Friday, December 16, 2011

Why Hitchens Cannot Be Burning In Hell Right Now

EVILgelical Christians despised Christopher Hitchens for debunking their nonsensical beliefs, and I'm sure that many of them are gleefully celebrating his death, like the no-class, hate-filled scum that they are.  As John Loftus points out, they will certainly smugly conclude that "Hitchens is burning in hell" right now.  Here is why they are wrong (aside from the fact that Hell doesn't exist and has little or no biblical basis).

To begin with, if we even provisionally take "hell" seriously, it is a torture chamber devised by a mind immensely more fiendish than Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gadhafi combined.  At least Saddam could only torture people for a finite amount of time.  He had to take it easy to make sure that he didn't kill his victims right away, or he would be unable to prolong their agony.  Blasphemous EVILgelical Christians claim that God is even more wicked and depraved than people like Saddam Hussein could ever be, because he uses magical powers to keep his victims alive indefinitely, so that he can torture them without end, not to teach them any kind of reformative lesson mind you, but merely as revenge for their refusal to comply with his demands.

Of course, it's not clear how this system can work.  Torture is physical pain inflicted upon a person's physical body.  There is also mental anguish, but these are impulses within the physical brain.  When the brain dies it can no longer register any pain or anguish.  When the body dies its nerves no longer send pain impulses to the brain.  We only have one body and it doesn't disappear out of the coffin and get magically teleported to hell, where ever that is.  It stays in the ground and rots, or is burnt up in cremation after the brain has already died.  So how is God inflicting physical suffering upon it? 

To accomplish this, religious people propose various dubious "solutions".  One is that God physically restores even a cremated body, atom by atom, just for the purpose of torturing it and has to continually rebuild it just so he can burn it again endlessly in his Lake of Fire.  That seems to be a lot of work, but it would also be a waste of God's time, because God would only be torturing a clone of me, not the "me" that existed before I died the first time.  

This is a problem that philosophers have long discussed in guises such as the Ship of Achilles.  To slightly reframe, if someone makes a copy of me and then tortures that copy, it's not clear how that could have any of effect upon the original me.  It would be like a future scientist finding a way to rebuild Napoleon from the DNA level, only so that he could then kill him again.  This would have no bearing on the original Napoleon, who lived his life and died long ago.  

To get around this problem, some religious types propose that there is a special, non-physical, non-detectable entity called a "spirit" or a "soul" that exists independent of the body.  They say that it is only this spirit that God sends to hell.  However, a non-physical entity cannot be burned by physical fire.  It's not clear how a non-physical entity could experience any kind of physical pain.  It might experience psychological anguish, but then again, it might be perfectly happy no longer having a body.  That would be up to the individual personality of this hypothetical "spirit".

So again, it's not clear how God would torture such a being.  Perhaps some "spirits" would regret not being on God's good side, but it's not clear how a spirit could enjoy the physical pleasures of heaven any more than it could suffer the physical tortures of hell.  God might deny a spirit access to his mental capabilities, but not everyone wants to "know the mind of God", if that is even possible.  However, before we worry about any of that, we first need to know that it is even possible for a non-physical "soul" or "spirit" to exist and so far none of the evidence seems very good.  All we have is a few "ghost hunting" plumbers running around dropping their cameras and getting scared of the dark.  

On top of that, hell is the inherently ridiculous, unjust and morally repulsive notion that imperfect beings might be infinitely tortured for finite and limited offenses.  If only God is perfect then surely he does not expect anyone other than himself to be capable of perfection.  The notion that he would punish people for being imperfect by his own design is the height of absurdity.  It would be like torturing a six-month-old baby to death for not knowing calculus despite the fact that nobody would reasonably expect a baby to know calculus. How much more absurd would it be to continue torturing that baby forever for something that it simply cannot change?  In a like way, some people are simply incapable of believing in Jesus.  It's not like many of us haven't tried.  It's simply that the claims made about Jesus are idiotic and the "evidence" used for calling him the messiah is laughable.  It is not our fault that the evidence is so bad and so clearly suggests that we should not believe a word of it.  People like Hitchens seriously studied the claims of religions like Christianity and simply found them to be lacking. 

So, even if God could punish Hitchen's "soul" or a copy of his atoms for failing to believe some particular dogma, which varies from religion to religion, it's not clear why any moral being would want to engage in such an activity.  That's why I know that Hitchens is not burning in hell using intellect rather than the fear and ignorance of faith.  

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