love. As such there is no good answer to the question of a being which is both loving and just as it is a flawed question.

    Ah, but Xians contend that god is both perfectly loving and just. Are you saying this is not the case – that god is not both perfectly loving and just?

    I suggest that crimes are more or less heinous based upon the person they are committed against.

    Only certain crimes. Should a person receive a longer or shorter sentence based on the following:

    Killing a white man verses killing a white woman?
    Killing a white man verses killing a black man?
    Killing a 20 year old verses killing a 30 year old?
    Killing a child of 17 verses killing an adult of 18?
    Robbing a rich person vs. robbing a poor person?
    Robbing an adult vs. robbing a child?

    There are many things that go into determining the severity of a crime, and the person the crime was committed against is very often not taken into account with the exception of child vs. adult.

    How much more severe then, is any crime against God?

    Less severe to the point of not being a crime at all. If we regard crimes against children as being more severe, it is generally because they are less able to make informed choices, more prone to being hurt or be harmed, etc. The severity of crimes follows the harm that is done! We can harm children more easily, so we consider those crimes to be more serious.

    We can not harm god. Therefore, it is impossible to find a crime against god, especially one such as disbelief or non-acceptance, as more severe than a crime we can commit against a fellow human being, and certainly not severe enough to merit eternal punishment. This makes for an infinitely disproportionate sentence for the crime committed, and makes god infinitely unjust.

  • karatemack

    “If we regard crimes against children as being more severe, it is generally because they are less able to make informed choices, more prone to being hurt or be harmed, etc.”

    You missed or ignored my point of animals not being considered as valuable as humans. Therefore an act against a human is more severe than an act against a human. If there is a God, then certainly to commit a crime against Him would be more severe than a crime committed against me or any other human in the same way it is less severe to commit a crime against an animal than it is to commit the same crime against a human.

  • karatemack

    “Therefore an act against a human is more severe than an act against a human.”

    Sorry for the double post but the second “human” there should have been ‘animal’.

  • Brad

    karatemack:

    I make the simple observation that “conscience” is not enough to decide everything moral. The phrase “moral dilemma” makes clear that our conscience works barely past simple intuition and feeling. To go further, we need concentration and intelligence to reason upon our subjective premises. This has not been given to each person equally or in good enough measure for fully thinking through moral choices. Hence, you can’t make everyone equally accountable even by conscience. Some of us do have such “excuse.” You could try to salvage this point by making up the assumption God judges everyone based upon their mental capabilities, as you do, but then you still are begging the question of why we were all given varying mental capabilities to begin with. Such inequality is unfair and unbecoming of God.

    Also, how do you make compatible the ideas of varying degrees of punishment, hell as self-torture (not directly from God), and the infinitude of hell? I can’t seem to figure out if you believe hell is fully self-inflicted or not.

    Your answer to Lynet’s first question:

    I believe God has made the choice clear. He gave us His Word.

    I again direct you to Ebonmuse’s essay The Argument from Locality. The choice is definitely not clear. Especially for those who go through life without ever hearing about or ever fathoming the Christian conception of God and theology. The fact is, God allegedly came to us through single prophets. Why would God’s embassy to humans mimic the embassies of other religions: word of mouth? Why is it our obligation to spread God‘s word? Why does he need missionaries and child indoctrination to keep his church here on Earth?

    The question of being both loving and just is flawed because it assumes that love must be a ‘permissive’ love.

    See my earlier comment concerning 1 Corinthians 13. This Bible passage clearly shows the contradiction between Biblical love and your depiction of “justice.” It is very disconcerting that someone who values something like love would try to defend this concept of an unpermitting God. I would also suggest looking at the other questions I posed to you in earlier comments.

    This question is flawed because it suggests there exists a connection between length of time to committ a sin and the severity of punishment which is appropriate.

    No, the assumption is between finite sins and infinite punishment. These are plainly disproportionate, and your response evades this fact.

    I suggest that crimes are more or less heinous based upon the person they are committed against.

    So what do you think of an all-powerful and allegedly “perfect” being using infinite, undying torture on the little fallible animals that we are? Your own model, karatemack, goes against God Himself. Also, you say a sentence is “required.” If the sentence is infinite, then towards what purpose can it possibly serve? The fulfillment of God’s sadistic sense of “justice,” perhaps? The fact that you try and take the blame from God’s choices and pin them on some moral code of “justice” implies you believe there is morality that supervenes even God. Is this true?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    karatemack,

    You missed or ignored my point of animals not being considered as valuable as humans.

    I saw it and had decided to let it pass, but if you want to talk about it, we can.

    The reason we see animals as lesser is because of anthropocentric thinking. We instinctively see crimes against humans as more heinous than crimes against animals because we are human. In that sense, we should see any crime against a human as worse than a crime against any non-human, including god. Besides, including animals seems to upset your heirarchy comparison when you also take into account children. Animals are beneath humans and god is above humans, but within humans children are beneath adults, are they not? So, we protect children and consider it more heinous to harm children because they are beneath adults, yet you wish to argue the opposite in terms of animals and people and god?

    Lastly, let’s look at the supposed crime, shall we? Rejection of someone is not even a crime in most legal structures. Surely, murder is a more heinous crime than rejection of someone. On the scale of harm done, rejecting someone does very little harm to people, and can’t harm a god by definition. Therefore, rejection of god should not be classified as a crime at all, or at least not a capital crime.

  • karatemack

    “To go further, we need concentration and intelligence to reason upon our subjective premises.”

    If my child makes the choice to touch a hot pot on a stove, I may not “punish” the child for doing so. If I did not wish for the child to continue in their ignorant and self-destructive behaviour I would, however, offer the child some insight on why touching the pot is harmful. (IE: I tell the child, “Don’t touch the pot.”) After the child has been warned to avoid said harmful behavior, if they then add to their self-destructive behavior an act of rebellion against my parental authority, then yes I would ‘punish’ them. I believe that Hell is BOTH a just punishment and a self-inflicted condition.

    “Why would God’s embassy to humans mimic the embassies of other religions: word of mouth?”

    Or perhaps the other religions reflect the interaction of the true God with us. Your presupposition in this is clear. Also, you presuppose that if there is a God that you could come up with a better way of accomplishing what He has than He has. If there is a God, and surely your criticism starts with that presupposition otherwise we couldn’t argue about any suppossed contradictions about God (also it would make your arguments pillars constructed to support your preconceived idea), and we are reliant upon His revelation of Himself to us for any and all information we have about Him, then I would assume He KNOWS more than we do.

    “This Bible passage clearly shows the contradiction between Biblical love and your depiction of “justice.””

    I disagree. I think the patience and long suffering God shows towards people who will ultimately suffer punishment shows His great love towards even them. If a parent loves a child who rejects the parent and ultimately enters a life of drug and alcohol abuse which ends in their untimely demise, would you say the parent failed to love this child? But then, you would have perfect love be permissive love so I suppose you would. I wonder if you are a parent and you hold yourself responsible for not enslaving every action of your child to your will. For by your model if they do not conform completely to your idea of ‘right and wrong’ then you have somehow failed to love them as a parent.

  • karatemack

    Crimes against children was only raised to deliver the point that crimes ARE valued based upon the people the are committed against. Not to serve as a perfect analogy between God and mankind. The animal to mankind representation was raised to show that there is a distinction between different forms of life. If I destroy a virus, people consider it casually. Destroy a plant without cause and it will make you irresponsible and careless in the eyes of some. Destroy an animal without cause and many will view you as a monster. Destory a human being without cause and you will not be excused. There is an escalation here which is all I wanted to point out.

    “Surely, murder is a more heinous crime than rejection of someone. On the scale of harm done, rejecting someone does very little harm to people, and can’t harm a god by definition. Therefore, rejection of god should not be classified as a crime at all, or at least not a capital crime.”

    While the harm of rebellion against God may seem insignificant to you, it is indeed no small matter. If I rebel against my teacher I am disrespectful. If I rebel against my parents I need to be rebuked. If I rebel against my boss at work I am a jeopardizing my livlihood. If I rebel against the leader of my nation I am putting my life at risk. So it follows that to rebel against the God of the universe, I put my very existence at odds with the Living God. Not a good place to be. But it certainly does follow a logical pattern, whether or not you choose to accept it.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    karatemack,

    Crimes against children was only raised to deliver the point that crimes ARE valued based upon the people the are committed against. Not to serve as a perfect analogy between God and mankind. The animal to mankind representation was raised to show that there is a distinction between different forms of life.

