One Christian Perspective on Hell

Many non-Christians attack Christianity on the doctrine of hell, arguing for the most part that consigning anyone to an eternity of suffering for sins committed during their lives is somehow wrong and, in the context of Jesus’ unlimited love, somehow ‘unchristian’. While many Christians struggle with the idea of eternal torment, let alone a place where billions of people must suffer without end, the doctrine is an essential part of Christian faith, and however difficult we find it to accept the doctrine, we must come to grips with fact of hell.

I am writing this post because I originally rebutted an argument by a professor who made the ‘Hell Can’t Exist Because That Would Make God Mean’ argument. My rebuttal was deleted, and I was asked to reproduce the rebuttal, but it seems silly to post something to rebut an argument made on another website, and in any case the topic seems important enough to me that an article here on the issue is worth the effort.

Let me start by saying that I stand with Dr. Lewis on this point. C.S. Lewis once remarked that if there was any doctrine of Christianity he could change, it would be the doctrine of hell. It does indeed seem callous and unfeeling to speak about unending suffering, eternal despair, and no chance at reconciliation. Of course, it occurs to me that this may well be why Christ Himself spoke about hell almost twice as often as he spoke of heaven. Jesus was emphatic that we must do whatever we could to avoid consignment to hell. His warning that a man should rip own his own eye rather than let it lead him into hell is an awful image, but better by far than casually ignoring someone choosing damnation.

And let’s be clear that we are in great danger of hell, all of us. In the sixteenth chapter of Luke, Jesus spoke of the beggar Lazarus and Divies, the rich man. Pretty much everyone knows that parable, but look at it closely and you may find a story scarier than anything Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft put out. Divies did not go to hell for murder, for stealing, for rape, for perjury, or any of the things we usually think of when we imagine someone going to hell. Nope, old Divies was guilty of not thinking about Lazarus and helping him. That’s it. Think about how many times we all have ignored people in trouble or need, and add to it any time we have each of us ever been selfish, and this is a very scary story.

But wait, there’s more.

If you read through the Old Testament, you’ll see that even little things could provoke terrible consequences. Moses one time tapped a rock with a stick to make water flow out of it without asking God first, and for this he was told he would die without ever setting foot in the Promised Land. King Saul, one time only, got impatient with the priests and delivered the sacrifice himself, and for this he lost his kingdom. One screw-up could easily be fatal. The clear warning to all of us is that hell is a very serious danger. Jesus described the devil as a lion, seeking to find whom he could devour.

We’re in trouble, folks. All of us.

So basically, we’re all screwed? As it happens, no. Again in the Old Testament, we see God showing mercy and compassion over and over. Jacob was a trickster, but God redeemed him, as shown by his name change from Jacob to Israel. Flipping to the New Testament just for a moment, we see the same thing with Saul, a man conspiring to commit mass murder of Christians, but Jesus personally intervenes and the man of murder becomes the greatest evangelist of his time, and again it’s marked by his name change from Saul to Paul. David, hoo boy, was a sinner in a bad, bad way – he lusted big-time after Bathsheba, had her husband murdered to get him out of the way, tried to lie his way out of it, and ended up in a bloody civil war. Yet God forgave him, which has perplexed cynics and annoyed non-believers for thousands of years. The plain fact is that we all deserve hell, but God has made it possible for us to be with God in heaven instead. We are all of us flawed, and will always be imperfect through our last breath on this world, yet God makes it possible for us to be perfected, even sanctified. It didn’t come cheap – God lived among us as one of us to show a perfect life was possible, endured poverty and rejection to prove you could live upright even without the advantages of being known for your good work, and endured false arrest, betrayal and desertion by His own followers, torture, ridicule and a slow ignominious death … to pay the price for our sins.

This brings us to the essential crisis of faith. Stating the obvious, God is God, not us. But taking that premise to its logical extension, we have to trust God even to the resolution of our souls. We live for a reason, and when we finish this life we see the results of our work and purpose. Therefore, there is a resolution, in service to God or in defiance against Him.

