12/21/2006                                                                                       View Comments

Was Jesus wrong? Examining the justice of a perfect God

By Ian

Where do atheists and non-believers go?

That's a question that seems to be universally answered in all religions. The answer? You probably know it. Those who do not believe, no matter how good they are, go to hell, where they suffer for eternity for their idiotic and selfish choices while on earth. Pretty much every non-liberal Christian theologian, such as Billy Graham and Greg Laurie, says that those who don't believe in Jesus are in for an eternity of suffering.

However, when you point out how unjust and cruel such a fate that is, you'll get one of the now-standard fundamentalist stock answers, such as: "God is perfect and just", "God cannot stand sin" "God cannot behold evil" "God doesn't send you to hell, you send yourself there", "It's your choice to go to hell", "Our sinful natures mean that we cannot enter heaven", etc. You've probably heard all the excuses trying to explain the justice in sending people to hell for all eternity with no hope of justice or release.

The first answer, "God is perfect and just" is a curious one. The typical descriptions of God in the Christian tradition is that God is perfect, omnipresent, benevolent and just. Such a being, according to logic, would be better then his (or her) creations. This God would be more loving then we are, more caring then we are, and more just then we are. This God would be everything good. But could such a God embody our worst traits as well? Could a perfect, benevolent, just God embody rage that is worse then ours, get more angry then we possibly can, and be more cruel then we can?

If God does (I should say now that I do believe in God, even though I am an ex-Christian) have both those features, embodying our best and worst traits to a degree that we can't even imagine, then God seems more like a giant human then a benevolent being, a giant human who's temper tantrums can and (if you believe the bible) have wiped out millions of people (who are this being's pride and joy) in gruesome and terrible ways.

God is described as being Just. That is, God is fair, balanced and better at giving justice then we can be. If God is benevolent as is is often claimed to be, then God's justice would ultimately be restorative. It would heal and undo all the hurts. Our justice system does not work that way. It's focused on punishment, rather then healing and rehabilitation. God is sometimes described as being a judge.

The problem here however, is that God's justice, as described by fundamentalists, is, for the lack of a better word, stupid. We are sometimes told that God cannot stand the presence of sin or evil (which begs the question of why a benevolent, all-loving God apparently throws a temper tantrum or scowls in disgust at the sight of human mistakes, AKA sin), that no sin and no imperfections are allowed in heaven, which is perfect. Thus, according to one argument put up by Christian fundamentalists, even one sin is an irreparable stain that cannot be allowed into heaven. Furthermore, it is an offense to God, and because God is perfect and holy, even that one little imperfection is worthy of being punished endlessly, over and over and over again.

Our justice system is not perfect. But even we, as humans, know that punishing someone again and again and again and again for the same mistake is not just. Only sadists enjoy giving pain. Normal, sensible people can see that it's not right to to punish someone for longer then need be. A murderer may be deserving of punishment, yes, but is it right to continuously punish him with pain over and over again, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year for year after year after year after year? Or, is it right to punish him with solitary confinement twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year for year after year after year after year? In the beginning, perhaps it would make sense, when the memory of his act of brutally murdering someone would be fresh, and the anger for retribution would be great. But after a time, people would start to realize how cruel it would be to keep going in that manner. Could you imagine watching someone, no matter how evil, being tortured non-stop every day for years? Watching him or her scream in pain for years... doesn't that seem like a horrible thing to watch?

The problem with God giving an eternity of hell due to one little mistake can be compared to our justice system giving everyone the same sentence, no matter what they've done.

***

"Your honor, this man has murdered a family, raping the wife in the process and bashing the skulls of the children in with a mallet."

"Life in prison with no parole! Next case."

"Your honor, this woman killed her boyfriend by dropping a bowling ball on his head."

"Life in prison with no parole! Next case."

"Your honor, this young man painted some graffiti inside his school's bathroom."

"Life in prison with no parole! Next case!"

"Your honor, this woman shoplifted some bananas from a grocery store."

"Life in prison with no parole! Next case!"

"Your honor, this man went ten miles over the speed limit in a city street."

"Life in prison with no parole! Next case!"

***

Sounds crazy, no? Yet this is essentially the case of fundamentalist god's justice. Eternity in hell with no parole, no matter what you've done. Your only crime in life could be stealing a pack of cards from a store, and you'd be sent to hell for all eternity (while flawed and mistake-filled people who believe in Jesus get to go to God's perfect heaven, despite the fact that they are chock full of sin and far from perfect).

