Can God Be Benevolent if He Sends Your Children to Hell?

Can God Be Benevolent if He Sends Your Children to Hell? November 19, 2019

Why does God do the crazy stuff that he does—demand genocide, support slavery, flood the world? He’s the one with the perfect morals, and yet his actions and rules don’t even meet the moral standards we have set for ourselves today. In particular, how can he be “benevolent” if he sends children to hell?

Is it reasonable to criticize God?

Since we’re asking why God would send children to hell, let’s critique “Asking Why God Would Do X Is Crazy.”

Sometimes you’ve just got to admire the audacity of some Christian authors. The article begins by assuming God and then browbeating any reader who would question God.

What [God’s critic] sees the world to be like, he finds inconsistent with how he believes God should have done things, and he believes that since God has failed at doing things the way he would have done them, that therefore He does not exist.

What does not exist is the Christian God as an all-good being. You need only read the Bible to see that the tyrant described there isn’t all-good. (Or you can redefine “good,” which seems to be a popular fallback.)

One aspect of the article’s argument is pointing out that the critic is a mere human. How can humans judge God? But of course they don’t judge God; they judge claims about God. Sure, we’re imperfect, but we’re all we’ve got. We evaluate claims to the best of our ability. Christianity can ask nothing more of us.

Moving on, the article jumps the shark with its God assumption, all backed with no evidence:

The audacity to think that God’s ordering of reality based on His omnipotence is faulty compared to the way we would order reality given our limited knowledge.

At the heart of the question is the implicit belief that the person asking knows more than God.

[The critic thinks] that he himself has the more rational view of how, if he were God, would have dealt with the world.

Are the atheists good and chastised?

No, the error is not critiquing God claims but assuming God into existence. Starting by assuming God is the Hypothetical God Fallacy. As for the challenge about the critic having the more rational view, no it’s not arrogant to think that the modern-day critic is more rational than the 10th-century BCE tribesmen who began documenting the mythology that became our Bible.

The author concludes with roughly the response that God gave when Job questioned God’s cruel actions.

God’s purposes are God’s business. If He had intended for us to know something, the answer would be available. Things He did not intend for us to know, we may merely speculate about.

So STFU, stop complaining, and accept that God exists and has good reasons whether you understand or not.

Contestant #2

Let’s move on to another response, this one from William Lane Craig (WLC). Will he bring a higher caliber argument?

His article is, “Worshiping a God Who Might Damn Your Children,” in which WLC responds to a question from Dale:

How can you worship a God who might send your children to Hell?

Would you send your child to an eternity of suffering, simply because of thoughts in their heads? If your children lead wonderful lives, but don’t believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins, would you send them to hell? What if they just can’t wrap their heads around the concept? . . . How can you love and worship a God who you believe would do that to your children?

WLC begins with a point of order.

There are actually two different questions here which are being run together, the first a psychological question (“How can you love and worship a God who you believe would do that to your children?”) and the second a philosophical question (“How can you think that is a fair and reasonable thing for anyone or anything to do?”).

Okay, let’s go with that. WLC then dismisses the “psychological question” as a red herring.

It is [just] a request for an autobiographical report about one’s subjective condition. As such, its answer will be person-relative and have nothing to do with objective truth.

Objective truth? Does such a thing exist for morality? You’ve certainly never given a reasonable defense of objective morality that I’ve ever seen (more here, here). Don’t base your argument on objective morality without first showing it exists.

A Word to the Wise: Whenever people pose questions beginning “Would you . . .” or “If you were . . .,” then you know immediately that it is a question designed merely to put you in an awkward position, not to get at truth.

A word to the wise: whenever you read an apologetic article, make sure the Christian actually answers the question. Don’t be swayed with bluster and confidence so that you overlook them running from the question.

The kind of question he’s trying to avoid here is one that taps into our shared moral values. For example, “If you think that X is bad, what does it mean when God does it?” is a valid question. If humans are created in God’s image, we share a moral sense, and indeed the Bible confirms that. That God’s morality is so incompatible with ours argues that God’s moral actions are, not divine, but simply a reflection of the primitive culture from which he came.

No, this isn’t a rhetorical trick to put Christians in an awkward position. That the question might make them uncomfortable isn’t the issue. They want to get the challenge dismissed on a technicality so they don’t have to answer it. Don’t let them.

The critique of WLC’s response continues in part 2.

If your choice of religion is subjective
so are your morals.
— commenter Otto

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Image from Andrae Ricketts, CC license
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  • Some claim children are saved if they die before being able to accept Jesus (blah, blah), which brings quite disturbing implications to Heaven.

