For all you Christians who rebuke nonbelievers like me for condemning everlasting torture and for condemning THE IDEA of a supremely good God who inflicts everlasting torture on most of the human race after they die, can you tell me how I can force myself to believe that this God exists, and can you tell me how I can force myself to see something--everlasting torture of most of the human race--as good rather than the way I've always seen it: as something hideous, horrible, and monstrously evil? You tell me I'm wrong to see it the way I have since I left the church as a boy of twelve. Can you tell me how I can force myself to grow up and see God's everlasting torture of most of the human race as a GOOD thing?
Below is a comment I posted to someone else's blog this morning following a recent discussion of Christianity that, I suppose you could say, went nowhere.
Coonhound, yesterday you said that no one you know had ever criticized your Christian faith the way I have here. I don't doubt this. I don't take this subject lightly. I've given it a lot of thought, and I think my questions and criticisms are worth considering. I also think that this is not a church or private establishment where I should be expected to show deference to anyone's religion, but a public internet forum where people should be able to discuss subjects like Christianity in a straightforward manner so long as they don't personally attack or insult the people with whom they're discussing them.
I believe that I have lived up to this standard rather well over the past several days in my discussion of Christianity. I have not attacked you personally for your beliefs. I haven't called you stupid or crazy or gullible or anything of the kind, unlike your calling me evil in various ways, but I HAVE strongly questioned and criticized Christian teachings. Chiefly and most strongly, I've criticized the idea that the supremely loving, just, and merciful nature that the Christian God is alleged to have is compatible with hell. I have said that I find the idea of hell to be obscene; therefore, I find the idea of a supremely loving, just, and merciful God creating hell and then consigning souls to it obscene.
I know this is something that you haven't been able to wrap your mind around. You think that only someone under Satan's evil influence could make such an argument. But I ask you to keep something in mind.
You and I come at this discussion from two radically different perspectives. From your believer's perspective, it is a given that God exists, that scripture reveals his nature, and that this nature is one of supreme goodness unadulterated by evil; therefore, everything God does is necessarily good, whether we fully understand how it is or not.
But from my perspective, as a non-believer because i have yet to be convinced of God's existence, of scriptural truth, and of God's supreme, unadulterated goodness, I have to look at what God has allegedly done and discern whether his reported actions substantiate his alleged perfect goodness.
And one of the things I see when I do this is a God who created a horrible, horrible place where the souls of people who didn't love and obey him in this life are forced in the next to spend all eternity suffering unimaginably terrible torment. I look at this idea, and I just can't wrap my mind around the notion that this could EVER be justified. I just can't understand how a truly loving God could do such a seemingly hateful thing, how a truly just God could inflict a punishment that seems infinitely worse than anyone's sin could possibly be, and how a truly merciful God could do something that seems utterly and completely devoid of mercy.
And because I don't come at this from the perspective of a believer, I can't simply tell myself, "Even though this makes no sense to me, I must accept it because I know that God is good." As a non-believer looking to determine whether I have grounds to believe in God and his goodness, I must examine the claims made about his nature and conduct and come to the best conclusions I can about whether they are consistent with one another or inconsistent.
And when I look at the claims of God's supreme goodness and then I look at the teaching concerning hell, I see a terrible, terrible inconsistency. And so I tentatively conclude one of two things: Either God is supremely loving, just, and merciful, and hell doesn't exist, or God is not supremely loving, just and merciful, and hell does or at least could exist. But, wait, I need to take this further.
From my non-believer's perspective, there cannot possibly be anything more obscenely evil than forcing someone to suffer unimaginably horrendous agony forever and ever. There is simply nothing they could ever do during this ephemeral lifetime here on earth to justify this consequence. Therefore, any being who would subject anyone to this must also be obscenely evil, just as, in your mind, any human being who would do what Phillip Garrido has done must be obscenely evil. By Phillip Garrido's "fruits" YOU shall know him, and by God's fruits *I* shall know HIM. And hell seems to this non-believer to be the most despicably vile fruit of which I can conceive.
Could I be mistaken in this? Of course. But I do the best I know how to know truth and to distinguish it from falsehood. There are many false religious and other kinds of beliefs in this world. We all must use the tools God or nature gave us to evaluate them rather than either reject them out of hand or embrace them without question. That is what I'm doing here. No more, no less.
I could never kill myself. I love my wife and my cats too much, and I'm too much of a coward to do it. But at times like this, I wonder why I'm here. It all seems so stupid and pointless. Me, most of all.
I just kicked off a new blog today and posted my first entry to it. The blog is titled Freedom or Necessity?
I know what you're thinking: "That guy has had other blogs that fizzled out after a few posts. Why should this one be any different?"
Well, it should be different because it's about something I've been interested in since I was a teenager. It's the issue of free will vs. determinism. Are we free to will what we do or only to do as we will? That is, when we will something, were we free to will anything else at that time, or did we have to will what we did given our nature at that time?
This is one of the thorniest and most enduring and engaging issues in the history of philosophy, and it draws upon all kinds of philosophical and scientific disciplines for answers. I want to learn more about what those disciplines have to say on the matter and report and reflect on what I've learned in my blog.
I've posted several commentaries here on what I currently believe regarding the issue, but, let's face it, I'm an ignoramus when it comes to all this stuff. I've been talking off the top of my head instead of marshaling strong rational arguments and adducing persuasive empirical findings to back my airy speculations.
It's time for a change, and my new blog will usher in that change. I hope you'll check it out, like what you see, and take your shoes off and sit a spell.
You've probably heard the big story about the attempted blackmail of David Letterman. A CBS News producer threatened to release information about Letterman having had sexual relations with some of his female staff unless Letterman paid him $2,000,000. Letterman told his lawyer, his lawyer set up meetings with the would-be blackmailer and contacted the authorities, and the end result was that the blackmailer was arrested after Letterman testified before a grand jury. Then, last night, Letterman disclosed all of this during a segment of "The Late Show."
I don't know when Letterman, who recently married a woman with whom he's been involved for over twenty years and has one child with her, had these sexual encounters with female staff members. And my purpose in bringing up this story is not to discuss the morality of his sexual behavior. I want to discuss something else.
First off, I'm glad he reported the blackmail attempt to the authorities instead of paying the money. I despise blackmail, and, if there's going to be a law against it, then I want it socked to anyone and everyone who tries to perpetrate it. But, having said that, when I ask myself if blackmail should be prohibited by law, I feel a little perplexed. Why? Because, if you really think about it, even though blackmail seems morally reprehensible, does its egregiousness rise to the level of criminality?
Well, obviously it DOES rise to it in the sense that it IS a crime. But SHOULD it be a crime? After all, if the guy who tried to blackmail Letterman had simply released the information he threatened to release without demanding money not to release it, there's no law against THAT. So, why IS there a law against the extra component of asking for money not to release the information?
Of course, blackmail is a form of extortion. But extortion can include threatening to do something ILLEGAL to someone if one isn't compensated in some way for not doing it. But, again, releasing information to the public about an adult's sexual escapades is not illegal in and of itself, so why should threatening to do something legal if one isn't paid not to be a crime?
I'm not saying that I feel convinced that there shouldn't be such a law. On an emotional level, I'm glad this guy got arrested, and I hope he spends the next few years in prison and that others are deterred from trying to do what he did. But, on an intellectual level, I'm not sure I can justify making blackmail a crime. Can you?