The Instigator
Paleophyte
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Philocat
Con (against)
Winning
3 Points

The Paradox of Hell

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Post Voting Period
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after 1 vote the winner is...
Philocat
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/18/2015 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 896 times Debate No: 68507
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
Votes (1)

 

Paleophyte

Pro

Most mainstream western religions subscribe to the following:

1) God is omniscient (All-Knowing)
2) God is omnipotent (All-Powerful)
3) God is omnibenevolent (All-Loving)
4) Hell exists and is a state of eternal torment reserved for those who deny God.

I maintain that these four concepts result in a logical paradox.

By accepting you agree to points 1 through 4 above. Any requests for alterations should be left in the comments.

Round 1 will be for acceptance only.
Rounds 2 and 3 will be for argument and rebuttals.
Round 4 is reserved for final rebuttals and conclusions. No new arguments in the final round.

Burden of Proof is shared equally.
Philocat

Con

I accept.
Debate Round No. 1
Paleophyte

Pro

I would like to thank Philocat for accepting this challenge. I look forward to a lively and interesting exchange.

Polytheism has an advantage over monotheism in that various different aspects of our world may be assigned to various different deities. Monotheism runs into problems when trying to ascribe all of the various phenomena of our world to a single all-mighty deity. This problem is exacerbated by the necessity of making this deity wear the white hat of an all-loving god while simultaneously trying to account for suffering in our world. This is referred to as the Problem of Evil, widely attributed to Epicurus [1].

The Paradox of Hell is similar to the Problem of Evil with the distinction that, unlike suffering in our mortal world, the evil in the instance of Hell is both infinitely worse and much more directly God's responsibility. Put simply:

- God is omnipotent. He can do anything that he desires.

- God is omniscient. He knows everything that transpires.

- God is omnibenevolent. He is all-loving.

Given these conditions it is reasonable to expect that an omnibenevolent deity would seek to minimize evil, seeking it out via omniscience and eradicating it via omnipotence. However:

- Hell exists and is a state of eternal torment for damned souls.

The exact nature of the sin(s) necessary for damnation varies depending on the religion but they aren't terribly important. The existence of Hell as a potential destination of the souls of mortals is maximum evil. Not only does God allow this evil to continue but, as the Supreme Creator, God is directly responsible for its existence, or for the conditions leading to its existence at the very least. This is in direct contradiction with the attributes of God listed above, hence the paradox.

Several solutions are commonly put forward in an attempt to resolve this paradox and I'd like to address a few of them now. I hope that my opponent will forgive and correct any errors I might make.

Free Will

Some would argue that God granted us free will as this was a better existence than as deterministic automata. As such, Hell is not a destination to which God sends the damned but rather the consequence of the ultimate expression of free will, the rejection of God. Aside from sounding a lot like blaming the victim, there are a few objections to this position:

- A mortal and fallible mind has just been given a choice it can't fully appreciate and asked to make it based on woefully incomplete information. The outcome will have infinite and irrevocable consequences. These are not the actions of an all-loving God so they fail to resolve the paradox.

- Free will is limited. I cannot teleport, I cannot divine the future, I cannot touch my elbow to my nose. I cannot believe that I do not exist, that up is down or that 1+1=0. It seems reasonable that God could have made Creation so that we had free will but with limitations that would preclude damnation. This clearly isn't the case.


Insufficient Information

Another line of argument is that mortal minds can't comprehend how the All-Mighty works and that the possibility of Hell really is the best possible option. Just as a small child might resent being sent to sit in the corner for a time-out, humans don't fully comprehend that, as bad as Hell sounds, it could be worse. This boils down to just another 'God works in mysterious ways.' cop-out but some more concrete objections include:

- Infinite torment for all eternity is pretty much the definition of as bad as it can possibly get.

- God could imbue us with the understanding of why Hell is necessary.

We Could Do Better

Let's face it, there's room for improvement:

- A better class of afterlife. The Greeks had a much more nuanced afterlife in the 8th century BC [2]. Absolute torment for all eternity is solely punitive. Hell has no redemptive qualities as damned souls can never leave. This all just makes God look unjust, making it easier to disbelieve in God and thus more likely that more people will end up in Hell.

