Thursday, 15 March 2007
“The Doctrine of Hell”Intro:
[comprehensive closing statement]
This topic has multiplied onto numerous xangas. I thought I would wrap things up with a "concise" overview. Hopefully this is the most efficient way to digest all relevant matters pertaining to the doctrine of hell…it’s not short…but it's all to the point and covers practically everything you need to know to make up your mind on it, in my opinion.
I think historically this is probably one of the top deal breakers for Christians…one of the most obvious things that make the world view completely unpalatable. Tons of other issues are ambiguous and difficult to judge from the comfort of your own home or even in a library. However, this easily crosses those boundaries. It seems you either:
0. Pretend like its not so bad:
1. Reject it because it’s evil...the obvious thing to do.
The difference apparently is that God manages to say that without sounding crazy, right?
2. Interpret it out of the Bible. Why not just interpret everything out of the bible you don’t like? You really expect reading comprehension to take a dive and this problem to forever go away?
3. Mutate some trivial aspect of it so that is seems different…even though it isn’t.
4. Mutate some important aspect of it so that it is different than the Biblical picture…aka making shit up.
5. Never think about it, gloss over it, pretend like its not important or not that bad…salvation is so “easy” (even though Jesus and Paul say its not, see the quotes below) and heaven is what’s important so who cares.
6. Accept a laundry list of irrational propositions that sometimes even contradict other parts of the Bible in order to prop it up...almost as popular.
7. Accept that God exists and he’s evil…and deal with it on those terms. Of course this is the least popular (though some would label this Calvinism, lol).
8. Accept it rationally as it is simply impossible to do as an ethical, intellectually honest person.
This is in no way just an atheistic phenomena…there are new-coming Christians that fully recognize they don’t want to get to know their personal lord and savior Jesus Christ if this is in tow.
Read it for yourself. It’s always sad when most of the time I, the atheist, am the one who defends the continuity of Scripture from people that don’t know the Bible or those who try to twist scripture to mean something that it doesn’t mean. Arguably there are a few different versions of the afterlife in the Bible especially in comparison from the OT to the NT, but we aren’t talking about contradictions here (other than the Bible says God is good and he isn’t) and obviously the doctrine of eternal damnation is the one that succeeds and trumps all others in terms of orthodoxy. I just don’t see how you can avoid the basic implication that supposedly you are going to suffer in one way or another for what you did in this life for an infinite amount of time after Judgment Day. And there is no possible world where this is consistent with an all powerful loving deity. If you try to metaphoricalize it away, contextually it becomes gibberish. Sure not every verse spells it out…but do they have to? And not every connection directly relates to everlasting torture…but what earthly comparison is there? And why can’t those earthly finite connections be the limited metaphors instead? That makes much more overall contextual sense as you should soon see:
Just kidding. If God had told Eve what was going to happen to all of her billions of kids she would have had a heart attack on the spot and ruined the whole deal…ending the Bible somewhere on page 4 or 5. lol
"And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
Aka...not a perfect example? Let's let this tail wag the dog, shall we?
He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water."
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name."
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where " 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' Everyone will be salted with fire.
That sounds just a little bit like rubbing it in doesn't it?
The Sheep and the Goats
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Regardless of the possible technicality that perhaps "go away" has been mistranslated, the difference appears to be no more than whether you are beaten eternally with a crow bar or with a baseball bat. Debates like this in Christendom are like gangsters viciously attacking each other's mob boss for equally pernicious torturing tactics. Lametastic.
The Rich Man and Lazarus
"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
I'm sure there may very well be metaphors at work in these passages, but they must be limited as in God doesn't have to go into details of the physics of it, but you get the damned gist...and incidentally the damned gist is exactly what is being criticized.
And finally, in case you thought only Hitler will be going there:
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Incidentally they are all that moral majority who may be reading this post right now.
And to the over-confident "miracle working" Christians we should add:Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
The body count of hell has to come from some where, folks. Let's not forget the religious moderates among us:
So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Did uh, God say he wanted you to pull the punch?
