Monday, March 23, 2020

Dialogue on Mystical Experience: Eliminating Alternate (naturalistic) Causes

 photo ecstasy_zpsc471511b.jpg
Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa*

This was a discussion on CARM that I had years ago.(2014). I know, CARM is usually just toxic slag heap these guys are not worth taking seriously. This is guy, Pixie, he's one of the best. I was debating him 1x1 when my brother died, so we didn't finish the debate. I came to respect him because he gave one of the few really good hits on my experience arguments that I've ever gotten. Here he tries to save a thread that went south thanks to the idiocy of CARM trolls, he's trying hard to salvage something of a serious discussion I think I did a good job responding. So it deserves to be seen by those who can appreciate both attempts.
Quote Originally Posted by The Pixie View Post
It is not a sticking point, it is something you have failed to address entirely.
Is this the same Pixie posting on Cadre today?I don;t know

Post #31 raises these points (some of which I think you have addressed when responding to others). (post 31)
False dichotomy

You are saying either the experiences come from culture - in which case they would be diverse - or they come from God - and they are all similar. Other possibilities exist. Maybe they come from the mind. We all have a human mind, with very similar biochemistry, it would seem at least possible that mystical experiences originate in a certain chemical imbalance in the brain. The same imbalance would give the same result all across the world.

I have answered the human mind arguemnt many many times.

(1) if it were true that just having human mind means we have these same experiences then why don't we have the same acid trip? why don't we all like the same color? why don't all men love the same woman and women love the same man?

(2) you are just creating a poinciana becasue you have no real answer. I don't think you can show me any empirical evidence that proves that we have any experiences that are the same just because we have human brains, except for perceptual sense, but that's not what Mystical experience is.

(3) mystical experience is most often associated with religion. it's played through religious symbol. religion and it's symbols are totally cultural construct. they are not based upon the kind of brain we have.
 [note: The first argument is in answer to my argument that the like-ness of mystical experience--which is alike the world over when we allow for the differences in names--indicates that they are really experiencing an objective reality--ie God.]


Not obviously correlated

We can observe a finger making a finger print, so we have overwhelming reason to associate fingerprints with the person. No one has ever observed the divine doing, well, anything.

we have ample reason to associate the two.

(a) mystical experience leaves the effects promised as effects by religious belief.
(b) the association is historical and has been made since neanderthal
(c) mystical experience is always found at the core of every organized religion
(d) anthropologists and comparative religionists theorize that religion began as explanation of mystical.

the correlation is strong, it's in all cultures and religions.



You are essentially saying they feel like they come from God, therefore they do.

wrong, they are often about God. they are about the things connected with God, the meaning of life, the nature of reality, the undifferentiated unity of all things (which includes the divine)and as I have said the association is historical and old.


I do not feel that that is a warranted belief, and it seems to me, in part from reading about Hood, that religious people tend to associate mystical experiences with the divine, and non-religious people do not. That leads me to think that the religious feeling is cultural.

that's not true. you set it up to look that way in your mind. there is no such data. there plenty of examples of atheists converting and coming to believe in God from their experiences, I'm one of them. There are also atheist refusing the experience because they don't want to believe in God.

the sharp dichotomy that if you are not religious you don't see it as religious is not just true.
[note: I should have also argued that if it's just cultural then you lose that first argument about the experinces of the human mind all being alike since cultures means no genetic part to it--in which case the alike aspects are a good indication that they are experiencing the same objective reality]


Filtered results?

The danger here is that you say it is only a mystical experience if it has positive transformative effects, and then use the fact that all mystical experiences have positive transformative effects as evidence for God. I am not sure if that is what is happening here, but it does look suspicious.
(1) It's empirical. there is no data showing the kind of thing mystical experience imparts (unity and numinous) and in a negative form.

(2) there's a larger umbrella that mystical experience is placed under and that includes a negative type of experience although not coming from mystical per se. IN that umbrella only 3% are negative.[note: Ken R. Vencient "Scientific Investigation of "the dark Side"--
the umbrella term is "Spiritually trans-formative experiences (STE) that includes mystical and others; mystical, near death, death bed visions, after death communications, the negatives are under the other sections, not mystical. I would also include out of body. I don't to use the term "transformation" in relation to negatives to me it's  a positive term].


Also from drugs

These positive transformative effects can arise from drug-induced mysical experiences..
drugs are a problematic case.

Hood's receptor arguemnt takes it out.

that argument: physiological mechanisms are required for physical results, even by God. If God want you to hear him verbalize he must give you ears. If he wants to make you feel is presence he must give you some form of receptor and chemical link so it can register on the brain because that's how biological critters work. Drugs just trigger those receptors.

problem: the good friday experiment found that the drug takers were must more profoundly effected than the natural mystics, and not only only more deeply but more of them. But guess what? all of the people in the experiment had had mystical experiences as children. so the drug may have been just reawakening something they already had. that's contaminated data.

a lot of evidence to separate the two types, drug and natural.

