The material in this section originally came about because I was randomly emailed by some very rude Christians, who were determined to save my eternal soul from the barbarisms of their loving god. Intrusion into my private space arose because of comments that I occasionally leave on various forums in which I discuss theology and philosophy. A few of the offending (and offensive) comments are below. I only include initials, because I don’t really want to encourage either stupidity, or bad spelling and these people don’t deserve to get their names up in lights.
Its Hell Out There!
” I think that you need to think about that. WE have been warnging yoU! we are telling you! you need to accept Jesus into your life. He loves you and is waiting for you. Other wise…I am sorry for you. You had your warning.” KTS
“Jesus doesn’t inflict Hell on anyone. People inflict it on themselves by refusing Christ offer to pay for their sins. I and everyone else sins each day. I am not perfect, I am only FORGIVEN. ” DR
“Jesus loves u and God, His Father does…but if u lack the Holy Spirit and you reject Christ, u will not see heaven. Read your Bible Greg. God is judge and love, both, not just one…that is how satan is deceiving many right now in this world. Please read your Bible, He will reap judgment on this world, really He is already by allowing things like disease, etc. Get a grip Greg, read your Bible and I will pray, the Truth of it comes thru in your mind and heart. Love u in the Lord.” BC
“Dude you seem to thrive on bigotry and insolence. If you know the word of God, then you are without excuse. Do you understand hyperbole? It.s used to compare our feelings for our family as hatred compared to the supernatural love that we have for Christ. We never stop loving our familys. Christ taught on the sermon of the mount that hatred is as murder. I’m no genius or expert in anything, but I know in whom I have believed. Sir/mam it takes guts to say what you’re saying, not because of the people in this forum, but because Christ will judge the living and the dead at His appearing as written in scripture” AL
This is only a sampling of the relevant hate mail landing in my inbox. But in each case, the writer obviously believes that their deity is going to inflict needless, eternal and evil torture on a significant section of the population, starting with one Greg Kasarik.
Hell is pointless!
By it’s very definition Hell doesn’t achieve anything!
If I punish someone here on earth, it is with the intention of modifying their behaviour, so that they don’t repeat offend. In addition, one might argue that it is so that others might see the punishment and refrain from acting in that manner (although research, particularly on the death penalty shows almost no evidence of this).
One could also argue that it serves some metaphysical concept of “Justice”, in which case the proverbial “scales” of justice are weighed and an appropriate punishment given out, thereby balancing the scales because the perpetrator suffers an appropriate penalty for their transgressions.
Perhaps final possible reason for punishment is that of allowing the aggrieved party to achieve closure, in that they knowledge of the punishment helps to alleviate some of their pain.
Now, lets look at “Hell”.
The first two reasons for punishment don’t apply. By definition, it is for eternity, so nobody is going to be given the opportunity to reform and behave better next time. Also, as the punishment lies beyond our earthly gaze, it is an incredibly inefficient way of changing other people’s behaviour.
With respect to the first two reasons for punishment, Hell achieves nothing.
Which brings us to the third reason for punishment, closure for the victim. Care needs to be taken here as some victims would, through reasons of their own, seek to impose penalties far in excess of the original crime. The hilarious example occurred recently when someone tried to sue the Bank of America for 1,784 billion, trillion dollars. But the “victim” in this case is God, who we are being told is so aggrieved by my failure to believe in him that he demands that I suffer for eternity? 1,784 billion, trillion doesn’t even begin to scratch an eternity, but even if the punishment was that I suffer for this many days it would, in any reasonable assessment, judged excessive in the extreme.
When looking at the final reason for punishment, the impartial balancing of the scales of justice, we need to take a close look at the nature of the crime.
In this cases of the believers above, the crime was my “failure to believe”. Hardly the stuff that eternal torment should be made of. What about other crimes, such as murder, rape and the like? Aren’t these more worthy of eternal suffering? Indeed, take an unavowed mass murderer like Mao Zedong, who was probably responsible for the deaths of more than 40 million people; if we were to send him to jail for a full term of 25 years for each, he would “only” be in jail for a billion years. A fair whack of time, but not even a decent start on eternity.
The very nature of the “crime” is suspect. Most would agree that “Belief” is based on evidence. If I don’t believe, it is because there isn’t enough evidence.
For example, if I were to say to someone that I have a talking rabbit in my kitchen, would anybody expect them to believe me?
