Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Free will, a loving god, and hell

I know it's not a view shared by *all* followers of the big two religions but there are a lot of people who tell me that because I'm an atheist I'll end up in hell. 

They'll often point this out after telling me how much god loves me, which I find odd. 

God loves me, he wants me to spend eternity with him in heaven, but he can't force me to do it. I need to believe via my own free will (though with God appearing directly to many people in the bible, and many believers today claiming to have had a personal revelation, the 'must believe on faith alone' condition seems to be a somewhat fluid rule). 

If I believe of my own free will, he'll reveal himself to me, I'll be a believer for life, and will be with him in the afterlife. 

Should I not believe I'll be judged accordingly and will spend the rest of eternity (a fairly long time) in a lake of fire, possibly being tortured, certainly not enjoying it. 

Theists tell me that it's my choice to go to hell. Because I refuse to believe, I'm putting myself in hell. 

What needs to be remembered here is that this 'believe on faith alone' condition is one that God put in place himself, and he put it in place *knowing* in advance that billions and billions of people would be condemned to eternity in hell because of it. One must wonder why he decided to place this 'on faith alone' condition on being 'saved'.

There are two things God knows. One: What it will take for me to believe he's real. Two whether or not this will happen before I die. 

If I die before God gives me reason to believe, how is me not believing my fault, given he knows what it will take me to believe, but refuses to provide it? 

People believe in God for different reasons. For some it's pure faith, for others they believe they've had a personal revelation. There are some who've had life changing experiences and they think God was responsible. For all these people God has made them in a way that allows them to believe - he's met their 'belief criteria'. Why not meet mine? 

If I believe the theists, the following is true: god loves me unconditionally, and loves me for ever. I don't know about you, but if I loved someone unconditionally and forever, I'd do all I could to prevent them from being burnt in hell for eternity (if I thought hell was real). God? Not so much. 

God would rather I burn in hell than he prove himself to me. Why? I'm not sure. Is me believing on faith alone really that important? How does he make the case that me, or anyone, burning in hell for eternity is 'better' than us being in heaven? 

It's not like God himself is being forced by some other overlord to honour this obligation. This is a rule *he* has put in place. It is his own condition that says I have to believe on faith alone, and he put that condition in place knowing I wouldn't be able to meet it.

Yet theists still claim I 'choose' hell? 

If it's given that I'm doing what God knows I'm going to do, and he knowingly made me in a way that means I can't believe on faith alone, and he put the condition of requiring faith for entry into heaven, how exactly is my own free will sending me to hell? 

If God is real, and he wants me to spend eternity in heaven rather than hell, he could get that done in an instant. He chooses not to. If I end up in hell (I won't) it's because *God* chose that path for me. 

A question that could be asked here is 'what does god get out of it?' When we let a child do something we'd rather they didn't, it's often to teach a lesson. For example, you might tell a toddler three times not to touch the glass on the front of the oven, because it's hot. If they attempt to touch it for the fourth time, you might let them, knowing that you're there on standby ready to deal with the outcome, but knowing they'll learn once and for all not to touch the oven, and they'll do it when you can look after them afterwards and they'll do it with the tip of their finger and not their whole hand. 

Sending someone to hell has no such benefit. One cannot learn from this and do better next time. There is no next time. Sending a non-believer to hell is nothing but pure punishment. Punishment forever. Punishment for the 'crime' of not believing that a god exists. 

How does an 'all loving' god justify a person having 80 (maybe) years of life on earth, with its own ups and downs, at times its own misery, just to then spend eternity in hell? 

The parent of the toddler above might justify the scorched tip of a finger by pointing out the new found knowledge that the oven is, in fact, hot. But for god, he's creating people to spend a temporary period on earth and then the rest of forever in hell. Doing this does *not* come under the umbrella of 'all loving'. 

Creating people simply to send them to hell, which, if the story is true, is what God is doing, is monstrous, not loving. 


  1. One must wonder why he decided to place this 'on faith alone' condition on being 'saved'.
    Part of the programming, to reinforce belief, make sure the rubes are always trying to believe as hard as they can.

  2. Also an omniscient omnipotent omnibenevolent God could easily heal the souls of the sinners, correct them gently, and send them on etc. If He were real.

  3. Great post. The only answers Christians seem to be able to fall back on to counter these excellent arguments are "you need to have faith" and "the Lord works in mysterious ways". Those two ridiculous lines of thought allow them to display remarkable towards any logical argument whatsoever.

    You post is a nice-tie to an excellent book I just read by Sam Harris on free will. Harris argues that the entire concept of free will is actually an illusion. I'll probably do an average job of summarising, but in essence Harris claims that because we aren't in control of the molecules that make up our own brains, any more than we are in charge of the random occurrences we encounter (that go on to form the thoughts we have and the person we become) we are ultimately responsible for very little of the decisions we think we are making. There are several paradoxes Harris outlines that will make your head hurt trying to decipher! His logical deconstruction of our thought processes (and what makes us feel conscious) help smash the argument that it is up to individuals to have faith in a higher power. He also goes into details on several of the points you've raised above. Well worth reading if you haven't already. http://www.samharris.org/free-will

    1. I accidently deleted "cognitive dissonance" after the word remarkable! :)

    2. Thanks. I'll definitely get to the Harris book at some point :)