- Annihilationism [3]. Souls that would otherwise be damned just vanish. Surely that's more humane and what are you going to do with them otherwise? Keep them in a state of eternal torment?

- Better PR. Let's be honest, God's message didn't arrive by the most direct or most reliable of methods. Flaming letters fifty feet tall or some similar miracle would make believer out of even the most obdurate of atheists. A lot fewer people would be hell-bound.

Yes, I know, that all sounds incredibly presumptuous. That's the point. If a mere mortal like me can come up with simple but effective ways to reduce the suffering inherent in Hell then the All-Mighty certainly can.

Hell is incompatible with an all-loving God. One of them has got to go.

Sources

[1] Philosophy of Religion: Epicurus

http://www.philosophyofreligion.info...

[2] Map of the Underworld - Showing the Descents of Odysseus and Aeneas

http://www.maicar.com...

[3] Bauckham, R (1978) Universalism: A Historical Survey. Themelios 4(2): 47-54.

http://www.theologicalstudies.org.uk...

Philocat

Con

I will be arguing today that the existence of hell, which is defined as a state of eternal torment, does not render an omnipotent, omniscient and wholly-good God in a necessary state of non-existence. Hell and God can co-exist.




Before I jump into the logical form of my argument, I will elaborate as to the exact nature of the 'eternal torment'.

Saint John-Paul II defined hell as:

"a state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed" (1)

This view of hell highlights that the 'eternal torment' is not of a retributive nature; God does not have to punish sinners out of a sense of vengeance or vindictiveness, what is key is that the eternal torment is self-caused.
It is a negative punishment; which 'involves taking something good or desirable away' (2). This is the case with Hell as it is not a direct, 'fire-and-brimstone' tortuous punishment but simply the absence of God's presence.

I will continue by citing the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, who wrote that:

"we must see that hell is not an object that is 'full' or 'empty' of human individuals, but a possibility that is not 'created' by God but in any case by the free individuals who choose it". (3)

In other words, hell is not a geographic place but a self-manifested state. The implications of this is that God did not create hell, which further shows that hell's existence is not contradictory to God's existence.

As hell is self-exclusion from God, it is reasonable to assert that it is a state of being without God. It does not need to be any more than this. So I postulate that the existence of a state where one can willingly choose to be without God does not render the existence of a wholly-good God paradoxical.




I will now present the logical form of my argument:

P1: Occupation of hell is a result of one's free will
P2: A wholly-good God would allow us the consequences of our free will
C: Therefore, a wholly-good God would allow hell to be occupied

Premise 1 is justified because we have the free will to either embrace or reject God. The existence of willing theists and atheists are testimony to this.
Mortally sinning against others and yourself is also considered to be a rejection of God, for you are sinning against those who God loves and has created. If you die without repenting this sin, then you have chosen to reject God in the same way that a mortal sin is, by definition, freely chosen and known to be a rejection of God.

In order to justify the second premise I must prove that it is a greater good for God to allow us to have free will than to not have free will, for if the consequences of our freely-chosen acts are not made manifest then we do not really have free will at all. This is because free-will is a matter of deliberately changing potential events into actual events - not just the intention to do so.
The alternative; in which we do not have free will, is a world where there is no actual purpose to human life. We would just be puppets to do God's will and have no value as spiritual beings.
Let me illustrate this with an example; a child is strapped in a robotic suit that can only be controlled by someone in an external control room - the child has no control. The child is then sent out into the world and always controlled in such a way as he always chooses the right decision. But does the child actually grow as a person from this experience? Of course not; one can only live a fulfilling life if they are actually given responsibility for their decisions. This responsibility can only be actualised if ourselves or others are allowed to be affected by our actions.

Now I have justified both premises, the conclusion deductively follows.




To conclude, the existence of hell does not necessarily contradict the existence of the God of classical theism. As my burden of proof is to prove this assertion, I have fulfilled my burden of proof in this round. I will refrain from refuting my opponent's arguments until round 3, as per the debate rules.




