Ham: Eternal Torment An Act of Grace and Mercy

Sometimes I’m just astonished by how fundamentalist Christians use words. They seem to be like Humpty Dumpty, declaring that words can mean whatever they want them to mean. A perfect example is Ken Ham’s claim that God is going to burn Bill Maher (and the rest of us heathens, of course) in a lake of fire for eternity because he’s merciful.

So why does God allow Bill Maher to continue his increasing God-hating comments? He really is tempting God. It’s as if he’s saying, “Come on God, I’m saying more and more outrageous things about You—come on—come and get me!” Bill Maher is blaming God for death because he does not want to accept that he is a sinner in need of salvation. He wants to be his own god—he shakes his fist at the God who created man and also provides the gift of salvation for those who will receive it.

I’m reminded that God is a God of grace and mercy:

Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3–9)

We need to pray for Bill Maher. In his present spiritual state, he will not only die once but twice: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

No, see, those things can’t both be true. God can’t be a “God of grace and mercy” and burn people in a lake of fire for all eternity. Not if those words mean anything at all.

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  • StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Isaac Asimov (best known for his SF but wrote a lot of great non-fiction too about just about every topic under our local Sun) once wrote :

    “A couple of months ago I had a dream which I remembered with the utmost clarity. … I had died and gone to heaven. I looked about and knew where I was – green fields, fleecy clouds, perfumed air, and the distant ravishing sound of the heavenly choir. And there was the recording angel smiling broadly at me in greeting.

    I said in wonder “Is this heaven?”

    The Recording angel said, “it is.”

    I said (and on waking and remembering, I was proud of my integrity), “but there must be a mistake. I don’t belong here I’m an atheist.”

    “No mistake” said the recording angel.

    “But as an atheist how can I qualify?”

    The Recording angel said sternly, “We decide who qualifies. Not you.”

    “I see,” I said. I looked about, pondered a moment for a moment then turned to the recording angel and asked, “is there a typewriter here I can use?

    The significance of the dream is clear to me. I felt heaven to be the act of writing and I have been in heaven for over half a century …

    The second point of significance is the recording angels remark that Heaven, not human beings decides who qualifies. I take that to mean that if I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think He would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God and whose deed is foul, foul, foul.

    I would also want a God who would not allow a Hell. Infinite torture can only be a punishment for infinite evil, and I don’t believe that infinite evil can be said to exist even in the case of a Hitler. Besides if most human governments are civilised enough to try to eliminate torture and outlaw cruel and unusual punishments, can we expect anything less of an all-merciful God?

    I feel that if there were an afterlife, punishment for evil would be reasonable and of a fixed term. And I feel that the longest and worst punishment would be reserved for those who slandered God by inventing Hell.

    Pages 337-338 “Life After Death” chapter in ‘I Asimov : A memoir’ (Asimov, Bantam, 1995.)


    Personally, I consider these to be some of the sanest and truest words I’ve read & I totally agree.

  • doublereed

    Well, Ed, you’re just misunderstanding everything. I think you forget that up is down, left is right, light is darkness, sweet is sour, mercy is torture, and cats are dogs. Obviously.

  • Larry

    Can’t you just see Samuel Jackson, as Jules in Pulp Fiction, reciting Ham’s little diatribe just before he blows some punk motherfucker away?

  • John Pieret

    with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day

    Um … then why does Ham insist that when Genesis says God made the universe in six days, it meant 6 24 hour days?

  • It is frightening how much the Talibangelical concept of God resembles an abusive partner.

  • mikeyb

    I dpn’t know. I’d have a hard time shaking in my boots listening to Hams version of sinners in the hands of an angry god. Seems to me more like buffoonish dark comedy.

  • fmitchell

    As Epicurus argued long ago, a god that could prevent evil but does not is malevolent. Omnipotence makes the Abrahamic god monstrous.

    Granted, a god who isn’t omnipotent is more plausible and more relatable, but less inspiring to the punters and less useful to those in control.

  • eric

    Evidently the “grace and mercy” part comes from not putting Maher in hell for eternity immediately, but doing it a few years from now instead.

    Anyone who made such an argument in reference to human behavior would be considered bats**t crazy. Michael Vick decides he’s not going to torture a disobedient dog today, he’ll do it tomorrow instead. That is supposed to make him gracious and merciful? Do they not get that its the act of torture itself, no matter how long its delayed, that is monstrous?

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Asimov via StevoR @ # 1: … the longest and worst punishment would be reserved for those who slandered God by inventing Hell.

    The Good Doctor™ surely knew, even if he didn’t see a need to spell it out, that by those words he was judging and condemning the one ‘n’ only J. Christ.

