Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Utter Foolishness of "Hell"

In this blog we return to more letters from the M-Brane Mailbag, this time concerning "Hell", or rather the claims for such and the purported existence of - and what serious people need to do to prove their claims (or more accurately, THEIR claims made on behalf of semi-literate nomads claims in ancient texts). Here we go!

1) As an atheist aren't you the least worried if you don't get saved you'll end up in Hell?

Jeanne, New Orleans, La.

Not one bit. The reason is that I understand and realize "Hell" is a phantasmagoria, a myth, a piece of ancient refuse from a shattered mind, and not worth donkey lickspittle. This is from two points of view: historical and logical. Let's examine each.

First, one of the things we had to study as students of Theology 200 at Loyola (in 1965) was the origin of Hell. Today, this is mostly glossed over and while millions hear or see the word “Hell” blathered about (as by ignorant ministers and “pastors”) they are unaware of the origin. Thus unaware, they are prey to the mental predators who pander to baseless fears via the brain's amygdala - in order to exert CONTROL. This is the only reason for retaining any concept of Hell today: to try to gain control of people's choice and minds through naked fear. If they can get a wayward mind to succumb to their fear, they feel validated. These are pathetic people (like the Rev. James Dobons, Billy Graham , Fred Phelps et al.) who really belong in institutions strapped to ECT machines.

Unknown to most is that the most common afterlife teaching (by Clement of Alexandria and Origen of Adamantius) in the early centuries after Christ’s death was metempsychosis. Unlike reincarnation, which metempsychosis is often confused with, the same soul exists and is resurrected in a succession of different human bodies in an evolutionary process. (Ordinary reincarnation, meanwhile, allows for reincarnation into animal bodies, even after a human incarnation, which metempsychosis does not. The inability of MacDonald's to market beef burgers in India is a direct result of the Hindu proscription against killing cattle- believed to be reincarnations of their ancestors. Daft belief? Maybe! But "Hell" is even more daft, plus derelict!)

The Christian metempsychosis teaching probably endured for at least 500 years before later Church fathers decided (at the 2nd Council of Constantinople)that it gave men too much time to seek God. Thus, a device had to be used to spur on and speed the desire for redemption. The device decided on was “Hell”. Now, recall this was around 400 A.D. and there were NO evangelicals skulking around with their KJVs in hand. There was only ONE Church, one religion: the Catholic one. So anything that later accrued or occurred had to have been COPIED from these early times, Church teachings, doctrines, dogmas and canons. Thus, any claims evanglicals make to being "original" in anything - especially their acceptance of "Hell" - is pure lies and balderdash. They are merely lying to themselves and their people if they believe they are the first Christians. No! They spun off from the RC Church like all the other Protestants (that's why they're called Protestants, because they "protested" Rome's claims to original truth).

The general tack for inventing Hell was to take certain passages in the then Latin Vulgate that referred to “Gehenna”, which was really a dump for burning offal outside Jerusalem, and amp that burning pit into an everlasting abode for punishment. What better way to punish than by fire, which is about the most painful, as anyone who’s ever touched a red hot frying pan or stove knows! Thus, Gehenna became the putative basis for eternal torment at the Council. All teachings to do with metempsychosis were ordered expunged, and any transgressors were to be listed as "heretics". In a firm outline of the properties of Hell, the Council further mandated:

- It become the final abode of eternal punishment for all who rejected the Church's teachings or the Pope's authority

- It include the agency of fire and this fire never be quenched - and further it have the capacity to burn the soul without destroying it permanently (else there'd be no "eternal" aspect)

- Hell was under the governance of "Satan" or Lucifer, with a hierarchy of sub-Devils (Asmodeus, Belial, Pazuzu et al) to administer other punishments

- All non-Catholics, because of they're being outside the state of sanctifying grace, to be destined for Hell

The other job mandated by the Council was to insert the words and references to “Hell” into the scriptures and this duty was charged to various transcribers, translators. At key points also Jesus had to make the odd reference to it, including the threat of punishment for those who refused to believe: specifically “accepting” him as Savior (e.g. the bogus John 3: 16) . This is skewered by Oxford Scholar Geza Vermes in The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, who points out any such belief on Christ's part would have been interpreted as self-idolatry. He never ever referred to himself as "Son of God" only as "Son of Man", nor did he dictate any belief be accorded him. All such references were fraudulent later additions.

In the context of the Hell invention, it was also necessary to erect a whole fantasy story about the background. The faithful were thereby led to believe an actual spiritual war was going on with beautiful angels at constant odds with cunning devils, demons and wights. The usual Church depiction beheld God and his fair-complexioned friends on one side, battling Satan and his dark, leather-skinned devils on the other side. (Atheists are still waiting for a clip of these battles to be aired on CNN.)

Add in assorted “demons”, largely copied wholesale from ancient pagan legends and beliefs (e.g. Zoroastrianism)and you have a veritable demonic menagerie to populate Hell with its assorted tormentors. Later, diabolical “possession” (and exorcism) was also invented to enhance the fear factor, and other biblical passages altered to reflect it – leaving millions of gullible believers to buy into this too. The stage was set!

But was it real? NO! As noted by Rev. John Shelby Spong, former Episcopal Bishop of Newark, NJ

Hell was invented as a control tactic to control minds. As Sponge notes “people don’t need to be born again but to GROW UP. “ The Hell myth is used as a cudgel to drive people into a control system where no one may question any elements of the beliefs. What we then have are whole groups, namely evangelicals, who take everything literally (when if they had an ounce of education they'd see their KJV Bible is corrupt and defective) and try to reduce people's minds and judgments to fear reactions.

