Monday, August 24, 2020

Hell: not-fun for kids of all ages

So think about what Hell is, if you believe in Hell. What's bad about it? Well, the fundamental suffering in Hell, and the only one that matters, is that you know to a certainty that you have been completely abandoned by God. Sure, we talk about tortures and things, but that's an immature way of thinking about it (okay, so a "mature way of thinking about Hell" is an oxymoron, granted; just go with it). That stuff is irrelevant. It's why Mephistopheles declares to Faustus "why this is Hell, nor am I out of it." It doesn't matter that he's not currently being poked by spiky things; he is suffering the torments of Hell as intended.

But of course, it's hard for most of us to understand the kind of despair that knowing you've been permanently forsaken by God would feel like, if you have that worldview, and for that reason, it's easy to understand why you would conceptualize it in terms of sinners splashing around in a lake of fire: people can understand how that would be painful, so it serves as a stand-in for the thing they might not be able to. Easy.

However, the whole thing becomes complete nonsense if, like Dante, you've established an elaborate hierarchy where some sinners are punished in more unpleasant ways than others. GUESS WHAT? It's all the same! It doesn't matter if you're a virtuous pagan just wandering around feeling kind of melancholy or if you're Judas Iscariot being chewed up by Satan! Think of it like this: being apart from God has a punishment value of infinity: so the people in Limbo are suffering an infinity of punishment, whereas in the Second Circle they're suffering infinity+1, in the third infinity+2, and so on. These physical punishments are meaningless compared to the main one; they all amount to the same thing.

The only conclusion I can draw is that, in his heart of hearts, Dante didn't actually believe that being abandoned by God was all that bad; hence, this need to guild the lily for people he hated, and to act as though Classical figures that he admired weren't actually suffering that much, when in fact, if he believes in his theology, they're suffering essentially as much as anyone. The flip-side of this, of course, is that the penances that souls have to do in Purgatory fundamentally don't matter either: you've been saved. You know you're going to end up in Paradise. What does any of the other stuff matter?

I guess I don't really have a point here. I was just thinking about this stuff for some reason. I'm sure it's ground theologians have already gone over exhaustively, but all conclusions here were come to independently by me.


Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

> Well, the fundamental suffering in Hell, and the only one that matters, is that you know to a certainty that you have been completely abandoned by God.

Is that really what it is, though? Many Eastern Orthodox theologians (and not modern ones, I'm talking about the 7th century) would argue that God never abandons anyone. It's the other way around -- in hell, one knows to a certainty that one has rejected God. St. Isaac of Syria wrote that the "pain" of hell is basically the effect of God's love on evil souls. Good and evil people inhabit the same universe, which has been entirely filled up by God, but they experience it differently. Good people perceive God's love as a radiant light, but to evil people it becomes a burning fire.


6:26 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

Maybe so, but I dunno, I'm pretty sure some of those people being tortured would repent if they could--but they can't. It's too late. So what does that say about God? Either way, though, it seems like physical pain is beside the point. As I say, I can see it as a metaphor for spiritual pain, but I still think that things break down when you try to create different tiers of suffering.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

It's like this - Think of entire reality - everything you can see, touch, expirance with your senses etc. - is God. If you reject God and sining is a form of rejecting Him and his love then you will be moved to a space outside of God. Well what's there? Nothing, no reality so you endup in agony. It's like God is aquarium and water in the aquarium and we are fishesh and there is a dessert out side of the aquarium. Once you reject the aquarium and go outside you have a serious problem.

Dante's poem is amazgin on many, many levels but at the end of the day it's mainly his fan-fiction base on how people visual hell. God loves us and he dosen't want us to end up in hell but it's up to us will we accept him or reject Him. God isn't realy panishing us as accepting our wishes and we are punishing ourselfs.

God just want us to love other people since loving others is loving God as by accts of love to them is the same as acts of love to Him. You CAN'T love God but activily hate other people.