Those who love God will obey Him and their brothers and sisters, showing works not for reward but to help their neighbors and make the world better a little bit at a time. They will enter heaven because that is where God lives and works. But those who hate God will flee Him, at all cost. God will drag no one into Heaven. This is not only because there can be no sin or evil in God’s presence, but because eternity in the presence of God would be utter and complete agony for someone who rejects Him. In this life, those who hate God may run and hide in the shade of their egos, the pretense of intellect or wit, but these are temporary and futile, like someone addicted to drugs who destroys their future while they flee from it.

So are we doomed? If someone has honest doubts they should surrender to religion anyway, because of some terrible threat? I think not. In the first place, I do not believe Christ’s compassion is limited to human comprehension of holy offices. Christ forgave His own murderers when He was nailed to the cross, because He knew they did not understand the meaning of their actions. It certainly seems to me that Christ would offer hope to any honest seeker. There are many signs from God that we cannot comprehend fully, including the Triune nature of God. One God but three persons? God untouchable by human sin, yet also right there with us when we suffer? How is that possible? Knowing that God can and does do things which would be impossible for us, gives me hope that there is an answer which matches Justice and Mercy in full measure. I do not, however, believe for a moment that God excuses or ignores evil, that wrongdoing would ever be unaddressed, let alone rewarded because of a technicality. Hell exists yet is not unfair or wrong, and while we must be wary against turning against God and bring our own destruction upon ourselves, we need not fear being tricked or an honest victim of divine cruelty. There is a good purpose at work, one we don’t understand but which works at a divine level, even if it seems wrong to our standards.

As Joseph explained to his brothers in the book of Genesis, “what you planned for evil, God has used for good.” We do not know where someone else will end up, because only God knows all hearts. We do not comprehend the soul, even though we live our lives as souls interacting with other souls. So even though hell is real, and the danger of damnation is a threat we all need to take seriously, we should understand that the illusion of the blessed ignoring or even enjoying the torment of the damned is completely false.

There is a lot we just don’t know. The book of Revelation observes towards the end that death and hell will themselves be destroyed. Whether this means hell is temporary or just that all suffering, even of the damned, will end, it must be considered that we know almost nothing of eternal matters, and in this we must trust the One who knows, and whose plan for us has always been built on compassion and mercy. Even for those who choose destruction over reconciliation. For myself, I trust the warnings and commended course my Lord commands, and hope all will do the same.

[ to save time and present a concise article, scriptural references were left off. If you wish to know the scripture pertaining to each point, just let me know. Thanks ]

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  • Red Five

    There’s another way to look at the idea of Hell, which might make it a bit easier to understand. There are people who go through life running away from God; for one reason or another, they want to live separated from God’s presence in their lives. If this state persists until they die, God simply gives them what they want: eternity apart from Him, a.k.a. Hell.

  • Wild_Willie

    Thank you DJ for this post. Very thought provoking and reaffirming of ones faith in Christ.

    “It is easier to take a camel through the eye of a needle then for man to get into heaven.” Those who know how cities were set up in those days understands that verse. Not impossible, just difficult. Fear is not a motivator for someone to come to God. Only love is.

    The parable “The Prodigal Son” has many lessons and layers. One being God is always wanting the lost to come back to Him.

    Bless you my brother. Forever hope and pray. ww

  • Vagabond661

    What say ye of John3:16? If we believe are we not headed to heaven? The Bible tells us so.

    • DJD60_TX

      The actual phrase is “believe IN Him”. The difference is that we do not simply acknowledge Christ and His authority, but accept Him as King.

      • Vagabond661

        And if we believe in Him, we shall not perish but have everlasting life.

        Seems like a ticket to Heaven to me. Hell be damned!

        • Scalia

          If one subscribes to once-saved-always-saved, I guess you can say that. I don’t.

          • Vagabond661

            I subscribe to John 3:16.

          • Scalia

            Me too, Vagabond. Surely you’re aware that there’s a whole lot of Christians who do not interpret that verse the way you do.

          • Vagabond661

            There are a lot of interpretations as you know. My belief:

            Briefly, Adam and Eve were created to give man a choice, a choice between heaven and hell. With Christ, God made a new covenant with man. Sacrifices were no longer need because the Lamb made atonement for our sins. Man still has a choice. And when I say man it’s mankind.

            Once saved always saved is not really what that verse is about. God is asking us to believe, to make a choice. You know how hard that is? I’ve known agnostics, atheists…non-believers. It may be easy for you and me but they can’t make that leap of faith. There are millions like that.

