April 22, 2011
[Please, note that updates to this map will be posted here: "(argument map) The doctrine of hell is unjust."]
So last week I was listening to Alpha & Omega Ministries' James White give his very Christian thoughts on the William Lane Craig vs. Sam Harris debate. White presented a number of amazing misrepresentations of Harris' views, made huge accusations against Harris' character based on circumstantial evidence, and gave many standard "not my religion" objections to what he called Harris' "red herring" rebuttals in the debate. This isn't just "off topic" for White, but also even if it were the topic White wants to think Harris has misrepresented various aspects of Christian doctrine (not all are covered here though).
So this inspired me to revisit my old post, "The Dubious Doctrine of Hell" and generate a comprehensive argument map with some updated arguments (Actually, I did the vast majority of it from memory, but it parallels the content from that post and I double checked some things to make sure I remembered my talking points).
Anyway, the basic premise is that the doctrine of hell is a punishment that does not fit the crime no matter how you cut the cake. Christians preach a just god and hence their moral paradigm and their worldview are incoherent. Most Christians if they accepted that conclusion would not remain Christian even though technically speaking, there could still exist an extremely powerful unjust god or forfeit Biblical inerrancy or something. I state that argument in the "popular" sense so that all the cliche' responses to it from Christians can "correct" the argument and then I can show how those "corrections" don't amount to anything more than quibbling.
Feel free to update me with more of those delightful nuances (or spelling corrections, etc.) in the comments. There will be no "not my religion" excuses, but I'm sure there's more twists and turns to add.
I really like the longest tangent there that cuts through the majority of the map since the end summary basically gets to add up a long list of improbable, unproven, and suspiciously ad hoc excuses that it would take to make the doctrine of hell morally plausible. Basically god's perfection and goodness amount to his omnnipotent arms being mysteriously tied behind his immaterial back. My old post is an extremely long and thorough reaming of the doctrine from every conceivable angle I could think of at the time. I recall being baffled at many of the things various Christians were offering up in defense and I even took an informal poll at work to find out if it was true that people would really value eternal torment over non-existence. Sometimes it really seems like Christians will gnaw off their own philosophical foot like a wolf caught in a trap before they'll doubt their religion. As far as Biblical arguments from evil go, the doctrine of hell is probably the biggest thorn in the side of mainstream Christian culture from a PR perspective and merits rigorous articulation to nail all that defensive apologetic Jell-O to the wall.
There are two "link nodes" on the map ("Does the Bible teach eternal suffering for the unsaved?" and "Is it easy to be saved?") that have been posted. There are six links to other maps that I'll get around to posting eventually.