    I’m much more concerned with the billions who are in that unpleasant place because they existed very far in space and/or time of Jesus. And the “Harrowing of H**l” by Him does not solve things at all.

    • Polytropos

      The harrowing of he&#8203ll might have made more sense if people thought Jesus’ second coming was going to take place very soon. In that context it still doesn’t really make sense when you think about it, but it makes a lot more sense if judgement day was supposed to occur in the disciples’ lifetimes.

      • The problem of those countless people who worshipped the wrong deities simply because they were born centuries or more before Jesus (say, the Greeks in Homer’s epoch) and/or very far away of Israel (say, Celts in France) is still around.

        This is what happens when you extend something for a small region of the world to its complete extent.

    • eric

      Some claim children are saved if they die before being able to accept Jesus

      That makes the problem of hell worse, not better. If they went to hell because God was powerless to change the rules, well then his omnipotence is called into question but nobody could morally blame him for the children-in-hell outcome. But if accepting Jesus isn’t a necessary requirement for salvation, then God is choosing to send everyone to hell.

    • Jennny

      In the anglican church for centuries, babies who died before they could be baptised could not be buried in the consecrated ground of the parish churchyard, which must have been distressing for parents, that their baby was now in hell. Vicars were on call 24/7 to baptise a sickly newborn and my vicar relative has still been called out occasionally to a children’s hospital to baptise a dying baby. Obviously that brings comfort to parents in a most tragic situation. She also informed me what ‘the harrowing of hell’ is, it’s ‘celebrated’ on Easter Saturday when jesus went to preach to all the souls in hell. Which begs the question for me, if hell is as horrendous as x-tians say, isn’t it a no-brainer that those souls would accept transference to a place instead where there are ‘pleasures for evermore’?

  • Jim Jones

    > Starting by assuming God is the Hypothetical God Fallacy.

    Before that is the Definition Error: there is no satisfactory definition for a theist’s ‘god’.

    They have to start there.

    • Yes, and that itself is enough to just dismiss their God’s reality, at least until they can show that it’s coherent.

  • Greg G.

    The way WLC breaks the question into two parts reminds me of the Ford-Carter Debates re-enactment by Saturday Night Live beginning around the 1:30 mark:

    https://youtu.be/xu2vdE0z7ds

    Some of the material in this sketch sounds like it may have come from the present day. I don’t recall having read the screen credits at the end. They’re hilarious.

    • Pofarmer

      I was told there would be no math.

      • Michael Neville

        Let me make three comments about that: Comment #1, comment #2 and comment #2½

        • Maltnothops

          “One, two, five.”
          “Three, sire.”
          “Three.”

        • Michael Neville

          “Five is right out.”

      • Well, I was told there’d be donuts, and I’m still here.

        • Steven Watson

          It was nuts surely? They are on here and the rest of Pathe(tic)os in abundance, 😮 !

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      This is great! If I were doing my own MAGA thing, bringing SNL back to the 70s/80s caliber of writing would be near the top of my list.

      • Greg G.

        The Ford-Carter debates were the first I ever watched and SNL parodied them perfectly. I still remember the Weekend Update when Chevy Chase (and you’re not) reported that the president was preparing for the Ford-Dole debate. (For the whipper-snappers, Bob Dole was Ford’s running mate.)

  • Anri

    Assuming you know more about how god should handle things, and trying to convince him of this, is actually very common.
    It’s called “prayer”.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      Yes, and it’s a good time to mention that “god is good” is passing just as much judgment as the opposite. And, no, taking him at his word doesn’t escape this quandary because god being trustworthy is yet another judgment you have to make first.

    • RichardSRussell

      “Pray: To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.”—Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), American author, The Devil’s Dictionary

    • ThatGuy

      Prayer is so odd in that way. God supposedly knows this bad thing would happen and that you would object to it. So why do you need to consciously choose to communicate with him through prayer? And isn’t he going to do whatever best serves his goals regardless? Did you really convince him to change his mind? Did he make a right turn, or did the path merely curve in that direction all along?

    • Alitheia

      “Jehovah is far away from the wicked,
      But he hears the prayer of the righteous.” -Proverbs 15:29

      “No matter what we ask according to his will, [God] hears us.” – 1 John 5:14 (Bracket mine)

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        OMG! It all makes sense now!

        How does one go about changing their username?

      • Anri

        So, in two verses you demonstrate that the bible says god listens to all of us equally and also doesn’t listen to all of us equally.

        Even when you cherry-pick, you can’t get your story straight.

        • Pofarmer

          Even 3000 hears ago they knew that shit didn’t fly.