    And, as I pointed out, the analogies you used butt heads with each other, thus destroying your point. That’s like saying that you can use X or Y to support argument Z, but not both, because then they contradict.

    While the harm of rebellion against God may seem insignificant to you, it is indeed no small matter.

    It is by definition insignificant. How can a perfect being be harmed?

    If I rebel against my parents I need to be rebuked.

    You need to be rebuked? That depends on the situation and harm caused.

    So it follows that to rebel against the God of the universe, I put my very existence at odds with the Living God. Not a good place to be. But it certainly does follow a logical pattern, whether or not you choose to accept it.

    Again, it’s not about the action of rebellion but the reasons for the rebellion and harm caused. If I rebel against the leader of my nation because I refuse to contravene the Geneva Convention prohibition on torture even though I’ve been ordered to do so, should I be punished?

  • Leum

    I believe that Hell is BOTH a just punishment and a self-inflicted condition.

    karatemack, I can only conclude that we have very different definitions of “punishment.” Punishment—a term I strongly dislike—serves a very basic purpose: correction. The person who has been punished should be rehabilitated through the process, should be capable of returning to the community as a more moral citizen, and should understand why they should not re-offend. To take your hot kettle example, after touching the kettle I am not going to touch it again. Why? Because I have learned the consequences of touching a hot kettle. Touching it again is totally non-desirable.

    Hell cannot serve this function because Hell is eternal. I may learn fully why my actions were wrong, may be a much more moral person for having burned (metaphorically or literally), etc. But none of that matters because I can never put this new knowledge into practice. Therefore, Hell is not so much a punishment as an act of petty vengeance.

    If I destroy a virus, people consider it casually. Destroy a plant without cause and it will make you irresponsible and careless in the eyes of some. Destroy an animal without cause and many will view you as a monster. Destory a human being without cause and you will not be excused. …

    While the harm of rebellion against God may seem insignificant to you, it is indeed no small matter. If I rebel against my teacher I am disrespectful. If I rebel against my parents I need to be rebuked. If I rebel against my boss at work I am a jeopardizing my livlihood. If I rebel against the leader of my nation I am putting my life at risk. So it follows that to rebel against the God of the universe, I put my very existence at odds with the Living God.

    In the first paragraph I quoted, you are describing an escalation up a continumn of self-awareness, sentience, and capacity for suffering. It is worse to do harm to a being which can suffer than against a being which cannot.

    The second is, essentially, an argument that is immoral to challenge authority. Humans punish those who disrespect their authority, yes, but this is done two reasons. The first is that challenging the authority harms the challenger (I ought to obey my boss because they have, hopefully, a better understanding of what needs to be done than I do. A child should obey their parents because the parents know what will hurt their child). If disobeying God will harm me, He can–of course–correct me, but Hell does nothing to correct. The second reason is simply to demonstrate their power; I hardly believe an infinite God has any need of showing off.

    Either way, you are ignoring the point: it is impossible to harm an infinite being. Cannot be done. “You can no more diminish the glory of God by refusing to worship Him, than a lunatic can diminish the sun by writing “darkness” on the walls of his cell,” if I may quote C.S. Lewis. Since God cannot be harmed, there can be no just punishment for harming Him.

  • karatemack

    “karatemack, I can only conclude that we have very different definitions of “punishment.””

    We do. What you define as “punishment” I define as discipline. Punishment to me is only meant to satisfy the needs of justice. If I am murdered and the murderer never repents, did I receive justice from God for my life being taken if the murderer is never PUNISHED? I don’t think so. The entire argument that God cannot be love and just ignores the perspective of the other victims of sin (namely, other humans).

    “The second reason is simply to demonstrate their power;”

    Yes, I believe God is demonstrating His power for His glory. I stated this previously when I asserted that you will bring glory to God either way, through obedience or disobedience. Just showing that God is Sovereign. Does God need to “prove” this? I would say no, but judging from all the people who question God based upon His lack of “proving” Himself, I find it odd they would be highly disappointed when He chooses to.

    “”You can no more diminish the glory of God by refusing to worship Him, than a lunatic can diminish the sun by writing “darkness” on the walls of his cell,” if I may quote C.S. Lewis. Since God cannot be harmed, there can be no just punishment for harming Him.”

    As you stated yourself, you begin by asserting that there are REASONS it is wrong to question authority. Your presuppositions about why it is wrong affects your understanding of the nature of the offense. No, of course you cannot diminish God’s Glory. What is at stake is not God’s Glory at all, but the opportunity God has given you to respond. Your offense is threefold; it is self-destructive, it is harmful to others (as all sin ultimately is), and it is a rebellion against God’s authority. Did Satan rebel against God? Yes. Did he diminish God’s glory by doing so? No. Was he still punished for it? Yes.

  • MS (Quixote)

    1. Hell is a bad place to be, despite what Bon Scott says to the contrary.

    2. The only inhabitants of hell are those who deserve to be there. The lone possible exception is the presence of God in hell.

    3. Punishment in hell is commensurate with the offense(s) committed; there are varying levels or degrees of punishment in hell.

    If a proposition about hell contradicts, or is inconsistent with, one of these categories, I would be wary of it.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    karatemack,

    I don’t think so. The entire argument that God cannot be love and just ignores the perspective of the other victims of sin (namely, other humans).

    So, god puts us in hell for crimes against god or crimes against other humans? Make up your mind. And, this does nothing to show why punishment should be infinite. IOW, you are ignoring Leum’s excellent point that we try to rehab and teach through discipline and punishment.

    Yes, I believe God is demonstrating His power for His glory.

    Do you think this is a good thing? If someone walked up to you and punched you in the face just to show they could do it, would you commend that person for their power?

    Does God need to “prove” this? I would say no, but judging from all the people who question God based upon His lack of “proving” Himself, I find it odd they would be highly disappointed when He chooses to.

    And yet, there are infinitely more just and humane ways to demonstrate his power and his being than by throwing people into hell with no chance to act on the newfound realization that goes along with it.

    No, of course you cannot diminish God’s Glory. What is at stake is not God’s Glory at all, but the opportunity God has given you to respond.

    Then there is no reason for god to demonstrate his power or glorify himself by throwing people in hell.

    Your offense is threefold; it is self-destructive, it is harmful to others (as all sin ultimately is), and it is a rebellion against God’s authority.

    If it is harmful to me, then I bear the cost of the “sin.” There’s no need to further punish me by tossing me in hell. I fail to see how disbelief can be harmful to others. I fail to see how anything can be harmful to god, including rebellion, and CS Lewis seems to agree.

    As you stated yourself, you begin by asserting that there are REASONS it is wrong to question authority.

    I certainly did not make that assertion, and you did not deal with that. It is not always wrong to question or rebel against authority.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    MS,
    The point is that no one deserves to be in hell.

  • MS (Quixote)

    What do they deserve?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Justice and fairness – hell is neither.

  • MS (Quixote)

    “Justice and fairness – hell is neither.”

    With your depiction of hell I might agree; however, nothing in my categories above allows for unfairness or injustice.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    MS,
    Which means that your proposition number 2 is contradictory. As we’ve argued here, number 3 is erroneous as well.

  • Brad

    MS Quixote, I think I can infer from his points, has a more reasonable view of hell than the one we are arguing against, OMGF. Anyway, back to work.

    karatemack, your definition of “punishment” is cold and uncompassionate; it is merely a Tit for Tat reciprocation scheme that only follows from a childish and simplistic view of “questioning authority” and obedience. I think I could agree with that. I also think your hell follows that description. But I do not know why: God already has omnipotent control, he does not need to instigate any more. Your definition of “discipline” is also very worrying. If you look it up in the dictionary, it implies that there is moral instruction done, presumably for a better future. If hell is eternal, then it cannot follow this definition, and is not just discipline. What is the purpose of hell? What good does it serve?

