Monday, October 31, 2011

What the Fundagelical Hell Mongers Still Don't Get

Well, it wasn't long at all before several fundie blogs reacted to my recent blog on "Hell",

in which I pointed out that even if it does exist there can't be any "fires" such as depicted in attached image above from a fundie's blog, nor can it be "everlasting" or "eternal". This is based upon the actual Greek translation for "everlasting punishment" in Matthew 25:46 which is "kolasin aionion" - meaning temporary chastening. I then provided examples of what this might mean.

So in this light, let us look at some recent "clarifications" by the fundies in the wake of my blog:

"What these hellbound unbelievers are really embracing is annihilationism. That is the doctrine that the souls of the wicked will be snuffed out of existence rather than be sent to an EVERLASTING , CONSCIOUS HELL! When examined carefully in context , the Scriptures nowhere prove annihilationism. In context and comparison with other Scriptures , the concept must be rejected in every case. "

Actually, this is emphatically not so! We are conceding a putative "Hell" can exist, based on our own studies of theology, as well as the use of exegesis, which must include the correct translations of the original texts. As one Loyola Theology professor recently blogged at the greatest frequency of biblical interpretation errors tend to occur with evangelicals who don't believe it's incumbent on them to use the original Greek translations in which the New Testament was mainly written. They believe they are 'good to go' once they just have a rough English version. But this isn't good enough.

So, as opposed to this blogger's claim of "annihilationism" - by which he really means rigorous physicalist materialism, no! What I mean is conditionally accepting the Hell doctrine, but as rigorously defined within the actual legitimate Greek translations of the New Testament.

So what he does is interject a straw man, asserting an artifact of his own invention that he insists we are trying to "prove" - but which we are not. He goes on:

"When we die , there is separation , NOT extinction. The first death is simply the separation of the soul from the body ( James 2:26 ) , not the annihilation of the soul. "

Again, we are not claiming extinction but are already assuming the basis of: 1) an ongoing energy or individuated consciousness, and 2) a possible abode that may exist to chastise this energy if it is somehow degraded or deficient. So again, he's assigning claims and arguments we aren't making.

He goes on, untempered:

"There is also destruction , NOT nonexistence. "Everlasting" destruction would not be annihilation , which only takes an instant and is over. If someone undergoes everlasting destruction , then they have to have everlasting existence"

Here he goes off the rails, in making a claim ("destruction") which he's not supported by the actual Greek translations! We only concede, based on rigorous use of the Greek "kolasin aionion" a temporary chastisement, NOT destruction. Also "everlasting" is misused by him since the faithful Greek for the NT equivalents do not translate into permament but temporary.

Kolasin is a noun in the accusative form, singular voice, feminine gender and means "punishment, chastening, correction, to cut-off as in pruning a tree to bear more fruit." Meanwhile, "Aionion" is the adjective form of "aion," in the singular form and means "pertaining to an eon or age, an indeterminate period of time..

On the other hand, I am not questioning the claim of "enduring existence" such as if we presume human consciousness to be an individuated energy essence - possibly at the sub-quantal level - which can't be destroyed.

Once more his errors get the better of him:

"The cars in a junkyard have been destroyed , but they are not annihilated. They are simply beyond repair or unredeemable. Hence , so are the people in HELL!! "

But here he falls into the trap of false analogy with predictable results! Since cars, unlike humans, are insensate, i.e. feel no pain. So whether or not a car isn't annihilated in a junkyard is irrelevant to what happens to human consciousness in an afterlife. The point is that if that (sub-quantal) based consciousness persists, it cannot be "re-destroyed" (as I will subsequently show) over and over for any permanent period - so there can be no "Hell" as orthodox believers accept it.

Obviously, the Greek word "aion" transliterated "eon" cannot mean "eternal." A study into the Greek of the Biblical period and before will bear this out. Thus, Matthew 25:46 which embodies the Greek, "kolasin aionion", cannot mean "eternal punishment" but rather a "temporary punishment" or "temporary chastening. Thus, even IF Matthew 25:46 does refer to a real, putatively active "Hell" it can't be "eternal", only temporary only. (And as I shall show everlasting and eternal are not the same!) Since "Aionion" is the adjective of the noun "aion", then this argument applies to ALL forms, passages, words that contain these words, no exception.

He veers off further:

", Jesus repeatedly said the people in hell are in continual agony! He declared that there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" ( Matt. 8:12 ; cf. 22:13 ; 24:51 ; 25:30 ). "

Again, he errs, this time in conflating "continual" with "eternal". While it is certainly feasible that in a punishment one can experience "continual agony" this doesn't itself identify the longevity as eternal. It could also be temporary, say as human experience in a place of horrors like Evin Prison in Iran, where prisoners are "continually" raped, brutalized, tortured etc. The Greek translation in that passage also bears out conformance with the use of "aionion" in Mt. 25:46.

