When questioning the judgment, sanity and/or intelligence of Christians, the array of potential critics (atheists, agnostics and religious non-Christians) have several tried-and-true avenues of argument they can fall back on. Two of the of the better ones, of course, are to simply argue the silliness of the concept of an all-powerful “invisible man in the sky” or to argue that we as humans couldn’t possibly have enough grasp on reality to know the true path of the spiritual, since too many people disagree.
Not going to argue either of those today. Instead, I’m going to go for what I consider to be the second-runner up of all-time fallback arguments against Christianity:
If your God is so freaking kind and merciful and loving and wonderful, why did He do [insert controversial God-sanctioned activity documented in the Bible here], how could He be permit [insert current or past person of questionable moral character here] to live, and how could He allow [insert the most heinous, mind-rending scenario you are aware of or could imagine here] to occur?
Well, before I respond, I would like you to suspend your possible disbelief in an infinitely powerful, eternal being. Really. I mean, you were smart enough to come up with arguments against God or my particular model of God, so I know you can conceptualize an all-powerful entity. OK, cool. Got that disbelief suspended? Great. We’ll get to that in a moment, right after I ask you a counter-question to the one above.
If you were told that you were about to be subjected to the most intense agony the human mind could experience without shattering entirely, that said pain would last approximately one second, and you would receive several billion dollars for going through the process, what would you do?
Accept the deal, of course. And if you don’t, you’re an idiot.
Which brings me to my point. God is dealing in eternity. Infinity. All the time in the universe and then some.
As horrible as anything that has happened or will happen might be, it is a tiny moment in time compared to eternity. So tiny as to be even less significant than that one second of unbelievable agony I mentioned. God is operating on a framework wherein your end reward is unending and better than anything you can imagine. In this context, there is no atrocity, no event and no disaster that could even come close to denting that. No suffering that Earth, people and Satan subjects us to compares to what God offers us.
Yeah, I know. A lot of you are going to say, “But Deac, by your own admissions in this blog, not everyone is getting that nice reward at the end. So they get shit on Earth and then eternally shittier shit after that. Yay for them, huh?”
Indeed, I believe in Hell and I believe in damnation. I also believe that the only people who are going to get that bitter end are going to be the hardheaded morons who will refuse to acknowledge their sin and their failure to be what they should have been in terms of following God’s word. The damned will be the people who didn’t get it on Earth, refuse to get the message in Hell, and decide that God is a flipping dipshit that they don’t want to spend eternity with anyway because as far as they’re concerned, they didn’t do anything wrong. Those folks get whatever crap they had on Earth, whatever crap they got in Hell, and will move on the Lake of Fire when God wraps up affairs here on this planet and have eternal separation from the good stuff. And frankly they’ll deserve it for being such egocentric self-satisfied remorseless morons, and yes, there will be plenty of souls who take that route, in my opinion.
I don’t believe that God relishes any of our suffering. I think it pains Him greatly. But you know, it pains me to deny my kids something they really want or to punish them in some way. But I do those things because in the end, I’m trying to do the right things for them to grow, and I know that compared to the spans of their lives, God willing that they live long ones, whatever pain they experienced will be a minor thing compared to what they take with them into their maturity.
Definitely a thought provoking post. I had never really looked at it that way, but I like it.
I think you and I have discussed this worldview before, so you know I’m on board.
Just to be clear though, do you think that once people get to Hell, they’ll get a do-over from God and be offerend the opportunity to accept him?
And if you do believe this, who do you think qualifies for the do-over?
It’s strictly my opinion, of course, but yes, as I’ve posted before, the concept of Hell itself being the final destination doesn’t make sense to me. I wouldn’t call it a do-over though.
Here’s how I feel about it.
Clearly, a lot of people died before Jesus without having accepted him as lord and savior. And they had no way of ever being exposed to Yahweh in any way, shape or form. Those people presumable went to Hell. Common theological conceture among many is that Jesus spent his time post-crufixion in Hell, and perhaps because he was preaching to the damned to give them the message and the redemption they couldn’t access before. Giving them, in essence, a chance to choose God’s grace.
If this wasn’t the case, then that means one of two things to me: Either God just left those people damned, despite the fact they couldn’t have ever been exposed to knowledge of Him…or he gave them a pass and just let them in, which also seems unlikely.
Even in this modern age, it is not practical to consider that everyone really is exposed to knowledge of Jesus (and God in His grace) in any way that they would have any reason to give it a second thought. And there are still those who lack any meaningful contact with Christians, even with the Internet and all that.
