Showing posts with label hell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hell. Show all posts

Jesus Behaving Badly: The Smoke of Their Torment

When it comes to dealing with the violent, angry, bi-polar god of the Old Testament, many Christians use Jesus as their get-out-of-jail-free card.
If we atheists bring up some of the many examples of the despicable actions and character of Yahweh, as described in the Bible, we hear: “But… Jesus… grace… New Covenant...” 
It’s as if sometime during the inter-testamental period, their god attended anger management sessions or got in touch with his kinder, gentler side.  Perhaps an image consultant advised him that all the smiting and killing was starting to give him a bad reputation? God 2.0 (aka Jesus) is supposed to magically override the trail of carnage that the Bible tells us that Yahweh left in his wake.

Hell, Craig, Bradley and creating from a subgroup of freely loving individuals


I was going to post something else but A for Atheist’s post made me remember this post I did some time ago on my own blog. Although it refers to hell, it can actually refer to heaven if one switches the “don’t create the bad lot” to “DO create the good lot” and thus we have, it seems, some kind of logical evidence for God creating those of Godly nature that A was referring to herself.
I have just listened to Ray Bradley debate William Lane Craig. I heard this several years ago but didn't really pay it close attention. This time round I was quite shocked at how many points Craig evaded, or logical demands from Bradley that he met with the terms "God may" and so on.

Craig squirmed big time when Bradley pressed him on subsets of compossibles. This is a REALLY important point. I will try to set it out here:

Am I Afraid Of Hell?


Every so often someone asks me if I am afraid of going to hell when I die for debunking Christianity. Am I?


I am not afraid. I really am not. I do not believe there is a 3 in 1 God. I do not believe in an incarnation, nor an atonement, nor a resurrection, and I do not believe that an perfectly good God would cast me into hell. Period.

Someone may claim that less proof is demanded for a higher risk situation: "The greater the risk, the less proof is required." When a bomb threat is called in, the authorities don't need much evidence to justify evacuating the building. Here, the risk is Hell, isn't it?

The risk factor is based upon the Christian historical claims, is it not? And the Christian claim is a very large one and very hard to defend from historical evidence, as I argue. So, the amount of risk is mitigated by the meager evidence for the large claim.

Muslims claim that you will go to hell if you don't convert to Islam too, but you cannot be a Muslim and also a Christian. Both religions offer some evidence to believe. Christians think their faith has more evidence on its behalf than Islam. One billion Muslims think otherwise. According to both religions the other group is going to hell. So choose wisely. The risk is the same because a lot is at stake. Both are calling in a proverbial bomb threat. On the one hand, someone claims if you stay in a building you will die, whereas someone else claims that if you leave the building and go out into the street you will die.

What do you do at this point? You come to the best conclusion you can, and act upon it. This I have done.

I've previously dealt with this question here.

Besides, there are plenty of other alternatives after we die. When Dan Barker was a Blog member here he asked the Christian what if he was wrong?.

Paul Copan on Why God Would Send People to Hell


Since people are threatening us here with hell, I'm redating this post of mine:

As an evangelical Paul Copan takes a conservative position that the images depicting hell in the Bible are figurative ones, simply because these images picture contrary ones involving darkness, flames, and worms that never die in a place where the damned no longer have physical bodies. What do these images depict? According to Copan, hell is “the ultimate, everlasting separation from the source of life and hope: God.” Therefore, “the pain of hell should not be seen in terms of something physical but rather as pain within a person’s spirit.” “Hell at its root is the agony and utter hopelessness of separation from God.” [From Paul Copan's book “That’s Just Your Interpretation” (Baker Books, 2001), pp. 101-109.

Initially I must wonder if Copan has done any deep thinking about what it might mean to be separated from the "source of life" here. There are many evangelicals who conclude that this means the damned cease to exist…annihilationism. And while Copan is trying to soften the horrors of hell, if correct, such a view of hell is still a horrible fate for a loving God to inflict upon human beings.

Copan further argues that “hell is the logical outcome of living life away from God.” Those who find themselves in hell have committed “not simply a string of finite sins,” but “the infinite sin,” for unbelievers have resisted “the influence of God’s Spirit” and “refused to honor God as God” by “not lovingly responding to God’s kind initiative.”

However, I find this almost absurd that the Christian God blames us for living our lives as if he didn’t exist because there simply isn’t enough reason to believe in him over any of the other gods, or no god at all, especially when we usually adopt the religion we were born into! I furthermore find it absurd that God is so upset that we don’t acknowledge him in this life that he will punish us forever for it, as if it hurts him that much for us not to acknowledge him. If he is omniscient, then he knows why we do what we do and why we believe what we do, and I fail to see how such a God cannot empathize with how we live our lives. We all do the best we can do given our environment and brain matter.

