Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A love based on fear and guilt?

A few weeks ago I attended a talk by an evangelist, and it did me a lot of good. But not in the way some of you might think. The evangelist was Peter Pollock, who in the 1960s played cricket for South Africa, but later started his own ministry.

I know Pollock meant well, but his talk was the typical conservative Christian narrative that I grew up with: the focus on hell and the devil; the belief that humans are by nature greedy and sinful; the degrading of reason and human achievement; and the claim that one cannot be truly happy without Jesus.

The talk got me thinking about evangelists in general. I'm convinced that they are successful because they manipulate (often unintentionally) two powerful emotions: shame and fear. The evangelist's technique is to make us feel shameful for simply being human, and this is often followed up by a reminder of hell, with the hope that if guilt won't motivate the audience to make a decision to follow Jesus, fear will.

Soon after leaving the faith, I used to respond to evangelists with trepidation, and later with anger. But this time, surprisingly, I did not experience any of these emotions. Instead, while I listened to Pollock, I felt a renewed sense of certainty as well as a great deal of relief. Certainty that I had definitely made the right decision to leave this brand of Christianity behind, and relief that this decision freed me from the burdens of conformity and servitude, which fundamentalism requires.

The talk did me a lot of good because it made me realise something extremely important: that evangelists no longer have any power over me, the power to instill fear or even to rouse anger. I think this is because, after six years of being non-religious, I no longer fear hell or any concept of god; and I no longer feel any guilt or shame for being human. Without these prerequisites, there is nothing within me that the evangelist can latch onto.

But more importantly, I believe that love enhances human dignity. What kind of love is the evangelist advocating if he or she has to manipulate and scare people into heaven? If this is God's love – a love motivated by shame, guilt and fear – then I'm not interested.

42 comments:

Big.blue.nation said...

I was a fire-brand evangelist for years. One of my messages was "Just a Breath Away", and would also scare people to Jesus with the continual threat of hell. Oldest trick in the book for the faith and believe one of the reasons the eternal doctrine of hellfire and damnation was invented in 300 AD by the church, to induce that fear and that the roman endorsed church could exert even more control on it's populace. It makes me sick that I believed what I did for so long and preached hate, but that is in the past.

Big.blue.nation said...

Oops, bad grammar, not eternal doctrine of hellfire...

doctrine of eternal hellfire. :)

Miss Mapp said...

I guess the kind of faith engendered by such preaching is not very mature either. Seems to me you have arrived at a far more fundamental answer. While I do personally belive in Xtnty, its values and historicity, I also think that we need to cut out alo of the rubbish that has built up over the centuries and return to core values, which I would suggest are inclusive rather than oppressive.

Laughing Boy said...

The core message of Christianity, the gospel, starts with the premise that there is a God and that humans are separated from him due to their sin. This separation will result in the physical and ultimately spiritual death of every human. Yet God has made an arrangement that fully satisfies His justice. This is love.

Of course people don't like to hear that they are under unavoidable divine judgment, but given the facts of the Christian position, what options do evangelists have?

A doctor goes into medicine to care for people, not to upset them. But very often a doctor must give bad news that upsets her patient. "You're sick, and you'll get sicker and die if you don't follow my advice." Should the patient complain that the doctor, far from "helping" him, actually scared him and made him anxious and upset? Of course not. The doctor by honestly apprising the patient of his condition and telling him how to be cured is acting in a caring manner.

The evangelist offers Jesus as the cure to the wrath of God against fallen humanity, but if people are unaware of their dire situation why should they be interested in any cure? If people are going to eventually face God, then the only loving thing to do let them know how to prepare.

Shame and guilt are fundamental elements of repentance and they are not pleasant emotions to be sure. Surgery or chemotheraphy, are not pleasant, either. But the goal is life and continued happiness and they are waiting on the other side of the unpleasantness.

I pray that no one would choose eternal death and separation from God over the little bitter pills of shame and guilt.

Miss Mapp said...

I can understand why facing such an attitude, churces in the west - excluding USA - are empty. Looks like Lukes Gospel has little place in such a philosophy. I suppose it's a question partly of emphasis, and no way do I choose a church that opperates under those conditions.

CyberKitten said...

LB said: I pray that no one would choose eternal death and separation from God over the little bitter pills of shame and guilt.

[holds hand up]

Pick me...! Pick me!

[laughs]

Laughing Boy said...

Miss Mapp said,

"While I do personally belive in Xtnty, its values and historicity, I also think that we need to cut out alo of the rubbish that has built up over the centuries and return to core values, which I would suggest are inclusive rather than oppressive."What do you consider Christianity's core values?

