Thursday, April 12, 2012

Christian Apologist Drake Shelton's Hellacious Views on Hell

Intro:

I'm not sure I expected that anyone could top Christian apologist Steve Hays on his incredibly bigoted defense of hell, but Christian apologist Drake Shelton's hero W. G. T. Shedd (and Shelton by association) takes the evil cake.  In his post Shelton first quotes a lot of the Bible on damnation and I don't have much to disagree with there.  It really does teach all that stuff.  But then he starts defending it.

Ironically Shelton closes his review of Keith Parsons' chapter in "The End of Christianity" on hell with this:
...the scripture (Gal 5:20) calls heresy a work of the flesh. Ideas are moral. You see God is a divine mind which means union with Him is something intellectual. To think is in the genus of being, but to think wrongly is ethical, in the genus of ethics, and is to separate from God. Let any Christian reader take this to heart. 
I agree that ideas have moral implications, but my views of others are not so black and white.  While it might be emotionally satisfying to rail against everyone I disagreed with as though every departure from my perspective was indicative of a moral failing of theirs, it would be intellectually dishonest to think that it couldn't also be (aside from me being the one who happens to be wrong) a combination of the subjective mixture of ignorance, honest error, neurodiversity, and common cognitive bias.  There's just not such a tight fit with the cultish "heresy = evil person" equation, but sometimes there are some stand out issues that make you wonder.  Condoning eternal torture is one of them.

In this post I'm going to show just how "demonstrably delusional" Drake Shelton and W. G. T. Shedd are, because they are amazingly wrong about so many things that are even beside their main point.  Enjoy.

Shelton reveals he used to have a conscience:
This was the primary reason I was a Christ rejecting pagan in my childhood and teenage years. It was my assumption that the God of Christianity, though he may be the true God, could never punish his creatures with eternal torment. The very idea was grotesque to me and was my primary excuse to live however I wanted with no fear of punishment. 
Shelton delusionally assumes that everyone with a similar opinion has the same motives from his one personal experience.  That's called a hasty generalization.  Not everyone who rejects Christianity on principled grounds does so for the sake of getting away with absolutely anything.  Also, it's not actually possible to get away with absolutely anything, since there are real world consequences to immoral actions.  Christians cannot simultaneously sell the worldly benefits of their Christian virtues while putting down the moral lifestyle as undesirable in and of itself.

Shelton says:
God created man perfectly righteous in the genus of being. His constitution was completely directed to good not to hell. This is why Adam’s sin was so heinous.
So Adam and Eve had 100% motivation to do all good and yet somehow they managed to do evil.  Well that sounds entirely plausible.  No wait, the heinous thing is that they actually believe that.

Shelton claims:
If our opponents were consistent they would deny the reality and eternality of heaven.
To be consistent with the remedial correction of hell theory, heaven would have to be a temporary place designed to send you to hell eventually as though Yahweh's primary desire isn't supposed to be wanting everyone in heaven (Ezekiel 33:11).  So the temporary hell theory is consistent with that even if it isn't consistent with other unprincipled assertions of Christian scripture about eternal damnation.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
The objection, that a suffering not intended to reform but to satisfy justice, is cruel and unworthy of God, is refuted by the question of St. Paul: "Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? God forbid: for how then shall God judge the world ?" Rom. 3:5, 6.
This delusionally begs the question as though because the character Yahweh does something, that makes that type of action by definition justified.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
Endless punishment is rational, in the first place, because it is supported by the human conscience. The sinner's own conscience will " bear witness" and approve of the condemning sentence, "in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." Rom. 2. 16.
This delusionally assumes that when Yahweh's laws are violated any given individual will necessarily feel guilty about it because of the "intrinsic" nature of the crime.  Let's take an easily verifiable example.  Living the homosexual lifestyle is a sin punishable by death and warranting eternal hellfire according to Christian doctrine.  Do you think 60 year old gay couples are feeling any tinges of guilt about their relationship?

