God Does Not Torture Souls in Hell
For many skeptics, the idea that God could punish his “children” with eternal “torture” is just to much for them to accept. A non-believer with whom I once corresponded put it like this:
The notion that hell is a place of “just” punishment is meaningless. Parents punish their children so that they will learn not to repeat undesirable behavior. The jail system isn’t even really interested in that. It is vengeance, pure and simple. And that is the problem with “hell” as most Christians portray it. The only way it could be reasonable is if it were to improve people’s behavior on release. But if there is no release, it is not even punishment. It is torture. And I submit that a being who would create an eternal torture chamber does not come remotely close to embodying perfection. In fact, I would say he compares unfavorably even to Hitler who, for all his evil, could only condemn his victims to finite torment.
Analogizing from the temporal to the eternal is difficult, if not impossible, since we have no frame of reference other than the one we occupy. How, then, do we make sense of a place in which there is no way to improve a person’s behavior on release? In which the torment that is felt is unending because there is no release?
Let’s consider for moment the analogy that is being used, that of the modern prison system. In dealing with the worst offenders, prison is meant to separate them from society, but it is also meant to punish. Both purposes are legitimate. But the punishment we speak of is, in essence, the incarceration, the very same act that accomplishes the separation. We do not first separate inmates from society and then inflict additional punishment; there are no medieval tortures that await them, no mistreatment that is deliberately inflicted to further the pain these inmates feel, no chain gangs to make their daily lives unbearable. In a very real sense, the punishment is the product of the incarceration, not an additional purpose…
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