What, in your opinion, are examples of the "rubbish that has built up over the centuries"?

One more point to remember about "professional evangelists". They have about one hour to make their point and generally do so in the most dramatic way possible (for better or worst).

In regular life among us non-professionals the presentation of the message is rarely under the same constraints. In regular life, Christians acting with kindness, forgiveness, and without a judgmental attitude is how the gospel is spread.

So I agree with you that the general tenor of day-to-day evangelism, and even week-to-week church services should focused on love and not on hellfire and brimstone. But it's dangerous (and delusional) to sweep those truths under the rug and to reduce Christianity's message to all smiles and giggles.

Miss Mapp said...

Point scoring and games don't do it for me LB.
Christianity in my experience is far from smiles and giggles, but a life time spent in finding the path.
Enough said.
Looks like you got some conversation going Kevin!

Big.blue.nation said...

2Co 5:11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men...

Most of Christendom holds to the belief that unless one believes, repents and/or is baptized, you are eternally doomed because the God of the universe desires blood to meet his desire for holiness. There are billions of people who have lived and are now living since the dawn of civilization who may not prescribe to this solution offered by the Christian religion and will inevitably suffer eternal torment and separation from an angry God. You may have been "Christ-like" like Ghandi was, who although had a great appreciation for the teachings of Christ, didn't necessarily "become" one, but according to (most) Christian belief is roasting in eternal torment.

Folks, I'm angry. I'm angry because what good may have existed within the Christian faith was high jacked by a corrupt group of Latin belivers who twisted and manipulated the original teachings of the earliest Church fathers and with the support of a roman emperor, usurped what they taught, persecuted and killed them and so we have the hateful teachings of eternal punishment and hell that are taught within 97% of Christianity today.

I am no longer a Christian, but those here who are, please take the time to educate yourselves on the teachings of Hell and the early Christian Church, you will be astounded by what you find. Eternal torment was made up by those who have taken the hebrew and greek out of context. It is just quite simply a myth. Also, the earliest Church fathers taught a form of Universalism, where all mankind is saved. Not sure how, but that was the belief.

Unfortunately, since 300 AD, the Christian Church has created walls in human civilization, not bridges. I am quite certain, that if the teachings of the earliest Christians was not crushed by the corrupt roman catholic church, the world would be a lot better place today.

Laughing Boy said...

I'm always interested in educating myself. Although my experience of the early church fathers is primarily from Augustine and Aquinas I have read a little Polycarp and Clement and bits of the Cappadocian Fathers. (That's assuming that Peter, Paul, and John are not considered early church fathers!) What specific writings of the early church should I read to gain, in your opinion, a more accurate perspective of the original Christian doctrine of Hell?

Being a Reformed Protestant I'm no fan of the Roman Catholic Church, but much of their corruption was facilitated by their campaign to keep the Scriptures out of the hands of the people. Thanks to Luther, et al, we can still read the Scriptures for ourselves and come to our own conclusions about such things as the doctrine of Hell.

Accordingly, I think Hell is a reality and only way to escape it is through faith in Christ regardless of whether you're Mahatma Ghandi or John Wayne Gacy. Nonetheless, I'm open to a good argument against my current position.

CyberKitten said...

LB said: Accordingly, I think Hell is a reality and only way to escape it is through faith in Christ regardless of whether you're Mahatma Ghandi or John Wayne Gacy. Nonetheless, I'm open to a good argument against my current position.

Ok. I'm official confused. We have Heaven & Hell - presumably existing in other dimensions away from prying eyes - and we have eternal death and separation from God.... If you can't make it into Heaven for whatever reason, that certainly sounds like the best 2nd option. Or is that your idea of Hell - which to be honest doesn't sound very Hellish to me.....

Anonymous said...

I've done some studying up on mind control techniques, mass hypnosis, and fear tactics. These practices of persuasiveness for power are very old and wise. The group which organized the documents that would eventually become The Bible understood these techniques as well.
~Dar

Anonymous said...

Dar,

While your statement above is interesting, such a bold claim requires evidence and examples. Can you show us how the leaders at four various historic church councils spanning centuries(Jamnia, Laodicea, Carthage, and Hippo) used mind control, mass hypnosis, and fear tactics in their establishment of the scriptural canon?

phil

Big.blue.nation said...

Hey LB, you asked that I present some sources; fair enough, you also mentioned a few of the early church fathers and from what I've read/studied, some of them such as Clement and Origen believed in a form of Christian Universalism. I will study some more on some actual "writings" and what was said as a validation, but what bit I have learned, has expressed to me their belief in the redemption of all mankind, before the time of teachings regarding eternal hellfire and damnation.

For so long as a dedicated evangelical believer much like yourself, I too believed wholeheartedly in the doctrine of hell. Once I decided to step back and take an honest and objective look at the issue, I learned things that made me realize what I had believed was wrong. For me personally, after learning about how things have been taken out of context, the corruption of the catholic church and inception of the Latin Vulgate, it introduced to my mind the introduction of error and/or corruption. So, in my opinion there is no longer a reliable "benchmark". Too much unreliability.

Does the bible mention judgement, absolutely. According to the bible, is there anger toward sin, sure. However, that is not necessarily the same thing as eternal hell; that is logical right? You brought up the actual writers of the NT themselves, OK, sure they are significant, but even their mention of what you may believe as "hell", may actually mean death (sheol) and/or gehenna (judgement, not eternal).

Check out this You Tube video I thought was put together really well regarding this issue. Although I no longer consider myself a Christian, this guy actually is and brings up some interesting points. It's in four parts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KARi1p-M_s

Anonymous said...

In response to Phil:

Who did Jamnia, Laodicea, Carthage, and Hippo worked for? Were they not the most accomplished scholars and psychologists of their day?

I've attached a link below to an article which describes a broad historical overview.

Based on this you can see how things changed according to what was accepted the most. Once someone accepts something, they can be easily manipulated.

Truth never changes. It either IS or IS NOT. How did this truth keep changing throughout the centuries? Continually today, we rephrase and reinterpret as we find things no longer acceptable.

Here is the referenced link:
http://media.isnet.org/off/Xtian/etc/canonold.html

~Dar

Laughing Boy said...

CK: If you're asking me a question, I'm not sure what it is. If separation from God doesn't sound hellish, that may be because we have no experience of what it would be like. We live in a world that, although it's fallen and cursed, still receives a good measure of God's grace. For starters, imagine our current world with all it's evil minus any positive or restraining influences...without any degree of love.

BBN: I agree that someone could find a way to interpret the Biblical teachings on Hell in a more socially acceptable manner. My first argument against such an interpretation is not taken from Scripture but from C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce and my own experience with some who have heard and finally denied the Gospel. Namely, that those in Hell will not repent but will revile God all the more, and, in fact, choose to remain. In other words, my opinion is that nobody will remain in Hell against their will.

I have no reason to want Hell to be a real place of eternal torment. In fact, I have plenty of reasons to want my view to be wrong. I hope I am.

Thanks for the link. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Dar, you stated, "Who did Jamnia, Laodicea, Carthage, and Hippo work for? Were they not the most accomplished scholars and psychologists of their day?"

The answer is no-- they were not even individuals (as your comment seems to suggest), but various locations at which various individuals in various geo-political cultures and at various points in history all came to the same conclusions regarding the canon of scripture... very compelling evidence against your theory that these people would have used "mind control techniques, mass hypnosis, and fear tactics" to establish their agenda. In fact, with all the differing factors to consider, I would find it hard to believe that their agenda would have even been the same, had not the same God been at work in supervising the process.

The link you attached above deals with arguments for and against the inclusion of the deuterocanonical/apocryphal writings as recognized scriptures. I have my own opinions on that subject if we want to go there, but it's quite a tangent issue from your initial statement that the canonical councils employed mass hypnosis and mind control techniques. You still have not submitted any evidence to support your conspiracy theory. I give you credit for your imagination though.

phil

CyberKitten said...

LB said: If separation from God doesn't sound hellish, that may be because we have no experience of what it would be like.

Actually I believe that we all have this experience - its called real life.

LB said: For starters, imagine our current world with all it's evil minus any positive or restraining influences...without any degree of love.

As I don't believe love originates with God (actually I don't believe *anything* originates with God) such a scenario is pretty meaningless.

But you did mention 'eternal death' which is basically what I believe happens to us anyway - no Heaven, no Hell. Works for me. Actually I struggle with the idea of why we invented such places - except for the obvious control factors and to make ourselves feel good about the inevitability of death.

Anonymous said...

Phil,
[i]...they were not even individuals (as your comment seems to suggest), but various locations at which various individuals in various geo-political cultures and at various points in history all came to the same conclusions regarding the canon of scripture...[/i]
Yes, they were councils. Even chimpanzees use emotional manipulation to get what they want, whether they actively understand what they're doing or not, yet we are talking about scholarly people who could read and write while governing over those who (most likely) were not as educated. As for your request, all the supporting "evidence" I need is a basic observation of human nature and social science throughout all religious and political history. You can call that my "imagination" if you must, but I still think it takes a wilder imagination to assume that a spirit power came down out of the sky and told these people what to write.

