Friday, December 6, 2013

A Hell of a Claim

Since I am one of the few skeptics that I know of in my family and death may not tarry too long for me I might as well put down my thoughts concerning this man-made idea of hell. I want my family to know I have good and honorable reasons to oppose this malicious concept.
I think there are many philosophical problems with the concept of Hell and many natural explanations for its existence within the human mind.

1. The unjust God problem:
 To punish someone for a crime they did not commit would be unjust and the Adam and Eve story even if true would be a problem of justice because it condemns all of mankind that follows for the sin of one. It also presupposes that the Adam and Eve story is true to some degree and that story is at best a metaphor and has no scientific basis or connection to the natural history of the human species. To condemn humans based on a metaphor or myth would be unjust even if it were true.

Also the punishment must fit the crime. Disbelieving in things that have little evidence besides the claims of other primates does not seem like a crime that deserves eternal hell.   You could even use the ontological argument to dethrone the Christian God. No great being would allow a Hell to exist and no great being would punish people when there is not sufficient evidence for its existence. The ontological could bring a person to a belief in God but like Thomas Paine or Benjamin Franklin you could postulate because that God is perfect and great it would not be the God of Abraham because as Thomas Paine opined he felt the God of the Bible was neither just, great, or perfect. For Thomas Paine that God was unjust, anthropomorphic, inconsistent, and provincial.  Thomas Paine was a Deist and defended God by stating that the religions had it all wrong and that God was blasphemed in his mind to be associated with the prior religions.
If I came to you and said person x was born of a virgin and walked on water it would not then mean that the person was necessarily great or perfect. They may be unique or miraculous but great and perfect? They may actually be doing these things by some other power than a god. According to the Old Testament Pharaoh's magicians in contrast to Moses performed miracles so miracles do not make one a God or what one is claiming correct. Does might make right? Because you are the most powerful and great being you are therefor a good and perfect being? Does might make morality? Is God moral because he is God or because there is something separate from God that is moral? A being could be great and powerful but wrong and evil. Or a being could be perfect and just but not all powerful and great. What if Satan was good and just and God was evil and all powerful? Non Serviam would be a badge of honor. That makes me think of an interesting subject whether souls in heaven have free will which means rebellion is possible in the future and eternal recurrence of this narrative of rebellion and redemption could go on forever.
  One can imagine God or a being in many ways. What if Jesus was born of a man and a woman and never rose from the dead and Adam and Eve never existed literally or even theologically. It would not mean that God does not exist it would just mean Christian theology was wrong about the God that does exist. The God that exists may want to test peoples reason and skepticism. I can imagine a God that would say "Well done my good and faithful skeptic. You did not just believe the stories humans told you about me but decided to conceive me greater than their stories." That could still fall within the ontological for me.
  Is it really a virtue to believe things without evidence and then use eternal violence or horror on people for not believing in miraculous fantastic stories that go against your conscience and reason? Seems like the punishment does not fit the crime in fact there should be no crime in disbelieving things that are not believable to your reason and conscience. Only an insecure and unjust God would do so. Or a God made up by the superstitious and spiteful minds of human beings. In short Hell is a sophomoric idea to raise one tribal ideology over the other and give the comfortable thought that in the end our tribal ideology will triumph over all others.
No great God would do so, therefore the Judeo-Christian God cannot be God by the ontological argument because if there is a God it would be the greatest being not an insecure tyrant made in the image of a common human dictator.
The Judeo-Christian God committed a type of genocide based on belief according to the Noah myth and even after that act of mass murder it did not solve the future problem. In the story it is said God regretted that he made mankind which would put the responsibility on God for starting this narrative of creation and destruction and then eternal torture. The Judeo-Christian God would be the ultimate source of evil and responsible for this evil. To then punish your impotent creation for your mistake would be unjust.
 The Judeo-Christian God would be unjust and the moral act (might make right?) would be to stand against a tyrant worse than Hitler and Stalin or the Judeo-Christian God is not the greatest being which means it is not God and most likely does not exist. Is something moral and just simply because a more powerful being says so?