            Once saved, always saved is a whole ‘nother discussion.

          • Scalia

            Once saved always saved is not really what that verse is about.

            I most certainly agree with that.

  • pennywit

    As a threshold matter, I will remark, parenthetically, that postmortem judgment and punishment is hardly an uncommon religious theme.

    • Walter_Cronanty

      Which makes most progressives’ dismissal of such ideas puzzling, yet understandable.

      • pennywit

        I generally dismiss it out of hand, but that’s because I’m not religious …

        • Walter_Cronanty

          And, from the tone of many of your comments, I would surmise that you hold a “progressive” view on many issues.
          To digress from such a serious topic, please note that the Brown’s Super Bowl is fast approaching. Will the football gods once again play Lucy to the “Charlie” Browns, or will the law of averages finally favor my beloved, hapless doormats?

          • pennywit

            Yes, yes I do.

            If you’ll pardon the implied blasphemy, I sometimes think that sports fandom is a lot like religion in a couple ways:

            1) People put a lot of faith or hope in their team and convince themselves the team might reach the championships, often in spite of reams of evidence to the contrary.

            2) Sports fandom can be a bond that unites people across boundaries of race, gender, nationality, or social class.

          • Walter_Cronanty

            And progressives have merely substituted government for God.
            I’m off to do some work on my youngest son’s house. Will continue this later if you wish.
            I would agree, somewhat, that sports fandom is a little like religion. The Browns, and especially Art Modell, have certainly created hell on earth here in Cleveland.

          • pennywit

            And progressives have merely substituted government for God.

            Whoa, whoa, whoa. Rein in the horses there, Tex. I know that statement is an articles of faith in certain circles, but it’s insulting to liberal atheists, conservative atheists, and liberal theists.

            First, I have yet to encounter a single liberal, atheist or theist, who worships government in the place of any god. Rather, there’s a belief that a democratic (note small d) government is well-positioned to enact the will of the people and provide for common welfare. That’s not worship. It’s looking to a useful tool.

            Second, it’s insulting to liberal theists, many of whom share a common faith with you. It’s one thing to tell such a person that you disagree with him on a particular political issue, or on some finer point of religious doctrine. It’s quite another to accuse that person of worshiping a false idol because you happen to disagree withhim.

            Third, there’s the question of conservative atheists. I suspect that a conservative atheist does not adopt “government” as a god. A Randian conservative atheist may well adopt himself as god, at least as a rhetorical construct. More likely, a conservative atheist simply regards nothing as a “god” and just lives a secular life.

          • jim_m

            So question then: You state that you are not religious. I take that to mean that you do not believe in God. Am I correct in assuming so?

            If so, then where do rights come from?

          • pennywit

            So question then: You state that you are not religious. I take that to mean that you do not believe in God. Am I correct in assuming so?

            Agnostic.

            If so, then where do rights come from?

            I’m not a heavy philosopher. But in general, I believe in the social contract. That is, in a state of nature, people have absolute rights, up to and including the right to steal from or kill others. People surrender some portion of those rights when they implicitly join a social contract. As part of that social contract, we preserve rights that we deem important.

          • jim_m

            So from the government. So rights do not actually exist outside of a government affirming them.

            On that basis, the concept that any government can be violating the human rights of their people is nonsense, since they can be said to be supporting the social contract with their supporters and they are simply enforcing those interests against indigenous opposition that are outside of that contract. There is no global government that can enforce human rights as there is no social contract between any individual and the UN. The concept of the international court is another such farce.

            The comment that people surrender rights in order to be a part of a social contract is inherently flawed. One could reason, justly, that what the government agrees to is subject to the rule of the majority. The majority has no greater moral consciousness than the individuals it is composed of and historically has committed great atrocities in the name of the social contract.

            So the social contract therefore becomes an amorphous concept changing at the whim of the public and therefore so do a person’s basic human rights. At that point there really is no sch thing as human rights per se and all you have are what you are allowed at any one moment. This is decidedly amoral.

          • pennywit

            So from the government. So rights do not actually exist outside of a government affirming them.