Of course, if you are this type of Christian, other people's feelings and worldviews don't exist.  All human consciences do not align on all issues and Shedd's argument makes a straight forward fallacious argument to future events.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
The final judgment is not a terror to good works but to evil. Wilt thou, then, not be afraid of the final judgment?
If anyone stepped into the court of some third world dictator after having vacationed in their country for a month, I imagine just about anyone would be afraid because who knows what kinds of values this king would have?  The odds of some kind of clash would be high.  It makes sense to fear amoral power.  That doesn't make the moral paradigm behind that power correct.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
Keep the law of God perfectly, without a single slip or failure, inwardly or outwardly, and thou shalt have praise of the same.  [...] It is not necessary that a man should commit all kinds of sin, or that he should sin a very long time, in order to be a sinner. "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10. One sin makes guilt, and guilt makes hell.
"Don't worry, just be perfect" is insane advice and zero comfort.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
The opponent of endless retribution does not draw his arguments from the impartial conscience, but from the bias of self-love and desire for happiness. His objections are not ethical, but sentimental. They are not seen in the dry light of pure truth and reason, but through the colored medium of self-indulgence and love of ease and sin.
And the proponents certainly aren't jerking off their moral centers in their brains to the extreme at the expense of their core humanity, right?  It is delusionally evil to make compassion and human happiness a crime.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
The knowledge that future suffering will one day cease would immediately relieve the awful apprehension of the sinner. 
This delusionally concludes that no one ever feared any punishment that was anything short of eternal.  It is downright crazy to say shit like this and Shelton would come back and defend every line item here like a total nutcase.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
...evinced by the universality and steadiness of the dread of it.  Mankind believe in hell, as they believe in the Divine Existence, by reason of their moral sense.
So everyone believes that hell exists?  Shelton and Shedd are crazy.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
...a permanent and general fear among mankind cannot be produced by a mere chimera, or a pure figment of the imagination.
Of course, this only applies to the extent that various versions of hell have captured the imaginations of various demographics of people over the ages.  Made up ideas can do that.  Also, Shedd is probably aware of the concept of "fear of the unknown," but doesn't bother addressing it or distinguishing it from his delusional conclusion.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
Men have no fear of Rhadamanthus, nor can they be made to fear him, because they know that there is no such being. "An idol is nothing in the world." 1 Cor. 8:4.
This is simply jaw-dropping stupidity and abject ideological solipsism.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
If the Biblical hell were as much a nonentity as the heathen Atlantis, no one would waste his time in endeavoring to prove its non-existence. What man would seriously construct an argument to demonstrate that there is no such being as Jupiter Ammon, or such an animal as the centaur? The very denial of endless retribution evinces by its spasmodic eagerness and effort to disprove the tenet, the firmness with which it is entrenched in man's moral constitution. If there really were no hell, absolute indifference toward the notion would long since have been the mood of all mankind, and no arguments, either for or against it, would be constructed…
This delusionally assumes everyone that doesn't believe in hell is out to disprove hell (on top of the other delusions that everyone knows about and believes in hell already).  It also delusionally assumes people who set out to disprove hell necessarily spend a lot of time doing so.  It also delusionally assumes that because people disagree with it, that must make it more right.  Gee, if that were the case, what contentious side of every issue wouldn't be true?  And it delusionally assumes that people don't make arguments against all sorts of silly things and have done so throughout history.  It's called skepticism.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
...sin is actually being added to sin, in the future life, and the amount of guilt is accumulating. 
Do they have the option of repenting after Judgement day?  Then I've stopped blaming them for what they cannot control.  The delusional Calvinists on the other hand have not.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
That endless punishment is reasonable is proved by the preference of the wicked themselves. The unsubmissive, rebellious, defiant, and impenitent spirit prefers hell to heaven...
So would you like to be raped or shot in the head?  Shot in the head?  See, you wanted to be shot in the head.  Makes perfect sense.  If you are a delusional Calvinist who think this respects free will in some sick way.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
"They hate both me and my Father," says the Son of God, " without a cause." John 25:24, 25. 
And after all this, we're expected to feel sorry for the Christian god?  That poor omnipotent, perfect being.  [/sarcasm]

[Note, That verse is John 15:24-25, btw, since there is no chapter 25 of John.]

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
In this vicarious atonement for sin, the Triune God relinquishes no claims of law, and waives no rights to justice. The sinner's Divine Substitute, in his hour of voluntary agony and death, drinks the cup of punitive and inexorable justice to the dregs.
Yes, Jesus had a bad weekend once.  Quite comparable to the full extents of the experiences of humanity.  Especially that eternal suffering part for most of us.

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
...he who rejects it must through endless cycles grapple with the dread problem of human guilt in his own person, and alone...
This delusionally assumes people are unable to process guilt outside of the conceptions of this Christian worldview.  Has he ever even spoken to someone outside of his cult?  Or like listened?

Shelton says:
Let the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment then be a settled issue.
Because quoting another author saying a whole bunch of delusional, evil things settles this issue.  Some Christians actually have consciences, you know.  Like that "embarrassing" Eastern Church Shelton is so proud to disown for their openness to less than absolutely evil doctrines.

Shelton says:
Parsons exposes more of his American brainwashing on page 249 when he argues that Christianity is unreasonable...
Priceless.