 2. Hell fulfills a powerful wish to punish those who disagree with you or are different than you:
Some believers will say people deny Hell because it is so scary but again this would be like claiming that people are denying ghosts and goblins or any fantasy creature because they are scary. You don't believe in the gremlins because they are scary? Could it be possible that the evidence for this idea is lacking and it would be superstitious and credulous to believe in an idea just because it is scary?? Would a great God reward people for believing things out of fear and ignorance?
Hell is a claim without evidence and it cannot be proved.  Many can play the psychological denial game. One can say you are a Christian because you are in denial of oblivion or you are afraid of the Muslim Hell or some other after life claim. Also you will find that the people who believe in Hell do not really believe it for themselves or people inside their group identification. It is always for the other. It fulfills two great wishes of human primates that the ego is exalted and your particular group is exalted while those who are strangers to your group and are not like you are condemned to punishment. This very concept fulfills basic primitive desires of revenge and tribalism at its base level. The concept of Hell encourages servility, credulity, cowardice and tribalism. All the things that I believe are vices. A great God would  reward courage, curiosity, fairness, and compassion. A great God would reward courage not fear. It would reward truth not illusion.

3. Free Will and Determinism:
  At best free will is determinism's prisoner.  Hume said reason is the slave of the passions one could say free will is the slave of determinism. Free Will is not free from the strings of causal events outside the paradigm of the ego. Even if you believe in inner free will and agency it is still impacted  and caged in by outside deterministic forces. The people you meet, the family you came from, the country of origin, your genetics, and a thousand other outside deterministic forces. Now with the march of Neuroscience the question of even inner control of will is questionable. But that aside the obvious outside forces that the ancient Greeks and Romans understood as Fortuna is enough to question the justice and fairness of condemning the human being to eternal damnation for such a fragile creature knocked around by Fortuna. Other questions about the after life are troublesome with the doctrine of free will. Is there free will in heaven? If so there could be an eternal threat of rebellion in heaven and the need for redemption where this movie is played over and over again. If Satan and the angels can rebel it seems other creatures of heaven can rebel with this free will card. No one is safe not even in heaven with free will ready to kick humans out of paradise once again. And if you could rebel in heaven can you not repent in hell? Since faith pleases God is there the ability to even have faith in heaven? What happens to Neanderthals? Or is free will just a passing fad for this time period. Noah's God regretted creating mankind maybe that is the case again and God will just zero it out completely in the future and be done with these troublesome problems. 

4. The Fragile Brain: 
  In short it is being proved over and over again that parts of  our person or soul die while we are still alive.  The brain is altered and fragile and so is the "soul".  Something that is fundamental to this existence, to this Universe, is that everything falls apart, is fragile, finite, vulnerable, and passing away. The fragility of this "glass existence" is something known to humans but it is at the same time a vague fog in our consciousness. Awareness of this comes and goes. The model of the "Bundle Theory" points to the fact that our ego our "self" is made up of a variety of connected parts in our neurology and physiology. There is no fixed you. It is an assembly of parts and connections that are in this moment coming together to be what you think you are but it is balanced on a precarious bundle of strings that can unravel by too much force, drugs, or disease. The self is a sand castle that will not last the incoming tide of time and entropy. The sand will be carried away to the sea and continue but the sand castle no longer exists as it was bundled together.

Michael Graziano
Professor of Neuroscience and Novelist, Princeton University
"Nobody who spends appreciable time with brain-damaged patients can avoid the obvious conclusion. The brain is the source of the mind. Descartes' idea, aside from being wrong in the particulars, has a deeper problem. There is no part of the brain that, when damaged, takes away the Cartesian soul. Instead damage to different structures takes away different chunks of the mind. The ability to formulate a sentence? Lost in damage to Broca's area. The ability to understand language? Lost in damage to Wernicke's area. The ability to see, imagine, or comprehend color? Lost in damage to specific regions of the visual system. The ability to think about the space around the body? Lost in damage to another set of brain areas. The ability to intuit the feelings and intentions of others? Impaired after a stroke to a specific network of brain regions. And so on. The mind is a collective and bits of it die when parts of the machinery are mucked up. Even awareness itself, as I wrote about last time, can be splintered apart and compromised by brain damage."

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