(1) Catechism 1033
(2) http://psychology.about.com...
(2) Mulder, Jack : 'Kierkegaard and the Catholic Tradition: Conflict and Dialogue' 2010
Debate Round No. 2
Paleophyte

Pro


I will refrain from refuting my opponent's arguments until round 3, as per the debate rules.


Sorry for any miscommunication but you're free to start knocking my arguments down as of round 2. I'll largely reiterate here so it shouldn't make much difference.


In other words, hell is not a geographic place but a self-manifested state.


You'll get no argument from me. I prefer to keep my theology and vulcanology separate.


Saint John-Paul II defined hell as: "a state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed" (1)


The view of Hell as the state of self-exclusion from God as a result of our exercise of free-will makes a lot more sense than the caricature fiery lake tended by a guy with a pointy tail and pitchfork.


It is a negative punishment


This doesn't change the fact that it's a punishment.


The implications of this is that God did not create hell...


No, but He did create all of the circumstances that lead to Hell with full knowledge of what would happen.


P1: Occupation of hell is a result of one's free will


While my opponent's first premise may be true, it doesn't correspond well with an all-loving God. The individual may choose Hell but it is God who set out the consequence. Hell is ultimate and eternal suffering and that seems a wee bit extreme. We are left with three obvious questions:


- Why ultimate suffering? An omnipotent and all-loving God ought to have been able to arrange for a less drastic consequence.


- Why eternal suffering? I would expect that most damned souls would be more than willing to embrace God after the briefest instant in Hell so the lack of a second chance speaks against either omnipotence or omnibenevolence.


- Why Hell? As I mentioned in round 2, there are more humane alternatives. Annihilation of souls rather than damnation is one alternative. Reincarnation so that a soul that might otherwise be damned has another chance is another.


P2: A wholly-good God would allow us the consequences of our free will


This premise has a few problems:


- There are biblical examples where God interferes with free will. The most memorable example is the plagues that God visits upon Egypt (Exodus 7 through 10) wherein God 'hardened Pharaoh's heart' so that He might show the Israelites his wonders, leading to the death of all the first-born of Egypt. If God can suspend Pharaoh's free will to show off then he should be able to suspend ours to keep us from damnation.


- Why make people who choose Hell? With roughly 100 billion of us having lived and died, God ought to have a decent idea of the sort of people that will choose Him and the sort that will choose damnation. Add omniscience into the equation and it becomes difficult to understand why God would ever create a person who would make the wrong choice.


- Why allow the choice at all? Free will is restricted by the physical laws of our universe. We can't levitate, teleport or create matter no matter how much we might will it to be so. That's just the way our universe is built. It shouldn't have been difficult for God to have created the universe so that rejection of Him was as impossible the spontaneous genesis of gold. Free will would still function, with the soul exception of self-damnation.


- Accepting the consequences of our actions implies an understanding of the choices. If a soldier steps on a hidden mine killing his entire squad we don't blame the soldier. It was his choice to step where he did but he had no knowledge of the mine.


We cannot comprehend the infinite. Our mortal minds reduce God, Heaven and Hell to caricatures because we can't comprehend them. Worse, what information we do have is garbled. A variety of different religions claim to have The Truth and if you don't follow Their Way then you're going to Hell. Even within Christianity (or any of the religions) you can find different denominations that will claim that you're still going to Hell because you aren't of their particular variety of Christianity. We're faced with a choice for consequences we can't comprehend based on information that all the theologians in history haven't been able to figure out.


What all-loving God would hold you responsible for your actions under those circumstances? The often-used analogy of handing a loaded gun to a toddler fails here. The toddler can see you and can see the gun, the toddler might get lucky and only blow a hole in the wall, and in the absolute worst-case scenario the toddler only suffers death.


Hell Hath no Purpose


Hell has a function and it's solely punitive. Eternal and ultimate suffering. Hell has no purpose because that suffering doesn't actually do anything. Other than make the damned suffer. If there were an escape clause then Hell could serve a redemptive function, albeit a cruel and unusual one. But there's no getting out of Hell.


