Philosophical Problems with Salvation and Damnation: The Imponderables
Even as a Christian, deep down I knew that there were many philosophical and moral problems with the central Christian doctrine that “the saved go to an eternal paradise but the unsaved go to an eternal hell”. I knew deep down that no matter how many rationalizations the Christians provided for me, it was simply plain unjust no matter how much you want to sugar coat it. However, I was afraid to speak of them for fear of being punished and seen by other Christians as being immoral and blasphemous against God. Now though, I no longer fear making these thoughts known, so here they are.
Imponderable # 1: The best and most efficient use of unlimited power?
If God was all powerful and had unlimited power, why would he only be able to reveal himself and help out a small section of humanity through only one religion? Why would he only talk to the small area where Christianity began and spread, and ignore the rest of the world? If he had unlimited power, wouldn't he have the power to speak through and work through all the religions and faiths, as long as the people who followed them sincerely sought him or their own spirituality? Say you were God, with all his infinite wisdom and power and understanding, and say someone who sought you for wisdom, spirituality, high morals, etc. was only exposed to Islam or Buddha because of his/her geographical area. Now, wouldn’t you want to try to work with him/her through Islam or Buddhism? Or would you just say “No I’m not going have anything to do with you unless you come to me through a particular religion which lies in a particular region of the world”? Which would you do? Why isolate a small geographical region when you have the power not to? Would that be either effective or efficient? If God could only work and speak through only one religion, doesn't that show a God with limited power, instead of a God with unlimited power?
Imponderable # 2: Variety in all creation?
If God created everything in existence, then he must love and appreciate variety, since there are such a variety of races among humans, species of plant life, species of animals and insects, stones, etc. So if God loves and accepts variety among all things in creation, then why wouldn’t he do the same for the variety of different religions and faiths that come up in this world too? To say that one religion is true, while all the others are false, would be like saying that one race of humans or one breed of animals exists, while the rest do not. Now that would be totally absurd and untrue wouldn’t it? Therefore, shouldn’t we conclude that there is beauty, truth and divinity within all religions and faiths?
Imponderable # 3: Why knowingly go through on a bad horrible investment?
If you were God, and you were omnipotent and could see throughout all time, would you create a world where you knew beforehand that the majority of people in it would end up in an eternal hell? If only Christians went to heaven and everyone else went to hell, then that means that since the majority of people in the world throughout weren’t Christians, and the majority of people now aren't Christians either, then the majority of people who have ever lived will end up in hell’s eternal damnation. Therefore, the negative consequences would vastly outweigh the positive. So why bother to create this world at all? Wouldn’t it be a bad horrible investment? Besides, if you were God, would you want to end up spending an eternity yourself punishing over and over the billions of people who ever lived on earth, with fire and brimstone in hell? Why would you want to do that? It would be analogous to making a business decision that you knew beforehand would put you in huge debt forever.
Imponderable # 4: The negative minus 1000 value of life?
It is estimated that about 1/5 of people in this world call themselves Christians. Now, if we given them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are all sincere and saved, then consider this. Since only saved Christians go to heaven, while the rest go to hell, then given a baby born at random into this world would have an 80 percent chance or higher of ending up in hell, and a 20 percent chance or lower of ending up in heaven. This would follow because most people do not end up becoming Christians in their lifetime, and the number of Christians is about 1 billion out of 5.5 billion. Now, if the next baby born faced those odds, wouldn't it be much better if that baby wasn't born at all? (justification for abortion?) Why let a baby come into this world with an 80 percent or higher chance of ending up being eternally tortured with fire and brimstone? In fact, under these conditions, it would be much better for no one to be born at all, wouldn’t it? And wouldn't that then give life itself a minus 1000 value and degrade the point of life altogether?
So based on the above, could you imagine if every time you see a baby being born or someone getting pregnant, rather than cheering the beginning of a new life, you thought “Oh no! There’s another person who has an 80% chance of burning in hell for an eternity!” Eventually you’d begin to curse all mothers in general because they keep bringing into this world souls that will most likely to be condemned in an eternal agony and torture forever and ever! Could you fathom or accept thinking and doing that? In fact, why is God even breathing life into every newborn baby that comes along if each one of them has an 80% chance of burning in hell forever????!!!!! Shouldn’t he stop?!
Imponderable # 5: The Boy in Africa Scenario
This is the imponderable thought I couldn’t get out of my head that was the final straw that led to my deconversion. After I realized that it couldn’t ever be justified, I realized that there was something wrong with my faith, and that there HAD to be other answers! In fact, I describe it near the end of my story My Rise to Christianity and My Transcendence From It.