        • Alitheia

          Here, let me fix your Strawman-

          “So, in two verses you demonstrate that the bible says god listens to all of us equally the righteous and also doesn’t listen to all of us equally. the wicked.

          Glad I could help 🙂

        • Anri

          And by “the righteous”, you mean, “the neurotypical”, right?
          The only ones who can effectively communicate with god?

        • Alitheia

          Consider the following:

          “Abraham put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness,” and he came to be called Jehovah’s friend.” -James 2:23

          Throughout the Scriptures, Abraham showed he was just, impartial, honest, not guilty of wrongdoing or immorality, hence one known for integrity of conduct and uprightness. Because he did his utmost to fulfill his obligations to his Creator, Jehovah God deemed him righteous, follow?

        • Anri

          And during the Noachian flood, either there were literally no other righteous people on the entire planet other than Noah and his family, or god Yahweh ignored them.
          Presumably.

        • Alitheia

          All the righteous of Noah’s day survived God’s divine judgment within the Ark.

        • Anri

          There were literally no other righteous, or at least innocent, people on the planet at that time?

          All of the infants were wicked?
          All of the priests corrupt? Including, presumably, the ones who had written and collected anything god had said to the faithful up to that point? That certainly casts doubt on certain sections of the gospel if we assume everyone involved in recording and preserving it was corrupt, doesn’t it?

        • Alitheia

          All of the infants were wicked?

          Correct me if I’m wrong but weren’t Elizabeth Bathory, Brian And David Freeman, Nelson Byrdwell, Edmund Kemper, Joshua Phillips, Willie Bosket, Laurie Tackett, Brenda Anne Spencer, Jon Venables, Robert Thompson, Jesse Pomeroy, Mary Bell, Andrew Golden, Mitchell Johnson, Jamie Rouse, Barry Loukaitis, Talat Pasha, Margaret Sanger, Josef Mengele, Reinhard Heydrich, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann, Kim Il Sung, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Emperor Hirohito, Nero, Caligula, Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Leopold II of Belgium, Tomas de Torquemada, Mao Zedong, Ivan the Terrible, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Vlad Dracula once beautiful little babies too?

        • Anri

          I imagine they were.
          Were they ever innocent?

          If killing infants prior to their becoming evil is perfectly moral, it seems odd that any evil person survives god’s scrutiny in swaddling clothes.
          If, on the other hand, god respects free will to become or not become evil, slaughtering a planet’s worth of infants before they could make that choice seems odd, doesn’t it?

        • Alitheia

          All of the priests corrupt? Including, presumably, the ones who had written and collected anything god had said to the faithful up to that point?

          Please be explicit. To whom are you referring to?

        • Anri

          …are we assuming Genesis to be oral history prior to the Noachian flood?

      • “Ask and you shall receive” — Jesus

        Wouldn’t it be nice if it worked that way?

        • Alitheia

          Works just fine for everyone earning a paycheck, anyone who’s ever eaten at a restaurant, received medical care, gotten their car tuned up, rents a place to live, etc., etc. . . .

        • Greg G.

          Are you Maxximiliann? You are using the same stupid arguments.

        • MR

          Spot on, Greg. I caught that, too. Patrick O. or something. The Catholic apologists are bad enough, but these Jehovah Witness looney bins are too much. I’ve watched my cousins one by one be discouraged from making anything of their lives because the End is right around the corner. None of them were encouraged to go to college, and some of them are super bright. They all got so-so jobs or none at all. To visit that family is like visiting a commune. Lots of family support, but just this kind of dumbing down of everyone. It really saddens me. Hoping to get my aunt out here sometime and have “the talk” with her. I think she’s starting to see that her belief really hasn’t helped her life at all.

        • Greg G.
        • MR

          Oh, ja, that’s him. Got my P and O’s confuséd. He goes way back. Just more deceit: “This sock stinks, let me try a different one.” I wonder how they square their deceitful tactics with their belief. I can’t imagine a God slapping them on the back, “Good job with all that trickery. You do me proud!” ‘Course, the problem is, the same arguments aren’t any different under a different sock.

        • Greg G.

          I wonder how they square their deceitful tactics with their belief.

          Jesus told his brothers that he was not going to Jerusalem because it was not his time. But as soon as they left, he went “in private”, possibly meaning in disguise like a sock puppet.

          John 7:1-10 (ESV)1 After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him. 6 Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private.

      • Maltnothops

        No one suggested that your god was deaf.

