One problem you will eventually run into in this line of thinking is that if you are dealing with a concept of god that:

A. Represents himself as all-honest

B. Represents himself as not all honest

and importantly:

C. Regardless of A and B, lies

You do a couple of important things: First, you create a god about who is inherently unknowable - i.e. He could be misrepresenting himself not just in that way, but many ways. For instance, once we've established that once a person dies after they have or have not done what god wants (in your model, simplified to "avoids sin"), he has no reason to punish them with hell, but he also has no reason to let them into to heaven, either; he's already established goal, and might as well eradicate them in that scenario as well.

Any motive we might assign to our model of god to try to prove that he wouldn't do that with heaven (But he says he lets us in! He is love! He is kindness!) is no more inherently reliable than claims that he'd send sinners to hell.

But within this model you also do something subtler: you set yourself up (practically, if not explicitly) as a controlling authority on morality that stands above whatever god you are modelling in the pecking order. I tend to think of models like this as, given enough time, resolving to sort of atheist-with-extra-steps. They pretty much all follow a model of:

A. I think people who do or believe X are bad or wrong

B. The God I believe in does or believes X

C. I will determine that on the matter of X, I am right and God must be mistaken or else has been relayed to me unreliably.

The Atheist's "Whatever I might determine my morals and beliefs to be, they come from my own reason, with me as the terminal decider of right for myself" doesn't really differ substantially from C. above. At least it doesn't absent some well thought out and reliable limiting principle, but if you've already determined that "on matters where I disagree enough with god, he's lying, wrong, or misrepresented", it's hard to think of something that could be.

Expand full comment

I think the whole edifice is a mass of strategic lies, or fortunate errors: fine-tuned by evolutionary processes to confer advantage to believers. It formed the operating system for a civilization. Maybe we can construct a new OS based on reality someday, if we survive long-enough.

Expand full comment

"a strategic lie" is all of religion as well.

Expand full comment

Pretty good analysis David. The problem is that all mainstream Christian religions are false. The true Church is the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints, sometimes known as the Mormon Church. Any devoted fan of South Park understands that as it was plainly proclaimed as such my L. Ron Hubbard from a stage in Hell in one episode. Latter Day Saints do not believe in "Christian Hell", instead they believe in degrees of glory for all, somewhat similar to what CS Lewis enivisions in The Great Divorce, where all are happy where they are. Please consider studying my Church, it is the only one that makes sense. Earth is an incubator for those who will be gods in future worlds. You are a child of God, so you grow up to be a god.

Expand full comment

My understanding of Hell is twofold:

First, nobody deserves Heaven. You can't deserve Heaven, it's too good for you, full of divine light. You'd find it to be a divinely tortuous experience, far worse than Hell, without divine intervention to make you good enough. And, with those versions of Christianity with purgatory, it still isn't enough on its own - you're still on Earth, your soul still will have impurities that will burn in the light; you need to be exposed to a lower dose of light for a while first to get you really good and ready.

Second, Hell is distance from God. It isn't eternal torment, excepting that existence without God is itself torment. (Also, plausibly, existing with all those other people, without God intervening, might be torment in itself.)

Then Christianity makes slightly more sense: You're opting in to divine intervention, for God to tinker with your soul to prepare you for purgatory. (Or, for those without purgatory, to just tinker with your soul to prepare you for Heaven). You don't have to agree to that! Your soul is yours, you can choose not to let God tinker with it, in which case you go to Hell as a mercy.

Expand full comment

God has a credibility problem. No one knows what truly happens in the afterlife. If Hell truly exists, it seems only useful as a deterrent, and morally repugnant as anything more than a deterrent. If God is known to lie, then Hell seems very likely to be a lie. Of course the Old Testament God is quite morally repugnant, and likely delights in delivering His Wrath via Hell.

Expand full comment

do you have a view on the scriptural case for hell? my (moderately informed, not deeply studied) impression is (a) it isn't mentioned all that often (b) it's never the point of the story, more used to illustrate the seriousness of the topic (c) the language used is more "humans being figurative" than "divine pronouncements of a specific place or actions that happen in that place" and finally that the popular image of hell is more Dante than anything else. to my mind, there isn't really a hell problem to be solved, at least not in a theological reckoning sense.

Expand full comment