Doesn't that sound unnecessarily cruel? Even our system, flawed as it is, establishes guidelines and rules for how long a person should be punished. If you shoplift for example, your time of punishment will be far less then that of, say, Hitler. If you're good and work at making up for what you've done, then you can get out of prison early. Yet a perfect god lumps all crimes together and punishes then endlessly without even bothering to try and correct. One would think that a benevolent and perfect God, who's more just then we are, would have a system that ultimately heals and corrects, rather then punishes endlessly for no reason.

Therefore, we essentially come to the big question: Was Jesus wrong?

Jesus talks about hell more then heaven in the Christian bible. In the four gospel accounts you can find him talking about how people will be punished for eternity, how the wheat will be separated from the chaff, etc. Jesus, it seemed, believed in punishment after death. If we take the gospel accounts as is, Jesus believed in eternal punishment for those who did not believe. Perhaps his most famous saying in regards to this comes from his description of the day of judgment. You've no doubt heard about it, when he will gather those and say "Welcome, for I was hungry and you fed me, etc" and then he will gather everyone else and say "Depart from me because I was hungry and you did not feed me, etc."

However, have you ever noticed that this famous scene seems to value works and deeds over beliefs? Even those who believed in Jesus, yet didn't feed, clothe, and help those in need were sent to everlasting punishment. Jesus, it appears, believed more in doing good works in this account. Many theologians now believe that getting to heaven is a matter of balancing belief in Jesus and doing good works, but is it possible... just possibly... that the belief in who goes to heaven is really wrong?

Now we come to our big moment: Examining the justice of a perfect God.

For this purpose, we will assume that God is benevolent, above human frailties, that God is just and that God is better then us. These are some of the traits that are agreed upon by most religions that believe in God, and they will serve our purpose for this article.

The question of who is going to heaven and who is going to hell is one that has caused untold amounts of dread and despair over the centuries. Traditionally, you have to be a member of the right faith, do the right things, and believe in God. But let's try taking a look at it from God's point of view.

God is in heaven and wants everyone to come home. God however, will not force people to come to heaven because God will not violate man's free will. Therefore, God faces the following situation: God has to create a system that is just and fair in regards to who goes where after they die. This system has to apply to ALL the people who will ever live. It has to be a system that is above religions and above religious belief. It has to apply to the first caveman to the modern day businessman. What kind of system must God create?

Fundamentalist Christians would say that Jesus, and his sacrifice for our sins, is the answer. However, this is not correct. All those who lived before Jesus died in sin, and thus, because they cannot be forgiven (because for some strange reason, the Christian god's mercies end at death. Aren't they supposed to be everlasting?), they are doomed to hell. Some theologians believe that they will be judged according to how they lived, and how well they embodied Jesus' teachings without knowing them, but this brings up an odd paradox. It is better to live a good life without knowing of Jesus' teachings and thus get to heaven on the merit of a technicality, then to know about Jesus and risk going to hell. And even then, this system is still not perfect because belief in Jesus is mandatory in getting to heaven. Thus, if we follow this system, the overwhelming majority of all the people who have ever lived will go to hell and be with Satan forever. In this model, God gets a minuscule amount of souls to himself while Satan gets at least 90 times as many as God does. Thus, God is the loser in this competition. He looses more souls then he gets. His system of justice, through Jesus, is a complete failure in getting people to come to heaven because the overwhelming majority go to hell simply because they do not believe in Jesus. Personal merit and character are not taken into consideration.

However, there is a better method that is perfectly just in deciding who goes where, regardless of personal beliefs. What is that method? Cause and effect. For every action, there is a reaction.

Let's imagine for a moment that the spiritual world, assuming it exists, exists in layers, similar to pancakes piled up on top of each other. Each layer corresponds to the type of people in it. The very lowest layer would be people who are hateful, cruel, sadistic and mean, people who have no goodness in them. The middle layer would have people who are neither evil nor perfect. Between the middle layer and the top, we have people who are good, kind, generous and all-around nice people. At the top would be those who are overwhelmingly good, as well as God.

