Why I Find the Notion of Hell Absurd

Why I Find the Notion of Hell Absurd May 13, 2013
phil_princeofheck
source: Dilbert.com

In a previous post entitled “Why I Am an Anti-Fundamentalist,” I mentioned that I cannot condone any form of theism which preaches the concept of Hell. That post was long enough already, so I moved my elaboration of that point to here. To someone like me, the notion of Hell is absurd for at least three reasons:

a.)  There’s a lot of fuzzy ambiguous thinking about how this concept would even work. Presumably the torture of this “place” is supposed to involve burning with fire, and yet that means a physical body would need to be both raised from the dead (ew!) and able to be burned perpetually. Is this body still physical? Does it have nerve endings? And do the nerve endings just keep regenerating so you can feel the fire forever and ever?  This reminds me of the moment in Sixth Sense when I realized that all the ghosts have on ghost clothes and one guy even had a ghost bike helmet and was riding a ghost bike. What exactly are those things made of?  And are they made in ghost factories somewhere? It makes for great cinema, but get real!

b.)  There is no redemptive purpose for such a place. Most effective punishment is educational or rehabilitative. When you are done with your punishment you’re supposed to have learned something. But there is nothing to learn from eternal conscious torment, which doesn’t even begin until the last moment is past in which you could do anything about the discovery that such a place isn’t just made up. What kind of sick monster would allow for such a place? For billions of people? An omnipotent god, no matter how committed to the notion of “free will” (a concept the writers of the Bible seemed entirely unconcerned about), is ultimately responsible for the existence of such a place. Christian theology teaches that people can only exist if God keeps such in existence through an ongoing creative act. That means that the only way one could continue to exist for all eternity–in any state whatsoever–would be through a willful act of said deity. Again, what a horrific thought.

c.)  Finally, it makes no sense that one man could pay for the sins of millions (or billions) for twelve hours one Friday while it will take all eternity for one individual to pay for his own sins alone. It’s absurd when you think about it. A fourteen year old kid has to burn for all eternity because he looked a little too long at that girl on the other side of the room, and studied her form a little too intensely. For that he deserves eternal conscious torment. Meanwhile one guy sufficiently paid for the sins of billions over a twelve hour period on a Friday. I’m sorry, this whole thing just doesn’t make sense at all.

I find it a great irony that some would bristle at my calling the notion of eternal torment “unjust,” particularly if they have been taught to react to this by telling me I can’t call anything unjust if I am a naturalist. In other words, if there’s no external moral code imposed on us by a deity, then how can I judge anything as unjust, particularly the actions of said deity?

That sounds clever for a few moments (it’s actually an old question, Euthyphro’s dilemma), until you realize that what you’re left with is a deity who has no discernible morals at all, only apparently arbitrary actions which, we are told, are not under any obligation to adhere to any sense of logic that we can discern as poor, limited, finite humans. Incidentally, do you see how all three of these previous points work together? How convenient. And how unimpeachable this makes this particular concept of a deity.

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  • BD

    The truth is that fundies (fun dies) (See what I did there?) are just as confused about the notion of hell as they are about heaven.. An eternity of anything loses appeal after awhile, especially when confronted with the absurd idea that we would work in heaven, and worship god for eternity.. More like I would spend eternity asking why, why, why.. Aaaaannnd now I’m in hell….

  • Nate P.

    Enjoyed the post and agree with it heartily! The best way that some theists will try and spin hell as not super awful is to adopt an annihilationism view of hell. That it’s just a very temporary place where the soul is destroyed quickly in the fire and then it’s gone. Only people in heaven have eternal souls that never die.

    And just like that their god isn’t super awful and outrageously immoral! The semantical games that theists will play makes me facepalm on the daily.

  • Or my favorite is, “God doesn’t send anyone to Hell. People choose to go there. God will never prevent us from choosing it because he loves us too much to MAKE us do anything.”

    The first glaring problem with this is that it’s a concept of God which is completely foreign to the Bible. The biblical writers had no qualms about giving God credit fore EVERYTHING that happens, be they good things or bad, natural disasters or choices of men. If you believe in a sovereign God then he is responsible even for who goes to Hell and who doesn’t. If you remove that responsibility from him, you’ve no longer got a sovereign deity.

