According to Wikipedia, Universal Reconciliation or Salvation is:
“the doctrine that all sinful and alienated human souls—because of divine love and mercy—will ultimately be reconciled to God.
Universal salvation may be related to the perception of a problem of Hell,, standing opposed to ideas such as endless conscious torment in Hell, but may also include a period of finite punishment similar to a state of purgatory.Believers in universal reconciliation may support the view that while there may be a real "Hell" of some kind, it is neither a place of endless suffering nor a place where the spirits of human beings are ultimately 'annihilated' after enduring the just amount of divine retribution”
I first became acquainted with universal salvation while debating an Anglican Priest in Barbados in 1982. At one point I mocked the concept of “Hell” as infantile, and basically “apartheid theology” based on gloating over the suffering of those unlike you, who don’t subscribe to your special beliefs- but whom you condemn to everlasting perdition. I also mocked the notion that the presumption of Hell meant every sect or Christian denomination could, in effect, pass judgment on every other sect or denomination. Fundies could hell bind Catholics, Catholics could hell bind Fundies, both could also consign Jews and Muslims to the everlasting pits as the Muslims could return the favor to Christians! It was an afterlife MUTUAL ANNIHILATION PACT!
The priest laughed and conceded the point, and I won the debate – scored by objective observers – based on that line of attack. After the debate, however, the priest confided to me that in the upper echelons of the Anglican hierarchy (recall here that King James, of King James Bible fame was an Anglican too) no one took Hell seriously and there was no doctrine of Hell or of exceptional salvation for the few. Instead all Anglican seminaries taught Universal Reconciliation – Salvation. The priest told me he didn’t teach it himself nor did any other Anglican padres he knew. They had to instead teach Heaven or Hell because that is what their parishioners expected. He told me that if they attempted to teach the actual doctrine of universal salvation most of the faithful would leave that Church because their skewed sense of moral right and wrong dictated the “evil” receive the ultimate punishment. But he said this dichotomy troubled him no end!
Well, no wonder! It had to be mentally pathological to know what your religion’s actual doctrine is on the one hand but not be able to openly teach it on the other. Schizoid personality disorder anyone?
But he has a point. Because most believers function at the level of children, and need a cosmic daddy to “take the rod” to the bad boys or girls, they cannot accept the conceptual notion of an afterlife wherein everyone is brought together. Even many Christian leaders who ought to know better buy into this codswallop. In a memorable final Phil Donahue show on MSNBC in 2002(still have it on videotape), he included people from five major religions, including the head of the Southern Baptists, and a leading Rabbi. When Donahue brought up the thorny issue (which most evangelicals prefer to sweep under the rug) of what happens to the Jews when ”Armageddon” is all over and the "Antichrist" (sic) is defeated, the Southern Baptist fundie didn’t mince words:
“Most will be bound for the fires of Hell, because it is appointed that only 144,000 Jews shall be saved. “
Donahue’s eyes rolled twice over then nearly popped out, as did the Rabbi’s who then entered into a furious exchange with this bigot, prefaced by the words:
“How DARE you! How dare you decide to dispatch Jews into afterlife fires when over six million have already been roasted in Hitler’s crematoria!”
The Southern Baptist didn’t blink, merely responding mechanically:
“I don’t decide that. It’s the word of the bible, not mine. Unless a man be born again and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ he cannot enter the gates of Heaven. Since nearly all Jews reject Jesus as Savior, they can’t enter the heavenly kingdom”.
This pompous display of assholinity prompted Phil D. to quip:
“Yeah, but it’s all fine and dandy that
The Southern Baptist (Albert Mohler) was speechless. Or rather, perhaps so dumbfounded he wasn’t able to respond. Just as well, as the Rabbi was about to lacerate him verbally!
Now, just so we are clear, as an atheist I lean toward the probability that when you’re dead, you’re dead. I am not dogmatic or absolutist about it, but that's my take. (And no, I've seen no convincing evidence for 'near death experiences' which in any case, have nada to do with actual death!) That’s it! Finito! However, in previous blogs I have left a minuscule probability that human consciousness can survive death but in a nonlocal form, embodied in quantum wave energy. See, e.g. http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/07/has-stuart-hameroff-explicated-way-out.html
However, for the sake of this blog, let’s argue from the believers’ perspective that there is a conscious personal afterlife and a putative deity to preside over it. We assume the form of this deity is in line with the attribute most often declared by deity worshippers, i.e. "infinite".
IF God as infinite is taken literally, this can only mean there is no place where he isn't. Either he is infinite or not infinite. If he is infinite, and HELL also exists, then Hell must be part of the same infinity. It cannot be isolated from it or else we have a condition where Hell is apart from God's being. If this be so, then there exists a domain ("Hell") where God isn't, so he can't be infinite! In other words, God is actually a limited being.
Another way to put this is that something (Hell) exists in addition to God's being hence that being must be de facto delimited. If delimited it can't be infinite.
So, we have these ineffable logical conclusions:
1) EITHER - Hell exists but GOD is not infinite.
2) GOD is infinite, and Hell must exist WITHIN God. (But Heaven does also)
Up to now, no fundie or evangelical has been clever enough to resolve the Hell-God=infinite paradox. There could be two reasons: 1) none of them is smart enough to do it, or 2) they know deep down in their little atavistic pea -brains that the paradox is logically insoluble because their assumptions are in error. (Or, just as bad, they allow the blatherings in an ancient book to trump the importance of examining the assumptions.)
Thus, if they want to preserve their "Hell" they will have to admit their God isn't infinite. If they demand God to be infinite, they will have to jettison their "Hell'.
Beyond this, if modern quantum mechanics is taken seriously, then reality is one universal whole (called “nonlocal” in QM terminology) and there are no separates or localities – say wherein something can occur that doesn’t affect the rest of reality. Hence, concepts such as David Bohm’s Holomovement come front and center and these impersonal concepts can supersede that of an angry old white man in the skies that hurls unbelievers and do-badders into perdition.
In effect, it appears those sects and denominations that accept the Universalist perspective are more likely to be au fait with at least the basic underlying theme of the wholeness and unity of reality, as demonstrated for example in the Aspect experiment (1982). That set up is depicted below:
A1 ( ) <--------->( )A2 --------->
The idea being that twin photons appear interconnected (via their polarization detection) at the analyzers A1 and A2. Some have misconstrued this as violating Einsteinian relativity (e.g. fast than light signal propagation) but the superior interpretation by physicist David Bohm holds that the two photons were always connected in a higher dimensional reality, which he has called the “implicate order”.
If there is an implicate order, which is also holographic, then it very well means the Universalists have been right all along ….assuming there is a God inhabiting this implicate order, of course! Maybe the fundies and their ilk need to take more seriously the words of Philosopher Alan Watts ('Behold the Spirit', p. 244):
"Taken literally as a doctrine of everlasting torture, 'Hell' amounts to blasphemy itself- for if it were in the power of human freedom-choice to produce a consequence of this kind there must be something radically diabolical in the order created by God, and in God himself. Such an interpretation may vindicate human freedom but at the cost of demonizing God."