    Would you ever punish your own child for eternity? There is no point at all, even if you were a totally indifferent and inhuman thing you would not need to do that. If a child yelled at you, would you kick them out of the house for eternity, specifically to where you know they will be woven in drugs and violence or worse? Would you never allow them back? Is it really for their betterment?

    I believe that Hell is BOTH a just punishment and a self-inflicted condition.

    I would like to know the metaphysics behind this. How do you explain the disparity between finite sins and infinite punishment? Is the condition self-inflicted in the same way a victim of the mafia chooses to be shot instead of bowing their will?

    Or perhaps the other religions reflect the interaction of the true God with us

    … and all just happen to turn out contradictory to the real religion? Are suicide cult-leaders and false prophets people who interact with the true God as they say? …

    Also, you presuppose that if there is a God that you could come up with a better way of accomplishing what He has than He has.

    Actually I don’t need to presuppose that. I simply actuate the claim: make no disease, create humans to begin with and in the center of the universe, all humans with equal necessary abilities (not deformed, brain-damaged, etc.), expand the universe and its utilizable resources, disallow the possibility of mass destruction, interact with us all in a clear and open fashion (such as how the sun is seen by humans every morning), et cetera.

    I disagree. I think the patience and long suffering God shows towards people who will ultimately suffer punishment shows His great love towards even them.

    Patience and long suffering? Does he have limited patience, or something? What about our potential “long suffering” in hell? His great love could be so much greater.

    For by your model if they do not conform completely to your idea of ‘right and wrong’ then you have somehow failed to love them as a parent.

    No. The failure to love as a parent comes from rejecting your children, and shunning them to an eternity of torment.

  • Russ

    The easiest way I found to break the link between fear and irrational thought is blatant rational thought. For years I had been in this sort of limbo between belief and disbelief, constantly changing my mind from one day to the next and nearing closer and closer to being sucked back into my childhood comfort zone. Then, one day I came across a fact that solved it all.

    There is NO right or wrong… it doesnt exist because it is all relative to your culture. The fact is, what is wrong in our culture could and in some instances is extremely RIGHT in another. To attempt to prove that one is correct and the other is wrong is hindered by ethnocentrism, the belief that your culture is correct and you base your conclusions of all other cultures on that belief. If you really want proof of this, please prove to me that something is either right or wrong without referring to anything spawned by society, in other words explain how murder is wrong by describing it in nature. Robinson Jeffers poem birds and fishes does this best. A school of fish stuck in a puddle on a beach being devoured by birds who take advantage of them is not immoral, wrong, or evil, its nature. It just IS.

    How did this stop the fear of hell, well if there is no right and wrong, then there cannot be an ultimate judgment or judge to enforce it, we need rights and wrong for society to survive, we have never needed it for our personal survival.

  • http://elliptica.blogspot.com Lynet

    karatemack,

    Replies have been made to most of your points. However, it seems courteous, given that you have replied to my questions, for me to give responses to those parts of your post which address my questions specifically.

    “Why does God not make the choice more clear? . . .”

    I believe God has made the choice clear. He gave us His Word. He gave us a conscience. He gave us the witness of those who are living a life of faith. . . . [I]f you weed out those who have only put a shallow effort into their faith and look for those who sincerly follow God with all their heart you will find a great way to gauge God’s instruction.

    This is a problematic demonstration of the existence of God for several reasons. Firstly, you are asking me to count the hits and avoid the misses. That is, you are saying I should measure the worth of Christianity only by the best that it can produce.

    Secondly, you are saying that I should measure the worth of Christianity by the best that it can produce. Would you extend the same charity to, say, Buddhism? There are some pretty impressive Buddhists out there. What about Jews? Jains? Humanists? Should I pick my religion by whichever one has the greatest single adherent as of the present date?

    However, the central problem with this argument is that the existence of good people within a particular religion is not, of itself, a demonstration of the truth of its claims.

    You have briefly referred “God’s Word” as a method of demonstrating the truth of Christianity. Allow me, then, to reply to your reply to OMGF:

    “Why would God’s embassy to humans mimic the embassies of other religions: word of mouth?”

    Or perhaps the other religions reflect the interaction of the true God with us. Your presupposition in this is clear.

    So is yours, lol! But a true God would be able to interact with us in a way that could not be mimicked. As a crude example, God could demonstrate his existence by making a big voice come out of the sky every fifty years or so to remind us which religion is correct. That would solve the problem very nicely.

    Now, on to your reply to my second question:

    Is God just for sending people to hell at all? . . . [A]ny crime against God, being so much higher than man, would require a sentence much more severe than for those crimes which were committed against man.

    So that I can view your argument from its strongest point, let me consider a hypothetical universe where the problem raised by my first question does not exist. Suppose we lived in a universe with multiple consilient demonstrations of the existence of, and goodness of, an omniscient, omnipotent God. There are no obvious ways in which this world could be improved without trampling on the free will of human beings. God occasionally intervenes directly in the affairs of this world, speaking to people in a voice that everyone can hear and doing what He says He will do. Moreover, those who follow the precepts of the religion laid out by this God are better people than those who don’t.

    In this case, disbelief in God would certainly not be sensible. However, what if there were somehow people in this world who, for whatever reason, did honestly believe that there was no God despite the available evidence? There would be reason to try to teach such people otherwise while they were alive, but there would be no reason to cause gratuitous suffering in doing so. There’s certainly no reason why such people should not be allowed to die a natural death rather than suffer for eternity. Remember, we’re assuming that they have somehow made an honest mistake.

    Ah, but what about people in this world who did understand the evidence and still deliberately chose not to follow the religion? Now, that would be a heinous crime, since it would be deliberately choosing not to be a better person and thus deliberately damaging those around you. Perhaps punishment after death might serve as a deterrent for such people. However, I don’t think it would be necessary to torture such people for eternity. For instance, there’s a big difference between eternity and ten thousand years in terms of total pain inflicted, but there’s not much psychological difference because people are bad at comprehending infinities. Face it, eternal hellfire is just overkill.

  • Brad

    Russ:

    There is NO right or wrong… it doesn’t exist because it is all relative to your culture.

    Technically, that’s a contradiction unless you qualify subjectivity versus objectivity. I would say there is no ‘true’ or ‘false’ behavior, but there is definitely behavior which accomplishes altruistic and humanistic goals that some/many people desire. I use this to illustrate my view: A martyr does not die for other people because it is ‘right,’ but because the martyr would rather die than have the alternative consequences come about. However, I disagree with your extension on to hell:

    well if there is no right and wrong, then there cannot be an ultimate judgment or judge to enforce it

    In some theism, morality would (by definition) be by God’s fiat (as in divine command theory). This means there can be an ultimate judge and enforcer, just not by objectively grounded rules.

    Lynet, this is ingenious: “a big voice come out of the sky every fifty years.” That would be nice. The apologist’s response, I would predict, is that we get something like this or better in our lives. (God tugging at our heart, God working miracles in our lives, etc.) I suspect one way the rest of your response might fail at hurting karatemack’s argument is that karatemack specifically refers to personal “rebellion” and “rejection” of God, which I (maybe charitably) presume would not necessarily include an honest atheist’s rejection of belief in the existence of God. (But are there any honest atheists? etc…) And of course, this is just common sense that slips the minds of many believers: “Face it, eternal hellfire is just overkill.”

    Lastly, I think I need to address karatemack’s child and stove analogy. In the analogy, there exists a stove that is the cause of pain. It is not in the parents’ / parent’s control or wishes for stoves to cause pain. It is not the child’s wish to feel pain. To make this fit with the doctrine of torturous hell, we would have to assume the parent specifically created a torture chamber for potential future use on their children. The children would freely choose this chamber, of course, by rejecting the authority of their parents. Because such outrageous defiance would be intrinsically BAD! – and deserving of much pain!

    P.S. Despite the rhetorical snark in the language I often employ, I am actually glad you are here arguing your position, karatemack. It’s hard to take on Lynet, OMGF, Leum, myself, and others in debate of your personal beliefs. And thanks, Ebonmuse, for letting it play out this far; I think it might be helpful for some people.

