Is it God’s Fault People Go to Hell?

by Jason Wisdom

Matt Dillahunty, one of the hosts of the popular television program and podcast, “The Atheist Experience,” offers the following logical chain:

“Assuming god exists and assuming a person has a soul, if god created everything, including hell, god also created the rules by which the universe operates, including the criteria by which souls are judged.  Since everything happens according to god’s will, god is ultimately responsible for everything, and that must, by logic, include whether or not people go to hell.  Therefore the decision to send anyone to hell is made by god.”

I have heard/seen this objection made in many different ways, but the criticism is essentially the same. God is the one to blame. If anything, some critics will say, God is the one who deserves to be punished. By the way, I have seen/listened to the episode where I believe this little excerpt originated. A woman professing to be a Christian (to be polite, I will simply say she doesn’t come across as very knowlegeable) called in and Dillahunty presented her with this logical chain. He walked her through each point, phrased as a question. Did 1. God create everything? She said yes. 2. Did he create the rules including the criteria by which souls are judged? Yes. 3. Does anything that happens go against God’s will? She said no. From there, Dillahunty concluded (and I think rightly so, based on the caller’s answers), that God is ultimately responsible for everything that happens and therefore, the fault is with God, not the person who is sent to Hell. At that point, the woman said “That’s missed up.” Dillahunty agreed with her and laughingly said, “Yeah, logic is a real pain.”

In response to Dillahunty’s logical chain, Rob Coulter, a self-styled “independent atheist” said, “For me, this means that god is judgmental and vindictive, not kind and merciful” (http://www.weareatheism.com/rob-coulter/).

Now, here is something you might not have expected me to say–I agree with them. That is, based on the criteria that Dillahunty has provided, I think Coulter’s response is a fair one. If God is the one who set up the game, and the one who determined the rules of the game, and everything happens according to his will, then he is responsible for everything, and that makes him responsible for some pretty awful stuff, not the least of which is that he creates people and sends them to Hell for doing things that he made them do. While I think his conclusion makes sense given his premises, I disagree with the premises (I also dislike the way it is framed, as a “game”, but I will leave that alone for now). And just for the record, if one can show that even just one of the premises is faulty, then the conclusion becomes irrelevant. I will argue that two of them are problematic…

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Is it God’s Fault People Go to Hell? – because it’s true