Thursday, December 12, 2013

There Is No Cosmic Justice In Christianity

I was recently reading a Christian blog that was talking about trying to get into the heads of atheists. (An endeavor that I applaud, just as much as we should try to get into the heads of the religious. A better understanding of one another is always a good thing). He opened his post complaining about the lack of cosmic justice in the atheistic worldview.
Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, G...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The idea of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, Lenin, and innumerable other evil dictators being morally blameless for their crimes gave me a sense of discomfort.
I agree, it is discomforting to think of those people never being punished for their crimes. There is definitely a part of me that wants justice for the people who commit horrible atrocities. I definitely don't like the idea that people can get away with things Scott free. It would be nice to think that justice is ultimately served, even if it had to be carried on in some afterlife. We don't have any good reason to believe an afterlife exists, so we should use this discomfort to motivate us to make sure justice is served here.

But he does make a valid point, if there are no gods and no afterlife then there is no cosmic justice. But suppose instead that Christianity is true, I would argue that there is no cosmic justice there either. Think about those horrible people in history mentioned above, suppose they are burning in hell. Is this really justice? They have done very bad things, but is any finite crime worthy of being tortured forever? Worse yet, those guys are suffering the same fate as every non-believer that ever lived, no matter how good they were in life. They will be there along with every religious person who subscribes to the wrong religion (according to some Christians, this includes other Christians in the wrong sects). Does that sound like justice? Doesn't to me.

But it gets worse, the problem is, Hitler isn't being punished for murdering millions of innocent people, he's being punished for (supposedly) not accepting Jesus into his heart. So if he were to simply accept Jesus, even in his last breath, he would get eternal paradise. Meanwhile, I'm still going to be doing laps in the lake of fire. This is not justice.
Enhanced by Zemanta

21 comments:

  1. I can think of a few people whom eternal punishment isn't too harsh for. ;)

    I had a blog post back in September about how there is no justice in Christianity, no matter if you look at it from the fundamentalist view (hell exists, and all non-Christians go there), or the liberal/universalist view (hell doesn't exist, everyone goes to heaven).

    In the fundamentalist view, you not only have the injustice of all non-Christians going to hell, but someone could convert to Christianity, and be entered into Heaven, even if they have committed horrible acts against humanity in their lifetime (even if they were never punished for it here on earth, or even if they are unrepentant about what they have done).

    In the unviersalist view, there is no eternal justice, because everyone is going to Heaven, even horribly evil people like Stalin, Hitler, Ted Bundy, etc, even if they never faced punishment on earth or were repentant.

    There's no eternal justice in Christianity, period.

    http://ramblingsofsheldon.blogspot.com/2013/09/heaven-vs-hell-forgiveness-vs-justice.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. eternity is a long time, no matter how you slice it, finite crimes should have a punishment that eventually ends.

      That's a good point about sects that have everyone go to heaven. Sometimes it is hard for me to step outside of the version of Christianity I grew up with. There's still no justice here, but compared to the other options of Christianity this one is the least horrible imo.

      I think as with many things in religion, the idea of cosmic justice sounds good, but only so long as you don't think about it too hard

      Delete
    2. I don't seem to understand why many atheists/ex-Christians seem to believe that no one deserves eternal punishment, not even people who have committed horrendous acts.

      I'm more familiar with liberal Christians because I follow some on Twitter, and liberal Christian blogs. Be careful if you wade into that territory, the Atheism +/FTB style of taking feminism to frightening extremes is starting to infect segments of that crowd, unfortunately, especially among the former fundamentalists.

      The top two I recommend that are liberal Christians, but still level headed are Lana Hope of the blog Wide Open Ground (she's a good friend of mine online, amazing woman), and John Shore on the Patheos network. You might have heard of John Shore because of the Not All Like That project he started to encourage Christians to speak up against homophobia.

      Lana is kind of a questioning Christian, she's a universalist, and sometimes she questions everything to the point that I think she's scared of leaving Christianity altogether. You might want to check out her life story on there, she gave up fundamentalism after growing up in a family that followed cult leader Bill Gothard.

      John Shore says that he is not even completely sure if there is an afterlife at all, but he feels that the idea of hell is completely incompatible with a loving god, and rejects it. He thinks if the afterlife does exist, there's only Heaven, and we're all going there.

      Delete
    3. "I don't seem to understand why many atheists/ex-Christians seem to believe that no one deserves eternal punishment, not even people who have committed horrendous acts."

      I guess it depends on what justice is. If someone does something bad, is it right to have that same thing happen to them? If someone tortures someone, is the appropriate response to torture them back? Is it appropriate to cause them the same pain they caused someone else? If the answer is yes, how much do they deserve? Shouldn't it end eventually? As much as there is a part of me that wants to just say "fuck that guy", isn't there a point when enough is enough?

