The Falling Man Is Not In Hell

Seen on PostSecret:

I’ll admit I don’t know how many Christians really believe their god would send suicide victims to hell, and some Christian resources suggest the same thing, though they do an awful job of handling the issue — if you gave your life to Jesus before committing suicide, you might still be saved! Or, from Christianity Today, “While there are no conclusive statistics on the phenomenon, some studies suggest a high rate of suicide attempts among young people with same-sex attractions. These are not people sticking their fists in the face of God. These are children who look in their own faces and hate what they see.” Sensitive little jerks, no?

For what it’s worth, the people who jumped from the buildings on 9/11 were officially labeled victims of homicide, not suicide. It’s not a consolation, of course, but seems relevant to point out.

To respond to the original secret, though, the Falling Man isn’t in hell now. He jumped out of the building to escape hell.

Side note about the picture: If you haven’t read Tom Junod‘s piece about this image, “The Falling Man,” do it now. It’s one of the best magazine articles you’ll ever read — all focusing on the image from 9/11 that dares us to get it out of our minds. If nothing else, just read the first paragraph. If you have read the article, check out the just-released epilogue from Junod.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Anonymous

    If suicide didn’t result in hell, it would be a shortcut to heaven. Can’t have that

  • Lupita

    If I am reading the 10-year update correctly, the family of Norberto Hernandez, the man misidentified as the ‘Falling Man’,  felt there was an element of shame about the possibility of him having died by jumping off the building. The wife did not speak to Norberto’s sister  for 8 years (!!!) because she had erroneously confirm that that was her brother in the pic.

    Wow that is incredibly sad :’ (

  • Dale

    This is one still of many the photographer took of “the falling man.” Junod gives the impression that his flight was smooth and relaxed and it was anything but. People falling at speeds near terminal velocity aren’t “flailing.” They’re being contorted into all kinds of positions by the force of the air hitting their bodies. To “fly” in a stable position one must be a skilled skydiver.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Did you read the article? Junod writes that the fall was anything but smooth and relaxed. The collection of stills from the fall shows chaos, but that one image deceptively suggests otherwise.

  • Kevin Bates

    Worst part is that since God is omniscient, he knew that the man would jump.  It was part of his divine plan which works in mysterious ways which humans cannot possible understand. Either that or its fiction.

  • https://www.facebook.com/TheHonestAtheist Mark Panzarino

    Here’s the full-length movie about this photograph, and the man.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4yE49c2nfQ

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lynn-Attison/1428473338 Lynn Attison

    Would their god be happier if he would have stayed to have been burned and torn to bits? Yeah, that is how he likes it. “Make them pay for what they did to my son” is his postion? Whatever…The Falling Man was a hero in my eyes. He is brave by all accounts!

    • Anonymous

      Yes, definitely. God loves burning people

  • Anonymous

    I guess it was too much to ask that I have one fucking place today on my regular online run that I didn’t have to think about the horror of that day.

    At some point we aren’t memorializing or remembering, we’re wallowing. 9/11 as a day of service is such a beautiful idea. I wish we could have marked the 10 year anniversary, not by a deluge of nightmarish video, stills and traumatic anecdotes, but by the biggest outpouring of community service the country has ever seen. That would show us as a country that heals, not one that picks its scabs obsessively.

    OK rant over, I’m going to go drown my brain in cat videos now.

    • Anonymous

      Then whatever you do, don’t watch/listen/read the news.  It’s a positive orgy of fear-mongering about “believable but unconfirmed” threats.  We gotta keep the fear alive!

    • Anonymous

      Like a lot of people I watched the TV yesterday and there were many reports on the anniversary.  I saw these same images that shocked and horrified me a decade ago but this time I had my family with me.  I got to discuss the horrible events with my teenage children who had no memory of the actual events.

      In some ways thinking about that day and being reminded of the all the violence and panic again was a comfort.  Watching fire fighters and volunteers talk about how it changed them and changed the nation was therapeutic.

      What pissed me off is the week long build up to it all that seemed to promise gore and violence.  It wasn’t a horror movie or a disaster movie where the hero saves the day in the final scene and I really didn’t appreciate the media acting like it was.

  • Nordog

    On this day of all days any post about 9/11 should be about remembrance of those lost and those who lost those dear to them.

    It is sickening that you instead chose to make your post about some contensious question regarding a religion you hate.

    At long last sir have you no decency?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EAIHLUU3JSTIB3D2OWHGYN5PHA Ingen

      @Nordog: What in hell gives you the right to judge how people deal with fear and grief? Who made you the morality police?

      • Nordog

        By your own lights, what in hell gives you the right to judge my comment?

        • ACN

          Omg that was so deep.