“That summer I was able to use my newfound insight and understanding to re-evaluate the Christian beliefs I had. While on a plane on a vacation to Florida, I looked out at the night view below while we passed over Houston, Texas and the following thoughts came to my mind:
"There's something very wrong with Christianity here. I've known this a long time but was always afraid to face it. But since I value integrity of thought and a clear conscience, I might as well be honest now and face it no matter how blasphemous it may be. Now, I know that according to Christian teaching, billions of people out there in the world are going to go to hell because they're sinners and don't even know it. But why is it their fault when they don't even know it and were born with it? Sin to the Bible is any imperfection that we have, but since we were not born perfect no one can ever be perfect, so then why is it righteous to send them all to hell for an eternity for something they were born with? That's like sending Zebras to hell for being born with stripes! It just doesn't make sense no matter how hard you try to justify it. Now let's put myself in the place of a nonbeliever. Suppose I was a boy in Africa some time in the past who had lived and died without ever hearing the Gospel. This means that no matter how good or bad or anything I was, I was guaranteed to go to hell anyway not only because I was never saved, but because I was born a sinner as a result of the Fall of Man and never even knew it? This means that I would wake up someday before the judgment throne of God about to be thrown into hell for something I never even knew existed, which was sin. After being thrown into hell, I would be tormented for billions and trillions and zillions of years and beyond without end. All for something I never even knew existed. This would be the fate of billions of people who had lived and died throughout history without being saved! Now if I were that boy in Africa and had that fate, would I feel that that was fair in any way at all? To be honest, I wouldn't feel that that was fair in the least bit. In fact I would feel that that was 1000 percent unfair!!!!!! Something is definitely wrong here. Something is inherently not right about Christian theology. I am absolutely SURE about that! There's no question about it. There MUST be other answers out there somewhere that makes more sense than this! And I fully intend to find those answers from here on!"
At that time I knew that these thoughts I was having were blasphemous to the Christian faith, but since I was so SURE that there was something inherently wrong here, that certainty gave me the courage to continue to think these things through. That's when my search for truth, meaning and answers began.”
Here is a little more elaborated version of it so you can visualize it more intensely. If everyone who is not a Christian, no matter how good, kind, or decent, is going to hell because they are sinners and evil, then think this and try to visualize it happening for real. Say you are a boy living in Africa centuries ago in a village without Western influence or contact. You were a good boy who lived a decent life and was basically good. However, there was no way that you could have ever heard the Gospel of Christ in your lifetime because the missionaries did not arrive yet or never reached you in your lifetime. Therefore, no matter what you did, no matter how good you were, you would end up going to hell after you die simply because you were born with Adam and Eve’s original sin and were never saved. You had no control over any of that too. Now listen again closely. Since you would have had to be 100% perfect and holy to pass the standard of going to heaven, which is totally impossible even by the Bible's own admission, and you never had the chance to become a Christian, you are 100% GUARANTEED to go to hell when you die! You will have to spend an eternity in hell, and that means that even after being tortured for billions or zillions of years, it still won’t end! And all because you were expected to be something you were not even born as, which you never even knew about! Furthermore, the good decent life you lived had zero significance on all this too. You had a 100% chance of going to hell for an eternity, and a 0% chance of going to heaven.
Furthermore, you have every right to curse your own mother now, since she brought you into this world to be condemned to hell for an eternity. And after zillions of years of torture in hell, you would still be cursing your mother’s name for bringing you into this world! After all, a zillion years in eternity is nothing, not even a drop of water in the ocean! You are stuck in eternal damnation forever and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Those are God’s rules. Your mother also has every right to feel guilty for it too, since she has brought into this world children who will spend eternity in everlasting pain because they weren’t perfect. In fact, since most people on your whole continent is in the same predicament you are, it would have been better than none of you were born, since all of you will be cursing at all the mothers on your continent. Whenever a baby is born on your continent, it is just another person who is 100% guaranteed to go to hell! NOW, tell me, do you even see 0.0000000000000001% of any sense or justice at all in this?????????????? Tell me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Imponderable # 6: How would you deal with two naive innocent children?
If an omnipotent God knew that mankind would fall from grace when he created Adam and Eve, then why would God create the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and put it in the Garden of Eden, knowing that it would happen and result in billions of souls spending an eternity in hell? There is no common sense in expecting that two innocent naive children with no life experience, will not touch something that looks desirable. Isn't that obviously an accident just waiting to happen? And besides, why should he punish one little mistake of eating the wrong fruit off the wrong tree, so harshly? Christian theology teaches that that one act of disobedience brought death, disease, and pain into this world, as well as the automatic designated eternal damnation of every soul at birth.
