sent in by Ed Babinski
Why do so many human beings assume so much in general, and have such difficulty even getting members of their own family to agree with them on trifling matters, yet seek to evangelize the entire world and tell everyone "what's what?" I am convinced that the ability to communicate is an art and takes far more patience and practice than most others. The mere fact that the world is filled with difficulties in communication, and that such difficulty is not necessarily due to "sin," constitutes one more reason why I do not believe "God's Word" determines where everyone goes for eternity. For instance, some conservative Christians argue in favor of hell by calling it “God’s great compliment.” Surely there is some confusion and miscommunication somewhere if you have to use the word "compliment" in such a fashion. If hell is such a “compliment” then what does God do when he wants to “insult” somebody?
Given headaches, backaches, toothaches, strains, scrapes, breaks, cuts, rashes, burns, bruises, PMS, fatigue, hunger, odors, molds, colds, yeast, parasites, viruses, cancers, genetic defects, blindness, deafness, paralysis, mental illness, ugliness, ignorance, miscommunications, embarrassments, unrequited love, dashed hopes, boredom, hard labor, repetitious labor, accidents, old age, senility, fires, floods, earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, hurricanes and volcanoes, I can not see how anyone, after they are dead, deserves “eternal punishment” as well.
When I was a boy I heard tell of an old farmer in Vermont. He was dying.
The minister was at his bedside -- asked him if he was a Christian, if he was prepared to die. The old man answered that he had made no preparation, that he was not a Christian, that he had never done anything but work. The preacher said that he could give him no hope unless he had faith in Christ, and that if he had no faith his soul would certainly be lost. The old man was not frightened. He was perfectly calm. In a weak and broken voice he said, “Mr. Preacher, I suppose you noticed my farm. My wife and I came here more than fifty years ago. We were just married. It was a forest then and the land was covered with stones. I cut down the trees, burned the logs, picked up the stones, and laid the walls. My wife spun and wove and worked every moment. We raised and educated our children -- denied ourselves. During all these years my wife never had a good dress, or a decent bonnet. I never had a good suit of clothes. We lived on the plainest food. Our hands, our bodies are deformed by toil. We never had a vacation. We loved each other and the children. That is the only luxury we ever had. Now I am about to die and you ask me if I am prepared. Mr.
Preacher, I have no fear of the future, no terror of any other world.
There may be such a place as hell -- but if there is, you never can make me believe that it’s any worse than old Vermont.”
- Robert Ingersoll, “Why I Am An Agnostic”
It is strange to me that people can consign others to hell without a scruple. One only has to remember a toothache, not to wish it eternally on anyone.
- Lucy Daugalis (email@example.com)
When all has been considered, it seems to me to be the irresistible intuition that infinite punishment for finite sin would be unjust, and therefore wrong. We feel that even weak and erring Man would shrink from such an act. And we cannot conceive of God as acting on a lower standard of right and wrong.
- Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland), “Eternal Punishment,”
Diversions and Digressions of Lewis Carroll
Do I believe in eternal punishment? Hell no. I always believed God could get his revenge in far less time.
- Robert Ingersoll
An idea, which has terrified millions, claims that some of us will go to a place called Hell, where we will suffer eternal torture. This does not scare me because, when I try to imagine a Mind behind this universe, I cannot conceive that Mind, usually called “God,” as totally mad. I mean, guys, compare that “God” with the worst monsters you can think of -- Adolph Hitler, Joe Stalin, that sort of guy. None of them ever inflicted more than finite pain on their victims. Even de Sade, in his sado-masochistic fantasy novels, never devised an unlimited torture. The idea that the Mind of Creation (if such exists) wants to torture some of its critters for endless infinities of infinities seems too absurd to take seriously. Such a deranged Mind could not create a mud hut, much less the exquisitely mathematical universe around us. If such a monster-God did exist, the sane attitude would consist of practicing the Buddhist virtue of compassion. Don’t give way to hatred: try to understand and forgive him. Maybe He will recover his wits some day.
- Robert Anton Wilson, “Cheerful Reflections on Death and Dying,” Gnoware, February 1999
ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN RESPONSES TO WHAT I SENT ABOVE
Alexanian:: God does not force anyone to jump.
DAVE: May I suggest a different approach to hell? I think it is God's loving provision for those who would be in incredible pain in the presence of absolute holiness. Hell is the place where, not being conscious of God, eternal souls will be most comfortable. But it must be different for those who did not know from those who knew and rejected.
ED: Dear Alex and Dave, your responses above are evidently just as ad hoc as my own reasoning.
Alex appears ignorant of the passages in the Word of God that do depict God "forcing people to jump" as it were, in a variety of situations, both Old Testament and New. Perhaps Alex has never read Calvin or Luther either, or classical Catholic literature on hell and the Bible.
And Dave's depiction of hell as "God's loving provision" is something I fail to understand. He's using "love" in an entirely different fashion from the way I understand the word -- having souls hidden away in closets for eternity, to avoid encountering a God who cannot help tearing them to pieces by his mere presence? It's just another way of trying to depict orthodoxy without being too offensive to others. Well, if God can't be in these people's presence, what about others? Angels, other human souls?
Someone could conceivably reach those closet cases, or at least share tea with them from time to time, listen to them. Everybody could use a friend when they're down.
Likewise, as I pointed out to Alex, if "hell is comfortable" then how is it hell? Why ought a person, as Jesus taught, cut off their own hand rather than go there, even metaphorically speaking? And then adding the threats about apostates like myself who "knew and rejected" how "different" my punishment is going to be. Really, Dave.
I have studied many NDE's and spoken to people who have had them, and found no evidence that "Born againers" have cornered the market on experiencing love in the next life. Hellish NDEs are the exception, not
Also, I believe I brought up the subject of universalist Christians in Christian history (many in the early church), and also George Macdonald's universalism.
I like living on this planet, working, my job isn't so bad and has many benefits, and I don't mind so much people having opinions different from my own, though I appreciate those who are able to moderate themselves in speech and express themselves well. This world is neither heaven nor hell, but something else. And surely any infinite being that could create the present world could also create one like it that lasted infinity instead of creating a "hell."
Seems to me that the options that one might come up with as an infinite being are more diverse than either "heaven" or "hell."
In fact, I'll go so far as to say that any religion that can only think in terms of "heaven" or "hell" is gonna be a haven for manic-depressives.
I recall Howard Storm's vision of the afterlife in his NDE. The fundamentalist christian from the southern U.S. died and arrived in the afterlife in a place created especially for them, to ease their transition, a place with a church on a green grassy knoll. People from other religions with other beliefs and from other parts of the world were treated to equally respectful scenarios and the truth of a wider more universal spirituality was only gradually revealled to each of them.
Or there's the old joke about St. Peter giving the new arrivals to heaven a tour of the premises, and there on a cloud below them was a bunch of people with paper bags over their heads. St. Peter whispered to the folks in the tour bus, "Please don't make too much noise as we pass over this cloud, it's the Born Again Christians, they think they're the only ones up here."
Time and God are the best teachers. And that's what love is really about, throughout eternity. "Love never fails..." 1 Cor.
Or as was engraved on the tombstone of two ancient astronomers "We have loved the stars far too much to fear the night."