    But the other glaring thing is that, as a loving father, I would never sit back and allow my child to make a self-destructive decision simply because I don’t want to infringe on their free will. No good parent seeing his toddler about to step over the edge of a pool into the deep end would simply speak to her several times, warning her, and then let her make her own choice. Any father worth his salt would walk over there and pick the child up, preventing her from making a self-destructive choice such as that. Who cares about the kid’s free will? Gimme a break!

  • I keep wondering to which point this gruesome concept of hell can affect one’s individual psyche. I was raised in a very fundamentalist/baptist environment and was indoctrinated from early childhood with the concepts of salvation, eternal damnation in hell etc. I totally identify with the first statment in this post, when you say it’s impossible for you to absolve any theistic doctrine with everlasting punishment amongst its set of basic dogmas. As a Brazilian former christian/pastor (Rubem Alves) pointed out: ‘What would be of the church if it wasn’t for hell?’. In principle, I think any religion or supernatural belief may have some inner damaging potential, since your way of seeing reality may get impaired to some point. But there may be some positive sides to it to, for instance, if someone prefers believing in the existence of a post mortem life better than the present and feels better believing that way. But any creed involving the teaching of eternal torture as punishment to non-believers can do massive psychological disturbance to any person. I’ll give a brief account from my own experience: as a child I learned to see non-believers as doomed to hell, and therefore evil doers and sinners, followers of Satan (they knowing that or not). In my teens I got to be very disturbed in mind and anti-social, completely frightened. As an adult I became a depressed man with suicidal tendencies in my early thirties, with panic disturb bouts, and I’m quite sure all this emotional misfortune was directly linked to the way I saw human existence, including mine, at the time. The concept of hell was the core of everything, as far as I look back at it. There’s plenty more to say about it, but to make it short I found myself definitely as an agnostic by the end of 2008 in my middle thirties. This deconvertion may have been ignited by the harmful mindset the concept of hell caused me to suffer. But it eventually led me to resort to reason and evidence in search of what could make more sense, of what could be more plausible and realistic in order to get on with life for the best. But I still suffer the consequences of the concept of hell. Not that I still believe (the idea of this punitive and ‘loving’ god is absurd to me some years now), but because my whole family and most beloved people in my life still believe in it. What’s worse: they’re terrorized by the idea I’m one of the bound to hell unbelievers. That’s what makes me sad sometimes, that is, it seems I was the only one who could leave the Matrix. At least I feel lucky for leaving it.

  • The Thinker

    And yet, all you (and some of your commenters) have done here is bash/reject a specific belief held by a specific group. You have done a good job at throwing a knife at your perception of American Fundamentalism, but not at Christianity in general, or at religion in general. This is no case for atheism, per se. It is merely your perception of a belief, and why you think it is absurd.

    I know you are interested in psychology, so you may be interested in the social psychological idea of “group-think” whereby we like to express our opinion and gather around us only those who agree. This then leads us to an illusion that we must be correct because “everyone we know” thinks what we think (false-consensus effect). It’s a good idea to listen to others explain why they think differently to you and, even if you can’t see it how they do, understand that their perspective is fully valid to them. Just because it doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t mean it could never make sense to others. And if others can make sense of something that you can’t, it doesn’t make them inferior, delusional, or wrong. It makes them as human as you: with a personal perspective on life, belief, people, etc. This is no basis for mockery or ridicule of another group. Such divisiveness will get humanity nowhere.

    As an agnostic, I enjoy most of your blogs when you’re being measured and considered. But if it deteriorates into yet another bashing of a particular group with whom you can’t agree, it becomes sub-intellectual and mere ranting. We are all in danger of this. I have to keep reminding myself I am not the last, nor the only, sentient human being on this planet. Thus there are other people who validly view life through a whole different framework. It doesn’t makes either of us right or wrong, it just makes us human. Only a narcissist would think their perspective of the world is and should be the only perspective whereby they can judge the sanity and sense of those around them. (And yes, I here you and agree, your fundamentalist acquaintances could take note of that too).

