Sometimes religion is just plain scary. Case in point: Robert Peterson’s article “The Darkside of Eternity: Hell as Eternal Conscious Punishment” in the current issue of Christian Research Journal. Peterson argues “the wicked will suffer the pains of hell forever.” The wicked, I assume, are those who don’t agree with Robert Peterson, and what Peterson imagines for us (I am not a believer, thank God) is that the Prince of Peace and the Lord of Love will keep us fully conscious as fire sears our every moment.
I had hoped that the author would feel bad about this, but he shows no more remorse than the god he worships. Instead he blithely cites chapter and verse to prove his point: Jesus condemning the unsaved to eternal damnation in Matthew 25:41, and making the case for eternal suffering in Mark 9:47-48. There are other citations, but the point is clear: “the sufferings of hell consist in everlasting conscious punishment.”
The god of unconditional love that some Christians proclaim is, at least according to this theory, a lie, and those who propagate this compassionate theology will pay dearly for all eternity. God’s love is conditional: you have to believe the party line (good luck in figuring out which is the right party, however), in order to receive it, and if you don’t this god condemns you to eternal conscious torture. Obviously Rev. Peterson’s god has never read the Geneva Convention. Or, if he has, he has no more respect for it then Alberto Gonzales. But at least Rev. Peterson is honest: his god is a sadist.
This is one reason I love being a Jew. While our god is more than willing to commit genocide in this world, he doesn’t carry his hatred over into the world to come. Better still, this is why I love being a descendant of Abraham who had the guts to challenge god over Sodom saying, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth, himself do justly?” Abraham offers a check to God’s power: justice and compassion. And it works. If Abraham had argued God down to one righteous person rather than ten the city would have been saved. He simply misjudged the depravity of the people. While he certainly had his faults (ask Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac), he was far superior to both Rev. Peterson and Rev Peterson’s god.
I believe we create gods in our own image. Rev. Peterson and the millions of Christians who believe as he does must be very angry, fearful people who are either too cowardly to challenge their god, or who delight in knowing that those who disagree with them are going to burn for that slight. Their god doesn’t scare me, but they do.