There were some other things to respond to from Shedd and Shelton, but I've paraded before you all of the most obvious supplementary delusion of this Christian worldview.

Lastly here is the main argument from Shedd that is supposed to justify eternal punishment for the finite crimes on earth:
...suffering that is penal can never come to an end, because guilt is the reason for its infliction, and guilt once incurred never ceases to be.  The lapse of time does not convert guilt into innocence  [...]  When a crime is condemned, it is absurd to ask, "How long is it condemned?"
Balanced people recognize that there is more than one value than just justice and that playing any one of our moral values out to this extreme at the expense of all others is evil.  

Shelton quotes Shedd to say:
...another reason for the endlessness of sin is the fact that rebellious enmity toward law and its Source is not diminished, but increased, by the righteous punishment experienced by the impenitent transgressor.
So you have to keep stabbing the cornered animal for all eternity to get this particular reaction.  That's great.  Again, most emotionally stable, normal, good people, with properly functioning consciences, recognize this as sick.

The famous theologian John Calvin decided that eternal punishment not only wasn't an issue, but in fact the sufferings of the damned would be one of the viewing pleasures of heaven!  However, in reality land, when kids are prone to torture animals, for example, we diagnose them with mental health issues.  Of course, this is religion.  Let the sickening rationalizations begin (er, continue).

Outro:

First of all, to close, if we are even looking at the issue of "justice" that means that a morally *perfect* god has accommodated the existence of evil in some way.  This is logically impossible since the accommodation of any evil for any reason whatsoever necessarily counts as a moral blemish on divine actions that are supposed to be perfect.  Secondly, even if we lower the standard of moral "perfection" to accommodate the existence of evil, finite crimes from finite fallible beings cannot deserve infinite punishments.  Temporality isn't the issue, equal value is the issue.  The question isn't about Hitler.  It's about a 7 year old who barely tasted her era of moral accountability, committed the smallest sin possible, didn't repent and submit to Jesus, and was hit by a bus.  She deserves the bare minimum of eternal punishment in this Christian worldview without the possibility of parole.  And so, even grading on the curve, this god is off the charts evil.  Thirdly, the only way to get it back on the charts is say that Jesus was lying about hell.  And then he's just evil for lying about such a horrible idea for masses of impressionable people to get all tangled up about.   But again, at least the evil is finite.  Fourthly, this of course sets aside the issues of proper divine management of spiritual resources since to give all humans a fighting, fair chance it would require that everyone have a sufficiently long life, that they all had properly functioning brains, that they were all encultured with the correct moral values and spiritual teachings, and given all the support they would need throughout their lives so that in all likelihood (with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent shepherding god at the helm) no one would be lost.  Surprise, surprise, the world is nothing like this thanks to the implausible plot devices of Lucifer's rebellion, the corruption of Adam and Eve, and allowing them to have children who would be unfairly subject to these ridiculous terms.  Fifthly, and so despite being an all powerful, all knowing, and morally perfect being, and despite expressing the desire that no one should be punished for punishment's sake (Ezekiel 33:11), that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), that no one is responsible for the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18:20), and that even one lost "sheep" is worth his while (Luke 15:4), our pseudo lord and savior Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:14 confesses that there is no mysterious greater good at work here since he loses the vast majority of his flock in the end.  Proverbs 22:6 even says, "Raise a child up in the way he should go and he will not depart from it."  Why our supposed heavenly father does not heed this obvious advice is implausibly beyond my moral comprehension.  Sixthly, even in the extremely unlikely event that a mere mortal managed to get themselves in such an unrepentant funk that it was going to perpetuate itself for all eternity, a chemically balanced deity with the competing desire of "kindness" or "compassion" would instigate some kind of mercy kill or eternal coma after a reasonable finite amount of retribution had been served.  Seventhly, the moral of the story is, only sick fucks ignore this kind of stuff and defend eternal damnation.  So set down the cult think, grab a conscience, and stop.

Ben

22 comments:

The Nerd said...

Too bad the moral argument doesn't actually deconvert everyone. In my case, it left me genuinely believing in an evil god for a while.

Ben Schuldt said...

Well I've heard lots of stories how the moral arguments have deconverted people. Not everyone takes to things in the same way. But technically you are correct that if other evidence for theism was good, the moral argument would result in maltheism.

The Nerd said...

Yeah, that's why I said "everyone". :P

Ben Schuldt said...

Oh, right. Sorry.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Drake is "agnostic" on the Bible's passages related to a visible cosmos, with its immobile earth, moving sun, moving stars, it's mighty firmament and waters above the sun, moon and stars, and waters beneath the earth.

But Drake is full on certain concerning passages related to the invisible cosmos.