  • Synfandel

    Mr. Ham clearly has no idea what atheism is. He accuses Mr. Maher of hating God, tempting God, and shaking his fist at God. No atheist does any of these things. You can’t hate, tempt, or shake your fist at something that you know doesn’t exist.

  • sinned34

    Synfandel @ 10:

    Yes, but these people think that every person truly, deep-down, knows that there is a God and that he’s the god of the Jews. Their magic book tells them so, and since anything that contradicts that magic book is a filthy lie, they can rest assured that it’s okay to ignore what atheists actually tell them.

  • bmiller

    Synfandel: There are the “Angry Atheists” who are indeed offended by the foundations of the Abrahamic religions and “hate” the mental constructs therein.

    Mr. Maher has made it clear that he, too, finds the moral character of these mental constructs horrifying and hateful So…even if he disbeleives in their literal reality, it remains appropriate to describe Mr. Maher as hating them. Or “Hating God”.

    But I am being a pedant here. 🙂

  • greg1466

    So why does God allow Bill Maher to continue his increasing God-hating comments?

    I’m going to have to go with “because mythical entities don’t generally have the ability to stop people from talking.”

  • Sastra

    The idea that this Biblical God of Heaven and Hell is “a God of grace and mercy” rests comfortably I think only on a virulent and extreme misanthropy, a hatred of humanity. If God is perfect and sets the standard, then even the dearest, sweetest, best human being who ever lived is a vile piece of living excrement when examined from an “objective” point of view which encompasses both God and His creation. There is not a single one of us who does not merit infinite contempt and infinite torture, forever and ever, vile as we are.

    If you begin from this perspective then God saving just one, single person from the fate which is so well “deserved” will give rise to hosannas of praise for the incomprehensible compassion of such a lofty Being. More than one sinner in Heave — by God’s side, even — will earn an admiration that borders on the hysterical.

    Damnation then becomes nothing more than the norm, the way things really are and no more than what should be expected in the scheme of things, given the huge gulf between God’s worthiness in contrast to our own. All the attention is therefore placed on the salvation. THIS is where we must focus. How merciful and full of grace is God!

  • cjcolucci

    Sastra: Although believers might phrase it differently, I think that’s a pretty fair summary of well-recognized versions of Protestantism. And who is getting the benefit of this gratuitous mercy has already decided. Not just that God, being omniscient, knows who is going to “win” salvation the way he might know who is going to win the NCAA basketball tournament. That would be a trivial implication of omniscience and, more importantly, it’s not a question ok knowing who will “win,” because no one can “win.” Salvation is always undeserved. None of that is necessarily inconsistent with the idea that, by and large (deathbed or cross conversions aside), those predestined for salvation will be better people, relatively speaking, than the unsaved, and if we puny humans try to figure out who is saved (a mug’s game, but we probably can’t resist), that’s as good a proxy as we’re going to get.. Heddle could probably correct some details.

    That view of things puts a different spin on the problem of evil. You can’t ask “why do bad things happen to good people” because there are no good people. The question you can ask is “why does this asshole get a break and not me?” Just don’t expect a better answer than Job got: “I’m God. You’re who again?”.

  • freehand

    Sastra: There is not a single one of us who does not merit infinite contempt and infinite torture, forever and ever, vile as we are.


    That pretty well sums up my childhood. Fortunately I wasn’t beaten – my parents were pretty sane despite the doctrine they were trying to inculcate in me. When I realized how monstrous their god was when weighed against the values they were trying to teach me, I was as horrified as I was when I discovered that the adults around me had no curiosity about the world at all – they hated knowledge, especially science.

  • freehand

    Heaven isn’t meant for joy. It’s meant to spend eternity telling God the Abusive Father how awesome he is. He’ll let you take breaks for the occasional church picnic or a visit to Hell’s Mezzanine, where you can watch the sinners scream in agony.* Then it’s back to singing hosannas.



    * Just a friendly reminder.**

    ** And speaking of reminders, this reminds me of an incident when my abusive third grade teacher had spanked one of the students and mocked him, then angrily hissed at the class “Is there anybody here who feels sorry for Johnny?”


    Well, I felt sorry for Johnny, even though I was the one he stabbed with a pencil. (But I didn’t raise my hand.) I remember wondering if anyone else did also, but were just afraid to raise their hands. Years later, I wondered if that was part of the process to break folks’ awareness of how they actually feel.

  • Gregory in Seattle @ #5

    The similarities are scary. Having been there, and done that, and got PTSD from it… why would I want to worship a giant, all-powerful, invisible version of the very monster I’ve escaped?

  • God’s favorite line” This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.

