BY SOFO ARCHON
Recently, as I was reading a book by Arthur Schopenhauer, I stumbled across an insightful and thought-provoking essay in which he criticizes the Christian concept of hell, by pointing out how it contradicts the idea of an all-loving, benevolent God.
According to the mainstream Christian dogma, those who commit certain deeds that are claimed by the Bible to be prohibited by God are sinners, and unless they repent for their sins they will be sent to hell by God in the afterlife. There they will have to endure endless suffering as punishment for the sins they have committed. This, in Schopenhauer’s mind, is unfair and unjust. He says:
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[…]
How can it be fair and just that an imperfect person who commits a wrongdoing or merely doesn’t subscribe to a particular religious ideology is thrown into hellfire where he has to burn 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 flawed world of ours, we would never punish a child just because its parents did something wrong. So how can an all-loving God punish people just because a couple of other people (namely, Adam and Eve) supposedly committed a sin against him 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 deed, then he provided them with a temptation that will for sure make them commit it, and afterwards he’s punishing them for committing it? This seems more like something a sadistic madman would do. Schopenhauer proceeds by saying:
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 their so-called sins, without giving them another chance to make up for them? This doesn’t sound so loving, right? Schopenhauer goes on to point out that:
[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 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 humanity? God doesn’t seem to care about it 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.
A corrupt, evil, filled-with-sinners world would have never been created by a benevolent, all-loving God. It seems, therefore, that either the Christian God isn’t all-loving after all or 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.