~Dar

Anonymous said...

Dar,

Based on your "evidence" above, should we then assume that everyone, at every time, in every given situation, is utilizing mind control and mass hypnosis on others, until proven otherwise? That's what your logic seems to suggest-- that no specific evidence is required to assume such things in a given situation, simply due to your opinions about "human nature."

phil

Kevin Parry said...

Hi LB

Hope you are well.

LB wrote
A doctor goes into medicine to care for people, not to upset them. But very often a doctor must give bad news that upsets her patient.

But the doctor in your analogy is actually trying to help the patient cure something that is actually there. If I really had cancer, for example, my doctor would not have to use manipulative techniques to get me to admit that the cancer was real – all he would have to do is simply show me the results of blood tests or MRI scans. What if the doctor came to me claiming that I had cancer, but the only evidence for his claim was that he had a dream the night before in which he envisioned I was ill? If he had no additional evidence, it would be wise not to accept his council, and it would be meaningless if I spent any amount of time worrying about it.

The only evidence that we have for the idea that we are possibly destined for an eternity in hell is a couple of lines in a few ancient manuscripts. There is absolutely no external evidence that such a place exists outside of our imaginations. Just as I would not waste energy worrying about my doctor’s dream, so I will not waste energy and time worrying about the threat of hell, because it is a threat of something that simply isn’t there.

If evangelists truly have our best interests in mind concerning hell, then they should show us some 'MRI scans', don't you think?

CyberKitten said...

KP said: The only evidence that we have for the idea that we are possibly destined for an eternity in hell is a couple of lines in a few ancient manuscripts. There is absolutely no external evidence that such a place exists outside of our imaginations. Just as I would not waste energy worrying about my doctor’s dream, so I will not waste energy and time worrying about the threat of hell, because it is a threat of something that simply isn’t there.

*Very* well put.

Anonymous said...

Kevin,

Your argument above is well-stated, but I believe it's not exactly addressing the issue. Even if you think your doctor is a quack for diagnosing a disease based on a dream, you can only argue that he's incorrect, not that he's insincere or manipulative. Likewise, even if you disagree with the reality of hell, the fact is that these evangelists deeply believe it, and their efforts to warn you reflect earnest appeals of love toward you. You might not agree with them, but I don't believe you can fairly charge the majority of them with being manipulative.

phil

Anonymous said...

Phil, I somewhat envy your trust in evangelists and law makers.
~Dar

Laughing Boy said...

CK:
I can see why Heaven may have been invented, but, Hell is very puzzling. Even more puzzling is this: Before either of those concepts could be developed, the idea of an afterlife had to have been invented. Additionally, the concepts of morality and prescriptive behavior needed conjured up somewhere along the way. I can see why you struggle with it. It doesn't fit within the naturalistic framework.

I think they were discovered (or rather, given to us), not invented. No struggles for me on this one.

Kevin:
I am well, thanks. I hope you are, too.

If your doctor shows you an MRI, how does that qualify as evidence that you have cancer? A little smudge on a piece of film, supposedly of your insides, that, supposedly, will kill you. What kind of evidence is that? Are you wise to reject his council until he gives you more substantial proof? What form of proof would you accept that does not, in the end, come down to trusting what someone else is telling you? (Someone, by the way, who stands to make substantial coin off your fear.)

Rhetorical Question: Would you agree with W.T. Clifford that, "it is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence"? (See Ethics of Belief.)

You're a thoughtful person. When you think about your life, your deepest motives, do you ever noticed a "dark smudge"? If that smudge really was a cancer on the soul of an image-bearer of God, what evidence would you expect? I don't think the answer is "None". What are the possibilities? What would the "MRI" look like of a soul in perfect health? Smudge-free? Is yours? What are the consequences?

CyberKitten said...

LB said: I can see why Heaven may have been invented, but, Hell is very puzzling.

Not really. Hell follows on from the invention of Heaven like Night follows Day. If there is a place where good people go then the obvious question is "What happens to bad people?"

LB said: Even more puzzling is this: Before either of those concepts could be developed, the idea of an afterlife had to have been invented.