Hell is Empty


And all the devils are a bad joke. Since burden of proof is shared it falls to me to show that the population of Hell is non-zero. That should seem pretty trivial what with some of the more hell-worthy figures our race has produced, but given the vagaries involving the qualification process we can't know for sure. Instead I'll simply state that even an empty Hell would be contradictory to an all-loving God. A Hell to which nobody is ever consigned is simply a vicious threat.


The Paradox of Heaven


Ironically, the paradox of Hell is most evident when viewed from Heaven. What sort of paradise is it when you will spend the rest of eternity knowing that everybody who isn't present is suffering ultimate torment in Hell?


God Could Settle the Question


Just one personal appearance by The All-Mighty is all it would take. There's plenty of precedents. God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden, hung out with Abraham and Moses and led the entire Israelite nation out of Egypt as a pillar of fire. Sure, there would likely still be a few obdurate individuals who would continue to deny God but they'd be few and far between. This would pretty significantly diminish the number of Hell-bound souls yet God hasn't put in a public appearance in several millennia.


Conclusions


- There are more humane alternatives to Hell and there are simple but effective measures that would reduce the suffering produced by Hell. That God does not appear to employ any of these is in contradiction to an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent deity.


- The view of Hell as a self-imposed separation from God based on free will hinges on a choice made by a mortal mind for infinite stakes based on incomplete and conflicting information. To hold a soul responsible for making the wrong choice under those circumstances is contrary to an all-loving God.


Philocat

Con

As Pro's initial arguments were largely reiterated in round 3, I will only rebut his round 3 iteration and not his round 2 iteration.




'This doesn't change the fact that it's a punishment.'

I concur, but a negative punishment is considered to be more humane than a direct punishment. For example, when reprimanding a child it is kinder to take away their privileges rather than spank them.

'No, but He did create all of the circumstances that lead to Hell with full knowledge of what would happen.'

Agreed, but as I will go on to argue, the circumstances that could lead some people to Hell are better than the absence of them.

'Why ultimate suffering?'

Let us consider what hell actually is. It is the self-exclusion from God. As God is the greatest good, self-exclusion from the greatest good is going to necessarily be the greatest suffering.

'Why eternal suffering?'

It is eternal because those within hell have chosen it to be eternal. C.S Lewis writes that the inescapable nature of hell is not of God's desire, but those within hell have chosen to be in eternal self-exclusion from God. As he puts it, 'the doors of hell are locked on the inside'.

'I would expect that most damned souls would be more than willing to embrace God after the briefest instant in Hell'

The very reason they are in hell is that they are willing to be excluded from God - hell is what they choose so it does not make sense to say that they would be willing to then accept God after occupying hell. For example, if someone chooses to not go to university then the experience of not being in university isn't going to make them want to go to university.

'lack of a second chance '
'Reincarnation so that a soul that might otherwise be damned has another chance'

In our earthly life we have a LOT of chances, if one does not repent of their sins given all the chances that they have in life then they have, in effect, missed their chance. Furthermore, redemption is only possible prior to punishment - for example someone can have their punishment reduced if they plead guilty and express regret for their crime, but they cannot have their punishment reduced if they express regret during their punishment.

'Annihilation of souls rather than damnation is one alternative'

Annihilation would not be justified because sinners do not choose to be annihilated, whereas they do choose to occupy a state without God's presence.

'There are biblical examples where God interferes with free will'

It is probable that the writers of the Old Testament attributed God's influence on people to God whereas He might have not done so. The Old Testament 's literal veracity is doubted even by many Christians - Pro fails to prove that God has actually interfered with free will.

'Add omniscience into the equation and it becomes difficult to understand why God would ever create a person who would make the wrong choice.'

If God did not choose to make particular people because they would ultimately choose Hell, then he would be depriving these people of the free will to decide to reject God. As free-will is a good, depriving someone of free will is a bad and so it would be incoherent to suppose that a wholly-good God would choose not to create someone if He knew they would ultimately reject him. Furthermore, choosing to embrace God is a good thing, but if the world was entirely full of people who embraced God then the value of doing so would be diminished.
For example, if everyone in a class got A grades, the value of an A grade would be diminished in comparison to a class where only a few people got A grades.

'Why allow the choice at all?'