Another intellectually suicidal Christian.

thetruthisstrangerthanfiction said...

I'm wondering, has anyone ever inquired as to why you would feel the need to put forth such monumental effort into debunking the message of the bible, if you've been so concretely convinced that it is nothing more than delusion?

If there really is no loving God, and no eternal consequences for anything, then why waste so much of your OWN existence on this planet in righting the wrong thinking of such deluded people? What do you hope to achieve? What benefit is it? Why not just get on with living? If it's just a mass-induced psychosis, then why bother trying to get the crazies to see the error of their ways? In your current view, aren't we all just gonna die and be done anyhow?

The Nerd said...

I could ask the same thing about every single person involved in politics, or dedicated Batman fans, or people who like to crush cars with tanks...

the truth is stranger than fiction said...

Yes, you could ask that, except that is not what Ben has chosen to devote so much of himself to deconstructing...

(and so, the question still stands....)

Ben Schuldt said...

Speaking of things still standing, my **entire post** still stands full of arguments left unaddressed by your misdirection. Perhaps you aren't a Christian?

The Truth is stranger than fiction said...

Your entire post is full of the term "delusional", that's for sure... :-)

A lot of it is you picking apart statements from these guys Shelton and Shedd, and I really don't have a lot of interest in defending a couple of guys who I don't know, and who are after all just two people giving their own take on hell, and not the bible itself.

From what I could glean, one of the main points you kept going back to was the idea that hell is a place where God plays some sort of active role in the torturing of it's inhabitants. I've never actually encountered anything in the Bible that would suggest such a thing, despite whatever conjecture has been made by people like Calvin or in things like Dante's Inferno. When you look at Jesus' own words, say like in the parable of the virgins, it's pretty much just an "in or out" sort of thing. God isn't stoking the fires of hell, and coming up with creative ways to torture people for eternity. (That is a common assumption)

Another assumption I read was the one where you give the example of the 7-year-old girl and Hitler, the assumption being they were both being punished as though guilty of the same level or number of specific "crimes". That is also not what I find described in the bible. Sin is not merely a tally of wrongdoings, but ultimately a condition of the heart. What might we imagine little Adolph was like at the tender age of 7? Would we have considered him as much of a monster even then? Probably not. But if sin is like a disease of the soul, then the full depth of what it can grow into is something that goes far beyond what we typically would think possible.

Most people think of the concept of hell mainly in terms of eternal fire, (and not without reason, because as you said, the Bible really does use that description) But I don't think that is even the worst part of hell, or what truly makes it "hellish". Seperation from God is it's own punishment. Not just seperation from Him in the sense of any quasi-religious "relationship", but all the way to the point of there being absolutely no intervening "hand of restraint". Everyone being allowed to do whatever they wanted to do, to whoever, forever. Anarchy to the ultimate degree. That does sound like hell to me...

The Truth is stranger than Fiction said...

I will say however, that the one quote from Shelton that I think made a pretty good point, was the one about: "If the Biblical hell were as much a nonentity as the heathen Atlantis, no one would waste his time in endeavoring to prove its non-existence."

I mean, you're right, just because someone is arguing against something being true, doesn't automatically mean the other person is correct. BUT, it does really make you wonder, why IS it so important to prove the non-existence of something like hell? Obviously it is an idea which troubles you a great deal more than people out there who delusionally believe in Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy, or whatever else. But if it's really just a mass-delusion, and in fact there IS nothing to worry about once we breathe our last breath, then why spend so many of the days you have left railing against a made-up idea? Are you just bitter that you already spent so much of your own life believing in it? Or do you feel that people who believe in the Bible, and take it literally, are seriously robbing the rest of the world of the chance to live a happy, sane, non-deluded life? If you're right, and there is no heaven or hell, then you don't have to worry about "converting" anyone, because in the end all those deluded people aren't going to be any worse off than you are... (right?)

That is why I asked that first question, because I honestly don't understand what your "big picture" is, now that you've been freed from believing in a psychotic God. You go on and on about how a God that would send people to eternal punishment is evil and sick, and in doing so you are still appealing to some form of moral absolutes. You can't make all those kinds of statements in your post without having some basis for how you would define "evil" or "good" in the first place. If it's just based on human perception, and the ambiguity of "ethics" or societal consensus, then it still falls apart in the end. If you have no concrete foundation on which you would base such things, then your own appeals to the concepts of "justice" or "fairness" or right and wrong, are all just as equally delusional as the "hellacious" God you are so disgusted by.

