A woman asked me whether Hell and God’s harshness caused me to doubt Christianity

A long journey through the night
A long journey through the night

I was having a chat on Friday with a brilliant agnostic young lady who knew as much about Christian apologetics as I did. It was very strange because she was only in her mid-20s, but she was talking about the Cambrian explosion, the resurrection scholarship of Dale Allison and Bart Ehrman, and so on. She had seen a lot of debates, and even knew about intelligent design. Anyway, she asked me two questions that I wanted to write about. The first was whether I thought that Hell was unfair, especially because it’s determined by having correct beliefs, and the second was whether I thought that God was kind or harsh.

Regarding, I do hold to a traditional view of Hell being eternal separation from God. I don’t think that God will be actively torturing people in Hell. I’m not sure if the flames are literal or figurative. But I do know that the severity of the punishment will be proportional to the amount of sinning, in the same way that the rewards in Heaven will be proportional to good actions here on Earth. The duration is the same, but the rewards and punishments fit our actions.

I don’t have a problem with Hell because I’ve spent most of my life trying to talk to people about spiritual things. Although this young lady was very open-minded and honest and spiritual, more than most people in the church, even, I don’t think that this is normal for non-Christians. Growing up around Muslims and Hindus, and having spoken to Jews, I know that there just isn’t much curiosity about God and Jesus in these other religions. Believe me, I’ve tried to discuss spiritual things with people of all different religions, and the idea that religious beliefs should be bounded by logic and evidence is almost nowhere to be found. It’s not even to be found among most Christians, but at least we have scholars who you can find if you dig hard enough.

So, when people ask me about Hell, the first thing that comes into my mind is my experiences trying to get non-Christians to line up their beliefs about God and Jesus with logic and evidence. Although it may seem harsh to shut the door on people who don’t want to put in the work, it doesn’t seem harsh to me. I’ve had it with people who make everything except an investigation into God’s existence a priority. I have no patience for people who think they are very intelligent in their thoughts about God, but then when they get into a discussion, it is obvious they haven’t put in any effort.

Do you know what they do put a lot of effort into, though? Entertainment, fun and thrills. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to give books or debates to culturally Jewish atheists and Muslim-raised atheists and Hindus (because of family and community) in my previous jobs, and got no interest in truth whatsoever. They were too busy watching the Comedy Channel Democrats, and trying to get their kids into Ivy league schools, etc. to care about God or Jesus. And God is not going to force them into eternal life with him, they don’t want it, and they’re not going to get it. It’s important to note that to not prioritize God is a choice. We in the West all have leisure time, and to be ignorant about God after 40 years of leisure time when you have put the time in elsewhere is unacceptable. God expects us to be curious about him and to do our due diligence in investigating him using as much intellect and effort as we put into our educations, careers, marriages, etc.

Regarding her other question about whether I think God is kind or harsh, I just decided to tell her that I didn’t think that God was the kind of God who had to be nice to me so that I would like him. I explained to her that I had wanted marriage from an early age, and had prepared very hard for it, but that it had never happened. I’m not sure that God is able to cause women to freely desire the things I did to prepare for marriage, like chastity, STEM degrees, gap-less resume and savings. I’m not the smartest person in the world, and I did not have family or friends helping me to get ahead most of the time. It was very hard to get ready for marriage. But I realized very late in life that young, unmarried women tend to be interested in a man’s appearance and in having fun – not marriage-ready preparation. They do not want a man who is serious about marriage and children until their mid-30s, which is far too old for my marriage plan to work. So, there’s no point in me marrying now. So does this lack of marriage make me think that God is unkind? Not at all.

I do think that God has been kind to me with respect to health, education, career and finances. Also, I can understand from the Bible (2 Tim 2:3-4) why God might need an unmarried soldier to work for him. And this doesn’t bother me, because I’ve read the Bible, and I didn’t get the impression from it that God was my cosmic butler. Although many Western Christians think that God’s sole purpose is to make them happy, there is no way to actually get that meaning out of the text. God’s own Son has to suffer in order to love his Father self-sacrificially. So it’s clear that God is not “kind” to those who love him in the sense that most people would like him to be. In fact, I would believe in God and serve him, even if he were “harsher” with me than he is now.