The way this system would work is that upon death, an individual goes to where they fit in. They would go to where they fit in with others who are exactly like them. Birds of a feather, flock together, so to speak. If you are a good, kind, and nice person, then you would have nothing to fear upon death. Even if you are an atheist, you would go to be among others who are like you in disposition and character. With this system set in place, it is perfectly just because everyone gets exactly what they have earned in regards to character and how well you have lived your life. This system ensures that everyone, no matter what time they have lived, no matter what religion they follow (if they follow one at all), has an equal chance of getting to heaven. Thus, all the good people of the world would go to a happy place, while all the mean and nasty people would go to a bad place.

Near death experiences, if you believe that they are glimpses of the spiritual world, do seem to point in this direction.

Everything in God's Super Universe is regulated by vibration, electrical current and frequency ... the higher our Soul's level of vibration and frequency, the higher and further we are able travel throughout the Divine Realms and God's Super Universe. What is interesting about the Realm is that our energy automatically brings us right to the place that either most interests us or resembles our own energy. Source

When we manifest unconditional love, our soul vibration are so high that the only place we can fit into is heaven. People don't go to heaven because of their good deeds, but because their soul vibration of spiritual love fits in and belongs there. After death, people gravitate into groups according to the rate of their soul's vibration. Birds of a feather flock together. This connection between the level of soul vibration we have in determining the level of heavenly vibration we realize after death is the same principle as putting a coin into the slot of a coin counter. The coin just naturally fits to its proper location. So it is with the soul. After death, our soul naturally fits in the level of heaven we have developed within us. In fact, while we live on earth our soul actually dwells, not only within us, but also in the spiritual realm we will find ourselves in after death. Source


If God wants to get the most number of people to heaven, God would have to create a system that applies to everyone, regardless of personal belief. A system that allows you to go where you fit in is not only more fair and just then the fundamentalist Christian idea of simply believing in Jesus, but it makes more sense. With this system of justice in place, both the Christian, the Buddhist, the atheist and the agnostic all have an equal chance of getting to heaven. It all depends on the personal character, on what's inside. With the fundamentalist mindset, only the Christian has a chance of getting to heaven. It all depends on what you believe, not personal character.

One system, Jesus, has God losing the vast majority of souls to Satan. The other system ensures that everyone has an equal chance of going to God, no matter what they believe. If God wants to be fair and just, then the system that ensures fairness and equality is the better choice.

If God is just, and if God is genuinely good, then that means that any justice God would give would eventually be healing and restorative. Thus, the individual who is in hell, according to the fundamentalist, has no hope whatsoever. But could it not be possible that God, if God is better then us and our justice, would allow individuals the chance to get out of hell (the lower levels) when they decide to make up for what they've done? God, I think, would be overjoyed when a spirit decides to take responsibility for their actions and make up for them. Therein lies the beauty of the system of cause and effect. If you decide to make up for whatever crime you have done, you will be allowed to do so. It will not be a pretty or easy process, but you would eventually succeed at making up for what you have done. That means that Hitler, even though it would probably take countless centuries, would eventually make up for what he did in life. Inevitably, he would make it to heaven when the justice is complete, and when all the hurts have been healed. Would that not be the sign of a great God, a God who can heal and bring Hitler back from hell? Such a God would be more worthy of worship then a god who simply ignores those who are suffering in hell.

***

Though we cannot know for certain what happens after death, we can theorize about what comes. To some, it will be endless, dreamless sleep. To others, it will simply be a continuation of life in another form. If this life in a different form does exist, then it would make sense that a perfect, benevolent, and loving God would be just, in that every person would receive what they have earned, regardless of what they believe religion wise. Such a perfect God, not needing worship, would be more interested in our character rather then our religious beliefs, in how we treat others.

The word "eternity" in the New Testament has been questioned recently, as to if it refers to, literally, eternity, or that which pertains to an age (therefore meaning that those who will be punished for eternity will really only be punished for an age). Perhaps the word "eternity" has indeed been mistranslated, and we have all had to deal with the consequences of an image of a cruel and mean God who, while perfectly loving, will throw all non-Christians into hell (or his son, who is just as mean in that regard). Perhaps Jesus did believe in punishment after death (after all, being with murders and cruel people is not fun at all), but perhaps he believed that this punishment, of being with others who are like you, would eventually come to an end, that all things would be healed, that all the hurts would be repaired for all things, not just good Christians (one can find hints of this in the bible, such as how he came to die for all men, to save all men, etc).

Perhaps Jesus believed that a benevolent and perfect God, being just, would allow everyone to receive what they have earned, and that those who got cruelty, hate, and anger would eventually be healed and brought back to goodness.

Such a God, to me, just makes more sense.