      • Steven Watson

        Then he rolls over and goes back to sleep.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    Over on “A Tippling Philosopher” there’s a member by the name of Phil Tanny who likes to pretend a claim being inherently untestable makes it somehow grand or mysterious. In one of my responses to him I used an example that I think applies equally well to god’s unknowable moral justifications.

    Would you take me seriously if I told you that the Earth is flat and there is a robust explanation for why it appears round, we just aren’t capable of understanding it yet?

    • Otto

      Same guy that seems to argue God both exists and does not exist…where does one go with that?

      • Pofarmer

        But pretty much all Christians do that. God intervenes personally in their lives, but when you want to test for him he’s suddenly immaterial. God is just “is” but we’re created in his image. And on and on. I think it’s a contest to see who can hold the most contradictory images.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Yes, because the Law of Identity cannot be shown to be true everywhere. Lol!

        Phil seems unable or unwilling to grasp two important ideas.

        1. Some axioms must be accepted for us to function. I can’t prove I’m not a brain in a vat, but even if I miraculously did, I couldn’t then prove I wasn’t some other brain in an entirely different vat. At some point, we have no choice but to accept reality as it appears to be.

        2. Even granting all his solipsistic challenges, there are still gradations of certainty because there are still gradations of support. My inability to conclusively prove I’m not a brain in a vat doesn’t make tomorrow’s apparent sunrise any less likely to occur.

        His schtick is basically presuppositionalism, only without god providing the supposedly necessary foundation.

        • wannabe

          And besides, other solipsists aren’t really there.

        • Greg G.

          There can be only one solipsist.

        • epeeist

          There can be only one solipsist.

          I once received a letter from an eminent logician, Mrs. Christine Ladd-Franklin, saying that she was a solipsist, and was surprised that there were no others. Coming from a logician and a solipsist, her surprise surprised me.

          Bertrand Russell, Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Value

        • epicurus

          This here mind ain’t big enough for the both of us.

        • Otto

          Under his foundation of ‘anything goes’ one is justified to believe absolutely anything. If I was a grifter he would be on top of my list.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          But you are a brain in a vat. That vat is your skull. 😉

      • Joe_Buddha

        Schrödinger’s God?

        • Steven Watson

          Schrödinger’s Cat Litter, more like.

    • eric

      Okay, I’ll be the nerd who answers the obviously-intended-as-a-philosophical question with science.The robust explanation for why it’s flat but appears round is capable of being understood. It’s that we aren’t traveling towards the Earth at >99.999% of the speed of light. If we were, it would be flat due to relativistic foreshortening. Granted, due to time dilation that perspective wouldn’t last very long (we would quickly reach it, and be forced to slow down or explode). And it would be two-sided flat rather than the flat earther classical one-sided flat. But for some brief moments, depending on how far away from the Earth you started, it would be a physically observable and confirmable fact that the Earth was flat.

      The valuable point of my example is that the flat earthers are wrong in thinking scientists don’t seriously consider or aren’t willing to seriously test their (or other) weird claims – that we dismiss such things out of hand. We do not. Science absolutely considers and tests weird claims. All the time. Theirs’ just isn’t one that has stood up to testing. Flat-Earthism isn’t a case of dismissal-before-testing or conspiratorially-ignore-evidence. It’s a case of failed-during-testing. Many many times over.

    • Alitheia

      “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.” -James 4:8

      “Good and upright is Jehovah.
      That is why he instructs sinners in the way to live.” -Psalm 25:8

      How does God instruct us? By means of his inspired word, the Holy Bible 🙂

      All we need do is study it and apply its teachings in our daily lives.

      • David Peebles

        The “inspired word” only works if you first edit out all of the absurdities, contradictions, and manifold outright evil crap that it contains. Perhaps, then, one can make satisfactory moral sense out of the residue–or not.

        • Alitheia

          To what concrete “absurdities, contradictions, and manifold outright evil” are you alluding to?

      • Otto

        All we need do is study it and apply its Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses teachings in our daily lives.

        • Alitheia

          How long have you been disfellowshipped for?

        • Otto

          You would do better to address the issues I raise rather than to pretend to know something you clearly don’t.

        • Alitheia

          You’re not making any sense. Just how does any of that answer my simple query?

        • Otto

          How does asking when I was disfellowshipped answer the issue I raised? I will answer yours if and when you address mine.

        • Alitheia

          Because if you don’t answer my questions why should I address yours?

        • Otto

          The questions I raise respond to the points you make. Your question has nothing to do with the topic; therefore your question is just a dishonest attempt at diversion.

      • Why study that book? Why not some other holy book? The Bible hasn’t convinced anyone who wasn’t predisposed to be convinced by it.