That would be like leaving your kids in the house alone, and before leaving, telling them that you were going to put a gun or a bottle of delicious looking poison pills in the middle of the table, but that they were not to touch or play around with it or they would die. (Is that what any parent with the slightest common sense or responsibility or love would do?) And then when your kids manage to kill themselves by playing with the gun or eating the bottle of delicious looking poison pills, you say "Well it was their fault, I told them not to play around with those dangerous objects, but they chose to disobey it, therefore they paid the consequences for it." Come on now, would anyone sane do that? Never mind the insanity, but would that even be just? And furthermore, would an all wise, all just, all good parent do such a thing?
Or take another analogy. If you told your two kids before you left the house "Now you can eat anything in the refrigerator, but don't touch or eat the cookies in the jar over there" but then upon returning discover that they had taken a bite of a cookie from that jar, would you then say to your kids "You kids have disobeyed me! I now officially disown you. You must leave the house at once! You will suffer from now on while you're on your own. You will not have my blessing or support from here on." Now, can you even fathom or conceive of doing that? Again, would that even be just? And furthermore, would an all wise, all just, all good parent do such a thing?
Imponderable # 7: Adding up the consequences of 1 + 1 = eternity?
Regarding the Adam and Eve story of the Fall of Man, could you really accept the idea that the cause of all the suffering and pain in this world, and the reason billions of people that ever lived will burn in hell for an eternity, is simply because two innocent and naive people who had no experience in life, ate a piece of fruit off of the wrong tree? Could you take that idea seriously and for real? Could you really take for absolute truth, something that doesn’t add up even to a thousandth of a percent?
It would make no more sense than sending zebras to hell for being born with stripes, or sending turtles to hell for being born with shells. It wasn’t their choice. And God let it happen. So why then would they deserve spending an eternity in damnation?
On another note, I know that in theology, the strongest argument against the existence of God is the existence of evil and suffering. Critics say that the existence of evil and suffering is incompatible with the existence of an all powerful, all good God. They argue that such a God would not allow evil or unjust suffering in the world to exist. A simple explanation for this is that perhaps God is not all powerful and so he can’t prevent evil and suffering. Or perhaps that he doesn’t want to prevent it because he’s not all good. However, if the latter were true, then God might have just done away with all of mankind long ago, so perhaps not. On the other hand, Christians answer this argument by stating that God did not create evil or suffering, but that man chose to let those things come into play because they chose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden. They argue that God does not want people to mindlessly obey him like robots, so he gave them free will and tested them in the Garden of Eden. However, if you look at the big picture, you have to ask, would giving humans free will be worth the cost of billions of souls in going to hell for eternity if you knew these costs beforehand? It just doesn’t make any sense any way you look at it.
Imponderable # 8: Unjust illogical redemption
This one has been pointed out to me by other critics. It makes a lot of sense, though I haven’t thought it before. Although Christian evangelists portray Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as an act of love, if you look at it honestly, it doesn’t seem as such. It declares that your sins can be paid for by the sacrifice of another. However, that just doesn’t make sense and isn’t even just. How can one person’s sacrifice annul another person’s guilt? That would be like executing an innocent person to free a guilty person who committed a crime. It just doesn’t make any sense. In fact, it wouldn’t even be justice at all. If you think about it, this becomes obvious.
Besides, according to Christian beliefs, Jesus didn’t really die anyway. He merely left his body for a while and returned again a few days later. So there was no true death in the first place. And since he is supposed to be God in flesh, he was immortal anyway and couldn’t be killed. So what did he lose other than endure a temporary period of pain? Also, since Jesus’ death was only physical, even if that saved us, it would theoretically only save us from physical death, not spiritual death. Perhaps the whole Christ crucifixion motif then, is that one should allegorically die to one’s body in order to awaken one’s spirit? If so, many religions and mystics have taught that. So perhaps that was Jesus’ true message?
Conclusion to the Imponderables
Most fundamentalists have thoughts like these from time to time, but then they just put them aside in order to maintain their theology. I know because I used to be one of them. Now, if you're one of them, and you think about these things seriously, you will begin to feel that what you've been taught can’t represent the ultimate divine truth, and that there must be other answers.
During the years I was a Christian, I had these thoughts in the back of mind, but I kept putting them aside. However, I could not go day after day, week after week, year after year, with no answers to these questions except that it's simply because God says so and it's our fault. When I faced those questions (especially imponderable number 5) head on and seriously, I knew that there was something SERIOUSLY wrong with the theology and that there MUST be other answers cause the whole thing in perspective just did not add up even in a thousandth of a percent. I was then determined and filled with resolve to begin my search and inquiry for truth once again. Slowly, I began to understand what people meant when they said "All religions are different faces and interpretations of the same God." and my search led me towards open mindedness, spiritual and mental enlightenment, and with a peaceful sense of evolution toward a higher level of understanding and insightfulness.
For more philosophical and moral imponderables about the Bible and Christian theology, see: