Wishful Thinking

Another clip from Adventures in Orthodoxy 

I suspect that people who deny the existence of hell because God is “too good to send anyone there” are really proposing that God is too good to send them there.

It is ironic that people who believe in heaven are sometimes blamed for wishful thinking. Isn’t it that more likely true of those who disbelieve in hell? I say this because the person who disbelieves in hell doesn’t really believe in heaven either. He believes in oblivion. He desperately hopes that he will cease to exist after death. In other words, he hopes he will not have to give an account for himself–that he will get away with it after all, and this, it seems to me, is real wishful thinking.


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  • Thinkling

    The second paragraph sounds almost Chestertonian. Upon reading the piece’s title, I wonder if that is by design?

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    My book Adventures in Orthodoxy is described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles Creed.’

  • Thinkling

    I just followed the link to the book’s page on your site. If Joseph Pearce thinks so, I consider it settled them. :).

  • http://tytalus.wordpress.com/ tytalus

    I wonder where Dwight’s earlier rant about “The Authentic Atheist” went. Calling skeptics a “human sub-species” and “spiritual zombies” didn’t go over too well? Alas, Google cached it before it went away.

    “an excerpt from my book about to be released by Crossroads: The Quest for the Creed.

    Is there really such a thing as an utterly authentic atheist? I think so. I have a dreadful feeling that there exists a sort of human sub-species who have lost their spiritual capacity completely. These authentic atheists do not profess belief in God, nor even disbelief. Instead they seem entirely deaf to such ideas. They do not hate the Church or say the Bible is a fairy tale. They do not spit out bigoted remarks that blame the Pope for the holocaust or missionaries for murder. They do not attack the arguments for the existence of God, say the universe is random, or call Rick Warren a simpleton. They do not rage against God, any more than someone born blind has dreams in color. These are the authentic atheists. They plod through life eating, working, shopping, breeding and sleeping, and God never seems to flit across their consciousness. Members of this sub-species may be sparkling sophisticates or ill-bred boors. They may be the decent and moral folks next door, or they could be despicable murderers. In a frightful way, it doesn’t matter. If they exist, perhaps they have bred and spread like the alien bodysnatchers, and exist in our midst like spiritual zombies—indistinguishable in the teeming mass of humanity except to those few who see them and tremble.”

    You’re giving your account for yourself right here and now, sir. Perhaps you desperately hope that your god-concept finds it good and righteous, because it isn’t evident otherwise.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    Why don’t you actually read the article and think about it? The whole point of the article is that I am NOT talking about conscious atheists, intelligent agnostics and those who consciously doubt. I’m talking about the dull breed of people who never give God or the meaning of life or their own humanity a thought at all. Ever.

    It isn’t that hard. I’m observing a breed of people in society who ” plod through life eating, working, shopping, breeding and sleeping, and God never seems to flit across their consciousness.”

    This is why it’s so difficult to discuss religion with people like yourself–you aren’t even capable of reading what I’ve written and understand it. My eighth graders got it. What’s the difficulty?

  • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

    As someone who doesn’t believe in hell, I can say pretty confidently that this doesn’t describe me in the slightest. You seem to have fallen into one of Chesterton’s most common mistakes: taking a literary or ideological stereotype and assuming that it’s the norm, and then riffing lyrically about that (frequently wrong) stereotype without (desperately needed) qualification.
    Anyway, the fear of hell thing doesn’t apply to me. I think I’d probably go to purgatory even under Catholic guidelines. I do think that God is too good to send rapists and murderers to hell. There is absolutely nothing a person can do that deserves infinite reprisal.
    And the not believing in heaven thing is bizarre to me. Heaven makes sense with an all loving, all forgiving God. The believing in oblivion thing is equally bizarre. I was far more comfortable with oblivion when I was Catholic. I think this has more to do with my coming of age and going out into the world, but I consider the impact that I have on the world far more important than I did when I believed in hell. I want to live deliberately, and that’s got very little to do with what happens to me when I die.
    And I have no interest in getting away with anything. I want to be a good person for it’s own sake. Frankly, I find the paradigm of doing good to avoid punishment or reckoning debased. Imposing that paradigm on everyone who doesn’t happen to share your view of the afterlife is not a charitable
    action. And since people who disagree with you aren’t likely to start off a conversation that assumes their own debasement, it’s bad evangelism as well. Moral judgement has it’s place, but condemning people who hold simply an idea (probably for lots of different reasons, and with lots of different results in how they view other ideas about the afterlife like heaven or non-existence) isn’t it.