According to Copan, “to force someone into heaven who would hate the presence of God…would be horrible,” and he agrees with D.A. Carson, that “heaven would surely be hell for those who don’t enjoy and desire the blessing of God’s presence.” [How Long, O Lord? (Baker, 1990, p. 103]. “Hell is getting what one wants (and deserves)—no God.” Copan also quotes with approval C.S. Lewis that “the doors of hell are locked on the inside.” [The Problem of Pain, p. 127]. Copan further claims even though the damned are in anguish “they still choose to remain in it,” than to prefer “a God-centered existence in heaven.” And so “resistance to God continues in hell.”

If this is the best answer an evangelical can offer, and it probably is, then it is simply absurd. To claim that the damned prefer the anguish of hell over the bliss of heaven through repentance is simply absurd. Someone in hell would simply say, “Oops, I was wrong. Now I know there’s a God and I want to change (repent) and live forever with him.” Anyone in such anguish would repent of their “sins” if they could experience the purported joys of heaven. Every single person in hell would willingly desire to change if they could escape the torments of hell for the joys of heaven. Christians might claim such repentance wouldn’t be true repentance, but repentance (GK: metanoia) is “a change of mind.” People would gladly change their minds if they could know the truth with certainty.

The parable of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31) shows that the rich man in hell (Hades) was now a believer. But he was told he could not cross the chasm to “Abraham’s side,” even though it’s clear he wanted to do so—very clear—contrary to Copan. One of the points of this parable is that his eternal destiny was fixed when he died. Since his fate was already sealed all he could ask for was to warn his father’s house of the torment hell. This doesn’t sound like the doors of hell are locked from the inside to me at all. The doors of hell cannot be locked from the inside if it’s painful to be there. Besides, if they are truly “locked from the inside,” contrary to this parable, there is the very strong possibility that someone could repent in hell, and be admitted into heaven!

Zealots and the Fear of Hell


The very first chink in my Christian faith armor was when I denied a literal traditional hell. I believed in "conditional immortality" at one point. And it was then that I was allowed to pursue my questions, because I thought to myself that hell wouldn't be that bad if I'm annihilated. That's when I began to develop the freedom to question the Bible and to pursue my questions. Of course, in pursuing these questions I eventually came to deny the existence of hell and the Bible as the word of God itself. But for me that's when it started.

Today there is violence between Israel and Lebanon. And while no one can say this is purely a religious war, the elements of religion are plainly evident, especially when militant Islamics (like Hamas, and Hezbollah) want to destroy Israel as part of what they understand the Koran to say.

And then there are Christians who are so zealous for their faith that they consider anyone who questions their faith as a personal attack on them. They too are zealots for their faith.

But why? Why are these religious people so zealous for their faith? Why? Is anyone that zealous in defending their favorite Baseball team, or in defending the historicity the founding of ancient Rome, such that they will personally attack someone who denies it (well there might be a small select few regarding a baseball team, but Christians as a whole take our questions personally).

It's the fear of hell, I tell ya. And it's a horrible doctrine, especially when someone believes that babies go to hell and then still believes this after his wife miscarriages, which is a terrible painful parental experience all by itself that I sympathize with and wish on no one!

Fear of hell. That explains the zeal of the zealots in this world. It's a cradle to grave intimidation that causes otherwise intelligent and caring people to be stupid and fearful and zealous for their faith.

Tell me this, Christians, if it weren't for the fear of hell, how zealous would you be for your faith? How willing would you be to consider the questions we pose here at DC? How does the fear of hell itself affect how zealous you are to defend your faith?

Alternatives To A Fiery Hell

Whether or not God wants to torture you is not the issue, that God will torture you is! If you do not please him in this life, if he does not deem you acceptable to him, then you are going to face the Alpha and Omega’s eternal retribution in the next life. Should you die in an unsaved condition, you are going to face the unchecked wrath of an infuriated, emulous God who will stop at nothing to make sure his enemies pay for their crimes against him. So says the Bible, particularly the New Testament of our ”loving Lord and Savior,” Jesus Christ.

Ten thousand centuries will come and go, and not one day in Hell will have ended. In the amount of time it takes a new universe to expand and collapse, not a single evening in the furnace of Hell will have gone by. In Hell, you’ll have nothing to do, and nothing to think about except your past and how you were nothing but a terrible disappointment to your creator. In addition to all the unceasing and unspeakable pain you’ll be feeling, you will have the added despair of knowing that the life you lived in the flesh was completely in vain. You will be fully awake to experience a nightmare above any nightmare you ever experienced while alive. And just when you think you can’t take anymore, an eternity of suffering awaits you still.

At least, that was the traditional view of hell. For totally understandable reasons, this view is losing out in popularity. You can attend some churches for 30 years and not hear a peep about Hell. People are ashamed of this merciless idea. They are ready for something new, for what modern apologists think is a better take on Hell. They are championing the acceptance of what they consider to be a more merciful form of Gehenna, one that is more easily seen as being in tune with a warn and loving Jesus with outstretched arms and a great big smile.