Also, it makes no sense to me that Hell goes into the Lake of Fire at the end of things unless Hell is “temporary” in a sense. There is no need to throw Hell away for good in a place of eternal damnation if Hell is already the place of eternal damnation. At least it makes no sense to me.
I don’t believe Hell is a place anyone wants to be.
But given that there is, apparently, a final judgement coming, I suspect that those in Hell now have a chance to make a choice.
But whether they are given that pass into heaven, I suspect, will depend on whether they are contrite and seeking eternal love…or whether they are still bitter, or defensive or simply fearful of continuing punishment.
The former group, in my mind, will get in. The latter group, in my mind, won’t…and there will be plenty of souls that will, I think, refuse to look beyond their own desires and circumstance. They will be filled with anger, fear and hate toward God, and that will damn them.
Hell as a literal place – I have a tough time wrapping my mind around that one. The concept makes no sense – in terms of eternal punishment.
On earth, we have courts that will sentence someone to life in jail or even the death penalty. The most someone can give is their one life – and the one’s who chose to selfishly destroy others with their life – will die (I am not sure about the eternal punishment – doesn’t seem ‘just’ for one’s whole life).
I think people die – are erased altogether from existence that choose not to do good. Eternal punishment, in my opinion, would not set up the conditions for repentance – being punished on an on-going basis won’t leave much time for serious repentant thought. So I am not sure how that will work.
Isn’t it sensible to believe you have been given the choice of life and death – and that choice is ours to make – here on earth – whether we choose avenues to fulfill life/happiness or fulfill death/destruction. The same God that can breathe life into humanity – can likely also recall that life. Punishment is having it all taken away – not resurrecting unto more life.
For me, hell doesn’t sit right for some reason…not in a punishing form anyways – it’s strange and unjust (in some ways).
Some very interesting thoughts you have there, and good ones at that. This is a complex area, and every new point of view on a subject like this helps cast light into some new corner.
I don’t know that I see Heaven or Hell as “places” per se. The physics of the afterlife and the mode of existence will, I think, be well beyond what we can envision now.
I don’t even know that Hell, if it is literal, is a place of direct punishment. I don’t see pitchfork-style medieval torture being God’s best mode of having things get done. But I have heard concepts of Hell being a place of spiritual separation, and that certainly would provide an unpleasant situation but also time for reflection.
In any case, I think it is very much more complex than trying to place it in a metaphor of a prison or a rehab facility or anything like that.
“Well, before I respond, I would like you to suspend your possible disbelief in an infinitely powerful, eternal being. Really. I mean, you were smart enough to come up with arguments against God or my particular model of God, so I know you can conceptualize an all-powerful entity. OK, cool. Got that disbelief suspended? Great. We’ll get to that in a moment, right after I ask you a counter-question to the one above.”
This as, obnoxiously smarmy as it is, is very interesting. I sort of struggled through the rest of the article (it’s a big bad internet and lots of shiny things to waste my oh-so-precious time with). But this is the crux of it for me. While I can understand, even empathize with the belief in god, I don’t “feel” it. And any more, don’t bother to believe it.
I was raised Baptist (Independent I believe) for 20 years and now no longer consider myself religious, at all. For all my tears and testimonies I never “got” god. I was on missions committees and went to visit and serve with missionaries in the field. I still never felt anything. I thought I was bad, sinful, that if I just confessed enough, prayed enough, believed enough I would have that ol’ peace that passes understanding. I never did.
It made the break very easy for me. I lacked… what was it “a true change of heart.” I could just ignore the lack of “feelings” but… seriously, when “feelings” is all that shows me god, I can’t help but think it’s hooey. I don’t always believe my husband loves me, I don’t always “feel” it. But he says he does I hear him in more than a freakin’ birdsong. My husband is here, our children are here, in a less “feely” metaphorical sense than god ever was.
I’ve read you for awhile. I even respected you as one of the Christians that I wouldn’t point at and say “That. That person is not one of those tiresome shitty holier-than-thou self-righteous shit-eating smug grinning bastards. These words prove that we can be more than just Us v. Them.” Well, I was wrong. Maybe, you’re a good guy. I don’t know. But Deac, you are on the shit list. I had really truly forgotten that at bottom everyone not like you burns, yeah I know, god will wipe away your tears at the Throne. I don’t give a fuck.