At the end you made a quick reference to "the implausible plot devices of Lucifer's rebellion". That in itself is something that deserves much more attention that would be appropriate to try and squeeze into a blog comment, especially since you can't really talk about what the Bible says about sin, or eternity, or the history of mankind, without addressing the topic of Satan. I would say that even in the minds of so many Christians, he is more cartoon than reality. All I can say is that Satan, and the demonic realm, is absolutely real. All of the notions of a sick, twisted, calloused being which you attribute to the God of the Bible, really do apply to him.

And you're right, it's pretty hard for us to understand why God would even allow evil to enter into His perfect creation in the first place. Was the gift of free will to humanity really that important to the Creator that He would think it worthwhile to let the world endure all of the bloodshed and suffering and heartache that it has, just for us to be able to "choose"? And WHY let an evil, fallen angel into your garden in the first place, as if God didn't know what Satan would try and do? I think those are legitimate questions, but even if we are going to have to wait to get all the answers, in my experience, the reality of Satan is nonetheless another Biblical teaching that I cannot ignore the existence of....

Edward T. Babinski said...

Dear Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction,

Why do Christians spend so much time debunking other people's religious beliefs? They don't like Muslims, Hindus, even rival Christian groups, no matter how much such groups love the same Bible.

Why indeed do Christians spend so much time debunking each other's views? God to Christianity.com, or Theology Web. Christians are the most indefatigable debunkers of each other's views since Christianity began. Two thousand years of debunking each other's views. And they still can't agree enough to worship in the same church together. I know of one Christian who runs "Jesus Needs New PR" who says his family's church split several times just during his youth.

Second, Have you read what the Bible says about hell? God is not simply letting people be in hell. God locks the door on such folks (read the parable about being locked out of the wedding party), God has people tossed into a lake of fire (read Revelation), and Jesus says God destroys, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." O.T. verses are just as violent when it comes to God's anger welling up and his thirst for violently punishing and destroying people. Note how much God punished Jesus, actively getting his Son crucified, taking his anger out on "sin." Sounds like God takes a pretty active part in the destruction of "sinners."

And besides active damnationists you can argue with universalist Christians too about hell, whether or not there's some mystery of love in the end. There's some interesting verses that they focus on. The arguments go on and on.

So if atheism drives you crazy think of how crazy other Christians have been making each other for the past 2,000 years. Theological battles never end, not unless a ruler makes laws against "heresy," "blasphemy," but such laws never stopped the questions themselves, which continued to arise again and again over the centuries. Because the Bible is that kind of book, and because the human mind finds all the questions inherent in such a book. I haven't even mentioned the conservative-moderate-liberal spectrum of views within major Christian denominations among the world's foremost scholars.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Dear Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction, I have two blog posts you might find interesting, one is on SATAN, and the other is on EXORCISMS:

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/06/satan.html

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/06/exorcisms.html

Edward T. Babinski said...

Dear Truth if Stranger than Fiction, I noticed based on your website that you are biblical end times obsessed. I was too. Until I read all the verses in all the books of the NT that predicted the final judgment in the lifetimes of first century Christians. I also read that Israel became a kingdom for a while after the Greeks were tossed out by the Maccabean rebellion, before the Romans moved in. So the present nation of Israel is the THIRD such "kingdom." And it's way over a generation since Israel was first acknowledged as a nation.

Lastly, the stars can burn for a couple billion years. That's how long it takes a fusion reaction to burn in mid-sized stars. And new stars continue to arise. So it doesn't appear like the cosmos was built to last just a couple thousand years, neither does it appear like the death of species on any one planet in the cosmos must necessarily entail the end of the cosmos as a whole. So, based on the false predictions throughout the NT as listed in this article, and based on modern cosmology, and based on the history of Israel's becoming a nation before it became one in the 20th century, it looks like "left behind" folks are barking up the wrong tree.
http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article86.html

The Truth is stranger than fiction said...

Edward,

"Why do Christians spend so much time debunking other people's religious beliefs?"

Probably the same reason we see any of the individuals of faith in the Bible "debunking" the religious beliefs of those around them. Abraham left and Ur and the idol worship going on there, to go to Canaan, where he refused to worship the pagan deities of the peoples living around him. The Israelites in Egypt refused to worship the Egyptian gods of their slave-masters. The prophets in the O.T. railed against Baal and Ashterah worship that was continuously infecting the kingdom of Israel. The apostles spread throughout the Roman Empire and other parts of the world, and called people to forsake the idol worship that was rampant in the Roman world...

Even Jesus denounced the Pharisees because they had taken the Law of Moses and turned it into their own little cult of self-righteous pursuit.

In all those cases, the thing that motivated such "debunking" was the belief that they were really serving the one, true God, and that all the other gods are false and no gods at all. (this is a pretty huge theme in the bible, is it not?)