    My abusive father used to say the same thing.

  • leonardschneider

    I actually feel sorry for the Fundies. Their god is a total dick, a short-tempered, bipolar, abusive asshole. He’s the drunken stepfather of their universe, whose solution to everything is to drink a six-pack and use his belt to whale on everybody that’s annoyed him.

    And the Fundies put up with it, pledging their undying support and love, no matter what actions he engaged in according to a 3,000 year old book.

    “So why does God allow Bill Maher to continue his increasing God-hating comments? He really is tempting God.”

    The god I understand isn’t bugged by Maher at all. My god’s only complaint with Maher is that he used to be a lot funnier ten or fifteen years ago. These days he’s just a crank.

    “Bill Maher is blaming God for death because he does not want to accept that he is a sinner in need of salvation.”

    Yeah, well, George Carlin pointed out that God is only a semi-supreme being: after all, everything he’s ever made has died.

    Oh, and look! Down at the bottom, a quote from Revelations, everybody’s favorite piece of hate mail. I hate to break the news to Ham, but Revelations wasn’t nothing but a revenge fantasy written by a guy in prison. All Revelations amounted to was, “Yeah, you bastards got me now, but wait until my homeslice Jesus comes back from the dead! Man, he’s gonna kick everybody’s ass, especially those of you who are ‘cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars…‘ Um, wait. Finding people who fit the bill for that whole list is really gonna narrow things down. Okay, I’ll edit that part so anyone who fits any of those are screwed. Fine! You’re all gonna burn! So there!”

    One hell of a list to live up to. While the abominable, idolaters, sorcerers, and unbelieving (unbelieving in what? Personally, I believe in Crystal Light because I believe in me!) haven’t been seen around too much lately, there’s other aspects of that list which should be addressed. I’d call Ken Ham a coward for two reasons: he’s afraid of anyone who questions his god, and he’s straight-up afraid of his own god. Shit, that loops back around to where I started: sorry your god is such a dick, Ken.

    They’re worried about liars, huh? Okay, I have a ten inch penis that’s as prehensile as a garter snake. There, to the Lake of Fire I go. (It’s actually a pretty silly lie. Maybe I’ll be cast into the Pond of Charcoal Briquettes.)

    Sexual immorality. Ahhh…. My favorite.

    And as a definition, useless as tits on a nun. There’s a saying in the BD/SM scene: YKINMK, or, Your Kink is Not My Kink. I’ll be damned if I let some pent-up yutz like Ken Ham decide what’s immoral and what isn’t for me. Personally, what Ham and a lot of other Fundies need is to be chloroformed, dragged into a “massage parlor” down on Mission Street in San Francisco, tied to the massage bed, and then tell the “masseuse,” “Give him the slowest, most incredible, eye-popping head you’ve ever given anyone in your life. By the time you make him come, he shouldn’t be able to remember his own name. You’re a professional, use your mouth to wreck his brain.” (Hey, there are some things that should be left to the pros. Besides, I can’t imagine anyone sucking off Ken Ham for free.)

    I’m so glad my god isn’t such a shithead. My god would look at all the sucking, fucking, rubbing, use of handcuffs, baby oil, quickies in restaurant bathrooms, and orgasms both given and received and say, “Well, that’s how that species was designed. He never hurt nobody, so why should I care?” (Assuming he’s paying attention at all. After all, it’s a big universe.)

    We should focus on the real problem: Making Bill Maher funny again, and not the grouchy old crank he is right now.

  • dingojack

    Dear Kenny –

    Bill Maher is blaming God for death because he does not want to accept that he is a sinner in need of salvation.”

    Jesus died. So Jesus was not without sin? Jesus is part of god. Therefore god’s a sinner too!*.

    Who knew?

    ‘Angry Atheists’ aren’t angry with god, only with what god does. ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner’ remember Kenny?



    * Into the lake of fire for him! Which explains, in part, why Fundies think satan is all powerful – that’s who they really worship.

  • freehand

    Alice Miller notes that kids who are abused often become abusers themselves – or seek out abusers. One of the strongest indicators that a child will break the cycle is if an adult tells the kids that he/she is being treated monstrously. Even if the abuse doesn’t stop, the kid seems to learn to hate or at least blame the accuser, rather than internalizing the guilt without question.


    Fundie upbringing parallels this. My “adult telling me it was abuse” was Robert Heinlein speaking through Jubal Harshaw. To my horror, Harshaw was right, and reading the bible with new eyes I realized that the god of my church was vicious and capricious. I already had pretty much come to the conclusion that he wasn’t real. After that I was just serving time until I graduated from high school. But inside, I was free.