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Gospel Disproof #44: The Bride of Christ and her abusive husband

[Here's an excerpt from this week's On Guard post at Evangelical Realism. The post is about William Lane Craig's defense of Hell, but this one part makes a nice Gospel Disproof all by itself. I've added an introductory paragraph at the beginning, but the rest is from ER.]

One of the big inconsistencies in the Christian Gospel is the whole idea of a “loving” God sending His own children to Hell for the trivial offense of failing to believe He exists—as though He Himself weren’t provoking this unbelief by His consistent and universal failure to show up in real life! It’s an issue that a lot of Christians struggle with even among themselves, and more than a few have become liberals or even agnostics because of the intractable nature of the problem. And in many cases, those who try to defend Hell, like Craig, end up making a bad situation even worse.

Craig tries to blame the victims for God’s harsh treatment of them. “Gosh, honey, I really don’t want to hit you, but you keep forcing me to. It’s really your own fault for choosing to provoke me.” Yeah, like that sounds any nobler coming out of God’s mouth than out of the abusive husband’s. Don’t believe me? Here’s Craig sharing God’s version of the abusive husband shtick.

God says through the prophet Ezekiel:

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?… For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the lord GOD; so turn, and live!…

Here God literally pleads with people to turn back from their self-destructive course of action and be saved.

“I really hate killing you and throwing you in Hell, but Me damn it, you’re just forcing Me to.” As though God were simply powerless to choose to, I don’t know, maybe NOT kill people and throw them in Hell? You know, because He truly wasn’t willing that any should perish?

Thus, in a sense, God doesn’t send anybody to hell… If we make a free and well-informed decision to reject Christ’s sacrifice for our sin, then God has no choice but to give us what we deserve. God will not send us to hell—but we shall send ourselves.

And who decides what we deserve, if not God? Craig is trying really hard to pass the buck here, but when you preach an omnipotent God Who is the creator of literally everything else, you don’t get to appeal to circumstances beyond His control.

Comments

  1. says

    “then God has no choice but to give us what we deserve. ”

    God has no choice? I thought he was omnipotent and not dictated to by anyone…apart from when you pray for a parking space, and then you get one of course.

  2. Mark says

    I broke up with God specifically because any counselor would tell me to get out of such a controlling, abusive, manipulative relationship.

  3. Brownian says

    I cannot believe Craig is held up as any sort of reasonable thinker at all by theists.*

    “Thus, in a sense, God doesn’t send anybody to hell”

    I mean, really? Is he seven? Given that this actual argument was common among my peers when I was an elementary student at a Catholic school, if his is Sophisticated Theology™—and I’m not even going to touch his defence of Biblical genocide which he justifies by claiming that those past societies, unlike any we know of today, were uniformly as bad as the villains in toy-selling cartoons from the 80s, right down to their evil babies—then why are we raised-Christian-but-now-atheists always being told our previous faith was too simple and childish for us to be considered real Christians?†

    *Rhetorical. Clearly I beleive he is for some reason.
    †Rhetorical. Because it’s an easy out for apologists.

  4. Kevin says

    Soul sorting. The entire point of human existence is to have your soul sorted. And you get sorted by your thoughts (presumably at the time of death). Nothing but your belief qualifies you or disqualifies you.

    If you’re a Craig-ist type Christian, you have to believe that god deliberately creates billions upon billions of souls merely so he can send the vast majority of them to hell for the “crime” of not believing in Jesus.

    Because an omniscient god already knows how many souls will be in heaven and in hell at when the last bit of human life is extinguished from the universe. And the “not heaven” group FAR outweighs the “heaven” group.

    I love how Craig uses the word “reject” — as if one is obligated to believe in his myth and not any other. It’s odious. Fear mongering and worse.

    And the Calvinists are worse! Because they claim that god has already decided which billions are “not-heaven”. And there’s not thing-one you can do about it.

    It’s a disgusting philosophy, frankly. I can’t see how any rational person who has done the first bit of thinking can buy into it.

    • Brownian says

      And the Calvinists are worse! Because they claim that god has already decided which billions are “not-heaven”. And there’s not thing-one you can do about it.

      What’s annoying about Calvinists is that they still open their preach-holes anyway.

      • Jer says

        What’s annoying about Calvinists is that they still open their preach-holes anyway.