    • Rb6k

      It’s pretty sickening that people could say “This man has gone to hell” because he did something their imaginary friend told them was wrong. It is not indecent to point out that by Christian values this man sinned, it is indecent to hold that value.

      I imagine a lot of the people coming here to criticise are hiding from the truth that this atrocity has so many parts to it that show religion for the awful disgrace that it is (be it the fact it was religious extermists making the attack, or the judging of innocent victims). If God exists he was party to this by allowing it to happen and by not saving these poor souls. If there was a God that did allow this sort of awful thing to happen, and then punished those forced to jump as well, then I refuse to follow such an unbelievable cunt and cannot believe there are people out there who are happy to.

      • Nordog

        Yeah, talk about missing (or avoiding) the point.

        • Rb6k

          I think your point was “I don’t like that you’ve used an atrocity like this to prove your point because you hit the nail so hard on the head I have nothing else to moan about” which is pretty much the only argument you lot are capable of. “Lets pull at semantics to avoid being wrong!!!!”

          Next you’ll reply “Thats exactly what you’re doing now!!” or “Still missing the point” or whatever “lalalala im not listening” nonsense you feel will get you off the hook. Just leave us alone until you’re ready to debate specific points one by one without finding reasons why it shouldn’t be debated.

          • Nordog

            No, my point was that atheists are using this day to parade their bigotry, and in so doing demonstrate not only their hatred for Christians, but how that hatred has become a lens through which all things are seen.

            • Doggy

              Criticising a belief is not the same as hating a person, Nordog. 

            • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

              Wow. It’s amazing how you can claim that Hemant’s positive statement of “The Falling Man Is Not In Hell” is hatred and bigotry.

              You say you find this article sickening. I find the concept of hell sickening, and I think it is disgusting and hateful that religion has traumatized people by making them believe that their loved ones are burning in hell.

            • Rb6k

              It isn’t our fault if Christians spout so much hatred and so many inconsistant rules that when a few of your own people start declaring person x and person y are now in hell you all end up looking idiotic. The ones doing the finger pointing are hardcore christians taking everything to the letter, if you don’t agree then you’re not following your own codes and rules – probably because you can see what nonsense they are – so if you aren’t willing to follow this rule and say that these folks are going to hell then why bother following the rest? You can’t have your cake and eat it.

              Christianity, religion in general, forces itself into so much of our lives now and considering we completely oppose religion by not believing in God we don’t take kindly to you folks spouting off at us/anyone all of the damn time.

              • Nordog

                Your bigotry probably has convinced you that your post here is rational.

                • Our Downward Spiral

                  How does providing salient points against the tenets of Christianity equate to being a bigot against those that follow the tenets of Christianity?  You are so wrong in this claim of bigotry, I wonder if you’re capable of understanding the accusations you make.  Statements like yours above are as blatantly offensive as any I’ve seen.

            • Demonhype

              In case you didn’t notice, it’s certain Christians who were precipitating this line of discussion by claiming people who deliberately jumped went to hell.  These are the people using this day to parade their bigotry, not atheists.

              Religious people sure are used to their smokescreen of privilege, wherein they can whore any tragedy for their own use, starting the conversation along those lines, and then turn around and pretend that anyone who argues with them or disagrees with them is the one whoring the tragedy.  Hypocrisy much?

      • Anonymous

        The person you replied to is today’s sockpuppet troll.  Please don’t feed.

        • ACN

          Is he a sockpuppet also? What are the other names?

          • Anonymous

            I believe it to be the same person as Grady, Morrison90 and others from last week, very similar argument style.  I’m not totally sure though.

            • SphericalBunny

              I severely doubt Nordog’s a sockpuppet; they’ve been around for a while now, and while I utterly disagree with many (most? all?) of their opinions, they do seem to make an effort to remember they’re talking to actual humans rather than just dirty-atheist-scum. Grady, on the other hand…

              • SphericalBunny

                Damn, just read thru the thread; I obviously missed the word ‘occasionally’ between ‘they do’ and ‘seem to make an effort’. My bad.

              • Anonymous

                The thing that got me suspicious was saying this blog post, among others, was about hating on a religion.

              • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

                I concur. I don’t agree with Nordog’s opinions, but he/she has been around for quite a while, long before the move to Patheos. I don’t think Nordog is a troll, but he/she does seem to prefer making snarky little comments. At least Robert W. (whom we seem to have lost in the transition) would actually have a conversation with you.

        • Nordog

          Yes, because we all know that argument ad hominem is so much easier for you than dealing with something you don’t like.

