Sunday 20 March 2011

Hell as punishment, consequence, choice: three concepts


Hell as punishment

When something bad happens to them, children regard it as a punishment. For them, all bad things are punishments - done to them by someone. They cannot distinguish consequences from punishments.

Children often feel that they are to blame for the bad things that happen to them - they deserved these bad things; of if children are not to blame, then they feel they have been unjustly punished.


Hell as consequence

Adult humans see bad things as consequences, as natural causes. Usually they see bad things as a default state - there is an inbuilt tendency for bad consequences except in exceptional circumstances.

Often, too, these older people feel that good things are a reward for acting well; bad things merely a natural consequence of not acting well. Good things are a privilege.

Then they feel entitled that good things will follow good actions - good things are no longer felt as a privilege but a right; and if this does not happen, these adults are indignant, then angry at having being deprived.

Instead of gratitude at the conferral of a privilege they blame someone for interfering and blocking their just rewards.


Hell as choice

At the highest level, beyond adult humans; we do not get punished, we do not get that to which we are entitled; instead we ultimately get what we have chosen.

We are, in fact, allowed to choose and to have our heart's desire forever.

It is not a punishment from others because it was chosen; it is not a reward becuase it was chosen; it is not a consequence of actions because it does not flow from actions - we neither deserve it nor was it an arbitrary piece of good fortune.

There is something separate from reward/ punishment; from cause and effect: something outside this which has choice.


But, of course, this cannot be explained to children, nor to adult humans - they cannot understand, they lack the capacity.

All this can only be understood by first receiving the gift of understanding, from outside of themselves: which understanding is itself neither a reward nor a right but must itself be chosen.

It is hopeless to try and explain this stuff to mere children and adult humans. They must first be offered enhancement: the capacity to understand, the freedom of choosing.


Luckily, this offer has been made. That is where luck comes in: not in what we get, but what we are offered, that there is a choice.



Valkea said...

When I was young and atheist, it disturbed me that Christians would talk so much about love. There are times and places for it, but clearly the river overflowed. Most of the Christians were, despite this obsession, quite normal, but there were blatant exceptions, slurring in endless ecstasy about love. To me it represented same kind of defect than compulsive crying at the slightest reasons.

Recently I started to understand the rationality, seriousness and necessity of love in Christianity. Man has a tendency to be individualistic and selfish wayfarer, veering often away from the right path. Enduring and good social relations, congregations and communities are dependent on regular thinking, feeling and living love, sacrifices, doing and saying good things to others, trying to defuse grudges and hostilities, etc. And in the same way man as lonely atom doesn't reach adequate and proper God-orientation. Too many of man's propensities don't find their proper outlets and conduits, spoiling the God-orientation with everything else. Man is either propitious and balanced whole, or distorted and maximized along one or two directions, e.g. money and power.


A couple of documents, overviews of the topics:

Why "our" culture and the methods of it's production must die:

Surprisingly politically neutral and revealing documentary from BBC, relative to it's usual productions. Elite thinking and rationalizations; psychology as a method of control and regulation; the creation of new left both in Britain and the United States, it's hollow thinking and methods; etc.

Documentary from an extreme leftist. Unscrupulous propaganda. The only reason it is here is that it contains a handful of useful moments, e.g. we all know that news anchormen and -women are professional liers, but it is good to see that on film (Political correctness vs. talking about the third world reality in the Western countries).

When next time Western elites put to show trial a man who harmlessly says: "I prefer whites/ British/ Finns etc.", remember to compare it to the world of the other. The thinking seen here is either mainstream or part of accepted mainstream in their countries and in their immigrant communities around the world:

Some liberal thinkers have said that ant colonies are an ideal way of organizing cooperation and should be used as a paradigm for human societies:

Anonymous said...

But hell is virtually defined as being all the things humans do not and cannot possibly want -- agony, misery, despair, and so on. If the damned have been granted their hearts' desire forever, whence all the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth?

I think there still has to be an element of consequence for hell to make sense. Maybe the damned want some specific subset of what hell offers (total independence from God, perhaps), and the rest (the torture) follows as a consequence of that desire's having been granted. But to say that they actually desire hell itself -- that burning in a lake of fire is some people's idea of a good time -- just doesn't make any sense. People just don't want that, at least not normal people -- maybe the odd masochist, but certainly not the vast numbers implied by "wide is the gate, and broad is the way."

Bruce Charlton said...

The problem I am addressing is that intelligent atheists read or hear descriptions of salvation and damnation that are intended for the edification of children (whether literal or de facto children) - the message is fitted to its receiver.

When we ourselves are faulty receivers we need to listen to authorites - to people who are of more advanced understanding (and wisdom) - as do children.

Speaking for myself, I am not spiritually advanced, and must be taught - the tough thing is to discern the proper teachers, the true authories.

The authorities which I trust most say that hell is a choice. (I was thinking particularly of CS Lewis and Charles Williams when I wrote this posting.)

I do not mean that those who choose hell will like it; in life I perceive that many people do not like the outcomes of their choices.

In everyday life people are free to repent their wrong choices and to choose again, but often they do not.

(Does Morgoth like his situation, does Voldemort? Are they happy? No, but they chose it. They are offered chances to repent, but they do not.)

As Lewis portrays in The Great Divorce (in the context of an imaginary afterlife), in life people's main choices are often determined by a single sin to which they cling, by which they are held fast; which they will not give up.

As to the content of Hell, this is not really known with any precision, and people of rudimentary understanding such as myself again need to rely on authority.

In their writings CSL and CW seem to suggest the content or experience of Hell may be what you would expect from the kind of people who choose it and inhabit it; rather than a prespecified situation. The characteristic being pride: a domain of people who where given a final choice, and who ultimately chose pride over love, a domain therefore of existentially-isolated souls.

What we know is not reality but depictions. In vivid ages of intense faith this reality might be expressed or experienced in terms of intense burning regret and torture; in tepid ages of apostasy it might be better expressed in terms of dull, grey, meaninglesss despair.

(On this view, the purpose of life is [very roughly summarized] to purify and 'train' ourselves - our souls - through life - by the choces made during life; such that when we are offered the final choice we will make the right choice in the face of temptations aimed-at our profoundest weakness/ sin.)

Bruce Charlton said...

Peter Kreeft on Hell: