Tuesday, June 18, 2013

No Atheists in Hell


Recently I read a faithful atheist remark that she found “some people,” with their talk of eternal damnation, to be incredibly off-putting. The basic attitude seemed to be: Nice try but I ain’t scared of no hell.   

One of her, let’s say fellow travelers, sagely enjoined: 

I think it is part of their psychological manipulation. To have power and influence you have to have followers, having a handy escape from death and potentially eternal torture is a good way to get the crowds to flock towards you. 

While this sounds amazingly enlightened, there is a little problem: I know many, many Christians; and I do not know (on a personal level) a single one who desires "power and influence" over "followers" or who wants "crowds to flock towards" him/her. 

I’ve seen the claim in argumentation, I've just never seen it in actuality—not in the Christians I know. All the Christians I know are fairly content to live quiet lives of no distinction—like most everybody else. 

I'm sure there are some wackos out there who desire "power, influence, followers and crowds" but this would have nothing whatsoever to do with simply being Christian. To suggest otherwise goes against a world of evidence (hundreds of millions of Christians who desire nothing of the sort). 

Her compadre continued: “I've been threatened with hellfire before, but I understand where it's coming from and I dismiss it accordingly. 

This is nothing but a hasty dismissal based upon question begging. I don’t believe he does “understand where it [the threat of hell] is coming from.” He merely assumes that which he has yet to prove, viz. that there is no such place known as hell. 

But how can he possibly know such a thing? What evidence can he conjure for the non-existence of hell? By blind faith he believes in no place called hell.  

Notice—by faith alone—he considers the “threat of hellfire” to be nothing more than “psychological manipulation.” But what if he’s wrong? What if his faith in no place called hell is misplaced? What if Christians are right and there really is a place called hell? 

If hell does indeed exist—and Christians are painfully aware of this—then their warnings of such should not be construed as manipulative threats.  

If a young mother warns her child to be good or Santa will bring no gifts; this is a manipulative—though I wouldn’t say evil—threat. If she warns the child to be good or monsters from under his bed will disembowel him while he sleeps; this would be both manipulative and malicious. 

However, if that same young mother warns her child to be good or his father is going to spank him later—when she is fully convinced that his father is prepared to do so—this is neither a manipulative nor a malicious threat. She is quite simply, lovingly and truthfully warning him. 

If the atheist’s faith is misguided and hell awaits unrepentant sinners, no amount of dismissals or claims of ignorance will suffice.  

Christians believe there’s a way to avoid everlasting condemnation but closing the eyes, clicking the heels and claiming the creed, “There’s no place like hell!” isn’t it.

14 comments:

  1. i don't like the semantic game you play with the term 'faith'

    which can mean both a conviction lacking evidence

    and a trust in a concept or individual based on past evidence

    now it's important to remember that there is no such thing as a conviction without evidence that something that has no evidence for it's existence doesn't exist, that is not faith in either category, it is simply common sense.
    so i'm assuming you mean 'faith' (by the second definition) in science- which makes sense, all of the modern miracles you've used to post your thesis here can be positively attributed to science.
    this is still not the same thing as your 'faith' in an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent creator being, and i think it's rather childish of you to attempt to equivocate those two things.

    moving on i have met quite a few christians who are nice people, but i've yet to meet a single one who won't attempt to politely convert me to his or her beliefs. i'm not offended by the sentiment involved in this, if i believed that they would burn in hell for all eternity if they didn't believe as i believe i would also attempt to make those conversions. of course, i *did* used to believe in all that hogwash, the problem was i thought about it, a lot, i read the king james version of the bible and i thought about it even more, after a while i realized what most of us realize when we're in an environment where we're not ostracized or threatened for apostasy, that it is, simply put: not true.
    one can tell it's not true by how it contradicts itself, by how little it talks about modern morals that any idiot knows but were apparently unknown in the days of jesus, moses, adam, etc... one can tell because of the people who espouse it's doctrines and how they cannot ever fully agree on all the principles involved. one can tell because what started with one book (the torah) ended with more than one hundred books, what allegedly started with one church ended with more than one thousand denominations. i don't pretend to know if there is an omnipotent creator or not, i certainly don't have 'faith' that there isn't one, but i do know, that if there is or ever was one, and he wrote one book for all the people of earth to read and learn from, then it should be obvious that such a book would be immune to the types of problems that i listed above.
    my favorite counter argument for this involves the devil- and if you've got those words on your lips then please, open your mind and truly consider the possibility that if there is one, and he's mislead so many, you might very well be just another one of those mislead.

    have a nice day :D

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for reading.