            Not quite. 18th century philosophers can be impenetrable to an impatient 21st century readers, so I suggest reading a summary of social contract theory. The gist is not that rights exist without governments affirming them, but that we form societies and governments to restrain certain rights (as exercised in an “all against all” world) so that we can exercise and enjoy rights we deem valuable, to individual and mutual benefit.

            The comment that people surrender rights in order to be a part of a social contract is inherently flawed. One could reason, justly, that what the government agrees to is subject to the rule of the majority. The majority has no greater moral consciousness than the individuals it is composed of and historically has committed great atrocities in the name of the social contract.

            And this is why a smartly created social contract (such as the US Constitution) includes protections for minorities’ rights … and why it is smart to encourage empathy for others within and without that society. The key sentiment is “I should wish X person’s rights to be protected so that my rights can also be protected.” It’s a form of enlightened self-interest.

          • jim_m

            The gist is not that rights exist without governments affirming them

            Ah, but you said that rights exist only within the social contract. If rights exist outside of the social contract and the contract is only in order to protect and preserve those rights, where do they come from?

            If the claim is that rights just exist it begs the question: who defines them? Are we not then just making them up to suit our whims?

            I think the reference you were searching for in the first part of you comment above can be found in the Declaration:

            That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

            Of course that is preceded by

            We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

            My point being that while rights cannot be protected without a proper government and social contract, those rights come from somewhere. And if they only come from man then they really do not exist at all as they are only a figment of out imagination and exist only as long as we believe they do.

          • pennywit

            Ah, but you said that rights exist only within the social contract. If rights exist outside of the social contract and the contract is only in order to protect and preserve those rights, where do they come from?

            Not so. I said that without a social contract, everybody has infinite rights. The social contract restrains those right so we don’t kill each other.

          • jim_m

            You confuse right with the freedom to act. These are not the same thing. An individual is almost always free to act but society or government can impose penalties on you for acting in ways that are not approved.

            For instance, people are always free to act and commit murder. There is nearly zero that society can do to prevent people from killing each other. That does not imply a right to murder as you seem to think.

            You seem to equate rights with unlimited freedom of action and they have never been considered to be the same. A right is something that you have a claim to or to be able to do that cannot be taken away. You may have the ability to fulfill that right but the entitlement remains yours regardless of the actions of others, the government or society. This cannot be said, as you imply, of murder. Laws do not remove our right to murder each other, as we never had that right to begin with.

          • pennywit

            Jim, have you read up on the basic social contract theory yet?

          • jim_m

            I m not a lawyer, I have better background in Philosophy.

          • jim_m

            it is smart to encourage empathy for others within and without that society.

            Not necessarily. Animosity toward others has worked for many societies. It worked for the communists (until their economics betrayed them), it works for any number of cults, it worked for the Nazis, it worked for the Auca indians, preserving their culture far beyond what it should have been.

            In fact if preservation of a society that is otherwise unsustainable is the goal, cultivating a hatred and fear of others highly beneficial, even necessary. Doing so was highly beneficial to those vested in preserving that society.

            Your premise only works if man is inherently good, or as your progressive philosophy would propose, that many is perfectible an that through the diligent work of our leaders mankind can be lead into a perfect state of happiness and fulfillment for all. This belief is crap and neglects the very truth of human nature and existence.

          • pennywit

            Have you ever read Dies the Fire by SM Stirling? Society falls apart when technology stops working, and new societies arise from the ashes of civilization. People who are selfish make short-term gains. But lasting gains only come from those who are willing to abandon the way of “all against all” and cooperate to mutual benefit.

          • jim_m

            Again, your definition here is self serving. Short term? on what timeline? The Soviet Union lasted over 70 years. The Auca indians lasted for centuries untold. islam has lasted nearly a millennia and a half unchanged from when Mohammad was putting people to the sword and screwing 9 year old girls. If you think that is false go read up on slavery in Saudi Arabia.

          • pennywit

            Read for context, please.

          • jim_m

            Yeah, not going out and purchasing a book and reading it in order to reply to a single comment on an internet blog. You should know your own context.

          • Scalia

            I’m not a heavy philosopher. But in general, I believe in the social contract. That is, in a state of nature, people have absolute rights, up to and including the right to steal from or kill others.