I am well aware that we have physical limitations to our free will, but what matters is that we have the free will to either accept or reject God.
Why do we need this?
If someone could not possibly reject God, then it would not be a willing relationship between man and God. Let me put it this way: when you are dating a woman that you love, you would not try and hypnotise her into loving you back, you would give them the option to either return the love or reject it. If you are in a loving relationship with someone that could not have possibly not have been in that relationship, then the fact that she is in the relationship is meaningless. This is because the free choice to embrace God is a great good - if that was the only option then it would not be a choice because a choice requires multiple possible options.

'It was his choice to step where he did but he had no knowledge of the mine.'

This analogy is not relevant to Hell because people do know that they are rejecting God when they commit a mortal sin and do not repent, as part of the definition of a mortal sin is that the sinner is fully aware of its seriousness. Using my opponent's analogy, the soldier would know that there is a mine and steps on it nonetheless - and would be justly blamed.

'We cannot comprehend the infinite.'

Agreed, but we can comprehend being without God (which is what hell is). The fact that we cannot comprehend an infinite time is irrelevant because if we choose to be without God then we accept that we would be without God for an indefinite period of time. Moreover, whilst I cannot comprehend eternity in a temporal sense, I can still know that whether it is desirable or undesirable. For example, I cannot comprehend being in a desert for eternity, but I can still appreciate the fact that I would probably not desire such an occurrence.

'A variety of different religions claim to have The Truth and if you don't follow Their Way then you're going to Hell.'

Not if we accept a omnist view of religion - where we accept that all religions are acceptance of the same God but from different perspectives. Furthermore, there is no reason why hell cannot be solely reserved to those who knowingly and deliberately reject God. This would not condemn followers of the wrong religions because they believe they are accepting God and by believing this, they are choosing to accept God.

'What all-loving God would hold you responsible for your actions under those circumstances?'

An all-loving God would hold you responsible for the actions that are knowingly committed whilst fully knowing that what you are doing is a rejection of God. If this is not the case then the sin is only a venial sin and therefore is not punishable by hell (1).

'Hell has no purpose because that suffering doesn't actually do anything.'

Its purpose is to contain the souls who reject God - if hell did not exist then it would be depriving them of making the free-choice to be excluded from God.

'Hell is Empty'

I never made such an assertion.

'What sort of paradise is it when you will spend the rest of eternity knowing that everybody who isn't present is suffering ultimate torment in Hell?'

You can appreciate paradise because you would have the divinely-assured knowledge that the suffering is freely-chosen and justly delivered. To wish that the denizens of hell were in heaven would be to wish that they would not be punished - but if those who mortally sin go unpunished then this is unjust. Justice is a great good - if hell did not exist then justice could not be administered to those who deserve it. They would also know that the self-exclusion from God is freely chosen. To use an example, I would be sympathetic for someone who was being excluded from an party, but this sympathy would cease if I knew that they willingly chose not to attend the party.

'God hasn't put in a public appearance in several millennia.'

If God did appear then it would provide undeniable evidence of His existence. But this would reduce theism to a matter of accepting undeniable evidence and would remove any aspect of faith. Faith is a great good, and so God is morally justified in maintaining some 'epistemic distance'.




To conclude, I have shown that all Pro's arguments do not actually render the existence of God and hell as irreconcilable, and so he has not yet fulfilled his burden of proof.


Debate Round No. 3
Paleophyte

Pro


I concur, but a negative punishment is considered to be more


The punishment is infinite so the terms "more" and "less" don't apply.


It is eternal because those within hell have chosen it to be eternal.


So the damned not only choose damnation but continue to choose damnation for all eternity? Not a one of them ever has second thoughts about eternal suffering not being preferable to hanging out with the All-Mighty? Perhaps I am misunderstanding here but I would have to view any soul that chose this way as inherently flawed and any deity that knowingly made it that way speaks strongly against being all-loving.


The very reason they are in hell is that they are willing to be excluded from God - hell is what they choose so it does not make sense to say that they would be willing to then accept God after occupying hell. For example, if someone chooses to not go to university then the experience of not being in university isn't going to make them want to go to university.


