Atheists and Hell

Modern theologiand tend not to believe in a literal lake of fire burning condemned sould for eternity, rather, Hell is a state of knowing you are forever cut off from God.

Since Atheists already live quite comfortable lives devoid of a deity, how bad can Hell be?

(little editing there :wink: )

We will all find out when our time comes. :eek:

More seriously, I know that being freed from the threat of damnation is something very positive that some of my atheist friends, who were formerly members of various Christian churches, have taken from their “conversions”, for want of a better word; I can only approve of and encourage this if it makes people more spiritually content. Of course, I’m still prepared to make the case for Christianity if asked. :slight_smile:

Good question. I assumed those theists who believe Hell is being cut off from God also assume that atheists on Earth still receive some kind of benefit from God, and that is what is lost. This is pure speculation on my part, and would like to hear what actual theists think.

Speaking as an atheist, I’m able to live quite a comfortable life devoid of a deity because I’m convinced that there isn’t one. If, come judgement day, it turns out I was wrong, I can imagine feeling pretty despondent over being kept out of heaven. There’s no doubt in my mind that hell, even the more sophisticated conception of hell held by modern theologians, would still suck, even for an atheist.

But what would change? That is, in life, an atheist is already separated from $DEITY, and is (assumedly) pretty comfortable. Once dead, the only change is that now the atheist knows that, yes indeed, there is a heaven and they’re not allowed in. Is it the mere knowledge of denial that sucks so bad?

Not everybody wants anything to do with God; for someone like me, seperation from God ( assuming he exists ) is vastly preferable. That’s not a very hellish Hell.

What about all the religious people who don’t believe in a singular god ? They’d probably prefer staying away from him and hanging out with their own gods if they exist as well.

There’s an old short story by Isaac Asimov called “The Secret Sense”. It’s 65 years old, so I’m not spoilering it. In the story, there are Martians, who can’t hear or see as well as humans, but have the ability to sense electromagnetic fields, which people can’t do. The main characters in the story are this human and this Martian, and, anyway, the human blackmails the Martian into performing this proceedure that will temporarily give the human the ability to sense electromagnetic fields, then the Martian plays a Martian musical instrument that manipulates those fields, that the human all of a sudden can sense. Then, since the modification is temporary, it wears off, and the Martian tells the human:

It might be like that.

I think that might be part of it, but only a small part. The thought of missing out on eternal happiness because I didn’t read the right books or didn’t consider certain events from the correct perspective would hurt more. I picture hell, that is, the modern, incombustible version of hell championed by many contemporary theologians, as akin to an eternity of solitary confinement. There would be no light, no heat, not even the simplest of accoutrements. It would just be you, your demons, and an infinite amount of time in which to wrestle with them.

A week in those conditions would be bad enough. An eternity of it, with the knowledge that not only is the party to end all parties is taking place right next door but you could’ve been invited if you’d lived a slightly different life, would be unspeakably painful.

Still, the entire concept of hell is nonsensical anyway. God, being omniscient, would know which people would end up there before they were even born. Only an unimaginably sadistic deity would churn out souls purely for the purpose of filling up space in hell.

If there is an Eternal Damnation, without eventual reconciliation with God or eventually annihilation of the unreconciled soul, I don’t think it’s merely Seperation from God, but also Seperation for all the goodness of existence which has its roots in God. God allows in this life various joys to be experienced by those who disbelieve/distrust Him. Those joys will be withdrawn from Eternity.

An alternate view is that Hell is Eternal Alienation from God while being in His unescapable Presence of Love & Justice. Revelation 14:11-12 suggests that the “tormenting fire and Divine sulfer” are the Presence of Christ and the Angels.

In that case- one poster will be most displeased-

Der Trihs: "Not everybody wants anything to do with God; for someone like me, seperation from God ( assuming he exists ) is vastly preferable. That’s not a very hellish Hell.