            You and I are working on different definitions of “rights.” Nature, as you’re using it, is descriptive, not prescriptive. We wouldn’t say that roses have the right to bloom. They bloom in accordance with their nature, but that has nothing to do with rights. Sharks eat seals in accordance with their nature, but that too has nothing to do with rights. We allege that without a divine paradigm, the concept of rights is incoherent.

            Given your example, a man paddles to an island not claimed by any government. He decides to live there. Several months later, another man sails to the other side of the same island and decides to live there. The first man doesn’t want to live with anybody, so he has the “right” to kill the new man. Is that how you view rights? And if the new man brought his 5-year-old daughter with him, the first man has the right to kill the second man and use the little girl for his sex toy, right? Since he is physically capable of committing those acts, he has the right to do so. Is that your contention?

          • pennywit

            I’ve already explained this a couple times here.

            In a state of nature, Man 1 will do whatever he wants to Man 2 and Man 2’s daughter unless Man 2 is strong enough to stop it. In this scenario, each has a “right” to do something … and a “right” to pre-emptively act to stop the other. We form societies and give up the state of nature “right” to kill each other because somewhere along the line, we realize eternal war is detrimental to all in the long run.

          • Scalia

            Yes, and I’ve read what you said. I’m simply fleshing out your definition. According to you, a man has a right to rape a little girl. I repeat: We’re working with two definitions of rights. Your definition equates a right with a capacity.

          • pennywit

            IN a state of nature, who will tell him no?

          • Scalia

            That’s precisely what I’m driving at. Rights are derived from God. Without divine law, rights are incoherent.

          • pennywit

            Thing is … I don’t see any god at the other end of it. I see people — just people — recognizing that the state of nature isn’t going to get them far in the long run.

          • Scalia

            And that’s why there is, at bottom, no philosophical justification for your definition of rights. I’ll try to elaborate when I get more time.

          • pennywit

            Look up Thomas Hobbes, then get back to me.

          • Scalia

            I’ve read Hobbes, and I very much understand SCT. Referencing books is fine to supplement dialog, but it is no replacement. If you understand Hobbes, you’ll have no problem defending him here.

          • pennywit

            Good. So let’s go forward, then.

            My own observation is that in a state of nature, a man pretty much has the right to do whatever the hell he pleases, for the simple reason that there are very few people to tell him no. Or else, the man’s going to gather up the weapons, figure he’s the top dog of the pile, and everybody has to follow him … at least until another man, bigger and stronger, and with better weapons and tools, knocks him off the top of the mountain.

            Of course, a man also has a right to defend him and his … but in a state of nature, he has to be constantly vigilant, and prepared to deal out death before it’s dealt to him.

            Of course, the state of nature also grants you all the rights — speech, life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc., etc. — you want, as long as you can hold onto them.

            We establish societies with rules — whether the US Constitution, the Magna Carta, or biblical rules — because if we give up some of those state of nature rights — like the right to kill each other and take bloody vengeance for the same — then we can more easily prosper as a group.

          • Scalia

            My own observation is that in a state of nature, a man pretty much has the right to do whatever the hell he pleases, for the simple reason that there are very few people to tell him no.

            You’re still defining rights as capacities. The sun’s gravitational pull causes objects to orbit around it, but does that mean the sun has a “right” to have objects orbiting it? The same goes with the other examples I gave.

            On your (and Hobbes’) account, man’s raw nature (understood in the philosophical mechanistic sense, not the Aristotelian one), rights are doing whatever one wants, and that entails the assertion that nobody has any rights in any moral sense. Morality is merely an invention stemming from a social contract which is created to stave off the chaos resulting from the exercise of natural rights. Given what we’ve discussed thus far, that means that it would only be immoral for you to rape and torture a five-year-old girl in the United States, but if you found a five-year-old girl on an island outside of any governmental jurisdiction, there is no moral consequence to your raping and torturing her. I am not trying to prejudice the argument against you; I am merely stating that on your view, since morality is only entailed in a contract, you have no basis for morally objecting to the behavior of any person who is not a signator to a contract. If, on the other hand, you believe that people have moral rights, then to be consistent, you must disavow the capacity-equals-rights definition you’ve been defending.

