Over on Christ-Centred Blogging recently I have been arguing about the injustice of hell. Assuming for the sake of argument that hell exists and that Christians are right about how to avoid it, my point is that the doctrine is unreasonable given that the majority of the world’s population does not have the knowledge required to avoid it. In effect ignorance is a crime against God. Commenter Demian Farnworth asked:
Eshu: I think the important question now is: You know about the possibility of hell. What are you going to do about it?
Which is a fair question. I suspect Demian’s next point was going to be that I have not (yet) taken heed of the warnings or hell, so it doesn’t matter that not everyone is aware of the choice Christianity presents. Many people have heard it and ignore it.
Ignorance, however, is only part of the problem. We’re no doubt all aware of a variety of religious ideas, mythical stories and superstitious warnings. We don’t and can’t heed them all. It doesn’t matter how scary they sound or how comforting the alternatives they offer might be. We need to know whether or not they’re real. A point often overlooked, it seems.
Consider the following analogy for example.
Let’s say I’m wandering down the street and a man accosts me on the street and says that if I don’t hand over my cash, then his friends will drop a nuke on my house.
A pretty scary (albeit unlikely) scenario. So what am I going to do about it?
Many people would just ignore him, but I’m a curious skeptic and while it seems far fetched I’d like to find out what’s going on. Does he really have powerful friends who could render my house even more untidy than usual? Who are they? Are they really at his beck and call?
It sounds like he’s crazy or making it up. Then again, you might think that in the circumstances it would be simpler to just give him the ten pounds I have in my pocket and not take the risk. But even then I don’t know where it will lead. He might demand more money from me. Other people might start issuing similar threats. Unable to pay them all I’d have to guess at which one (if any) actually had the ability to turn my home into a radioactive pile of rubble.
First I’m going to make some assessment of whether it’s likely. If he’s just making this up I ought to at least report him to the Police and put a stop to this intimidation. On the other hand if it’s true that this guy has nuclear capabilities and isn’t afraid to use them, then I should probably negotiate with him to see if we can work things out without any nukes getting dropped.
Before I can do any of that I need to decide whether it’s true or not. As far as I can tell, Christianity and the doctrine of hell is nonsensical, self-contradictory and therefore untrue. Until anyone can iron out those howling inconsistencies, I can only ignore it.