But does it not make sense for someone who believes in a creator god, in eternal consequences, in a spiritual realm, etc., to feel compelled to show this truth to others? If someone believes in heaven and hell, and that Jesus is the only hope you can have, then wouldn't you thing something was off if they believed in such things, but refused to talk about them with anyone else?

So I suppose the question remains. If there is no God, no hell, no eternity, no universal truth, then why argue in order to convince others of your certainty that there is no certainty? Why evangelize a belief in nothing? All of the groups you refered to all have beliefs regarding eternity, so it does make sense that they would "argue" about such things. (because if there are eternal consequences, then you don't want to "get it wrong", yeah?) But that's just it. I don't meet too may people who truly believe in NOTHING...

Atheism does not "drive me crazy", nor was I suggesting that atheists shouldn't be talking about their beliefs, or that they don't absolutely have the right to do so. (in fact I think it far less maddening to have a conversation with someone who is making the "How can God be good when there is so much evil in the world" argument, than it is to try and talk with someone who believes that evil is all just an illusion...) I was merely inquiring as to the issue of motivation. With people who believe the bible to be literally true, the motivation seems rather apparent, does it not? But of course, the term "atheism" itself can also describe a whole host of various perspectives. Are we talking about strict scientific materialism here? (evolution, the big bang, yada yada...) Just molecules and atoms bumping into each other at random? Or does your atheism still incorporate some concept of "spirituality"? The interesting thing for me has been to realize that for many people who might call themselves "atheists", when you dig a little deeper you find that rather than just abandoning the quest for meaning and purpose in the universe altogether, there is instead a gravitation towards some form of humanism, which is in reality very much a "religious" idea. Indeed it relies quite heavily on the concepts of evolution, but it goes way beyond simple discussions about how simple organisms slowly change into more complex ones. There remains a concise emphasis on trying to somehow come to grips with the "destiny of mankind"... Thus, for many people, evolution not only describes how the universe supposedly came into being, but it actually describes the way they see mankind on this type of upward spiritual progression, with the "goal" basically being the achievement of "godhood" ourselves...

The Truth is stranger than fiction said...

Yes, I have read what the Bible says about hell, and you are absolutely correct, God does take a "pretty active part in the destruction of sinners". He is the one "holding the keys", so to speak. When I said "it's pretty much an in or out sort of thing", the point is that God is the one deciding who is in or out! (that is definitely an "active role") My point was rather to make a distinction between God being the one who holds the keys to heaven and hell, and God being some masochistic being who sneaks down the back stairs into hell on a slow tuesday evening, to entertain himself by roasting some soul on a spit as he cackles with glee...

Yes, stars can burn a really long time. It also takes millions of years for the light from those stars to zoom across the galaxy and touch our eyeball, allowing us to see it. I could probably list plenty of such 'cosmological quandries' myself. But then, the Bible throws plenty of it's own our way. I mean, it says that in the beginning, God created "light". THEN, he later creates the sun, moon, stars, etc. So apparently light first existed without there being any source. (!) Hmmm, that's not very 'cosmologically sound' is it? I really don't know what to make of your statement about: "the death of species on any one planet in the cosmos necessarily entailing the end of the cosmos as a whole", because I don't remember ever suggesting such a thing. (I guess that is an assumption you made based on my writing about End Times?)

Lastly, I am not one of the "left behind" folks. Books like that (and the perspectives they represent) DO drive me crazy. I won't say much beyond that. I would probably feel inclined to point out that from what I read in the N.T., there is absolutely no way that everything that Jesus spoke about in places like Luke 21 or Matthew 24 could've been fulfilled in the first century. Certain elements? Maybe. But all of them? Nope. To argue it further seems like kind of a moot point. (If you don't believe the Bible to be true at all, then how can you appeal to something like preterism?)

But yes, I do believe we are somewhere in the "Last Days". I understand that the Bible says a lot of pretty crazy stuff, and either it's all true, or it's all a load of crap. The funny thing is, I have gone through several periods of sincerely WISHING I could convince myself that it's all crap. It certainly isn't organized, institutional religion that keeps "bringing me back", I pretty much walked away from all of that years ago. It isn't because I'm such a godly, righteous dude, because I'm certainly not. It isn't even because I constantly experiencing a "personal relationship with Jesus" in the manner that I would've probably would've projected back in my youth (like, I don't wake up in the morning and pour myself a cup of coffee while Jesus speaks telepathically with me about my day, or what He's up to, or the mysteries of the universe...) I do think a lot of us who grew up goin to Sunday School got sold some pretty misleading ideas when it comes to the deal about having a "relationship with God". I know for myself, some of the most frustrating moments have been when I just felt like "Dammit, God why don't you just show up and talk to me like you supposedly did to so many other people in the Bible? You coward..."

