Thursday, March 17, 2011

A common mistake about hell

A common mistake about hell, often made by both contemporary advocates of the doctrine and their opponents, is the Horrific Thesis:
(HT) It is better not to exist at all, or even not to have existed at all, than to spend eternity in hell.
Given HT, it is easy to argue against hell.  All things that exist, exist by the continual creation of God.  Everything that God creates, or continually creates, is on balance good.  Therefore, nobody is better off not existing.  Hence if HT is true, nobody spends eternity in hell.  

But HT is false.  First, consider its Scriptural warrant.  There is one New Testament text directly related to HT, given in Matthew and Mark:
As for that man [the betrayer], it would have been better [kalon] for him had he not been born [ei ouk eggenêthê] (Matthew 26:24, Mark 14:21).  
But that text simply does not sufficiently support HT.  First, it does not say that it was better for Judas not to have existed, but at most that it would have been better for him not to have been born.  Since Judas had already existed by the time of his birth--I say he existed about nine months before his birth, but in any case surely he existed some time before his birth--the counterfactual taken literally compares two scenarios: Judas being born and Judas dying in utero.  Now had he died prior to birth, his eternal destination would be wherever Jewish babies ended up after death--either heaven or limbo.  On this reading, then, we are told that Judas would have been better off dying in utero and ending up in heaven or limbo than wherever he ended up.  (If he would have ended up in heaven had he died prior to birth, then the text does not even entail that Judas went to hell.  Maybe he would have been better off had he died in utero because then he would have ended up in a better state in heaven or because then he would have avoided purgatory.)  Second, the word kalon might also have been translated as "noble" or "honorable"--in classical Greek that is the primary meaning and the word seems to have that meaning in some New Testament uses as well.  Thus, even if we take the "had he not been born" non-literally as meaning "had he not existed", the text could simply be telling us that it would have been more noble or more honorable for him had he not existed, rather than altogether better.

The other part of HT's Scriptural warrant are the scary descriptions--lake of fire, worm that dieth not--of what existence in hell is like.  But we should read Scripture consistently with Scripture.  And Scripture also tells us of a God who loves all, whose sun shines on sinner and righteous alike, who created everything and it was all good.  Thus we should temper our interpretations of the harrowing descriptions with the conviction that God does not create or sustain in existence that for which it would be better not to exist.

(Objection: Maybe it is agent-centeredly worse for the person in hell to exist than not to, but it is better that she exist than not.  Response: But better for whom or what?  God's activity is primarily guided by love.  When he acts for a good cause, he does so for someone or something.  Is it better for God that the person suffer?  The Christian tradition will not be happy with this reading.  Is it better for others?  But how?  Tertullian suggested that the saved will get joy from watching the punishment of the damned.  But even if he is right, this can only be true if the punishment of the damned has a value independent of the saved watching it, since the saved get joy only out of watching good things.  No, if it is better simpliciter that the person be in hell than not exist, it is better for the person in hell.)

One might ask, of course, if it is possible to have eternal suffering and yet to have a life worth living.  But surely the answer is positive.  One way for the answer to be positive is for Augustine and Aquinas to be right about the value of existence, or at least human existence: this value is such that it is worth existing no matter how much one suffers.  Another way would be if the overall suffering is combined with other valuable features that make the life overall worth living, whether or not the agent feels it to be worth living.  These could perhaps include:

  • the intrinsic value of receiving one's just deserts
  • the value of knowing various truths (such as that God exists and that one is a sinner)
  • moral improvement (though one never actually reaches moral purity)
  • the value of useful work
  • playing a part in God's plan, especially the justice aspect of it
  • etc.
It should also be remembered that an externally infinite length of suffering is logically compatible with the total amount of suffering being finite (though I am not endorsing the view that the total amount of suffering in hell is finite), e.g., due to asymptotic decrease or changes in the subjective flow of time.

We should, in fact, take the rejection of HT to be a part of the doctrine of hell.  For the rejection of HT follows from central theological commitments of the Christian tradition, and doctrines must be understood not in isolation but in the context of the implications for them of other doctrines.  And a fortiori we should not take HT to be an essential part of the doctrine of hell.  If we did that, we would have to absurdly say that neither Augustine nor Aquinas believed in hell, since they rejected HT.