    As I’ve said previously, your view above is about a specific group, and it is a specific belief. But it isn’t a case for atheism (a rejection of all beliefs and perspectives). It’s your personal case against this particular group. But it won’t mean anything to those who have a valid alternate perspective (valid to them). Again, you and I not understanding or accepting their perspective, doesn’t mean it is wrong or right. It just means we don’t understand. It doesn’t mean they can’t understand it. What if I started my science degree by rejecting mathematics because I struggled to understand? Yes, there are others (and me now) who do understand mathematics, but my lack of understanding was no measure of the validity of mathematics was it? Now, I know mathematics is more tangible than god/hell/heaven which are abstract metaphysics, but determining the reality of something simply by whether we understand its sense is navel-looking ignorance at best, and full-blown narcissism at worst.

    I can’t say what is wrong or right, or what is or isn’t absurd. I can only say what I find hard to understand, while being fully open to being wrong and realising that others may validly understand something I can’t. Doesn’t make me smarter than them and doesn’t make me dumber than them. Just means we come from different angles and experiences.

    I’ll finish my (again) lengthy reply with a quote from an interesting philosopher I studied during my philosophy degree: “To follow wisdom is to understand the existence of alternatives. Truth is what the sane person sees, and sanity rests in willingness not to be the sole source of enlightenment, to surrender one’s own wishes for the world and to think how things may seem to others. The possibility of taking the world in many ways … is itself our clue to the right intellectual attitude.”

    ~ Stephen R. L. Clark

    This is valid for every human being, whatever it is they think they believe or don’t believe.

  • Nate P.

    That was a long reply that stated very little. If everyone lived and acted as you described, that we can all have our own truths and nobody better dare point out the absurdity of someone’s precious beliefs because….well….feelings, we’d get nowhere in any subject. The fact that we challenge and even ridicule allows a topic to, potentially, move forward. It’s particularly hard given the internet and cognitive dissonance.

    I understand your points and I myself fall in line more with the live and let live philosophy of life, but let me hit you with a quote from a theist who heavily inspired CS Lewis. I found this quote while studying broadcasting and other such pretentious degrees that you name dropped, “Tolerance is the virtue of a man without conviction.” – GK Chesterton.

    The fact is that the view described in the original post is one of the more widely accepted views on hell in christianity. I was a believer for 29 of my 30 years on earth. Baptist raised and Evangelical Free for the majority of the time.

    You’re an agnostic. Great. You’re still going to hell for being undecided if there is a god, which I find extremely unlikely of being true.

    I’m an atheist. There’s too many illogical and irrational jumps to make to get to belief in a personal and loving deity.

    Even if you could make a strong case for deism there’s no way you’ll make the jump to a personal and loving creator that actually cares and intervenes in human affairs.

    Normally, agnosticism is cool with me, but there’s something so brash and irritating in your passive aggressive tone of your message. You beat up the poster’s set of thoughts for beating up a set of thoughts. Seems oddly hypocritical.

    “Agnosticism is the lack of making a choice in a man without the cojones to do so.” – Me

  • The Thinker

    Thanks for that :-) I don’t think it is tolerance I am advocating per se. Sorry if I gave that impression. I do agree to some extent with some points made in the above post but I am also aware that there are other theists and even Christian theists who do not view hell like that. To them the above post would mean little because it actually attacks something they don’t believe.

    It is all very well and ok to find something absurd, it just doesn’t mean everyone should feel the same way about it: in terms of metaphysical things.

    My profession is science and yes you are correct that questioning something is the way we progress in knowledge: but that is limited to the observable and is not done with “ridicule” but with a professional, scientific approach (I’m not in America and I am not American so I don’t know if Americans do things a little more gung-ho than the rest of us but where I come from it is one thing to ridicule and spout an opinion and it is another to professionally question and challenge).

    And in my philosophy studies (a degree i did separately to my science degree) we had plenty of time throughout the four years of that degree to debate and question one another. This again was confined to professional sparring and ridicule was not acceptable. You can disagree and be intolerant of an idea but one must remember we are all humans and to have some respect for one another. Ridicule shows no respect. I know some atheists care little about that (my atheist brother certainly respects no one but himself) but that’s where I am coming from. :-) I encourage and enjoy challenge and sparring but I have no time or respect for those who are so full of themselves they can do little more than bash and ridicule.