The Truth is stranger than fiction said...

But that being said, try as I have to turn my back on it all as just a waste of time, the weird part is that all too often, it is when I stop and take a good look at what is being taught in the world, when I look at what is happening all around us, that I have been forced to recognize that the Bible is really more true than I had ever previously considered. The trajectory of human history really is going exactly in the direction that the Bible said it would. And yes, there is indeed a "conspiratorial" element, a very dark reality that exists beneath the purview of our typical, daily existence. But it goes far beyond even the type of satanic underground that is ridiculed with terms like the "Satanic panic" of the 80's. You may laugh at the idea of things like human sacrifice going on in our "modern" day and age, but I no longer do. On September 11, 2001, close to 3,000 innocent people were killed. "Officially" this was the work of muslim terrorists hijacking planes and crashing them into premeditated targets. I used to believe this story too. Then I forced to abandon that belief, when I actually stopped and watched the footage of "building 7" crashing down, (a building that wasn't hit any plane). There was only a couple tiny office fires, and yet supposedly those little fires succeeded in simultaneously knocking out all of the steel support beams in the structure (on every floor, at almost the exact same time) causing it to fall straight down, just like a controlled demolition... Well, it was a controlled demolition. And when you stop and look at the way the two main towers fell, it suddenly becomes clear that there is absolutely no way those towers could've collapsed in the way that they did, because of fire. They were blown up. But that's just the start. You can then get into the Pentagon, and the original hole that was way too small to have been caused by a jetliner, or the insurance policy that was taken out on the trade center only months before 9/11, or the fact that it was a Bush who was in charge of security for the plaza, or the fact that the radar systems just happened to be down for "maintainance" on that very morning, or the fact that no fighter jets were sent to intercept, and the missile defense system around the pentagon mysteriously didn't work, or on and on and on....

9/11 is a lie. It was caused by people inside of our own government, people who are not motivated by money, or power, or conventional politics. They are driven by beliefs that most of the rest of the world find hard to swallow, and yet at the same time, the rest of the world IS swallowing those beliefs, albeit not consciously...

the Truth is stranger than fiction said...

Anyhow, I guess my point is that if you want to make me squirm in my chair by pointing out just how weird, or unconventional, or seemingly irrational, a filled with violent themes the Bible is, I would probably have to bounce the ball right back into your court, and ask you how far down the "rabbit hole" YOU are prepared to go? Cuz the thing is, once you start looking, it becomes readily apparent that the world itself is a pretty bizarre, messed up place, and that there is a lot more going on "behind the scenes" that we might like to think... "Satanic panic in the 80's", ha! Ever heard of Aleister Crowley? He was around a tad before the 1980's... He bragged about being the "wickedest man who ever lived", and boasted about sodomizing and sacrificing young boys. The occult is real. Demons are real. Hollywood didn't make it all up. Hollywood didn't make up 9/11, or Bohemian Grove, or the very real occult nature of things like Freemasonry or the New Age movement. Heck, Hollywood didn't even invent anything when it comes to UFO's or Area 51 either. But we tend to think of that stuff as just "fictional", because, well, we constantly seen these things portrayed in fictional stories! K, well now I'm just rambling, so I'm gonna stop...

The Nerd said...

http://www.csicon.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Aliens-meme.jpg

Ben Schuldt said...

“Your entire post is full of the term "delusional", that's for sure... :-) “

Well, that may be because the entire post I was reviewing was full of delusion.

“...the idea that hell is a place where God plays some sort of active role in the torturing of it's inhabitants. I've never actually encountered anything in the Bible that would suggest such a thing”

“they will be salted with fire” “thrown into the lake of fire” “the worm will never quit eating or the flames die out” “people will be beaten with few blows or more blows based on how much evil they do” etc. I don’t know who exactly is supposed to be doing the salting or specifically turning people on the spits or what exactly this torment will entail beyond these fire metaphors, but those are just the morally irrelevant details aren’t they? Any way you cut the cake, the Christian god is still morally responsible by commission or omission.

“Sin is not merely a tally of wrongdoings, but ultimately a condition of the heart.”

My example clearly portrayed the girl as unrepentant. All sin is equal in the eyes of the Christian god and not even a hint of it will be tolerated.

“it does really make you wonder, why IS it so important to prove the non-existence of something like hell? Obviously it is an idea which troubles you a great deal more than people out there who delusionally believe in Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy, or whatever else.”