      You say of “faith” that it can mean “a conviction lacking evidence.” This, of course, is a rather pejorative definition. (I know of no one who would define their particular faith thus.) Hence, this “definition” is entirely unhelpful.

      You then speak of “faith” as “a trust in a concept or individual based on past evidence.”

      I’m not entirely certain as to why the evidence must be “past,” but be that as it may, it seems to me that the best, fairest, and most agreeable definition of faith is simply: “belief or trust.” “Faith” is belief/trust.

      This being so, all belief systems—by definition—entail faith. Some beliefs/faiths are rational, some irrational. (To introduce the concept of “evidence” at this point is to switch the topic from “faith/belief/trust” to “worldview.” That is, one’s worldview—founded upon presuppositions—determines what one accepts as the limits of reality and what constitutes “evidence” or “non-evidence.”)

      You write: “I'm assuming you mean 'faith' (by the second definition) in science . . .”

      I hope I’ve disabused you of this assumption! 

      You write: “all of the modern miracles you've used to post your thesis here can be positively attributed to science.”

      My article (and therefore my thesis) mentions no “miracles” (modern or ancient). I make no appeal whatsoever to “miracles.”

      (Perhaps you are speaking of the modern “miracle” of computers and internet? If so, I reject such phenomena as “miracles.” This is a category error on your part. I also regard the notion, “There is no God because I have a computer,” to be a sleepy-headed non sequitur.)

      You write: “i think it's rather childish of you to attempt to equivocate those two things.”

      This is a nonsensical statement. “Equivocate” is being used improperly and doesn’t belong in your sentence. Perhaps you misspoke?

      You claim: “most of us realize when we're in an environment where we're not ostracized or threatened for apostasy, that it is, simply put: not true.”

      This, of course, isn’t true. “Most” folks—no matter their environment—are theists. Statistically speaking, there are very, very few atheists in the world. The truth is, the overwhelming majority of people who were raised in a Christian environment, remain theists when removed from said environment. (Your claim is a belief/faith statement contra a world of evidence.)

      The rest of your remarks are rather ignorant (ill-informed) and filled with ad hominem argumentation.

      You conclude: “my favorite counter argument for this involves the devil- and if you've got those words on your lips then please, open your mind . . .”

      No, friend, “those words” are on YOUR lips, not mine.

      A few closing thoughts regarding the “open” mind:

      1) There’s nothing in all the world more closed than self-designated “open minded” people.

      2) The “open mind” like the open mouth is meant to be closed upon something. ~GKC

      3) Some folks are so open minded their brains have fallen out. ~GKC

      Thank you again for reading and have a nice day as well.

      Delete
  2. first off i'll admit that i'm prone to error, so there might very well be some mistakes in my arguments c'est la vie.

    i define faith as such because it is one of the accepted definitions, the concept that despite all evidence to the contrary a person should still believe they will be delivered from undesirable circumstances is faith and it's the same faith i generally here theists talk of.

    the evidence must be 'past' because if it happened in the future we wouldn't know about it- perhaps you misunderstood and thought i was talking exclusively about the remote past?

    and again you make that misunderstanding that irritates me, religion does require a person to have faith in a higher power (the first definition) and i suppose you could also have faith in the individuals who espouse such things (again, the first definition) but it is not the same thing as faith based on evidence which is why most atheists don't use the term in reference to their own arguments and opinions.

    not an assumption per se, and no, not at all.

    i'm sorry, are you unfamiliar with the phrase 'modern miracle' in reference to technology? it's pretty common.
    and i wasn't saying that that technology is in and of itself a cause for apostasy - just that i have more trust for the perception of the world advocated by people who can actually do things with the rules they've figured out, as opposed to those who can't.

