Monday, May 13, 2013

Arguments Against Christianity - The Argument from Hell (Part 1)

There are many reasons why you should not be a Christian, but one of the most powerful ways to cause a believer to question their faith is to show them how terrible their supposed god is.  The vast majority of people who identify as Christian are wonderful, loving, good people – and they’ve probably never thought through exactly how terrible their god would have to be if it existed.

One of the most powerful ways to show this is through the argument from the existence of hell. This argument is powerful because it is an internal critique.  It assumes the truth claims of Christianity for the creation and final destiny of the universe, two things that really can’t be whitewashed over as easily as the particularly nasty bits of slavery and genocide in the bible.  That doesn’t mean the apologists won’t try, but this part of Christian theology is so horrible that they’re going to have a hard time of it.

So let’s start with the argument in a simple syllogism:

1.)    God is omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good

2.)    God chose to create the material universe, heaven, and hell

3.)    Hell is eternal conscious torture

4.)    There is no moral justification for the eternal conscious torture of any being

5.)    Therefore, god is not moral (Contradiction, P1)

The argument becomes even more powerful when you consider the following supporting syllogism, which assumes that god necessarily had to create hell in order to also create the material universe and heaven:

1.)    Non-existence is preferable to eternal conscious torture.

2.)    If hell was necessary for creation, then before creation god knew there are beings who will suffer eternal conscious torture.

3.)    It would be better for those beings (who will end up in hell) to have never been created.

4.)    Therefore, their creation was not for the benefit of creatures who end up in hell, but for the benefit of those who will end up in heaven, god, or both.

Think about that for a minute, and consider what this means the Christian god had to consciously decide in the grand scheme of things.

In Christian theology, before creation god is the only thing in existence.  He exists in this trinity of perfect self-fulfilling love.  At some point, decides he will create the angels and heavenly hosts, knowing Satan will arise from that, and a third of the angels will become demons.  He also decides that he will create the material universe and humans, but that humanity will fall and need to be redeemed. And he does all of this so that eventually we can get to a state where all of those who freely choose to love god will live forever in the paradise that is heaven.  Except there will also be those who reject god, and because of god’s justice, those beings must be tortured for eternity in hell.

But if god has this foreknowledge, why not just create only those beings that would freely choose to love god and go straight to heaven?  Well the Christian apologist answer here is that if only those beings were created, then not all of them would choose to love god because they’d be in different circumstances.

This means that in order to achieve the goal of the saved and the angels praising him forever in heaven, god must create the condemned and demons to be tortured forever in hell.   These are beings that would quite literally be infinitely better off if they were never created.   In fact for this group, to be created as some form of animal, like a cat or dog that can just live and then die, would be infinitely better than to be created as an angel or human. 

And this is no small group of people either.  The bible explicitly tells us in Matthew 7:13-14 that a majority of humanity will be condemned to hell, compared to the few who will be saved.  Not that this matters much in terms of the argument from hell.  It’s a lot like the moral thought experiment where one could create the perfect society if only they would perpetually torture one child.  Is it moral to torture the child in order for millions more to be happy?

Like most normal people, I’d say no; emphatically.

But let’s turn the question back to god.  He has the choice here, before creation, to go through with creation, knowing that even a portion of it will be infinitely better off never being created, or he can continue on with his perfect existence as a trinity of self-fulfilling love.  What most people don’t realize is that god had the option to not create. In fact, not creating is the most moral choice he could make if he knows that eternal conscious torture for any subset of beings is required if he is to go through with creation.

The issue is that none of us signed up for this, no one asked to be created.  On Christian theology, all humans are born sinful, already condemned by default, and if they don’t pick the right religion, willingly, then they’re consigned to eternal conscious torture.  And on top of all that, you’re born into a world where we have all the questions of whether or not god exists, let alone whether or not Christianity is the true religion.

Think of this as some kind of demented game show, except you’re drafted in without your consent.  You’ve got to pick the hosts favorite color, get it right and you win infinite wealth but if you get it wrong you’re subjected to torture.  The host never appears directly but remains hidden. He sends his kid out to tell you what his favorite color is, but then also allows in a couple thousand other people in there too, all claiming to be his kid and claiming the host has a different favorite color.  Is that any kind of game show you’d be happy to be a part of?

Seriously Christians, if you believe in hell, this is the god you worship – the god that decided torturing beings for eternity was a price worth paying so some folks could go to heaven.   Is that really something you want to worship, let alone hold up as the standard for morality?

The real good news here is that there’s no evidence that god exists, let alone that Christianity is true. And there’s plenty of evidence that hell is just a myth added in by the writers of the New Testament who were influenced by Greek and Roman views of the afterlife, because if you look at the Old Testament, or talk to some modern Rabbi’s, you’ll find that the Jews don’t really have the concept of hell that Christians do, it’s not in their holy books.

