This is the first ‘pathos’ argument for my being Christian in my series of posts: why I’m a Christian.
This particular reason is usually treated as the least worthy reason to care about Jesus: the doctrine of hell. For instance, fear of hell is not a reason to think Christianity is true. Just like fear of werewolves is not reason to think that they are real. But it is a reason to consider that some religion, perhaps Christianity, may be true.
The doctrine of hell, that some experience of post-mortem divine punishment for misdeeds in the present life, is rejected by many intellectually and by even more in terms of their personal practice.
In fact, many people seem to reject the notion of God precisely because they find the doctrine of any sort of hell unconscionable.
I’m not writing this to defend the notion of hell. Remember, I’m writing about emotional reasons why I’m a Christian.
But think of it this way, instead of rejecting the notion of God because hell is a terrifying notion, consider the possibility that hell is real. Whatever it is: eternal destruction, eternal torture, fire, darkness, hanging out with all the losers, haters, and jerks you hate and who hate you for eternity, etc, it can’t be pleasant.
On top of hell clearly being terrible, versions of it have been believed by billions of people. Now, billions can be wrong and often are, but our instincts have a tendency to point us in the right direction if we consider them at the bar of reason.
The possibility of a post-mortem punishment for immoral behavior is worth checking out. Like Fight Club reminds us: on a long enough time line, everybody’s survival rate drops to zero. That’s why I care about hell. In real life, my normal motivation for doing the right thing is usually ease in the moment. My life is set up so that moral behavior requires little effort. I’m not sure how good of a person I would be if times got tough. But nevertheless my desire for ease does cause me to consider the possibility of hell quite seriously. If misdeeds are punished, then that conflicts with my desire for ease. Because of the possibility of hell there are three things I can think of to do just in case (these are not contradictory):
- Seek forgiveness from whoever invented or cares about my morality.
- Be as excellent of a person as I can (not just outwardly, but learning to desire goodness inwardly).
- See if some religion seems true and adhere to it.
We’re all going to die. This Johnny Cash song is a good reminder: