Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Views on Hell and Salvation

The recent discussion I think illustrates the need to rehash my views on these topics. A good starting point is a discussion I had on my message boards with a friend calling himself "Superfund." This was December 29, 2009.

Superfund wrote:Hi m8,
Let my say I may have sounded a tad too critical when I referred to you article in the other post, It might have had something to do with, "I have no respect for 99.9% of atheists, that's true, or Christians either, in terms of being thinkers." Just me trying to shape up to muscle in on that %1! :P
Jokes aside having looked again at your article, I can see the benefit for people who are looking to move on & up from the belief of eternal punishment. In that respect the article is excellent, It logically outlines why a belief in a literal hell is not reasonable and I could see it being of great help to someone.


This is Superfund recaping the points I make on my "Why I don't Believe in Hell" essays.



Just to recap;
(1) Hell was not part of the ancient Hebrew understanding of afterlife and is not in the OT.
(2) The entrance of hell into Hebrew thought can be traced from the Hellenistic culture which became part of Hebrew experience in the intertestamental period.
(3) Hell is never discussed clearly in any expository prose, it is almost always found in either symbolic, or apokolliptic or figurative language.
(4) It's use as a symbol of spiritual death makes more sense.


That’s all fine and good except for point 4. I take exception to not only literal belief in eternal punishment but also this;


Meta:
we have to distinguish here between the point itself, that hell is a metaphor for spiritual death, which is and that is easily proved, and what we make of that point. spiritual death doesn't necessary mean cessation of existence but that's my interpretation. It's most begin version would say it's just a matter of being depressed, not growing, not moving closer to God but is not indicative of any after life condition. Personally I think it's more than that but that would be an alternative reading.


Superfund:

if you don’t make the grade you’re out. Basically acknowledge God properly or God will abandon you in death, is it not what this amounts to?

Meta:

That is not a true interpretation of what I said. That's putting a spin on it I tired to avoid and with which I disagree. Ceasing to exist is the natural and logical outcome of rejection of God. God is trying to help us not fall prey to that outcome, it's not a punishment for not getting it right, it's just the way its' going to be if we don't take heed. Like your father tells you over and over not to put your fork in the light socket. Then you decide you just gotta see what happens and you get electrictued. Your father didn't make you do it he tried to stop you. You decided to do it. That's just what happens when you do it.

Or another way to understand it, atheist want to cease existing. that's the thing they choose to believe will happen. they could choose to believe something else but they don't so I assume they want that but in any case they mostly make peace with it. So what's the difference? why is it suddenly such a terrible thing when you think God is doing it as a punishment but then it's fine and something you make peace with otherwise?

But I do not see it as a punishment. It's like we are headed for a waterfall. We going down the river and its peaceful in a our little boat and don't realize there's a huge falls we are moving toward. God is on the bank saying "look out!" Not God's fault if we go over.

Superfund
You mentioned about dead atheists, I suppose they don’t quite cut it, what about homosexuals, I know at least one "gay" person that point blank refuses to even think about anything religious or anything to do with god, another deadie? How do you devine who and what is acceptable for continued existance and how could someone be really confident that they have in fact qualified?

Meta:

So you want to believe what? If you have an atheistic world you and that other guy are going to die and cease to exist right? Obviously you have managed to make peace with that. What's the problem? If you cease to exist and you are not suffering or in some form of hell then why would it be any different or less what you want just becuase God is doing it? Although of course I don't see it as something God is doing but actually is working to prevent happening. You want us to believe that if anyone is saved then all are saved no matter what their attitude or actions, why? why is there no room in your world for laws and order and doing wht's right? why would it be unfair to give the person who does the right thing a reward and to punish the one's who refuse the right thing?

I'm not saying that I believe it's like that a punishment but suppose it is. If it's not cruel and your not suffering and it's what you get anyway what's the big deal?



superfund
How can the beliefs and mistakes of a lot of people or any unevolved being be punishable by condemnation, whether its hell or spiritual death?
No offence (and not forgetting what I initially wrote in the 1st paragraph) I find the theology weak (imho.)


Meta:
By being sinful? that's like saying how can the holocaust be punishable? How were they do know it's wrong to take millions of people out of their homes and destory their lives treat them like animals castrate and torture them and kill them gas chambers? that's just a cultural thing right? you believe that? You don't think there are any cases where we can say 'that is wrong?"


Super
I have more to say but basicly i'd like you to elaborate on your 4th point.

Meta:

(1) It's not set up as a punishment for believing the wrong things. Belief is not somthing one can be punished for. In the old days people thought it was because you were supposed to believe what you were told. But that's just primitive nonsense. To punish for bleief would be idiotically cruel.