What about all the religious people who don’t believe in a singular god ? They’d probably prefer staying away from him and hanging out with their own gods if they exist as well. "

If I died and then found out there’s a heaven, i’m not entirely sure what i’d feel. If I got in, I assume that the way I live and look at things is acceptable, and thus I imagine i’d be happy there. If I didn’t…well, I guess it depends, really. I mean, if all that happens is I don’t get resurrected, then i’m not going to be feeling much at all - i’ll be dead.

So, yes…it’s just the Sisyphean unattainable goal, an eternal “grass is greener” complex.

Humans (myself included) are so odd.

And who is this one poster?

As a diehard atheist, I think I’d be fairly pissed off if I died and anything happened. I think that I’d be pissed off if I went to ‘heaven’: it would be an eternity of having my nose rubbed in my (apparent) mistakes. I think it would be like all those people who never hesitate to proselytize to those who don’t believe in their god: “Oh, it’s okay, you’ll find Jesus in your heart, and you’ll be saved, all will be forgiven…” Personally I find that immensely demeaning.

Growing up Jewish, I never heard about hell, and I was never threatened with it, so becoming an atheist is no different in this respect.

And why do we disbelieve? Might it be because of the lack of evidence? A lack which is the responsibility of God? And don’t tell me about God not wanting to give evidence in support of faith - if you remember god punished Moses for making an alternate cause of the water from the rock possible (and thus increasing the faith of Israel.) So, a God who punishes humans who use their god-given brains to doubt, following the evidence, is a monster. That is why some of us consider the version of Christianity that believes this a sick religion. The god I used to believe in would do none of this, which is why I find the claim that the NT god is so loving as compared to the old so disgusting.

So Jesus is a sadist. Gotya.

So if you’ve made a mistake, you don’t want to know about it? Or are you saying that you would prefer not to go to heaven if it turns out that there is an afterlife? Sorry, I’m just finding your POV a little hard to wrap my mind around (I’m a theist, but I can understand the atheist position at least).

Maybe I should clarify a little too, just in case. I’m thinking of this kind of like a math problem. Say I never learning long division correctly, and am going through life without knowing how to do that thing. I would like someone to come along and correct me, so that I can do long division right and thus stop being wrong. (Luckily, someone did around the end of fifth grade, thus improving my math life immensely.)

In your scenario, I think you’re saying that if you’ve got this part of life wrong, you don’t want to know. This confuses me. I know that I can’t possibly have everything right in my life, because I’m really good at being wrong at things, and so I am usually in need of improving my understanding about something or other. If I’m wrong about something, including religion, I’m going to need to figure that out and correct it. Otherwise I’m just heading the wrong direction, pointlessly.

I guess I don’t understand why it is so important to be right about this that you would not want to figure out the correct version of reality, if yours is not already correct (as in your hypothetical scenario).

My personal hell will be the near-certainty that the afterlife I find myself in is merely a Matrixesque technology-indistinguishable-from-magic, but not being able to find the off-switch.

If you meet me in hell or heaven, I’ll be the one continually examining wall panels and killing myself a la Groundhog Day, until such behaviour convinces the advanced technologists put me out of my frustrated misery.

Wow, Voyager- baggage much?

Simple honest unbelief probably won’t get one into Eternal Hell- probably just a good talking too by God while the now-converted unbeliever goes :smack:

Evidences for God to me-

The existence of existence;

the survival & thriving of your own people after millenia of attempts to destroy you all (including attempts by some who profess the same faith I do) ;

the survival & thriving of the faith I profess after two millenial of attempts to destroy it.

Rev 14:11-12
No, Jesus is not a sadist- but those who are irrevocably set in their rebellion against Him would find His Inescapable Presence to be constantly irritating. Btw, that Revelation passage really only applies to Beast-worshippers- those who unite themselves to a idolatrous God-hating believer-persecuting system.
Even if Jesus isn’t all I consider him to be, those same people would regard the inescapable Presence of the God of Israel to be just as horrible. Still, it’s possible that God/Jesus may mercifully allow such people to burn out of existence anyway.

The one I quoted in the part following your snip.

Note, btw, that while I don’t completely accept your faith’s answer to the Hell Problem, I don’t completely dismiss it either. And I think that CTR had really hit on something in his teaching on the Restitution/Restoration.