        • Rb6k

          Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. It’s always nice to reply to sockpuppet trolls once in a while, like a boxer punches a punch bag to hone their skills. Both are basically inanimate objects there to serve little purpose other than bouncing off practice rounds ready for a proper confrontation down the line.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7GCOYVIHZLSKPC4QPK2OT2SVKA bryan

        Your hatred toward religion has allowed you to miss a basic understanding the Christian faith. There are many articles written on the “problem of pain/suffering”. It would be like part of a Christianity 101 course, a basic part of the philosophy. I urge you to read so you will understand this concept better.

        • Anonymous

          Most atheists in the US are ex-christians, bryan.  A lot of us deconverted not because of a lack of knowledge about the religion, but because extensive study of it thoroughly exposed the gaping holes in it.  There have been a mountain of articles written on the subject, but  none of them adequately answer the problem of evil/pain/suffering nearly as well as the simple answer of “there is no god, the universe does not care about you, and people often act like assholes”.  That answer covers it all, with no mystery or complicated mental gymnastics required.

          • Rb6k

            To add to this, the second any other answer relies on a heavy pinch of salt, a bit of faith and the assumption that something is true, it all seems rather weak to be honest. No evidence for a God, no need to factor God into the equation, stuff happens, move on. Simple compared to trying to guess whether there is a God, what its intentions are, what its likes and dislikes are, whether it is watching, whos God is right… too much nonsense. By the maniacs crashing the planes 10 years ago THEY were acting on THEIR Gods wishes in their minds. If you can see how foolish and wrong that is, how can any one person on the planet claim to be right in what they believe?

        • Rb6k

          I’ve heard all of the excuses for pain and suffering. The fact is if a being had the power to create the universe and everything within it, they also had the power to remove suffering from the picture but evidently chose not to. I believe there was no grand creator who made this awful decision, you believe there is. Are you saying God wants people to go through atrocities like this for whatever reason? If so, why?

    • Heidi

      Hemant didn’t make it about that.  It’s what people said to the grieving families.

      Catherine sits on the step with her palm spread over her heart. “They
      said my father was going to hell because he jumped,” she says. “On the
      Internet. They said my father was taken to hell with the devil. I don’t
      know what I would have done if it was him. I would have had a nervous
      breakdown, I guess. They would have found me in a mental ward
      somewhere….”

  • Mark

    Where do you get the weird idea that it was a suicide?  That guy fell trying to get away from the flames. 
     
    Do you just ASSUME that anyone who falls from a window is committing suicide?  How ignorant!
     
    The presumptuous arrogance of most people is breathtaking!

    • Rb6k

      I think you missed where it was said that people are reporting this fella jumped and [a number of] Christians are saying that people who jumped are in hell. If this guy jumped (it isn’t really important to the point being made) is it really fair for people to start declaring him a sinner who is now in hell, when they have no evidence to back that up, no right to be making that statement, weren’t invited to make any comment what so ever, and generally don’t know what they are talking about?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7GCOYVIHZLSKPC4QPK2OT2SVKA bryan

        As a Christian, I have to agree with you. I think it’s a problem of fundamentalism. “Judgement is mine, sayeth the Lord.” It’s presumptuous to think you know what happened to someone after death. Judgement is the Lord’s only ….a practice I wish more christians would rememeber.   “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

        • Tom

          Also as a Christian, it’s not a problem of fundamentalism, it’s a problem of trying to appear wise while making a dolt of yourself and Christianity.  As you said, it is presumption.  John said of Jesus, “He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him should be saved.”

      • Paul

        Can someone point me to an article about the people saying that those who jumped are in hell?  (Yes, I know the theological argument.  I just was wondering if any specific religious figures that I’ve heard of were making a point of it.)

  • Anonymous

    Hemant, thanks for sharing this article. It was terribly sad to read, but it was very well written. 
    My deepest condolences to the relatives of those who lost their loved ones this day a decade ago. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/chriswarr78 Chris Warren

    I wonder if the twit who suggests inevitable hell fire for these victims would perceive the righteous bitch slap heading towards their face? Fair warning: I won’t tolerate sadomasochistic whores dishonoring the dead with their vengeful torture fetish. You say go to hell, I say go to College.

    • Anonymous

      Would their god be happier if he would have stayed to have been burned
      and torn to bits? Yeah, that is how he likes it. “Make them pay for what
      they did to my son” is his postion? Whatever…The Falling Man was a
      hero in my eyes. He is brave by all accounts! …I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37″ HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for.
      I use BIDFiRsT. COM

      • http://www.facebook.com/chriswarr78 Chris Warren

        With all due respect RoboEmma, 

        Grow feathers, and shit in a tree.

  • http://wading-in.net/walkabout Just Al

    Sometimes, we are trapped in the impressions that language provides.

