Norm Geras picks a theological bone with the Pope.
His Holiness (that’s the Pope, not Norm) has warned us that Hell really exists, “and is eternal for those who shut their hearts to [Jesus’] love”.
The previous Pope had said that Hell was “the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God” – and while the two of them appear to disagree (in their infallibility) on whether it’s literally a place, they do seem to concur that rejecting god’s love is a freely chosen sin.
As such, it might seem to make sense to punish atheists for being such cold-hearted wanton rejectionists. Consider an analogy: suppose that my brother and I had fallen out many years ago over something that seemed very important at the time, but recently he’s been contacting me to tell me he still loves me and wants to make up. I spitefully turn him away in my defiant pride.
I’d say that doesn’t reflect too well on me. So maybe my failure to accept and return god’s love is equally reprehensible?
Maybe. But to the very best of my knowledge, I don’t have a brother. So if he wants us to have a good relationship, he’s going to have to make the effort to convince me that he exists first. Ditto god.
And another thing: if Hell really is an actual eternal inferno, then surely it must get through a lot of fuel to keep the fires going. How big a carbon footprint – sorry, hoofprint – would the whole operation have? And if we’re concerned about climate change, should we all convert to keep down the number of lost souls that they need to burn, or would it be more practical to bring Hell into an emissions trading scheme?
I know George Bush is in the pocket of the oil companies, but surely Satan wouldn’t be so evil as to ignore the Kyoto Protocol? Now, how many Ryanair flights does it take to offset the amount of brimstone used up in torturing a sinner…?