    If the above post is just a personal opinion and belief that is one thing and I have no problem with that: but if it is meant to be an argument for atheism, it doesn’t suffice. In that sense it is merely a good and solid argument against a particular American fundamentalist stereotyped group. I’m an agnostic myself but I do know plenty of theists and Christians who’d agree with the blog above; however, because they don’t believe in that kind of hellfire stuff it wouldn’t lead them to atheism per se.

    This is lengthy again and I have a hunch you may not be able to see where I am coming from. But thanks for your reply. Cheers

  • The Thinker

    P.s. I was raised in an Australian Baptist church and back in my twenties (a long time ago) I studied a theology agree at an Australian evangelical college. I can tell you, from outside the Mississippi bubble) the views of Christianity regarding hellfire are extremely variable. I am most certainly not ignorant of Christianity (it cost me the first 35 years if my life) and I know too well not all Christians and their denominations can be tarred with the same brush. Not all my Christian friends think I’m going to hell; they’re actually quite tolerant and supportive of my scepticism and agnosticism.

    This is why I don’t think the above blog necessarily debunks Christianity as a whole: just American Christianity :-)

  • The Thinker

    Please overlook my typos as I am using an iPhone with its obnoxious spell checker ;-)

    I actually agree with godless in dixie’s blog in regards to the specific belief it targets. I’m not ridiculing that at all: I am just pointing out that some theists would just find it irrelevant to their beliefs which are different. There’s nothing passive aggressive about that: you yourself advocate disagreeing and challenging and ridiculing. Seems odd you’d call me hypocritical for doing much less than what you do ;-)

    Anyhow, I think you have entirely misunderstood my comment but that’s how things go. We’re all human after all… and no I am not a deist either. Cheers

  • The Thinker

    Agnosticism to me means I am on a journey and I don’t suppose to have a definitive reason why I should be either theist or atheist. I don’t take well to titles and even agnosticism bothers me because people like you assume you know where I’m coming from when you don’t. I am on a journey of enquiry, stopping in at various world-views in order to try and understand where they’re coming from and why. I guess I began this when I studied anthropology as a combined major in my philosophy degree. I don’t stay at each stop because taking on a title means people like yourself would put me in a box of your own limited imagination; I also don’t finally choose a specific set beliefs because to do so would narrow and limit my journey, discovery and growth. At each stop I take away something valuable and leave the rest. I understand why atheists choose some of their beliefs and opinions and they’re entitled to them. I don’t however have to agree with everything they believe and I am free to differ (that’s how I progress). I also understand why theists have some of their points and that also doesn’t mean I have to agree with every belief (as diverse as they are) that all theists have.

    Agnostism to me is nothing to do with having no nerve (nice but obvious attempt at patronisation and bullying there) To me agnosticism has everything to do with being on a journey whereby no world view has given sufficient reason for me to accept it. I prefer to keep an open mind toward your point of view and others and continue on my journey. No amount if bullying (disguised in self created quotes) will convince me to agree with you. It will only highlight the reasons I don’t adopt atheism. So thanks for the reminder ;-)

  • Nate P.

    Okay, you got me. I was being moderately trollish just for the sake of an interesting dialogue. Trust me, I absolutely understood your original post. One of my dear friends that helped win me to atheism is a neuroscientist and I can say from first hand experience his carefully placed and timed ridicule of my religion was one of the profound turning points to me personally. He called me out on what I believed and took me to task for it. So the ridicule, if done tactfully and with certain audiences, absolutely can work. I’m living proof of that!

    I do agree that the original post is in no way going to win someone to atheism, but I think you’ve over thought the topic. He’s just speaking as to why he finds the notion of hell absurd. Not that he finds it absurd and it’s absurdity supports atheism.

    You’d be hard pressed to find a great argument for not believing in leprechauns or unicorns or bigfoot, but here you are….not an agnostic towards the possibility of their existence. The only difference with unicorns and gods is that the gods have these ancient and conflicting texts and these somehow bring credibility to their possibility. All we have is logic and reason to be evidence for the non-likelihood of a god.

    I am well aware of many different views and interpretations of the bible. Many. It’s become a bit mind boggling since becoming an atheist as I’ve had many people try to “win me back to Christ” and the vast differences are astounding. One person congratulated me on my journey and said that if I die I’d still go to heaven. Another told me that I’m going to burn in hell according to John 3:36. I had another guy admit that the bible is full of awful stories written by preliterate men and that most of it was lies, but Jesus is all that’s important! Most of the more honest and secular people admit that Jesus is “the man”.