Suppose we reject HT.  Then we can imagine the following.  God is considering creating ten billion people and then making sure, or all but making sure, that they are all saved, whether by means of offering them opportunity after opportunity for salvation, over a potentially infinite amount of time, until they agree, wiping their memories as needed, or by means of eventually canceling people's freedom and making them be saved whether they so choose or not, or by giving them such strong inclinations towards virtue that they are practically certain to do right.  But God might consider the following attractive alternative.  Create twenty billion people instead, where each has probability 3/4 of being saved.  So, about 15 billion people will be saved on this scenario (and so in terms of the number of people saved, it is better than the first scenario).  Moreover, each of these 15 billion people now has a much more serious chance of being damned, and hence her free choice has a greater significance and value than the choices that the ten billion people in the first scenario does.  Now, this scenario is tough on the approximately five billion people who will end up damned.  But these people are at least as well off existing as not, and so as long as God didn't intend them to be damned, and as long as God offered them serious opportunities for salvation, it does not seem that anything problematic has been done by God.  So there seems to be a serious case for God to actualize the second scenario instead--God could have a good reason to do so.  (This argument works poorly if Molinism is true.  Too bad for Molinism.)

Hence, if we reject HT, hell seems justifiable.  And we should reject HT.


Jarrett Cooper said...

I've been looking for a post of this nature. I've been peaking in over at Prosblogion and reading such things as universalism and Hell, and I read part of your comment where you mentioned, in passing, the Augustinian view that says, "existence is always good." I've seen these same discussions elsewhere (I'm guessing this is due to Rob Bell's new book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Liv.)

I'm in agreement with your assessment. I believe that there is such a place as Hell, that persons will (already do? NOTE: Just read that the traditional view is Hell will not be inhabited until after the Final Judgment) inhabit it, and that such persons will inhabit there for eternity.

A conservative Protestant New Testament scholar, Ben Witherington III, has a recent post about Hell, its existence, and the duration of people's existence in Hell ( He was emphatic that the Bible teaches that there is indeed such a place as Hell and that Hell will be occupied. However, he was unsure (for a lack of a better word) if Hell will be a place of eternal torment. He does say there are such passages that support the view that hell is a place of eternal torment. Basically, Witherington said the debate centers around if there is eternal torment. And much less so on the issue if there is a Hell and if it will be occupied (In fact he says this isn't even debatable, given what the NT says).

Basically then, we're left with the view of annihilationism. I noted passages such as Matt 25:46 and the usage of aionios, and briefly noted the comement of yours about the Augustian view of existence being good. Prof. Witherington's remark was that only God has eternal life (I happily acknowledged this -- only the divine is the Alpha and Omega). Witerington noted, however, that, "everlasting life, as the NT discusses is life that begins at some finite point and goes on into the future, presumably forever. The problem with eternal punishment is that how can a finite person be punished forever? He or she is not bullet proof, and presumably their spirits are not either. Are you arguing for the immortality of the soul after death? If so, that is not a Biblical idea. It comes from Greek thought."

My retort was that is not all given a resurrected body come judgement? And if so then this body is imperishable (cf. 1 Cor 15:42), so it is possible for the punishment of one be everlasting.

What I don't get is the people who adopt annihilationism and take the view that the suffering in Hell will only be finite. To me that doctrine is grotesque. Why finite suffering and then complete annihilation of the individual? To me that seems like something a mad man would do. What is the point of the suffering if the individual will eventual cease existing altogether?

Alexander R Pruss said...

To my moral sensibilities, to punish harshly and then terminate existence sounds morally odious.

Now, granted, execution isn't a termination of existence because of the afterlife. But how we feel about execution should at least be somewhat morally relevant. And we do not feel that it is appropriate to cause significant punishment to a person for years and then execute them. (I guess it's true that people spend a lot of time on death row. But their time on death row isn't a part of their punishment--it's just that there are appeals, etc. If it were a part of their punishment, judges would have to say how long they're to spend on death row.) We even think it is a good thing to provide them with a nice final meal.

I have no problem with the immortality of the soul. The Christian tradition has pretty much universally accepted this idea. I think the following line of argument is really weak:
1. Idea A is not found in the Old Testament.
2. Idea A is found among some of the Greeks.
3. Idea A is found among in the Christian tradition.
4. It's controverted whether Idea A is found in the New Testament.
5. Therefore, idea A came from the Greeks.
6. Therefore, we shouldn't believe idea A.