    let me clarify- i think it's childish to equivocate my 'faith' in science, with your 'faith' in religion. it's like me saying my dad is a mechanic and i believe he can fix that broken down car over there, and you saying you believe that your imaginary friend will do a better job. the equivocation lies in you thinking that the belief in the mechanic based on evidence is the same as the belief in the imaginary friend based on fancy.

    again, allow me to clarify, when i say 'most of us' i refer to atheists- since atheists are the ones targeted in this post and i am an atheist.

    oh you seem to have stopped in favor of accusing me of using an ad hominem argument in the last run on paragraph. well, i don't see where it is. please help me out here and be specific.

    and the devil is on my lips...? i'll just ignore that lol.

    as for your closing thoughts

    i don't see what they have to do with anything or why you mentioned them here :D

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    1. I’m not going to engage in a protracted dialogue with you. And so, unless you have something new to add to the discussion, this will be my last comment to you here.

      I’ll begin where you end.

      You write: “as for your closing thoughts i don't see what they have to do with anything or why you mentioned them here”

      My concluding thoughts pertain to the concept of the “open mind.” YOU (not me) introduced the concept of open mindedness when you condescendingly remarked: “open your mind and truly consider . . .” (Remember now?)

      You write: “you seem to have stopped in favor of accusing me of using an ad hominem argument in the last run on paragraph. well, i don't see where it is. please help me out here and be specific.”

      Whether your ignorance of your own nasty tone is feigned or actual doesn’t matter at this juncture. I am not in the least inclined to point out what is more than obvious to any thinking person.

      You write: “when i say 'most of us' i refer to atheists- since atheists are the ones targeted in this post and i am an atheist.”

      Actually, atheists are not the target audience of this post (or any post of mine). I am a Christian and my target audience is Christian. Naturally, non-Christians are most welcome to read my blog.

      You write: “let me clarify- i think it's childish to equivocate my 'faith' in science, with your 'faith' in religion.

      And yet AGAIN, you are misusing the term “equivocate.” 

      I can only respond to what you say…not what you’re trying to say.

      (I’ll properly use the term in a sentence for you: Politicians EQUIVOCATE because they are afraid of upsetting voters with their decisions.)

      In no sense am I guilty of equivocation in my use of the term “faith.” (To understand my singular usage of the term “faith” see my comment above.)

      You claim: “i have more trust for the perception of the world advocated by people who can actually do things with the rules they've figured out . . .”

      Friend, I have no idea what this has to do with the existence or non-existence of God (or hell). Christianity has produced some of the most brilliant minds—responsible for some of the most extraordinary science, technology, and arts—the world has ever known. (You seem oblivious of this.)

      Finally, you make the remarkable claim: “evidence must be 'past' because if it happened in the future we wouldn't know about it . . .”

      You seem to be overlooking the only place you actually exist: The PRESENT. How can you make such a glaring error?

      Your comments reveal a great deal of confusion. As I pointed out earlier, “evidence” (what constitutes “evidence,” the interpretation of “evidence,” etc.) is a matter of worldview, not faith/belief/trust.

      Thanks again for reading.

      Let me reiterate: I’m not at all interested of going over the same things. If you have nothing new to add, this will conclude my participation in the discussion.

      Delete
    2. well, i guess i should look forward to you not responding to this. so far your corrections haven't yielded much- my 'nasty tone' is not the same thing as an ad hominem argument, the 'present' inevitably becomes the past as it presents itself and up 'til that point is the future, equivocate is to say that two things are the same when they are not, i have no clue where you get your definition but i suggest you update it, you *targeted* atheists by discussing our 'faith' in the non-existence of hell and then posted your blog on an atheist facebook page, if you had intended christians only to read this that last at least would be rather self defeating wouldn't you say? and now (oh my) you're going to refuse to dignify my smarmy critique of your flawed logic (or worldview if you like)? quite well done, i'm very impressed with your ability to defend the points you've made :D

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    3. Unknown, if someone says you are using a word wrong, and you are so "open minded" then why wouldn't you double check and make sure you are using it correctly? Instead, you simply used it wrong again in the exact same way without giving any reason why. Then when you were corrected again, you still refuse to see reason; the second time you were corrected with a definition and an example. A thinking (or at least honest) person would have done something to ascertain the truth here. Instead you just yelled louder (figuratively speaking of course) by stating the definition you were using (but not where you got it) and giving what amounts to an(other) ad hominem attack ("i have no clue where you get your definition but i suggest you update it"). Yes, everyone knew what you meant by your wrong usage of the word, but that's not the same thing. It's irony actually- you were doing exactly what you meant to accuse Steve of doing.

