HT PZ Myers. One could make a version of this for all academics and experts. There is something particularly excruciating about spending years of one’s life dedicated to studying a field and trying to advance our knowledge in it, only to be treated dismissively by someone who is confident that they have a full grasp of the matter because they Googled something about it. While viewpoints like mythicism and young-earth creationism existed well before Google, they are certainly thieving in our era in which expertise counts for little if anything.
I had a discussion in Sunday school this past weekend about afterlife and universalism. The “homework” for next time was a challenge to think about what, if anything, your child could do that would lead you to subject them to torture forever with no end. My guess is that most in the class will say “nothing.”
And hopefully then all they will need to do is apply the principle that a view of God is likely false if God is thought of as more cruel, or less merciful, than we are.
Of course, there is a sense of fairness that we have that we instinctively want to have satisfied. And so, returning to the cartoon, an academic might well feel at some point that it would not be inappropriate for denialists to have to spend a million years researching a topic, followed by an eternity after that spent trying to correct all the wrong opinions on that subject articulated on the internet.
Anyone who thinks that that would not be a form of “eternal conscious torment” either doesn’t know what it is like to be an academic confronted with denialism related to their field, or isn’t using their imagination.
I am sure that next time in my Sunday school class, we will end up talking about universalism. I already pointed out that there are issues with the popular Evangelical view every bit as much as with universalism, if not more so. Sure, the idea that Hitler might be forgiven because everyone gets forgiven is uncomfortable for conservative Evangelicals. But if they think their notion is less problematic, that Hitler could have made a deathbed profession of faith and been saved, while the victims of the Holocaust who did not convert will suffer further still in hell, then they have a particularly twisted view of things – one that casts aside any notion of fairness or justice or mercy altogether in favor of a God who plays favorites.
I have said before that I think the best thing for modern Christians to do is to treat notions of an afterlife with agnosticism. Every attempt to depict one is fraught with problems, and an approach to morality that focuses on rewards and punishments is inferior to one that expects human beings to recognize the inherent value in certain actions regardless of whether they are ever noticed, never mind recompensed.