        I know. The only good thing that could possibly come from Calvin’s ugly philosophy is the obvious result that there’s no use preaching at anyone – either they’re saved or they’re not and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. No need to go out on the street corners and call people nasty names – it’s not going to do a damn bit of good (ah summer, when the street preachers return to the midwest college campuses to share God’s love with the students by calling them ‘fornicators’, ‘sluts’, and ‘ho-mo-SEX-you-als’.)

        And yet they go on. Preaching about how their vile God is going to send everyone to Hell and semi-randomly pick out a handful of elect to save from that fate. You’d almost think that they do it not because they’re trying to convert people, but rather to assure themselves of their own superiority…

      • Brownian says

        You’d almost think that they do it not because they’re trying to convert people, but rather to assure themselves of their own superiority…

        Oh, so you’ve conversed with Calvinist troll David Heddle then?

      • Anri says

        Sure – and they will claim that the have no choice but to do so, ’cause that’s what god wants.

        And when you get around to pointing out how horrible their god is, and how dehumanizing and replusive the ethics demonstrated by their worldview is, they (in my experiance) agree – and then once again insist that they have no choice but to believe and worship god, ’cause that’s what happens when god stuffs you with the spirit.
        I have trouble imagining the mental stress involved in having to create a horrible imaginary friend who forces you to feel awful things against your will. All merely to justify to yourself a fairy tale your parents told you when you were young.

        “There has to be a god, because I know I’m a good person, but I really really think these people around me (not me, mind you, of course not, no, no, never darling precious unique me) are going to go to hell. Therefore it must be god making me feel these things.”

        Child abuse indeed.

  5. redpanda says

    The version I always got as a kid (and we believed in annihilation, not an eternal hell) was that the universe is an objectively better place without sin, and annihilating those who reject God’s laws is the only way to ensure that the whole sin fiasco never happens again. So we’re starting from the position that we’re all better off if sin eventually goes away, and if you can accept that then it looks a lot less like the abusive husband scenario.

    The moral of the story is always that sin won’t come back not because the survivors are too scared to disobey again, but that in our expanded wisdom as resurrected heavenly creatures we’ll all be able to look back and concur that the universe really is a better place when we toe the line. So the ‘sinners’ aren’t so much being punished for their crimes as not being rewarded with heaven for rising above the rest.

    • says

      I played with the idea of annihilation for a year, while I was going through my deconversion. It made things easier, given that I have an atheist son, but still had the problem of injustice to deal with; why had God set it up so that good people would be eliminated solely because of the place and time of their birth?

      But it did seem actually more Biblical, and allowed me to turn my attention to other things, such as the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. By the time that was settled (errant, biased, and dishonest withal), the hell/annihilation question had become irrelevant.

      • redpanda says

        The argument easily extends into God needing to “let sin run its course” so that all will eventually understand that God’s way is better, where if he intervened more actively sin might crop up again in the distant future and we’ll have another rebellion. There are certainly other problems with that, but I feel like it does a fair job from the unjust God angle.

        Your experience is more or less what happened to me, too. The biggest blows to my faith were:

        1. The observation that some of the most earnest, devoted Christians I knew arrived at very different and incompatible understandings of things like the plan of salvation by using the exact same method I was taught to use (That we pray for guidance and the Holy Spirit provides it). So I started doubting that this might actually be a very reliable way to learn things.

        2. The intellectual bankruptcy of creationism. My denomination had built a significant fraction of its theology on literal understanding of the creation week and Garden of Eden stories, and when I began to realize how utterly unsupportable those were I decided it was time to stop trusting the religious authorities I had grown up listening to.

        3. The more likely histories of the Bible, which ended up being a far more interesting story than the Sunday-school version.

      • says

        1. The observation that some of the most earnest, devoted Christians I knew arrived at very different and incompatible understandings of things like the plan of salvation by using the exact same method I was taught to use (That we pray for guidance and the Holy Spirit provides it). So I started doubting that this might actually be a very reliable way to learn things.

        This was a “biggie” for me, too.

        God needing to “let sin run its course” so that all will eventually understand that God’s way is better, where if he intervened more actively sin might crop up again in the distant future and we’ll have another rebellion.

        I hadn’t heard that one before. (It sounds like something Ellen G. White would come up with.) One problem with it is that we are such good forgetters; God would have to fix that, too. And then there’s the problem of Satan and his angels; if they, being perfect and all, with no original sin to plague them, could rebel in heaven, what would stop us from doing the same a million or so years down the line?