    This man, none of the jumpers, “killed themselves.” They had the choice that very few people ever have, which is to choose the method of their own death, from a very short list. That they would die is simply accepting what was inevitable, instead of crassly denying grim reality and instead insisting to themselves that there was some way, some chance. That, is the comfort that religion supposedly brings.

    There is no pain in an end like this, no time for pain to exist. To think that the fear during the descent is greater than the fear of those who faced the fires or the collapse is ludicrous. Waiting to meet the flames and the destruction means believing that the pain is justified in some way – again, this is what religion teaches. Pain is only justified in telling us not to do that again; that is what nature teaches.

    Religion, however, does not want to stop there – the families must share the pain; so do the friends, even the witnesses. “Watch the descent into hell. Watch god refuse to catch the man after provoking him beyond humanity.”  Yes, comforting.

    If we do not discuss this now, when do we discuss it?

    • Anonymous

      Brilliantly stated.

    • ACN

      Well stated. In particular, this observation:

       They had the choice that very few people ever have, which is to choose the method of their own death

      is salient. The ability to control some of the circumstances around one’s own death is something we should recognize as a right. In the US, states like Oregon and Washington have affirmed this in their statutes.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

    I dunno about everyone else, but I’m burned out on 9/11. All week it’s been 9/11 this, memorial that, and I’m done. I’m just… Do Not Want.

    It’s not that I don’t care, or anything. I’m just overloaded, man. And I don’t need a week of wall-to-wall memorials and specials to remind me of one of the most surreal (and later quite horrific) days of my life. I’m never going to forget it. Nobody will.

  • Jesus Loves You!

    I’ll insert some theological legitimacy into this debate.

    According to the Catholic Church, these are the conditions that must be met in order for a sin to be considered “mortal” (the bad kind).

    1. Grievous matter
    2. Sufficient reflection/full knowledge
    3. Full consent of the will
    Killing yourself is certainly a grievous matter, but I think it’s clear that “sufficient reflection” was probably not performed with regard to this event. Even more so, I think it’s plausible that someone’s rational will would be compromised in such a situation (certainly for someone with clinical depression this may be the case). Bottom line is that we, as Catholics, are taught not to judge what is in a man’s heart at the time of his death. That is between him and the Creator.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

      Thank you, I was kinda curious about that.

    • Anonymous

      I believe that “sin” is nothing more than an invention of churches to frighten people into staying in the faith and to justify their existence.  That they’ve gone to the effort and mental gymnastics to explain when a “sin” is so severe as to be a “mortal sin” is testament to how silly, controlling and deluded they are.

      There are people in pain or facing imminent death.  Blaming them wanting to end their pain or choose how to die is something that religions seem to revel in.  Why?  I think it is because they cannot let go of their power even in the face of death.  They cannot allow that small mercy to another who faced something that we can barely imagine and decided to take the least painful option.  Anyone who claims “hell” for someone who chooses a relatively painless death over agony is just cruel.  They need to learn some compassion.

      • Jesus Loves You!

        “Mental gymnastic” eh? So religion is bunk, in your esteemed estimation, because a great deal of thought and contemplation goes into it? Tell me, is medicine nice and simple? No! It’s absurd! All that chemistry and biology and anatomy and nonsense. Such a shame that we’ve gone through the “mental gymnastics” of figuring out what nurtures our body and what harms it. Wouldn’t it just be better if we didn’t have to worry about all that? 

        If “religion” is justified, then it is necessarily complex and difficult to understand. I mean, it would have to explain this crazy world. The key must fit the lock. Read some Chesterton.

        • ACN

          Great deal of thought and contemplation /= Mental Gymnastics

          • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

            “Mental gymnastics” is what lazy people call reasoning they cannot actually refute but don’t wish to follow.

        • Anonymous

          That’s right.  Mental gymnastics: the process of twisting and turning your own thoughts in order to deal with the cognitive dissonance associated with holding several contradictory or irrational thoughts together at the same time.

          Sure, medicine is simple in principle.  The science of diagnosing, preventing and treating diseases and injuries.  It being a science it follows defined methodology that anyone (in principle) could follow.  

          Juggling mythology, theology and theodicy though is a different matter.  That is not scientific, it has no checks and balances that science has built in to it.  It is more akin to a branch of philosophy than to science.  Except in philosophy one explores questions of existence, knowledge, values, reason, etc and in religion you already assume that you have an answer.  even if that answer is “bunk”.

          “If “religion” is justified…”  That is the question.  Is religion justified?  The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power is not justified in my view, not without overwhelming evidence as the the existence and benevolence of such a power.

          Read something that disagrees with your stated views.  Try Dennett, Dawkins, Harris or Hitchens for a start, depending on where your interests lie.