I have made a concerted effort to harp on the issues of homosexuality and hell in depth despite not being a homosexual or ever having an active fear of hell because they are the most easy to understand and most prominent thorns in the side of a massively Christian culture. I want to live in a society I approve of, I perceive Christian values as an impediment to making that world a better place, and I have a lot of background experience in mainstream Christianity. For people coming out of the religion or having difficulty with it, I want to provide a very clear path out for them that gives them emotional, moral, and intellectual confidence through a well written message. It is well known that many churches fear the internet because it gives their cults (especially kids in their youth groups) easy access to many contrary ideas like never before. I don’t mind contributing to that. As someone who probably thinks Christianity is the best thing since sliced, bread, I can understand why you may not empathize.

I can answer your question about why care about anything if we’re all just going to die, but I think with a little more thought you can answer it yourself. I’ll give you a helpful nudge, if there are millions of non-believers out there that for some mysterious reason still care about life...it would be implausible if there wasn’t some perfectly straightforward reason. Now what do you suppose it might be? Is the concept of making the most of the life you currently have so foreign?

Ben Schuldt said...

“You go on and on about how a God that would send people to eternal punishment is evil and sick, and in doing so you are still appealing to some form of moral absolutes.”

I am a moral realist, it’s true. There are plenty of places on the internet where you can read about Alonzo Fyfe’s desirism and Richard Carrier’s goal theory. Both of them are metaphysical naturalists. However, Christianity still has to justify its own internal consistency issues where a morally perfect god is doing morally evil things.

“All I can say is that Satan, and the demonic realm, is absolutely real.”

Do you expect me to believe your assertion? Should I believe just anyone that says they’ve had encounters with aliens, or fairies, or angels and demons of other non-Christian religions?

“I think those are legitimate questions, but even if we are going to have to wait to get all the answers”

Unfortunately we have to make lots of choices in life about what is most probably true long before it will be too late in the Christian worldview. Implausible things have to count against worldviews or we can’t sort through them. If everyone’s worldview gets a free pass...then what? Is everyone right?

“I mean, it says that in the beginning, God created "light". THEN, he later creates the sun, moon, stars, etc. So apparently light first existed without there being any source. (!) Hmmm, that's not very 'cosmologically sound' is it?”

While I’m sure it is possible to think that a god could create a persistent stream of photons without a source of emission and then present one later to take over, in context of the ancient culture, there was the mistaken belief that light and darkness and light sources didn’t have to do with each other. Incidentally, Babinski, in his chapter in the Christian delusion discusses some of that evidence (and much more revolving around the Bible’s primitive cosmology). Genesis also says that god had to separate light and darkness as though the shapes of planetary bodies would not do that on their own with light shown on them.

“I understand that the Bible says a lot of pretty crazy stuff, and either it's all true, or it's all a load of crap.”

I’m sure there’s an in between since some of the non-magically crazy stuff may very well have happened.

Ben Schuldt said...

“I know for myself, some of the most frustrating moments have been when I just felt like "Dammit, God why don't you just show up and talk to me like you supposedly did to so many other people in the Bible? You coward..."”

I was desperate for any kind of validation (good or bad) from the Christian god in my Christian years. There is a lot of worldview packed into Christianity that has many drastic implications for one’s life and not having basic, straightforward evidence it is true is simply cruelty. I just wish I had been willing to admit that to myself much sooner.

“The trajectory of human history really is going exactly in the direction that the Bible said it would.”

Jesus said the world was going to end within his generation. It didn’t.

“ You may laugh at the idea of things like human sacrifice going on in our "modern" day and age, but I no longer do.”

Um...no. Lot’s of bad things happen. It’s a big world and not Star Trek’s 24th century secular utopia just yet.

“9/11 is a lie.”

I’m not interested in debating 9/11 here.

“Anyhow, I guess my point is that if you want to make me squirm in my chair by pointing out just how weird, or unconventional, or seemingly irrational, a filled with violent themes the Bible is, I would probably have to bounce the ball right back into your court, and ask you how far down the "rabbit hole" YOU are prepared to go?”

The existence of demons would not help a Christian worldview much since other religions have their own demons and none of those religions have to be true. There could just be demons. And...perhaps they are just perverse alien lifeforms who have an unhealthy interest in meddling with human affairs. I don’t think there’s any good evidence for that, but mainstream Christian worldviews have many claims to take issue with. The world could be filled with magic and supernatural beings like in Harry Potter and we’d still have to sort out which spiritual path (if any) is correct.

The bottom line is, if there is any being out there, whether magical or not, that has some expectation of me...they are going to have to come tell me. And establish that they are trustworthy...etc. It’s a simple rule designed to be merely responsible with one's emotional resources and not be taken advantage of by the various false beliefs of the world.