    One girl, a standard christian theological upbringing, stated that all religious texts are a poor explanation for what actually is a god and what that god is and represents. So, she still believes in god, but not one that is really defined by any current standard.

    Truthfully, my conclusion is agnosticism, but my opinion is atheism so I’d venture we’re not that different from each other. I’m absolutely willing and open to new ideas of thinking or new evidence. That’s why I’m always reading and talking and engaging on the topic. I’d change “sides” in a heartbeat if I found my stance to be incorrect. Until that time I’m confident with atheism.

    I’d agree that labels can paint us into corners, but not every atheist is like me and not every agnostic is like you. Some are awesome and some are slightly trollish when bored or irritated.

    So, in conclusion, I get your points and I think they’re valid overall. I just think you read way too much into the original post. I’m well aware of many views of religion and hell. Hell (see what I did there?), I was the one that brought up annihilationism, a totally different view of hell!

    Lastly, let’s not forget that it was wise and loving Jesus that really hit it out of the park by preaching love and peace while also bring hell into the reality of christianity.

    I encourage you to continue in your journey with an open mind and I promise I will as well.

  • Nate P.

    FYI, I was one class away from a philosophy minor, but didn’t see any point in pursuing it as it’s a mostly pointless degree. That and I was ready to be done with school and start working.

  • You guys write really long comments, LOL. I was gonna jump in to that discussion, but it seems like y’all got this.

    Except to say that it fascinated me when Rob Bell came out with Love Wins, implying (without ever explicitly saying) that Hell might be a non-issue. Piper’s famous tweet “Farewell, Rob Bell” packed a punch, and screamed volumes about the importance of Hell in evangelical theology and evangelism. What fascinated me is that growing up in a Baptist megachurch in Mississippi I virtually never heard anyone mention Hell…like…ever. It just didn’t come up much. And I’d venture to say that’s true for much of evangelicalism.

    HOWEVER…

    If you then suggest we jettison the notion altogether, you better just duck and run. Talk about escaping through flames. You never realize the psychological centrality of eternal damnation in evangelical theology until the moment you suggest it’s either not real or else not anything to worry about. You can tell what beliefs are important by counting how many veins pop in people’s necks when they respond.

  • Nate P.

    It is always my goal to write longer responses than the original article….kidding….

    My Baptist upbringing was old school fire and brimstone. Seems to me that you missed out on a good time!

  • annoyed

    I don’t understand why you are agnostic. I would argue that you aren’t agnostic. You clearly believe in something. A higher power of validity. You believe reality is whatever another person agrees and understands reality to be. “It’s a good idea to listen to others explain why they think differently to you and, even if you can’t see it how they do, understand that their perspective is fully valid to them. Just because it doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t mean it could never make sense to others.” The absurdity of this sentence itself amazes me. How could a person string these words together? But you did string them together, and even believed they made sense some how. I see homeless people all the time. I can understand why they are talking to invisible people–they have some sort of psychological disorder or they are experiencing some sort of hallucinatory psychologically altering drug. But I can clearly understand that they are mentally ill. I can also understand that for them being mentally ill is normal. But in no way does this mean I want to be mentally ill. Or that being mentally ill is valid. Or that there is not a difference between reality and unreality. If you believe in unreality, then you can throw out science and every rule reason thought. Stop writing using language eating drinking rule ethic. Just become the mentally ill. And everything can be valid then, every kind of falsity, hooray! If you believe in reality though, then you have to accept that there are rules reason science logic. In which case everything about “fully valid to them” is a falsehood. It’s really “fully a mirage to them.” There’s no reason to believe in mirages, cause they don’t exist. They’re isn’t any water there. That’s why we have science and reason and logic. To indicate the difference between real and unreal. Believing in falsehood doesn’t make it valid. It never will. It makes you deceived. And you’re deceiving yourself for some reason by believing in this higher power of “fully valid” while ignoring the truth of valid and invalid and what those definitions mean.