I have a friend in her late thirties attending university on account of the "hell" of her McJob. Humans deal with a variety of privations on a daily basis and do it pretty well. Basic survival skills. That we should go from experiencing God's presence, as we must in this world on non-infinite torment, to the ultimate privation of hell but then not seek an alternative is completely implausible.


but they cannot have their punishment reduced if they express regret during their punishment.


I hope I never find you on my parole board.


If God did not choose to make particular people because they would ultimately choose Hell, then he would be depriving these people of the free will to decide to reject God.


Depriving an individual of a single choice is not the same as depriving them of all choice.


if everyone in a class got A grades, the value of an A grade would be diminished in comparison to a class where only a few people got A grades.


This class is being graded Pass/Fail and you won't simply be held back a year. That the value of embracing God might be diminished does not offset the consequences of denying God.


If someone could not possibly reject God, then it would not be a willing relationship between man and God. Let me put it this way: when you are dating a woman that you love, you would not try and hypnotise her into loving you back...


Given the consequences I'd hypnotize her in an instant. Any thoughts of a relationship take a distant second place to an eternity of torment.


This analogy is not relevant to Hell because people do know that they are rejecting God when they commit a mortal sin and do not repent, as part of the definition of a mortal sin is that the sinner is fully aware of its seriousness.


My emphasis. Both God and Hell are infinite. We cannot comprehend either of those. Our minds simply aren't capable. We can't be fully aware of the seriousness of our sin if we can't comprehend the nature of either who we have transgressed against or the nature of the punishment.


Agreed, but we can comprehend being without God (which is what hell is).


If God is infinite then Hell is infinite privation. We can't comprehend either.


Not if we accept a omnist view of religion - where we accept that all religions are acceptance of the same God but from different perspectives.


The omnist view is reassuringly reasonable but makes complete hash of trying to figure out what is and isn't a sin. Most contradict each other on some pretty important points including a lamentable number who would have me 'Do unto others with pointy bits of metal.'


Furthermore, there is no reason why hell cannot be solely reserved to those who knowingly and deliberately reject God. This would not condemn followers of the wrong religions because they believe they are accepting God and by believing this, they are choosing to accept God.


Except that followers of the wrong religions aren't accepting God. They're accepting an unfortunate mix of myth and superstition concocted by mere mortals. There's supposed to be a fundamental difference.


It gets worse when the guy from down the street comes knocking on my door Tuesday afternoon with a bunch of pamphlets. They speak of his One True God and how I'll suffer eternal damnation if I don't believe in it. Which is the correct choice? The first? The second? Both? Neither?


No mere mortal could be reasonably punished with an eternity of ultimate torment for rejecting a Deity for whom the evidence was so badly muddled.


I never made such an assertion.


No, you didn't. That was just me covering my bases.


You can appreciate paradise because you would have the divinely-assured knowledge that the suffering is freely-chosen and justly delivered. To wish that the denizens of hell were in heaven would be to wish that they would not be punished - but if those who mortally sin go unpunished then this is unjust.


Freely-chosen or not, ultimate suffering for all eternity for a finite transgression that the offender is incapable of comprehending fails to meet any standard of justice.


If God did appear then it would provide undeniable evidence of His existence. But this would reduce theism to a matter of accepting undeniable evidence and would remove any aspect of faith. Faith is a great good, and so God is morally justified in maintaining some 'epistemic distance'.


Yet, as I mentioned, there are Biblical precedents for God doing exactly that. Even if you're willing to reject all of the Old Testament accounts, the New Testament is largely an account of Jesus Christ's Divinity and his Miracles. Thomas didn't get much 'epistemic distance' whilst poking around in the spear wound.


Further, the assertion that "Faith is a great good" is unsupported, nor has it been demonstrated that the benefits of faith offset the detriments of eternal torment.


Conclusion: The omniscience, omnipotence and omnibenevolence of God are in contradiction to the eternity of ultimate suffering that is Hell. This leads to a paradox for mainstream western religions. My opponent has argued that Hell is the consequence of freely-chosen rejection of God. I maintain that this does not resolve the paradox because:


(1) Regardless of free-will, the absolute and irrevocable nature of the consequence of damnation is still in contradiction with a loving God,


(2) God need not have given us the choice of damnation,


(3) God has not taken appropriate action to help prevent us from making the choice of damnation, and


(4) The human mind is not competent to make a choice to accept or reject the infinite, with infinite consequences.