[this begins an evidential block from Doxa that I posted there]
Cannot be reduced to Drug inducement.

Most Skeptics are not going to argue that all mystics take drugs. But many will argue that since drugs can induce mystical experience this proves it is merely a chemical reaction in the brain, whether naturally occurring or induced by some foreign agent. However, this is a mistake. Mystical experience cannot be induced by taking drugs. This is a popular fallacy and many studies disprove it.

The Religious Experience: A Social-Psychological Perspective.
Batson, C. Daniel, and Ventis, W. Larry. (1982).
New York: Oxford University Press.

"If this analysis is correct, two implications follow. First, drugs can facilitate but cannot produce creative religious experience. They can facilitate it if they are used in the context of an ongoing intrapsychic process that includes not only self-surrender (incubation) and new vision (illumination) but also a preceding struggle with one or more existential questions (preparation) and a subsequent new life (verification). If the individual is not already wrestling with existential concerns, psychedelics are not likely to evoke a creative transformation. This point is underscored by the findings of Masters and Houston, of the Spring Grove project, and of Pahnke; in each study religious insight seemed limited to those actively addressing existential questions (preparation). At the same time, if the experience is to be more than psychic "fireworks," there must be positive consequences for one's everyday life (verification)." (page 115)

Ecstasy in Secular and Religious Experiences.
M.Laski. (1990).
Los Angeles: J. P. Tarcher.

"I conclude, then, that though mescalin may occasionally give momentary ecstatic feelings, as it may have done to Mr. Mayhew, it does not typically do so and that mescalin experiences do not feel like ecstatic experiences. This is not affected by the fact that some people may believe that what they have experienced under mescalin is religious experience; but I should have thought that for anyone seeking the Beatific Vision (which was, before Mr. Huxley, granted only to Moses and St. Paul) there were surer and pleasanter ways of attaining it than by taking mescalin. "(pages 271-271)

Laski complies quite a lengthy list of differences between mescaline use and spiritual ecstacies, to summarize:

"Ecstatics always unanimous about high value of their experince, mescaline users are not. (pages 263-264) Mescaline experience is always extrovertive, extacy of the highest type introvertive Escstatic experience always goes either from escstacy to extacy or despair to ecstacy, never the reverse. The Mystical experience may be momentary or last a half hour, but it is never hours, and it is always transformative, leaving a long term sense of the highest value, the Mescaline user may feel very casual approach, last for hours. Also mystic in introvertive state cannot function, Mescaline user do any ordinary things (pages 264-265) Feelings about time are vastly difference. Mescaline user has casual attitude, but the mystic systeses eternity. (page 265) Major differences in triggers are recorded, the escatic usually taking the trigger form that which is found to be beautiful or valuable, the Mescaline user form whatever ordinary object seems enhanced. (pages 267-268) Differences toward a sense of a transformed world, (page 269) pleasure and pain (page 269-270)

The Evidential Force of Religious Experience. Davis, Caroline Franks. (1989).
Oxford: Clarendon Press.

"There is a great deal of evidence that drugs cannot produce religious experiences on their own, in the way that, say, a blow to the head produces an experience of 'stars'. At the most, it appears they can act as a catalyst, and so it is open to the theist to argue that it was other, nonpathological factors which were crucial to the religious content of the experience. John Bowker informs us, for instance, that drugs do not introduce anything new into the mind or behavior or affect stored information in a discriminatory and meaningful manner, but can only initiate or inhibit brain activity. ..."

"The discussion in the previous section showed that, in some respects, typical drug-induced experiences are like psychotic experiences in the way they differ from typical mystical experiences. It is, moreover, clear from the literature that drug-induced mystical experiences are almost always extrovertive rather than the introvertive type extolled by most mystical traditions, and there is rarely a sense of personal presence or of union with another being. The use of drugs to induce religious experiences cannot be recommended, partly because of the dangers of drug use, and partly because experiences produced in such a way tend to be regarded as something separated from normal life and so may not become properly integrated into the subject's religious, psychological, and cognitive development."[Ibid.(pages 218-221)]

Davis also adds that subjects given drugs do not have mystical experiences in sensory deprivation, another indication that the convetional triggers have to be in place, that the drugs merely facilitate but cannot cause the experiences; the setting has to be appropriate.

Gagenback also Docujments Lukoff , Alexander, and other sutdies which find important differences in Drug induced states and pure consciousness, such that pure consciousness is not reduceable to mere drug induced states.


Hood's questions are far to vague to make the claim that everyone experiences the same thing.

nonsense. they may look veg to you but that's becuase you have not read Stace. they are right up the Stace alley. that's why they are the way they are they are calculated to reflect Stace.


Post #37 looks specifically at the qualitative difference between seeing an apple on the desk and having a mysical experience and believing it is God, with reference to regularity, consistency, intersubjectivity and navigation. (37)


You can refer to the original posts for the full text.
that's sounds pretty meaningless. talk about vague.