      • redpanda says

        Were you also SDA? They can just keep making stuff up to answer all those questions (e.g. in heaven we’ll have perfect memories, and we’ll remember the stain sin left, whereas Lucifer simply didn’t know any better at first), but in the end that’s all it is.

        It’s the same approach people take towards reconciling contradictions in the Bible. If story A says one thing and story B says another, just invent a story C that incorporates story A and B and go with that. It’s the inevitable result of starting with your conclusions and working backwards.

      • says

        No, I wasn’t SDA, but some of my family were.

        apologetics is easy, if you get to make up new stories all the time. It’s an old tactic; Mark Twain parodied it.

  6. Tony Hoffman says

    I used your line (from the full article) at the office today: “Do you know what kind of God needs you to believe in him? An imaginary one.”

    Admittedly, my co-worker is a non-believer as well, but the line is just flat out funny.

    Don’t every stop writing.

  7. timberwoof says

    This reminds me of a video I saw on YouTube where some imam was crying because he was oh so sad that he had to insist, for Allah, that Hamza Kashgari be killed. Spare us your crocodile tears, asshole imam, and just don’t kill the guy.

  8. Crudely Wrott says

    [begin echo]

    An omnipotent and omniscient creator father dog has no choice? its paw is forced? puny human free will puts it off track? it can’t help itself? it has less than perfect control over its creation that it populated with sentient beings for no better reason than that it could? and only later discovered the problem? Give me a fucking break

    Omni Fail.

    [end echo]

  9. Azuma Hazuki says

    From another post of mine on the same subject:

    And would the good Doctor Craig care to comment on the fact that of 5 of the original 6 church centers 4 were Universalist and 1 Annihilationist? Or that of the 6 the only one that taught eternal torment was the Latinate church at Carthage and Rome? Or, perhaps, that Latin had no real way of making distinction between the concepts expressed in koine Greek as “kolasin” and “timoria?”

    No, I didn’t think so. Asshole. Someone should set him on fire and see how he likes it.

    This has always bothered me. I am by no means an expert in ancient languages, but I know for damn sure “aion” and its derivatives don’t carry the meaning of eternal unless paired with something that is itself properly eternal, and “kolasin” specifically means punishment for the purpose of rehabilitation.

    I also know that there were people, Jews and Platonists, who did believe in eternal torment…and they always used the word “aidios” (which carries the meaning of eternal proper) and “timoria/on” to describe the punishment. You also got such poetic niceties as “athanaton thanatos” (undying death) and suchlike.

    There has always been something really, really creepy about people who profess this belief. I agree with Ingersoll when he says “I don’t believe this and neither do you, because if you did you’d be stark raving insane with fear and spend your entire life trying to save everyone you meet, unless you’re a complete sociopath.”

    I rarely ever want to get violent, but I am seriously tempted to carry one of those long butane BBQ matches around and just light anyone up who professes this belief. It’s only the fact that I follow the good old(er than Christianity) Golden Rule that stops me.

  10. Azuma Hazuki says

    Also, the defining “aha!” moment was realizing the analogy between abusive human relationships and the Abrahamic religions. It was a complete sea change, the elusive “paradigm shift” so many speak of.

    To Dr. Craig: it’s your Hell, you can go burn in it. Not forever, because not even you are a big enough asshole to deserve that. But I would watch you scream and cry and howl and beg for mercy and char and wither and melt and burn for a solid three hours with grim satisfaction. You wouldn’t even bleed, because the flame would drink your evil, putrid blood before it hit the floor. Your mind and heart are already withered, seared, blackened husks; your body should follow.

    • mikespeir says

      I would like to formally distance myself from this diatribe. I, for one, don’t wish this kind on thing on Dr. Craig or anyone else. I worry about the mindset that does.

      • Azuma Hazuki says

        Concern duly noted and used to wipe my nose with. I wish I hadn’t been messed up by these dogmas to the point that I wish physical harm on the well-deserving, but c’est la vie. Time may or may not heal these injuries.

        Craig and others like him are evil-minded, Mike. You need to be able to recognize evil, stare it in the face, and tell it you hope it suffers its just consequences, especially when evil claims to be good. His is an evil worldview, and in a bitterly ironic twist, it’s completely incapable of seeing its own twisted perversion because it axiomatically assumes its own good.

