Want some sophistication? Damon Linker has some for you. Well not exactly sophistication maybe – more like pseudo-sophistication, or silliness that looks like sophistication when it’s placed next to even sillier silliness.
It’s about hell. Eternal punishment. Suffering as the reward for doing bad things.
So you already know what the sophistication is. No no no no no no no hell is not devils and pitchforks, no no no no no, that’s just silly. It’s [drum roll] Alienation From God.
Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh that’s not a thing. You could accuse me of being alienated from Artemis, if you wanted to, but it would leave me unruffled. It’s the same with god.
But I’ll let him tell it, because he seems to think it’s good and compelling.
[T]he most theologically cogent view of hell found in classical Christianity maintains that it is the state of mind (or soul) of someone who is alienated from God. Living a life that is out of harmony with God is painful, and to die and be confronted so decisively with the error of your ways — to be made to see that you made a wreck of your life by separating yourself from God, and to have to learn to shatter your pride by reforming yourself in his divine presence — is, one imagines, excruciating. But it is intrinsically painful, not externally imposed by torturers in some fire-and-brimstone-filled dungeon.
Or in the words of theologian David Bentley Hart, “What we call hell is nothing but the rage and remorse of the soul that will not yield itself to love.” In refusing to “open itself to the mercy and glory of God, the wrathful soul experiences the transfiguring and deifying fire of love not as bliss but as chastisement and despair.”
This is what hell must be if God is truly good.
I, for one, find this far more plausible than the popular vision of hell as a torture chamber run by sadistic demons. And I suspect that at least some young religious skeptics might, too, if only committed Christians would rise to the challenge of making the case.
Oh blah. If God is truly good, God has a lot of explaining to do. It could start with what definition of “love” it’s working with.