Statements 1-4 do little to make 5 plausible. After all, there is the alternate hypothesis that the Greeks got it right, and the Holy Spirit revealed it to the early Church. And even if 5 were true, 6 doesn't follow, either. The Holy Spirit can use whatever means he wills.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Well, whatever means he wills, but he doesn't will immoral means. :-)

Jarrett Cooper said...

Even God can't do what is contrary to his nature :)

I would note that there will be those who would argue that for some it is better to not exist rather than to be in extreme anguish. They would note cases where a person is experiencing extreme pain such as dying from a horrible case of cancer or other sickness.

However, I don't think this works. Now I would agree that if I were to be shot and knew the bullet wound will end my life, I would surely, and selfishly, would hope to die sooner than latter (b/c of experience less pain). But dying a physical death is not the same as ceasing to exist altogether, so their analogy would be disanalogous.

Even further, what I think should be shown from this is that it doesn't matter what an individual thinks about their suffering being so severe they think not existing would be better. What matters is the big picture and I think your post helped to show this.

Marc Belcastro said...

Dr. Pruss:

Regarding Matthew 26:24 and Mark 14:21, I’m inclined to view the literal interpretation(s) as less plausible than the non-literal interpretation(s). If we interpret Jesus as literally saying

(1) it would’ve been better had Judas died in utero,

as opposed to non-literally saying

(2) it would’ve been better had Judas not even existed,

then it seems to me that we could replace Jesus’s actual statement with other unusual statements. (1) appears to suggest that, basically, it would’ve been better if Judas had died before reaching a certain age. Given this reading, Jesus could’ve said, instead, that

(3) it would’ve been better had Judas died at the age of five,

which would’ve communicated approximately the same idea as (1), but which sounds unusual, probably by virtue of its seeming arbitrariness. But suppose we take Jesus to be indicating that it would’ve been better had Judas not been born—or that it would’ve been better had he died in utero—because he thereby wouldn’t have committed such a terribly egregious betrayal. On this particular reading, it appears that Jesus could’ve said, instead, that

(4) it would’ve been better had Judas fallen critically ill before [the relevant time].

Presumably, had (4) obtained, Judas wouldn’t have had the opportunity to betray Jesus, or to begin the sequence of events which resulted in Jesus’s betrayal. To my mind, though, (4), like (3), sounds unusual, or at least inadequate. It seems to me that the gravity and magnitude of Jesus’s actual utterance conveys more than what (4) captures.

So, I’m motivated by considerations along the above lines to regard non-literal readings like (2) as a plausible interpretive candidate, if not as more plausible than the competing literal readings.

Concerning annihilationism, you and Jarrett gestured at the idea that the doctrine is morally unacceptable. But why suppose that everlasting conscious torment, forever separated from the ultimate and incommensurate good, is, by contrast, morally acceptable, or at least not morally unacceptable? Prima facie, it seems plausible to me that finite conscious torment is less morally unacceptable than everlasting conscious torment. Assuming that’s plausible, then perhaps finite conscious torment culminating in annihilation is less morally unacceptable than everlasting conscious torment.

Thanks, by the way, for another provocative post. Apart from stimulating my thinking about the doctrine of hell, considerations like these serve to prevent me from accidentally succumbing to a dogmatic, annihilationist slumber. =)

Alexander R Pruss said...

If one doesn't exist, then one doesn't have the good of union with God either. So I don't see why existing and not having the good of union with God is worse than not existing and not having the good of union with God. :-)

On the literal reading, I suppose the "had not been born" is non-arbitrary for a couple of reasons. The period from birth on covers all of one's life in the community, all of the activity that one actually remembers, all of one's higher level activity, etc. So to lack all that--that's terrible. But it's worse to sin than to lack that.

A thought I had was that it's not at all clear that we should connected the verse with hell. Socrates might agree with the line, without any considerations of hell. It is bad for one to do evil. To do terrible evil is terrible for one--it is better to have died in infancy than to do terrible evil. If one wants the non-literal reading, one could then say: it would be better not to have existed than to have done that evil. But it does not follow from this that the suffering in hell is worse than non-existence. I do not take this Socratic reading myself, but isn't it just barely possible?

Or perhaps the "it would be better for him" just means "he will feel it would be better". In contemporary English, we use "for him" to introduce subjective considerations, and maybe this phrase does something like that. So on this reading Jesus is only saying that Judas will, like Job did (Job 3:3), regret having existed. (But Job was mistaken in his regret, and there is no reason to think Judas will be correct.)