Again that's not very puzzling. Beliving we are in some way special - because we are self-aware the feeling naturally arises that we are simply too important for our lives to end with death and as we are probably the only creatures that *know* beforehand that we will die its very comforting to think that life in some way continues after we're dead. From that follows the existence of the soul, judgement, Heaven & Hell and much else besides. It would all make sense - if it wasn't built on total wishful thinking. Basically religion is fundamentally based on the fear of death.

LB said: Additionally, the concepts of morality and prescriptive behavior needed conjured up somewhere along the way.

Indeed. If Heaven & Hell exist there must be some kind of process for working out who goes where. It follows that things which might increase your chances of going to Heaven would be encouraged etc... hence morality.

LB said: I can see why you struggle with it. It doesn't fit within the naturalistic framework.

Oh, I don't struggle with the concept - but I do struggle with why otherwise rational people buy into it.

LB said: I think they were discovered (or rather, given to us), not invented. No struggles for me on this one.

Naturally I disagree. Morality is simply a cultural invention - nothing more.

Laughing Boy said...

In what order did the following concepts develop and what was the impetus for their development?

a) Heaven and Hell
b) Morality
c) The afterlife

Regarding any answers to the previous question, what part of your answer was purely extemporaneous fabrication without a trace of what could be rightly called knowledge?

a) 100%
b) 90%
c) I don't know, I've lost the ability to tell when I'm making stuff up

Basically religion is fundamentally based on the fear of death.
How does the concept of Hell helps us with this fear, exactly?

If Heaven & Hell exist there must be some kind of process for working out who goes where.
According to Christian theology there is indeed a process for working out where we go, but it has nothing to do with our morality.

CyberKitten said...

LB said: In what order did the following concepts develop and what was the impetus for their development?

C.... A....B (and as previously stated).

LB said: Regarding any answers to the previous question, what part of your answer was purely extemporaneous fabrication without a trace of what could be rightly called knowledge?

I think the word you're struggling for is: Speculation. We simply don't know how it all begin...so I speculated.

LB said: How does the concept of Hell helps us with this fear, exactly?

It doesn't. For some it actually increases the fear of death - which is, of course, not a bad way to control people if you have a way of making sure (or at least promising) they don't go there. But as I said previously - once you invent a place where the 'good' people go its pretty inevitable that you'll soon need to invent a place where 'bad' people go.

LB said: According to Christian theology there is indeed a process for working out where we go, but it has nothing to do with our morality.

God's Plan? Grace? Are we going Up or Down from before the moment we're born no matter what we do? Does our behaviour/morality have *any* effect on whether or not we get a Golden Ticket?

Laughing Boy said...

I think your previous statements would mandate C-B-A, rather than C-A-B, since, according to you, Heaven and Hell were invented to be the final destinations of the good and the bad, respectively. If that's the case, then the concepts of Heaven and Hell could not have preceded the concepts of good and bad.

As I see it, the idea that Hell was developed as a control tactic has the following problems:

1) If there was a time before Hell was invented, before anyone believed in it, what currency would it have carried as a control tactic that it would have been considered a good option to develop? Especially given the availability of proven tactics, like a big stick to the head. (See #3.)

2) If it was originally developed as a control tactic, it seems obvious that the controllers would not have believed in Hell themselves, and it would be likely that subsequent generations of controllers would also be in on the Big Secret. After many generations we'd have huge portions of society that didn't believe (controllers and skeptics) and only a sorry minority that remained in the dark...and this is assuming that the controllers could keep the Big Secret secret for century upon century. Maybe this will be the subject of Dan Brown's next novel.

3) Hell doesn't seem to function very well as a control tactic. What control does it actually bestow on those wielding it? Do they say, "You'll go to Hell if you don't mow my lawn"? In most cases the "bad" behavior that is drawing the threat is not something that directly effects the "controller", nor, in most cases, does the controller receive any benefits when the "bad" behavior is replaced with "good" behavior. It seems more effective to threaten somebody with immediate pain or other unpleasantness if you wish to control them rather then to threaten them with a punishment that will only occur after death, which could be decades in the future. That's, in fact, what most people do who wish to control others: threaten them with immediate consequences. It seems highly improbable that such an ineffective tactic would have survived when a better suited method (see #1) was, and remains, available.

It seems to me that the hypothesis that Hell was developed as a control tactic is a weak one and that another theory is more likely to be true. The mere fact that the concept of Hell is so damned unappealing to our sensibilities is stronger evidence for its being an objective truth than the control tactic theory is for its being false.

According to Christianity, our behavior does effect our ability to get a Golden Ticket; the problem is that nobody's behavior is good enough to earn one. So saying that bad people go to Hell and good people go to Heaven is only true if it's understood that there are no good people. The Golden Ticket is not given according to merit.

