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History Of The Opposition To The Doctrine Of Hell


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I've been pondering the words of apologist JP Moreland. He claims that people did not have moral problems with the idea of people going to hell until the 20th century. The idea of God's actions being interpreted as evil and evidence against his existance was an unthinkable idea until very recently, he said. This idea of God's actions being evil is allegedly just an excuse for atheists to do great evil against mankind. Modern atheists are said to pretend to be compassionate and speak out against "immoral Christianity" when they really don't want to believe in a authority who would punish them for doing great harm. Atheists are said to really be immoral people with no empathy or remorse for harming others.

 

I ponder if anyone knows anything about the history of moral opposition to Christianity. Was opposing the doctrine of non-believers being burned really really non-existant until the 20th century, or is it's history older than that? Was it really an  excuse to do terrible things to people, or did something else spur the idea? What made a huge burst of atheism in the 20th and 21st centuries?

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I'm not being critical, but tell me what difference it makes. This is a distraction.Virtually everyone on

earth has believed things that are dead wrong since time immemorial. Like that the earth is the center

of the universe, etc.People have believed that cows are somehow holy for centuries. Also, saying such

things in medieval times could get one invited to a BarBQ as the main dish.

 

Having said that, I believe there were early Xtion sects that believed there was no hell or that

condemnation to hell was only temporary.I don't have time or energy to look it up, but I'm pretty sure

that's true.I'm sure that Robert Ingersoll wrote about the horror of the concept of hell in the 19th

Century. I'm sure some research would show that Moreland is full of shit. bill

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I seem to recall there being some pretty defensive writings about this in some early Christian works, which suggest they felt the need to defend the idea that it is morally ok for God to condemn people to hell, which would suggest there was criticism against the notion as well.

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Here is a wikipedia page about universal salvation. This has been a seriously debated alternative to the doctrine of hell from the very beginning (or at least from Origen).

 

My impression is that the hell doctrine comes and goes in popularity.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_reconciliation

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Still, the idea that non-believers only oppose the Bible as an excuse to do evil things is still a crucial point in Moreland's argument. His argument is that everyone knows the doctrine of hell is true justice. Atheists just pretend that it is a barbaric belief system of antiquity when they know otherwise in their hearts. They supposedly deny it as an excuse to do evil things.

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The idea of being an outright atheist and not believing in ANY deities is a pretty new development in human history (the last 150 years or so).  Ignorance, lack of scientific explanations, lack of education, and superstition has pretty much ruled human history.  Because of the religious power structures and influence, even the educated who might have enough knowledge to question holy books and claims of hell pretty much had to go along with acting religious for political reasons (i.e. many of America's founding fathers who were DEISTS or perhaps downright unbelievers in their hearts, but say the words "god" and "almighty" enough to get claimed by xtians today.).

 

SCIENCE especially, and mass literacy has made it possible for there to be atheists, as well as the declining power of religious structures which can kill you if you choose not to believe.  Notice that atheism is not so prominent in fundamental Islamic countries.  

 

How would Moreland also explain great strides in morality around the same time as people were awakening to the moral horror of hell?  Slavery was pretty much accepted until about the same time.  Women seen as a form of property, or at least certainly not equal in any way to men was fully accepted in Moreland's world where hell was also unquestioned.  I could go on...

 

I think it could EASILY be argued that REASON and education as OPPOSED TO religion have made the world more moral on many, many fronts.  I'm always amazed how anyone who defends the utterly barbaric god of the Old Testament who condones and orders genocide, rape, slavery, etc. (not to mention this is supposedly the SAME god who thought up original sin and hell) can make any claim that atheists are somehow evil with no concern, empathy, or remorse for harming others.  Laughable!  In what way, over the course of the last 2000 years has "submitting" to the biblical god's authority made the world a better place?  It is xtianity over the course of history that has little to no regard or empathy for people in the real world, whether it be the crusades, the inquisitions, the killing of jews (Christ killers!) or denying condoms to AIDS ravaged regions in Africa...all they care about is the salvation of souls and the imaginary life to come. Yes, there have been some good, compassionate people.  But overall, the ignorant, immoral ideas of the Bible have been a moral blight on the history of the world.

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     I have no idea who the person is in the OP but for most of the history of the religion people were simply taught what to believe as they were largely illiterate.  So what could they do but to accept whatever came down from the pulpit (or "pulpit" whoever the person in the position of power said).  However, I would offer something like the Apocalypse of Peter, which has people in "hell" (Hades) but they get a "pardon" (they get removed to the best part of Hades) because it is requested of "god" to do it (basically an "ask and receive" sort of moment).  Strictly speaking for some time Hades was where everyone would go and there should be no problem with anyone going there because that's just how it was and it wasn't a moral issue.  There were different "areas" where the shades/souls could go there and that was just the common belief that xianity mirrored in many ways.  You need a separate and distinct "hell" to go against the concept and I don't know when that fully formed off-hand.  But it has to be later than my example I would think.

 

          mwc

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They supposedly deny it as an excuse to do evil things.

 

If that's true it's a rather impractical way of accomplishing that end. If that's really why atheists deny certain Christian doctrines they'd be better off simply interpreting those doctrines in favor of what they want to do rather than abandoning them. There's no need to give up belief in a deity or even adherence to a sacred text in order to excuse "evil things." It's arguably more convenient and advantageous from a practical standpoint to simply work out a way to get the deity's permission, forgiveness or approval for doing "evil things" through internal justifications and reinterpretations than it is to go through the rigor and stigma that often accompanies atheism. Christians do that all the time.

 

Are there people who abandon belief in gods simply because they want to do things those gods forbid? I suppose so. That doesn't strike me as being the easiest route to take in most cases, however.

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I don't know if this will shed any light on the original question but it's something to consider.

 

The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics by Elaine Pagels

 

http://www.amazon.com/The-Origin-Satan-Christians-Demonized/dp/0679731180

 

A History of the Devil Paperback
by Gerald Messadié(Author)
 
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The Jews didn't even have a concept of Hell until the 2nd century BCE! But by the 1st century CE they were mostly believers in it, and that's where Christianity got it from. So even the awful genocidal god of the Old Testament never thought of eternal fire.

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