            Mechanistic philosophers have struggled mightily to have it both ways, but when the rubber hits the pavement, moral outrage is merely the equivalent of getting upset that somebody broke the rules of a checkers game. “The rules require you to jump, and you didn’t!” is the moral equivalent of criticism leveled at a man raping a little girl. If I don’t subscribe to the jump rule, your criticism is misplaced. True, you won’t be playing checkers with me, but you have no logical basis to complain if I play checkers with others who agree that the jump rule doesn’t apply to us. So, if Iran throws homosexuals off buildings, pennywit shouldn’t lose any sleep over it. It is perfectly moral to torture homosexuals and subjugate women to the whims of men because Iran’s social contract allows it. If humans in their “raw” states have no moral rights, then it is ultimately irrelevant whether gays or women subscribe to Iran’s contract. There is no such thing as human worth or dignity. Humans have no moral rights because, remember, moral rights are merely the invention of man stemming from a contract. Am I correct, then, in saying that you did not object to Apartheid?

            The assertion that rights are capacities is nullified by the rejection of morality. Since you have no moral dignity or worth, there is no duty to respect you as you are. Consequently, you don’t have any rights, and that makes your assertion incoherent.

            When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

            Human dignity and worth stem from the laws of nature and of nature’s God. I subscribe to the Thomistic formal and final causes (and thus a universal human nature with ends and purposes by reference to which rights get their grounding), but there are other theistic defenses as well (e.g. Locke). The point is that we are created in God’s image, and God has granted us certain inalienable rights which no person has the warrant to take away. In a godless society, there is no such thing as “warrant” in a moral sense, and there is nothing morally obligating us to keep our so-called contract. Since we’re just nothing but bundles of impulse and willfulness, we can wipe out all Democrats because we think they constitute a threat to our well-being. We can logically defend that by saying that we never signed any contract; we merely lived under it like the women in Saudi Arabia live under theirs. Now that we’re in a position to impose a right-wing dictatorship, we’ll write up a new contract which bans liberals. You might not like it, but you cannot deny that it is our “right” to do so. After all, we’re merely molecules in motion.

          • Scalia

            And a “whoa” to you too. I don’t see Walter alleging that liberals worship government in the same manner. Of course he can speak for himself, but when conservatives make that observation, it is no different than saying that your car, wife, football team, etc., come before God. Anything coming before God is idolatry, whether or not there is active “worship” (as that term is understood). Folks won’t get up early to go to church, but they’ll get up very early to go fishing. They don’t have time to read their Bible, but they’ve got plenty of time to wax & polish their cars, etc.

            For liberal atheists, there is no higher authority than the government. They look to the government to promote social justice, and they devote their time, energy and money tirelessly to create their heaven on earth. There is no life after death, so they spare no effort to reach for the power of the state to crush dissent. Dissent is tantamount to blasphemy, and blasphemy must be met ruthlessly. That type of ardor and commitment is indistinct from the most radical religious fundamentalism.

            Similarly, religious liberals believe it is their Christ-mandated commission to promote justice through the government. Though they believe in an afterlife, they unite their religious convictions with their political ones. That’s why they don’t resist the aid of religious leaders and organizations (so long as they promote their brand of politics). Dissent over a liberal cause signals an opposition to divine justice. “Bible-believing” liberals do more than unite convictions, they’ll subvert one for the other. They have no problem twisting biblical passage which condemn their beliefs (as Isaiah warned—calling evil good and good evil). When the Bible can facilitate their beliefs, they’ll morph into Bible-thumping fundamentalists. When they cannot sufficiently twist it to suit their politics, they insist it’s just a book of fables. Though they would fervently deny that they worship government, their actions speak louder than their words.

            For conservative Christians, the promotion of “good” is propagating the knowledge of God. We don’t depend on the government to do the job Christ commissioned us to do. Conservative politicians are supposed to promote the fundamental idea that the government which governs least, governs best.

            Conservative atheists (e.g. John Kekes) naturally don’t substitute government for God because they have the same suspicions of government as religious conservatives. Since Walter’s comment was aimed at “progressives,” it is curious that you would bring up conservative atheists.

          • pennywit

            For liberal atheists, there is no higher authority than the government. They look to the government to promote social justice, and they devote their time, energy and money tirelessly to create their heaven on earth. There is no life after death, so they spare no effort to reach for the power of the state to crush dissent. Dissent is tantamount to blasphemy, and blasphemy must be met ruthlessly. That type of ardor and commitment is indistinct from the most radical religious fundamentalism.