  • Thinker

    Blah blah whatever lol

  • Thinker

    Basically “annoyed” (your name is a shame), everything you said is completely meaningless, irrelevant and useless to me right now. I don’t really care what you think or what you pretend to be. All your words are hot air and white noise to me.

    You have no idea about me or my journey, my background, my past, my current situation. You have only your agenda of arrogance and prejudice. You pretend to talk psychology but your words betray your ignorance.

    If, like me, you were qualified to make a psychological diagnosis, you would not have written such a rant because you would be aware of the process, science, ethical guidelines, and professionalism of such a responsibility.

    But instead you insult not only those who are truly medically unwell, you do so only to puff yourself up with your thinly veiled disguise. But the insecurity, hate, pride, and insensitivity of what you say leaves your words wasted.

    And all that waste is all for your own imagined self importance: you put others down: and therein lies the irrelevance.

    To me, you’ve said nothing I haven’t heard before. You’ve said much I’ve heard and rejected before, only to remind me exactly why I rejected such huff and puff.

    There’s more important things going on in real people’s lives than pandering to such irrelevance. I just don’t care to hear anymore and I have the sanity and dignity to choose for myself what I believe or don’t believe; and if I change or re-evaluate such things, I have the freedom and right to do so. And it doesn’t matter how much someone like you raves on about mental health and all your phoney rationale. The fact is, I am actually an educated, qualified professional and I can quite comfortably dismiss what you say because I happen to know more than you realise. I also know that we humans know much less than we think.

    So, I have been quite kind to you, to bother to write so much in response to your ill informed and irrelevant spiel.

    I wish you all the best and healing and help and hope and happiness in your life, not merely for you own benefit but also for the benefit of the diverse world in which we live.

    I suspect my comment is irrelevant to you as yours is to me, and you know what? I don’t even give a damn. :-) people don’t have to agree with you or me to be diagnosed as sane or not.

    You don’t have to agree with what others believe and they don’t have to agree with you. It’s got nothing to do with mental health. So go and learn and love and live kindly, and then you will have something useful and beneficial to share. And that goes for everyone whether they’re atheist or religious or agnostic or who cares whatever else. If it doesn’t help others it’s irrelevant. That’s how it is in my current context anyway and I don’t even care if it makes sense to you or if you understand or not. What are you to me? A stranger. Someone on the other side of the globe, but most importantly just another human whose intelligence is finite, whose needs are as real as mine, and whose humanity is as human as mine regardless of your beliefs.

  • Thinker

    I can understand that. I have several degrees which I consider mostly irrelevant now.

    Thing is, I am working in child protection and I see real issues and real suffering and I don’t really give a damn what people do or don’t believe anymore: if it oppresses others or restricts the rights of others to think or believe or choose or grow and be themselves, to me it is a waste of time and space. I think that as much for religion as for atheism, as much for science as for philosophy, as much for history as for politics.

    Real people on our world need real help and all the hot air, over thinking, hatred and “other” bashing helps no one.

    I don’t think I should be called an agnostic or anything. I just don’t care any more. Call it apathy toward beliefs or no beliefs, it doesn’t matter. I just want the people to get on with being kind and whatever they do or don’t believe that leads them to love the world, who cares?

  • Thinker

    I apologise for the venom in my above comment. I have just seen so much pain and trauma in my work in the past week that all this philosophy and dumping shit in people of differing world-views is just meaningless to me right now. In over it and really don’t care about it anymore. As I said there’s more important real issues in people’s lives and the rest to me is irrelevant, so long as we don’t harm each other. I’m just not interested in this meaningless debate anymore. To me none of it is valid or worthwhile or defendable. It’s just irrelevant to me now.

  • Lee

    Thinker, in your line of work surely you’ve been privy to the deep psychological and emotional scarring that survives through indoctrinated youngsters….there’s many that follow this blog. As a deconvert that held a genuine desire to “save” people from the hell (any hell for that matter) that was explained to me, I can personally account for the impact on my psyche. Now, what matters is application. To your point, I believe the worldviews offered by secular humanism and naturalism offer a much better alternative to any of the religions. When understood fully, these worldviews offer a much cleaner concept of compassion for your fellow man, awe and understanding for our universe, and tolerance for all views. If we could “save” young people from religious indoctrination (any of them), I believe these alternative worldviews would eventually have a real chance at improving our situation here on earth. Religion has had it’s chance in my opinion…5,000 years is enough time to figure it out. These things do matter, a great deal in fact, and folks that deny their importance only add fuel to the fire.

