Monday, May 3, 2010

Freewill and Eternal Consequences

Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

The mighty Wikipedia refers to freewill as, “the purported ability of agents to make choices free from constraints”. In the Biblical sense, freewill is this notion that god gives every human a choice to either live for or against him. That is to say, we each have the ability to choose between good and evil. Adam and Eve had this choice in the Garden of Eden. The problem here, and this point can’t be overstated, is that they obviously didn’t know what was good or evil since they never ate of the tree before. They did that which was seen as evil in the eyes of the Lord even though they had no idea that disobeying authority was wrong. Unfortunately, their ignorance and god’s mercilessness had massive consequences that transferred down generation after generation. Every disease, death, misfortune, hardship, and the possibility of hell itself were made possible because two humans committed sin out of ignorance. Hey god, it would have helped if they had the conscience to understand right from wrong BEFORE they were tempted by the serpent with boobs! (see Michelangelo)

Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.
2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest there of thou shalt surely die.

Which to Choose, Which to Choose

Another component of freewill is that god doesn’t force himself upon us so we can make the conscious or subconscious decision to go to hell without him stepping in to stop us. You will receive eternal punishment in hell if you fail to believe, or choose not to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Presumably, those who never have the chance to directly hear about Jesus will still have the ability to go to heaven if they respond to “his light”. This notion of “his light” seems entirely too subjective to me but it works for the Christian trying to work through a maze of illogical absurdities. Likewise, a person who places their faith in Christ will inherit the kingdom of heaven and live for all eternity in paradise.

While there may be a choice, it’s a bit like telling someone that you can either choose to go to Hawaii for the summer or we can slowly roast you over an open fire in the backyard for the next three months. And, by the way, the pain and agony you experience in this three month duration never subsides because you’re entirely incapable of dying. In reality, the heaven and hell proposal is much worse because the duration of judgment is boundless. From that perspective, it seems like the choice would be effortless and you would swiftly pick heaven. But, what if you’re wrong or you do not want to serve a genocidal, narcissistic deity? What if this isn’t even the right god since there are literally thousands of different gods? Nobody wants or deserves to be punished forever as a result of finite crimes. This god may not necessarily be the kind of god you would want to worship, nor is there sufficient evidence of his existence. It would be a bit more plausible, perhaps, if you take out eighty percent of the OT and all the doctrine about hell in the NT.

God’s Level System

On another note, what happens to your garden variety pagan? Some will assert that there are variations or degrees of punishment endured in hell. This is akin to the epic, Dante’s Inferno. They will claim that an Adolf Hitler would get a harsher sentence than your average garden variety pagan. But, is the notion of a level system in hell scripturally sound? As is often the case, the Bible does a piss poor job of laying things out so one can understand what the stakes really are. There are many passages of the NT that may possibly allude to the sufferer experiencing multiple levels of torment in hell. Specifically, Jesus talks about the different cities and the ensuing fate that each city faces. Some commentaries conclude that Jesus is talking about levels of punishment in hell for the citizens of these cities.

Mt. 10:15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Is this really talking about varying degrees experienced in hell or the level of wrath that god is going to dish out to these cities on Judgment Day?

Here’s another ambiguous verse.

Luke 12:47-48:
That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does
not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the
one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be
beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much
will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much,
much more will be asked.

Some commentators try to draw the case that this is referring to a level system in hell. Is that really the situation or is this referring to what god expects out of those who experience “more light” while on earth than others, and the responsibilities of having this “god breathed” knowledge? In the end, it’s really nothing more than apologists and commentators alike jumping through hoops to attempt to satisfy the very reasonable arguments by those who can’t fathom a god sentencing a person to a never ending fiery torment. The Bible is silent on the issue so they try to give it the benefit of the doubt. Apologists and pastors alike attempt to appease the layperson. A well meaning person who inquires about one of their grandparents, and how they never really worshiped god but were really good people may get a startling reply. The Christian may try to soften the blow by suggesting that grandpa isn’t burning forever in hell in the same fashion as a Joseph Stalin. He is just absent from god for all eternity and very angry. As if this is any true consolation.

The verse referring to the servant, "who knows little will receive little punishment" doesn’t hold up when you consider what happened to Adam and Eve for a mistake based merely on blameless ignorance. Heck, this might be a verse where Jesus is reminiscing about the good ole’ days when slaves got the snot beat out of them for being naughty. Well, actually slavery was still practiced in Jesus' time and continues to be practiced in one form or another to this day. In a practical sense, we can thank the Bible for the continued practice of slavery today since the Bible never condones it.

The ugly Truth and a Place to Rant

It’s actually pretty psychotic and narcissistic if you sit and ponder the whole notion for a while; god is basically saying that you either love him or face severe unquenchable punishment forever. Isn’t that what sociopaths tell their ex-fiancés with the exception of it not lasting eternally? Although, I'm sure there are many sick and twisted minds out there that work feverishly on inventing ways to prolong agony without killing their victims. God is essentially guilty because he sits idly by while the person is tormented for all eternity. He has the power to stop it but chooses not to. He tries to get off the hook by asserting that he isn't the one in charge of Hell. But, isn't he just as guilty since he could stop it if he wanted to? I just love it when Christians try to explain that hell isn't really about burning when the list referring to fiery torment and burning is quite exhaustive. If it's not about burning then you would think god could have made that clear for his lay readers.

The Christian will tell you it’s really an exquisite act of love and that he is just respecting our decisions to go to hell. Sorry, I’m just not willing to follow a god that tells its followers to kill babies regardless of the absurd reasoning that apologists pull out of their ass (Numbers 31). I’m also not into a god who has a poorer grasp of morality than me and almost anyone else I know. We’ve come a long way from slavery and prejudices against women. We still have a long way to go on the hostilities against homosexuals. We did discover a few different genes that have a significant correlation with homosexuality way back in the early 90’s but that’s not good enough for the church. If you have the nerve to speak against homosexuality than you better not be lining up outside of Red Lobster to eat shell fish. Jesus didn’t get rid of the 600+ laws in the OT just the sacrificial system. He came to fulfill the law and was in adamant support of the law. The whole thing is a hypocrisy because Christian’s pick and choose what they want to follow in the OT and what they can discard. The OT law against homosexuality and shell fish are located in the same area but they cherry pick!

And, I don’t recall anytime in American history where we made it a habit of killing born babies simply because they were in the way, and would grow up to supposedly destroy America. Admittedly, we still have much to do in the work of preventing more abortions, but we aren’t the ones who are supposed to be the picture of absolute and perfect morality like god is.

Note: This particular post entry has been partially inspired by the great Aronra of Youtube fame.

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