            Have I ever tried to suppress your dissent? Have I ever called for you to be crushed ruthlessly?

          • Scalia

            The exception is not the rule.

            EDIT: Besides, you’re not an atheist; you’re agnostic.

          • pennywit

            But blanket statements often carry the tenor of a personal insult.

          • Scalia

            For those who do not understand exceptions, yes.

          • pennywit

            Pardon my lack of response. Work and personal obligations.

          • jim_m

            Christ’s return is fast approaching too, but we have been saying that for 2000 years. If He tarries much longer the Browns may have to wait that long too.

          • Walter_Cronanty

            The Browns winning the Super Bowl would be rapturous.

          • DJD60_TX

            more like blasphemy :/

          • Walter_Cronanty

            You obviously have turned to the dark [Steeler black] side.

          • DJD60_TX

            Nah, I just like my football less polluted with Yankee perfidy.

          • pennywit

            To digress from such a serious topic, please note that the Brown’s Super Bowl is fast approaching. Will the football gods once again play Lucy to the “Charlie” Browns, or will the law of averages finally favor my beloved, hapless doormats?

            The Cubs won the World Series and Donald Trump won the presidency. Perhaps we do live in a time of miracles.

            However … I heard that Bill Belichick has made his annual virgin sacrifice to appease the football gods …

          • Walter_Cronanty

            His correct name is “Bill Beelzebub.”

          • pennywit

            SNL played with that joke a few years ago.

          • Walter_Cronanty

            I’d like to see it, but I have to enroll in a “free trial” of Hulu, and I’m not going to do that.
            Interesting fact. Tom Brady’s name was Joe Boyd prior to making his deal with his coach. Gisele was formerly known as Lola.

          • pennywit

            The upshot: It’s a skit about Tim Tebow and his religiosity. He’s in the locker room with the rest of the Denver Broncos. Jesus shows up in the skit to say that while he’s flattered, he’d like it if Tim Tebow tones down the public religiosity a little bit. Toward the end. Jesus wishes him luck and asks who the team’s playing. When Tebow says “The Patriots,” Jesus says Tom Brady’s pretty close to perfect … and implies that Bill Belichick is the devil.

          • jim_m

            I doubt Aaron Hernandez was a virgin.

  • Yooper

    I must correct a couple of things,

    Moses was not allowed to see the promised land because he did not follow God’s instruction on how to bring water to the people. He was told to talk to the rock and give credit to God for providing the water. Instead he got mad at the Israelites and struck the rock and claimed credit for himself and God.

    King Saul, also was doing more than taking food before the correct time, he was seeking advice from witches and seers who would talk to the dead, among other things. King Saul had given up his faith in God.

    The other thing that is also rarely mentioned is that God is not only love but a just God. The punishement will be fitting to the crimes.

  • jim_m

    What they really object to is that Hell can’t exist because that would make God both fair and consistent. What they want is a god that is arbitrary like they are and who agrees with them 100%.

    The real concern is that they want a god that approves of everything they do and disapproves of everything they disapprove of. They want affirmation of their thinking and not to be challenged in their behavior.

  • Catriona M Mac Kirnan

    You’ve written an excellent, thoughtful article, well-reasoned and easy to read. Thank you for putting this out.

  • Point of Information: The word Hell doesn’t actually appear in the Greek New Testament manuscripts because the word Hell comes from Norse mythology. The Norse Hell is the equivalent of Hades in Greek mythology.

    Both Hell and Hades refer to the land of the dead, regardless what the dead believed about God. That is why Revelation 20:13-15 states, “And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

    Notice that in this passage, Hades is separate from the lake of fire, with the latter being the eternal punishment for those who rejected Messiah Jesus. Even if one substitutes the correct word Hades with the incorrect word Hell, the result is the same.

    Confusion is created by English translators of the New Testament who chose to use the word Hell in 2 Peter 2:4 instead of the correct translation Tartarus. Even in that verse Tartarus refers to a place where evil ones are kept until the time of judgement, with the time of judgement being what is described in Revelation 20:13-15.

    (Bible verses quoted from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version.)