• Bridget Eagles
    6
    For this forum post, I would like to respond to Theodore Sider’s argument regarding the vagueness of Hell. Sider argues that if we view Heaven and Hell as the two options for the afterlife, then wherever God divides the population, wherever God draws the line determining who gets into Heaven and who gets into Hell, is going to lead to two very similar people who have committed similar acts of faith, goodness, repentance, etc. to receive eternal damnation or eternal salvation. I have outlined the basis of Sider’s argument below.

    1. If we conceive of the afterlife as binary and non-universal, then some people will go to Heaven and some to Hell.
    2. We conceive of the afterlife as binary and non-universal.
    3. Some people will go to Heaven and some to Hell. (1, 2 MP)
    4. If God chooses who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell, then very similar people will receive eternal damnation or eternal salvation.
    5. God chooses who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell.
    6. Very similar people will receive eternal damnation or eternal salvation. (4, 5 MP)
    7. If it is immoral that very similar people will receive eternal damnation or eternal salvation, then we should not view the afterlife as binary.
    8. If it is immoral that very similar people will receive eternal damnation or eternal salvation.
    9. We should not view the afterlife as binary. (7, 8 MP)

    Ultimately I agree with Sider’s conclusion. Our conception of the afterlife as binary leads to unjust eternal treatment of very similar people, which I believe would challenge God’s omnibenevolence. If one person had prayed one less time, repented one less time, or done one less act of service than somebody else, then it is not moral for them to receive eternal damnation while the person who had done just one more thing in their life receives the eternal salvation of God. This argument does not intend to challenge the existence of God but to instead challenge our binary conception of the afterlife.

    I disagree namely with Premise 2 regarding our binary conception of the afterlife, a premise also challenged by Sider in his argument leading to his conclusion that we should not view the afterlife as binary. Some suggest that we add in Purgatory as a means to solve the binary afterlife debate, leaving our options as Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. This is still immoral and there is a division among very similar people who will receive eternal damnation in Hell and people who will make it to Purgatory, eventually making it into Heaven. Even if it takes several years to get into Heaven, it is still more satisfactory than eternal damnation in Hell. I believe adding in Purgatory is also an issue for the division between those going to Purgatory and those going to Heaven. Although they will all eventually make it into Heaven, it seems immoral that very similar people will either have to work for their place in Heaven whereas some will receive eternal salvation without the effort of Purgatory. The same argument can be made for the conception some people argue of varying levels within Hell itself, it is still immoral for very similar people to experience vastly different fates in the afterlife, even if those fates are all destined to be in Hell. The concept of Purgatory adding a third dimension to the afterlife alongside Heaven and Hell simply complicates the afterlife while still involving divisions between the categorizations that can be deemed immoral.

    Opponents of Sider’s argument may argue that the division is not immoral, to begin with. They may say that if somebody falls on the wrong side of the division between Heaven and Hell then they should have taken one more step during their life to gain eternal salvation. To this argument, I will revert back to Premise 5 of Sider’s argument, that decisions between who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell are enacted by God. As humans, we may lack the omnibenevolence that God has but I do not believe that a truly omnibenevolent being would sentence two people who committed very similar acts worthy of Heaven throughout their life to two vastly different eternal afterlives. If one supports the morality of the division between Heaven and Hell, then one must question God’s omnibenevolence and if God is not omnibenevolent then is He truly God?

    Finally, I agree with the conclusion of Sider’s argument that the afterlife should not be conceived of as being binary. Sider claims that the afterlife is composed of only shades of grey. Personally, I would argue that all beings experience a Purgatory of sorts where they will eventually enter into Heaven, although the time they spend in Purgatory will vary based on their acts of goodness, morality, repentance, etc. during their time on Earth. This rids us of the binary problem of Heaven and Hell and also rids us of the immoral divisions that exist between Hell and Purgatory or Purgatory and Heaven if these were the three options for the afterlife. This conception of the afterlife concludes, following Sider’s argument, that there is a grayscale of sorts between Heaven and Hell on which all individuals will fall based on their acts prior to death.

    Sider, Theodore. 2002. “Hell and Vagueness.” Faith and Philosophy 19 (1): 58--68.
  • ovdtogt
    465
    who gets into Hell, is going to lead to two very similar people who have committed similar acts of faith, goodness, repentance, etc. to receive eternal damnation or eternal salvation.Bridget Eagles

    I don't quite get the logic of this statement. Why would 2 'good' or 2 'bad' people go to Hell of Heaven?
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    going to lead to two very similar people who have committed similar acts of faith, goodness, repentance, etc. to receive eternal damnation or eternal salvation.Bridget Eagles

    This claim is not substantiated in the argument unless Theodore Sider is privy to information we're not aware of. It's implausible at all levels of credulity. He seems to be well-informed, too well-informed. Of course arguing against Sider puts me in the same boat as him but the point is morality is more plausible in a binary setup which makes Sider's claim quite difficult to swallow.
  • alcontali
    826
    This claim is not substantiated in the argument unless Theodore Sider is privy to information we're not aware of. It's implausible at all levels of credulity.TheMadFool

    Yes, agreed.

    Sider's speculations are ... just that: mere speculations.
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    Yes, agreed.

    Sider's speculations are ... just that: mere speculations.
    alcontali

    :rofl: :lol:
  • bongo fury
    180
    Holding my nose at the god-bothering, I will say...