(1) you are mixing apples and more oranges, sorry. you are comparing one kind of thing to another and saying why isn't this other kind of thing like my kind of thing? well its just not

(2) the idea that something as to be tangible and observable or it can't be true is certainly disproved by science. Look at the things science posits that can't be gotten at through those means:

laws of phsyics.
string theory
laws of nature
dark matter
big bang singularity

there's more if I wanted to belabor the point

(3) that's exluding

(a) the tangible nature of spiritual experience. Not mystical becuase that invovles no work thought or image (making tangible pretty impossible for it). This invovles tangible. examples: speaking in tongues, healing, palms burning in prayer is a common thing. a magnetic like force pulls my arms up when I lift them to pray.

(b) other tangible aspects of God arguments such as cosmology or fine tuning.

*the image is misleading because mystical experience is not about visions or voices. Yet some major mystics had visions as well, this is one of St. Teresa of Avila's major visions.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Is the Shroud of Turin the authentic Shroud of Jesus?


The Shroud of Turin is easy to dismiss as a hoax. It's right up there with Bigfoot. It began as a Medieval relic so how much easier could it be? Barrie Schwortz the photographer for the official scientific investigation team in 1977, the only team to officially study the shroud, said he had remarked that they would just breeze in,find a few brush strokes and go home and they get a free trip to Europe. That was the attitude for many of the team going into the process. They found no brush strokes. no paint., no way to explain the image. Everyone of the team wound up being convinced it;s the authentic shroud of Jesus of Nazareth. These were all major technicians and scientists working for JPL and other parts of NASSA. They used the most advanced equipment 1978.

There is a lot to be said against the shroud. It was dismissed in 1979 as a hoax due to carbon 14 dating which placed the date of the artifact in the middle ages. The problem is when the cloth was subjected to a fire in the 1500s several places on the fabric were burned and nuns keeping the shroud undertook to repair it with new linen. The sample for the dating was taken from one of those places where new linen had been woven into the fabric. Other more advanced methods have dated much earlier. There two other aspects that help to date it. One is pollen the other coins on the eyes. Both take it back to a range within the decade of Jesus' death. Because of Pollen fragments the team is able to place it in Palestine and the coin dates to between 29-36AD.

The reach team was never able to find a satisfactory explanation for how the image got on the fabric. It is not painted,it's not burned it is 3d meaning it was wrapped around a real body The blood is human blood. They can prove the victim was in his 30s and male and middle eastern. About the 3d information they don't how that works. They can't produce that effect either,

I don't offer this as apologetic argumemt because I lack the expertise to defend it. But it blew me away when I realized the probability is heavily in favor of authenticity. I urge the reader to watch all of these videos. It's intensely interesting.

upon cross x it doesn't appear that her sister was really on the team. She tired to dney that Schwat was on the team but when asked if her sister saw the shroud she said they gave her some fabroc.

"Eighty years later, the 1978 Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) investigations confirmed the image was not formed by dyes, chemicals, vapors, or scorching and was not formed by brush strokes. Researchers have investigated multiple naturalistic explanations, but none can account for the unique features of this photographic negative."

Jackson, Jumper and Ercoline compared the results of the above attempts with the macroscopic and
microscopic features of the Shroud image, and argued that none of techniques tested can simultaneously
reproduce its main features, from the 3-D property to the coloration depth, to the resolution of the spatial
details. The conclusion was that the image on the Shroud of Turin is not the result of the work of an artist or
Thoughts decant a few years, until 1990 when Jackson writes a paper entitled “Is the image on the Shroud
due to a process heretofore unknown to modern science?” [2]. In this paper, Jackson notes the failure of all
the hypotheses, both "naturalistic" and "fraudulent" (i.e., by an hypothetical forger) on the formation of the
image on the Shroud. However, the image is there, observable and measurable, then it must have been
produced somehow. According to Jackson, when known scientific phenomena and paradigm are not able to
explain and create a Shroud-like image, we must look for a physical phenomenon ad hoc, not yet known to
science. Jackson suggests the far ultraviolet radiation as a "physical" method suitable to obtain a Shroud-like
coloration on linen. In fact, the fabric of the Shroud has undergone a process of selective aging. The cellulose
of flax fibres, due to oxidation and other chemical processes that occur over centuries, undergo a change at

Barrie Schwortz, TEXed

 Barrie Schwortz, on EWTN

B Frail--finds tag bearing name Jesus on shroud.

Barry Shwortz

Janson Media:"This DVD is the most authentic and definitive DVD yet produced on the Holy Shroud. It reports on the first examinations of the fabric and the imprint left on it by the body of a dead man who had been tortured and crucified." Talks about conis on eyes.

Janson Media II

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

How do we know God is not Evil?

