No Hell Below Us!by jason on Oct. 10, 2011, under Armageddon, Biblical Inerrancy, Christian Self-Righteous Arrogance, Christianity, Clarity, Critical Thinking, Ethics, Faith, Fundamentalism, God & Bible, Logic, Reason, Religion, Sanity, Willful Ignorance
This article comes to us from Cal Benjamin
In any public statement on the subject of religion, this author insists on restating the need for good behavior. We must all try to lead the best lives we can! But that is a life-long undertaking; you can’t solve the problem merely by adopting whatever religion happens to be in the neighborhood—and then never allowing yourself to question it again. Mankind must be allowed to ask questions—must think instead of judging according to habit or prejudice. Religion all too frequently denies us the ability to learn, grow and judge fairly.
The atheist position is defined too often as disbelief in “God,” as if there was only one deity to choose from. This is an error: atheists don’t believe in any gods, including the multiple versions of God that Christians have speculated on over the centuries. Atheists are even-handed in their rejection of the world’s various mythological narratives. Yet in the United States, with so many cultural roots leading back to Europe (once considered “Christendom”), it seems natural to reduce all such debates to a narrow focus on opposition to Christianity alone. And for the same reason, within the United States, atheists can demonstrate the logic of their position most clearly by giving examples of the failures of the Judeo-Christian mythos.
And the myth that’s easiest of all to refute is that of Hell.
Quite simply, it’s absurd to claim that a loving and forgiving god could create everlasting torment as a punishment for us, and then not give us clear instructions on how to avoid it! But that’s precisely what obtains within the Christian tradition.
The Christian apologist will object to this statement on the grounds that the Bible does provide those instructions. And yet the Bible contradicts itself repeatedly, and Christian opinion varies along with those contradictions. The fact is, in the 2000 years since Christ’s death, there has never been a time when all the world’s Christians agreed on which sacred texts were the relevant ones, which translations of those texts were the correct ones, and which interpretations represented God’s will. And in this long history of disputes (and wars and massacres and crusades), both sides always claimed to be the ones that are obeying the Bible. Who should get the blame for this sort of misunderstanding? Not Mankind (unless the Bible really was written by ordinary people, and not by a divine ruler and preceptor).
The true believer describes the Bible as the only essential word of God, and as divinely revealed to us. The task of religious instruction is said to be one that God assigned to Himself; it is said to be anecessary part of defining the relationship between God and Man. And all the aspects of this relationship—the formation of the world, the laws given unto us and our built-in tendency to break them—are said to be the design of this all-knowing, omnipotent God.
Given such circumstances—given complete control of all the variables—how could such a god have failed to communicate his intentions clearly? It can’t be simply because his mind is too vast to be comprehended by us, or because he’s allowed to work in “mysterious ways.” The essential task of religious instruction cannot be vague or ambiguous. It must be accomplished in a manner that all humans can understand, or communication fails.
As a comparison, consider the utterly mundane laws for operating an automobile. On the highway, you might see all sorts of misbehavior, but the rules are specific. It doesn’t matter how many people drive as if the Speed Limit signs could be exceeded by five or six miles an hour. And it doesn’t matter how many people get away with it; you can still get a ticket for going just one mile-per-hour over the posted speed. All those rules you had to learn when you got your first driver’s license are equally specific: there are no gray areas, no excuses, no allowance for individual interpretation. Those rules have been communicated to us in clear terms.
And yet God’s instructions have been open to reinterpretation since the very start—and not just by lay people or quirky visionaries. The Bible has been hotly and continuously debated among the religious hierarchy—among the scholars, scribes and saints. It is the text itself that allows for these multiple interpretations. It is God’s failure to communicate.
This leaves us with a Bible—an instruction manual, so to speak—that forces us to guess what God had in mind.
It bears repeating that this matter of inadequate instructions is not merely an “opinion.” The failure to communicate and the potential for multiple and varied interpretations of the Bible are facts found throughout the entire history of Christianity. It is the reason Constantinople suffered from gang warfare between religious sects. It is the reason Eastern and Western churches have been separate and irreconcilable for more than twelve centuries. It is the reason the highly moral Catharist movement was violently exterminated by the Pope. It is the reason Europe was wracked by 100 years of warfare following the call for religious reform preached by Luther, Calvin, Zwigli and Huss. It is the reason that you have dozens of versions of Christianity to choose from today . . . each of them claiming to be the one and only truth.
So, if there is a God according to the Judeo-Christian tradition, his instructions are far from clear and sufficient. And we are left with the aforementioned absurdity: He is said to have created Hell as potential punishment, but He hasn’t told us exactly what we must do in order to avoid going there.
That leaves us with only three possible explanations:
Either God is totally unfair and sends us to Hell if we happen to guess wrong.
Or God is fair and there is no Hell.
Or … both God and Hell are mythological.