And if you think God will judge you fairly based on your own standards (I do mean you, Richard Carrier), consider:
"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more.
What a dick. Just can't let those scales be balanced, can we?
And if you think God is intimately cultivating your soul..chew on this:
"Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.
And for you believing slackers out there:
1 Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
No wonder it says:
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
Tough shit, eh? I quote all this in order to make the Christians who say, "its so easy, just believe" a little antsy. Not quite feeling like an Olympic saint today? Not so keen on 9 out of 10 people you know being royally screwed over for all eternity (or having to watch)? Wondering why you have to play such a dangerous game without your consent that you didn't start? Second guessing how meaningful it is to have God's grace "on your team" when it's still dependent on you? Thinking maybe that God isn't such a great guy after all? If you think everything is okay here...you are delusional. A god that is okay with all of this is a god that is not trustworthy...to the extent coming through on your salvation means nothing to him. You can quote verses that say the opposite all day long...but inactions speak louder than words. Do we honestly expect the Bible to confirm directly: "Yes, this is an evil doctrine and god is evil."
It's like apologists manage to see "Buddy Jesus" despite the obvious "Jigsaw Jesus" architexture of the situation:
Is, "The bible says elsewhere 'God is good'" really an argument? Google forbid the Bible be inconsistent in more than one way... In the Saw movies, Jigsaw defends himself as not a murderer, because apparently even though his victims were put in some panic inducing environment...they could have immediately seen Jigsaw's perspective, followed all the rules and saved themselves. "I'm not a hit man...there was a 10% chance my sniper bullet could have been blown off course by the wind." "I'm not an evil God...there was a ten percent chance you could have been saved given the convoluted circumstances I let you be born in." Why are Christians so inept at slightly complicated moral reasoning?
Gauntlet of Evil
Here’s the run down of the basic ethical problems with hell.
- Nobody knows it’s true. Therefore nobody should be held accountable in any way. If God’s not good enough to show up and participate overtly in history…I don’t see why he thinks its his place to have anything to do with how it ends any more than any dead-beat dad should be able to show up and tell you how to live your life.
- The punishment does not fit the crime. Even the worst of the worst of us do not deserve *eternal* punishment. Do we really think the moral thing to do is let Smeagol fester in his cave for all eternity? Then let's not be moral dolts and subscribe to the "perpetual earning their damnation" theory. Its simply amazing how sick apologists are willing to leave this equation: "Well, we're done here..."
- God is ultimately at fault…he let us be born with sinful natures…we didn’t eat of the forbidden fruit…we should all have been born in Paradise and made a decision from that standpoint without the deck so stacked against our success (since few will be saved). This isn't to say that people don't deserve any punishment, but God seems to be the only one excempt from reaping what he sows. Apologists actually manage to convince themselves that as long as the world is "more good than bad" like only 40% of children are sexually molested, God is still a great guy. But boy if you kinda sin just once, you are the epitome of evil.
- Nobody should be allowed to “choose” such a fate. Pretending like we are “just getting what we are asking for” does not excuse an ethical God from preventing us from making the worst possible decision ever. I believe the term apologists aren't searching for is "intervention." Think of your best friend...would it honor their free will to let them do this to themselves if you had the power to stop it? Would you want to be "respected" in that way? Just which way is that moral compass pointing that this deity supposedly gave you?
- Heaven and hell infringe on free will. One should not have to choose between forever glorifying a deified Middle Eastern tyrant who doesn’t deserve it…and suffering forever. There should be a neutral zone for good people who simply want nothing to do with God. I mean who knows...what if I am wrong about who God really is...and its all just a big misrepresentation...but if you send me to hell...I'm probably not going to get the "right idea." If its all about "the gift of God himself" maybe that third option neutral zone might make some hard-hearted critics switch sides...over time...on their own time. What exactly is the rush? Why does God have to be such an incredibly jealous, petty, and fascist prick? Is that really what we learned in that prodigal son parable? Does one size fit all? If God wants to say he respects our free will, he can give us *real* options and apologists can stop pretending hell simply has to be on the table at all.