Image result for for God so Loved the world

I've seen atheists ask this in various forms. The most recent I've seen is "prove God isn't evil." I answered that with three arguemnts only to find the atheists pulling the old relativism thing. How do we know good and evil even exist at all they said? Well, first of all, in answering the question about "prove god is not evil," the challenge was in reference to Christian ideas. To even ask the question assumes a Christian framework. You can't say on the one hand "God might really be evil," then say "but there's no such thing as evil." That would have no meaning. God might really be this thing that has no meaning and doesn't exist? What kind of meaning does that have? One get's the feeling of being set up for a cheap trick. Like we say "ok so God is evil ni the sense that there is no such thing as evil. so what?" they say "O you admitted it, God is evil you said it ok that's the end of Christianity!" Those are two completely different questions to answer the one you must bracket the other. first I will present my arguments to prove that God is not evil, and to do that assume the Christian framework for good and evil. Then I will deal with the relativistic stuff (that there is no good or evil).

I am assuming there is such a thing as good and we all have a general idea of what that is. Now I also noted that many atheist in the discussion I allude to above (where the challenge was made "prove God is not evil") were assuming a contradiction in the Bible where on the one hand God says "love your neighbor" and on the other hand he says "slaughter the Amelekites kids." So there's the problem of a contradiction between the values God expresses and the behavior God exhibits. Thus we assume the values expressed are true values of good, and that is a meaningful term, but the question is does God seem to betray the very values that he instigates?

Before giving three positive reasons to think God can't be evil, (that is a logical impossibility) we have to deal with the seeming contradiction in the Bible. In the discussion on a certain message board aluded to above, a friend of mine who is an atheist said this:

Originally Posted by mikey_101 View Post
No genocide isn't evil, killing children and homosexuals isn't evil, eternal torture for not believing in one particular religion out of thousands isn't evil, slavery isn't evil. Actually you're right, God isn't evil because God is a reflection of OUR evil.
Those are based upon bible verses and bible verses are not creeds, they are not dictum they are not decrees. In short we don't have to bleieve them.

There is NO official Christian doctrine or document or creed or council that say "you must believe every verse in the bible." The fundies say it but they didn't exist until the 1820s. They are merely late commers in Christian history.Each one of those passages must be analogized in the original language and discussed according to the history and culture and textual evidence to show it really belongs in the Bible or not.I can tell you now there is evidence Amalekite passage is added in latter.

The text of 1 Samuel is one of the most heavily redacted in the Bible. As we will see, it's very presence in the canon has been brought into question, but the version we have is probably a corrupted second rate copy, and the LXX is closer, and Q4Sama at Qumran closer still, to the actual original.

Institutte Bibilcal Scientific Studies:

Biblical Archaeology, Dead Sea Scrolls and OT

"1&2 Samuel"

"For the past two centuries textual critics have recognized that the Masoretic Text (MT) of 1&2 Samuel has much textual corruption. The Samuel MT is shorter than the LXX and 4QSama. The Samuel MT has improper word division, metathesis, and other orthographic problems. Certain phrases and clauses go against the Hebrew grammar rules. Parallel passages vary from each other" (See Charlesworth, 2000, pp.227-8).

Redaction of Infant Slaughtering Passage

Notes in the New Oxford Annotated Bible on 1 Sam 15:1-35

"Another story of Saul's rejection: The late source. Compare this section with 13:7-15, Samuel, not Saul is the leading figure once more."

This is the very passage in which Samuel relays God's command to wipe out the infants. So even though I still need to find more specific evidence for that very passage, there is a good chance of proving redaction. While its true that I can't produce an actual MS showing no infant slaughter command, the passage in which that command is given has been redacted. The odds are very high that this command was not part of the original passage, or we can regard it as such. We know that slaughtering infants in evil, and we have no obligation to accept a command as divine that we know to be totally at odds with God's law and God's moral code.

All the other verses must be dealt with in similar fashion, one by one, and an overview entailing a theory of inspiration adopted so that one knows how to approach scripture. For an example on this one might consult my page on the nature of Biblical revelation as an example.

Now I present the three arguments that prove God is not evil:

I. Being is good.

Being is not evil. We are all part of being, we all engage in the act of being. We know from our existence that existing is good and it's not evil. There's no reason to think it is. It's hard for a lot of people to get thier minds around the idea of God as being itself. I've certainly spent a lot of time blogging about the concept. I wont go into it here. It can be found on Doxa in several pages. I'm also just finishing my second book which is on the subject. Wait a couple of years and it will be out.

*God is being itself

being is good.

therefore God must be good.

One objection to this is that some atheists tried to evoke the notion that life is not good. One cna mean this either in terms of "my individual life sux," or in terms of amorality or some form of relativism. That would be cheating the issues here becuase I explain above the original challenge assumes Christian categories of good and evil. Moreover, one can condemn the concept of life itself by one's own experiences. I can have rotten life (to some extent that's what I make it) that doesn't mean all life is rotten. There is a goodness about life itself. Here I take life as a pragmatic form of existence. Existence in and of itself is "good," if not in a moral sense (which is one confussion of the argument--the mixing of senses between moral and pragmatic) at least just in the sense of the (apparent) goodness of open ended possibility.