      What (I believe) you *meant* was (the fallacy of) *equivocation*. Equivocate does in fact mean exactly what Steve said. It is going back and forth on something, being ambiguous, prevaricating. However the fallacy of equivocation is using a word which has multiple meanings without being specific about which meaning you intend (and especially going back and forth between the two). As for where this definition comes from, see below. However you do yourself much discredit by someone having to do you the disservice of spoon feeding you the information and the resources in which the information is found. All of these come up quickly in a search engine, or simply by looking at a dictionary.

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/equivocate
      http://www.thefreedictionary.com/equivocate
      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/equivocate
      https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/equivocate
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equivocation

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    4. Well said, Adam!

      Thank you for reading, thinking, and sharing.

      Delete
  3. Unknown: "now it's important to remember that there is no such thing as a conviction without evidence that something that has no evidence for it's existence doesn't exist"

    I have bad news for Unk. Our definition of faith is the very one you are dismissing.

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  4. k wallace, you took that statement out of context.
    the point wasn't that it's impossible to do so but rather that saying so was a waste of time since something without evidence, positive or negative doesn't require any kind of leap of faith to discredit- there is no credit for it and until some arises it's in the incredible category.

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  5. This would have credence if there was just one Christianity (or better, just one world religion). There is not. They have been at each others throats for centuries. With contradictory claims between sects of Christianity, and nowadays claims that are contradictory to science, we're left with no belief. That is atheism. It is not a belief but a lack of belief in gods.

    It is the culmination of the failure of all religions to agree. After many thousands of years I do not envisage it getting any clearer in the next few thousand years. Quite the contrary, I envisage the elimination of death through the use of technology and that will then be the end of the uncertainty that is used to market religion.

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    1. Thank you for reading and thinking.

      You write: “This would have credence if there was just one Christianity . . .”

      Of course, there is “just one Christianity.” And this “one Christianity” made up of hundreds of millions of individuals. Agreement on all things isn’t to be expected, nor is it necessary. (Some would argue it’s not even desirable.)

      You write: “They have been at each others throats for centuries.”

      Sadly, this is somewhat true. However, such behavior has no bearing upon whether or not theism is true. People behaving badly is a commentary on people, not God. History strongly suggests that humans are naturally, shall we say, “tribal.” Again, this is a reflection on humanity, not divinity.

      When it comes to “claims that are contradictory to science,” you are conflating “Christians” with “Christianity;” a very common/popular confusion. (I intend to address this in next Tuesday’s blog.)

      You claim: “we're left with no belief . . .”

      The hidden assumption here is that one thinks and reasons from a position of neutrality and then “arrives” at non-belief. This isn’t so. Atheism is a starting point, not a conclusion.

      The atheist assumes atheism and the then understands the universe and all that is within it according to atheistic presuppositions. We do not think and reason without a worldview, but within it.

      You claim: “It [atheism] is not a belief but a lack of belief . . .”

      This is a standard, albeit meaningless, mantra. It’s entirely false. Atheism, like theism, is a worldview (predicated upon certain presuppositions/axioms) with a particular understanding of ultimate reality.

      You claim: “It [atheism] is the culmination of the failure of all religions to agree.”

      No, it isn’t. Atheism is neither new nor is it a culmination of anything.

      You write (or should I say “exult”?): “I envisage the elimination of death through the use of technology and that will then be the end of the uncertainty . . .”

      This is your utopian dream. Indeed, this is your faith. To paraphrase Czeslaw Milosz: Atheism is the true opiate of the masses.

      Thank you again for reading and for your irenic tone.

      Delete
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