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Obama's "Freedom From Faith"

Jim Geraghty has some observations.

But I found this interesting (not that I hadn't seen it before):

...many religious believers probably couldn't imagine anything worse than not having their relationship with God. They don't see their relationship with their Creator, by whatever name they call the divine, as something they could be "free" from, and in fact a fairly common definition of Hell is in fact "complete separation from God."

This is one of those intellectual gulfs that separates me from believers. I not only can imagine not having a relationship with God, but I live the dream. Yeah, if I really believed in the fire and brimstone thing, and the imps <VOICE="Professor Frink">and the poking and the burning and the eternal tooooorment...glavin...</VOICE>, then I might decide that sinning wasn't worth it. But if hell be "complete separation from God," something that I've had all of my life, bring it on. All it gets from me is a shrug.


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Anonymous wrote:

I find the idea of believing in God or similar religious constructs out of fear to be deeply condescending, political, and blasphemous, but that's just me ^_^

This topic is one of many reasons why I eventually discarded christianity. Personally I don't believe in hell (at least not an eternal one), I believe in God instead (not that it's a guarantee against anything nor should it be) and I don't see how a supreme being would choose such a typically human "solution".

Now if there even is an afterlife (might not be) and if it involves some kind of betterment then I expect every human to experience a pretty rough time when facing total knowledge of everything they've done and contributed to (be it intentional or not) and if they get stuck in denial in that kind of setup I guess it could last a long time.

Anyway speculation aside my anecdotal experiences are that many of those who really believe in hell tend to turn out wrong (and highly annoying too).

By the way if people think the biblical fire & brimstone operation seems bad they should read up on the multitudes of buddhist hells. Yeah they're not necessarily eternal although if you look at the numbers and the ways you can drop a level or two and do it all over again then the point is sort of moot ^_^

Habitat Hermit wrote:

And a tiny little sliver of hell is hitting the submit button, waiting for the timeout page, and noticing one forgot to sign ones stupid name on the damn thing ^_^

Steve wrote:

There is a Hell and it's not just fire and brimstone. The truly evil are made to read endless, eternal drivel from Rand's regularly posting, anon, troll boy!!

Paul F. Dietz wrote:

I point you to this story by Ted Chiang, which takes a SF approach to this issue.

ken anthony wrote:

My family is catholic so my original understanding of hell was the traditional sadistic version. Only in my 20s did I learn that early translations did not render the hebrew sheol and the greek hades consistently. It literally means the general grave of mankind where the dead are just dead (no thoughts or feelings) which is why both Job and David asked God to keep them there until the general resurrection (because at the time they each were suffering quite severely.)

Fire is used in the bible to symbolize complete destruction as in Rev. 20:14 where death and hell are cast into the lake of fire which is part of a promise.

The promise at Rev. 21:4 is that sometime in the future death will be among the former things that are done away with.

Personally I have more in common with atheist because I expect when I die (which I plan on confounding the doctors by lasting another 50 years!) that'll be it.

Since Romans 6:7 says that all are aquitted of their sins at death, good men like Rand and other atheists will likely be part of the resurrection. I don't know that I will. Lot's of unanswered questions.

Brock wrote:
I find the idea of believing in God or similar religious constructs out of fear to be deeply condescending, political, and blasphemous, but that's just me ^_^

Jim Geraghty is right though. To a believer, being "free" from a community of faith sounds like being "free" from a loving marriage, or "free" from the joys of fatherhood. Obama has two daughters; would be consider himself "free" if he were without them? I hope not. But that's how it might sound to many people whose vote he is hoping to get.

Since we're collecting definitions of hell, the Eastern Orthodox Church doesn't believe in the fire and brimstone either. Most people (allegedly) go Hades to await the Apocalypse, and when God calls everyone into the Next Life they will all be bathed in his eternal love. Hell is the self-inflicted bitterness of watching everyone else enjoy that love while refusing to participate in it yourself.

Carl Pham wrote:

Rand, the assumption is that you would be deprived of God's presence after you understood what that meant, which, the Christan would assert, you presently do not.

Consider it this way: you're normally unconscious of your breathing, and the effect a continual supply of oxygen has on your well-being. If you think about it, you realize it would be pretty hideous to be deprived of oxygen. But that's only because you have experience -- holding your breath uncomfortably long, having a cold or flu and having breathing difficulties, breathing smoky air -- which gives you a taste of what a lack of oxygen would be like

Now imagine that for some strange reason one of two things were true: (1) you'd never experienced even the slightest constraint on your breathing, it had always been as unconsciously easy as it is most of the time, or (2) you had experienced such constraints, but misinterpreted them, thought the discomfort you felt came from some other source than a lack of oxygen. (This isn't as strange as it sounds: many people with heart failure feel like they have a problem with their lungs, that they can't suck in enough air. Fact is, they can, but the oxygen isn't being circulated to the tissues efficiently by the heart, and the brain misinterprets the sensations to mean the lungs aren't drawing deeply enough).

In such a (strange) case you might act with indifference to being threatened with a lack of oxygen. But your indifference would be uninformed, and would not survive the realization of how important something you'd taken for granted is.

The Christian would probably argue that your present case is most like analogy (2), in that you misinterpret the times when you are separated from God. All the times you've been sad, or pessimistic, or felt discouraged, or felt estranged from others, or felt guilty and stupid, are in this view separations from God, and all the times of joy, love, success and hope are times when God is with you (or rather you are are with God). You misintepret these events as being unconnected, random, or due to various surface causes, and do not realize the underlying unity. In this view, being deprived of the presence of God would be akin to rolling up all the worst and most despairing feelings you've had in your life, multiplying them by 10 billion, and then experiencing them forever. Pretty hellish indeed.

I'm not arguing this is reality, by the way. Just explaining the theology. Remember, the Christian point of view is catholic: it's not that you only experience God if you are a Christian; you experience God whether or not you are, but you only understand what you're experiencing, and why, by learning the dogmas of Christian faith. It's supposed to be analogous to the fact that you don't experience sickness and health only if you learn medicine; it's that you only understand what's happening to you when you are sick and when you are well if you learn medicine.

Brock wrote:

Heh. Just a thought about the quote:

The Christians with whom I worked ... saw that I knew their Book and shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed that a part of me remained removed, detached, an observer among them.

Sounds to me like it could easily have been written by Jane Goodall.

It's also the closest I've ever seen a major politician come to saying "I could ape Christians pretty well, but they knew I didn't believe any of their crap."

FC wrote:

The quote from his book makes it sound like he just joined the majority religion of the place where he happened to live. If he had stayed in Indonesia, perhaps he would have become a nominal Muslim.

M Brown wrote:

Whether or not you are Christian, you did a rather good job of explaining the concept. Kudos!

Josh Reiter wrote:

The part that makes me feel detached from the whole idea of an afterlife is the specifically what happens to you during the transition.

If you believe in St. Paul's view that when God resurrect you, as he did Jesus, then you will receive a completely new body in heaven. In other words you will not be a ghostly spirit since the soul is considered immortal but cannot exist on its own. Therefore, if you get a new body, and I assume a new brain, then the fundamental change in biology of your new body irrevocably alter the identity of your self. You will literally not be the same person any more. Therefore, why should I care what happens to this new person reborn in the afterlife?

If you say, well St. Paul has it wrong. Then, who has it right. What evidence can pursued me that one out of the thousands of religions in the world dictate the correct meaning and existence of an afterlife.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on July 2, 2008 3:23 PM.

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