A Grotesque Thought Experiment: Hell, Murder, and the Age of Accountability

A Grotesque Thought Experiment: Hell, Murder, and the Age of Accountability October 13, 2021

Two staples I was given as an Evangelical: 1) Killing children is bad and 2) there is an age of accountability in which you will be responsible for your actions; mess things up by not accepting Jesus as lord, and you’ll spend eternity in hell.

If this is the case, however, if crossing over the age of accountability puts you at risk of burning for all eternity, can we really say that killing children is bad?

Of course, I say this with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek. Please don’t think I’m advocating for murder. This is a thought experiment only. It’s like the trolley problem times 1,000.

So, hear me out.

First off, if we define eternal hell as objective horror – and in Evangelical theology, it most certainly is that – then it is a place or state of being that one would want to avoid at all cost. Regardless of how one ends up there – whether they are sent there by God or send themselves there through wrong behavior/wrong beliefs – it is not a place or state of being you want to find yourself consigned to.

Now, again thinking about things through an Evangelical Christian lens, it stands to reason, given the amount of human-caused suffering in the world, that some people will end up in hell. For our purposes, let’s assume that half of the people are saved. I’m sure it’s actually less, but half makes the math easy. Let’s say that starting today, 10,000,000,000 people live and die before the world ends. That means 5,000,000,000 will end up in heaven (objective bliss), while 5,000,000,000 will end up in hell (objective horror).

The question for this thought experiment then becomes:

Would it be morally justified to kill every child who is born between now and the end of the world in order to spare half of them from the flames of eternal hell?

Of course, we can’t be certain when that age of accountability is, so to be safe, we’ll suggest killing toddlers prior to their second birthday, just to be sure they are spared from hell.

If the answer is “no, we can’t kill children,” then we must accept that 5,000,000,000 of them will end up in a place of objective horror for all eternity.

If the answer is “yes, we have an obligation to kill them,” then we will ensure that everyone born from henceforth on will spend eternity in a place of objective bliss, but we will also be killing children.

Luckily, those of us who don’t believe in eternal hell don’t have to even consider this question. It’s absurd. But if you do believe in hell, you really can’t avoid it, which should probably cause you to reconsider your views on God, the afterlife, punishment and judgement – the whole nine, really.

Again, this is only a thought experiment. If you read this and think that I am advocating anything that even resembles murder, you have reading comprehension issues. I am NOT suggesting we kill children. I just want to get you to think about your beliefs, why you have them, what they suggest about your God and the universe, and whether they are practical and reasonable.

Take from this thought experiment what you will. Just don’t ever, for one second, think that you should kill your kids because it will send them to heaven. That’s not how any of this works. You are a monster if you do that, and so is your God.

Let me know what you think about this.


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About Matthew J. Distefano
Matthew J. Distefano is the author of multiple books, a podcaster, social worker, and hip-hop artist. He lives in Northern California with his wife and daughter. You can read more about the author here.
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