I sense I’m verging into hostility. … It’s more frustration than the vice though, I really thought there could be understanding. But it’s night and day. I do remember, like muscle memory, a reflexive impulse of belief. It isn’t “real” for me, but it’s how I was taught to think. I remember what it is to believe in god, though I also remember what it was to be a virgin. So what? I can remember that brief euphoria of bending at an altar, friendly deacon at your side entreating god in a low voice. I recall the weeping, the cleansing tears, the endless prayers. My mother cries sometimes asking me if I “believe what Jesus says.” It kills me that that comes between us, that it is causing her so much pain.
So, I get it. And I’ll thank you not to tell me what I do or do not understand. All this… just to say, for me there’s nothing there. I can imagine your god, I can imagine almost anything. That’s what an imagination does. Whoop-de-fucking shit. We are still starting “the argument” from incompatible places.
(Still, I must admit I don’t give up on religions entirely. Swearing is 50% more fun if you add blasphemy.)
Anyway, have a good life. Enjoy your seat at the Marriage Table… no tears in heaven is such a sociopathic thought, ya know? No mourning, no pain, no outcry, just bliss and sinners burning.
I am sorry that you thought I was being “obnxiously smarmy.” In point of fact, I was trying to be lighthearted. Fact is that many critics of Christianity don’t give us credit for being able to expand our minds and consider opposing viewpoints. My “obnoxiously smarmy” comment was more a reflection that I realize non-Christians are every bit as smart as anyone else and that they can see where we’re coming from…if they try.
Doesn’t mean you or anyone else has to agree with those views. But often, critics of Christians won’t even go to step of considering God as an being that exists, even for the sake of argument.
And if you think my belief in Hell suggest some sort of joy or glee at those who will be damned, you are very wrong. In fact, if you have read the comments closely, you will see that my view of what Hell is and whether everyone there is suffering or remains there for eternity is far more “progressive” than anything handed down by most pastors.
This blog is a place for me to speak frankly and sometimes irreverantly. That means I’m going to piss off Christians at times. And other times, I will piss of non-Christians.
I am the kind of person who accepts just about everyone for who they are, and I get along with a huge range of people. But that doesn’t mean I can ignore a Bible I believe in that says some folks are going to make the cut and some won’t.
It’s just that I truly believe those who don’t make the cut are those who will never, ever, not for one second consider that their approach to the world was against God and wrong. They will bitch and moan and say “but” “but” “but” over an over.
If you still want to keep me on your shit list, that is your choice. But I think you are doing so with a skewed perception of where I’m coming from.
Whoooo! Well Deke I guess you were overdue to piss someone off. Been a while that I remember anyone getting this mad at ya. Glad it’s you that stepped in this cow pile and not me.
(Shrugs) I don’t like conflict and I don’t like pissing people off. But if I was looking just to make friends, I wouldn’t post on the topics that I do.
I remember the painfully slow months before I was allowed to drive a car. I had plenty of discussions about driving. I took driving class. But nothing compared to the actual driving experience.
I remember the painful months before childbirth. I read book. I listened to mothers. I went to birth class. But nothing prepared me for the birth experience, and certainly not for the endless years of mothering that follow.
In other words, short of an actual experience with God, the average person won’t give a captive ear. And that’s okay, because believers plant seeds that God waters.
So many “complain” that Christians always seem to have some story of a low place in life (drug abuse, poverty) and suddenly find Jesus. It’s logical that experiencing a “gap” between hopes and reality that God is able to show himself in your life.
My fiance was once a drug addict. He had a moment with God. He walked away and never looked back. Who else do you know survived withdrawal on their own? And we’re not talking about benign marijuana use. He was raised to believe, but couldn’t boast a deep believe until that low time in life.
While I believe in the study of God and Christianity, the experience, no matter how short, is essential to believing. And He shows Himself, in His own time, to make this so.
Face it. When was the last time you loved and trusted somebody based on a referral or a “friendship” resume? We make friends based on our experience with individuals as we interact and learn what they’re made of.
Oh Lordie. I have so much more to add, but I’m treading on the dangerous territory of blogging in your comments. LOL~
Keep writing Deac. I’m lovin it.
Good insights, Hawa, and thanks. People shouldn’t worry about “blogging” in my comments, whether they are for me, against me or otherwise. I get little enough commentary around here that some extended ones are welcome.
I also want to add something to my reponse to SRamira…
…just as there are people who CLAIM to be Christian and crow about it loudly, but are so far from accepting Jesus and being repentant that they are going to Hell…so too are there, I believe, people who are born again and Heaven-bound who don’t know it. I could only speculate about what circumstances those might be, but I DO think it happens.