I am convinced that the doctrine of an eternal Hell has always been what makes more infidels out of men than any other bestial ideal of scripture. It makes the God of the Bible a villain like nothing a Hollywood producer ever brought to life on the big screen. Christian apologetics are asking you to just forget what every unrefined country Catholic, Baptist, or Pentecostal preacher ever told you about Hell. Just listen to these new oracles of the brotherhood! This is not really a new view as much as it is revitalized for the likes of the educated minds of today. Many defenders of the faith, like J.P. Holding for example, tell us that the fires of Hell are figurative, and so is the actual suffering experienced.

During my preaching years, I was a part of debates on the nature of Hell that were quite entertaining. Some of these spats came down to preachers affirming that hell contained “a spiritual form of fire that tortures sinners eternally,” or “some sort of spiritual pain in another dimension that Jesus described as physical burning.” Others went the traditional route, “Real fire await sinners in the next world.” So according to this view, I guess god established that spirits would retain some form of a nervous system that enables them to feel pain sensations even when they are disembodied?

Old and problematic as this belief was, it should be said that some preachers still fervently maintained that it was correct—sinners are literally barbequed each day! This is not an exaggeration! I once had a preacher woman from a holiness church in Alabama hand me a tape which she said detailed the recordings of a spirit journey into Hell to describe its horrors firsthand. She stated that at the end of each day in Hell, souls are “burnt to a crisp,” after which time they are again made whole, only to have the process start over and over again for all eternity! Very sadistic thinking, I must say!

If what modern apologists say is true, centuries of learned gospel preachers have been dead wrong in affirming the reality of such a place. These contemporary Christian thinkers tell us that the suffering experienced in hell is just suffering in the mind (in the spirit mind) of a deceased unbeliever. As he passed into eternity, his body died while his spirit (and therefore consciousness) lived on, but now his soul was separated from God into the “blackness of darkness” of the absence of the Almighty (Jude 1:13). This creates misery all by itself, and this likewise alleviates God from actually creating a Hell or inflicting pain personally. God just made sinners immortal as he has all human beings, and they chose to live in such a manner as to make God separate himself from them so that his righteousness would not be compromised.

This might sound a little nicer than the traditional view of a fiery Hell…at first. Upon further consideration, the position meets a quick and brutal end. Of all the dying and struggling theological positions out there, this one actually makes you feel sorry for modern Christians as they face the embarrassment of having a god who openly approves of torture by example. There’s really no way to water it down, though theists try like keeping afloat in quicksand.

For starters, this position denies some pretty plain scriptural language that seems to teach a literal place of torment (Luke 12:4-5). While good arguments can be made for a hell with figurative fire, it is undeniable that Luke 16:19-31 portrays the existence of a place of real suffering, the kind we were used to in our living bodies. If this is not the case, then the writer of Luke woefully misrepresented the facts—under inspiration of the Holy Spirit no less! But regardless of the presence of fire, we need not get bogged down in disputed details. The scriptures teach some form of suffering of the ungodly beyond the grave.

Regardless of the how, the God of the Bible still makes it clear that he wants disobedient souls that will never be redeemed to stay around for eternity and be miserable. Sure, it wasn’t his original will for them, but he doesn’t feel for us sinners enough to actually deliver us from all possible suffering. God decided that it was fine with him if we suffer for a lifetime of mistakes no matter how sincere those mistakes may have been in their making. We infidels are headed to a place of agony to grope in the darkness of damnation. Our unending groans for mercy will not cause him to have pity on us and deliver us from the merciless condition we will be in. It would just be too much for him to put the sinner out of his misery, to blot him out of existence when he dies!

God has declared that “there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15), and “them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2). God may have wanted all to be saved, but since they “chose” not to be, he is pleased to see them suffer unimaginable pain. The fact that he can stand by and watch as some of his children endure endless centuries of anguish, anguish a man or woman could not possibly deserve from a single lifetime of bad deeds, is what makes him a hideous, indescribable presence. To call him an exceedingly cruel cosmic tyrant makes him sound much nicer than he is! It whitewashes him, in other words.

Getting an unbeliever to accept the concoction of hell is the hardest thing for a believer. The problem for the Christian is that they are always better, kinder, and more compassionate than the deity they serve. They would never dream of leaving even a small animal to die a prolonged death out in the street, much less suffer forever, and yet they are compelled to defend their God’s employment of this indefensibly merciless treatment of the unsaved. He knew when he created man and gave him an “immortal soul” that this would forever seal the fates of sinners to an eternity of unspeakable miseries. He went right on with our creation anyway.

