Sunday, March 26, 2006

Choosing Hell


When confronted with the problem of why a loving God would send people to eternal torture in hell, some (perhaps the more squeamish) Christians who want to believe in both hell and God's love have a way out. Here it is. People themselves choose where they want to go. Either they choose to be with God or to reject God. If they choose to love God, then they get to be with him in heaven. If they reject God, then he withdraws himself from them including all that he is such as love, goodness, peace etc. What is left is hell, and so they are getting what they chose. Who would say that it is unfair when someone hates all things good, that these should be taken away from him?

Here's the problem with this reasoning. It assumes that loving the Christian-defined God is the same as loving all things good. But surely it is possible for someone to pursue truth, goodness, humility, caring, love of others, and the rest of the virtues, but without believing in the Christian God. Moreover, that person could have carefully considered all the evidence, and honestly concluded that the supernatural claims of the Christian revelation are false. It would actually be dishonest for him to believe, when he sees the sum of evidence pointing against belief. Or perhaps that person looked carefully at the actions of the Christian God including his ordering the slaughter of the Cananite children and his bloody masacres in the book of Revelation and concluded the Christian God is not good or caring towards the majority of humans (see: Is God Good?). Who would blame him for not choosing to love and worship the Christian God? But has he chosen heaven or hell? Christian dogma would have him going to hell, and yet he is much closer to knowing goodness than many Christians.

If choosing to think for oneself and to search for and follow the evidence wherever it leads is equivalent to choosing hell, what choice do I have? If I am to be honest in my pursuit of truth I'll have to risk it.

7 comments:

  1. Just about every religion that humans have created have had versions of heaven that mutually exclude members of other religions as well as atheists. If you take this to its logical conclusion, that means that no one is going to heaven, and everyone is going to hell. So we all wind up in the same place anyway.

    Or you have the Greco-Roman belief that everyone, no matter good or bad, goes to Hades, which is not such a bad place. In any case, the conclusion is the same. I believe we all eventually wind up in the same place after death: in the ground.

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  2. It is true that everyone is condemned by a number of religions to go to hell. But then most religions also make provision for some to go to heaven, or as you say to Hades. Given that this is a contradictory situation, many religions must be in error in these claims. The important question is whether any one or more are right. One could also ask whether it is even a meaningful question to ask is someone survives his death -- perhaps that is a contradiction.

    Daniel

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  3. What proof do we have that an afterlife exists? Surely, nobody believes the shoddy claims of those who have near-death experiences of momentarily being in heaven and then coming back to life, because after all, they did not really DIE. The answer surely resides in our conception of consciousness and whether it can exist absent a living, physical body. If consciousness is absolutely tied to the physical body, then when the body dies, the consciousness dies as well. I believe this is the case, because consciousness has to do with states of the brain (when you sleep or are otherwise unconscious, your brain has different patterns than when you are awake). Unless the brain goes on living after the body dies, which is impossible because it needs oxygen and blood to survive, then when we die, everything about our life, including consciousness, is gone.

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  4. It's true there are good reasons to be skeptical of claims to survive death, or to be raised from death. If death means the end of physical body functions, then everything we can point to that makes someone an individual ends: conciousness, memory, personality etc. These are permanently destroyed like data are destroyed by burning a hard drive.

    To be resurrected, a copy of these would need to be created. But is this possible? For those that believe God can do anything, is probably is, even though it contradicts our scientific model of the universe. But even if it is done, is this copy actually the same person that died or just a clone? See my post: Is an afterlife meaningful? for some thoughts on that.

    As for near death experiences, since the person isn't dead, I don't see how those are any different than the various other visions of heaven or hell people have. I'm not sure who would put much trust in a dream or a vision.

    Daniel

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  5. The Catholic Faith teaches that if you never worshipped God to no fault of your own, that is, because you were never exposed to the Truth (Gospel), you will not go to Hell.

    If on the contrary, you KNEW God but then you chose to reject Him, in order to live a SINFUL life, then you will have chosen HELL for your Eternal destination.

    If you are honestly seeking the Truth and in the meantime, you do not believe in God but you are living an exemplary life, then you are not choosing Hell but you are in a Journey towards the TRUTH. If this is your case, you will be honestly seeking the Truth and praying about it and God will pour Graces upon you to guide you to find it. It means that you LOST something that you considered valuable and you are honestly wanting to possess that GOOD again.

    If you have made up your mind about the unexistence of God, you are not seeking the Truth from your heart. All you want is to prove YOUR prideful point, that God does not exist, for whatever reason. Therefore, you are NOT giving God a chance to reveal Himself to you. In this case, you are choosing Hell.

    But if in true Humility, you recognize that there is a Superior Being that is above everything that exists, then you will want to recover the FAITH that you once possessed and that gave you so much Joy, Peace, Hope and meaning in your life.

    If that were the case, you would humbly pray to that Superior Being asking Him to reveal to you whether He exists or not.

    God does NOT withdraw His presence from those who choose not to Love Him. What happens is that the INCAPACITY to LOVE is the ULTIMATE EVIL there is. Think of the 10 commandments, it is always lack of Love what leads us to break any of them.

    That's why the devil lives in HELL, because he is incapable of LOVING anyone.

    Hell is the absence of the Ultimate GOOD, that is, LOVE and of its eternal benefits (Peace, joy, mercy, happiness, wisdom).

    Hell is the PRESENCE OF ULTIMATE EVIL (Anger, unforgiveness, unrepentance, hate, suffering, pain, sadness, wrath, revenge).

    It is impossible to reject GOOD without embracing EVIL since none can serve two masters at the same time.

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  6. I don't doubt the testimony of doctors who declared "them" medically dead.

    I've also heard that their lives have been radically changed after the so called "life after death" experiences
    This makes me think "WHAT IF" it's true?

    Is the purpose of our lives to have fun until we drop dead? Or is there a higher purpose for our lives that we need to seek and to find in order to fulfill it?

    What is TIME (life) giving to us for? Does it matter how we use it?

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  7. Jesus does not change, but it is us who feel the different effects of His presence, as we change. Love draws us to God while sin drivesus away from him.

    Jesus: "I wanted my flesh to be scattered in pieces, and My Blood to be shed from My whole Humanity, so as to reunite all of dispersed humanity. All that was torn from My humanity -flesh, blood, hair - nothing was dispersed in My Resurrection.

    By this, I incorporated all creatures within Me. So, after this, if one wanders away from Me, it is out of his obstinate will that he tears himself from Me to go out and be lost."

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