        • Alitheia

          “To my surprise, I found substantial knowledge and deep insight in the pages of the Bible. I was fascinated with researching the scientific accuracy of the Bible and the fulfillment of hundreds of detailed prophecies applying to events occurring over thousands of years of human history. I was especially impressed by how the integration of multiple Bible prophecies—in the books of Daniel and Revelation—provides a solid basis for determining that we live in “the last days.”—2 Timothy 3:1.

          In studying the Bible, I was unknowingly in excellent company. I later learned that Sir Isaac Newton, regarded as one of the greatest scientific geniuses of all time, admired and intensely researched the Bible. Like Newton, I focused on prophecies in Daniel and Revelation that foretold major historical events and developments that have actually occurred. However, I had the distinct advantage of living during and after the realization of the many prophecies that have been fulfilled since Newton’s day. I discovered that these prophecies are amazingly diverse and extensive as well as unerring and undeniable. It was an eye-opener to realize that the entire Bible, penned by more than 40 men over a period of 1,600 years, contains an internally consistent, coherent, and compelling message concerning the major issues facing humankind and its future.

          Letting go of my belief in evolution did not come without resistance, however. I respected the substantial weight of scientific authority backing up this theory. Nevertheless, I discovered that all Bible statements about the physical world are entirely consistent with known facts and cannot be disproved. I came to appreciate that in order to achieve a complete, cohesive understanding of the Bible’s extensive, interrelated contents, one cannot discount a single teaching, including the creation account in Genesis. I therefore discerned that acceptance of the entire Bible as truth was the only reasonable conclusion.” -Dr. Kenneth Tanaka, former atheist

        • Greg G.

          Dr. Kenneth Tanaka is a Buddhist. The logic described doesn’t follow. The “prophecies of Daniel” are a joke.

          Where did you copy and paste that from?

        • Alitheia

          Not this Kenneth Tanaka. A link to his autobiography was embedded in my rejoinder. Feel free to go there and examine it for yourself.

        • Alitheia

          “My doubts about evolution began when I was studying synapses. I was deeply impressed by the amazing complexity of these supposedly simple connections between nerve cells. ‘How,’ I wondered, ‘could synapses and the genetic programs underlying them be products of mere blind chance?’ It really made no sense.

          Then, in the early 1970’s, I attended a lecture by a famous Russian scientist and professor. He stated that living organisms cannot be a result of random mutations and natural selection. Someone in the audience then asked where the answer lay. The professor took a small Russian Bible from his jacket, held it up, and said, “Read the Bible—the creation story in Genesis in particular.”

          Later, in the lobby, I asked the professor if he was serious about the Bible. In essence, he replied: “Simple bacteria can divide about every 20 minutes and have many hundreds of different proteins, each containing 20 types of amino acids arranged in chains that might be several hundred long. For bacteria to evolve by beneficial mutations one at a time would take much, much longer than three or four billion years, the time that many scientists believe life has existed on earth.” The Bible book of Genesis, he felt, made much more sense.

          Every good scientist, regardless of his beliefs, must be as objective as possible. But my faith has changed me. For one thing, instead of being overly self-confident, highly competitive, and unduly proud of my scientific skills, I am now grateful to God for any abilities I may have. Also, instead of unfairly attributing the amazing designs manifest in creation to blind chance, I and not a few other scientists ask ourselves, ‘How did God design this?’” – Professor František Vyskočil – former atheist

        • Sure, you could do that, or you could read books that document the consensus view of biology. That’s my recommendation.

        • Alitheia

          “It [] dawned on me that I had accepted evolution without really questioning it. For example, I had assumed that evolution was well supported by the fossil record. But it is not. Indeed, the more I examined evolution, the more I became convinced that the theory is more bluster than fact.

          Then I thought about my work with robots. Whose designs was I imitating? I could never design a robot capable of catching a ball as we can. A robot can be programmed to catch a ball, but only in precisely controlled conditions. It cannot do so in circumstances for which it has not been programmed. Our ability to learn is vastly superior to that of a machine—and mere machines have makers! This fact is just one of many that led me to conclude that we must have had a Designer.

          I became deeply interested in the many prophecies, or predictions, in the Bible. My study of those convinced me that the Bible really is from God. In 1992, Barbara and I were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses.” -Professor Massimo Tistarelli, former atheist (Bracket mine.)

        • Then I thought about my work with robots. Whose designs was I imitating?

          Look at machines that duplicate work that humans do–a bread maker, a dish washer, a washing machine, a typesetting machine, a car, and so on. Machines that slavishly duplicate the human way are usually inferior to ones that work in ways that only machines can.