II. Love can't be evil.

This is one of those mysterious points that of which atheists are most incredulous. Almost every time they will say "you are logic is so bad" on this point. When pressed they never say why. they can't give me a rule of logic that's violated, nine times out of ten it's a matter of rejecting the concept of a priori. That unusually happens becuase they have self esteem problems, as atheists are known to have.

The nature of love makes it the very definition of Good. What is the nature of the good, it's what love is, being kind, being gentile, caring about others, giving to others, living for others. How do we know this? First we have to realize we are not talking about butterflies in the stomach. Many atheists try to lose the concept of love in the emotions that go with it, which they sweep away as the side effect of brain chemistry. The kind of love experienced in romance, puppy love,infatuation, lust, sexual attraction and the like is what is meant here by "love." Here I speak of agape. This is "God's love" sometimes translated "charity." Although that is not a good translation. Paul Tillich defines it as "the will t the good of the other." I think that is a most apt decryption. The Greek does imply the willingness to assign to others the human dignity due them.

It is more or less an axiomatic tenet that love is the background of the moral universe (consult Saint Augustine, and Joseph Fletcher). I am not sure it can be proved, thus making it "axiomatic." Like most axioms trying to deny it would be absurd. This is certainly true in terms of Christian theology.

1 John 4:
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Don't even think about trying to argue that "you are trying to prove the Bible by the bile." I am not trying to prove the bible I'm demonstrating the Christian categories which the original challenge assumes (so I have to go by the to answer the challenge). This is exactly what atheists would do to try and prove than an idea was Christian. If we are considering Christian ethics then we must consider that love is the background of the moral universe. Love is the basis of God's character.

That either the issue becomes redundant if we consider the relativist position (which we will soon enough) or it rebounds onto the Christian categories and becomes a matter of what we think about the Bible. With a fundamentalist view of inerrancy it's hard to see how there is not a contradiction in the categories, what God says and what God does.
 Yet of course that is not the only Christian answer; there are several other views that take up different approaches to the bible that serve as alternatives.syllogism:

Love is not evil

God's nature is love and God is the original source of love

therefore God is not evil.

Thus, from the perspective of the Christian categories each of the above arguemnts individually prove that God is not evil and cannot be construed as evil.

III. Evil can't be the first thing.

Evil is the absence of the good. That means there has to be a good preceding evil to be departed from to create an absence. evil is rebellion against good. Evil is rejecting the good. all of this implies good is first.God is eternal so God has to be first. A lot of people reject the categories of good and evil becasue they don't like the way they are made. One of the major issues in atheism (even though many atheists don't realize it--a psychological problem) is self rejection leads to rejection of the idea that a loving God would make me the way I am. I was an atheist I know what it is to think that way. The old cliche "God is not finished with me yet" has it's uses and this is one of them.If you don't like the way God made you it's only becuase he's not finished yet. If you rebel against God you are not letting him finish you.

That means there has to be a good preceding evil to be departed from to create an absence.

Actual Atheist Objection:
"That doesn't follow. A hole is an absence of earth, the existence of a hole doesn't imply there was earth. Counter example to your premise." I this I argued "are you kidding? Isn't a hole defined by what's around it? That's like saying "I don't believe donuts exist, only the holes exist." A hole with nothing around it is nothing.


evil is falling away from, therefore, good is prior to evil

God is eternal and thus is prior to all things

therefore, God can't be evil.

Now we come to the issue of relativism. For those who do not hold to the Christian categories of good and evil but try to define them either by sweeping them away, or by using the terms relative to other standards, how does one come to ascertain the truth content of the Christian categories? The only way one can really do this is empirically. Of course this assumes there's a god. Though many atheists will try not allow such an assumption, it's pointless to ask about God's character if you don't assume there is a God, at least for the sake of argument. I have certainly spent enough time on this blog giving reason enough why one can assume God based upon any number of things. For those tempted to make comments and demand reasons I tell you now, see my 42 arguments, especially no 7 and no 8. I single out those two becasue they form the basis of the empirical approach. One might also see my essay on phenomenology and Method.
Certainly we are talking about taking religious experience seriously. The same reasoning that would allow one to understand God as reality would also allow one to understand God's character as love. It makes no sens to take up a challenge or to even issue one about God's goodness then turn around and say "you can't prove that becuase you can't prove god exists." Ok so that what sense would it make to argue "god is fictional but he's really evil?" The realization that leads to faith is the same realiation that allows us to understand God's love. It's simply an empirical matter. We experince God's presence, swe sesne God's love. In a life of 30+
years that has never been disproved. Even in times when I lost faith and thought God was disproved, even in times when I lost everything and thought God was evil, he was neither evil, or absent nor unfaithful. (see part 2 here).

excerpt from those last two links:

