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Old 08-11-2001, 04:10 PM   #1
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Arrow Eternal punishment

This was received by e-mail from a Secular Web visitor who asked me to post it here.

--Don--

----------- Begin forwarded material -----------

Dear infidel,

I agree with your objective of debunking Jesus (within the limits of morality, of course). I believe the worst possible from among all wrong ideas in circulation among humankind, in past, present and future, is the belief that punishment after death will have an eternal character.

Note: I do not argue with the belief that there will be some punishment after death, e.g. in the form of reincarnation, or as in the Egyptian Book of the Dead (being devoured by a terrible monster, but only once, not eternally). Me troubles specifically the belief that the punishment will be eternal. This flies in the face of all notions of proportionality between transgression and punishment, of mercy in a divine being, and of human dignity even of people who make very wrong decisions in their life. Only persons with
a fully distorted sense of justice can accept it. According to John Milton (as quoted by Max Weber) a Supreme Being meting out such punishment should be called Satan rather than God.

As regards the history of the idea, I think it was the prophet Zarathushtra who brought it into circulation, in connection with his belief in a last judgment. The two persons who did most to propagate the monstrous idea were the two great prophets of monotheism, Jesus and Mohammed.

Characteristic is the fragment in Luke 16, on the rich men and the poor Lazarus, where after his death the rich man quickly starts to learn moral lessons (aided by the burning hell fire). He asks Lazarus to warn his family members, which is ethical, but which is bluntly refused as they have Moses and the prophets -which books contain many mistakes, and hardly mention hellfire and the eternal character of punishment at all. (Only in Is. 66 there is mention of fire and eternal shame). The rich man is not given any relief from his torments.

I think the psychological make-up of people believing in eternal punishment (defended by Augstine in the City of God and Calvin in the Institution) should be studied in close comparison with sadism, which also requires one to close oneself for the suffering of fellow human beings. In fact, monotheism, declaring the whole world to be good, in spite of the immense amount of human and animal suffering in past, present and no doubt the future (cannibalism, human sacrifice, torture, genocide, crime, sickness, starvation etc.), may be a sort of sublimated sadism. Sadistic traits in Jesus' character should be closely studied; in many ways he is similar to Mohammed.

It worries me that otherwise thorough critics of Christianity like Karlheinz Deschner ("Abermals kraehte der Hahn") ignore this most criminal aspect of Christianity.

Best regards,

Maarten de Zeeuw
Rotterdam, The Netherlands

----------- End forwarded material -----------
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Old 08-13-2001, 06:39 AM   #2
Ron Garrett
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We would hardly expect a god who condemns all humanity for the sin of Adam and orders infants murdered to think in terms of proportional punishment.

Apparently in suffering for the sins of the whole world, Jesus was able to take the punishment for the multitudinous sins of millions of people in a few hours on a stake, but any of those he supposedly suffered for, instead of spending a few hours hanging, get to roast for eternity for evne the smallest individual sin. Sure. That makes sense.
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Old 08-13-2001, 07:15 AM   #3
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But the story of Lazarus is a parable and not supposed to be taken literally. I appreciate many Christians do, but I find it interesting so many atheists are also keen to take the most harsh meaning possible.

Jesus says very little about eternal punishment and almost nothing outside his parables. Nor does the rest of the bible as even in Revelation the pit of fire is described as 'death'. And as fire consumes and destroys the meaning of the metaphor must be destruction and not some sort of eternal, very hot existance.

Like many arguments, this one is best left to both the Christians and atheists for whom subtle thought comes as something of an effort.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 08-13-2001, 10:51 AM   #4
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Bede:

Perhaps you overlooked the following Biblical passages.

[Note: All quotations are from the NIV. Emphasis added in all cases.]

From Matthew 25:
Quote:
41 Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels...
46 Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
From Mark 9:
Quote:
43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.
45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell.
47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,
48 where " `their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.' “
(Note: the quotation at the end is from Isaiah 66:24.)

From Luke 16:
Quote:
22 ... The rich man also died and was buried.
23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
24 So he called to him, `Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
25 "But Abraham replied, `Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony...
27 "He answered, `Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house,
28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
29 "Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
30 " `No, father Abraham,' he said, `but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
31 "He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "
From Jude:
Quote:
7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.
From Revelations 14:
Quote:
9 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image ...
10 he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.
11 And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name."
12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.
From Revelations 20:
Quote:
10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Perhaps those who believe that the Bible teaches that the wicked suffer eternal punishment are not so much incapable of subtle thought as capable of reading the Bible and understanding its clear meaning.