Finally, there is a hyperbole reading.

With so many alternate readings, the probability of the reading that Judas is going to go hell and in hell will suffer such torment as to make it that it would have been better for him not to have existed seems low. Especially given the argument from love and continual creation against the idea that anybody leads a life not worth living.

Marc Belcastro said...

I suppose I’d suggest that the two relevant options aren’t (a) existing and not enjoying the good of union with God, and (b) not existing and not enjoying the good of union with God. Maybe (a) should be something like: (a’) existing, bringing about certain evils, and not enjoying the good of union with God. And perhaps we could add a clause about experiencing everlasting torment, and then suggest that the revised option is indeed worse than (b), but I’m not sure such a clause is necessary. As you observed (rightly, I think), the verses in question might not be associated with damnation.

Some people think it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. If that idea is correct, then there’s something so valuable about being in love which isn’t defeated even by the “loss” of that love. There’s more (overall?) value in having and losing than in simply not having at all and therefore not losing. According to HT, it’s better to have not existed at all than to have existed and become among the eternally lost. I guess that this may strike some as plausible because eternal loss, and the concomitant state of affairs of not enjoying the good of union with God, plausibly defeat the value of existing and losing. Perhaps the strongest consideration in favor of HT is that everlasting separation from God is indeed sustained, comprehensive, and unredeemed loss such that it (overall) defeats the value and goods of existing.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Isn't it perhaps redeemed by the fact that it constitutes justice to the person who undergoes it?

Marc Belcastro said...

If a traditional conception of hell is correct, then your suggestion seems especially likely. But I'm inclined to be suspicious of traditional conceptions of hell and, to some extent, of the idea that everlasting conscious separation from God brings about a greater good than other alternatives.

Heath White said...

I would like to believe something like this but ... I have issues.

1. The other part of HT's Scriptural warrant are the scary descriptions--lake of fire, worm that dieth not--of what existence in hell is like. But we should read Scripture consistently with Scripture. And Scripture also tells us of a God who loves all, whose sun shines on sinner and righteous alike, who created everything and it was all good. Thus we should temper our interpretations of the harrowing descriptions

or maybe we should modify our view of divine love and take wrath more seriously. Scriptural tensions cut two ways.

2. I had the thought that Rawls' original position makes hell into an unjust/unfair institution. The idea is, if you were a pre-incarnate soul, you would avoid being incarnated into a world with a hell--too risky. (On your view, however, it beats not being incarnated, or being annihilated.) I'm not sure what follows from that.

Alexander R Pruss said...

How about this line of thought?

Every good is the good of some entity. There are no free-floating goods.

Now suppose Jim goes to hell.

Suppose now for a reductio that it would be better for Jim not to exist than to exist in hell.

Then either Jim's being in hell is good for one or more entities other than Jim in such a way as to match or outweigh the on-balance badness for Judas of Jim's being in hell, or else Jim's being in hell is on balance a bad thing.

If Jim's being sent to hell is on balance a bad thing, then Jim's being in hell seems to either be an instance of God's causing something on balance bad or else a case of divine failure (and if hell is forever, then an eternal such case).

If Jim's being sent to hell is on balance not a bad thing, then the overall badness for Jim of his going to hell must be outweighed in some way by a good for someone else. But for whom? Surely not for God (except in an extended sense if it is good for someone that God loves, and hence a part of God's extended well-being).

The only reasonable two possibilities I can think of are: (a) for Jim's victims; and (b) for the saved. But (a) is dubious in a case where Jim's sins were against God (e.g., blasphemy in the silence of his room). I suppose one could say that due to the communion of saints/sinners, we are all harmed by the sin of any, but even so, it is a dubious benefit to those who are thus indirectly harmed by Jim's sin that he suffer forever.

That leaves (b)--Jim's suffering benefits those who are saved. But it's hard to see how. I think the best bet is to say that it somehow displays the glory of God to the saved, in a way that makes the suffering be on balance worth permitting or even causing. One problem with this option is that surely it would be possible for God to send everyone to hell--it is, after all, a free gift of his grace that he does not do so. And then the story wouldn't work.