CyberKitten said...

LB said: The mere fact that the concept of Hell is so damned unappealing to our sensibilities is stronger evidence for its being an objective truth than the control tactic theory is for its being false.

So the fact that the idea is *objectionable* tends to lead you to conclude that its likely to be true? I'm sure that there are *many* objectionable ideas out there. Are they all true? Does that mean that ideas which are actually quite nice - like Heaven maybe - are *less* likely to be true because we find them pleasant?

LB said: The Golden Ticket is not given according to merit.

Then what *is* the criterion?

Kevin Parry said...

Phil wrote
Even if you think your doctor is a quack for diagnosing a disease based on a dream, you can only argue that he's incorrect, not that he's insincere or manipulative.

You are absolutely right, Phil. I’ve given the impression that evangelists in general are scheming, manipulative individuals ready to make a buck off the people they try and scare, and this is unfair on my part. So thank you for pointing this out. I take your point: I can accept that the motivation for most evangelists is simply an incredible concern for my eternal well-being. So I shouldn’t question their motives. Rather, I should question the method that they use, as well as their own beliefs, no matter how sincere they might be. To me, it seems contradictory having to be scared first in order to love someone. Wouldn’t true love allow me to choose (or not choose) to love God without the threat of hell? If hell is needed as motivation, is God really worthy to be loved?

LB wrote
If your doctor shows you an MRI, how does that qualify as evidence that you have cancer? A little smudge on a piece of film, supposedly of your insides, that, supposedly, will kill you. What kind of evidence is that?

It’s all about probabilities, not absolute certainty. If 95% of patients worldwide who died of brain cancer had a similar smudge on their MRI scans (of much the same shape, size and colour), then there is a good chance that that smudge in my own scan means something nasty. There is always a chance that the smudge means nothing, but with odds like that, I’m taking any chances. The evidence (the MRI scan) in this case doesn’t stand on its own, but is taken in the context of previous experiences (or in this case, thousands of previous MRI scans). It’s a pity that of all the people who have supposedly gone to hell, nobody has come back to give us a report. We have no experience (or previous records) to fall back on. Thus, it is safe to assume that the probability of hell existing is extremely low, and the probability is high that it is simply a myth. Thus I’m not going to loose any sleep over it.

LB wrote
When you think about your life, your deepest motives, do you ever noticed a "dark smudge"?

I guess everyone has issues, problems and character flaws (is this what you are referring to as a ‘dark smudge’), but how does this lend weight to the claim that there is a supernatural ‘place’ with brimstone, fire, and gnashing of teeth.

Tidbits of Torah said...

I too am an ex-christian. The falsehood of their doctrine could know longer be believed by me.

Laughing Boy said...

CK: So the fact that the idea is *objectionable* tends to lead you to conclude that its likely to be true?

No. I said it's stronger evidence for its being true than the evidence you gave for its being false. It's a point is its favor. In legal proceedings, statements against personal interest are considered more likely to be true than self-serving statements. I think this applies to the concept of Hell in that inventing a fearful afterlife scenario does not serve the purposes of those who are looking to comfort themselves about death.

CK: Then what *is* the criterion?

P1: Good people go to Heaven and bad people go to Hell.
P2: There are no good people.
Therefore: All people are going to Hell.

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this syllogism is valid and true, what would be Good News for the aforementioned "all people"?

Kevin: The evidence (the MRI scan) in this case doesn't stand on its own, but is taken in the context of previous experiences (or in this case, thousands of previous MRI scans).

First, you don't have the previous experience of thousands of MRI's, the doctors does. The evidence in your particular case is not the scans themselves but the word of the doctor about what the scan reveals—you are trusting someone word regarding things beyond your personal experience and even your ability to comprehensively validate. I'm trusting the word of God.

Second, if Hell were real, would people be coming back to validate it for you? No. If someone did return from Hell to describe it to you, would you believe them? Not likely. See Luke 16:19-31.

Kevin: Thus, it is safe to assume that the probability of hell existing is extremely low, and the probability is high that it is simply a myth. Thus I'm not going to loose any sleep over it.

Considering probability alone isn't a good idea. Consequences must also be factored in. If the consequences are severe, a low probability may still be too risky. Your probability calculations could also be biased. The cost a little sleep might be turn out to be quite a bargain.

Kevin: Wouldn't true love allow me to choose (or not choose) to love God without the threat of hell? If hell is needed as motivation, is God really worthy to be loved?