          • Jesus Loves You

            I am an orthodox Roman Catholic and I maintain that none of my thoughts are contradictory or irrational. My beliefs are not fideistic, but are the product of a good deal of rationality.

            Regarding medicine v religion I was not attempting to equate the two. One deals completely with the physical, the other the metaphysical. I simply wanted to make the point that discarding religion solely on the basis of it being complex and tricky is intellectually dishonest.

            And I’ve read Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. Never heard of Dennett. While I disagree with many of their points, the thing that irks me the most is their ‘tudes. Very off putting. Not the right way to go about things if they’re trying to “unconvert” people. 

            Also, I am not at all impressed with Harris. A scientist attempting to do philosophy. His performance in the Gob Debate II was pathetic, appealing to conventional standards and human emotions  rather than cold hard logic. I daresay he was out dueled by a *GASP* Evangelical!

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Excuse me, but what exactly is legitimate about theology? And why does the Catholic church have more of this so-called legitimacy than other religious institutions? As far as atheists are concerned, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, and Mormon theology is equally legitimate, or, rather, illegitimate.

      • Jesus Loves You

        Catholicism is easily the most rationally driven major theistic belief system out there. Certainly there are some premises that require a degree of faith to accept, which would probably deter most here, but once you accept those precepts the logic is pretty compelling. It’s also flawlessly compatible with the natural sciences (BUT GALILEO!!! yes, mistakes happen)…Faith seeking reason ya’ll. What other institution has been thinking about thinking for the past 2000 years?

        • aerie

          None of it is “rationally” driven. Fear-driven is more like it.

          • Jesus Loves You

            Nice zinger, dude!

            It’s comments like these that make me question why atheists allegedly have a premium on intelligence. 
            Great, intelligent, well-thought-out response, bro.

            • aerie

              It wasn’t a zinger, or meant to be one. If the truth ‘zings’ you it’s your own problem.  

              Ignorant comments from theists about the ‘rationality’ of religion do not require or deserve well thought out responses. 

              • Jesus Loves You

                Unfortunately, despite whatever claims to truth and superior intellect you think you are privy to, you are unqualified and incapable of identifying the motivating factors of a phenomenon you clearly don’t understand.

                Militant atheists would be so much more stomach-able if they actually had even a cursory understanding of the thing they devote their lives to denouncing.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ Anonymous

                  Wow. Just… wow. Two whole paragraphs of words, but nothing of substance.

                  Try harder.

                • aerie

                  I am a proud de-convert of the Evangelical Southern Baptist Church (member SBC!). I have an intimate understanding of this ‘phenomenon’; 40+ yrs worth. Nothing ‘cursory’ about my indoctrination, but so typically  presumptuous of you to think otherwise.
                  Militant Christians would be so much more stomach-able if they would just STFU.  Obviously, you’re here for the zings & the lulz, so there ya go. I’m done with you.

                • Jesus STILL Loves You

                  And how “typically presuptious” of you to assume that you know the motives and compellances of billions of religious people based on your own apparently exhaustive and comprehensive experience. The world according to aerie.

        • ACN

          It’s also flawlessly compatible with the natural sciences

          I see your mind-body-soul duality/triality, and raise you a neuroscience.

          • Jesus Loves You

            ok, show your cards. links please.

        • Anonymous

          In what way is theism rational?  The existence of gods is devoid of evidence.  Belief in something without evidence is faith, not rationality.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          You do know that there are religions far older than yours? And that those religions also have intricate theologies and several thousand years of “thinking about thinking?”

  • aerie

    Maybe atheists are more adept at facing reality; the truth – no matter how ugly or disturbing. No, it’s not easy, it’s pretty horrific at times such as 9/11; but it is what it is whether we choose to look at it or not. For me, there is no other choice but to accept what is real while so many others feel the need to see things thru god-goggles & someone else mentioned that it really looking at it would cause most people to question this god that would allow such horror.
     
    Falling man is extremely disturbing to see but none of us knows the extent of the horror from which he escaped. I agree with what someone else said about this man choosing his own death – that’s bravery to me. The rest of us will never be able to wrap our minds around the circumstances of that day. 

    That being said, with 2 suicides in my own family, I hate the stigma of suicide – no matter what the reasons.

  • Anonymous

    I think the word victim to describe people who commit suicide is
    misused. Although you could argue, that in the case of 9/11 victims it
    is appropriate, I don’t view their deaths as suicides. In general, I
    don’t see how someone who takes a decision to end his life could be a
    victim. Victims don’t have a choice when it comes to suffering or dying.

    It seems condescending to those people, as if their choice isn’t valid because it seems wrong or even absurd to us.