20 comments:

newcult111 said...

I think you make a wonderful point. Nice post.

Anonymous said...

The only place the concept of a God can exist, is in the conscious living brain.

The only reason that anyone believes in a God is, because they have heard the verbal spoken word "God".

Had the verbal word "God" never been invented nor spoken, no one would have a reason to believe there exists a god.

Just as we all learn to speak our native spoken language fluently by five years old, this is only by repeating words that we previously heard spoken by others.

We do not need to read any book to learn to speak our language fluently.

This information is stored in our conscious minds, just as all information stored in our minds will cease to exist at the exact moment of death. To prove this, when we go to sleep, we are all unaware of any gods and of the movement of time.

All brain stored thought disappears momentarly when the brain is unconscious, when the brain is dead all stored thought and beliefs and information ends forever after death, the only reason that people believe that we continue on and have a soul is because they have been told that they do. Being told something down through generation and down through generation again, does not prove something is true, nor that myths and cherished beliefs are true.

Of course there is something greator than ourselves out there, it's like being stuck at the bottom of a well, of course there is something out there but, is it a god?
Why does "it" (whatever "it" is) have to be labeled a god?

A god is a huge leap in presumption, it would suggest a ruler or controler that needs something from us by our beliefs in this god, like if we do not continue to believe in this god, then this god will cease to continue to exist.

By having a presumption of a god, this gives people permission to invent fables about this presumed god.

Since by presuming a god does exist, one would think "it" thinks like we do, that "it" has the very same human characteristics as we, because what else can we compare "it" to?

Dasher said...

So true, the meaning of the word god, has no meaning if one can't assign the word to something meaningful, assigning words to other words, which refer back to other words, doesn't create meaning, it creates a novel :-)

Anonymous said...

Just to play the devil's advocate here... perhaps there is a god as described by most of the bible: jealous, angry, needy, vengeful. Perhaps there is a tyrant god who designed the earth for the suffering of its creatures but grants eternal life to those who delude themselves into thinking he's good and loving for doing all of this. And perhaps he even set it all up so only a select few, chosen from the beginning, were allowed to enter his beautiful city won with the blood and ashes of his enemies.

I guess it's feasible, but I'd be proud of myself for standing up to such tyranny and not forcing myself to believe that all is well and good in the universe.

Anonymous said...

Question By Ian

Where do atheists and non-believers go?

Answer:
Sumner
______ The Grave (Sheol) meaning the pit, or hell (meaning hole in the ground covered up) "Hele" english) "Tile" means to cover.
as for a place called hell, if there would be one, we live in it, or on it..

The invisible "Elohim" or the "El" created the first human in the so-called Garden...

God is invisiblke and in-audible to His creatures, "in other words un-knowable, and the Elohim ways are past finding out, by the creatures of His (Metophorical) hand. God or the elohim is not a person as we understand the term person. He is spirit, wind, you cannot see it but, you know it is their, because if it was not neither would we be. Our Life depends on Breath, Spirit, Wind. And what about soil, for we are soil, soilish, (soulish)... We come from the soil and return to the soil, and while we are in existence we depend on the soil and what it produces...Everything returns to the place whence it came...

Is this not so?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and maybe he even tortured his son so he could win the selfish over with his "loving" deed.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe this god will get the last laugh because his bible is so confusing and contradictory that NOBODY will get to heaven. Maybe he's up there receiving these intoxicating burnt offerings and prayers and hymns and laughing to himself, saying, "heh-heh, if they only knew..."

Anonymous said...

Dear Ian,

Isn't your suggestion (cause-reaction)something "all between the ears" too? Just an idea to get some grip of life? One idea for another. Make belief, without any proof?

Anonymous said...

I think you're onto something, Gilbert. Many people can't believe in a god as described by the bible but are unwilling to completely discard the divine. They then create their own version of god or pick and choose from scripture and, because it feels good, decide that it must be true.

But honestly, is it really possible to look around at the world and supposed that there is some benevolent god responsible for all of it, with all of the suffering and destruction?

Or perhaps these people have a god that is simply part of "creation," a spirit hanging out around our world who can offer happy feelings and minor miracles but is really impotent when it comes to enacting major change for humanity.

But I think if you believe in a creator god you're being intellectually disingenuous if you actually claim that it is benevolent. A god that is powerful enough to make a perfect, happy universe but chooses to include suffering can hardly be loving.

Anonymous said...

