Response to the Last Deadly Question

My courage is failing me, but I press on to the last of the four questions atheists will not address.

What to you is your understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ as understood by the Christian faith (you recently said eternal punishment was good news.. which again reveals an extremely fundamental misunderstanding of basic Christian thought). If you only mock this question, as usual, it reveals you really simply don’t understand it.

This is a question ‘atheists won’t address’?  Because it seems awfully targeted at me, specifically.

There is not a single Christian faith, there are thousands of different Christian faiths.  Each of them has a different idea about the ‘good news’.  You can confirm this by going to the wikipedia article on the Good News and noting there’s a section titled ‘in various Christian movements‘.  Asking me how I think Christians understand the good news is like asking me how human beings understand their favorite pizza topping.

“If you only mock this question, as usual, it reveals you really simply don’t understand it.”

Oh geez, now I feel bad.  Here I was thinking I was mocking it because it was an ill-formed question, but it must be that I don’t understand it.

“you recently said eternal punishment was good news.. which again reveals an extremely fundamental misunderstanding of basic Christian thought”)

In many cases, the good news means escape from hell…which, in the minds of many Christians, is eternal punishment.  This makes eternal punishment at least a facet of the good news for many believers.  Moreover, it’s a facet that makes calling it ‘the good news’ one of the most glorious misnomers in all of history.  You may exclaim that *you* don’t see it that way, but that only confirms my point about there being no consensus on what the term even means amongst Christians.  And if I were to go after every Christian’s personalized ideas I’d never be able to stop…it’s much easier to point out that all of them have no good reason for believing the things they do.

So while I can’t explain how Christians understand the good news, since so many understand it differently, I can sure as hell explain how I understand it (and how, I’d argue, it makes the most sense).

The good news is that while a place of eternal torment exists, if you believe certain things (not if you act in a particularly moral way) you get to escape the torment and live forever in heaven.  You will share this space with the men who tended the embers of the Inquisition, for they believed fully in the resurrection of Christ.  Your celestial neighbors will also include those who defended antebellum slavery based upon biblical study (you may argue they were wrong, but funny how easy god makes that, isn’t it?), the mysogynists who quoted the new testament while opposing women’s suffrage, and serial killers who made deathbed conversions after a life of carnage absent of compassion.  Chained to the fires of hell will probably be at least some of your loved ones, atheist charity workers, and good people who wanted desperately to believe but simply couldn’t accept that a man rose from the dead without evidence, despite their sincerest efforts.

What many Christians call the good news amounts to the idea that god favors monsters who are gullible enough to believe in miracles over saints wary of their own credulity.  If the implications of salvation are true, then this is not good news; it is horrible.   It means that unlimited power resides in the hands of a being that most values the maintenance of the being’s ego.  The existence of hell announces that this being of frightening power possesses a lack of empathy reminiscent of the most inhuman sociopath.  If this is good news, I can only wonder what a Christian might call bad news.  Two men cuddling?  Pre-marital sex, perhaps?  Heaven forbid.

But I’ve got some good news.  I’ve got news so good I cannot help but dedicate my life to sharing it with the world.  The real good news, Scott, is that the scenario above isn’t the least bit true.  It’s all a perfectly silly fabrication, and thank heaven there isn’t a single decent reason to believe otherwise!  The good news is that you get a single, temporary crack at experiencing the universe that you were never guaranteed.  The good news is that this life you lucked into is your own, and the only rewards or punishments, the only real heaven and the only true hell, are the results of your own actions between now and when you die.  You have an opportunity to live in a way that when your time is up that you will have discovered heaven long before you found death.

The universe is more magnificent than anything the human mind could ever imagine, and the good news that we get a chance at a life of our own design while getting to spend a moment in that universe is more wonderful than dreams of immortality.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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