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

    Hemant, don’t you think making a statement that a person “is not in hell” is just as unjustified as someone claiming that someone is in hell? Surely from your position you can only say something like “I don’t believe in hell” or “I don’t see reason to think people go to hell”? 

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      It’s ironic that many Christians seem to think the world revolves around their own particular afterlife mythology. Tell me Andrew, would you have objected if Hemant stated that the Falling Man was not in Valhalla?

      • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

        Er… I think you’ll find Hemant was the one who brought up hell.. and I think you’ll find I simply asked a question – and I would have asked it if he had said Valhalla, because the question was about whether the kind of statement is justified. 
        He’s a big boy, he doesn’t need you to obfuscate for him.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          So now it’s about whether the kind of statement is justified? Forgive me when I say I just don’t believe you. No one in modern Western culture believes that Valhalla is anything other than imaginary, and there is no need to make qualifying statements about obviously mythical places. 

          • ACN

            Of course he wouldn’t have actually called him out. He thinks that he’s devilishly clever by arguing a preposterously pedantic point.

            I’m desperately hoping that we’ll get to take a trip down the rubbish chute of :

            No one knows where ANYTHING is if they’re not presently observing it, so it’s not justified to proclaim that  he’s NOT in hell, or NOT in valhalla, or NOT having his soul weighed against the divine weight of ma’at, or NOT riding the river styx to the realm of hades. 

            • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

              You’re way too cynical.. and presumptive. Of course I can’t simply be interested in Hemant’s view, now, can I? Sheesh..

            • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

              +1 for the alliteration though ;)

          • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

            So now it’s about whether the kind of statement is justified?

            Always was.

            Forgive me when I say I just don’t believe you.

            That’s great, believe what ever you like. I didn’t ask you the question, I asked Hemant (what were you saying about thinking the world revolves around one’s self?).

            • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

              Hemant doesn’t normally jump into the fray here. Has he ever responded to you on a thread? If not, then what exactly were you hoping to achieve by your clever little remark?

              • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

                Then his non-response is his choice. 
                What’s it to you?

                What did do hope to achieve by picking a fight about the motives of a question that wasn’t even addressed to you? 

                • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

                  Honestly, Andrew, you’re so fond of making snarky comments. What do you expect? You want to “provoke thought” and then you expect the rest of us to ignore what you say? Look, I don’t dislike you. I would like you more if you actually decided to engage with us, but all you ever seem to do is make clever little remarks. I’m not “picking a fight” with you. I was pointing out the ridiculous double standard Christians have when it comes to their own afterlife concept.

                • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

                  It’s unfortunate you thought I was being snarky. If my responses to you became more sarcastic, it’s because I tend to mirror the tone of whoever I’m responding to (not necessarily a good thing for me to do, I realise).

                  If ‘engaging’ doesn’t include making comments which are critical, what kind of engagement is that?

                • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

                  By “engagement,” I mean a willingness to have an actual discussion, not just making hit-and-run critical comments and getting annoyed when people respond to them.

                  However, I do apologize for my tone. I see that my first remark came off as unnecessarily sarcastic.

                • http://thingsfindothinks.com Andrew Finden

                  I was not intending a hit an run (hence the question mark at the end of it) and I’m obviously not against people answering questions I might ask – but chafe at having my motives impugned.

                  Perhaps I have made some snarky comments, and I do need to think about how I engage if what I write is being perceived that way (maybe the perception is more accurate than I’d like to think!)

                • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

                  By “engagement,” I mean a willingness to have an actual discussion, not just making hit-and-run critical comments and getting annoyed when people respond to them.

                  However, I do apologize for my tone. I see that my first remark came off as unnecessarily sarcastic.

              • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

                But as you ask..

                I hope that the question would at least provoke thought (even if I didn’t expect a personal answer).

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

                I normally don’t jump into the fray, but I read everything and jump in if needed.

    • Anonymous

      This seems overly pedantic to me, which might seem a bit hypocrital in light of my comment just above :) .  What Hemant means is clear or at least seems seems clear to me. I don’t see how a reasonable person can misunderstand this statement when it comes from an atheist.

      • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

        What about statements that come from theists? Would you let them off with that response?
        Sure, it’s a little pedantic, but on the one hand you have atheists often scolding theists for suggesting they do more than ‘lack belief’ and then you expect them to basically know what you meant when you make positive statements.. hence my question: is the statement in the OP really justified?

        • Anonymous

          What would be an equivalent statement a theist would make? That the man is in hell? Then, I would say that he has no way of knowing that he is or that hell even exists. It would be more accurate, I guess, to say that hell doesn’t exist and someone would be entirely justified to say so since there is no evidence for such a place existing. But this so trivially implied that I don’t see the problem. Or did you think that Hemant was making a theological point that he didn’t go to hell even if it exists?

          • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

            You seemed to suggest that it’s ok for an atheist to make a positive claim like ‘hell doesn’t exist’ because we all understand that to mean that they ‘lack belief in hell’ (exchange ‘hell’ for ‘gods’ and I’m sure you’ve come across this kind of thing!) Is that what you meant?

            I meant then, would you allow a theist to say one thing but be understood to mean something more nuanced?

            You wrote:

             I would say that he has no way of knowing that he is or that hell even exists.

            And from this you say that one cannot assert that   someone is in hell.. but then I cannot see how you  jump to:

            It would be more accurate, I guess, to say that hell doesn’t exist and someone would be entirely justified to say so since there is no evidence for such a place existing.

            It doesn’t seem at all trivial: what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Lack of evidence is not proof of lack (and likewise, lack of disproof is not proof!). So, even stepping back from the issue of whether or not we could say that someone is or isn’t in hell – the very reason you give for not being able to say that hell exists also prevents from making positive statements that it doesn’t exist. This was my point. I suppose it’s a case of deciding whether one’s atheism really is ‘merely’ a lack of belief in gods / hell / etc. or whether there is a positive belief that those things do not exist..

            • ACN

              Lack of evidence is not proof of absence, but depending on how exhaustive the search is, and how logically (in)coherent the object is, it IS evidence of absence.

              Saying “X is not at A” is a shorthand statement. We’d both agree that it’s fine to say that “Cheetahs are not inside a solid rock statue”. Or the classical Adams “There are no faeries at the bottom of the garden”. Both of these statements are reasonable because saying “solid object X is inside another solid object Y” is not logically coherent with our understanding of macroscopic solids, and there is no evidence of existence of faeries.We can apply these same sorts of criticisms to hell. Not only is there not a shred of evidence for the existence of hell (the location), but there is no evidence of disembodied minds (souls) that are available for torturing, no evidence that the christian god (or his devilish counterpart) exists, and the christian doctrines are logically incoherent on top of this. So in this case, yeah, the statement Hemant made is justified. 
              You can have “merely lack of belief” in lots of things, and have “nope doesn’t exist” beliefs in other things. There are lots of god claims. Some are so vague that all you can say is “no bloody evidence”. Some are specific enough to refute logically.

              • http://thingsfindothinks.com Andrew Finden

                Lack of evidence is not proof of absence, but depending on how exhaustive the search is, and how logically (in)coherent the object is, it IS evidence of absence.

                I would say it depends on the scope of the claim – this is also why you can prove a negative is some cases e.g. I can prove that no money exists in my wallet, because I have access to the whole of my wallet. Where supernatural claims because problematic is that we simply don’t have access to the whole scope of the natural yet, let alone what is beyond that (add to that that it lies beyond the defined scope of our methodology for exploring the natural universe).

            • Anonymous

              Can you give me an example of the nuanced statetement a theist would make?

              • http://thingsfindothinks.com Andrew Finden

                your arguments boils down to why call yourself an atheist when you lack a belief to god.

                Well, no – I’m well aware the lacking belief in gods is a common definition of atheism (it’s the a-theism,  as oppose to athe-ism,definition championed by Atony Flew in his book ‘The presumption of Atheism’ btw). My question was simply that if one is not justified in making the claim that a metaphysical entity (e.g. hell) exists, based on the rationale that we can’t know, is one justified in making the claim that it doesn’t? 

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      It’s a headline, short and sweet, responding to the Secret. If it makes you feel better, I can say there’s no evidence he’s in hell. That’s also accurate.

      I assume you make the same kind of remarks to pastors who say things without justification? (i.e. everything)

      • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

        Thanks for you reply, Hemant.

        My question was borne out of the myriad times that I’ve seen atheists tell theists that positive statements about about the metaphysical cannot be known an thus made (one of my atheist friends likes to even blast other atheists for saying ‘there is no god’). 
        Perhaps you don’t agree though.. a wrong assumption on my part?

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      (Moving this up because the box was getting too narrow.)

       Anyway, Andrew, I apologize. I did think you were being deliberately snarky with your first comment, but I believe you when you say that your question was sincere.

      Most atheists do not make assertions that it is impossible for deities in general to exist, but I think it is perfectly possible to say that specific supernatural creatures and places are not real. I cannot make a broad and general statement about all aspects of the supernatural, but I can quite comfortably assert that particular supernatural things are products of the human imagination. You know as well as I do that Hanuman the monkey god is imaginary, and I have no problem saying so. It’s not controversial to say that because no one in Western culture even entertains the notion that he exists, even though millions of Hindus believe otherwise. It’s the same with Valhalla. We all know that the dead do not go to Valhalla, that Valhalla was made up by the ancient Norse people. 

