A Critique Of Counter Apologist’s Article “Argument From Hell, Part 2”

I did a post critiquing an article written by Counter Apologist on his argument against the morality of God based on the doctrine of Hell. I address his syllogism that God is immoral and gave my reasons for thinking that the 4th premise was flawed. I also addressed a few other issues that he brought up. If you want to look at that article, click on this link.

However, he wrote a follow up article to “The Argument From Hell” in which he attempts to tackle objections to his argument. I will address his objections to common Christian objections and see if they stand up under scrutiny.

He starts off by listing Bible verses that essentially refute annihilationism, and I would agree with him on that. The Bible verses he lists are the reason I am not an annihilationist, as emotionally attractive as that position may be.

1. “Everlasting Fire" (Matthew 25:41)

2. “Unquenchable Fire" (Matthew 3:12)

3.  A place where "the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 9:44-49)

4. A place of "torments" and "flame" (Luke 16:23-24)

5. “Everlasting destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:9)

6. A place of torment with "fire and brimstone" where "the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever" (Revelation 14:10-11)

7.  A "lake of fire and brimstone" where the wicked are "tormented day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 20:10)

After listing these verses, he says that whatever Hell is, it’s something that goes on for eternity. I do agree with him on that. These verses are pretty clear cut. Hell is eternal torment. There is no annihilation of the souls that go to Hell. This is one of the few areas of his article we can both agree on.

Counter Apologist wrote after that, that some Christians call the descriptions of Hell a metaphor. For some reason, it appears as though he thinks the reason Christian Apologists do this is because they find the thought of someone burning in a literal fire as ghastly as he does. And maybe they do, but that’s not their reason for rejecting the “fire” language as literal. Their reasoning goes as follows, The Bible describes Hell as being full of both fire AND darkness. But, if there’s fire everywhere, how there can there possibly be darkness everywhere as well. After all, the fire would light everything up. So there can’t be any darkness if the fire is literal. On this basis, they conclude that the “fire” language must be metaphorical. That’s their reasoning for it. It does make sense. Although I think the reverse could also be true, and it could also be the case that both are metaphorical.

He then says that historically, Christians have never taken these views of Hell, views like that of C.S Lewis, or theologians like N.T Wright who describe hell as more of an “eternal separation from god” where the individual in hell “is no longer human because they no longer bear the image of God”. I’m not sure what the point is in pointing out that Christians haven’t historically held these views. What’s the point? Even if these interpretations are recent, that doesn’t mean that these views are necessarily incorrect, are they? If that’s the point he’s trying to make, then CounterApologist is guilty of committing the Chronological Snobbery fallacy. Moreover, the separation from God view is supported by 1 Thessalonians 1:9, which CA himself acknowledges.

As for Mental Torment, I do hold that Hell is mental torment for the first period of a person being in Hell. My reasoning for this however is that ghosts cannot feel pain (contrary to what the Bleach manga portrays). They have no neurological system, no physical body, and no pain sensors. So how is it possible for them to feel physical pain? Now, Jesus does tell us that those in Hell will be resurrected someday and obtain physical bodies. He says “Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment.” (John 5:29). I do believe it’s plausible to think that when a sinner is sent to Hell during that intermediate state (see 1 Corinthians 5), they experience mental anguish. After their resurrection, their suffering transitions from purely mental to also physical.

Counter Apologist then wrote \\\\“But apologists aren’t done trying to white wash the torture of hell, many go on about how the “gates of hell are locked from the inside” and that people in hell really don’t want to be with god and so are stuck there.

The issues here are that in each case, hell is a fate worse than non-existence.  Even if the ‘gates were locked from within’, god is still sustaining the souls in hell, denying them the ability to cease to exist.  That’s what’s immoral about the situation, that continual infliction of pain when non-existence would be preferable.”\\\\ --

I addressed this criticism in my blog post titled “The Doctrine Of Hell and Objections To It”. But I will rehash my answer here for the sake of critique.

If a person deserves to suffer because they do something evil, and if they do evil things for eternity, then it follows that people deserve to suffer for eternity.

The way I just argued can be represented as a syllogism.

1: People deserve to suffer for their sins.
2: People do evil things for eternity.
3: Therefore, people deserve to suffer for eternity.

Just think about it. Do you think that the people that caused 9-11 deserve to suffer for what they did? Yes? Did Hitler? Yes? If you said yes to both of these, then that means that you agree with premise 1. You agree that people should experience something unpleasant for these nasty deeds. Now, if you accept the second premise, then you should accept the conclusion since the conclusion follows by the laws of logic. All that needs to be done to affirm the conclusion is to affirm the truth of the two premises. If the two premises are true, then the conclusion follows inevitably by the laws of logic.

If the people in Hell were to stop sinning, it could very well be the case that as soon as their time was served, God, in His great mercy and love, would snuff them out of existence so they wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. But I think it’s very probable that just because a person is sent to Hell, that doesn’t mean he stops sinning. I think it’s very probable that people continue to sin for eternity. And if people keep sinning over and over, then they’re accrue more and more punishment to themselves. The crucial premise is the second one. Even in the Earthly life, people were conscious of the fact that God was punishing them and refused to turn from their evil ways to serve God. We have Pharoah in the book of Exodus, and we have the human race in the book of Revelation. 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).

