I hope Hellbound Alleee won't mind me responding here, but I get the impression it's not her original material, either. She posted in her blog this Monday "The Questions Christians Can't, or Won't, Answer". I'm hoping to answer them as best I can. Indeed, I may not be able to.
To the Christian (who, of course, believes in hell, and don't give me that seperation from god stuff--you know that's supposed to be terrible suffering as well, otherwise no one would care that they were seperated from your pansy god):I think you're misunderstanding the Christian concept of "separated from God". Try this metaphor: Imagine driving in your car through the desert. It's 120 degrees Fahrenheit (around 50 degrees Celsius), and although it's bad, you're in your air-conditioned car. Then your motor hitches up, and you notice: you're out of gas. Now you're "separated" from your car, and from your air conditioning. It doesn't matter whether or not someone would describe your car as a "pansy" car, you're in for an awful afternoon.
The Christian concept of the world is that it's a potentially cruel and terrible place that's being kept at bay to an extent by the grace of God. Take away God, and that's Hell. Yeah, it sucks. Yeah, there's suffering. It's not meanness, it's human choice to reject that grace.
How can you enjoy your afterlife while millions suffer eternal torment in hell? Especially when some of them could be your friends, aquaintances, and family? When so many millions of them are simply regular, "good" people who were in the "wrong religion?" Little children, grandmas, people who have done wonderful things, millions of people who led wonderful lives, suffering in hell because they did not accept Jesus?Indeed, that is a question most Christians can't answer. How the heck can you be happy when you know people are suffering? Some theologians have suggested that God makes us forget about them, but I don't find that convincing, or even completely reasonable.
A man goes to Hell, and Satan offers him an eternity in one of three rooms. In the first room, people are standing on their heads on hard, rough wood. In the second, people are standing on their heads on a stone floor. In the third, there are people standing on their feet, drinking coffee while knee-deep in shit. The man decides that while they all look bad, the third is far preferable. Satan walks him inside, closes the door and says: okay everyone, coffee break's over; back on your heads!
Did you laugh? Why? It's a story about people suffering. Sure, it's fictional, but then, there are real people suffering in the world right now. Did you know that over 8,000 people die from AIDS every day? How can you laugh while that's happening? Wearing any clothing made in China? It was probably manufactured by the cheap labor of political and religious dissidents. Are you heartless? Sometimes I suspect that, despite the fact I'd like better, Heaven will be much like this life, where we manage to enjoy ourselves despite the fact that elsewhere, suffering is occurring. There is probably more to be said to these questions, but I'm trying to be brief. (By my standards at least.)
Let me clarify: I'm asking about you, and your feelings personally. Will the terrible eternal suffering of others, whether they supposedly "deserve it" or not, whether they were Gandhi or just some 8 year-old child of Buddhists that did nothing in his life but do what 8 year-old kids do, will you be able to sing loud enough to drown out their screams, and pretend everything is perfect the way it is? Is that perfection to you? If you sit outside of a torture chamber while someone's fingernails are being peeled off, will you be perfectly blissful as long as you've got yours? Because, after all, Kiko or Deepa "knew" Jesus and just ignored Him.Well, I imagine that those who are in Heaven will not be sitting "outside of a torture chamber" like Hell is right in the next room. We'll know it exists, but have no direct knowledge of it. I'm sure people are being tortured as I write this, and will be as the reader reads this, but we have the ability to tune them out because their screams will not be heard, they will only be a thought somewhere in the back of our heads, if at all.
I'm also not convinced by rhetoric that seems to imply that undeserving people will go to Hell. Part of that has to do with a subject I intend to post on sometime soon, but a lot of it has to do with my understanding of the nature of God. It just sounds unfair that God would punish an 8-year-old just for being born into the wrong family. But God IS fair. So I don't believe God will punish that child. Now, is it fair to "punish" anyone at all? That's a bigger question. Maybe I will make a dent in answering it nonetheless as I finish this post.
Why did God/Jesus make the rule? Please justify the morality of eternal suffering for nonbelief. After all, if God made it so, it must be moral, and it must be really easy to figure out why eternal suffering after death is morally justified.First of all, we're starting with an assumption that I think is not supported. Who said God made the rule? Maybe someone did say it to you, but that's not my point; I ask it in a rhetorical fashion. While some Christians are fond of saying, "God created the universe, so He gets to make the rules," I don't think you'll find such a sentiment in the Bible. Don't get me wrong, God does make many rules, and He does punish people for breaking the rules. I'm simply saying that the reason for God making the rules is not often stated, and we are left to venture guesses. Furthermore, I don't believe that God does make every rule there is, and I suspect this is one that is to some extent beyond Him. (See my post on possible limits to "omnipotence".) Something I have heard said many times that I do think is true is that God does not do actions that are against His basic nature. Whether that is a choice, or something He is bound to by the higher impersonal force of logic, I do not know. But perhaps I will be allowed to slightly rephrase the question and keep the essence of the problem intact.