Of course Hell is for these who are far gone and between there is purgatory - sort of being at the edge - where you can redeem your soul. This is why God ask to pray for souls of dead people as it helps souls that are in purgatory. It's sort of second chance moment when they seen the errors of their lives and can make up for it. Again, Dante imagine it as goign up mountain but it's more of a processing state like when caterpilar is morphinhg into a beatuyful butrefly.

I know but you have diffrent views on these things Goex but I'm glad you ask and analise this stuff Geox. LOVE YOU MAN!

This been
"Sorry, I have to say this or I would be a bad Christian" moment with Maciek
(And yes I simplefy but it's hard to put decades of church teachings in to one comment)

7:46 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

"Maybe so, but I dunno, I'm pretty sure some of those people being tortured would repent if they could--but they can't."

Ah, as I said that's when purgatory comes in. It's suffering but minor (more like the whay you suffer from hard work rather then pain) and just takes some time, not enternity. Saint Father Pio use to be visited by souls from Purgatory all the time. It's pretty amazing stuff actualy.

7:50 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

So--not to get too deep in the weeds here--why can't the people in Hell repent? Are they there because it's just been determined somehow, I don't know how, that they never would and that's that? Did God make that determination? But then what happened to the idea that it's THEM turning away from him, and not the other way round?

8:13 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

>>> So--not to get too deep in the weeds here--why can't the people in Hell repent?

No clue. Simple awnser (and this wil get super dark, sorry) would be that they are in such agony it's imposible for them to even think about repending. There is an idea also that in hell their souls are somehow destoyed/damaged and are no longer able to think so being in hell is more equal to simply non existing anymore (which I must admit freaks me out more then any other concept of hell) But I'm aware there is an entire philosophy that one day they perhaps will be free.

Also there is possiblity that a Soul that end up in hell would never repent by definition as it means it activly want's to reject God out of it's own free will (Keep in mind that "on the other side" souls have completly diffrent mind set that we can not understand) like it's sort of Want's to be in hell... which makes thouse souls masohitic on some level but that's just a theory I heared (plus agian, diffrent way of thinking we can't comperhand)

>> Are they there because it's just been determined somehow, I don't know how, that they never would and that's that?

Technically it can be determined God is above time so he is aware what's going on in the future at the same time. I know some people who like to say that God predicts the future but that's seriously dubing it down. He just above our understanidng of time and space etc.

>> Did God make that determination? But then what happened to the idea that it's THEM turning away from him, and not the other way round?

I can't speak for all religions, at least in mine it's always up to the individual sould.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

*Individual souls

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

I'm going to answer from the point of view of Orthodox theology; looks like the other commenter can provide a Catholic view.

People in hell don't repent because, in some sense, they prefer to hold on to their sins even at the cost of eternal punishment. Perhaps that sounds implausible, but in our ordinary mortal life there are already plenty of examples of people who persist in self-destructive behavior, even though it makes them genuinely miserable. For some people it is like some twisted point of pride; they truly prefer to suffer rather than admit they were wrong. Like, imagine that Hitler is given a chance to repent, but doing so means that he has to go to heaven, see everyone whom he killed, look them in the face, and be forgiven by them. Would he really be willing to do that, or would he prefer to stay alone with his self-justifying rage, even though it would mean eternal suffering?

Perhaps only a few, particularly evil people would make that choice. But then, hell doesn't necessarily have to be full of people. St. Isaac actually argued that most people would be saved (although he went further in that than the church as a whole would be comfortable with), the point being that we don't know how many people will actually end up there in the end. In any case, by the time the Last Judgment rolls around, people will have made their choice one way or the other -- at that point time will cease to exist, and each soul will be in its final state.


9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

As for the "tiers" of punishment, that concept is completely absent from Orthodoxy, basically for the exact reasons that you describe. That's all on Dante. I guess that he was working with an extreme version of medieval scholasticism, influenced by Aristotle's approach to systematizing and classifying everything in the universe.