You don't have to be scared into loving God. For example you could love God for the following reasons:

a) Because He gave you existence and sustains your continued existence as long as you continue to exist, and He does so whether you love Him, hate Him, or deny His existence.

b) Because He created the universe and all the incredibly beautiful and astounding things in it.

c) Because He loves you and He proved this love by, in the person of Christ, punishing Himself for your sin so that you might escape punishment (Romans 5:8-9).

But, in keeping with your own definition of true love, He lets you choose. Hell is separation from God (and all that that entails) and, therefore, it is not a threat posed to force your acceptance but rather the obvious and inevitable result of choosing to be separated from Him.

Kevin: I guess everyone has issues, problems and character flaws, but how does this lend weight to the claim that there is a supernatural with brimstone, fire, and gnashing of teeth.

I guess it doesn't in any obvious way. But it makes me wonder why I should ever feel like I have flaws. Why should feel that I ought to be in any way better than I really am? Do rabbits feel this way? But it's a long hike to get to Hell from this point, so I'll drop it.

CyberKitten said...

LB said: No. I said it's stronger evidence for its being true than the evidence you gave for its being false.

Personally I do not regard it as *any* kind of evidence at all.....

LB said: P1: Good people go to Heaven and bad people go to Hell.
P2: There are no good people.
Therefore: *All* people are going to Hell.

Cosy............

LB said: Assuming, for the sake of argument, that this syllogism is valid and true, what would be Good News for the aforementioned "all people"?

Erm...? No idea. I think it's *your* area of expertise rather than mine...... [grin]

LB said: If the consequences are severe, a low probability may still be too risky. Your probability calculations could also be biased. The cost a little sleep might be turn out to be quite a bargain.

Mr Pascal I presume.....

LB said: But it makes me wonder why I should ever feel like I have flaws. Why should feel that I ought to be in any way better than I really am?

We are imperfect so we have flaws. Recognising that we do have flaws is the first step towards doing something about them. The feeling that you are in some way inadequate may be due to the fact that you (generic you rather than actual you) are in fact someway inadequate - this can often be addressed by various types of training.

LB said: Do rabbits feel this way?

As far as we know rabbits are not self-aware and will not have feelings of inadequacy or anxiety or angst etc.... It's only humans that can obsess about their failings and create philosophies to address or justify them.

Anonymous said...

LB: You're confusing loving God with believing in him. Your three "facts" are proof that God's a great guy, if he's real, not proof that he exists. Santa Claus is a great guy. Unfortunately, he's completely made up.

Even as proof of God's love, your statements are pretty much useless.
"gave you existence and sustains your continued existence as long as you continue to exist"
So basically, he keeps you alive as long as you stay alive on your own? Do you realize how stupid that sounds?

"Because He created the universe and all the incredibly beautiful and astounding things in it." Prove it.

"Because He loves you and He proved this love by, in the person of Christ, punishing Himself for your sin so that you might escape punishment (Romans 5:8-9)." Why was that necessary in the first place? Couldn't he have let us off the hook without torturing his own son?

-crl

Laughing Boy said...

Reply to cri:

Your three "facts" are proof that God's a great guy, if he's real, not proof that he exists.

My 3 reasons weren't offered as a argument for God's existence, but in response to Kevin's suggesting that God shouldn't have to scare us into loving Him. Kevin and I are, at this point, assuming God's existence for the sake of argument.

So basically, he keeps you alive as long as you stay alive on your own? Do you realize how stupid that sounds?

You're right, it does sound stupid, but it's not what I said, it's what you said.

Why was that necessary in the first place? Couldn't he have let us off the hook without torturing his own son?

Good question, but the answer is no. If a judge let a convicted criminal off the hook you wouldn't consider him a just judge (especially if you were the offended party), so how could God be just by turning a blind eye to our sin? God must act in perfect accordance with all His attributes—being just is one of them. The wages of sin is death. Someone sinned, someone must die.

Anonymous said...

I would not be converted by someone preaching how loving God is anymore than i would be converted by someone telling me how scary he is. I can neither love nor fear a figment of my imagination.

"So basically, he keeps you alive as long as you stay alive on your own? Do you realize how stupid that sounds?"

You're right, I said it, but it was a paraphrase of your original statement, which had the same idiotic redundancy.

"Someone sinned, someone must die."

So it doesn't matter who dies, as long as someone does? That doesn't sound very just to me.

Laughing Boy said...

...it was a paraphrase of your original statement...

It's a poor paraphrase, since it does not have the same meaning as my original. A better paraphrase would be, "God gives us life, He maintains our life, and when He stops maintaining our life, we die."