      • Phil

        “inspired word” is a tactic of advertising. How to sell a product by giving an air of authority without explicitly stating something and therefore falling foul of the advertising watchdogs. “Inspired by dentists” is a common one for toothpaste. What does that actually mean? But it implies that dentists had some say in it. Then you get really off the wall statements, “Inspired by nature” , “inspired by technology” etc

      • Pofarmer

        Right. People studying it extensively and applying it’s teachings have killed millions. Tortured and terrorized whole continents. Broken apart families.

        No thanks.

        • Alitheia
        • Greg G.

          Your meme does not address any war that Pofarmer refers to.

        • Alitheia

          Thank you for your opinion 🙂

        • Alitheia

          And how, precisely, did Christ Jesus’ beneficent, compassionate, humanitarian, magnanimous, charitable, self-sacrificing teachings compel such individuals to commit their heinous acts? Could you break it down for me step-by-step?

        • Pofarmer

          Why don’t you learn about, say, the albigensian crusade.

        • Alitheia

          Can you hear yourself? You’re being irrational.

          How does any of that answer my simple query?

        • Pofarmer

          The one being irrational, is the one ignoring the results of their theology.

        • Alitheia
        • Pofarmer

          Your “question” is disingenuous. What matters is how whatever teachings there are have been used.

        • Alitheia

          Riiight, because nothing demonstrates their application of Christ teachings by their disuse of them . . .

          https://media.giphy.com/media/yTAugkkABvlfO/giphy.gif

        • Pofarmer

          No True Scotsman.

          got it.

          It always comes to that, doesn’t it?

        • Greg G.

          Those wars happened despite the claims that people learned beneficent, compassionate, humanitarian, magnanimous, charitable, self-sacrificing teachings. You explain why Christians have killed both non-Christians and other Christians for centuries.

        • Alitheia

          Are you really so naive as to believe what people claim even when their actions blatantly contradict these?

      • Greg G.

        Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. –Exodus 22:18

        • Alitheia

          “When I [, Jehovah God,] say to someone wicked, ‘Wicked one, you will surely die!’ but you do not speak out to warn the wicked one to change his course, he will die as a wicked man because of his own error, but I will ask his blood back from you.

          But if you warn someone wicked to turn back from his way and he refuses to change his course, he will die for his error, but you will certainly save your own life.

          ‘“As surely as I am alive,” declares the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that someone wicked changes his way and keeps living. Turn back, turn back from your bad ways, for why should you die?” -Ezekiel 33:8, 9, 11 (Bracket mine)

      • Maltnothops

        “They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death.”

        Deut. 21:20-21a

  • There is no benevolence in a creator who would condemn the vast bulk of humanity to unending torment because two people who literally had no understanding of right and wrong violated one of his commands.

    It is the equivalent of committing genocide because a couple of toddlers stole candy from a shop.

    Their entire theology is evil. Full stop. I would pity those who are trapped in that hideous belief system if they didn’t cause so much pain for us all.

    • Michael Neville

      Assuming the Adam and Eve story is true, why should I be liable for a “sin” done a long time ago by people whose relationship with me is incredibly dilute? I had nothing to do with that “sin” and it’s an evil act to condemn me for someone else’s actions.

      • eric

        Yet another example of how the Bible reflects the times in which it was written, rather than some immutable truth. Is collective punishment moral? Then the answer was yes. Now the answer is no…in fact it’s emphatically no, given we’re talking about a supposedly omniscient entity who always knows who was actually responsible and who wasn’t.

        • Steven Watson

          Interpretation and mistranslation reflect the time and place it is/was read. This is why Jews wonder what Paul was smoking and Paul would wonder if the authors of the last three gospels had had a proper education; since they seem unable to read or understand the things he wrote!

      • Steven Watson

        To give Orthodoxy and Judaism their due, that is Western Christendom’s waffle-gabble.

    • Alitheia

      The doctrine that God demoniacally tortures billions of immortal spirits for all eternity in a blazing sea of perpetual fire is a Satanic Antichrist mendacity that defames God. <=== Go there to learn more.

      As a God of justice and love, he would never create such a vicious and barbaric realm much less prescribe infinite punishment for a finite crime no matter how wicked.

      • I personally don’t see any point in a god of any sort, nor do I care about any particular denomination’s spin on that outdated mythology.

      • I will pray Eldath, the Green Goddess of waterfalls, springs, pools, quiet places, druidic groves, and peace, for you.

      • Maltnothops

        I’ll pray for you every day until…..SQUIRREL!!!!!