  • Adam

    Russ,

    There is NO right or wrong…

    Sorry Russ, there is…Ebon agrees:

    So, to begin: moral relativism. As in my previous essay, I define this as the view that morality has no basis other than individual or societal opinion, that it is a mere matter of personal preference, like a favorite color or a preference for chocolate over vanilla. The key aspect of moral relativism, I think, is its claim that it is impossible for a person to assert a moral opinion and be wrong. I intend to argue a strong form of the contrary: a truly objective morality not only is but must be possible, because the position of moral relativism is self-contradictory and logically incoherent and therefore must be rejected.

    Moral relativists (if there are any among my readers) must surely be upset with me already. No doubt, they would respond that the relative nature of morality is an obvious fact: after all, how could it be otherwise? A objective and non-relative moral system requires a way of deciding between competing opinions, but any way we could possibly achieve this would itself merely be another opinion. The relativist’s conclusion is that there is no way to adjudicate competing moral claims that is not irretrievably mired in subjectivity, and that when two people disagree whether some practice is moral, the result is an irresolvable deadlock.

    for the whole article read: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2006/08/the-roots-of-morality-i

  • karatemack

    My thanks to all who are offerering their opinions and also to our host who is allowing this conversation.

    I would like to submit a different point of view for consideration. Let’s talk for a bit about Satan. IF we are granting the presupposition that God and Satan both exist, then there may be something in the text to explain hell.

    Satan was an eternal being. Satan, being in the presence of God, certainly had no doubts about God’s existence (again if they both existed). When Satan committed his sin, it was apparantly trying to put himself on level playing field with God. (Isaiah 14:12-14) This was not a mere rejection of God, but an attempt to usurp God’s position and authority. Certainly, even by our standards, a punishable offense. Because Satan existed as an eternal being, and had clear evidence of God’s Person and existence, then it would follow that his (Satan’s) punishment could be eternal and also just. The Bible does indicate that Hell was created for Satan and his followers. (Matthew 25:41)

    How does that apply to humans? It has often been asked what would have happened if Adam and Eve did not sin in the garden. It is also asked IF they would have sinned without the snake’s (Satan’s) influence. What I feel is at stake here is what DID happen, not what might have been. (that Adam and Eve DISOBEYED God and OBEYED Satan)

    Romans 6:16 indicates that whatever we obey, we are slaves to that. When Adam and Eve obeyed Satan they became his slaves. The Bible is filled with the repeated theme that a part of the fallen condition is that mankind is a slave to sin (dead in your sins, etc.)

    Ok, so if you followed me to this point and see God’s punishment of Satan as just, and if you at least acknowledge the teaching that you become a slave to whatever you choose to obey, then could it not be just of God to allow those who follow Satan to share in his fate?

    This is off topic to some of the other points I’ve raised, and I do admit that some of your posts have caused me to seriously question things I’ve thought about the nature of hell. I look forward to reading your responses.

  • mikespeir

    You go ahead and talk about Satan, karatemack. Myself, I’ve been following this thread and, rarely, commenting, but my eyes are starting to droop. I haven’t seen a scintilla of evidence presented that there even is a Hell. In light of that, I sure don’t see any reason to suppose there is and even less to be afraid of it. Show me that evidence and I might perk up a little. Anything short of real, verifiable evidence, though, and I don’t see anything to hold my interest any longer.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    karatemack,

    This was not a mere rejection of God, but an attempt to usurp God’s position and authority. Certainly, even by our standards, a punishable offense.

    That depends. Was the American Revolution a good thing or something that should obviously be punished?

    Because Satan existed as an eternal being, and had clear evidence of God’s Person and existence, then it would follow that his (Satan’s) punishment could be eternal and also just.

    No it does not. Was Satan’s crime eternal? No it was not. Therefore, eternal punishment is not warranted as it is infinitely more severe than the crime. And, there’s no reason why Satan has to be an eternal being. Are you saying that god could not blink Satan out of existence?

    When Adam and Eve obeyed Satan they became his slaves.

    When Adam and Eve were tricked by hearing only one side of the story, they became his slaves? And, therefore, because they were misled they should be tortured for eternity? What a monster this god of yours is.

    Ok, so if you followed me to this point and see God’s punishment of Satan as just, and if you at least acknowledge the teaching that you become a slave to whatever you choose to obey, then could it not be just of God to allow those who follow Satan to share in his fate?

    So, are you contending that anyone who doesn’t believe in Yahweh is a slave to Satan and therefore worthy of eternal punishment – even those who lead moral lives? How barbaric to punish us based on our ability to discern factual matters about the world and give us the same fate as Satan for being misled by him (which is Satan’s fault – and god’s for not doing anything about it – not ours). Personally, I think we could make an analogy to drug use. Should we imprison drug users or should we rehabilitate them? I’m all for the latter as I feel that the former only serves to punish with no real justice and makes us a society of jailors and does nothing to solve the underlying problems. The former seems to be god’s approach as well if your assertions above are correct.

  • karatemack

    “I haven’t seen a scintilla of evidence presented that there even is a Hell.”

    What type of evidence do you suppose there should be if hell does exist? -OR- How would one set out to prove the existence of any place not currently occupied or visible to the person they are attempting to ‘prove’ it’s existence to?

    “Was the American Revolution a good thing or something that should obviously be punished?”

    I stated that this line of thinking began with a presupposition. Let’s say God exists as what I claim Him to be. Yes, destroy the character of God and this argument holds little value (not that God would be less likely to punish the offender, actually He’d be more likely to, but that He would not necessarily be loving and just). Again, this is only meant as an argument for the defense of God’s character in light of Hell’s existence. For that purpose I am starting with an infallible God until by virtue of hell’s existence He is proven not to be such.

    “Was Satan’s crime eternal? No it was not. Therefore, eternal punishment is not warranted as it is infinitely more severe than the crime.”

    Let’s say that Satan was a creature with a beginning but no ending. Let’s say Satan was created that way because God intended for Satan to serve a high purpose. When Satan rebels against that, does God HAVE to extinguish Satan’s existence to be just? Or would it also be just for God to allow Satan to continue to exist in the condition he originally was created to (being forever) only in the state which Satan chose for himself? I guess I don’t see how the punishment doesn’t fit the crime in this case, especially considering the presupposition that God is Who I claim Him to be, and that Satan knew full well what he was doing before he did it. This would make Satan’s offense of the greatest proportion.

    ” And, therefore, because they were misled they should be tortured for eternity? What a monster this god of yours is.”

    And therefore God confronted them with their sin, provided for them a covering (See Genesis) and a promise of hope for their future if they obeyed Him. Nope, not a monster at all.

    “So, are you contending that anyone who doesn’t believe in Yahweh is a slave to Satan and therefore worthy of eternal punishment – even those who lead moral lives?”

    Again, you’re defining morality your own way, not the Bible or God’s. So the question is impossible. The Bible claims that it is impossible to please God apart from faith. You cannot be seperate from God and also be ‘moral’. Once you sin, you’re a sinner. Your only grace is that your previous sins will be ‘covered’ by Christ’s sacrifice. So… unless you claim that you’ve never messed up, you can never be ‘moral’ by the Bible’s definition.

  • mikespeir

    What type of evidence do you suppose there should be if hell does exist? -OR- How would one set out to prove the existence of any place not currently occupied or visible to the person they are attempting to ‘prove’ it’s existence to?

    Gee, I don’t know. Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    karatemack,

    I stated that this line of thinking began with a presupposition. Let’s say God exists as what I claim Him to be. Yes, destroy the character of God and this argument holds little value…

    How convenient to simply assert that god is just and loving and perfect and good, and then dismiss the idea that hell is not any of those things by referring back to your previous assertion as if it proves your point. It doesn’t. It’s a logical fallacy actually.

    When Satan rebels against that, does God HAVE to extinguish Satan’s existence to be just?

    Considering that god created a place called hell for eternal torture, perhaps Satan is not the bad guy here. To answer your question though, it’s not certain that he must make Satan no longer exist, but it is certain that infinite punishment for a finite crime is infinitely unjust.

    Or would it also be just for God to allow Satan to continue to exist in the condition he originally was created to (being forever) only in the state which Satan chose for himself?