In closing I would like to thank Philocat for a truly enjoyable discussion. It has been a pleasure to debate this topic with somebody of his knowledge and temperament.


Philocat

Con

Thanks Pro! :)

'The punishment is infinite so the terms "more" and "less" don't apply.'


They do apply when one considers the nature of the punishment - we can reasonably assert that infinite positive punishment is less humane than infinite negative punishment, simply by extrapolating from the premise that negative punishment is generally more humane than positive punishment.

'Not a one of them ever has second thoughts about eternal suffering not being preferable to hanging out with the All-Mighty?'

Someone can only accept forgiveness for their sins if they repent of them, but given all the chances in their earthly life that they have, why would they suddenly repent in hell? One could argue that the suffering would cause people to repent, but this is a crucial misunderstanding of what repentance is. Repentance is showing remorse and sorrow for the sin that they have committed - 'repenting' to try and escape hell is not true repentance because the person is only doing so out of selfish avoidance of suffering and not true selfless remorse for their sins. Therefore it is not possible to repent in hell because any attempt to repent would not be motivated by remorse. As one cannot repent, they cannot accept forgiveness and leave hell.

'to the ultimate privation of hell but then not seek an alternative is completely implausible.'

Even if the inhabitants of hell do seek an alternative, it would not be just to grant that alternative because it would, as I have explained above, only be sought by those who are doing so for reasons of self-pity.

'I hope I never find you on my parole board.'

That's the point, those in hell could not be granted parole because the only reason they would come up in front of a parole board would be because they want to avoid the suffering of hell. Why is this? If one goes through their entire lives rejecting God when He is rewarding them (with the experience of life), why would they embrace God when He is punishing them?
For example, if a child rejects their mother when the mother is being kind them, it is hardly conceivable that the child would embrace their mother when she is punishing him.
To use the quoted example, one cannot be granted parole if their reason for seeking parole is that they dislike prison.

'Depriving an individual of a single choice is not the same as depriving them of all choice.'

Agreed, but that 'single choice' is the most important choice. Otherwise human relationships with God would be meaningless because there would be no free will involved in choosing to embrace God.

'That the value of embracing God might be diminished does not offset the consequences of denying God.'

It seems an odd concept that the reward of the good people who embrace God should be diminished in order to decrease the punishment of the bad people who would reject God.

'Given the consequences I'd hypnotize her in an instant. Any thoughts of a relationship take a distant second place to an eternity of torment.'

If someone truly believed that the woman would suffer more if she rejected them, there is still no moral justification for hypnotising her into not rejecting them. Why? Because firstly the relationship would not be meaningful and secondly, the woman has a right to choose her own relationships regardless if whether she chooses the relationships that make her suffer. To prevent her from making her own choices is to violate her dignity as a free person.

'Both God and Hell are infinite. We cannot comprehend either of those. Our minds simply aren't capable.'
'If God is infinite then Hell is infinite privation. We can't comprehend either.'

To return to the analogy, I cannot comprehend the experience of being blown up by a land-mine, but I am still fully aware of the seriousness of standing on a land mine. Just because we cannot presently comprehend experiencing something, we can still appreciate its seriousness.

'we can't comprehend the nature of who we have transgressed against'

That does not diminish responsibility - I cannot comprehend what it is like to be an animal but that does not mean that I can abuse animals.

'The omnist view is reassuringly reasonable but makes complete hash of trying to figure out what is and isn't a sin. Most contradict each other on some pretty important points'

I agree there are contradictions, but they all largely agree on the fundamental nature of God, so if you are accepting God in any religion you are accepting the God behind all religions if we take the omnist view.
Some sins may be sins in some religions and some may be perfectly okay in others, but these are generally quite insignificant differences. Furthermore, as I have suggested that only mortal sins are punishable by hell, and that mortal sins are willingly committed, one will only go to hell if they knowingly worship the wrong religion. There is a tiny amount of people who do this, if any.