      Delete
  2. Also, the people Hitler did this to would be burning right along side him if'n they didn't believe the right things.

    At the end of my Christianity, I was more universalist, but figured that there would be some type of after death punishment, perhaps even reincarnation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I definitely think the point that the Jews Hitler murdered would be burning right along side Hitler according to the views of most Christians. It really does drive the point home.

      Thanks for stopping by Alice :)

      Delete
    2. That thought actually churned my stomach. These are the kinds of questions that I would have never asked when I was a younger catholic. But these kinds of questions really have some heavy implications (if all of that was true). The older I get, the more I understand why I had it in my mind to just avoid reading anything contrary to my beliefs. I don't think it was done intentionally to indoctrinate me, but maybe subconsciously?

      Delete
    3. "just avoid reading anything contrary to my beliefs"

      I was told to not read contrary things. I remember it specifically with respect to evolution for example. I remember hearing a lot of "you go to university and they convince you it's true". Now that I hear it, that's a good thing, if they convince you they must have had good reason. But at the time it was said as if it was a terrible thing.

      Delete
  3. Indeed, as you, Sheldon, and Alice all point out that there is no such thing as Divine Justice. In fact, grace/mercy is the antithesis of justice. In the Christian mantra, everybody sins and deserves (eternal) punishment, but it is God's grace that gets people out of being responsible for their actions. It's bitterly ironic that people staking claim on the blissful side of mercy trumping justice also take comfort in the fact that some people will "get what they deserve."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's an excellent point as well. It doesn't seem very consistent to say one minute that we all deserve hell but God has mercy on us, but then in the next that everything works out right because Hitler is burning. Perhaps he just REALLY deserves it.

      Delete
  4. Those of us who embrace reality do have to come to terms with the fact that criminals often escape punishment for their crimes. I don't particularly like this, but not liking it does not justify making up tales of supernatural justice to console myself. Living in accordance with reality is not always going to be easy, but I'll certainly take it over blissful delusion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jack, this is an excellent point as well. To carry it further, this uneasiness could motivate us to make sure justice is served in this life. Inventing justice in the afterlife could lead some people to be complacent here.

      Delete
    2. Absolutely. Rather than confront injustice in this world, some are content to reassure themselves that the wrongdoer will be punished in some sort of hell. I think you are right that this can lead to complacency and inaction.

      Delete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This ignores Annihilism as a possible option. I don’t think anyone will get what we think they deserve. Mercy and justice are contradictory. I think the ‘justice’ of God should be looked in terms of restoring what was lost for those who love him. The suffering of this life is over. It very well could be that the starving kid in Africa who has never heard of Christ gets a greater reward than I do. I have no place to say, but it’s a giant argument from ignorance and appeal to popularity to say that God sends all of these people to hell because most Christians say so. I doubt there’s a person alive that hasn’t been condemned to hell by a Christian. It’s rather irrelevant to the truth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a very good point as well. Obviously there are some Christians who believe that bad people will just cease to exist rather than go to hell. Others believe that everyone goes to heaven regardless. Most of this post wouldn't apply to those people, I was more thinking of the idea that people who accept Jesus go to heaven and everyone else goes to hell. It is my impression that this is what most Christians believe. I would certainly be happy to learn that a large portion of Christians don't share this belief, but as far as I have seen to this point, it is a minority opinion among Christians.

      Delete
    2. Romans 1 & 2 talks about God’s general revelation through nature and the moral law everyone has within them so that they will be judged based on how they respond to what they know. I know many Christians who also believe this, but there are those who do not. The vast majority believes in some form of hell, but most see it as soul separation from God vs flames.

      Delete
    3. "most see it as soul separation from God vs flames."

      Good :) This hasn't been my impression, but as far as personal experience goes, that could be a local phenomenon, and from what I see more broadly, perhaps the fire and brimstone people are just louder. I do sincerely hope your impression of this is more accurate than mine is.

      Delete
  7. "We don't have any good reason to believe an afterlife exists, so we should use this discomfort to motivate us to make sure justice is served here."

    Some of us have good reason to believe in an afterlife that does not include a fiery pit to administer justice. I still think sending the sinners back down to earth to get justice reciprocated in like is a much better "life" sentence than any other kind of hell. :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. This idea of divine justice, karma, whatever you want to call it is one of the most toxic ideas that theism has. Divine justice offers a disincentive for people to work for what's right in the here and now. Pray (i.e., doing nothing and assume you're doing something useful) for divine justice now. Don't worry too much, all the problems of the world will be hashed out in the last genocidal chapter of Revelation.

    Absurd.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree completely. This, along with faith, is often claimed as a strength of religion which should really been seen as a giant weakness.

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...