    No it would not, because I’m sure that Satan isn’t choosing to be tortured for eternity. No one chooses that.

    I guess I don’t see how the punishment doesn’t fit the crime in this case, especially considering the presupposition that God is Who I claim Him to be, and that Satan knew full well what he was doing before he did it. This would make Satan’s offense of the greatest proportion.

    If god is as you claim him to be, then what harm could Satan cause to god anyway? If Satan is unable to do god any harm, then god’s actions to turn around and cause extreme harm to others is way out of proportion. If someone points an obvious water gun at you and squirts you with water, are you allowed to pull out your 9mm and shoot them in the head? Why is god allowed to do that and much worse?

    And therefore God confronted them with their sin, provided for them a covering (See Genesis) and a promise of hope for their future if they obeyed Him. Nope, not a monster at all.

    Considering that they didn’t know the difference between good and evil until AFTER they ate the fruit, it’s like god took a couple of toddlers and punished them severly for being misinformed, which is especially heinous when he allowed Satan to misinform them, fully knowing that Satan would do so and what would result from it. Then, he tosses people in hell for being similarly misinformed…still a monster.

    Again, you’re defining morality your own way, not the Bible or God’s.

    If your definition of morality is “Whatever god says,” then you should read Euthyphro’s dilemma. Either way, follow the morally relative dictates of a being simply because he is mighty is not a valid moral system.

    So… unless you claim that you’ve never messed up, you can never be ‘moral’ by the Bible’s definition.

    Further proof that god’s system is not moral at all. god has set up a system whereby we can not succeed and then punishes us for it. He made us as failures, yet we bear the brunt of being made that way.

  • karatemack

    “Gee, I don’t know. Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you.”

    Prove to me that the moon is a ‘place’ men can go. I can see the moon, but I’ve never been there, I have no desire to go there and doubt I ever will. Therefore I suggest the moon is merely an illusion in the sky, and not at all a real or tangible place. By reason of what evidence would you refute my point of view?

    To OMGF:

    You are trying to state the Bible contains contradictions about God, morality and the nature of God in light of hell. The problem is you keep interjecting your presuppositions about these topics into the text. You aren’t starting with the same presuppositions the original author’s had about God, hell or morality. Therefore your judgement will never be able to fully realize the actual message the Bible presents as you can’t see past your personal bias.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    karatemack,

    Prove to me that the moon is a ‘place’ men can go. I can see the moon, but I’ve never been there, I have no desire to go there and doubt I ever will. Therefore I suggest the moon is merely an illusion in the sky, and not at all a real or tangible place. By reason of what evidence would you refute my point of view?

    Moon rocks that we’ve collected for starters…how about the light that reflects off of it and gives a specific spectroscopic set of wavelengths? Or, we could actually commission a trip to go there. How will you do anything even remotely like this for hell?

    You are trying to state the Bible contains contradictions about God, morality and the nature of God in light of hell.

    And you are stating that it doesn’t, then using that assumption to “prove” that you are right, which is called circular reasoning and/or begging the question.

    The problem is you keep interjecting your presuppositions about these topics into the text.

    What presuppositions are these? And how do you defend your presuppositions that god is exactly what you are trying to prove he is?

    You aren’t starting with the same presuppositions the original author’s had about God, hell or morality.

    Does it matter? Don’t Xians believe in absolute morality? Why are you arguing for relative morality?

    Therefore your judgement will never be able to fully realize the actual message the Bible presents as you can’t see past your personal bias.

    And you can? If your position is that no one can, then how can you say that god is good? If your position is that I can’t but you can, how can you defend that, considering that your presuppositions are circular in nature?

    How about you actually try to answer the objections instead of simply accusing others of having a bias? I don’t see how any bias I might have defeats the argument that finite crimes do not deserve infinite punishment or that god did not have to create hell in the first place. I don’t see how any bias I might have defeats the argument that it is inherently unjust to create a being and then hold it responsible for not being able to live up to impossible standards. I don’t see how any bias I might have defeats the argument that making a factually wrong choice should not condemn one to an infinitude of eternal torment. In fact, those arguments are made with a minimum of presuppositions, certainly less than you bring to the table.

  • mikespeir

    Prove to me that the moon is a ‘place’ men can go. I can see the moon, but I’ve never been there, I have no desire to go there and doubt I ever will. Therefore I suggest the moon is merely an illusion in the sky, and not at all a real or tangible place. By reason of what evidence would you refute my point of view?

    Suppose I can’t prove the Moon is a place men can go. How does that help you? A lack of evidence for Hell doesn’t make a very convincing argument for Hell, does it?

  • Brad

    Adam, your appeal to authority is vacuous. The objectivity of morals is actually debated on this site. In fact, you didn’t even quote any relevant part of Ebonmuse’s essay like where he rails against relativism or praises objective morals. But, let’s keep this thread focused on hell, shall we?

    What type of evidence do you suppose there should be if hell does exist?

    Obviously this is a vector aimed towards the topic of epistemology. (Occam’s razor, burden of proof, etc.) I think we should cut this out at the chase. I’ll only state this: where you can give the example of the moon, I can give the example of candy land. For every example where we need “faith” to trust in something, I can give you an example of something clearly illogical that we likewise would need faith to trust in. Thus the problem is just extended further: how do we rationally discern what to have faith in?

    IF we are granting the presupposition that God and Satan both exist, then there may be something in the text to explain hell.

    Okay, we’ll assume your turf is a valid playing field.

    Because Satan existed as an eternal being, and had clear evidence of God’s Person and existence, then it would follow that his (Satan’s) punishment could be eternal and also just.

    Just because Lucifer is eternal doesn’t mean that his crime was infinite. Where would Lucifer even get the supernatural power to attempt usurping God anyway? There are some shaky magic powers involved here that are nowhere outlined for us to see. If Lucifer could not ever hurt God, and he knew this, then supernatural “rebellion” could only be symbolic of the fact that God’s moral command is arbitrarily based on authority and obedience. (My brain is still hurting trying to figure out how Lucifer got these powers.)

    Even if it could theoretically be an infinite crime, I still don’t understand why the punishment must be infinite. If Lucifer has no chance to change, then God still has no reason to do anything to him. God could simply let Lucifer cry like a baby and pull a big tantrum, and God wouldn’t sweat it. It seems the idea of “justice” here is entirely blind to both the future and to people. It is nothing more than a pointlessly vengeful reciprocation scheme cloaked in the illusion of harmony and necessity.

    (that Adam and Eve DISOBEYED God and OBEYED Satan)

    God’s system of morality is nothing more than slavery? And God gets jealous when other people take his slaves? The emphasis of obedience in these things implies a servantile mindset. Apparently God does what he wills with us not based upon love but upon slaveowner ethics.

    whatever we obey, we are slaves to that. When Adam and Eve obeyed Satan they became his slaves.

    We can choose to obey commands without being slaves. Not that Adam and Eve were so calculating in the first place – they were simply curious and ignorant children. They touched the stove without any bad intentions, albeit with fear induced by God’s forewarning. And then God told them they were bad people for it and that they hurt His feelings and that they should see what weak and hopeless things God had made them in the first place to be.

    then could it not be just of God to allow those who follow Satan to share in his fate?

    You use the word “allow” here. This is compatible with the idea that hell is self-inflicted. It is not compatible with the idea that hell is a “final, irreversible judgment.” Plus, here’s another point you haven’t responded to: if we can choose to follow Lucifer, what’s not to change our minds later?

    Every single drop in your arguments boil down to two things: permitting people to hurt themselves forever versus authority and obedience. The former case begs many questions Lynet and I have posed, and even some we haven’t. (Like, if God doesn’t have fully “permissive” love then why doesn’t he stop us from hurting ourselves in the most ultimate of ways?) In the second case, every molecule of compassion and love is evaporated in the laws of divine command justice.

  • karatemack

    “Moon rocks that we’ve collected for starters…how about the light that reflects off of it and gives a specific spectroscopic set of wavelengths? Or, we could actually commission a trip to go there. How will you do anything even remotely like this for hell?”