    I won’t pretend that I’m the perfect humanist, but I can attest to the change that occurred in my life once I let go of superstition, undue guilt, blind faith, etc. and started thinking critically about these matters. Once I let myself embrace the alternative, the world became exponentially more wondrous and soon I realized way more scary. This is where I make my point.

    You said “Real people on our world need real help and all the hot air, over thinking, hatred and “other” bashing helps no one” – I completely agree that there seems no direct benefit, but…

    This is the only way I see to effecting change in this arena. These antiquated superstitions need to be held to the fire (excuse the metaphor) and if they’re ultimately exposed as such, disposed of readily and willfully by the masses. There’s a new kid on the block and I think she has a lot of good ideas that don’t involve pitting one superstition against another, but offer real solutions to real problems. For me, the solutions lie in the truth…if more people held a genuine concern for her the world would be a much better place. I think you’ll find that most atheists/agnostics got there from either a search for or acceptance of truth.

    Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

    Buddha

  • Thinker

    Yes well if what you describe about the preaching of hellfire is true then yes that is abusive. I haven’t come across that in my country so maybe it’s an American experience.

    What I have come across in my country is an equally damaging psychological abuse from an atheist arena.

    I don’t think this version of hellfire is uniform to all Christian branches so I think it’s more about weeding out that one than pulling up the roots of all.

    On the topic of abuse we ought to be mindful that people are embedded in a culture (which includes beliefs). While some of us may rise up to break free from our culture, we must be careful not to inflict psychological damage on those who are happy and content in their culture.

    I am not a Christian. I have my own reasons for rejecting the culture involved in that. But my abusive atheist relative has given me no inclination to adopt his view either.

    It’s abusive to use fear as a behavioural modifier but it’s also abuse to tell people they are stupid, insane, imbecilic etc and to tell them that their beliefs and cultures (which form part of their identity) are stupid.

    I know there’s people here who feel their atheism is superior and good luck to them, but I don’t think that gives them the licence to go out and abuse others. The valid complaint against religion for its indoctrination is being replaced by those who wish to control and abuse religious people by trying to tell them what they should or shouldn’t believe. That’s reverse indoctrination and equally harmful.

    Everyone including me spends their life looking for and imagining we can or have found truth. The key is to let each person travel that path in their own way and let them find whatever gets them through.

    When it comes to objective science, which is about progressive and evolving objective knowledge, that’s different to beliefs. And I just think it’s irrelevant trying to tell people what to or what not to believe. In fact it’s abusive from all angles of the argument.

    In my country religion is a minority. And it almost gets the same oppressive treatment that our secular government inflicted upon our indigenous people.

    White secularism is the privileged power holder here and most abuses in my country are embedded in that oppression.

    So in answer to your question, no, I don’t see that religious abuse of children here. I have never been in those kinds of religious circles, nor have I worked with a child who has (the exception was a Muslim but the abuse he suffered was not to do with beliefs). I see children who are sexually, physically and psychologically abused and/or neglected in a secular society. There’s no significant correlation between religious belief and child abuse. Abuse is prevalent on an equal footing throughout my society.

    It’s merely a heuristic to think it only happens in religion. I can tell you I have seen some atheists do and say horrendous things to their children.

    Therefore, what one’s religious views are seems irrelevant to me. I think it’s more important that all of us learn to treat each other with respect and cut out the verbal/written abuse against people who think differently.

  • MJ

    This is the Catholic (the religion which compiled the Bible) view of Hell. The quotes are taken from highly-reliable sources. It is taken entirely from Newapologetics.com:

    Question: If the love of God does not change, how is it possible for a soul to be judged by God?