So, why would I want to be a Christian, rather than just accept the scientific arguments for theism, and then just say that the New Testament is just not good enough historical evidence to warrant moving from theism to Christianity? Well, I did explain to her the minimal facts argument, and the historical criteria used to obtain them. And I also said that we all need to have some sort of historical explanation for the early belief in Jesus being God stepping into history, and for his rising from the dead.

But I think the real reason why I am a Christian, beyond the evidence, is just this daily experience of dealing with the lack of curiosity about God and Jesus (and sometimes outright self-delusion) that I see in so many people. I see it in uneducated people, unintelligent people, educated people, intelligent people. The willful ignorance about facts that matter, like the origin of the universe, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, etc. It’s not even opposition to Christian specifics, it’s opposition to plain, well-supported scientific facts. I’ve just seen this in action so much with atheists and people of other religions that I have lost all sympathy for non-Christians with respect to what God decides to do with them.

It’s not that I am concerned by their immorality, or their hedonism, primarily. It’s that I am concerned with their lack of interest in puzzling out the big questions of life in a truth-centered way. The only people I really feel comfortable with are Christians who have been serious about proportioning belief to evidence, denying themselves fun and thrills if they have to, and putting their money and time into learning how to defend God’s honor when it’s called into question. A task that simply gets you nothing good from anyone in this world. I find it amazing that there are any of us, but that’s where I want to be – in a room with people like that who put God’s goals above their own desires and needs.

All of my close male friends are either virgins or married as virgins, and they’re all into apologetics. If you understood what it means to be in a room with people who have carefully chosen to live their lives in a quiet, humble way that’s respectful to God and self-sacrificial, then you would understand why there is no substitute for Christianity. In my case, I simply do not want God to lump me in with the people I talk to who have no curiosity about truth in religion. I am not going to be like them, grabbing for happiness, while deliberately shutting their eyes to anything that might cause them to have to take God seriously in a self-sacrificial, two-way relationship. I have more sympathy for God and his reputation and honor than I do for the majority of people who I have seen deliberately keeping him at arm’s length. They want the blessings he provides, but while avoiding the demands of a relationship with him. I’m just not going to be one of them, and I don’t care what people think.

16 thoughts on “A woman asked me whether Hell and God’s harshness caused me to doubt Christianity”

  1. If you want to know how Kind God is, consider the fact that He was under no obligation to create (much less save) you in the first place. He could have created someone MUCH better than you in your place, couldn’t He have? But, He didn’t. Chew on that for awhile, and the Kindness of God becomes rather infinite.

    As for Hell’s existence, just stand out in front of an abortion mill for a few hours, and ask yourself if you could worship a God that has no Eternal Quarantine for the depraved creatures you see, lest they repent. Ask yourself if Heaven would still be Heaven if unrepentant abortionists, deathscorts, and increasingly liberals in general, were forced into your, and God’s, Eternal presence. Ask yourself if such creatures would be happy to spend Eternity with pro-lifers and the God we worship. Heaven would be Hell for them, the unsaved – and for us, in their current state and ours.