Looking back on it things actually were better after we left the house. At the time, however, we couldn't see that. Then it seemed like the end. We were scared, we were homeless, we couldn't find an apartment because we had "financial leper" on our credit. Since 9/11 getting an apartment in Dallas was next to impossible. When I first moved away form my parents and went to New Mexico back in 80, no one cared who I was or what my credit was. I gave them money they gave me an apartment. By 2006, however, in Dallas, it was next to impossible even if your credit was good. It really seemed like the end. I began saying "I am dead, I died, they just haven't told the corpse to lay down yet." I also began to say "God has cursed me." "God loves to crush his own guys, this is what I get for caring about my parents." You know I was practicing for the glee club. I was a tower of faith. We did find an apartment, we had a couple of thousand dollars from the guy who bought the house (because he was a Christian he said) even though the mortgage company actually makes them promise not to help the victim, not to give more than the mortgage price in a short sale. It's set up so the the victim losing the house can't get anything for his/her hard earned ears of struggle to buy the house. He bought the furniture and car and then let us keep them.
God was faithful to me even when I was not faithful to him. I was calling him a lair and shouting at him and I said worse than that. I called him a monster and told him he loved to hurt people. He didn't care, he's heard it all. I didn't shame God into helping me, he was working to help me anyway, I only held up the process and made it take longer by not trusting and not looking to seek the spiritual instead of freaking out because things didn't look good. Easy to forget, we walk by faith and not by sight. That means its' going to look grim. That doesn't mean anything you just have to trust God. Cultivate your spiritual relationship with God. Cultivate our inner life! It's a life long project, work on it every day.

That requires a life of faith to understand. The first step is to seek. Then it will fall into place. It wont fall into place when you renounce God and make skepticism your watchword. If your principle is to see through everyging, as C.S. Lewis said, you wind seeing nothing.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

God does not do Eternal Conscious Torment

Image result for Gustave Doré's (1832-1883) illustrations of Dante's Inferno
Gustove Dore's images of Divine Comedy

I do not believe that the Bible actually teaches that hell is a place of eternal conscious torment. By that I mean, hell is not a place where people who sin and disbelieve are sent to be punished and tortured. I don't believe that God would torture anyone. I certainly don't believe that hell is a place where one is conscious eternally. While I do think that hell is judgment I don't think it's a place where people are conscous eternally of being punished.  I think first of all "going to hell" Is a symbol of spiritual death. That it's a judgement in after life, but rather than leading to eternal conscious torment it leads to the total annihilation of existence. I don't believe that everyone is automatically saved.

My thesis is this: (1) The Bible uses the conept of hell as a symbol of judgment and spiritual death.

(2) It is clearly talking about something, some negative consequence from "hell," but that is not a place of literal fire and brimstone, rather, the "place" of torment is a symbol of spiritual death that comes from being judged.

(3) Judgment comes from rejecting God and closing the heart to truth, it is not something God ordained to befall the rebellious, but an automatic separation that we initiate and we have the power to change while we live, by responding to God's love. The more we turn our backs on God and pout the deeper we get into sepeartion and God cannot do anything about it if we are determined to separate ourselves.

(4) When I say "God can't do anything about it," yes could have made the original set up different, but only by sacrificing other things, such as free will, which very important.

thus I am saying God is limited to logical necessity. He cannot make two contradictory states of affairs that truly contradict logically. Thus to have the valuable aspects of free will and moral decision making there must be consequences which we initiate through our rebellion and which God cannot change given the facts. Specifically I believe that those who reject God and die in separation from God cease to exist. That is fair and humane since that's what they expect anyway. The atheist chooses to cease to exist but in disbelieving he expects this anyway. One must agree it is certainly more compassionate than eteranl conscious torment. The talk we find of flames and darkness is symbolic. It is symbolic of the dread of being judged and condemned, and symbolic of spiritual death. I believe the Bible teaches this and we can examine the passages and see for ourselves.

First, there is no such set up in the OT. There is no situation such that good go to heaven to paradise to be rewarded and the bad go to hell to be tormented. This concept was unknown to the Hebrews. It is common knowledge that the Hebrews believed that everyone went to "the pit" or Sheol, which is translated "the grave." This is the idea of the realm of the dead. Everyone went there, not as punishment but that's just the way it was. There were exceptions such as prophets who were taken up to heaven to be with God, but basically no one expected the reward of  heaven or the punishment of hell. All that came in this life. The concept of hell came from the Hellenistic culture of the Greeks, imposed upon the Hebrew world in the intertestamental period, though the conquest of the Selucids who succeeded Alexander the Great. But the Hebrews found a corresponding symbol for "tortarus" the Greek Hell, in the valley of Gehenna where they burned trash outside Jerusalem. We know this was a symbol and symbolic use since it was a literal physical place in history. Secondly, I believe that hell is unjust and counter productive. Unjust because eternal torment as punishment for finite sin is just not fair. No amount of sanctimony can make it fair. God would not be unfair. Moreover, counterproductive because no one learns anything form hell. I see atheists all the time expressing the attitude "I'm going to hell anyway so what does it matter?" It's not a good idea and the more I think about it the more like the solution of a small child it seems. It is not taught in the bible so let's get to it and look at the scholarship and see. Some scholars understand Paul to teach that the wicked disappear. I find this in accord with views I had already come to before I found the Bankston article.  Carl L. Bankston, III:
Although the Christian message was, from the beginning, concerned primarily with eternal life, the theme of eternal punishment emerged from apocalyptic Judaism in the pages of the New Testament. Bernstein's reading of the New Testament, however, indicates a diversity of understandings of this punishment among the authors of the Scriptures. Saint Paul, emphasizing the positive teachings of the faith, did not express a clear vision of hell and seems to have implied that the wicked would eventually simply disappear. The authors of the synoptic Gospels, by contrast, describe pains of eternal damnation that balance the joys of eternal salvation.[1] 

