In the last post I wrote about how my journey, to atheism, started on a Bible reading challenge. Attempting to read the Bible, in its entirety, stirred up questions, within me, and these questions, once investigated, turned into doubts. The doubts, once fully pursued, turned into disbelief.
But the truth is there were always things that had bothered me about the Christian faith. Questions I had pushed aside, for many years, since these things were uncomfortable to talk (or even think) about. In this post I'd like to talk, briefly, about just on just one of those questions. For me, in fact, this was the biggie...
If God is "all loving" than why does He send so many sincere people to Hell, for all eternity, simply because they are mistaken?
Now, most Christians will tend to answer this with something along the lines of "well, you see, God is perfect so, naturally, He cannot tolerate the presence of sin in Heaven. But since God loves us SO much He provided a way out, and that's why he sent his son, Jesus, to be the punishment for our sins. If we will only accept this free gift, of salvation, than God will 'forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness'. How awesome is that?!!". What Christians really mean, by "accept this free gift", btw, is "provide inetellectual assent to the accuracy of the Bible...in particular the parts about who Jesus was, and what he said and did". Anything less is not sufficent for "salvation".
I accepted this party line, totally, for a very, very long time. But, every once in a while, I would experience some congnitive dissonance, on the concept of an eternal Hell, since the idea of punishing people for all eternity is, admittedly, a tough one to come fully to terms with. Michael W. Smith, one of my favourite musical artists growing up, captures this tension well (as it is felt by Christians) in his song "Calling Heaven"...
Tell me there's a place for these
What of the children who have never felt a love
Tender as the morning
Nursing the bruises
And the scars that never seem to go away
What of the babies who have never left the womb
Breathing in the lifeline
Angels in waiting
Gone before they could be given wings to fly
What of the noble who are searching for the truth
With truest of intentions
And yet they're jaded by
Hypocrisies behind cathedral walls
What of the humble and the meek that knew despair
And never got their moment
But sacrificed a life of comfort
So that others knew no pain
What of the ones who call you Lord
But play the field
with faithless indecision
Forgive us father for we truly
Do not know what we have done
I have a lot more to say on the issue of Hell but, in the interest of keeping each of my posts brief, and additonally focused on a single point, I'm going to leave it here, for now. Suffice it to say that, even as a Christian, I had lingering questions. I think this is the case for most Christians, but when faith is seen as the ulitmate virtue, and doubt as the ultimate "sin", these questions get shoved down, deep into your psyche, over and over and over again (until, hopefully, they just go away).
After all, questions are dangersous, since they can lead to doubt. I'm living proof of that.