So, lest anyone think that I am convinced everyone is going to Hell if they haven’t gotten baptized and prayed aloud for Jesus to be their savior, I don’t. I think it is is RARE that a person goes straight to Heaven without consciously seeking after Christ, compared to those who genuinely seek him, I think it is possible.
I only point this out because it is so easy to look at someone like me who mentions Hell and damnation and believe it has a place, and to think that I am sitting in judgment and saying, “You’re going to Hell because you don’t believe what I believe.” I DON’T know that. I CAN’T know that. And I am not the one who judges. That job, my friends, is left to much more informed individuals upstairs…
well said, Hawa. I have never had a blinding light experience. I have never asked a question and been unequivocally answered by someone invisible, or someone holy enough in appearance to make me go spontaneously prone in fear. I HAVE had a couple unexplainables, and I am no slouch in the critical thinking department.
I think there a a lot more questions than answers, and my life of seeking is a fairly private one. Denominational Christianity is repugnant to me, for the most part. I have regardless, placed my eggs in the Jesus basket, and try more or less consistently to apologize for my failings and listen for a clear directive. I Read this book,see, and I suspect that it contains the words of God, though I think also, the canonization was a process thick with political maneuvering.
I seem to be changing, and many days, I like what I have become.
Yeah, Chris…no blinding light moment for me either…when the moment came after a year or more of having returned to church services after a looooong hiatus, it was just a calm, firm realization of the need for Jesus while driving to the mall one day. Strong. Undeniable. But nothing fancy or flashy.
I have a healthy distrust of a lot of denominational and institutional Christianity but of course realize the necessity of it for structure, for fellowship, etc. It can easily be misused, and often is, but it’s hard to say if its a ubiquitous problem or just a significant one. But it is telling that it took Mrs. Blue and me some 6 years after moving out where we are now to find a church home…just very recently.
I did comment not so long ago on the issue of the canon and the political process therein. I think the post was titled “Who Picked This Stuff Out” at http://holyhell.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/who-picked-this-stuff-out/
It actually strikes me that although it was certainly a political process, I feel the God did drive a lot of the process, as I would have expected a bunch of guys like that under conditions like that to have made a Bible that was far easier to bend to their ends and far less likely to bite them or their descendents on the ass later on.
I feel God did drive alot of the process, and like you, I feel that Jesus’ endorsement of the OT is the most impeccable credential a document can have… The NT gives me a little more trouble, specifically some of the Pauline epistles. I would be interested to see you post a list of the things you believe should NOT be taken literally… aside from the “gouge your eye out if you can’t keep it of the hoochie mama”, I imagine your list would have a few interesting items on it…
“gouge your eye out if you can’t keep it off the hoochie mama.”
OMG. Funny. Caught me by surprise. Almost spit all over my monitor. Is that the New King Chris translation? LOL.
I am exhausted with Denominational Christianity. I left that scene in 2007 (not on purpose, but church shut down and I never had the desire or energy to find a new home). I learned so much about myself and God’s presence in my life since then. I have enjoyed the quiet and private path you’ve taken.
One day I’ll join the ranks of churchgoers again. One day…
*quiet and private path like the one you’ve taken.
Had to clarify because I don’t remember bumping into you while I was sightseeing past the lilies. LOL
Actually, the direct and correct translation from the SLRV Bible (Street Lingo Revised Version) goes:
“Y’all need to pluck out your peepers if ya can’t keep ’em off them hoochies.”
Granted, the SLRV translation might be somewhat out of synch with current linguistic stylings…
I’m really confused by how angry you got that Deac believes that you go to hell if you don’t accept Jesus as your Savior.
Simply, why does this bother you so much?
I could see if you were upset that Deac treated you like scum because you were a non-believer, but he doesn’t. I could see if you were upset because Deac controlled access to Heaven, but he doesn’t. Nope, all he does is have his own personal set of beliefs that have no effect on your life.
And for this he goes on your shit list?
That just doesn’t make sense to me.
I suspect that between what was perceived as smarminess in my one comment in the post…combined with my belief in Hell…propelled me into “judgmental Christian” status.
However, I’m still confused how “no tears in Heaven” correlates to sociopathic behavior for SRamira, but hell, I guess some people figure if we don’t continue to have negative emotions in eternity, existence just wouldn’t be fun enough. Which goes to support my belief that many people will choose to reject Heaven even if given a second chance, based on some of the silliest-seeming things.