I broke it

[Note from 2017: This is part of a series of posts I wrote after suddenly discovering that religion can be questioned. I felt like I had broken into uncharted territories of thought and needed to reveal the way to the sad unenlightened. Drunk on this conviction, and still emotionally underdeveloped following a very introverted childhood, I proceeded to become the most condescending kind of atheist and also blindly wreak emotional havoc among the Christian parts of my family. Thankfully this was a phase. My current thoughts on religion are quite different, and at some point if I see fit to blog about them, you’ll be able to find them in the “religion” category here. I’m leaving the posts up as a window into that ugly time.]

Disclaimer:

If you believe in Heaven and Hell, and you would like to continue doing so, leave this post immediately and continue living in blissful ignorance. I say this without a tinge of demeaning you, because I respect that. I respect it, that is, if you’d rather your beliefs go entirely unchallenged, and each time something contrary happens, you avoid thinking about it. I know that used to be me. Now, however, I can’t stop myself from thinking. I respect your willful ignorance, if you insist on it: but do you?


I’ve been thinking a lot about religion recently. This is a new development. I never used to think about it at all, and that’s the way it has to be. If I read anything that pointed out something wrong with Christianity, I turned red and hot with something akin to embarrassment or fear, and then tried my best to forget about it entirely. But now I think. That’s incompatible with a lot of what I believed.

I’m reasonably sure that I’ve independently proved that the concepts of Hell and Heaven are mutually exclusive. I’m sure other people have come up with this before me, but I figured today:

  • Heaven is supposed to be a place where there are all the happinesses that exist, and no sadness at all.
  • Hell is supposed to be a place of eternal torment, with no chance for reprieve.
  • Some devout Christians – [my] Mom for example – have deep love for atheists or agnostics in their lives ([my brother] Micah1, [my uncle] Dan). I’ll be focusing on Mom’s example here.
  • If the Bible is correct, atheists will go to Hell for rejecting Jesus, and Christians will go to Heaven for accepting him.
  • The Christians who love atheists will then be sad. All throughout Micah’s and my life, the shibboleth of Mom’s motherhood has been, “I love you guys SO MUCH. I don’t know what I would do without you.” She could never, ever be happy if she were in heaven and Micah were eternally separated from her and being tortured in Hell.
  • It’s impossible to claim that Mom will go to Hell for loving an infidel, because according to the Bible, Jesus both loves all and is completely free of sin; loving an infidel is not a sin.
  • Therefore, there are a few possibilities:
    • Everyone goes to Heaven, because God forgives all offenses, even atheism.
    • Everyone goes to Hell, because God doesn’t think anyone in the history of Earth has prostrated themselves well enough.
    • There is no Heaven and no Hell, just our lives on Earth.

Whatever the case, I’m pretty sure this soundly indicates that we’re all in the same boat, and there’s no point whatsoever in trying to change it. Undoubtedly there’s some sort of apologetic argument against this. But it’s going to have to be pretty damn impressive before I recant this. I tried to come up with some myself. Perhaps when a Christian goes to Heaven they lose all their love for any atheists they know? Come on, that just reeks of nonsense. For one thing, it would entail God changing free will, which is pretty much the one and only thing he’s not supposed to be able to do. For another, it would mean that the Christian in Heaven wouldn’t be the same person as the Christian on Earth, but rather a gutted version, and aren’t we supposed to go to Heaven as we are? Perhaps the atheist-loving portion of the Christian goes to Hell, and all the rest gets into Heaven? That really stinks, and I imagine no one holds that theory, that it only exists as something I just made up. I doubt there’s even one passage in the Bible that suggests something that absurd. I found an answer from Thomas Aquinas. He says there are two types of pity, one that we feel with our earthly selves and one that we feel with our heavenly selves. In Heaven the first will disappear entirely, and the second kind will be unable to pity the damned because that would require that it want the damned to become saved. So, there will be no pity for the damned. What? So in Heaven, love for those who are damned will disappear as an inferior, earthly emotion? Then what about Jesus, who is said to love all? Surely he wouldn’t immediately stop loving Micah if Micah died and went to Hell. Jesus can’t be a fair-weather friend like that. This answer also sounds like the first one I made up: that something changes in a Christian when they go to Heaven from Earth, and they lose their love for people they love. It still entails God changing free will, or gutting it. If God suddenly took away Mom’s love for Micah and me while she was on Earth, she would not be the same person, not by any means. Her love for us is an essential part of her being. If she went to Heaven as a different person, it would be pointless, as pointless as if she went to Heaven only under the condition that she forget everything she knows about humans, or mathematics, or science. Heaven cannot be a place where there is no knowledge.

I’ll keep looking, but I doubt there’s any defensible answer to this boulder of logic. Of course, I’m willing to change my mind if there is. I have an open mind. I can’t stop thinking about stuff, and that’s what an open-minded person does. I thought too hard about the Christianity of Heaven and Hell, and I broke it. If there’s a good answer, let’s hear it. I’m completely open to anything. I’ll point out a problem with any answer, and acknowledge any and all problems in this post, in the idea of being completely fair. Let’s get to the bottom of this, if I haven’t already.

  1. Micah has stated unequivocally that he doesn’t believe in God, as recently as a few days ago. 

File under: religion


Ann

History

What I do is keep both of you continually in prayer and I believe God heeds those prayers. I do not know how it works or what we remember. I know that God honors the prayers of parents for their children.

Micah saying these things right now have more to do with searching for his identity and not wanting to be labeled as a goody-goody and I’m trying to steer him away from that image, because he can be himself and God will accept him as he is.

The whole thing was important enough for Christ to give Heaven as a gift to anyone who wants it.

I thought about these things too at your age and still do.

