BY SOFO ARCHON
Recently, as I was reading a book by Arthur Schopenhauer, I stumbled across a thought-provoking essay in which he criticizes the Christian concept of hell, by showing how it contradicts the idea of an all-loving, benevolent God.
According to the Christian dogma, those who commit certain mistakes or errors that are claimed to be prohibited by God (i.e the Bible), are considered to be sinners, and unless they repent for their sins, they will be sent to hell in the afterlife. There they will endure endless suffering as punishment for the sins they have committed. This, in Schopenhauer’s mind, is unfair and unjust. As he points out:
Taken in its ordinary meaning, the dogma [of Christianity] is revolting, for it comes to this: it condemns a man, who may be, perhaps, scarcely twenty years of age, to expiate his errors, or even his unbelief, in everlasting torment[…]
Indeed, how can it be fair and just that an imperfect person who commits errors, or merely doesn’t subscribe to a particular religious ideology, is thrown into hellfire where he’s burning until the end of time? Schopenhauer continues:
[…Nay], more, it makes this almost universal damnation the natural effect of original sin, and therefore the necessary consequence of the Fall.
Consider this: In this imperfect world of ours, we would never punish a child just because it was born by certain parents, no matter how sinful the latter might be. So how can an all-loving God punish some people just because a couple of other people (namely, Adam and Eve) supposedly committed a sin against God thousands of years ago? Then Schopenhauer goes on to say:
This is a result which must have been foreseen by him who made mankind, and who, in the first place, made them not better than they are, and secondly, set a trap for them into which he must have known they would fall; for he made the whole world, and nothing is hidden from him. According to this doctrine, then, God created out of nothing a weak race prone to sin, in order to give them over to endless torment.
This is interesting: God created humans knowing that they are not intelligent enough to not commit a certain mistake, then he provided them with a temptation that will for sure make them commit it, and afterwards he’s punishing them for committing it? Only a sadistic madman would do that, don’t you agree? Schopenhauer continues with another thought-bomb:
And, as a last characteristic, we are told that this God, who prescribes forbearance and forgiveness of every fault, exercises none himself, but does the exact opposite; for a punishment which comes at the end of all things, when the world is over and done with, cannot have for its object either to improve or deter, and is therefore pure vengeance.
God is benevolent, loving, forgiving, and yet takes revenge on people for the mistakes they commit, without ever giving them another chance to make up for them? This doesn’t sound so loving to me! Schopenhauer argues:
[On] this view, the whole race is actually destined to eternal torture and damnation, and created expressly for this end, the only exception being those few persons who are rescued by election of grace, from what motive one does not know.
Sure, we’re often told that a few chosen people for some unknown or illogical reason deserve God’s love and hence are lucky enough to make it out of this life safely, without having to step into hell’s abode. But what about the rest of people? God doesn’t seem to care about them at all. Schopenhauer concludes:
[…It] looks as if the Blessed Lord had created the world for the benefit of the devil! it would have been so much better not to have made it at all.
The world is filled with suffering, and no all-loving God would have created it this way. It seems therefore, that either the Christian God isn’t all-loving after all, or that he doesn’t exist in the first place. If I had to pick which of these two claims makes more sense, I’d definitely pick the second one.
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