Mar 29, 2011

Fresh Eyes on Hell

Suppose that a friend of yours opined that the Jews actually deserved what had happened to them under Hitler.  Imagine that he announces, with smug certainty, that the mere fact that they were children of Abraham mean that they deserved all the torture, deprivation, and death that had been visited upon them in the one of the worst crimes in history.

What would be your reaction?  Would you slug him?  Tell him to go fuck himself?  Try to reason with him?  Ignore him while actively waiting for the Alzheimer's to kick in?

Let's up the ante.  Imagine that, instead of merely justifying the Holocaust, our friend continued and stated that death was not enough: that all Jews deserved nothing better than to wind up in Hell forever.

Surely we could all agree that this is a horrifying message of hate?

Now let's up the ante yet again: instead of just Jews deserving hellfire solely by virtue of being scions of Abraham, our friend stated that all men everywhere deserve to suffer the fires of Hell, solely on the basis of their being children of Adam.

What's our reaction now?

Perhaps I'm not being fair.  Let's try something else: consider the case of this girl.  A lovely, sweet, intelligent girl, born with conditions easily treatable in the West which in Bulgaria have confined her to a wheelchair and, due to cultural prejudices, to a life in institutions for the mentally handicapped.

What would you say to a person who heard her story and said "She deserved it"?  As for myself, I would probably say nothing to them--ever again.  It's open to debate whether or not I would attempt to cause them bodily harm in the meantime.

But let's up the ante again.  We won't say that she deserved birth defects, deserved to be born in a country where they would not be treated, deserved to be confined to an institution.  Instead, we'll say that what she really deserves is to be cast into the lake of fire prepared for Satan and his angels, there to suffer in infinite conscious torment for all eternity.

We immediately recognize the horror and the injustice, the monstrous nature of the statement that she deserved her lot in life.  But years of long use have deadened us to the ugliness and evil, the smug, servile misanthropy of the assertion of damnation as the default condition of the human race.

The Tutsis in Rwanda?  They got off easy.  The Jews of the Holocaust?  The showers were too quick.  Kids dumped in orphanages?  They'll long for those days when they got tossed in with Satan.  The depredations of Pol Pot?  As a speck of sand next to a galaxy compared to the wrath that God will pour out on his victims after death.

You know, deep in your heart, that the Jews did not deserve what happened to them in the Holocaust.  Why would you pronounce them worthy of hellfire?  You know, if there is any good in you, that little Stanislava does not deserve her lot in life.  Why would you believe that her just reward in death will be to be punished alongside Satan?

We know that these things are not true, yet we say precisely these things when we assert that humanity is born deserving perdition.

If you have a heart, then it should recoil at the notion that the suffering innocents deserve it; why does it not recoil from the notion that all of us deserve infinitely worse at the hands of a loving God?

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