    If you believe in moon rocks, then I have some brimstone freshly collected from hell. You provide evidence you have rocks, not that these rocks actually came from the moon. The spectroscopic set of wavelengths exist independently of the moon, they are a cosmic coincidence which helps you explain the moon in a way which fits with your phenominal logical point of view. I suppose you COULD plan a trip to hell, but if you do let me know how it turns out… given the literature on the place I don’t think I’ll go with you.

    “And you can? If your position is that no one can, then how can you say that god is good?”

    Actually I’m stating yes that I do understand the Biblical message better than you. You use the same set of reasoning on the thread “On Expertise” on this site in your post dated October 7, 2008, 4:50 PM you use this same logic stating that cl doesn’t properly understand what Dawkins is saying, therefore you cannot proceed. So yes, in order for you to be considered credible by any evangelical, you MUST first understand what the Bible says or does not say from the perspective of what the Bible teaches. You can’t use your presuppositions about God to figure out if Hell can exist, et cetera.

    “I don’t see how any bias I might have defeats the argument that it is inherently unjust to create a being and then hold it responsible for not being able to live up to impossible standards.”

    This would be unjust. It simply isn’t what the Bible teaches. Very nicely constructed straw man though.

    “Suppose I can’t prove the Moon is a place men can go. How does that help you? A lack of evidence for Hell doesn’t make a very convincing argument for Hell, does it?”

    How would you prove that Iraq existed to someone who had never been there and would never go there during their lifetime? Because people ‘claimed’ to have been there? I wonder very much if you doubt the existence of Iraq, but I wonder if you have been there to see it yourself. I wonder what “proofs” you have for it’s existence.

    What this line of reasoning (applied to real places universally (or at least universally outside of the nuthouse) accepted as ‘existing’) does is confuse the issue at hand. If people walked the streets wearing, “I found a friend during my visit to ‘hell’” shirts, I don’t think that would help you believe in it.

    I’m just wondering what type of evidence distinguishes “real” places from “fanciful” places to YOU. Until I understand exactly what type of evidence you would consider credible, it would hardly be worth my effort to try to support my conclusion that Hell exists.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    karatemack,

    Actually I’m stating yes that I do understand the Biblical message better than you.

    How do you know that? How do you know that your interpretation is more authoritative than mine? If you do understand it better, then how does the Bible defend god’s actions and the existence of hell? Also, why should the Bible trump reality and logic?

    You use the same set of reasoning on the thread “On Expertise” on this site in your post dated October 7, 2008, 4:50 PM you use this same logic stating that cl doesn’t properly understand what Dawkins is saying, therefore you cannot proceed.

    Only because I’ve explained to him what Dawkins meant many times using the actual text. That’s quite different from your claims to know what god means using cryptic language, as well as the obvious logical fallacies that you are employing. Sure, if I believed as you did, then perhaps I would see it your way, but when seeing it your way is predicated on believing in a set of unproven assertions that lead to a circular argument, you’ve got bigger problems.

    So yes, in order for you to be considered credible by any evangelical, you MUST first understand what the Bible says or does not say from the perspective of what the Bible teaches.

    What makes you think I don’t understand the teachings of the Bible? It was your argument where you claimed that no human can be good on their own, therefore we are all in need of salvation or deserving of hell. Taking that argument to its logical conclusion has nothing to do with understanding the Bible.

    You can’t use your presuppositions about God to figure out if Hell can exist, et cetera.

    And once again I ask you what those presuppositions are. What are they? It’s not enough for you to assert I have them, but you need to point them out. Far as I can tell, what I’m doing is rejecting your presuppositions, which does not entail taking on presuppositions of my own.

    This would be unjust. It simply isn’t what the Bible teaches. Very nicely constructed straw man though.

    Then what does the Bible teach on this? I was under the impression that it taught that no one can get to heaven except through Jesus. If that is the case, then we are being held to impossible standards simply because we are human – something we had/have no control over. Got an argument for that? So, it’s not a straw man, it is the actual Xian teaching, just taken to its logical conclusion.

  • karatemack

    “If that is the case, then we are being held to impossible standards simply because we are human – something we had/have no control over.:

    We do have control over it. Adam didn’t have to sin. We inherited his sin creating the condition you describe somewhere in your last post, the point being this was not the original condition in which God created mankind.

    Just as we inherited Adam’s sinful nature, we can likewise put on the nature of Christ because He came and died. (having no sin)

    Also, the presupposition that Adam and Eve were children having no moral obligation or ability to reason that they should obey the command of God is false and unsupported by scripture. Or please, tell me where the scripture says that Adam was deceived by the snake? (or the woman if you prefer) Where is the claim “i didn’t know any better” when God questions Adam?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    karatemack,

    We do have control over it.

    How so? Are you saying that it is possible for someone to not need grace in order to get to heaven?

    Adam didn’t have to sin.

    Yes he did (free will can’t be with an omni-max god) but let’s say he didn’t. How does that help you or me? Adam made his choice, but you and I don’t get that choice, so we’re back to being judged for something we can’t control. We certainly have/had no control over Adam.

    We inherited his sin creating the condition you describe somewhere in your last post, the point being this was not the original condition in which God created mankind.

    Which is another injustice. How is inherited sin just? Why is it just to blame me for the actions committed by Adam?

    Also, the presupposition that Adam and Eve were children having no moral obligation or ability to reason that they should obey the command of God is false and unsupported by scripture.

    Wrong again. It clearly states that they ate of the tree of good and evil and only then did they realize that what they had done was wrong.

  • Mathew Wilder

    karatemack wrote:

    Is God just for sending people to hell at all? Well, this is a question as to the severity of the crime. After all, they only ‘rejected God’. Does that warrant eternal suffering? I suggest that crimes are more or less heinous based upon the person they are committed against. If I punch someone who is insulting my wife some may consider it justified, however if I punch a young child who has insulted my wife it would never be considered “right”. In fact, quite often crimes against children are considered more vile than the same acts committed against adults. Torture is considered wrong, but torturing a human is considered much worse than torturing an animal. Again, the same act, but the one whom the act is committed against determines the severity of the crime.

    How much more severe then, is any crime against God? If the torture of animals constitues a fine, and the torture of humans results in a life-sentence or in the death penalty, then there is a very significant difference between the punishment based upon the creature whom the crime was committed against. If we understand the difference between man and animal to be great, how much more unfathomable is the difference between man and God. So that any crime against God, being so much higher than man, would require a sentence much more severe than for those crimes which were committed against man.

    [Emphasis mine]

    My jaw is still dropped from this comment. This point has been made several times, but it bears re-iterating, I think. You say that we are judged by the severity of our crimes. It is more wrong to hurt a human being than an animal. This is presumably because a human being is harmed more by being hurt than an animal. You then reason that hurting god is even more harmful than hurting a human being, and so more wrong.

    That is preposterous! According to your own beliefs, god is all-powerful; how then can god be harmed at all, by any wrong? (If no one is harmed by any action, or in this case, any belief or lack of belief, how could it possibly be wrong?) It seems quite absurd to thing there can be any wrongs done to god at all! I could see god (assuming here there is one, which I don’t really, of course) caring about human wrongs against animals or other humans – they can obviously be harmed. But wrongs harming god? The very concept doesn’t make sense, since god is so far above us that he is impervious to anything we could possibly do. What matters it to him, if we don’t grovel before him? How could it possibly matter to an omnipotent, omniscient being? He knows how great he is, why should he need us to validate that truth?

    Also, a more general comment, karatemack. You keep saying things like “That argument is based on a false premise.” From our standpoint all your arguments are based on false premises. Besides disbelieving in god, and the bible, we disbelieve that you have any knowledge of god, since we don’t believe there is a god to have knowledge about. You can’t just assert that our premises are wrong, since that is the whole point! You need to convince us that our premises are wrong. Convince us first that there is a god, then that you know something about this god (i.e. that god may possibly send or allow some people to go to hell), then convince us that some this is a good, a moral thing, to do or to allow to happen, an finally, further convince us, that there are some people in actuality who might possibly be deserving of going to hell.

    Am I crazy to ask this, or do the other commenters here think I’m way off?

  • heliobates

    Am I crazy to ask this, or do the other commenters here think I’m way off?

