The very idea of Hell is profoundly immoral
by: John Tyrrell
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Our concept of Hell is largely shaped by Christian teachings, but other religions such as Islam have also bought into it. It involves torment for eternity, not just for wrongdoing, whether major or trivial, but also for simply not believing in the right religion, or even for not buying into the right set of beliefs in the right religion.
Let us do a little thought experiment.
We generally regard Hitler as the epitome of evil. So let us sentence him to Hell for his misdeeds. And let us attribute every death in WWII to him personally. It is estimated over 60 million people died. We'll add to that number as he was responsible for quite a few deaths prior to the official start of war also. Let us attribute 70 million deaths to him.
What is a fair punishment? After all he's already dead. We can't execute him.
Right now the maximum possible human lifespan is estimated to be 120 years. Adopting a punitive mindset, it seems reasonable to sentence him to one full lifespan of torments in Hell for each person whose death he is responsible for.
That works out to 8.75 billion years of excruciating torture for Hitler. Nearly twice as long as planet Earth has existed, and well over half the time the universe has existed. I tend to think that might be more than sufficient punishment. But as far as those that believe in Hell are concerned, his sentence is just beginning. He still has an entire eternity to go.
Perhaps you might disagree with me and think an eternity of punishment might be reasonable for Hitler. After all, we view him as a very bad man.
But remember, it is exactly the same for most of the 70 million victims we are holding him accountable for. Their punishment also is only just beginning after that 8.75 billion years. Their misdeeds are far less -- far, far less. Most of them are in Hell simply for being born into the wrong religion, or even the wrong denomination. A reasonable person cannot possibly see this punishment as just.
Now suppose in last fraction of a second of his life -- in the millisecond after Hitler pulled the trigger to kill himself and before the bullet destroys his brain -- he recognized he had done great wrongs, confessed his sins including his suicide, sincerely repented, accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour... whatever formula it takes, but somehow the correct thought managed to pass through his dying brain. The gates of Heaven open wide, and the newly forgiven Adolph Hitler gets welcomed with a blast of trumpets.
Meanwhile, his victims still suffer eternal torment. They are all still damned to suffer torture for eternity with no hope for reprieve.
It is all profoundly immoral. And so is any religion which preaches such a Hell.
The above takes to an extreme one of Ingersoll's examples. He compares the afterlife promised for a murderer who became a Christian while waiting for execution with the hellish fate of his non-believing victim - his wife. The murderer's one regret is that his wife will be unable to join him in heaven.
For further reading:
For another critique of Hell as "A bad idea that won't go away" and which does not use Hitler to make its point, see Why I Reject Hell and Why You Should, Too by Neil Carter.
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