You point out that the story in Luke 16 is “not supposed to be taken literally” because it’s a parable. Granted, we are not expected to believe that this particular rich man said these specific things to Abraham while he was in Hell. But Jesus’ parables are notable for being realistic; they relate things that could have happened. What reason is there to think that this one parable relates something that could not possibly, in the very nature of things, have happened? Why would Jesus deliberately lead His followers to believe that Hell is a place where the wicked suffer torment and agony for eternity if it weren’t so? And if those who are not saved don’t suffer torment and agony in Hell, what is the point of this parable? If this story cannot be interpreted in the obvious, straightforward way, maybe the rest of the Bible is also so convoluted that it cannot be understood by mere mortals. In that case, what’s the point of reading or studying it at all?

Indeed, I have read expert commentaries on all of the passages quoted above, and nearly all of these experts interpreted them in the obvious way, as meaning that the wicked suffer eternal punishment in Hell. Apparently even experts (other than you, of course) are unable to figure out what the Bible really says about some of the simplest, most basic questions. Maybe we should just ignore the Bible and believe whatever it pleases us to believe. Oh, wait a minute! Is it possible that this is what some Christians are actually doing?

If these passages do not mean what they appear to mean (and what nearly all of those who read them interpret them as meaning), why are they in the Bible? Are they there to trap the great majority of Christians (even most experts and professional theologians) into false beliefs about the most fundamental aspects of Reality? Because that, according to you, is precisely what they’ve done.

[ August 13, 2001: Message edited by: bd-from-kg ]
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Old 08-13-2001, 11:22 AM   #5
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Bede:

First, I think bd_from_kg adequately demonstrated that your understanding of scripture, which is the same as mine, is liable to be labeled reductionist by many Christians.

Secondly, if the vast majority of Christians engaged in subtle thought, there would be no Christianity.

Thirdly, what you and I dismiss as metaphor is to many denominations not metaphorical, but in fact a key doctrinal issue that is the main driver of their evangelism as preached by every major figure in the faith today. Within the context of Jesus' preaching, I do not think we can conclusively establish he intended the image to be metaphorical.
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Old 08-13-2001, 11:38 AM   #6
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Arrow

Quote:
Originally posted by Bede:
But the story of Lazarus is a parable and not supposed to be taken literally.
Please explain exactly how it is that you know with certainty that this is a parable which is not to be taken literally.

Quote:
I appreciate many Christians do, but I find it interesting so many atheists are also keen to take the most harsh meaning possible.
Basic principles of Bible exegesis involve not reading into the text what is not there, not taking away from the text what is there, and taking the words at their clear and literally meaning unless there is some obvious reason not to do so.

Quote:
Jesus says very little about eternal punishment and almost nothing outside his parables.
What does the quantity of what Jesus allegedly said have to do with the truth of what he allegedly said?

-----------

Jesus:

MT 18.9: "fiery hell"

MT 8.12, 13.42, 22.11, 24.51, 25.30; LK 13.28: "weeping and gnashing of teeth"

MT 25.41: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels."

MT 25.46: "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

MK 9.47-48: "... to be cast into hell; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

LK 16.23-24: "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame."

LK 16.28: [Place of torment.]

-----------

Quote:
Nor does the rest of the bible as even in Revelation the pit of fire is described as 'death'. And as fire consumes and destroys the meaning of the metaphor must be destruction and not some sort of eternal, very hot existance [sic].
"Must"? Hmmnn, then you disagree with all those theologians who say that it is eternal. Interesting, isn't it, how "God's Holy Spirit" can't get theologians to agree on something as important as this.

Quote:
Like many arguments, this one is best left to both the Christians and atheists for whom subtle thought comes as something of an effort.
How subtle--not.

--Don--
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Old 08-13-2001, 04:36 PM   #7
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As one of those atheists who Bede, I'm sure, would refer to as one who's subtle thoughts comes as something of an effort, I would like to point out how the believers of the faith always seem to have to fall back on calling those passages of the book they can't explain or which seem to make their god a fiend parable or metaphor. How do they know it is metaphor? Is it listed as such in their Cliff notes of the Bible? If they can choose what is metaphor and what isn't why can't anyone choose what is metaphor? How about viewing the resurrection as metaphor? How about viewing the whole of the bible as metaphor? Now there is a very unsubtle thought for you.