      • So then what was the punishment in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man? Sounds like torment to me.

        • Alitheia

          All the millions who enjoy divine favor can actually fit comfortably in the chest of a single man?
          Water on a fingertip isn’t evaporated when held over open flames?
          A mere drop of water can bring relief to someone being burned alive?

          You do understand this was a parable, yes?

        • Uh, a parable that accurately described a place that actually exists was my assumption.

  • Carstonio

    In my experience, evangelicals and other literal-hell believers avoid the question by framing the concept of eternal torment as though there’s no deity deliberately imposing a punishment. They would have us believe that non-Christians are doing the equivalent of stepping too close to a cliff. Their concern would seem more honest if, instead of pleading with non-Christians to change, they petitioned their deity to do away with hell as unjust. They should view eternal torment as an unacceptable and cruel punishment for any offense, partly because humans are temporal beings.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      I like Robert Price’s answer to the likely theist response. If there are sufficient reasons for something so foreign to our moral compasses, then god can have sufficient reasons to send Christians to hell as well. Once you exempt this one thing from making sense, why should we assume any of it makes sense? Because god said so? Couldn’t he have sufficient reasons to lie as well?

      • A book is not a legal proof of anything, especially something as important as eternity, no matter Fundies may claim.

        • epeeist

          The books is the claim, not the evidence.

      • Carstonio

        Another weakness in that likely response? “Foreign to our moral compasses” is merely a handwave, a version of “so far beyond the ability of puny humans to understand.” It can be anything that any advocate for theism wants it to be. I could just as easily claim that the deity wants humans to stand on one foot while singing “Let It Go.”

      • Otto

        That is a place I got to in my own head long before I walked away from Christianity (and when I was still a child). I knew I could never really be sure I was doing things the right way. It is rather interesting arrogant that these apologists are able to be so certain about their own fate.

        • Connie Beane

          This claim of Christians is also one of the reasons I walked away from Christianity and religion in general. However, many of the devout Christians I know exhibit signs that they may not be quite so certain of their own fate. Despite their assertion that faith is the only requirement for salvation, they seem obsessed with policing not only their behavior, but their surroundings as well. Many of them seem to feel that merely being in the same room with a non-believer, “sinful” reading material or telelvision programs, alcoholic beverages, the wrong kind of music, foul language, etc., is sufficient to erode or even destroy the shield that protects them from eternal damnation.

        • Yep. I’ve also noted the same in some of their preachings, to treat the world and everything on it as a corrupting force that will bring them to their perdition unless they Jesus hard (read: stay in your bubble and interact the less you can with it. Remember curiosity killed the cat)

        • Steven Watson

          How many will be saved? The answer usually given when they do the weird maths is 144,000 apparently. It seems not to have occured to them that the quota on that score would have been filled in the third century. I like them apples: They are ALL DOOMED! 🙂 /s

    • Same those I know of. Either they shrug it off -people will unfortunately go to Hell if their name is not written in the Book of Life -must really be a hell of a book– seeing it as something as unavoidable as death and taxes, attempt to sugar-coat it claiming God wants everyone to be saved and Jesus opened the (narrow) door to salvation with his sacrifice showing that way God’s love even if we’re wicked and corrupt creatures (etc), or simply use it to threat unbelievers who may be listening.

      The mess that is original sin is also not touched upon by them, of course.

    • MadScientist1023

      I’ve also seen that often. They also seem to think that the rules which dictate who goes to hell and who doesn’t are some immutable natural force that their god has no power over, despite the fact he is the one who decided them. They pretend their god has no responsibility for the torture that goes on in hell because their god isn’t actively sending them there. It’s actually kind of fun to watch a Christian squirm when confronted with the fact that since their god wrote the rules about who goes there, he’s responsible for every one sent their and all the ensuing torture. Most of them can’t handle that fact about their own theology, hence the distancing.

      • Maltnothops

        I just pointed this out on an evangelical blog a few days ago. There was bickering over whether Jesus’ resurrection was physical (Truth) or spiritual (Blasphemy). I pointed out that if god was all-powerful, then the question was irrelevant. My argument was rejected on the basis that god said in the Bible that only a physical resurrection counted. I guess god isn’t powerful enough to change his mind.

    • smrnda

      I bring this up all the time. We could execute shoplifters, no matter how small the item stolen, but that would be absurd. “But it’s the law” doesn’t work as an argument since laws change.

  • RichardSRussell

    “On fanaticism: A fanatic is a man that does what he thinks th’ Lord wud do if He knew th’ facts iv th’ case.” —Mr. Dooley (actually Finley Peter Dunne)

  • Brian Curtis

    “It’s okay when God does it” is no more an acceptable excuse than “It’s okay when our side does it.” But both are depressingly popular nevertheless.