- God is not human compatible. I don't buy the whole, "God is infinitely offended by any little infraction" argument. That's not our damn problem. If I wire up the entire world to wince in agonizing pain every time you take a breathe...that's not your fault. If God didn’t want to be infinitely offended by my mere existence maybe he shouldn’t have let me be born with a "sinful nature." He’s ultimately the one stabbing himself with the knife. No one needs to be a part of the grind of infinite anything’s. And a good God would know this and subtract himself from the equation entirely...if in fact he had some bizarre infinitely sensitive moral system. The only way he maintains his claim on perfection in this event is because he infinitely overcompensates for this character flaw of his…all the while at the expense of most of humanity for all eternity as collateral damage because he couldn’t keep things nice and simple. If God can be complacently apathetic about the vigorous day to day suffering in the world…I don’t see why he can’t have a thicker skin in regards to how imperfect we are. If not, its kind of like he has some kind of divine chemical imbalance. It can't be "perfect justice" if the terms of the situation are imperfect to begin with. Further, if God can tolerate our imperfection at all...and if even one wittle atheist dies happily and fully convicted that he/she wants nothing to do with God, and if God really has infinite resources to spare...there is simply no logical reason God can't just let it go indefinitely. "If you love it, let it go" must be the creation of Satan, apparently.
- Even if “hell isn’t that bad” in one way or another, this idea as presented is so easy to “get wrong” that it is unethical to not spell it out exactly how it is from the get go to alleviate emotion damning confusion for thousands of years over the vast spectrum of idiosyncratic human nature…the recipe for disaster it must have been for so many in history that maybe didn’t know how to cope with such a big bad idea on the table (perhaps you know of a few people yourself…I know I do). Not everyone is born a moderate. Not everyone knows that God doesn't really mean x when God says x. If the president gives an address and says that a giant asteroid is going to hit the earth and there’s nothing we can do about it…and it solicits mass panic and chaos…but he really means that life isn’t fair and he just wanted to say that metaphorically…do we not call that extreme negligence no matter how poetic?
- Children should not be taught this doctrine regardless. Believing parents don’t know that it is true and they have a heavy influence on their children. Feelings get set down deep and wide in childhood…the Bible isn’t the greatest at guiding people through the valley of the shadow of death if you know what I mean (at least not until you have the chance to digest several thousand years of cultural history...something grader-schoolers aren't so good at)…statistically it should be no surprise if the doctrine of hell emotionally cripples a number of people just because. Let them deal with it as adults. The people that deal with it and live well well don't take it that seriously and for no obvious reason. If it’s a matter of faith…and not fact, you have no right to do that to your kids any more than you have to beat them. Let them decide when it is easier through the eyes of an adult to deal with it if they are to “have faith” in it or not. Just because the Bible says something is true doesn’t mean you have the right to be stupid. Even children that grow up to be believing adults even though they were basically raped by the idea in childhood are still scarred and have to deal with that damage in one way or another…even if they never manage to point the finger at God. "We lovingly warn them..." You can't just slap the term "lovingly" on any phrase and expect it to carry sensible moral weight.
Gallery of FAILed Excuses (~63 entries so far)
If you are new to this debate and you read the scripture verses and maybe have a little common sense…this section is quite hilarious. I’ve been collecting all the line-item bits of absolute retardation that defense of this doctrine entails. Beware…lest Christianity pervert your thinking skills as well for the sake of holding the fort:
-Hell isn’t that bad.
-that Hell has no externally induced torture
-Eternal punishment for finite crimes is just.
-Justice is the only thing that’s important in ethical decisions
-People know the situation objectively, have every means to succeed and most willingly choose to go to hell...god must have some seriously bad breath.
-That torture and torment are...relevently different.
-“the punishment should fit the crime” is only ARU's opinion
-the doctrine of hell is just “misunderstood”
-being unconscious for eternity is worse than being tormented for eternity
-only some people would prefer to not exist over being eternally tortured and they are the minority who is in the wrong!
Note: Matthew 26:24
The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."