      For me, it’s the same with heaven and hell. I have no problem at all saying that they’re imaginary. I would not make a claim that there’s no such thing as any sort of afterlife (even though there is no evidence of such and it would seem to be a biological impossibility) because it’s such a broad topic, this idea of continued consciousness after death. There’s a lot we still don’t know about the brain. But specific afterlife concepts made up by ancient people in the Middle East? It’s only because of where we were born that it’s controversial to say that those places are imaginary, too.

      • http://thingsfindothinks.com Andrew Finden

        Thanks for your reply and your apology Anna, I appreciate it.

         I don’t think that mere accident of birth is a good reason to pretend that certain claims have any sort of legitimacy. Heaven and hell may be popular, but popularity doesn’t make them real.

        Of course they don’t, but then, I’ve met too many Christians not born in so-called ‘Christian’ cultures to think that this line of reasoning is fallacious. Besides which, if the secular lobby is to be believed, Christianity is not a majority view in Australia any more ;)I do see what you’re saying, and I’m actually not saying you can’t dismiss ideas of heaven and hell – my question, as I noted, was made with the assumption that atheism is merely a lack of belief in gods. I’ve no problem with atheists making positive claims that certain entities don’t exist (though it is strictly speaking, a position somewhat of faith – based on certain reasoning, of course, and that’s ok too, we all believe certain things based on reason and evidence, even if we can’t prove them empirically) it’s just that a number of the atheists I interact most with argue vehemently against doing that.. perhaps there’s a bigger division about that than I realise.

        • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

          Well, I don’t see it as division. It might come across that way to outsiders, but if you observe hesitation or reluctance on the part of most atheists to assert the non-existence of particular things, it’s symptomatic of the culture we are forced to deal with. In another time or another place, things would be different. I can not only casually dismiss, but outright proclaim that Thor does not exist, and that’s seen as perfectly rational. This can only happen because our entire culture accepts that Thor is fictional. If I tried to do the same thing with Yahweh, I would immediately be put on the defensive because the vast majority of people in our culture believe in Yahweh. If there were still ardent Thor followers around, the same thing would happen. They would shift burden of proof onto me, which is why most atheist avoid making the same statements about Yahweh that they do about Thor.

          For me, as an atheist, one god is the same as another. I see absolutely no difference between Thor and Yahweh. But only Yahweh is privileged in our culture. Heaven and hell are likewise privileged in our culture, while Valhalla is not. It’s not controversial to say that those other things are make believe, but atheists are accused of arrogance/faith/not being able to prove their claims only when it comes to the Judeo-Christian supernatural realm. That’s what I personally find so frustrating. There’s a tremendous inability (even among many atheists) to “think outside the culture box.” Knowing that there are so many different supernatural creatures and places and that virtually all of them are accepted as imaginary, it’s so strange to me that people in our society can’t seem to step outside of their culture and see it.

  • Mpschultz08

    Read the article and the epilogue to it yesterday, and was shocked to learn the stats of the estimated 50 to 200 people who were murdered-by-suicide and/or falling to their demise. And to learn the other country’s news coverage did not censor that image nor the footage of those that fell.

    I live in a northeast suburb, and our local paper tried to gin up the masses to display flags, as so many did the week after 9/11/2001. Out of curiosity I drove around a bit and discovered that a scant few had heeded the call to fly their “these colors don’t run” swag. I have a feeling that people are perhaps ambivalent, if not positively cognitively dissonant regarding the last ten years. Reluctant perhaps to shout about America being number 1, as perhaps we all secretly know that is not the case…

    After all, Gore Vidal predicted years ago that one day we’d be China’s “plantation”.

    • Jesus Loves You

      “After all, Gore Vidal….”

      Gore Vidal saying something makes it fact? And I thought the theists were the ones who accepted things on faith and in the face of logic….

      China does not have the infrastructure to support its ever-growing population. S is going to hit the F. Economic stagnation is a possibility, but political and social upheaval are probably more likely to happen first. If Syria and Libya can do it, China can, too. Social networking is a scary thing for repressors….

      Also, define #1. What’s your measuring stick? GDP? Life expectancy? Hard power? Individual freedom?……..that’s why these types of rankings comparing different countries are bogus. Since when has everyone agreed on what objectively makes a country good.

      For the record, I saw people falling out of the tower on live US TV the day of the attack.

    • aerie

      Not true here in the south. After 9/11, flags were *everywhere*. Now, the Ostentatious displays of the American flag are a good indicator of the people & businesses I want to avoid. The righties are the super proud flag flyers; these are the same folks who fly the Confederate flag and call it “southern pride”.


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