    Bang on.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Going to support OMGF, here.

    karatemack wrote:

    We inherited his sin creating the condition you describe somewhere in your last post, the point being this was not the original condition in which God created mankind.

    Just as we inherited Adam’s sinful nature, we can likewise put on the nature of Christ because He came and died. (having no sin)

    Also, the presupposition that Adam and Eve were children having no moral obligation or ability to reason that they should obey the command of God is false and unsupported by scripture. Or please, tell me where the scripture says that Adam was deceived by the snake? (or the woman if you prefer) Where is the claim “i didn’t know any better” when God questions Adam?

    Explain to us how it is just that we inherited Adam’s sinfulness. Why should we all be considered sinful because of the actions of one supposed person long before anyone of us was around? Also, please explain how this sinfulness has been “passed down”? There is no evidence of a “sin” gene. Do we perhaps have spiritual or soul genes as well as biological ones? If we have such a thing as a soul at all, how do we know this?

    Further, please explain how it is just to punish one man (Jesus) for sins he did not commit? Also, why did god have to sacrifice himself to save us from rules that he himself made up? Why not just have not made up those rules? Or why not give us all punishment equal to the bad deeds we have committed and then let us all into heaven after that?

    Yet again, how is the Genesis story compatible with biology, from which we know that not all humans ever have descended from two other humans?

    Lastly, how could Adam and Eve have known before they ate from the tree that it was wrong to do so, if it was eating from the tree that gave them knowledge of what is right and wrong to do? It doesn’t make any sense at all. According to the story, they couldn’t have known it was wrong to disobey god, since they didn’t know there was such a thing as right or wrong yet! How is it just to punish them, then? (And also, why was it wrong to have eaten from the tree? Who was harmed by that action? Why did god make that tree at all, if he didn’t want anyone to eat from it? Since god knows everything, he knew before he made the tree, that Adam and Eve would eat from it. Why did he set them up for that to happen? Why not prevent it from the outset by not making the tree, or at least not making it accessible. How is god not responsible for their actions, since he knew how they would act in a certain situation, and yet went ahead and created that situation anyway? And how could they have freely chosen to eat from the tree, if god knew they were going to – if god knew it, then it couldn’t have happened any other way, and so they couldn’t have eaten by free choice – it had to have happened that way!)

  • mikespeir

    I’m just wondering what type of evidence distinguishes “real” places from “fanciful” places to YOU.

    I’m more interested in what evidence might distinguish a real from imaginary place to you. What is it that makes Hell real to you?

  • mikespeir

    karatemack:

    I realize it looks like I’m playing cat-and-mouse with you, but, seriously, I’m fascinated. I’m corresponding with someone who apparently thinks the empirical evidence for some extra-dimensional realm is as good as the evidence that men have landed on the Moon and for the existence of Iraq. Frankly, that’s mind boggling. How do you explain it?

  • karatemack

    “This is presumably because a human being is harmed more by being hurt than an animal.”

    I never asserted that this is the reason why it is wrong. Your entire counter-argument to my statement is based upon this premise. What if we consider the reason the Bible gives for man’s value? (Genesis 9:6, which asserts that man’s life value is based upon his being created ‘in the image of God’)

    In our society, an you may well disagree with this concept, many view it a more heinous crime to kill a police officer than to kill an ordinary citizen. You are certainly sentenced much more harshly. Is it that the police officer in and of himself is of higher value than any other person? I would say not. I would say the life of the police officer is of no consequence, but rather the implication of being a police officer instills greater value to the criminal act. It is the office the police officer holds which gives the ‘greater value’.

    In my example you are not able to harm a police officer any more than a normal citizen, therefore harm caused has no bearing on the severity of the crime. If mankind’s value is based upon the office they hold as “God’s representatives” on earth, then it is by reason of this office they are of more value than the animals. Also, this would explain God’s greater value than those who represent Him on this earth.

    I will get to some of your other questions later. I hope this helps.

  • Leum

    In our society, an you may well disagree with this concept, many view it a more heinous crime to kill a police officer than to kill an ordinary citizen. You are certainly sentenced much more harshly. Is it that the police officer in and of himself is of higher value than any other person? I would say not. I would say the life of the police officer is of no consequence, but rather the implication of being a police officer instills greater value to the criminal act. It is the office the police officer holds which gives the ‘greater value’.

    I will, for now, accept your argument that it is the police officer’s role as the representation of the government that makes a crime against the officer more severe (I largely, but not entirely, agree with this). But a crime against God is not similar: it does not, cannot, harm God. We punish those who assault our police officers or terrorize our citizens more harshly because they are, fundamentally, threatening the government and society. The analogy fails completely with respect to God.

    Also, please stop trying to convince us of moral precepts with recourse to nothing save Bible verses. An apt verse here and there is fine, but most of us do not grant your holy book any special credence as a moral standard.

  • karatemack

    “I will, for now, accept your argument that it is the police officer’s role as the representation of the government that makes a crime against the officer more severe (I largely, but not entirely, agree with this). But a crime against God is not similar: it does not, cannot, harm God.”

    If I ‘rebel’ against an earthly king, I haven’t necessarily taken his authority away from him. Let’s suppose that king failed to respond to my rebellion. Even though my act of rebellion does not reduce his role as king (as he has the authority and power to do something about it), if the king chooses not to, then it could be argued that I have successfully resisted the will of the king.

    If I ‘rebel’ against God, and He does nothing… then it could be said that I successfully resisted the will of God. Is it appropriate here to raise the, ‘if God can do anything then can God create a stone he cannot lift’ argument? Do I believe being all powerful grants the ability to do all things? (IE: Can God sin?) No. By His very nature God cannot not be God. Is it possible that God could allow people to resist His will without response? Only if He weren’t God. (as this would prove that one could rebel against God without consequence)

    You have admitted that you agree (mostly) with the premise of the severity of offense being based largely off of the office held by the person against whom the offense is committed. If this concept holds true, then it follows that the punishment for that offense must also be greater in proportion to the extreme nature of the offense.

    It seems you can’t accept this because you claim one cannot hurt God. As I’ve shown in my reference above, the only reason God’s power and capacity as God are not diminished are BECAUSE He acts. That doesn’t reduce the responsibility of the offender for their intended crime, even if the act is unsuccessful.

    If a bank robber is caught ‘in the act’ and never successfully accomplishes their task of stealing money, will they still be prosecuted as though they had succeeded?

    “Also, please stop trying to convince us of moral precepts with recourse to nothing save Bible verses.”

    Unless I’m mistaken, I thought this was a place to dispute the validity of the Biblical depiction of Hell in light of the Biblical depiction of God as loving and just. If we aren’t talking about the Biblical Hell or God, then what do you base any of your arguments off of? How does this conversation speak against Christianity at all if it is not the Christian concepts being challenged?

    I suppose you can refute the Bible and prove it false… as long as you leave anything the Bible actually says out of the conversation. Of course, I could make up ridiculous things about Buddhism too… or Atheism for that matter… but I doubt you would allow this type of perversion to the belief system you hold to be true.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Is it possible that God could allow people to resist His will without response? Only if He weren’t God.

    Evidence plz?

  • Jeff T.

    The original intent of this thread was to help people understand why the concept of hell was illogical. I don’t think the intent was to assume or try to prove a fairy tale. Hell does not exist, regardless of the rantings of apologists. To teach the concept of hell means that you are sadistic beyond comprehension or are a charlatan who is trying to use fear to make a profit or gain power. Hell cannot be otally disproven because it is supposedly a place that you can only visit after you die, however the evidence points to the fact that the concept of hell is a lie.

    I give hell no more credibility than I do reincarnation. Although reincarnation is a much less disturbing fantasy. If I am wrong, God is a monster for sending me to a place that defies the logic that I was given. But I am not wrong. The belief of hell is based on manuscripts written thousands of years ago by people who rode donkeys as a major means of transportation. Think about it, why argue for an idea that was advocated during the stone ages? Or don’t think and simply kneel and believe what you are taught.

  • http://www.brucealderman.info/bog/ BruceA

    Unless I’m mistaken, I thought this was a place to dispute the validity of the Biblical depiction of Hell in light of the Biblical depiction of God as loving and just.