        Some people are so completely immersed in their own mental…byproduct…that nothing short of a world-shaking freakout or incredibly traumatic experience will jolt them out of it. This is especially true in those suffering from Pride-with-a-capital-P, which includes these glib, self-righteous solipsists like Craig. I suspect he isn’t a sociopath and has empathy, but has smashed it down in the name of his religion. Maybe if he experienced some of what he so blithely preaches, he might re-examine it.

      • mikespeir says

        And when we begin labeling people as capital-E Evil we’re basically setting them up for the kill. We’re denying them their humanity, calling them a lower form of life that we can in good conscience shoot if provoked sufficiently and the opportunity presents itself. Religionists of that mindset scare the life out of me. Atheists of that mindset do, too.

      • JohnnieCanuck says

        Maybe talking out your desire for vengeance is good therapy for you, I couldn’t say. I don’t even know if there would be much benefit from psychotherapy, but that’s a powerful amount of acid you’ve got corroding away inside you.

        Strangely, from one atheist to another; my best advice is that you’ve got to learn to forgive.

    • N. Nescio says

      People have done shitty things to me too. Extremely shitty things that caused long-lasting damage, and some of them were motivated by religious beliefs. The thought that I would actively cause them to “scream and cry and howl and beg for mercy and char and wither and melt and burn for a solid three hours” nauseates me, and I am revolted at the idea that you would derive genuine pleasure from watching such a thing.

      I am certain you’ll attempt to cleverly dismiss my objection too, but please count me in the camp of people who are disgusted at your idea.

      • Azuma Hazuki says

        It isn’t pleasure. It’s “grim satisfaction,” as in “this is awful, but nothing else will make this horrible excuse for a human actually understand what it is he believes in. Maybe when he does understand he’ll stop poisoning peoples’ minds.”

        Craig is not Evil-with-a-capital-E Evil, just evil-with-a-lowercase-e evil. I believe he can still be redeemed, but he’s so stuck in his epistemological and prideful rut that only experiencing something that will completely shatter him will knock him out of it.

        Even John Loftus, a former pupil of his and kind of a scary guy himself, thinks the man is basically good. I would agree, in the sense that he probably isn’t a primary sociopath and would probably make most of the same moral choices the elusive “normal/control human” would (and for the same irreligious reasons).

        However, this is a man who wields considerable “soft power” and whose writings are perpetuating a civilization-corroding, corrupt religion and culture. And say what you will, but there is nothing as evil-minded as thinking that any sentient being deserves infinite punishment for finite crimes.

        I am not against the idea of punishment in the afterlife; indeed, if I were a judging-being akin to Enma-daiou (lord Yama) I would make everyone experience exactly the amount of suffering they caused in the manner they caused it (the “how” is irrelevant; assume a powerful neuro-computer simulator). But the key here is proportionality and method: no one would burn unless they had burned someone, for example, and then only as long as it took for them to experience what the victim suffered and not a femtosecond longer.

        Craig and others like him have no proportionality (and, apparently, not much of a grip on koine Greek, which really surprises me…). He also seems to have conditioned most basic empathy out of himself, and I suspect he doesn’t really understand what burning is. I have…shall we say, some direct experience with it.

  11. Amyc says

    I love this post. The idea of hell was one of the many things that led me out of fundamentalist Christianity and eventually to atheism.

    My biggest problem was with the idea that good people, who just happen to not be Christian or happen to have never heard of it, would be sent to hell. I talked to many people about it, including my mother. She (and the others)said that everybody deserves hell. I asked about people like Ghandi, and explained all the good they had done for humanity. She said that god measures “goodness” by how much we love and worship him, not by the good we do for our fellow humans.

    I couldn’t stomach this. It seemed monstrous and wrong to me. Hadn’t I been taught (by Jesus himself), that whatever I do to the least of these, I do to him? I had always interpreted that to mean that doing good for our fellow humans was part and parcel to loving and worshiping god. When I brought this up, she just said, but we’ve all sinned. No matter how much good you’ve done, you’ve sinned, and god can’t allow sin in his presence. She said that we had to have asked for forgiveness and had Jesus wipe the sins away for us to go to heaven (read: to not be tortured forever). Then I asked, why can’t god just forgive us on his own then? Wouldn’t that be mighty big of him, to not wait for us to ask, but just do it because he doesn’t want people to suffer?

    The whole thing smacked of after-the-fact rationale, and it made the Christian god seem very small to me.

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