Remember, CounterApologist is assuming the truth of Christianity in order to make his argument. He said so himself. So he must take these biblical examples into consideration. Would people really repent just to stop the pain? Not if their hatred of God and their love for their sins were strong enough (John 3:19-20).

I’ve noticed that CounterApologist repeatedly emphasizes (both in Part 1 of his blog post and in part 2) what the sinners in Hell prefer. He keeps saying, they’d rather be annihilated than suffer for eternity in Hell. On that note I would agree with him. Yes, they themselves would prefer non-existence. But the issue here isn’t what people prefer, it’s what people deserve! Do people deserve eternal torment? If they sin for eternity, I think the answer is yes. It doesn’t matter what they want. What matters is whether what’s happening to them is justified. For example, it doesn’t matter if a teenager doesn’t want to be grounded, what matters is whether his parents are justified in grounding him for what he did. The issue is not whether a criminal wants to spend his entire life behind bars. The issue is whether a life sentence fits the crime that he committed.

After this, Counter Apologist writes on some viewpoints by some Christians that were raised against his argument that I do not hold. I do not agree with those Christian positions, so I’ll skip over talking about those altogether. View such as “God had to create. He had no choice on whether or not to create anything.”

He then criticizes Christian Apologists who appeal to the moral argument to try to get the atheist to realize that he has to borrow from the Christian worldview in order to criticize it. He doesn’t try to refute the moral argument (probably for the sake of brevity), but he does try to show that it doesn’t help the Christian escape the notion that eternal torment is unjust.

He writes \\\\”The issue here is that even if we grant that god is necessary as a basis for morality, even theists would have to admit that we have moral intuitions.  In fact the evidence that they use for the moral argument is the fact that we as human beings have moral intuitions that tell us that things are right or wrong.”\\\\ --

He’s quite right about that. We Christian Apologists do appeal to moral intuition to justify the second premise of The Moral Argument for God’s Existence. If you want to read my defense of The Moral Argument, click here. He then points out that the problem is that eternal torment violates our moral intuitions. But I would like to point out that our intuitions, though very reliable, aren’t infallible. Sometimes we think something is wrong when it really isn’t, usually because our knowledge of the facts is misinformed. I think the same thing is going on with our intuition that eternal torment is unjust. Our knowledge is misinformed. What do I mean by that? Well, consider this. Let’s say you read a story about a man who cut open the stomach of a woman. If that’s all the information you had, you would very likely call the man unjust. It’s obviously unjust to cut open a woman’s stomach like that. But now, consider this. The man is a surgeon, and the woman is having surgery which, if she did not have, she would die. The man is trying to save the woman’s life.

You condemned the man before because your knowledge of the facts was skewed. When you got a broader picture of what was going on, you could see that the man was justified in cutting open the woman. He was doing that to save the woman’s life. Your moral intuition wasn’t off. Your information was lacking. Your moral intuition told you that slicing open people was wrong, and that is correct. However, your moral intuition also told you that performing surgery to save someone’s life is a good thing. The only reason you were mistaken is because you had the wrong context.

I think the doctrine of Hell is the same way. People have misinformation about Hell and that leads them to conclude that God is unjust in sending them there. In this case, it’s that there is no justification for tormenting people for eternity. I have shown that is at least possible for eternal torment to be just. If people keep sinning, they accrue more punishment to themselves. However, I think this is not only possible, but probable since we have biblical examples of people rebelling against God even though they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if they just submitted to Him, their suffering would subside…as I pointed out above. In the end-times judgment, people will know that it’s God bringing the plagues, hail storms, etc. upon them, but they’ll curse Him anyway. Now, if people will do that while in the Earthly life, why not in the afterlife as well? You would think that after all that torment, they’d repent. They’d be like “Okay, God! I get it! You’re ticked! We’ll stop doing evil things now! We’ll do anything You want! Just please make it stop!” But such is not the case. Their hearts are that hardened against their Creator.

Given what I now know, my moral intuitions no longer tell me that eternal torment is unjust…at least not in ALL contexts. Given certain factors in place (i.e the ones I mentioned), it at least CAN be just. I happen to think if people do evil in Hell for eternity, then they deserve to suffer for eternity.

Moreover, I don’t think, as CounterApologist said, that this is a diversionary tactic. This isn’t a red herring. We do need a proper ontological foundation for objective morality in order for any moral objection atheists can make against God to work. I think that God is the grounds for objective morality. Atheists who believe in objective morality have tried to find other things to ground objective morality in, but they’re very flawed. Other atheists deny the objectivity of morality at all. Now those atheists are really inconsistent. For then they’re pretty much saying “I think God is evil because He won’t conformed his subjective moral preferences to fit my subjective moral preferences”. I debate an atheist on Google + recently over a law in The Old Testament that atheists often take issue with. I knew he was a moral relativist, so I really pushed this on him. The problem with moral relativists is that they can’t consistently make moral arguments against anything. For any moral argument they make, it will be akin to saying “I think chocolate ice cream should be banned, and vanilla ice cream enforced because I personally dislike chocolate ice cream and I like vanilla.”