My view is grounded in St. Paul. The main overview of Biblical teaching is one of diversity. There is no standarized set of explicit assumptions about the nature of heaven and hell. The ancinet Hebrews did not have that view.

Johnston demonstrates the Hebrew lack of biphercated afterlife:

Finally, Johnston address the question of an Afterlife, a late development in Israelite religious thought. Although Elijah and Elisha bring dead children back to life, Enoch “walked with God” and Elijah ascended in a flaming chariot, none of these were considered normal nor hoped for by others. The only clear references to bodily resurrection occur in Isa 26:19 and Daniel 12:2; extra-biblical references to resurrection (e.g., 2 Macc 7; 14; 1 Enoch 51:1; 61:5; 62:15, 4Q521:12, etc.) date from the 2nd century BCE on, which is consistent with the date of the two biblical texts. Despite afterlife beliefs in the surrounding nations, however, Johnston finds little evidence of direct influence and instead claims that Israel’s eventual belief in an afterlife is rooted in its experience of YHWH’s faithfulness and ongoing presence in their history, eventually understood as extending beyond death itself.[2]
This view is actually pretty standard among scholars. We turn to Bankston again:
I found Bernstein's close reading of the Hebrew Bible and of the Book of Enoch, the major piece of evidence outside the writings of Josephus of a late antique Jewish belief in punishment after death, more original than his review of Greco-Roman ideas. Much of the latter seems to rest on scholarly interpretations that have long been common currency. This may be a matter of familiarity, however, and Bernstein does bring together a great deal of material in a highly readable style, so that almost anyone will find some new ideas and information in the collection of pre-Christian beliefs assembled here.[3]

That says that punishment in after life was an idea the Jews had in late antiquity.We can see from the use of the terminology for "Hell" that the modern concepts with which fundamentalists are imbued and atheists are outraged are just no there. The only word used for "hell" in the OT is Sheol, which does not mean hell and does not correspond to Gehenna, it means "grave." It's death or the place of the dead, not necessarily a place of torment.

Bankston  again:

The most common term for the Underworld itself is Sheol but even it appears infrequently. The term never appears in third person narrative nor legal material, but only in first person contexts: i.e., an individual encounters Sheol directly and personally. Clear synonyms include bôr, bĕʾēr, and šaḥat (all meaning “pit”) and ʾăbaddôn (“destruction”); Johnston also considers a number of texts in which either earth\ground or water may also be synonyms for Sheol but concludes, “Water, like earth, is associated with the underworld, but is not confused with it.” (p. 124). Descriptions of Sheol are sparse, but it is a place where existence simply continued, without any vital experience for the dead. The term itself may have derived from the god Šu-wa-la, mentioned in texts from Emar, who is either a minor underworld deity or another name for Ereshkigal, the Queen of the underworld, but any divine associations had been lost by the Israelite period.[4]

Sheol (OT) translated Hell really means "the Grave."

We can see that Sheol means the grave by the use made of Crosswalk software in its Hebrew lexicon.Crosswalk takes its Hebrew from Strong's and Vines. Both are inadequate, but cross walk smooths them out and waters them down even more with interpretive definitions. Thus we can see what I'm talking about in the use they make of words, but they also add their own effects. Crosswalk definition of Sheol

Sh@'owl TWOT - 2303c
Phonetic Spelling Parts of Speech
sheh-ole' Noun Feminine

1. sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit
1. the underworld
2. Sheol - the OT designation for the abode of the dead
1. place of no return
2. without praise of God
3. wicked sent there for punishment
4. righteous not abandoned to it
5. of the place of exile (fig)
6. of extreme degradation in sin

It does say the grave and abode of the dead but when everything else it says reflects that it adds, wicked sent there for punishment. But it can't produce one verse to say that. There are no verses in the OT that say wicked are sent to sheol for punishment.

For a list of passages using Sheol in the OT go here.

Definition of  Gehenna (hell) in the NT.

on Crosswalk:
Hell is the place of the future punishment call "Gehenna" or "Gehenna of fire". This was originally the valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where the filth and dead animals of the city were cast out and burned; a fit symbol of the wicked and their future destruction.
Essentially it says it's a symbol. The literal is a valley where they burn garbage.