God recognizes our love for others who are not believers and He loves them more even than we do. Christ came so that while we were still unbelievers He died for us.

There are some answers I struggle with, too, and I have learned that some things will not have answers. And that there are things we just don’t know still. This is one thing that about drove me crazy for a while. And then God’s peace came upon me about it. However, I pray God’s protection for you and your brother every day. I know God is honoring this. And good things will happen.

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Chuck

History

That was the most hand-waving answer I’ve ever, ever seen.

Seems like you’re suggesting that maybe we do forget everyone we’ve loved who’s in Hell. So let’s say Micah has kids who become Christian. You of course love these grandkids. In about 200 years, everyone involved has died and been sorted out properly. Micah dies an atheist and goes to Hell, so you forget about him. But you love the grandkids in Heaven. So, in what context do you know them? Are they just some people that you love for no reason that you know? The Heaven you’re constructing is a place composed entirely of lobotomy patients. All our relationships on Earth exist only in the context of our total relationship to everyone we know, and forgetting even one person we’ve known while keeping our other relationships precisely the same would require us to be masters of doublethink. We wouldn’t be ourselves, I repeat. We would be mindless souls, maybe pawns. Can you give me an answer that’s actually an answer? (You kind of remind me of this.)

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Ann

History

Well I am right here with you now and I hope what I say helps but I am just not eloquent enough- but what I showed you was….

(For the others of you, Google Duane Miller, and find the recording of his voice being healed while he was teaching. Pay attention to the miracle but also pay equal attention to what he was teaching at the time.)

God is faithful. I am trusting God for you and Micah and God loves those wonderful questioning college students looking at philosophies and he loves little teenage boys that skate around and listen to punk rock and smoke or don’t smoke cigarettes in sheds, he loves drug addicts and prostitutes and rich oil barons and people in all countries no matter their class or caste and he loves people who are enslaved by addictions to pornography or alcohol or just regular people working and trying to be stable, he loves the goody goody people and the ones who are angry at him and those of any religion, and he even loves people that I don’t love. I know we’re not zombies after this life and I know that those who reject God are those who live in their chains, even though Christ has given us the key to unlock them.
This man’s teaching was reinforced by the miracle so that the miracle might not stop with one man but reach other people. Just a regular Sunday School curriculum put in place 6 years before it was taught. Notice he was also sick for exactly 3 years (3 being father/son/Holy ghost and also being the number of days between Christ’s death and resurecction). Just a neat bonus that God put in there because He knows that numbers remind humans of things…God knows us. He really knows us. I know that there is so much that right now we are incapable of knowing and just cannot understand within our dimensions but God will show us many things, in time.

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Anonymous

History

Some questions:

1. Can logic vanquish reality? If we prove something illogical, does it cease to exist? If I am illogical, do I cease to exist?

Does this allow for the existence of heaven or hell regardless if found logical?


2. Where does the Bible say there is a heaven and a hell? You left those parts of your proof out.

Don’t get me wrong. As a Christian, I also believe in Heaven and Hell but I think many skeptics are hard pressed to locate these obvious items in the Bible. Honestly, Heaven and Hell are condensations of rudimentary judgment described in the Bible (for ex. a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth)

3. Why should people not get what they want?

If I want to deny God, why should I not have that eternally? How is that unfair or cruel? If I affirm God why should I not have that eternally? How is that unfair or cruel? It seems that the illusion of free will is the straw man you are knocking down. Don’t get me wrong– I believe in free will– but from the standpoint of an omniscient being, free will is not nearly as interesting as your dilemma supposes.

Good luck.

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Chuck

History

Not sure who this is, but:

1. Logic must accommodate reality. Reality is the very basis of logic. I don’t deny that at all. Thus, if you found incontrovertible evidence of the existence of Heaven and Hell, I would have to reassess the propositions leading to my logical conclusion, because they would have been shown to be obviously faulty. However, I sincerely doubt that will happen, because even though they have supposedly both been around since the Fall, there has never been any incontrovertible evidence for either one’s existence. NDEs notwithstanding.
2. If you agree with this point, why are you refuting it? If you are right that Hell isn’t conclusively shown to exist in the Bible, does that conflict in the slightest with my conclusion? No, it ony bolsters them. I hadn’t heard this viewpoint before, but cursory research reveals Luke 16:22-28, among a few others.
3. I’m not sure how what you’re saying relates to my argument. I’ll give you my standpoint on free will as of right now: from a theoretical standpoint it doesn’t exist, but the neuroscience behind decision-making is so inscrutable and (to borrow a word from quantum physics) indeterminate that, for any and all practical purposes, it might as well. Given the exact position of all particles composing my brain and my environment, you could predict my life course to a tee, but there’s far and away too much chaos for that to (ever) mean anything practical. I suggest the book Hidden Minds by Frank Tallis, which I picked up for entirely unrelated reading last year.

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Anonymous

History

I googled and found “Hidden Minds” online and have read a good bit of it and will continue to read it. No doubt of the complexities of the human mind and how they affect behavior. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, and there are huge parts of our brain that we never even use.

Funny that a LONG time ago, when I was about 15 years old, I had this exact same conversation with Gma about free will, and ironically I took the stance you show here (that if we have all variables all behavior can be predicted) and Gma expressed that there is still an element of unpredictability involved that any science could not predict.

I arrived a few years later at the conclusion that there is still a “free will”, whether it is entirely predictable or whether there is some other element involved.

I have many more thoughts on this that I will try to expound on later. Sorry if I am being confusing.

I will try to comment on Lazarus later on. I believe the lesson of charity is the same whether figurative or literal. Would like to see others’ comments. I am not as well-versed as many but I do know what I think and indeed I HAVE thought through all of these things before.

Mom

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