(2) We can punish actions, actions can be evil. We know better. We have a moral law on the heart that makes us feel bad when we murder. All people feel it except in societies that really decaying.

(3) ceasing to exist is a natural consequence of rejecting God not set up as a punishment for belief but the outcome functions as a defacto punishment for rejecting the good, not for believing the wrong thing but for living your life in a direction that takes away form the right thing (not being a Christian but love, expressing love). The overall direction of a life that rejects God (ie the good, love) is that it winds up in evil acts. This rejection of the good produces separation form the good.

Now that's just my opinon. I can't really prove that that's what I think happens. What I can prove is that hell is symbolic of spiritual death. WE can define spiritual death any number of ways.


Super

Also Merry Christmas mate :) and thanks for these boards. I've been a reader here mainly for what? years now on and off and I value them and the space you provide. Cheers!


Meta
thanks buddy I apprecaite that. I think this board has been around since maybe 2 years? Before that I had sense of the numinous that was around since summer of 2000.

16 comments:

A Hermit said...

Telling us that atheists actually desire annihilation is a way of dehumanizing us, whether you consciously intend it that way or not.

Believing and accepting that something will happen and are not the same as desiring or seeking that thing.

I see no reason for the consequence of not seeking God to be cessation of existence; this is just you r own personal desire to see something bad happen to people who don't think the way you do. To me it looks every bit as ugly at it's heart as the fundy's hellfire.

Metacrock said...

I see no reason for the consequence of not seeking God to be cessation of existence; this is just you r own personal desire to see something bad happen to people who don't think the way you do.

see now that's the sort of personal insult that got you banned. You are clearly trying to destory what I'm doing. you are not tryign tpersaude on the issues but to riducle me as a person.

Obviously that's just what i think I said that. If you had reading comprehension skills of the gumption to actually read what i said you would find that exactly what I say. Of course I don't know but this is what thin duh what else would it be?

I have good reasons for thinking and I've pointed out what they are, divine revelation; the NT over and over again speaks of the "destruction of the soul." so that seems like a pretty good clue.

word used for "destruction" means to completely and utterly destroy something, to cease to be.

second reason, God is being itself to be is to be a creature of God so to hate God and wish to be apart from God is to wish to be apart from being.

can't you understand things?

A Hermit said...

But I don't wish to be apart from Being; I just don't believe that Being is God. I don't believe in divine revelation in the Bible, so telling me that's the basis for believing there is a consequence for this isn't very convincing to me. I don't see any natural, logical reason for there to be such a dire consequence for simply not believing.

Being an atheist is not a matter of hating God or not wanting to experience life as fully as possible. So why do you keep insisting that atheists desire destruction?

You complain that I'm being insulting and misrepresenting when you're pushing a despicable idea like that? Do you really not see how dangerous and dehumanizing this "atheists want to die anyway" idea is?

Metacrock said...

But I don't wish to be apart from Being; I just don't believe that Being is God. I don't believe in divine revelation in the Bible, so telling me that's the basis for believing there is a consequence for this isn't very convincing to me. I don't see any natural, logical reason for there to be such a dire consequence for simply not believing.

what did I did I say about that? did I say you go to hell for believing wrong? what did I say about that? can you read the words this time?

you seem to be under the misapprehension that you created yourself and on one had the right to put any obligations on you.


Being an atheist is not a matter of hating God or not wanting to experience life as fully as possible. So why do you keep insisting that atheists desire destruction?


I didn't say anything about atheist. I said one hates God, I didn't' say if one is an atheist.

You complain that I'm being insulting and misrepresenting when you're pushing a despicable idea like that? Do you really not see how dangerous and dehumanizing this "atheists want to die anyway" idea is?

where did I say that? This is a true case of animal farm. you are chaning my words, and you are doing it every time. that is just part of how atheists cannot pay fair. you can't deal with my ideas the way I make them you have to change them to your own straw man that you can beat.

look back back at what you said:


Me: it's not about beleiving, we don't go tot hell for believing the wrong the thing we all have wrong ideas."

You: "you are saying we go to hell for the wrong ideas."

Me: anyone who is seperating himself from God

You: You said atheists do this.

every single time you quote me wrong. now why should I not think you are doing it on purpose. you must have no reading comprehension at all.

A Hermit said...

"I didn't say anything about atheist. I said one hates God, I didn't' say if one is an atheist."

You say it right here in this post Joe:

"another way to understand it, atheist want to cease existing. that's the thing they choose to believe will happen."

That's a direct quote; I'm not twisting your words at all. If you don't want to be held accountable for comments like that don't make them.

A Hermit said...

Let's look at this punishment idea:

"But I do not see it as a punishment. It's like we are headed for a waterfall. We going down the river and its peaceful in a our little boat and don't realize there's a huge falls we are moving toward. God is on the bank saying "look out!" Not God's fault if we go over."