As for the colorful "weeping and gnashing of teeth" - yes, but one can have that for a temporary punishment as well!

He moves on:

"Jesus also called hell a place where "the fire is not quenched" ( Mark 9:43-48 ) , where the very bodies of the wicked will never die ( cf. Luke 12:4-5 ). But it would make no sense to have everlasting flames and bodies without any souls in them to experience the torment."

Again, these passages cited are taken by most serious theologians as not being literate modern translations but rather later insertions. Indeed, the only NT citation that most literate theologians (in ancient Greek) accept for stating anything about "everlasting" punishment, is Matt. 25:46, but as we saw, when the Greek is faithfully translated then it comes out as temporary punishment.

Here a further point may also be introduced, one first made by the late Philosopher Joseph Campbell of Sarah Lawrence College. He made this point in his remarkable book "The Power of Myth" based on his own translations of NT texts. These disclosed a distinct difference between "everlasting" and "eternal". In his translation, "everlasting" wasn't a synonymn for eternal but for temporary. "Everlasting" meant "lasting until the prolonged epoch or eon ended". "Ever" emerges here as little different from saying something like "continous for the time being- no interruptions" and thus ending up with essentially the same meaning as the Greek for "Aionion" or the adjective form by which the epoch "pertains to an eon or age, an indeterminate period of time"..

Campbell suggested that at some point, no one knows when, "everlasting" became mistaken for being the same as "eternal". When in fact, technically, "eternal" can only refer to an entity that pre-exists the condition of other (e.g. biological) entities that may emerge within it. However, so far as Christian orthodoxy frames it, their "souls" are not pre-existing but only come into existence at conception. In other words, the soul entity doesn't or can't pre-exist the biological matrix which demands a human egg become fertilized by a sperm cell.

Our author moves on:

"In a clear example of beings who were still CONSCIOUS after a thousand years of CONSCIOUS TORMENT in hell , the Bible says of the beast and the false prophets that "These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone" ( Rev. 19:20 ) before the "thousand years" ( Rev. 20:2 ). Also , the fact that the wicked are "punished with everlasting destruction" ( 2 Thess. 1:9 ) strongly implies that they must be conscious. One cannot suffer punishment without existence. It's no punishment to beat a dead corpse"

Again, my objection isn't to consciousness existing, I already indicated the presumption of a consciousness after death, for the sake of argument. Where I object is the conflation of "everlasting" with "eternal". I also query the use of word "destruction" as associated with a rational form of punishment presumed (by him). But in terms of usage, destruction contains the seminal meaning of no longer being available for ....whatever. Hence, one can have a ferocious punishment but not one which yields destruction that can then be reversed and commenced again. Once a thing is "destroyed", by proper English usage, it no longer exists, so his usage is contradictory.

This is why in physics the first principle of conservation (for mass-energy) reads:

"Mass-energy can neither be created or destroyed, only changed from one form to another".

Now, if one presumes consciousness to be a form of energy, then it also would be subject to the above, and hence, not able to be destroyed - meaning permanently expunged. Now, if it is asserted that it CAN be "destroyed" or subject to destruction, that automatically means permanently expunged so it cannot be re-done. One cannot therefore have "re-destruction" - which emerges as an oxymoron! Either something is "destroyed" or not destroyed, but it can never be re-destroyed!

What hyper fundie Christians need to do is make their minds up as to the meanings of their words, we can't be continually (get that!) spoon feed them or "forever" be assisting them in basic word logic.

More propagation of error:

"Hell is also said to be of the same duration as heaven , "EVERLASTING" ( Matt. 25:41 ). "

But again, by the Greek translation, this is not the same as eternal, but rather from the Greek "Aionion" "pertaining to an eon or age, an indeterminate period of time.. In effect, just as "Hell" so translated refers to a temporary period, so also does "Heaven". This leads us to conclude both are transitory states of consciousness.

Critical examination discloses the Bible speaks of five "aions"(minimum) and perhaps many more. If there were "aions" in the past, it must logically mean that each one of them has ended! When one uses terms such as "past", "present" or "future" he's no longer referring to anything that's everlasting because the latter concept admits of no temporal distinctions!

All of this leads to one conclusion, and one only: While an after death human consciousness may (temporarily) experience an "eon" in "Hell" or "Heaven" its ultimate destination is what the Buddhists call "nirvana" or nothingness. Or as the Buddha once said, "all will become nothing".

Humanity's problem is that it is incapable of grasping nothingness, though it would help us to understand this had to have been the original state of things- e.g. before a putative Energy Being or "deity" sought to create anything. Hence, it would not seem that nirvana is the same as "annihilation" as these fundie bloggers appear to suggest.

Once more, nothing to fret over. Eventually we shall all end up in nirvana ....or nothingness.

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