    That should be enough, but my more formal proof for the existence of Hell:

    1. Every natural innate human desire has a corresponding satisfying object in reality. (e.g., thirst has the object of water, hunger has the object of food, love has the object of persons and dogs, knowledge has the object of reality perceived through our five senses plus the enormous complexity-resolving hardware and software of our brain, etc) (observation and human experience)

    2. Humans possess a natural innate desire for objective moral justice to be satisfied. (the existence of laws, police forces, and prison; also, human psychology; in fact, this desire is so strong that even many atheists will utter the phrase “Go to Hell”)

    3. Therefore, objective moral justice exists. (1,2 Modus Ponens)

    4. If objective moral justice exists, then it exists for everyone – otherwise, it would not be objective, moral, or justice. (definition of objective moral justice)

    5. Therefore, objective moral justice exists for everyone. (4,3 Modus Ponens)

    6. If objective moral justice exists for everyone, then it must exist in this life or a potential afterlife for everyone. (complete disjunction on potential human existence)

    7. Therefore, objective moral justice must exist in this life or an afterlife for everyone. (6,5 Modus Ponens)

    8. For some persons, objective moral justice is not satisfied in this lifetime. (e.g., Hitler, Stalin, Mao, unrepentant abortion “doctors,” abortuary deathscorts, etc) (observation regarding heinous atrocities whose perpetrators never received OMJ in this life)

    9. Therefore, for some persons, objective moral justice is satisfied in an afterlife. (7,8 simple cancellation)

    10. Therefore, objective moral justice exists in an afterlife, i.e., Hell exists. (existential generalization)

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  2. As for the existence of Hell, one thing that virtually everyone seems to overlook about it is that a person’s subjective thoughts or feelings about Hell have no bearing on whether or not it exists. If Christianity is an objectively accurate description of the universe and the God of the Bible exists then Hell exists. Nothing anyone can do about it.
    People tend to avoid confronting issues that might make them rethink their life choices and outlook. For example: some people refuse to keep a firearm in the house (assuming your country allows you to) because they don’t want to confront a criminal breaking into their home even though it would happen regardless. Buying the gun and learning how to use it would mean confronting the fact that they’re not safe in their own home. Likewise with Christianity or any other religion: checking their closely held beliefs against the facts brings up the possibility that they might be wrong so they avoid any real attempts at doing so. You can see a version of this with the many so-called ‘skeptic’ channels on YouTube. They claim to be ‘skeptics’ (which just means doubt) but really all they’re doing is looking for easily debunk-able low hanging fruit that they verbally attack to fuel their blatantly obvious confirmation-bias.

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  3. I view how harsh this world seems, along with hell in the afterlife differently now then before.
    I consider that we only know of the creation of two highly intelligent types by God. Angels and humans. Angels only knew perfection, yet Satan and one third chose to rebel and try to overthrow God and there was no way to turn them back to God.
    Humans were in and eden state with a fall and a cursed world. Generations live having a veiled view of God a short life with moderate pain and the chance to accept God and experience an eternity serving God. I assume anyone seeing this life for a short time would never even think of trying to rebel against God.
    I tend to see it as yes there is the book of life and God let’s people on that he chose. But at the same time I don’t believe those that are condemned to hell would be willing to submit themselves to a life of service to God.
    Yes heaven will be greater than we imagine but it won’t be a selfish life of our own pleasure we will have some sense of serving God and others as he sees fit

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  4. I think a lot of people are like that, even to other people, much less God for that matter. Many people are selfish and want whatever they want in instant gratification with no thought to reciprocate or think of how they inconvenience others. They only will attach themselves to others to get what they want, then will think nothing of disposing you when you can no longer suit their purpose. I think this plays into why there are so many broken homes, divorces, family animosities and pettiness in the world. Think of how many view their own children like pets, who ought to cater to them and be quiet and out of the way, and be “cute” on command. Any real feelings of discontent or true emotional suffering is met with threats and punishment, than patience, empathy and understanding to solve the issues underlying the problem behaviors, not just the behavior on the surface. Many child therapists are little more than dog trainers, who train the children to think in line with what is convenient for the parents, and suppress their own needs and emotions in order to be a “good” kid, and are brought there not for their own well being to get better like adults see therapists to do, but because the behaviors simply got bad enough to inconvenience the parents. Or think about how many abandon their parents in old age or spouses when they no longer can meet the wants of the people around them and are cast off like garbage. It’s sad, but true many want what they want, but won’t lift a finger to reciprocate in kind or acknowledge how they inconvenience others and actually care.
    https://aladyofreason.wordpress.com/

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    1. It’s funny that you mention people treating their children like pets, because so often what I see is the exact opposite (and also abhorrent) where people treat their pets like children, complete with creepily calling themselves “mom” or “dad” for a dog. Who needs the inconvenience (and pure wonder and joy) of real human children when you can pretend your corgi is your reason for living?