None of that however changes the fact that most Christians do believe hell is real, and as a result do believe that it’s moral to subject people to eternal conscious torture.  This is one of the main problems with Christianity it makes otherwise perfectly decent people defend morally reprehensible ideas like hell.
Now in my next post for this series, I will tackle the common objections we get to the Argument from Hell.


  1. Your logic is wrong. God has not created a Heaven, yet. Not in the sense that you place on him with your either or argument. Meaning either there is a heaven and hell or neither.
    God did not create a hell, all people will face Judgment and most will be salted with fire, but no one is going to be tortured for eternity. God can, and will, fix everyone; even Hitler will be in heaven

  2. I would not expect someone to understand a spiritual concept, that has not had a spiritual experience. The Bible is largely symbolic and as for apologists they are wrong also.
    As a matter of fact 95% of Christians have no idea what it really means to be a Christian, it is obvious that you do not either. Jesus spoke only in parables. Why? Because he did not want people to get the message. Why? Because his work was not finished, if the Jews had excepted him he would not have had to die, which is why the Great Atonement was happening.
    Christianity is the only faith where God came down to the people instead of the people having to work their way up to God. God became one of the beings that he created. Yes evolution happened, but remember that God knew the End from the beginning. Now that is wonderful.

    1. God sends Jesus to suffer for our sins so that we don’t have to go to Hell for our sins. Why go through the trouble? He’s omnipotent. He sent Jesus to die for no reason. He could just change his own rules so that we could be forgiven for our sins if we are good people. But no, he chooses to do this by killing his Son, and you can only take advantage of this ultimate Groupon if you pay him homage. This is why I assert that he is a selfish, jealous, prick. Or, to quote Richard Dawkins, “the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” God set up the system of judgement in the first place. So yes, it’s great that we can be redeemed for our sins, but God has to have his son killed for that? He set up the system in the first place. Can’t he just make it a different system? Going completely off of scriptural evidence: God loves us all. He created us to worship him. He judges us when we die. The system he set up makes it so if you do bad things you are punished after you die. He created a martyr to take all of the punishment for all of us, so we could be forgiven by the system he set up. He created us to worship him. He doesn’t forgive and his martyr doesn’t work if you don’t worship him. You can only still be punished if you don’t worship him. So we basically live to worship him so we can be rewarded with his company to worship him for eternity in happiness with all of the other people who have died before us. Sounds like a crap deal to me. Send me to Hell I’m fighting this fascist. If sin is a byproduct of free will, and there is no sin in heaven, how can there be free will in heaven? There’s not, we just mindlessly worship God for eternity instead of feeling excruciating pain for eternity. Both suck but at least with pain I retain a sense of humanity. Screw God, it’s a raw deal he set up to play with our existence. He created us with no other intention than feeding the hearth of his ego. We’re like playthings to him. We have to worship him the same way a scrawny kid has to give the big bully his lunch money. Personally, I hope Pascal is right and I am going to Hell. Because I’ll be happier retaining my consciousness than losing all sense of self identity being forced to do whatever the Big Man says for the rest of eternity. Why is that a good thing? Yeah, he redeems us from the impossibly high moral standards he set up! You said it yourself, its impossible to live without sin unless you’re Jesus (who had the advantage of being God himself and having the ability to change the rules (which he did) so you never have to worry about sinning. By old testament standards Jesus was a sinner).

    2. So anyway you set these standards impossibly high then create beings that will never by physically able to live up to them and so you kill yourself as your son to forgive them for existing the way you made them, then punish them if they don’t worship you which is the only reason you ever created them. But you love them. Yeah, you love them the same way a king loves his palm-leaf fanning boy. That boy doesn’t get special treatment, he gets paid in not suffering on the streets to fan the king. We’re getting paid to worship with the ability to not die and burn forever. That’s blackmail. God created us to worship him then made it so we had to sin then made it so if we don’t worship him OR if we sin we go to hell now it doesn’t matter anymore if you sin it’s all about if you believe in him or not. I know I’m not God but it sounds extremely convoluted. Why have life in the first place? Why not just keep everyone’s souls and make them eternally worship you? Because earth amuses you? Ok, so you are going to do all of this work and then punish people for experiencing the creation you plop them in with no evidence of your existence, and still require them to worship what they don’t even know is there? And you punish them for acting on the doubts you intentionally give them (like the harden of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus)? What a prick. I’ll take one eternity of torment please.

  3. Not sure if you know, but Evan Minton of Cerebral Faith responded to this. I've critiqued his critique, but thought you might like a chance to answer him as well.