    Karatemack, maybe you should re-read Ebonmuse’s post. He’s offering advice to ex-Christians who still feel a fear of hell, even when they’ve decided it’s not real. It’s not about the character of God; it’s about overcoming a phobia.

    Personally, I find the discussion interesting from an outsider’s perspective. As I said in a previous comment, my own faith tradition doesn’t talk much about hell; I think those that do preach hell have serious control issues. Most of what is being said here tends to confirm that, I think.

    If anything, this thread shows the futility of hellfire sermons: You can’t frighten people into the faith. The fear, in many cases, will endure longer than the faith.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    karatemack,

    I never asserted that this is the reason why it is wrong.

    No, you didn’t. You simply asserted that it is wrong without support, save that “god is higher than us” (paraphrased). You have not yet made a coherent, complete argument.

    If I ‘rebel’ against God, and He does nothing… then it could be said that I successfully resisted the will of God.

    Unless his will was for you to rebel of course. Either way, isn’t this the point of giving us free will?

    By His very nature God cannot not be God. Is it possible that God could allow people to resist His will without response? Only if He weren’t God. (as this would prove that one could rebel against God without consequence)

    I see no reason to conclude that god must act against all rebellion or else he can not be god. Even if this were so, there’s no reason why god must wait until we die. There’s no reason why this retaliation for rebellion must be infinite in nature. There’s no reason for god to make a final judgement that is eternally binding on us, considering we could choose to discontinue in our rebellion. In short, you are doing nothing to defend your position.

    It seems you can’t accept this because you claim one cannot hurt God. As I’ve shown in my reference above, the only reason God’s power and capacity as God are not diminished are BECAUSE He acts.

    Asserting something is not the same as showing something. Considering that your assertion is far from proven and doesn’t help your case, you haven’t shown anything. And, the point that nothing can hurt god is still valid, since you have not rebutted it. You are arguing, in effect, that god must punish us for acts that have no negative consequences upon god at all. If god’s power and capacity are determined by what he does, then god is not perfect, for god would be required to perform certain acts in order to maintain his position. A perfect being has no such requirements.

    Unless I’m mistaken, I thought this was a place to dispute the validity of the Biblical depiction of Hell in light of the Biblical depiction of God as loving and just. If we aren’t talking about the Biblical Hell or God, then what do you base any of your arguments off of? How does this conversation speak against Christianity at all if it is not the Christian concepts being challenged?

    It is the Xian concepts being challenged, which is why you can’t simply refer to the Xian concepts and act as if that’s an answer to the challenge. When you say, Xianity says X, and I say that X is refuted because Y and Z, you can’t turn around and say Xianity says X, so therefore X is true because that’s what the Bible says. The Bible and Xian tenets are what is being argued – not what they say, but whether they make any sense. We all know what they say, even though you accuse us of not knowing. What we are saying is that they don’t make sense or are contradictory.

    For instance, you complained that the Bible defines justice in a certain way – basically as whatever god does. We claim this is unjust, because under logical situations, god is not acting in a fair, equitable manner. You can’t come back with, “Well the Bible says that god is just so I win.” It’s the Bible we are arguing against! Do you really not understand this?

  • karatemack

    “He’s offering advice to ex-Christians who still feel a fear of hell, even when they’ve decided it’s not real. It’s not about the character of God; it’s about overcoming a phobia.”

    “You can’t frighten people into the faith. The fear, in many cases, will endure longer than the faith.”

    If Hell is merely a made up place meant to frighten people into Christianity, then I would agree it would be wrong. If there is a real danger, however, that one might end up there… then I would suggest a certain amount of healthy fear of it is a good thing.

    “You can’t come back with, “Well the Bible says that god is just so I win.” It’s the Bible we are arguing against! Do you really not understand this?”

    You cannot say the Bible’s definition of love is incompatible with logic until you understand both the logical view and the Biblical view. Just as I assume you would argue I could not say the Biblical view is logical until I understood the logical view. You’re very intelligent OMGF, and a much more articulate person than I am. You are very good at establishing concepts and presenting a debate. However my lack of ability in these areas, compared to yours, does not invalidate the core of what I am saying. We can continue to play games of semantics, or you could at least consider the core point of what I’m saying. If I, being obviously younger and less experienced in this topic than you, am expected to understand the CORE of what you are arguing… then I would suggest I should expect no less from you. (In print it more than likely seems as though my compliments are sarcasm, they aren’t. I value the insight you offer, even if I disagree with you.)

  • Mathew Wilder

    A few thoughts regarding hell, to summarize what I see as the main points of the discussion:

    1.) According to our every day usage of love and justice, the existence of hell would show a complete lack of love and justice. I think this is an unarguable point. Any human being who said they loved you, yet tortured, or allowed you to be tortured (especially for eternity), would rightly be called grossly immoral. Atheists apply these simple concepts to the idea of god, and so argue that if there is a god, then god is totally unjust, supposing that god sends to or allows anyone to go to hell.

    2.) Now, supposedly god is not bound by our every day morality. Supposedly, god is higher than us, and so our moral concepts don’t apply to him, or apply to him in a different way than to humans. Atheists see no reason to grant that this is so.

    3.) Supposedly, according to the bible, god’s love and justice are defined differently than human love and justice. Saying this appears to atheists as special pleading; simply an attempt to make compatible what seems obviously incompatible. Saying that god’s love and justice are different according to the bible is a contentious issue. It interprets the bible according to a pre-existing belief, or a post hoc system to allow god off the hook. Atheists don’t agree with this interpretation of the bible, since we don’t think the bible is anything special, nor that there is any One True interpretation of the bible. In other words, “what the bible says” is either irrelevant or indeterminable (or both).

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    karatemack,

    You cannot say the Bible’s definition of love is incompatible with logic until you understand both the logical view and the Biblical view.

    If the Biblical view of love is not what we understand love to be, you may as well argue that the Bible supports zuglug. If the Bible says that god is loving because he sends us to hell, well, you can’t use the Bible as support for the Bible. When the Bible’s definition of love does not line up with what we logically deduce, too bad for the Bible.

    However my lack of ability in these areas, compared to yours, does not invalidate the core of what I am saying.

    I’m not saying it does. I’m saying that your reliance on circular reasoning does invalidate what you are saying.

    We can continue to play games of semantics, or you could at least consider the core point of what I’m saying.

    What games of semantics? We are all presenting arguments as to why your god isn’t loving or just. It’s a game of semantics to insist that we parse the Bible wording if anything.

    If I, being obviously younger and less experienced in this topic than you, am expected to understand the CORE of what you are arguing… then I would suggest I should expect no less from you.

    Again, what makes you think I don’t understand what you are arguing? I simply reject it, and I’ve given reasons why. Disagreement is not the same as non-understanding.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    2.) Now, supposedly god is not bound by our every day morality. Supposedly, god is higher than us, and so our moral concepts don’t apply to him, or apply to him in a different way than to humans. Atheists see no reason to grant that this is so.

    To add to this, it’s inherently contradictory for Xians to argue this since it’s an appeal to relative morality, while Xians hold to absolute morality.

  • http://www.brucealderman.info/blog/ BruceA

    karatemack -

    If Hell is merely a made up place meant to frighten people into Christianity, then I would agree it would be wrong. If there is a real danger, however, that one might end up there… then I would suggest a certain amount of healthy fear of it is a good thing.

    I disagree. Someone learning to walk a tightrope isn’t going to benefit from considering the dangers of falling. Someone jumping out of an airplane isn’t going to be helped by thinking about the possibility of the parachute not opening. No amount of fear is healthy as a motivator.

  • karatemack

    “I disagree. Someone learning to walk a tightrope isn’t going to benefit from considering the dangers of falling. Someone jumping out of an airplane isn’t going to be helped by thinking about the possibility of the parachute not opening. No amount of fear is healthy as a motivator.”

    If someone is inside a house which is on fire, should they not have a healthy fear of being burned? If they do not fear being burned, then perhaps they would see no reason to leave…

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Or perhaps it would be better to have the knowledge of what it means to live and have a life, and want to preserve it instead of losing it to fire.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I think we’ve quite exhausted the topic of discussion here.


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