No! In fact, we’d doubt the rationality of anyone who did. A person couldn’t even “choose” to believe me, as no amount of choice on anyone’s part is going to be able to make them believe something as nonsensical as talking rabbits.
Similarly, if I were to challenge a person’s belief that the sun will rise tomorrow, they’d need damned good evidence to abandon this belief and no amount of “choosing” to believe otherwise is going to work.
Of course, organised religion has spent centuries coming up with formulaic phrases designed to make non-believers seem like they are actively defying God, rather than sitting around going WTF?
For example, I’ve routinely been accused of “hardening my Heart against Jesus”. How anyone can harden their hearts against something that they don’t believe in beggars the imagination. I may as well be accused of hardening my heart against fairies, Darth Vader, or Ralph the Invisible Pink Unicorn (RIPU).
Belief is all about available evidence and there just isn’t enough objective evidence to warrant belief in any deity, let alone the Christian one. This is made abundantly clear when you realise that after 2000 years, Christianity has only a 30% market penetration worldwide. Coca Cola has at least this much after only 100. And don’t get me started on the ubiquity of Microsoft Windows after less than a generation.
Whose job is it to provide the evidence?
I’d suggest that it is the responsibility of the guy supposedly running the show (AKA God). So, if there isn’t enough evidence, and God is responsible for providing it, then I’d suggest that blame lies with him and that it would be totally unjust punishment me for his error. In fact, if anybody is going to end up in Hell, its him, on account of sheer laziness, and ineptitude.
But what of the nature of God? Is it plausible that he would be as offended and hurt as you surely must claim? I’d suggest not. As defined by the Hellraising monotheistic faiths, God is Infinite, Omniscient, Omnipotent, the source of Ultimate Good, and chock block full of justice, love, mercy and forgiveness.
I would suggest to you that an infinitely good, omniscient being is also infinitely well-adjusted with a psychological stability beyond comprehension. He can forgive the most grievous transgression not just once, but a 1,784 billion, trillion times. He will punish, but only to the point of necessity and no further. It is inconceivable that an infinitely loving being could pointlessly inflict needless suffering on a creature that he loves. Such a being would descend into madness in the blink of an eye.
For those who believe in Hell I would ask, do you have a pet, a partner, or children that you genuinely love? What madness would have to be eating into your brain to make you inflict torture upon them? (Hint: If you are fine with torturing someone you claim to love, you really need to look up the meaning of either, or both those words).
Perhaps most importantly, the Eternal Hellraising God is Omnipotent! He can do anything he likes! Can anyone seriously try to claim that an Omnipotent being doesn’t have a choice over whether to torture me for eternity, or not? He certainly does; that’s the whole point of Omnipotence! Yes, I have my free will, but don’t for a second try to claim that my free will invalidates that of a God!
If God doesn’t like how I exert my “free will” (and once again, belief has nothing to do with “free will”), he has the free will to choose how to deal with me. He can either educate me properly, as I would do for any of my children, or pets, or he can freely choose to inflict cruel, pointless and unjust suffering on me. If he chooses the latter, he is obviously a mad god and not worthy of anyone’s worship in the first place.
A More Likely Story.
In conclusion, I’d like to put forward an alternative, much more likely idea.
God is an infinite being, who as we have seen, possesses precisely the characteristics that would prevent him from needlessly inflicting suffering on any other being. Man (and I use the gender term for “Humanity” deliberately here) however, is greedy, fearful, egotistical and desperate for power over his fellows. A doctrine of “hell” doesn’t begin to match the behaviour that we would expect from a just and loving God. It does however, match what we would expect from any man seeking to exert control over his fellows. What better way, than to terrify believers into submission, so that they police themselves for heresy, rather than actively searching for the truth of God’s wonder and majesty?
Accordingly, I would suggest that any belief system that contains threats of eternal damnation, is of man, not of God and we should all recognise the implications this has for our lives.
Ironically, within the context of my own Mystical journey, I have begun to realise that just as states of absolute Joy exist, so to do states of absolute despair and misery. Darkness is real, and it is incumbent upon each of us to choose our own paths through Eternity. Some people will choose Darkness and I believe that the belief in Hell is one such indicator that a person has chosen a path of Darkness.
Ironically, it is the person who believes in Hell as a destination for others who is far closer to Hell than anyone else, if for no other reason than because his conceptualisation of reality actually contains HELL, and because they believe that it is a Good thing!
From there, it is only a small step into the Fires.