In which we finish out the discussion I had a couple weeks back with some amiable unbelievers convinced that Hell is just crowd control for suckers who like smells and bells. My interlocuter continues…
Are you saying you cannot have a conscience, good heart and compassion on your own?
Not especially, though that is true since all that is good is a gift of God, even for those who do not think he exists. But my point here is that you still assume that Hell is not a thing like cancer, gravity, and addiction (all of which result in Bad Consequence if we simply ignore reality and do whatever we like).
Jesus speaks of Hell as a thing like cancer, gravity or addiction. If you smoke three packs a day, try to fly off the Sydney Opera House, or start doing meth, you will kill yourself not because God is mean, but because reality is constructed thus and not otherwise. Hell is like that and not a thing like the bogeyman, invented by human beings as a form of crowd control.
In short, I’m telling you what the Christian tradition actually says: that Hell is corollary of the reality that sin is enslaving, corrupting, blinding and weakening and that it is possible for a human being to so give himself over to its power that he cannot escape it and ends by disintegrating into ex-humanity, permanently severed from the Good who is God and from all society with the rest of creation.Again, offended, my reader replied:
You claim god makes good people regardless of belief. Then he makes evil people too just because? It’s all such nonsense.
No. I say that all goodness comes from God, who is the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. So a conscience, a good heart and compassion (even in the breast of an atheist, and I know some very good ones) are his good gifts to us, because he makes us in his image and likeness and loves us. These are exercised in freedom. God does not will evil and does not make us do evil. We choose it freely. And the effect of the choice is, among other things, bondage. Something every addict can attest. God does not desire us to be in bondage.