Perhaps the defender of the HT can distinguish between the good and the just, and say that sending people to hell is not something God does because it is good for anyone. God does it simply because it is just. Love (and hence benevolence, which is a part of love) is not God's only motivation. Justice is another, and it does not reduce to love. God has reason to punish even if it is on balance worse for everyone that he punish (imagine a case where there is only one created person, and he is sent to hell; this is imaginable; but given HT, this one person's being sent to hell is on balance worse for everyone). I find this contrast between divine punishment and divine love implausible.

Instead, I want to say that God's punishing Jim is something God has reason to do for the sake of Jim. It is intrinsically good for one to get what one deserves, whether it is reward or punishment.

Leo said...

But Aquinas does affirm the HT! See Summa Theologica, Supp.:98:3. Or am I missing something?

awatkins909 said...

@Leo: Thomas makes the distinction between two ways "not to be" in his respondeo, doesn't he?

Marc Belcastro said...

Dr. Pruss:

Thanks for continuing the conversation.

>> “Every good is the good of some entity. There are no free-floating goods.”

Would a free-floating good be something like the Platonic moral property being kind?

>> “Then either Jim's being in hell is good for one or more entities other than Jim…”

It sounds like you’re suggesting that a good of an entity is the same as a good for an entity. And your argument seems based on “good for” language, yet it begins with a “good of” premise. My suspicion is that I’m misunderstanding you, though.

In order to satisfy the criterion that there are no free-floating goods, could we say that every good is either (i) the good of some entity or (ii) grounded in some entity? Take a possible world W in which only God exists, and consider the good of moral reform. This good doesn’t appear to be a good of God, but perhaps it’s plausible to suppose that the good of moral reform is grounded in God: moral reform makes one (morally) resemble God, and (morally) resembling God is good. At any rate, I’m not sure if this is even relevant to your considerations. =)

If I’m understanding it correctly, it seems that your line of thought is consistent with some non-traditional views of hell and, more importantly, with HT’s being true. An annihilationist, say, could agree with you that “God’s punishing Jim is something God has reason to do for the sake of Jim,” for it’s “intrinsically good for one to get what one deserves,” all while affirming HT. HT makes reference to a hell in which the reprobate “spend eternity in hell, and your rationale appears to leave open the possibility that Jim could receive the punishment he deserves without spending eternity in hell.

Alexander R Pruss said...

A free floating good would be something like: "The good of there not being any ugliness."

The point about the distinction between the good of X and the good for X is interesting. My Aristotelian ear is not very sensitive to the difference between these. The intrinsic good for X is the intrinsic flourishing of X, and that's the same as the intrinsic good of X. Maybe you can help flesh out the distinction?

This argument was aimed at someone with a traditional view of hell.

I wonder if annihilation could be a deserved punishment that is good for one.

Suppose (contrary to fact) presentism is true and Smith is to be annihilated at t1 as a punishment for his sins. When is Smith receiving the punishment for his sin? At t1, he doesn't exist, and so he isn't receiving the punishment. Prior to t1, he does exist, but hasn't yet received the punishment. So he never receives it, it looks like.

This argument fails given eternalism, for it could be that Smith is punished at t0 by its being the case that he doesn't exist at t1. So I suppose we could say that Smith is better off at t0 for being annihilated at t1. This would require the denial of the plausible thesis that one's well being at t0 does not depend at what will happen at a later time. I think that thesis should be denied anyway, so I guess on my eternalist view of time, it would be in principle possible for annihilation to be a punishment that is good for one.

Leo said...


Well, he does make a distinction between being being more desirable in itself than non-being and being being more desirable in light of the torment of the damned. This distinction, however, does nothing to falsify the claim that the damned would really be done a good service by annihilation, since what is good in itself, health, for example, can be made undesirable by external circumstances.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Thanks for the interesting text from the Supplement. Now that you bring it up, I remember having seen it--I had forgotten it.

1. There are issues as to the authorship of the Supplement to the Summa that I am not qualified to comment on.

2. Aquinas is arguing that the damned would rationally wish not to exist, not that they would be on balance better off not existing. Aquinas thinks it is possible to rationally choose A even though A is not on balance better than some alternative. For instance, one might choose whether to be a Dominican or a Franciscan. Neither is on balance better--different combinations of virtues are promoted by the options, and we can incommensurability.

For the damned, non-existence promotes the value of lacking suffering. But it also promotes various harms.

3. In any case, I worry that here Aquinas ends up in tension with the Augustinian view of evil as a privation that he is committed to. Here he seems to see suffering as something more than a privation.