So I don’t disagree with this tactic at all. Atheists, in order to be consistent, need to ground objective morality in something other than God. However, usually, I don’t even bring up the Moral Argument in conversations like this. While God is the grounds of morality, I think it’s important to show how it is possible for God to be good when He appears to be violating our moral intuitions.

Finally, he writes \\\“There are a few more laughable objections, like saying hell is a prison that’s run by the inmates, and since god isn’t there, it’s only as terrible as the people in hell make it.  But any person who made a prison that let the inmates do whatever they wanted to other inmates would be arrested for crimes against humanity on earth.  What does that say about god?”\\\ --- If you read part one of the post, you’ll see that this is the solution I posed in my critique of the first part of his post.

Just in case you didn’t read that last post, this was one defense I gave for the justice of eternal torment. I wrote

“There's also another theory about Hell which kind of goes along the lines of theory number 1 (about sinning in Hell prolonging the time that the people are in Hell). Some people think that the suffering in Hell might be caused by the very people in Hell. Think about it this way; look at how miserable this world is because people treat each other unkindly. People kill, rape, molest, mock and steal from one another all the time. I mean, I practically cannot turn on the news without hearing about another murder or another kidnapping that happened. Imagine a world where a bunch of sinners are doing the same things in Hell that they did while they were alive (like Adolph Hitler for instance). In that kind of world, human beings would create Hell themselves! In this view, the talk about “fire” is merely metaphorical speech, trying to give a description of how horrible living in such a world full of evil people doing harm to one another and no Divine intervention to bring good out of it would be like. Imagine….if you were to place a bunch of serial killers in a locked room with each other, and they all were trying to kill each other! That would be horrible (for them anyway)! Well, some think of Hell like a room full of psychos trying to hurt one another. People are torturing one another in Hell, not God torturing them. God is indeed punishing them, but He's doing it indirectly. And the reason why they have to endure that for eternity is because they're committing sins (against each other)….for eternity. Therefore, they have to continue to suffer at the hands of fellow sinners for a longer period of time because of their own sins.”

Apparently, Counter Apologist finds this view “Laughable”. Laughable? Yeah, that doesn’t carry a hint of condescension at all. He says that any person who made a prison that let the inmates do whatever they wanted to other inmates would be arrested for crimes against humanity on Earth.

The thing is that Hell, on this view, is giving the unbeliever exactly what He wants; eternity away from God. As C.S Lewis wrote “There are those who say to God ‘Thy will be done’ and those to whom God says ‘Thy will be done’”

 In other words, God says to the unbeliever on judgment day “You want nothing to do with me? Fine. I’ll send you to a place where you won’t be able to feel my presence for all eternity. You don’t want anything to do with my rules? Fine. I’ll send you to a place where you and those like you can do whatever you want.” If this is really how Hell is, I think it’s a brilliant way to pass judgment. On the one hand, God isn’t doing anything at all to punish the believer, at least not in a direct sense. He’s not keeping a fire going to perpetuate their screams, or making fiery rocks fall on their heads or anything like that. He’s basically just putting all evil and unrepentant sinners in another world so that they’ll be quarantined from the rest of creation and saying “Don’t want anything to do with me or my rules? Fine. I’ll give you want you want”. On the flip side of that coin, this is the worst thing that could happen to a sinner because now he’s going to be at the mercy of other sinners who’s going to be following their evil desires. Also, because people are sinning for eternity, they therefore deserve to endure that kind of existence for eternity. Perpetual sin = perpetual punishment. Not even atheists themselves think that it’s unjust to punish people for their sins, they just think it’s unjust to punish someone infinitely long for sins of finite magnitude. But again, if the sinning goes on forever, then the punishment also needs to go on forever. So what’s the problem? God is not unjust for subjecting Hitler to a world where vengeance-thirsty people hunt him down and beat the crap out of him, is He? Wouldn’t Hitler deserve such treatment? And since seeking one’s own vengeance is a sin (see Romans 12:19), whatever they’re “in for”, they will have time added to their sentence. What if Hitler retaliates? Then the people suffer for what they did to him but Hitler gets more time added to his sentence.

What about his argument that if a human warden did this, he’d be charged with crimes against humanity?

To that, I say, so what? So what? Refute my syllogism if you want to avoid the conclusion. Refute either premise 1 or premise 2. I'm going with my conclusion because I think both premises are true. Do people who bad things deserve to have bad things happen to them? Yes or no? Do you think, as I do, that those in the afterlife will continue to sin against God for eternity? Yes or no? If you say yes to both, then the conclusion follows “Therefore, people deserve eternal torment”.

So there’s my take on his Argument From Hell. I addressed the argument itself, and then addressed some of his objections to common Christian objections raised against his argument (a few of them, I raised myself in my part one).