The search for truth is not without its ironies, however. In this case, the irony catches the believer off guard; this new perception of hell is an even more fiendish one than the traditional fiery view they are trying to get the whole world to abandon. It is not difficult to think of how the nature of each person’s “hell” would be distinct and varying according to one’s spiritual vices.

Advocates of this "more compasionate" view tell us Hell's suffering would be in the mind, the result of being away from the light of God, presumably feelings of loneliness, shame, hopelessness, and perhaps other agonies. So we could surmize that one who lived a life of pride might suffer an eternity of humiliation, and a person who belittled his fellow man with verbal abuse and degradation would forever be ridiculed as he ridiculed others. I suppose the same would be true for those who lived lives committing rape and murder. They would mentally experience for eternity the hurt they caused others. This would be directly in line with the Bible's teaching that we reap what we sow according to what was done in the body (2 Corinthians 5:10). Or would this be a fear-based mental Hell? While we’re considering alternatives to the fiery Bible Hell, we might as well get creative and go a step further. Why not a personal, Freddy Krueger-inspired Hell where we face our worst fears, and not just spiritual vices?

My earliest fears of hell did not consist of fire at all, but of being confined to a featureless bright white hallway that goes on forever in two directions. It is small and narrow, has no doors or windows, and has no places to sit or lay down. The punishment was to walk forever, enduring loneliness. It wasn’t until a certain sincere but misled family member I loved took me aside and told me, “Joe, there will definitely be some flames in hell, so you better not use the Lord’s name in vain!” that I began to be afraid of the fire notion. Someone else might have a fear of worms, or spiders, or being torn apart by a huge centipede, in which case they would mentally suffer such things in their minds. This type of hell would be incomparably worse for each individual than one standard hell for everyone. So if either of these derivations describing the “real” Hell are true, then Hell is not really a place, just a sort of mental/spiritual/psychological software that automatically downloads when we die to put together for us the worst torture possible in the afterlife!

Picture a man strapping you down to a chair and attaching a device to your head. It probes your brain to find out where your worst fear lies. When it finds your weakness, it exploits it, subjecting you to the most heightened level of misery conceivable. I fail to see how such an intellection would be any more merciful than Dante’s description of a hell with pits of fire and horned demons, punishing naked and tormented souls, buried in pits of dung and boiling blood! Regardless of the details of exactly how it is administered, suffering is suffering and torture is torture no matter what form it takes.

At the base of all this terror is the fact that none of this can be called justice by any stretch of the imagination. No one, not even the devil himself, could be worthy of truly eternal suffering. Eternal torture is worthless. It does not bring about correction or rehabilitation. It is no means to an end. It does not serve a practical use, like governments applying torture to terrorists to get them to divulge the location of weapon of mass destruction. It is nothing but a cruel and vindictive invention, like the cold, germy, sharp, steel instruments found in the basement of a psychopath.

Hell is a purely brutish payback perpetrated by a powerful barbarian who rules the skies with an easily bruised ego. The slightest thing pisses him off. He runs around with his giant war hammer, scaring the crap out of everyone, but amazingly, he wants to make friends! He is surprised when people run from him and see him as an evil ogre. He apparently doesn’t understand why intelligent, decent people want nothing to do with him. No one likes a bully! But now the bully pretends to be compassionate; he throws everyone for a loop by creating the greatest contradiction anyone ever saw; he sends his son to bring a supposed message of peace and mercy, but should you reject his son and his message, the barbarian father again pulls out that trusty war hammer and takes care of business the old fashioned way! Just like a true bully, you don’t have a choice in the matter! You have to befriend him…or you get the war hammer!

A two-bit numbskull might even realize that this logically destroys any real “choice” that God assures us we have. We are told that God only sends those to Hell who have chosen to go there, but this is just ridiculous. I could offer you the “choice” of a million dollars or cancer, but a halfwit would understand that such a choice would not be a very good one! I wonder why respectable, knowledgeable Christians don’t see this problem?

This reminds me of a certain Simpson’s episode where a cult worshipping “The Leader” comes into Springfield and indoctrinates the whole town into following him. When they put the people into their convent and people start to express the desire to leave, they say, “You are free to leave at any time.” But the moment they try to leave, the person is met with attack dogs and spike pits! The God of the Bible is every bit like these funny cartoon caricatures of some of his followers, offering unbeatable hope and bliss on the one hand, and misery and torture on the other.

The doctrine of Hell will never be compatible with a merciful deity. A nice, smiling preacher in a suit, writing smooth articles, trying to make the position sound refined and graceful won’t work. Taking literal fire out of the picture will not do it either. The smallest fiber of common sense tells us that we put a sick dog out of its misery. We don’t torture it because it bit us on the leg. Hell defies decency, civility, morality, compassion, and sound judgment. I am glad to see modern Christians becoming ashamed to profess belief in it.