Secondly, Hell doesn't work from the point of view of logic. Analyze it from the perspective of one or other of the five basic truth functions (see, e.g. ) which are:

i) The 'negator': Not-p. Expresses that function of p which is true when p is false, and that which is false when p is true.

ii) The disjunction: p OR q: This is a function whose truth value is 'truth' when p is true and also when q is true. The truth value is falsehood when both p and q are false.

iii) The conjunction: p AND q: Has 'truth' for its truth value when BOTH p and q are true, otherwise falsehood.

iv) Incompatibility: ~ (p /\ q). E.g. p and q are not both true, or the negation of conjunction (iii). It is also the disjunction of the negations of p and q, i.e. not-p or not-q. The truth value appends 'truth' when p is false, and also when q is false. Likewise, the truth value appends falsehood if both are true.

v) Implication: p->q (p implies q) or "if p, then q". This can be generalized in various ways, e.g."Unless p is false, q is true" OR: "Either p is false or q is true".

Now in the context of the claim for Hell, its truth or falsity rests on first making a conclusion which must start from a premise. A number of them can be tried, and found to fail, unless one renders the premise in very narrow terms.

Example (1): "As an infinite Being, God must demand an infinite punishment"

In fact this fails a number of truth functions, including: (i), (ii), (iii) and (v). Let's look at two of these by way of example, for logical failure and hence failure of the claim.

By (ii), disjunction, the truth value is falsehood when both p and q are false. In the claim both p and q are rendered false by consideration of the definitions themselves, for "infinite" and "infinite punishment". Now, "infinite" means extended to or pervading all of Being. There is literally no place left where - whatever it is- doesn't exist. Hence, if applied to "God" it means all inclusive of reality. However, IF Hell is interjected, it contradicts the proposition by inserting a sub-manifestation of an "eternal" existence which limits that which is claimed "infinite".

Thus, if Hell is asserted to exist and is eternal then God cannot be infinite. If God is maintained to be infinite - meaning all inclusive of Being- the only conclusion is that Hell must be a part of God! The only way to make the proposition work, then, is to remove the infinite claim on either end. God can therefore only be a FINITE Being if It demands a literal "hellish" punishment, which can only exist a finite length of time (since no finite Being can be eternal). Note that "infinite punishment" is also excluded, since to enable this would require a punishment infinite in time, space and intensity - which a putative finite Being simply can't accommodate.

This also supports the truth function for (iv) Incompatibility: ~ (p /\ q). E.g. p and q are not both true. Since God cannot be both infinite and demand infinite punishment then it follows the two partitioned claims "infinite Being" and "infinite punishment" cannot both be true. Now, does this leave open that an infinite Being can feasibly impart a finite punishment? Yes, and this fits in with what many theologians accept: that a given soul requires a period of purification before it can be accommodated in the Divine presence. (Which is simply what the Catholic Church refered to as "Purgatory").

Today, it is not so much as punishment, but a necessary purification or better, "tempering" of the spirit before it can withstand the infinite energy of God's presence. (Much like steel is tempered to be much stronger by intense heating etc.)

(2) I have seen in a couple earlier blogs where you argued that an infinite God can't co-exist with Hell because then its infinity would have to be shared with Hell, so God would no longer be infinite (since a true infinite entity can't share or divide itself). I get this, but isn't it possible God, being able to do anything, could set aside a part of His being just to punish people (like you atheists!) forever? - Allan B., Las Cruces, NM

Okay, here I refer you again to the basic truth functions above, especially (i) the Negation or Negator.. Once more while a God can do about anything It chooses, it can't contradict its very nature. To allow such would invite Negation , which is the incompatibility of a proposition with itself, or p<->p. In this case, God's infinitude is contradicted by managing to fabricate a "place" or abode ("Hell") which delimits that infinitude.

Further, as per the link I gave above, one cannot assume a "logical deduction" unless there exists a relationship between the premise and the conclusion such that we have a right to expect the conclusion IF we know the premise is true (Russell, Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, p. 145). From this it follows that two truth functions which have the same truth value for all values of the argument are indistinguishable. Thus, p and q are the negations of not-p and not-q. In this case, "infinite" and "good" are the negations of "finite" and "evil" when it comes to formulating conclusions that integrate both "God" and "Hell".

Again, the end result is self-evident: no formal conclusion based on a claimed true proposition (premise), can employ both an "eternal Hell" and "infinite God" in a sensible unified link. There is simply no premise which uses both that leads to a sensible conclusion.

This won't stop people from trying, of course, since humans are naturally averse to giving up their pet ideations if their beliefs are contingent on them. But they ought to at least realize they aren't going to persuade anyone outside their cults unless they can formulate their claims about Hell, Heaven, God or soul, with logical rigor.

This they have thus far been unable to do!

1 comment:

Caleb Shay said...

A really great blog that covers all the bases. The truth functions approach truly shows how insipid the belief in Hell is, and why the average Hell believer has an estimated IQ in the lowest 20%. I also get a kick out of it when they (fundies) say a loving God has to have a Hell. Says who?

It reminds me of the old George Carlin comedy skit in his 1992 performance 'You Are All Diseased' when he launches into religion and God belief as the biggest bull shitters of all, at the end.

His monologue went something like:

"And we are asked to believe in a Man in the Sky who looks down on us and watches everything we do, recording it in a little book. After which, when you die, he may find you have to be sent to an eternal fiery place to be tormented over and over forever and forever, with our eyes boiling out, your guts bubbyling up and burning and getting stabbed by pitchforks......but.....He LOVES you"

Totally insane! But maybe that's why so many fundies are totally insane.