'Except that followers of the wrong religions aren't accepting God.'

Not if we take the omnist view, which is compatible with the existence of hell. This is therefore a moot point.

'No mere mortal could be reasonably punished with an eternity of ultimate torment for rejecting a Deity for whom the evidence was so badly muddled.'

But the choice is still there. I can embrace God or I can reject him. If we reject God by either denying his existence or by committing a mortal sin, the fact that the evidence for God is somewhat unclear is irrelevant to this choice. If we reject God based on lack of evidence then we are still making a choice to accept the veracity of empirical observation.
What I am trying to say is that, despite the fact that there is a lot of confusion about God, his actual nature and being is clear to see and not difficult to accept - 84% of the world have done so (1). The specific differences between religions may cause confusion as to which religion is correct, but one can still believe in the same God whether they are a Muslim, a Hindu or a Christian!

'Freely-chosen or not, ultimate suffering for all eternity for a finite transgression that the offender is incapable of comprehending fails to meet any standard of justice.'

But the transgression is not finite; God is infinitely good and so rejecting him is infinitely bad. An infinitely bad act warrants an infinite punishment, which is what hell is. This is justice according to reason.

'Yet, as I mentioned, there are Biblical precedents for God doing exactly that.'

There's a reason that these are called miracles; they are exceptions to the norm of epistemic distance. Exceptions do not make examples, otherwise one is committing the 'appeal to extremes' logical fallacy.
Epistemic distance is still maintained, as a whole, even if there are occasional miracles. This is because there is still room for faith. If divine 'showing off' was commonplace then there would be no epistemic distance whatsoever.

'nor has it been demonstrated that the benefits of faith offset the detriments of eternal torment.'

It is because faith comes hand-in-hand with free-will - if theism was a matter of undeniable evidence then there would be no free-will to reject God, just as there is no free-will to reject current undeniable scientific facts such as the fact that the sky is blue.
I have explained in rounds 2 & 3 that free will is a greater good than the evil of the potential to be without God, and as faith is necessary in order to ensure free-will, faith is a greater good.


Conclusions:

1. A wholly-good God is compatible with Hell because Hell gives us the free will to either accept of reject God.

2. Without hell, we are forced to be with God after death - yet being with God should be a matter of free-choice.

3. Hell is a freely-chosen privation of God - it does not seem to follow that it renders God's existence paradoxical.

Therefore, it is possible to conceive of a benevolent God existing as well as hell existing, so the paradox is non-sequitor.


(1)http://www.washingtontimes.com...
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Paleophyte 2 years ago
Paleophyte
I wish we could have gotten a few more votes on this. I think that you still had this one but a few more opinions would have been useful.
Posted by MyDinosaurHands 2 years ago
MyDinosaurHands
I find the problem with this question is always that the meaning of benevolent is highly subjective, as it relates to morality, which is itself subjective.
Posted by Paleophyte 2 years ago
Paleophyte
Seriously kids. Some privacy here please?
Posted by Esiar 2 years ago
Esiar
God knows what will happen, but doesn't control what happens.
He gave a way for everyone to be saved by Jesus paying for sins.
People who love evil and won't come to God to get saved are punished for their own sins.

How is that a paradox?
Posted by Paleophyte 2 years ago
Paleophyte
As much as I value you input Tilar, I suspect that presenting arguments for a debate in progress isn't entirely kosher.

If you feel this confident then you're welcome to challenge me to a debate of your own.
Posted by Tilar 2 years ago
Tilar
Benevolent means all good. Not all loving. The biblical definition of benevolent means. holy.

I don't think that you are going to win this debate.
Posted by Paleophyte 2 years ago
Paleophyte
I've omitted a fair number of attributes that various people do or don't attribute to God. Easier to stick to the basics.
Posted by Mindplay 2 years ago
Mindplay
You're forgetting that God is all-just as well according to the beliefs of Christianity .
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by dsjpk5 2 years ago
dsjpk5
PaleophytePhilocatTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Con was able to demonstrate how free will eliminates the alleged paradox (especially when he speaks of its justice).