9:43 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon pontificated to the effect that...

I get going back to the whole "Hell as the state of being abandoned by God" thing, but I have always thought that this was, if you will, the business of enlightened theologians who started to see the gaps in their worldview and created convoluted excuse to make it seem less childish.

What I'm getting at is, I think Hell-as-literal-torture isn't a “misunderstanding” of Hell-as-abandonment, but rather that Hell-as-abandonment is a fashionable façade for Hell-as-torture to hide behind. What the overwhelming majority of Christians have believed historically is very much Hell-as-torture, whether or not some thinkers already pondered a more metaphorical conception of Hell in even very early days.

It strikes me as a lot of the philosophical treatises which wax lyrical about how, oh, no, prayer is nothing lik magical thinking, and how indeed spirit-summoning witchcraft runs quite opposite to the True Meaning of religion. You can certainly construct an esoteric theological framework where that is the case, but such a framework is not and has never been what the actual Christians believe, and so it strikes me as playing religion's game to act as though those rarefied, elevated doctrines are the soul of religion that should be engaged with. It's very no-true-scotsmanny.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Achille Talon pontificated to the effect that...

(I just recalled the Yes, Minister quip “Theology is a device for enabling agnostics to stay within the church”,w hich gets at a similar thing, albeit from a different angle)

7:08 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

I don't want to argue since we clearly have a diffrent view on religion in general, but all I will say it was the mentioned theologians, mistics and Doctor of the Church who help specify the doctrine.

It dosen't shock me most Christian just fallow the simplefy (pop-cultured) view of Hell - as place where devils tourtures you with pitchforks etc. - and never took their time to dig more into it. Jesus once mention a rich man in Hell where it was descrbied as place of fire but people seam to forget it was a parable (which is a methaphor by definition)

1:18 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon pontificated to the effect that...

When other parabols mention i.e. grain, we don't jump to the conclusion that as the parabol itself isn't meant to be literally true, this must mean grain doesn't exist. I contend that a firey, literally-painful Hell was simply an element of the consensus "real world" of the early Christians, within which the parabol sets itself.

Mostly, though, my point is that it's disingenuous and no-scotsmanny of the Catholic Church (or indeed any other Church) to act as though the version of their doctrines that "matters" in atheism debates is the elevated view of theologians, rather than the things most people actually believe. I also argue that "Hell as abandonment" emerged as a philosophically-inclined reinterpretation of "Hell as literal torture", rather than "Hell as literal torture" having come second, as a misrepresentation of "Hell as abandonment".

This isn't a knock on people who actually believe in Hell-as-abandonment. More power to ya if that's the case. I merely take issue with the whole of the religion hiding behind its most comparatively rational and respectable (but actually not very numerous) representatives.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

Just to make it clear: I didn't ment that Hell isn't true or that pain in it isn't real - I just ment that the "lake of fire" was more symbolic then literal description "Hey this is how Hell looks like", at least when Jesus talk about it. It's still was ment to be pain/torment.

I'm not sure would I call it disingenuous. When Pope Francis say - "take your time and help the poor" and most Christians ignore it, It dosen't change the fact that being altruistic is a part of being a Christian and even if most don't fallow it dosen't change that. The law still say don't cross the street on the red light even if most people don't do it. Same go for the doctrines and theological stuff... agian, I can only speak for myself and people around me or whom I fallow but I wouldn't call it hiding if we just talk about what we belive and what our Church say rather then what is general conviction among the public.

Or maybe I'm just not exactly grassping what are you saying, which is fault on my part.

3:45 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon pontificated to the effect that...

I feel like there's a difference between practices and beliefs. Most Catholics *know* they're supposed to help the poor, whether or not they end up doing so, in a way that I'm not at all sure most Christians conceive of Hell as more a metaphysical state of godlessness than a literal place of literal torture. (All this, mind you, is aimed more at Protestants than at Catholics, at least in this day and age.)

In any event I never said you were the people hiding. It was something of a figure of speech, in that I said it was religion itself that was hiding — the irrational brunt of religious people "getting away with it" because whenever atheists and agnostics try to convince "religious people" to change their minds, they end up talking to theologians whose ideas are hard to disprove but are not the ideas you'd need to disprove to convince most religious people that they're wrong.

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

I honestly don't think it's possible to "convince" anyone of the rightness or wrongness of religion by "disproving ideas." People can argue about those things, but usually they have completely different frames of reference, so the things that one side finds compelling have no meaning to the other side, and vice versa.

In general, I don't think people really adopt any philosophical worldview, whether it pertains to religion or not, on the basis of a logical analysis of its "correctness." That may be part of it, but I think it plays more of a secondary role. You might say that this is irrational of them, but I just view it as being based on a different type of experience. Like, suppose that there is a person whom one deeply respects and trusts, who professes religious beliefs, and then this person somehow betrays one's trust. I think one would then be much more likely to reject religion, no matter how much empirical evidence was presented about other religious people doing charitable work. But the other way also works -- if you have a strong personal experience involving religion, most of the standard "disproofs" are going to seem very weak and irrelevant in comparison.


6:02 PM  
Blogger Achille Talon pontificated to the effect that...


I think this analysis makes sense for a broad "religious vs. non-religious", or perhaps "spiritual vs. non-spiritual", division. That is to say, it is very hard to convince someone of the existence or non-existence of God/the Afterlife/souls/some other general concept, using sheer empirical facts and logical analysis thereof.

But again, I was speaking more of specific entrenched religions which make certain empirical claims (of the variety of "1987 years ago, there was this one guy who came back to life three days after he was gruesomely executed by Roman soldiers").

As for the matter of different frames of reference, it goes without saying that the first step to trying to rationally convince someone to change their mind about, say, the existence of Hell, is to teach them rational thinking in the first place. Ideally they should be able to start poking holes in their own beliefs without you ever needing to explicitly connect what you have taught them about biases and empiricism with religious matters.

I would tentatively suggest that rarefied, elevated theologians of the "is Hell not merely the state of godlessness? can the Bible not be one great metaphor? is God not but another name for the harmony of Nature?" variety could be construed as people with an unshakably "spiritual" worldview, but who have learned to think straight enough to reject all that can be rejected on logical grounds.

6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

But, from a purely rational viewpoint, I don't see any substantial dividing line between believing in an eternal, supernatural being who has the power to create life and is interested in the fate of humanity, vs. believing that this same being acted on that interest by directly being born into the world and intervening in human history at a certain specific moment. If the first part is "acceptable," then there's no reason why he couldn't also have done the second. If, however, pure reason is the main criterion, then neither part is allowed.

Like I said, the frames of reference are completely different. If I understand you correctly, the idea is that "rational thinking" should make religious people sceptical of their beliefs ("poking holes"). But every religion has a set of supra-rational dogmata that are accepted on faith as a first step, prior to any further developments. In Orthodoxy (again, I'll leave it to the other commenter to talk about Catholicism), theology is not a mechanism for proving the existence of God or the absolute correctness of the religion. Its role is rather to clarify what the dogmata are, that is, exactly which statements have to be absolute articles of faith. Non-dogmatic statements can be the subject of rational inquiry, or leave room for interpretation and opinion (or one could just admit that one does not know), but dogmata can only be accepted or not accepted, as an act of free will. If they were "provable," there wouldn't be any need for religion.

So, from that point of view, the statement that "God is another name for the harmony of Nature" is actually not spiritual at all, since by turning God into a metaphor one removes the act of faith itself. Perhaps, for a person who truly venerated Nature, the statement might take on that meaning again, but I personally have a hard time imagining such a person.


8:59 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

From now on, this is exclusively a theology blog. Just fyi.

11:14 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

Toon in next time when GeoX will ponder How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? I say five but I'm Catholic so what the hell do I know...

1:40 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home