So it doesn't matter who dies, as long as someone does?

It matters very much who dies. Just like it matters very much who sinned. Christianity asserts that, since we all have sinned, we all must die (not just physical death, but spiritual death) and our death is just, according to the law. However, God has given us the opportunity to escape the just punishment for our sins by imposing the punishment on Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. The law (sin=death) is still upheld (justice), but the offenders are no longer under condemnation since the penalty has been paid.

Anonymous said...

LB: Thank you for clarifying your initial statement. Your accurate paraphrase makes much more sense, although it still seems to be slightly redundant. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

I still do not fully understand your argument. "Christianity asserts that, since we all have sinned, we all must die" seems to imply that there is no escape, and that the one who has committed the sin is the same one who must die. "God has given us the opportunity to escape the just punishment for our sins by imposing the punishment on Himself in the person of Jesus Christ." But we escape punishment when God takes the pain. Those two statements appear to be in contradiction. Although I may have misunderstood you again, i can see no logical resolution of these two positions. I would love God, if he were real, for his sacrifice alone. The problem is that this proof of God's love is disproof of His existence.

Laughing Boy said...

I'm not being very clear. Perhaps I'm paying too much attention to rhetoric and not enough to substance. Let me try again.

God is perfectly holy. To spend eternity (or even an instant) in His presence requires perfect holiness. We don't meet this requirement. We all have sinned (and more than that we have a sinful nature which is the cause of our sinning). As a result we all deserve eternal/spiritual (and physical) death.

There are two options available to us to if we want to be perfectly pleasing to God and remain in His presence for eternity.

First, we could never sin in thought, word, or deed. In other words, we could be holy or perfectly obedient to the Law of God by our own efforts. Adam and Even had this opportunity but they squandered it. Perfect obedience for everyone since the Garden is impossible due to the inheritance of a sinful nature from Adam. Keeping the Law to the best of one's ability is still beneficial in certain ways, but breaking the Law in one point is complete failure. It seems that our condition is hopeless under the Law (i.e., by perfectly keeping the Law). Nevertheless the Law is still in force.

Second, we could have a substitute for both our inability to keep the Law and for the punishment of our failure to do so. Jesus the Christ, God in the Flesh, the Second Person of the Trinity, is our substitute. He did not inherit a sinful nature from Adam (being born of a virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity), He lived a life in perfect obedience to the Law (the Spotless Lamb as symbolized by the sacrifices of the Jewish nation before Jesus), and He bore the just wrath of God in our place—once for all time, for all sins, and for all humanity.

Thus, God remains perfectly just, having not turned a blind eye to sin. The price has been paid for all who rely on what Christ has done for them. If I do not accept the work of Christ I will face God with only my own works, and as we know, my works will not be sufficient. If I put my faith in Christ, whose works are sufficient, Christ's perfect righteousness is imputed to me. This is Good News! This is the Gospel!

I hope I've presented these points clearly. Tell me if I haven't.

I would love God, if he were real, for his sacrifice alone. The problem is that this proof of God's love is disproof of His existence.

I'm not sure I follow you. Are you saying that God's death on the Cross (in the Person of Jesus) means that God has ceased to exist? I'm afraid this is another example of my failure to communicate. God cannot die, of course. (Nor do we cease to exist upon our death.) Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, took human form so He could: 1) live in perfect obedience as a human, and 2) subject His body to death. Christ had a human nature (and a normal, physical body) and a divine nature merged together. His death was real for His human body (as was His resurrection) but His divine nature, His "God-ness" did not—could not—die. At no time did any Person of the Godhead cease to exist.

Fortunately for you (and me) there is a God to be loved.

Anonymous said...

I did not mean that God had died on the cross and ceased to exist. I meant that while the crucifixion story, if it were true, would be proof of God's love, but the many holes in the New Testament add to the many disproofs of God's existence.

I had originally meant that the fundamental unnecessarity of the sacrifice was one of the disproofs, but your last explanation made sense to me. I still don't agree with you, but I can see where you're coming from.

Laughing Boy said...

...your last explanation made sense to me. I still don't agree with you, but I can see where you're coming from.

Great!

If I thought there were many holes in the NT I wouldn't trust it, either. Also, I don't think I've ever heard of a "disproof" of God's existence. Atheists usually seem to be content with finding flaws with the theist's "proofs". I'd be interested in seeing some of these disproofs. I'll create a post at my blog called Proofs of God's Non-Existence. Feel free to post a few of them there if you like. See my profile for the link.

Take care, Anon.