Alexander R Pruss said...

But maybe he is just seeing it as more than a lack. (A privation is a lack of a due good, not just a lack.)

___________________________ said...

Ok, but wouldn't the HT be justified if the clear conception of the nature of hell includes a minimum level of Hellish pushishment S? Thus meaning that the only way to avoid the HT, would be to argue that the suffering per period could get below S. Otherwise, the math is clear that S * infinity = infinity.

Secondly, any argument on finite punishment over infinite time also requires numbers that continually decline. The problem is that human ability to perceive suffering is limited, and so we round. Well, given that we have limited ability to perceive our own suffering, it seems that in order to suffer, the badness of an experience might have to be at minimum: P, a perceptual limit. Thus we still have the issue we'd have with minimum experience for hellishness, that is that we have a minimum of suffering per time period that is finite, thus causing an infinite period of time to result in infinite suffering.

Either way/direction, HT is justified. Either assumption is warranted as well, as our ability to discriminate is clearly not infinite.

Alexander R Pruss said...

1. Well, it could be--though this would be a stretch and get close to the Combination View--that hell has a finite total subjective length of time and an infinite total objective length of time. Thus, in the first subjective year of hell, the person lives through one objective year of hell; in the next subjective half year, she lives through the next objective year of hell (she's getting faster); and so on, doubling the speed of living through an objective year each time. This, however, requires a dubious (to me) infinite divisibility thesis.

2. As a contingent matter of fact, we may have a lower limit to suffering. But it does not seem likely that there be a limit essential to us--God could make one's faculties more discriminating. Again, I am not advocating for this view.

Marc Belcastro said...

Dr. Pruss:

>> “The point about the distinction between the good of X and the good for X is interesting. My Aristotelian ear is not very sensitive to the difference between these. The intrinsic good for X is the intrinsic flourishing of X, and that's the same as the intrinsic good of X. Maybe you can help flesh out the distinction?”

I have something like this in mind. The intrinsic good of Jim might refer to his being merciful and kind. These are moral properties which Jim actually has. Although he could certainly become more merciful and more kind, the current state of his moral character permits us to legitimately attribute these properties to him. But Jim tends to be impatient, so the good for Jim might refer to his becoming (more) patient. Patience isn’t a good which Jim possesses, unlike mercifulness and kindness. It would be good for Jim to develop patience, and once he does, perhaps we can say that the intrinsic good of Jim refers to his being merciful, kind, and patient.

>> “Suppose (contrary to fact) presentism is true and Smith is to be annihilated at t1 as a punishment for his sins. When is Smith receiving the punishment for his sin? At t1, he doesn't exist, and so he isn't receiving the punishment. Prior to t1, he does exist, but hasn't yet received the punishment. So he never receives it, it looks like.”

Maybe we could suggest that it’s metaphysically possible that the process of one’s being annihilated commences the moment one enters hell. It’s not the case, according to this suggestion, that annihilation occurs at t1 but not at t0. Rather, annihilation would be completed at t1. This view of annihilation is analogous to a situation in which one’s body gradually disintegrates until there’s nothing left, which is to say, until there’s no physical material left.

Under your entry “The combination view of hell,” Ronnie offered another way to address your worry, by holding that annihilation serves as an important component of the reprobate’s punishment, even if she doesn’t experience the entirety (or any) of the annihilation. A punishment which culminates in extinction is an appropriate punishment for sin. Indeed, part of the punishment may be the reprobate’s dreadful anticipation of being annihilated.

Drew said...

I'd just like to say in defense of Molinism, that this argument really isn't a problem for it. Under Molinism, God did the best he could given the counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. He generated the right amount of saved while minimizing the damned.

However, this is really bad for Calvinism. And in that case, I would agree that so much the worse for Calvinism.

Unknown said...

"But surely the answer is positive."

Says someone who most likely never really suffered in his life. Comes across as pretty autistic. Nietzsche did not want his life again, before I was born-again, I felt similarly. Now as a Christian I fear hell. Being annihiliated is not punishment, because then any unborn child is in a state of punishment. It's laughable.

By the way, Kierkegaard drew the same conclusion without referenceing Matth. 26:24, he simply used his brain cells.
I did not exist for 13.8 billion years. I did not suffer. Non-existence is not a punishment, because then if someone refrains from having children, his children suffer (we have free will, God is not a puppet master who pulls the strings. so we can decide against children without becoming monks or priests, as the Bible actually teaches it's best not to marry.)