(Unless, of course, that suffering is intended to lead to greater happiness).

Leonard said...

I have a confession to make...

I really, really wish the universe was just.

But at the end of the day, I don´t think "just" is a word that has meaning outside the world of human notions.

So, that is the deep irony of the (in my opinion profoundly noble) human search for meaning:
There isn´t one.

religionkills said...

I found this to be a really good post on this perspective...but, not taken into account here at all is the issues of reincarnation, or that in the Old or New testaments in this bible it seemed that there were at least 3 entities that were "god". (By the way, the term "god" merely means "ruler" or "overlord".) El-Shadai, Yahweh, and Jehovah. The later 2 seemed to be the vengeful, hateful, full of rage types that humans had to grovel to and live in fear of...the first a bit more kind and compassionate.
There have been plenty of cases that seem to show that reincarnation is very much a real thing...I've seen nothing to prove that any of these "gods" were, or are, real. I've come to believe heaven or hell is an idea that people carry with them...that we make our own heaven or hell, our own realities if you will. I believe that the only real omnipotent force in the unverse is the life force of the universe itself....that it is a vast, and living entity. And, just maybe, perhaps, we are merely the players in it's vast conciousness. Like every other theory, my idea is just that, a theory...but perhaps it's just as valid as anyone elses. :)

Anonymous said...

Religionkills, I'd like to hear any evidence you might have for reincarnation. It's surely a very old idea held by many different cultures.

I do agree with you that if there's anything we could call "god" it would be the universe, and of course we are all part of it. There are obviously invisible forces binding us all together (gravity, magnetism, intermolecular forces, etc.) and I'm even open to the idea that perhaps some of these forces (or other invisible behaviors of matter) might lend themselves to psychic activity. I won't rule it out, though I'd need strong evidence before I made any big claims.

religionkills said...

Hey Chris,
Well, I said that there SEEMS to be evidence....not that there is definite eveidence. My personal resources of possible evidence are the multitude of readings given by Edgar Cayce, different ancient cultural beliefs and some of the stuff I've read about what is called past life regression. For all I know it could be a load of shit too...but I am always finding articles on the net about other people's experiences with past life memories. They could just be imagining things, but maybe not. Who knows for sure? Certainly not I. :)

Anonymous said...

This "God" thing has been a debate for thousands of centuries.. Every one has their own ideas of "God".. Some people believe in one while others don't..

I'm not saying that their isn't a
"God."

But you had some very interesting points in your article. For example: "God could be cruel and loving at the same time."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be negative or anything.. Just telling you what I thought..

Unknowing1 said...

You all have brought up some very good points.

For me I have always struggled with the good and bad concept of God. Chris said it best when he said that people pick and chose which parts of God to believe in.

If the Bible is to be taken literally or is even partly correct then that means that God is not all loving and all good. So in order to believe I just pick out the good parts about God and chose to follow only those. I ignore the bad and I am now one of the chosen ones.

I can't really see how it works that way, especially when the Bible says I'm not being a true follower. Nor am I being true to myself. I can't in good conscience ignore the mean, evil and tyrannical side of the Christian God. I don't see how anyone could. When people say they are Christ like or want to be Christ like I shrudder because no one in their right mind should want to be like that.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, though, that there are some good, bible believing Christians who take Paul's and "John's" statements that God is love and cling to those while ignoring everything else that tells us that God is really unpredictable and nasty at times.

I got dragged with my family to my old megachurch for one of their eleven (!!!) rock concerts--I mean christmas eve services--and the pastor said at least twice that he doesn't believe in the mean god that YHWH has the reputation of being. And this from a bible-toting evangelical pastor! Self-deception is truly rampant in churches these days! No wonder they have 100 people "pray the prayer" and raise their hands each week; they're fed outright lies!

gilbert said...

Ian says that near death experiences “do seem to point in the direction that good people will probably go to a happy place, and nasty people to a bad one”.

And what to think of the statement of religionkills, where he says that “there have been plenty of cases that seem to show that reincarnation is very much a real thing…”

The “convincing” material could be not that convincing after all.

Anonymous said...

If God is the boogie-man,so be it. It just means that when you meet the boogie-man,your going to have a bad day.

freedy said...

I've never considered the bible to be"good news".Rather a book warning that that god is one mean son of a bitch, and he wants you to know it!

Where in the hell do fundies get the idea that the bilebull gaud is loving and compassionate? What are they nuts? Do they even read the book?