The Hell Debate: My Thoughts Afterwards

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Last night, I had a debate with two atheists on the topic “Is God Evil For Sending People To Hell?” If you want to watch that debate, go to the sidebar on this website and click on “My Video Debates”. Or you could just click on those highlighted letters. This debate will be the third one down. I’d prefer you watch the debate before you even read this blog post. Anyway, I was surprised to hear Counter Apologist disagree with BOTH premises in my argument for eternal torment. I expected him only to disagree with the 2nd premise (that people do evil things for eternity). The first premise seemed indisputable to me (“People deserve to suffer for doing evil things”). My moral intuitions tell me that people who do bad things deserve to have bad things happen to them. Although you guys know I’m against capital punishment, I’m not against it because I think it’s unjust. People who commit certain crimes certainly deserve to die. I’m against it for other reasons. Namely, because I know they’d go to Hell immediately after the electric chair is turned on. I want people to have as much time to get right with God as they possibly can. So I’m against the death penalty out of mercy rather than justice. There’s nothing unjust about putting a convicted murderer to the chair if the judge and jury deem it right.

Certainly Hitler and the Nazis deserved a good beating for the atrocities they’ve committed in the past century. Every time I watch the news and hear of some new atrocity Islamic terrorists have committed, I think God would be justified if He struck them all down simultaneously with lightning! Heck, even King David agrees with this premise! Remember when Nathan told him the parable of the guy stealing a guy’s pet lamb in order to kill it for a meal? David was so outraged that he shouted “That man deserves to die!” (see 2 Samuel 12). Not to mention that David wrote several imprecatory Psalms which are further evidence that he agrees with this premise. And who doesn’t applaud when a fictional villain gets his just deserts in a movie or a comic book? This is also the rationale behind Karma! The first premise seems more plausible to me than its negation.

He also repeatedly appealed to the 8th amendment to argue that the kind of torment evil people endure in Hell is immoral. Now, if people literally “burned” in Hell, I might agree with him. But as I argued, I don’t think the fire is literal. After all, if it was literal, then there can’t be darkness everywhere. But The Bible says Hell is filled with darkness. So if there’s darkness everywhere, there can’t be literal fire everywhere or else the fire would light everything up.

Moreover, what does the 8th amendment say?

“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

So it all depends on the nature of the punishment, right? It’s not a literal burning as I’ve just argued. God is not literally setting people on fire. The punishment is mental, given they have no bodies until the resurrection, and it may transition to physical once they get physical bodies, but what is the nature of the physical suffering? I argued that it’s people in Hell tormenting one another. God gives people over to their sinful desires (Romans 1:24). I hold that Hell is a prison where all the evil people of the world are quarantined from the rest of creation (i.e the redeemed). They do evil things to one another (this causes suffering) and because they’re continuing to sin, they’re accruing more and more punishment to themselves. They are prolonging the time they’re going to spend in Hell in a similar way that a criminal would have time added to his sentence if he stabbed an inmate to death in prison. Perpetual sin = perpetual punishment.

Moreover, since I believe that The Bible teaches that there are differing degrees of sin, we can therefore infer that God is not putting everyone on the same level of torment. Christopher Hitchens is not suffering as much as Adolph Hitler and Osama Bin Ladin. So how exactly is God violating the 8th amendment? He’s not punishing anyone worse than they deserve. Some get many lashes, others get few lashes (See The Parable Of The Wicked Servant in Luke 12:42-48).

Now, I hope I made it clear in the debate last night that I am not contradicting myself. I said that people will be punished for eternity but also that there are differing degrees of punishment. What I mean by that is that the degree of suffering is different for each person depending on what crimes they’ve committed. If you want to pretend for the moment that the heat in Hell is literal, some would be in rooms of 120 degrees Fahrenheit while others may suffer heat of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if they sin for eternity, then they’ll be punished for eternity. The DURATION is the same for everyone, but the SEVERITY of the suffering is not.

I don’t see how God’s punishments on sinners is excessive. I think it would only be excessive if in fact people did not sin for eternity and their punishment in Hell is only for sins committed during the earthly life. I would agree that eternal punishment would be unjust if the sinners in Hell are being punished only for the sins committed in this Earthly life. However, I do think that it’s both possible and probable that people continue to sin in Hell, and so accrue more and more punishment to themselves. How is this excessive?

Neither Counter Apologist nor Riley refuted either premise in my syllogism last night. He didn’t refute the intuitive notion that bad things should happen to bad people, nor did he give me any reasons to believe that people will stop sinning for eternity. They tried, but they failed. One reason Counter Apologist gave was that if people could only see how bad Hell is, they would immediately turn to God in order to avoid it. But that’s simply not true in many cases. Again, think of the people in the book of Revelation. They didn’t repent and they knew it was God who had power over the plagues!

In the book of Revelation, the bowls of God’s wrath are poured out in judgment upon mankind, those judged are not repentant but curse God all the more: “men were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues, and they did not repent and give Him glory. . . . men gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores, and did not repent of their deeds. . . . and great hailstones, heavy as a hundredweight, dropped on men from heaven, till men cursed God for the plague of hail, so fearful was that plague” (Revelation 16:8-11, 21).

You would think that after all those bowls of wrath, they’d repent in order to stop the pain. But they hate God so much that they’d rather endure His wrath than submit to him. Let’s not forget that this is THE ENTIRE HUMAN RACE in the book of Revelation. This isn’t just a small group of people. God is judging the whole world just as he did back in Genesis 6-9.