    Answer: God’s action is always one of self-gift, and the judgment is no different. The judgment of God is simply the full awareness of the self-gift of God to the soul. In judgment, the Lord simply looks at the soul with love (which reveals perfect truth about oneself), and asks that the soul accept his mercy. That is, he asks that the soul consent to the wounds of Christ for the sake of the forgiveness of sins. The act of accepting Christ’s suffering may seem easy when considered in a merely notional way, but to understand that one has wounded perfect love can be the greatest of pains such that a soul may choose to condemn itself in despair rather than be in the presence of the perfectly innocent one who was wounded. This shame cannot be imagined or anticipated until it is experienced. For one who loves God, it is greater than any pain of heart other than hell itself. Indeed, if one were to choose to be damned it would be because the pain of the loss of God for eternity is subjectively seen as preferable to the pain of being in his presence.

    Quotes: “Hell is the mind eternally mad at itself for wounding Love. How often during life you have said: ‘I hate myself.’ No one who ever condemned you could add to the consciousness of your guilt. You knew it a thousand times better than they. When did you hate yourself most? Certainly not when you failed to act on a tip on the stock market. You hated yourself most when you hurt someone you loved. You even said: ‘I can never forgive myself for doing that.’ The souls in hell hate themselves most for wounding Perfect Love. They can never forgive themselves. Hence their hell is eternal: eternal self-imposed unforgiveness. It is not that God would not forgive them. It is rather that they will not forgive themselves.” (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, The Hell There Is)

    Question: If God only offers mercy to the soul and does not condemn, how can it be that hell remains a possibility?

    Answer: It is not sin in and of itself that determines a person’s ultimate destiny, but the acceptance or refusal of God’s mercy. A person who definitively chooses to reject the mercy of God will be condemned of himself and God will be forced to seal the judgment. God does everything in hispower to save the soul that may try to condemn itself, but he cannot force a person to freely respond to his love. God is forced to let the unrepentant sinner have his way out of respect for thefree will that has been given, and he must allow this tragic separation to occur if the soul wills it.

    Quote: “The much talked about eternity of hell does not depend on God, who is always ready to forgive, but on the person who refuses to be forgiven and would accuse God of lacking respect for his freedom if God were to do so.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

    Also, your view of the Redemption is erroneous and non-Christian. It is not your fault. Allow Pope Emeritus Benedict to correct you:

    “To many Christians, and especially to those who only know the faith from a fair distance, it looks as if the cross is to be understood as part of a mechanism of injured and restored right. It is the form, so it seems, in which the infinitely offended righteousness of God was propitiated again by means of an infinite expiation. It thus appears to people as the expression of an attitude which insists on a precise balance between debit and credit; at the same time one gets the feeling that this balance is based nevertheless on a fiction. One gives first secretly with the left hand what one takes back again ceremonially with the right. The ‘infinite expiation’ on which God seems to insist thus moves into a doubly sinister light. Many devotional texts actually force one to think that Christian faith in the cross visualizes a God whose unrelenting righteousness demanded a human sacrifice, the sacrifice of his own Son, and one turns away in horror from a righteousness whose sinister wrath makes the message of love incredible.” (Cardinal Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity)

    “In Jesus’ Passion, all the filth of the world touches the infinitely pure one, the soul of Jesus Christ and, hence, the Son of God himself. While it is usually the case that anything unclean touching something clean renders it unclean, here it is the other way around: when the world, with all the injustice and cruelty that make it unclean, comes into contact with the infinitely pure one – then he, the pure one, is the stronger. Through this contact, the filth of the world is truly absorbed, wiped out, and transformed in the pain of infinite love… If we reflect more deeply on this insight, we find the answer to an objection that is often raised against the idea of atonement. Again and again people say: It must be a cruel God who demands infinite atonement. Is this not a notion unworthy of God? Must we not give up the idea of atonement in order to maintain the purity of our image of God?… It becomes evident that the real forgiveness accomplished on the Cross functions in exactly the opposite direction. The reality of evil and injustice that disfigures the world and at the same time distorts the image of God – this reality exists, through our sin. It cannot simply be ignored; it must be addressed. But here it is not the case of a cruel God demanding the infinite. It is exactly the opposite: God himself becomes the locus of reconciliation, and in the person of his Son takes the suffering upon himself. God himself grants his infinite purity to the world. God himself ‘drinks the cup’ of every horror to the dregs and thereby restores justice through the greatness of his love, which, through suffering, transforms the darkness.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part Two)

    Jesus is not saving us from himself (or his law code) on the cross. Rather, he is saving us from suffering and death.

    MJ