The first passage seems to be quite literal, but if we consider it a little more in depth we can see it does not support eternal conscious torment. Mt 5:22
"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Hell used figuratively

Jesus is here using hell as a figure of speech, a poetic image, to illustrate the depth of depravity in defaming another human being by calling him "a fool." He builds a progregtion of wrongs and their consequences:

anger with brother: go to court

call brother name: go to supreme court

Call brother a fool: worthy of hell.

Wrong, more wrong, most wrong. Its' a means of illustrating the depth of wickedness in disvaluing others. He does not say in that passage "hell is a real litteral place." doesn't say it's eternal conscious torment.

The next two are in the same context and one is just a reinforcement of the other. They are both symbolic uses and serve to illustrate Jesus' sarcasm toward excuses to sin:

Mt 5:29 "And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

Mt 5:30 "And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.

these are both in the same context. The are clearly figurative and hyperbole. It's totally ridiculous to think that Jesus would really command us to cut off our hands or pluck out our eyes to keep from lusting>

The immediate context is about holy living:

17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law R135 or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 "For truly I say to you, until R136 heaven and earth pass away, not the F65 smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others F66 to do the same, shall be called least in R137 the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps F67 and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 "For I say to you that unless your righteousness R138 surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

He's talking about righteousness surpassing the pharisees, but the pharisees were super legalistic and built a fence around the law to assure compliance in the most legalistic fashion. How could anyone be more legalistic then they were? He's not talking about being legalistic, or even literalistic. He says heaven and earth shall pass away before the word of God will. Sot he basic premise with which he deals is living out the word of God. He's concerned with actually keeping the spirit of the law. Go further in context:

Now of course atheists are going to say that he really means this. They will say this is just part of the lunatic nature of religious extremism. AT the very least they will ask, as they always do, how I know it's hyperbolic. How does one ever know when a literary device is used? Many atheists have said to me "It's doesn't say it's a literary devise." Of course not, they never do! You are not supposed to say it, then it wouldn't be a device. Clearly it is because it's absurd to say pluck out your eye or cut off your hand. There's an easier way to tell. What do people say when they try to stop sinning and they can't? "I just can't do this, I can't stop lusting that's just the way I am made." Jesus is saying that is an excuse. You can stop it and if you think that's good excuse then surely its important enough that you should pluck out your eye or cut off your hand. But the point of it is of course that you don't have to do that, you can learn to control yourself if you really want to.

Given the high probability that this is figurative then it's obvious the consequence is also figurative, having the whole body cast into hell fire is figurative.

Mt 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
He's using the poetic symbolism of hell as the ultimate drama, the ultiamte negative consequence to drive home the point that spiritual power is more important than physical power, that eteranl life is what's important.

Mt 23:15 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Using the judgment aspect of hell to drive home the point of the hypocritical nature of the pharisees.

Mt 23:33 "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?

hell is a sentence. That doesn't make it eternal conscious torment. It is the symbol of spiritual death and the cessation of existence. The hypocrites wont escape the judgment aspects of hell. But that doesn't mean they will experience them eternally.

The same figurative ideas pertain. Jesus other uses of hell in parables such as the sheep and goats of Mat 25:33 also are clearly symbols since they are used in parables which by their nature are figures and symbols.

Not one of those passages says hell is eternal conscious torment. No verse actually says that. No verse in the Bible gives an expository description of what hell is or what it's about.

Tartaro One other words used for hell, Tartaro, or Tartarus in English, from Greek Myth.


1. the name of the subterranean region, doleful and dark, regarded by the ancient Greeks as the abode of the wicked dead, where they suffer punishment for their evil deeds; it answers to Gehenna of the Jews 2. to thrust down to Tartarus, to hold captive in Tartarus

Only verse used: 2Pe 2:4 "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment;"

2Pete is not authoritative enough to build a whole theology upon. Most scholars believe it is pseudopgraphal, of late origin, and we don't know who wrote it. It either copies a large part fo Jude, or Jude copies it. Neither book shares the weight of the Gospels.

figurative use in James

Jas 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

I think this is Gehenna. But It's clearly figurative he's speaking figuratively of the tung and comparing it to hell fire.

[1]Carl L. Bankston, III, "The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds." book review, Commonweal, (May 5 1995). on line version found of Highbeam
rom a book review (this review is no located on High beam).

[2]Philip S. Johnston, Shades of Sheol: Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament. Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press, 2002. . 288; see also 

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures Volume 5 (2004-2005)

This volume builds upon Johnston’s 1988 Belfast MTh thesis and his 1993 Cambridge PhD dissertation, but constitutes a substantial reworking and expansion of that material. The result is a comprehensive study that is accessible to non-specialists without sacrificing extensive interaction with scholarly literature on the subject. The material itself is organized under four main categories: Death, The Underworld, The Dead and The Afterlife.

[3] Carl L. Bankston, III, "The Formation of Hell:..." op cit.

[4] Ibid.