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      1. It is odd. I think it’s like people want to anthropomorphize and project themselves onto animals, like “mini-me’s”. I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s “abhorrent”, but it’s unrealistic and some people can construe it as insulting and belittling to actual human children! What gets my goat is some people mourn their pet not as a beloved pet, but as a child, and it seems incredibility insulting to those who have actually lost children.

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        1. My use of the word abhorrent is more in the vein of describing a culture that trivializes the wanton slaughter of our own children in the womb, yet holds the non-sapient on a pedestal. To truly believe that a pet is a suitable and equivalent alternative to a human being and that the latter are expendable is abhorrent. I once saw it described on a blog as a society in which people would rather “have a dog and an abortion than raise a child”.

          I certainly don’t believe that all people that participate in the “pets as children” zeitgeist also don’t love children or support abortion. It seems to me however that for those who do, what alternative is there to the genuine love for and from a child than a pet trained by your hand to love you?

          But as you stated, children are increasingly seen as a nuisance and not a source of incredible joy. Gotta have a parent-child relationship “my way” that supports MY desires!

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          1. What also gets my goat is why it is ethical to let pets go to a merciful death when mortally ill or wounded yet a person must suffer through it so others won’t feel uncomfortable at a human deciding to end a life of suffering no one would ever think moral to allow an animal to go through. 😦

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        2. Yes, I am sort of guilty of this, but my kids are all grown and all.
          There is good secular evidence that pets can help heal us and better age us – they are even using them in hospitals more these days. Dogs can sometimes detect cancer. I think our understanding of our pets, and their relationship to us humans, is probably very immature, and yet quite astonishing, just on the secular view alone.
          And on the Christian view, I think that our pets’ love for us can be a partial model for how we should love God. No, we are not God’s pets, but there is SOMETHING of a relationship between humans and pets, although you are 100% correct in our strong tendency to over-anthropormorphize it. It is also pretty clear that God has a high view of his non-human creatures too (in the Bible).

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          1. Don’t mistake me, I come from a family with a deep respect for animals, and treated our cat with more love and pampering than many humans get. But we also must realize they are not attached to us as we can be to them. I feel we have an ethical obligation to are for any animal in our care to the best of our ability, and to give it love and affection, but it will never take the place of a human child. Some parents get touchy when pet owners compare owning a pet to child rearing and especially when a child is lost they don’t like it being compared to a pet’s death. Caring for an animal who will stay the same for life is not in the same ballpark of caring for someone who must be taught to be a fully functional, multidimensional human being who will have hopes, dreams, achievements and aspirations in their life.

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  5. Thanks for sharing. I don’t see it as God is kind or unkind. Sometimes I think that God cannot allow unrepentant souls into Heaven because it would endanger the pure balance of Heaven, if that makes sense.
    For many years I have lived with the certainty that I am going to Hell. It makes me sad but not angry or bitter. In fact I praise God that there will be people going to heaven and that we’re not all going to Hell.

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  6. “They were too busy watching the Comedy Channel Democrats, and trying to get their kids into Ivy league schools, etc. to care about God or Jesus. And God is not going to force them into eternal life with him, they don’t want it, and they’re not going to get it. It’s important to note that to not prioritize God is a choice.”

    Apologetics, truth, facts, logic, sound reasoning, and fervent prayer have often failed against indifference, apathy, and self-centeredness.

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  7. Fantastic, wonderful personal post of your experiences and insights! One of the very best ever on this terrific blog. Thanks for writing it up, WK!!

    Liked by 1 person

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