What is the purpose of the rule? What explains the need for suffering as a result of mere nonbelief? I hope that this is an acceptable rephrasing, although I still have a slight issue with the word "nonbelief" to clear up. I don't think nonbelief is the real issue. I think the real issue is having enough information to understand to some extent the nature of God, and refusing to acknowledge Him as an act of rebellion. Actually, if you look through the Bible, you see a lot of people who believe in God, but get in trouble because they simply don't do what is right. Why was it wrong for Adam and Eve to eat the fruit? They certainly believed in God, since they were on speaking terms with Him. The act of eating the fruit was in essence saying, "God, I know you said not to do this, but I think I know better." That's rejection of God, not mere nonbelief. Hell is not God saying, "I've decided that by this arbitrary rule I'm going to hate you and do mean things to you." Hell is God saying, "If you really are so determined to make your own decisions and live your life without me, then by all means, I don't want to force you."
Now, I say this knowing that nonbelief does not cause suffering in life, because I am an atheist, and I am a very happy person.Whoever the original author of this piece is (is it Bob Smith? I thought his site was great (but not for the easily offended, I personally loved the very cool dressup games and "sticker attack" video), but can't find the article there and don't have audio right now), I wonder how he can be happy while people are being tortured? That's just me being a smartass...
I also know that belief, in life, does not prevent suffering (or the cause of suffering.)Right. A very important point. Don't let anyone tell you that the purpose of Christianity is to reduce your suffering in the current life. While I said before--as many others have--that I think part of its purpose is to goad one to reduce the suffering of others, the main purpose of Christianity is not to make yourself feel better.
Therefore, the suffering must come after death (if you can figure that one out).It's simple. The idea (which is not unique to the Christian world-view by any means) is that death is just a passing from this stage of life into another. The nature of the suffering that may come is, I think, pretty well explained above in my desert metaphor.
So that's why you guys had to create the idea of hell. I mean, come on, many people who do not believe in your fantasy are perfectly happy in their own fantasies, or reality. So you had to create this idea that otherworldly Lord-Of-The-Rings-Style imps to inflict. Ta Da! The non-belief itself didn't make me suffer. God had to make it so beings he created hurt me.Well, if you're talking about the medieval concept of Hell as this fiery cave deep in the earth where red imps with horns and pitchforks giggle while they rip out your intestines, then I'd have to agree. I think that the Church of those days decided that they needed some stronger incentives to convince the pagan masses that there was a good reason to convert, so they made up these ideas and sold them to the general public. It's unfortunate that we haven't grown out of that concept, because not only does the Bible give virtually no support for that picture of Hell, but as far as I know, the Catholic Church is no longer promoting it either (if indeed they ever were in any official capacity). But that doesn't mean Hell as a more abstract concept does not exist at all.
Now that you think you've justified it, tell me why those who vote for the losing presidential candidate should not be tortured right now.This cracks me up. I think there are two mistaken concepts at the heart of this. First of all, there is the concept that God is torturing people because He's some sort of "bad winner". Imagine Jesus sitting in a throne up in the sky, thinking, "Oh, ME! I can't believe what I'm seeing! As soon as I finish kicking the butt of Satan at the battle of Armageddon, I'm going to turn right around and kick the butt of everybody who didn't like me best of all; that'll show 'em who's boss!" Once again, God loves people, and only wants to have what's best for them. But He also respects their personal choices, and if they choose being separated from Him, then He allows them to be. If you think that's not a problem at all, then I guess you have no reason to become a Christian, do you?
The second assumption, the one that's a little more subtle, is that the suggestion given is not already a reality on some level. Behold: the tortures of the damned! All around, ever since the disaster that was the 2000 election, I've seen people with bumper stickers and t-shirts claiming "Bush is not my President!" Well, if you're a U.S. citizen, then let me say "Sorry" because he is. I didn't vote for him myself, but I don't understand the apologies, the denials, etc. Apparently, many, many of those who did not vote for Bush feel that they ARE being tortured, and that they are being separated from a government that serves their need. (On the latter part, they may be correct.)
Tell me why you shouldn't beat your wife, burn her with cigarettes, throw her down the stairs and humiliate her.Because that would be mean, cruel and disrespectful. I'm not sure what this has to do with the issue of Hell, though. I see as more like I find out my wife has been cheating on me, so I divorce her and toss her out of the house with nothing. It probably still would be considered mean, but many would understand what I considered my justification.
Tell me why, if a child talks back to you, that you shouldn't lock him in a closet for days and let him sit in his own filth. And then rape him when he comes out.Because that's not the way you ought to treat a child. Most likely even most parents who spank wouldn't consider that a spanking offense. Punishment may be merited, but certainly not to that degree.
After all, if God saw fit to make that happen, if Jesus made it so, you should do the same thing. Correct? Justify it.No. God, in that He is a being far above us moreso than even a parent is over a child, has a different set of standards to live by. There are many aspects of God's character that we are to emulate as Christians, but one thing that Jesus does say is "judge not". God is the judge, we are not. The government has the right to put criminals behind bars, we do not. My neighbor has a right to discipline their child in the way they see fit, I do not (although I do with my own children).
I'll be waiting.Your questions are answered. You may not like my answers, but they are answered. Thank you for the mental stimulation; whether anyone likes my answers or not, I think I learned a few things about my own beliefs in writing them.