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Old 08-13-2001, 07:05 PM   #8
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Well, schu...

As yet another atheist, to whom subtle thoughts come as something of an effort, I have your answer.

Anything which conflicts with that particular person's personal belief system is "metaphor." If it's a verse that's likely to cause trouble to him or her personally if taken literally--say, "Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask [them] not again"--is a "metaphor." Anything that's only good advice if you happen to be a messiah who won't live very long anyway--"Take no heed to the morrow..."--is also "metaphor." And of course, as you mentioned, anything that makes your god look like a jerk must be "metaphor."

Hope I've been of help.

By the way...does anyone know of any language in the bible, besides the verses in which we are specifically told that "he spake to them in parables," in which we are given any reason to believe that any of it is only meant figuratively?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? (This phrase seems to have caught on although, just like, "Elementary, my dear Watson," it was never actually said verbatim in the movie in question. Odd, huh?)

d
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Old 08-13-2001, 08:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by diana:
<STRONG>Well, schu...

As yet another atheist, to whom subtle thoughts come as something of an effort, I have your answer.

Anything which conflicts with that particular person's personal belief system is "metaphor." If it's a verse that's likely to cause trouble to him or her personally if taken literally--say, "Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask [them] not again"--is a "metaphor." Anything that's only good advice if you happen to be a messiah who won't live very long anyway--"Take no heed to the morrow..."--is also "metaphor." And of course, as you mentioned, anything that makes your god look like a jerk must be "metaphor."

Hope I've been of help.

By the way...does anyone know of any language in the bible, besides the verses in which we are specifically told that "he spake to them in parables," in which we are given any reason to believe that any of it is only meant figuratively?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? (This phrase seems to have caught on although, just like, "Elementary, my dear Watson," it was never actually said verbatim in the movie in question. Odd, huh?)

d</STRONG>
Hello daina, the entire bible is metaphor or allegory except for two passages and here it is made clear that it is not metaphor nor allegory but real as in tangible or taste it and see for yourself. They are found in Jn.6:55 "My fesh is real food and my blood is real drink."

This also means that anyone who cannot see this or taste it is not a Christian as is made known in verse 56: "The man who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him."

Amos
 
Old 08-13-2001, 09:13 PM   #10
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Hello Donald

The argument is flawed because eternity is a concept of time within the boundries of time. When we physically die time will be no more and thus neither will eternity exist after we die. Eternity is when we identify with our own soul which is an eternal entity. This means that time-as-such is not known in eternity.

We identify with our own soul when we have crucified (or even raptured) our ego consciousness--if for no other reason than that we have no choice in the matter. A good example of such predicament is found in the pivotal speach made by Mark Anthony when Julius Ceasar (the ego) was slain (Julius Ceasar III,1,182-210).

Closer to home see it as our conscious and subconscious mind. Time-as-such exist only in our left brain but not in our right brain.

This means that before we can even speak of eternal heaven or hell the concept eternity must be made known to us and thus become real to us. In other words, "we must be born again" or "we must enter the race" would be another such expression. Better yet, "we must be made lukewarm" or "become a child of God" like the children of Israel were.

This would be the CRISIS MOMENT of our life and most will agree that this event is accompanied by intimations of immortality. After this we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling because if we do not succeed and complete the race, or take Jesus off the cross and place ourselves upon it, or mature as child of God into the fullness of God, we will die nonetheless and might even burn at the foot of the cross from the desire for atonement with God.

So born again lukewarm people who fail to consolidate their own life into a happy ending after their crisis moment will endure the tragedy of eternal suffering while at the foot of the cross forever pointing at the first beast of Revelation that was born from the celestial sea. They in turn are the second beast because they were born out of the eart, from human desire, and hence cannot find atonement with the celestial sea.

So this means that eternal suffering never was Gods idea. Many warnings are given that a crisis moment can lead to either a tragedy or a comedy and in fact that is what the entire bible is about. These words were given by those that were born of God to caution against the undesired end of human heriosm. Those in heaven know that this time it is for real and eternity is eternally ours for better or worse if and when we enter the race. This is why evangelism is not a good idea because it leads innocent people to believe that rebirth from carnal desire is equal to rebirth from God (Jn.1:13).

Nobody should be forced to, or be lured into being born again and so be made lukewarm (or enter the race) before his own time (Songs 2:7). At least, that is how it is in Catholicism.

Amos

[ August 13, 2001: Message edited by: Amos123 ]
 
 

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