You also seem not to understand that you actually make Heaven out of Hell. After all, everything is good. So why should I not kill myself? If I'm annhiliated, I will be what I was before I was born. Your argument would actually mean we would have to have children nonstop. As Kierkegaard wrote:

Unknown said...


No doubt very many, and very different, things preoccupy people. But if one were to name just one thing of which one would say that it was the only thing people are preoccupied with, it would have to be relations between the sexes, sexual desire, propagation, etc. -- for human beings are, after all, mainly animal.

That is why everything, absolutely everything that human hypocrisy can invent comes together on this point, as on no other. If you really want to learn to recognize human hypocrisy, this is where to look. For it is precisely because here we are standing at the lowest level -- something they would be too ashamed simply to admit -- that here hypocrisy comes into its own. Hence the elevated talk of the profound seriousness of propagating the race, of the great benefaction of bestowing life upon another human being, etc., all of it calculated in addition to refine the voluptuousness of desire.

The great benefaction of bestowing life on another human being. Bless my soul! A tired lecher, an old man who hardly has the sensual power -- the truth is they were unable to control the flame of lust. But one puts it hypocritically by saying that they intended to perform the great benefaction of bestowing life upon another human being! Thanks! And what a life, this miserable, wretched, anguished existence which is usually the lot of such an offspring. Isn't it splendid? Suppose murder and pillage and theft were similarly made into the greatest, most priceless benefaction! And what is putting a man to death compared with bringing such a wretched creature into life? For even if it is commonly considered a melancholic thought (as, if I recall, one of my pseudonmys says somewhere, or is to be found somewhere in my journal, or in any case a remark I made loing, long ago) that there should be greater guilt in giving life than in taking it -- even if in general it may indeed be too melancholic, yet in the case of the offspring whose life is destined to be sickly it is not an exaggeration. Yet this hypocrisy about a great benefaction is upheld; the child is supposed never to be able to give thanks enough -- instead of the father never being able to expiate his guilt even if he went on his knees, in tears, before the child.

But to the hypocritical use of Christianity. This is making it look as though Christian parents -- and of course in Christian countries everyone is a Christian -- beget Christian children -- but then coming into existence is identical with receiving an eternal salvation. Aha! So the meaning of Christianity has become the refinement of the lust of the procreative act. One might perhaps otherwise just stop, see if one can control the urge, hesitate to give another person life merely to satisfy sexual desire -- ah, but when one begets eternal, eternally blessed creatures, isn't the best and most Christian thing not to do anything else all day long if that were possible?

(1854; XI I A 219)

Unknown said...

It is not just to be punished eternally for a life I never asked for. It was not God who created me, but my parents had unprotected sex. It was not God's will, it was the will or rather lust of humans. That my grandparents are now in hell is a horrible thought, and Darwin thought similiarly.

Also, God hates the wicked. So you're wrong on that one too. See also Vox Day's take on it.

And, if existence is so great and so brilliant, no matter how you exist, there is no reason to improve anything. And the following aphorisms by the great Catholic thinker Nicolás Gómez Dávila would not make sense:

"Geneva, the Geneva that Calvin reigns from his sickbed, the Geneva whose shadow extends from the pulpit of Knox to the hallways of the Vatican, the Geneva where a world was formed, had about 12.000 inhabitants in 1560.
The huge modern human masses are not only a problem, but superfluous."

"Being civilized means being able to criticize that which we believe in without ceasing to believe in what we believe in."

"The city imagined by every utopian is always tacky—beginning with that of the Apocalypse."

"To the most important cultural achievements of Catholicism must be counted that it created a climate unfavorable to economic activity."

"Eugenics appals those who fear its judgment."

"No beneficiary of slaves is supporter of birth control."

"Depopulate and reforest -- first civilizing rule."

"Christianity is an infamy which we must not disguise as kindness."

"What is difficult is not to believe in God, but to believe that we matter to Him."

"The importance it attributes to man is the enigma of Christianity."

"Population growth disquiets the demographer only when he fears that it will impede economic progress or make it harder to feed the masses.
But that man needs solitude, that human proliferation produces cruel societies, that distance is required between men so that the spirit might breathe, does not interest him.
The quality of a man does not matter to him."

"The imbecile does not discover the radical misery of our condition except when he is sick, poor, or old."