  • wannabe

    The author concludes with roughly the response that God gave when Job questioned God’s cruel actions.

    God’s purposes are God’s business. If He had intended for us to know something, the answer would be available. Things He did not intend for us to know, we may merely speculate about.

    Forgetting that Job’s friends were punished for such speculation.

    • Michael Neville

      Job’s friends weren’t punished for speculation, they were punished for holding the wrong opinion.

  • wolffie

    “How can I enjoy my eternal paradise, knowing that sentient creatures are being infinitely tortured?”

  • Jane Ravenswood

    don’t forget C.S. Lewis who just wants to pretend that everyone forgets about those they love. Then they can be good little ciphers, not questioning anything.

    • eric

      At least C.S. Lewis located the ‘final choice’ on whether to accept Jesus etc. after death. IOW, in his model everyone at least gets an informed choice. My biggest complaint about Lewis is not that his theology sucks, but that it isn’t really Christian – while at the same time he (as well as most Christians) claim that it is.

      • Jane Ravenswood

        there’s little agreement on what is “really” Christian.

    • Greg G.

      C.S. Lewis, good little ciphers
      Lewis ciphers
      Lewiscipher
      Lucifer

      Hell yeah, I was impressed by Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins.

      • JustAnotherAtheist2

        Have you seen Angelheart?

        • Otto

          Don’t take the brown acid and watch Angelheart…j/s

        • Greg G.

          I probably still have the VHS tape of it somewhere. It gave a different view of Denise Huxtable.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Should I assume your comment was an homage to it, then?

        • Greg G.

          Certainly!

    • If you go literalist, that will supposedly happen up there. No memories of the old Earth, etc. presumably includes those people.

      • Jane Ravenswood

        well, Christians pick and choose what is literal, metaphor and what should be just ignored because it’s inconvenient.

  • Derek Mathias

    I made a video illustrating the Catch-22 of the dead babies go to hell problem that I think you may appreciate:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIiyTb1FDyY

    • Nicely stated! I like your dilemma at the end. I thought I’d link to it in an upcoming post. Sound OK?

      • Derek Mathias

        Thank you. And sure, feel free to link it. The more exposure, the merrier. 😉

  • smrnda

    Whenever people pose questions beginning “Would you . . .” or “If you were . . .,” then you know immediately that it is a question designed merely to put you in an awkward position, not to get at truth.

    Not really. People often criticize the actions of people who are facing difficulties that they, themselves, are not. ‘Homeless people need to quit sleeping in the park’ – okay, great, now if you were homeless, where would you sleep? And it also works when people defend the behavior of those with power. Would you do the same thing if it were you who had the call? Sometimes not.

  • Gord O’Mitey

    Y’all know whut I’m like frum readin’ My book, the Bible, eh. I know too. I’m malicious, capricious, jealous, and genocidal, homophobic, misogynistic and megalomaniacal. But it ain’t My feckin’ fault, eh. I wus made in the image of man. Specifically, that of a feckin’ Bronze Age war lord.

  • Tim Ellison

    Thank you for your excellent essay. I hope you can give time to the minority voice (but gaining strength) of us who follow Jesus and also do not believe that hell is in any way, shape or form a real thing. It was created by the imagination of a few who have no idea what the bible is about. Thanks.

    • Otto

      I know you have your own views Tim but I am curious as to whether you are an annihilist….?

      • Tim Ellison

        No I don’t think anihilism works because we are all connected. We only exist in relationships with each other. Humanity is of a piece and all means all. This is the language that Paul uses. To use an anecdote – someone once said if purgatory exists we can rest assured that Jesus will be there until the last person embraces the light. Most folk reject God because the god most Christians believe in looks like Satan.

        • Otto

          Thanks for the reply Tim.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Maybe experience has made me cynical, but I see *any* stripe of believer, especially the progressive ones, as giving cover to the nasty authoritarians.

      • Tim Ellison

        Unfortunately you are right. Whether left right or centre you get mean nasty people who seek to ostracize those with whom they disagree. Fundamentalism will always lead to that. I avoid the term “believer” because belief always involves some form of Gnostic overtones. I tend toward seeing. I try and always ‘see’ what others invite us to see. And if I see one thing in the gospel stories about Jesus it is this: there are no outsiders, no one is othered. All are included. That’s what makes the gospel good news. Really good news.

    • Hell seems to be fairly clear to me in the Bible (parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, for example). What is the argument for hell not being in the Bible?