Saturday, October 17, 2009

Playing the detective

When I was a child, from time to time, I'd play a game with other children in the neighbourhood called murder in the dark. We'd draw lots and one person would be nominated the murderer. The aim of the game was to find out who the murder was. We'd look at the evidence, some of which was deliberately falsified. We'd use our intuition and we'd try to find out.

There were no prizes for getting it right. Winning was an end in itself. There was no need for punishment for those who got it wrong.

Now imaging the following variation on the game:
* You've got to find the truth
* Everyone has to play
* Not everyone will be told that they are playing
* Evidence will be sparse.
* Those that don't get the correct answer will be punished
* The punishment will be torture
* The torture will be be eternal.

Well, that's the Christian game as laid out in the gospels. Jesus is the son if God. If you don't realise this then you're doomed. And if you grew up in China 1000 years ago you'd have never heard of Jesus, tough luck.

No-one sets out to deliberately believe a lie. So in that respect all beliefs are sincere. Though people aren't always truthful when they express them. To punish someone for believing something that is false is utterly unethical. If people don't believe in God, then the blame would have to go to God for not providing enough evidence.

In John, chapter 6, Jesus tells people that they should eat his flesh and drink his blood. Understandably many people are appalled at this and we're told From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.. The responsibility for this has to be with Jesus. An all knowing god would be aware that after asking people to indulge in some form of ritualised cannibalism, plenty of sincere, good people will walk away. If they loose out on some reward because of it, then I'd have to say God is very unfair and if they get punished, then God really is malicious.

If someone puts two glasses in front of me and asks me to choose one, then I can show that I have free-will and can choose either one. I can also demonstrate that I can change my mind. On the other hand, I don't have quite the same conscious control over my beliefs. If someone asks me to believe for the next half hour that there are invisible fairies living in my garden. Then, if I'm being honest, I'd have to tell them that I can't make myself believe it. On the other hand I could certainly tell them that I'm prepared to look at new evidence.

If you try to bribe someone to believe the truth, you'll probably fail. You may be successful in getting people to feel that they would like to believe. On the other hand, it is much more easy to bribe people lie and to hide doubts.

Hell does get air-brushed out by some modern Christians, some may even claim that it does not exist, but what are very real are the threats of eternal torture from Jesus. Here is a quote from JC, taken from Luke: But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him..

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