But according to you God's the one who put us in the river and pushed out into the current above a waterfall in the first place. You can't give Him credit for that and that absolve Him of responsibility for the outcome. Leaving people to die when you could save them (even if they don't see the danger; even if they don't want to be saved) is still a punishment for their failure to see.

Metacrock said...

hermit I zapped your post about the links on atheist watch I choose the links on my blog not you got it?I can read, I know what it says. I don't need your input on that.

Metacrock said...

But according to you God's the one who put us in the river and pushed out into the current above a waterfall in the first place. You can't give Him credit for that and that absolve Him of responsibility for the outcome. Leaving people to die when you could save them (even if they don't see the danger; even if they don't want to be saved) is still a punishment for their failure to see.


that's silly to put it in those kind of terms.

you are not entitled. you are not a little prince God doesn't owe you anything. God does not have ot measure up to your standards. you must measure up to his.

But why do you choose to look at something that is beyond our understanding in a light that makes it totally unflattering? the only reason anyone would do that is to put an ideological spin on it.

A Hermit said...

"
that's silly to put it in those kind of terms."


well, it's your analogy, don't blame me..;-)

Kristen said...

God didn't push us out into the current where there's a waterfall; sin did that. God wanted us to stay safe with Him beside the still waters.

Hermit, you seem to think it's all about what you believe, as if right and wrong had nothing to do with it. But to be in relationship with God is to be in relationship with life and love, and not to be, is not. And not-life is death, and not-love is sin. But here's the thing-- Metacrock never said you weren't in relationship with God. God knows where your heart is, we don't. You may be seeking the Good with all your heart, but for one reason or another can't equate that with what you think God is. But you can't seem to hear Metacrock saying that, even though he *has* said that.

But what you are saying, over and over, is that any theist who is not a universalist is evil-- because in believing there's a way to be saved that a person must choose, we are implying that some will not so choose and won't be saved-- and thinking it's possible for someone to not be saved is evil. This is going too far. It is *respect* for humanity, for human choice, that leads us to think God won't force people into relationship with God.

What appears to be the case is that you think believing in God and salvation is hateful and evil. I really don't see what the difference is between you accusing our beliefs of being evil, and you getting angry because you believe Christians say your beliefs are evil.

We're not evil just for believing, and you're not evil just for not believing. Ok?

Please try to hear what Metacrock is actually saying, and stop accusing him of saying what you only think he's saying.

Loren said...

Metacrock: you are not entitled. you are not a little prince God doesn't owe you anything. God does not have ot measure up to your standards. you must measure up to his.

Me: So you have the fundie view that God is a cosmic autocrat who is always right but not really benevolent.

Greta Christina once blogged about how many Xians believe that God is not all of omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent at the same time.

Ritualistic sects act as if they have to go through a lot of trouble to get God's attention, thus acting as if God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent but not omniscient.

Fundie sects act as if God is omnipotent and omniscient but not omnibenevolent.

Liberal sects act as if God is a sympathetic mid-level bureaucrat who can't do a whole lot, as if God is omniscient and omnibenevolent but not omnipotent.

Metacrock said...

Metacrock: you are not entitled. you are not a little prince God doesn't owe you anything. God does not have ot measure up to your standards. you must measure up to his.

Me: So you have the fundie view that God is a cosmic autocrat who is always right but not really benevolent.

those are not the only two choices Loren.

Greta Christina once blogged about how many Xians believe that God is not all of omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent at the same time.

Ritualistic sects act as if they have to go through a lot of trouble to get God's attention, thus acting as if God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent but not omniscient.

Fundie sects act as if God is omnipotent and omniscient but not omnibenevolent.

Liberal sects act as if God is a sympathetic mid-level bureaucrat who can't do a whole lot, as if God is omniscient and omnibenevolent but not omnipotent.

we experience God at a level beyond our understanding. We have to translate that into cultural constructs and filter them through constructs to translate them, just to talk about them. So they are going to be different for different people because people are in different places and different construct have different values to different people.

A Hermit said...

"God didn't push us out into the current where there's a waterfall; sin did that. God wanted us to stay safe with Him beside the still waters."

I was preparing a reply all about free will and currents and trout swimming upstream bit it felt like the metaphor was getting a bit labored so I think I'll just leave it...;-) Let's just say I fully realize that there are consequences for our actions, but I think there is a tendency here to absolve God of responsibility for His alleged actions.

"Hermit, you seem to think it's all about what you believe, as if right and wrong had nothing to do with it. But to be in relationship with God is to be in relationship with life and love, and not to be, is not."

It's not all about what I believe, it's about what I see as the implications of what Metacrock is proposing.

"But here's the thing-- Metacrock never said you weren't in relationship with God. God knows where your heart is, we don't. You may be seeking the Good with all your heart, but for one reason or another can't equate that with what you think God is. But you can't seem to hear Metacrock saying that, even though he *has* said that."

I hear it, I just don't agree with it. I'm not seeking God. I am seeking love, but love is love, not God. It's a part of our humanity and I think that proposing something called "God" here actually puts a barrier between us and that love. Does for me anyway.

I would suggest that when you and other believers say God" you are talking about something more than love; you're talking about something which has consciousness and intention and the capacity to act on its own independently of us.

"But what you are saying, over and over, is that any theist who is not a universalist is evil-- because in believing there's a way to be saved that a person must choose, we are implying that some will not so choose and won't be saved-- and thinking it's possible for someone to not be saved is evil."

Now whose words are being twisted? When have I said anything about believers being evil? This is judgement YOU are making, not me...

"I really don't see what the difference is between you accusing our beliefs of being evil, and you getting angry because you believe Christians say your beliefs are evil."

I challenge you to find an instance in this or any other discussion I've been involved in here in which I say that anyone's beliefs are evil. I'm just pointing out what I see as the implications of some of those beliefs; if you are uncomfortable with those implications then I guess you have something to think about.

I do get a little irritated when believers who tell me that I'm evil, or that I desire death, or that I have no moral standards etc. etc. but I only get really angry when someone calls me a "fucking idiot" or something similar...not that anyone here would do something like that...;-)

On the other hand, I just think belief in God is unnecessary, misguided at worst but not that its' evil.

"Please try to hear what Metacrock is actually saying, and stop accusing him of saying what you only think he's saying."

What he has actually said (here and in other places) is that atheists (which would be me) are death seekers who desire annihilation and want to be separated from all that goodness and love you were just talking about. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

This is the heart of my objection here; things like love and goodness and justice are human qualities and when you start turning them into something bigger than humanity it seems to me that humanity can sometimes get lost.

Metacrock said...

Mike that's because you are learning to identify with the atheist ideology and label yourself as such so you see any sort of attempt to analyze them or their psychology as an attack.

Loren said...

Metacrock, your arguments that Hell does not exist could equally well prove that Heaven does not exist.

You rely rather heavily on the Old Testament, even though it is supposedly superseded by the New Testament. There isn't much of a conception of an afterlife there -- if any at all. The author of Ecclesiastes seems to think that our consciousness will end at physical death, while King Saul had the witch of Endor channel the ghost of the prophet Samuel.

However, the New Testament does talk about an eternal torture chamber where wicked people will be sent to, and it's hard to get around that if the NT supersedes the OT. The closest thing to Heaven it mentions is the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation.

Metacrock said...

Metacrock, your arguments that Hell does not exist could equally well prove that Heaven does not exist.

It doesn't, as such! I don't believe there's a literal city of real streets of gold up in the sky.

now let's get this right, I did nto say Hell doesn't exist. I said it's a mateaphor for spiritual death, and it's not eternal conscious torment. that doesnt' mean it doesn't exist as anything. I advanced the opinion that it's annihilation, which just my understanding of it.

so with heaven, heaven is not a city in the clouds it's a metaphor for spiritual life, whatever that is. I think it's some connection of eternal bliss in God but I don't know exactly what that means.


You rely rather heavily on the Old Testament, even though it is supposedly superseded by the New Testament.

I don't know why you would say that. I don't think I used a single verse from it. I said Hell is not in the OT, that seems pretty crucial, but hardly being heavily dependent upon it.

the OT being superseded by the NT would not pertain to this issue because the nature of the metaphysical set up should be essentially the same.




There isn't much of a conception of an afterlife there -- if any at all. The author of Ecclesiastes seems to think that our consciousness will end at physical death, while King Saul had the witch of Endor channel the ghost of the prophet Samuel.


As you say there is no clear sense. Perhaps our consciousness does end. I don't think so becuase Paul and Jesus both seem indicate that it doesn't. But that doesn't mean it goes a city with streets of gold.

The per-Christian Hebrew and middle eastern view was that of Sheol, or "the pit." It was not total cessation of existence but it wasn't a full blown re-enactment of life either. It was sort of a half life.

that too is a metaphor, like a religious language. The name of the game is experience. it's all about experiencing God not words on paper.


However, the New Testament does talk about an eternal torture chamber where wicked people will be sent to,

Always in connection with metaphorical language,hyperbole, parables or apocalyptic. So it's always in symbolic language.



and it's hard to get around that if the NT supersedes the OT. The closest thing to Heaven it mentions is the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation.

It's a metaphor: it's all about experiencing God not words on paper. you have to have the experience.