The funniest thing you can threaten an atheist with is hell.
“If you don’t accept my imaginary friend, he’s going to put you in an imaginary place of eternal suffering!”
Ooh. I’m. Scared.
Now, before anything else, let me be clear: if you belong to one of those Christian sects that believes in annihilationism, that hell is not a literal place of torment but a state of non-existence, this post is not directed at you. This is for those sadistic torture-porn lovers (mostly Christian and Muslim) who think God is planning to set the majority of people who have ever lived on fire for all eternity, and that those people deserve it.
Now, there is a word for someone who threatens to harm you but promises to withhold that harm in exchange for your loyalty and devotion. That word is extortionist. There is no other word for it. Well, there is. It’s also called a shakedown artist. But extortionist is a perfectly fine word too.
In my experience, Christians try to wiggle out of the inescapable conclusion that the threat of hell is extortion through a series of implausible arguments. I’m going to try to avoid a strawman argument here, but let me assure you that I personally have been the recipient of each of these
God doesn’t send people to hell. People choose hell.
For real? Fine. Then I choose not to go to hell. There, that was easy. What? There’s more? To choose “not hell,” I have to accept certain conditions, including surrendering my eternal loyalty to
Zod God through his Son Jesus Christ or his Prophet Mohammed? And what happens if I don’t? HELL! And who made hell? God! Why? To punish those who deserve to be punished. And who determines the severity of the punishment? God. We’re back to square one: God is the one making the threat, the threat is the default position, and I can only escape the consequences of the threat by agreeing to be God’s eternal slave. That is extortion.
Hell is not a threat. It’s the consequence of people ignoring a warning. If I’m yelling at you to get out of the road or to get off the train tracks and you ignore me and get hit by a car or a train, it’s not my fault you ignored the warning.
This analogy fails on several fronts. The most significant is the knowledge that the person behind the wheel of the car or at the controls of the train is God. Presumably, He knows I’m there. Knowing I’m there, He has the power to stop the vehicle. He doesn’t because He chooses not to. He’s gunning for me. And again, He’s not merely warning me. He’s coming after me and will only spare me if I swear eternal loyalty to Him! That is extortion. It’s a false analogy.
Hell is not a threat. It is the just outcome of breaking God’s law. We jail people who break man’s law, but the threat of jail is not considered extortion.
This argument might have some merit, but in order for that to happen, people would have to be born destined for prison. And they could only escape prison by become the warden’s personal servant. That is extortion. It would have nothing to do with keeping or violating laws, for by the works of the law shall no man be spared prison (Galatians 2:16). This is another false analogy.
Extortion is a mafia tactic. “That’s a nice soul you’ve got there. It would be a shame if something were to happen to it.”
There’s nothing complicated about this: If God is just, then He ultimately determines who faces eternal consequences for which acts. He is responsible for what those consequences are. He is responsible for hell. And He is responsible for the conditions to avoid hell.
The condition He has set, at least within most forms of Christianity, is eternal servitude. I agree to be his eternal slave, and He spares me eternal torment. That is extortion.
Annihilationism doesn’t fare much better in this regard. Threatening to kill me as opposed to threatening to set me on fire for ever and ever… You be the judge. But being wiped from existence is far different from being set on fire and tormented for ever and ever and ever and ever and ever, time without end. That’s beyond barbaric. We wouldn’t set Hitler on fire for five minutes. But they worship someone who would set John Lennon on fire forever. That’s sick, dudes.
Fortunately, there is no hell. Threatening me with hell is like threatening me with a lump of coal in my stocking from Santa Claus on Christmas morning. It’s not something that concerns me.
What a pathetic, empty threat! It really speaks to the desperation of these religious sadists that they think “you’ll see” might somehow be persuasive. They’re only trying to persuade themselves, exposing their lack of confidence in the worthiness of the barbaric God they have chosen to worship. And be assured, any God who threatens hell is barbaric by definition.
The Bible says it’s the goodness of God that leads men to repentance. It’s not the threat of hell, and the fact that any Christian thinks the threat of hell is persuasive, particularly when it comes to those of us who have rejected their sick, sadistic fantasies, says more about their insecurity than about our eternal destiny.
Postscript: After I posted this, I received a comment on Twitter to the effect of “people don’t write articles about things and places they do not believe exist.” This, of course, is ridiculous. Christians have entire websites and an actual museum dedicated to debunking evolution. They’re wrong, but they think evolution is false and they’ve dedicated countless articles and web space to arguing their point.