    People who say,

    there is no black and white, only shades of grey — http://tedsider.org/papers/hell.pdf

    miss the point, and end up ignoring the evidence (in natural as well as human message replication) that one shade of grey is sufficient, usually, to facilitate perfectly reliable (and otherwise admirable) separation of black and white.

    So purgatory does the job fine, because the distribution of judgements forms a fuzzy border between the middle option and each of the outer ones. The fuzziness itself expresses the judge's holistic and proportionalistic intuitions about each case, as well as giving due warning to mortals about which areas of the more fine-grained (or even continuous) gradation are safe, and which are pushing it. So that they don't have to risk either extreme option if they don't want to. They can aim for the other.

    This claim is not substantiated in the argument unless Theodore Sider is privy to information we're not aware of.TheMadFool

    He considers both fine-grained and continuous scenarios as hypothetical suppositions. Why use theology as an example when ethical ones are emotive enough I have no idea.

    https://www.recoveringfromreligion.org/#rfr-welcome
  • christian2017
    574


    Thanks for this OP. I'll read it later. This OP is a breath of fresh air.
  • christian2017
    574


    I can't go into great detail because of forum rules. I don't feel this binary view of heaven and hell is Biblical in the strictest sense. If for some reason you are interested in my opinion from a christian's perspective of the Bible you can send me a private message.

    No wrong answer.

    There is a particular verse in the Bible that says we should embrace subtlety and nuance.

    Happy seeking!
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    He considers both fine-grained and continuous scenarios as hypothetical suppositions. Why use theology as an example when ethical ones are emotive enough I have no idea.bongo fury

    I still don't get it. How is it possible that two ethically similar people have contradictory outcomes (one going to hell and the other going to heaven)?

    I have a very vague understanding and the word "vague" probably is the key here. I guess Sider is onto something here. If people are spread like a continuum and morality is a spectrum without any discrete borders then it is possible that two people of similar moral standing may have opposite fates - one in hell and the other in heaven.
  • bongo fury
    180
    How is it possible that two ethically similar people have contradictory outcomes (one going to hell and the other going to heaven)?TheMadFool

    Similar as in approximately equal but not necessarily actually equal. E.g. not-noticeably-different. Two such people will go to different places if their separation (however small) on some (fine-grained or even continuous) moral scale coincides with the sharp border between one choice (by the judge) of appropriate destination and the other. So, in the same way that two people can be spatially close but in different countries.

    Sider supposes that a sense of proportionality excludes any such sharp border. It favours vagueness, and borderline cases. (I agree.)

    If people are spread like a continuum and morality is a spectrum without any discrete borders...TheMadFool

    ... Do you mean without any discrete steps or increments, i.e. continuous?

    ... then it is possible that two people of similar moral standing may have opposite fatesTheMadFool

    Yes although the same is equally possible if the (small) distance between them is measured in discrete steps.
  • ZhouBoTong
    588
    going to lead to two very similar people who have committed similar acts of faith, goodness, repentance, etc. to receive eternal damnation or eternal salvation.
    — Bridget Eagles

    This claim is not substantiated in the argument unless Theodore Sider is privy to information we're not aware of.
    TheMadFool

    How about 2 people that lead identical lives except: one accepts Jesus Christ as their lord and savior, the other accepts Thor as their lord and savior.

    Sounds pretty darn similar to me, and yet one goes to heaven and the other to hell (if purgatory exists and the Thor guy had NEVER been exposed to Christianity, then they might be allowed to go to purgatory).

    Does that work?

    I think the point that Sider was making was more along the lines of the binary nature of heaven and hell. IF those are the only two options, then there must be an exact line dividing those that deserve heaven and those that deserve hell. People just barely south or north of the line would have lead very similarly moral lives.

    To be fair, I would have guessed that Sider made his argument at least 100 years ago. Many modern christians seem to believe that awful people go to hell, while everyone else goes to heaven (all religions or philosophies that help people to behave "good" are part of god's plan). In that case, there is no need to worry about "the line" because it is WIDE and STARK.
  • Coben
    1.1k
    I still don't get it. How is it possible that two ethically similar people have contradictory outcomes (one going to hell and the other going to heaven)?TheMadFool
    If there's a 50% mark. If you are more than fifty percent ethical, Heaven. Less, Hell. And God can read ethical tendencies down below the ethical 'Planck length', so every falls to one side or the other.
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    How is it possible that two ethically similar people have contradictory outcomes (one going to hell and the other going to heaven)?
    — TheMadFool

    Similar as in approximately equal but not necessarily actually equal. E.g. not-noticeably-different. Two such people will go to different places if their separation (however small) on some (fine-grained or even continuous) moral scale coincides with the sharp border between one choice (by the judge) of appropriate destination and the other. So, in the same way that two people can be spatially close but in different countries.

    Sider supposes that a sense of proportionality excludes any such sharp border. It favours vagueness, and borderline cases. (I agree.)

    If people are spread like a continuum and morality is a spectrum without any discrete borders...
    — TheMadFool

    ... Do you mean without any discrete steps or increments, i.e. continuous?

    ... then it is possible that two people of similar moral standing may have opposite fates
    — TheMadFool

    Yes although the same is equally possible if the (small) distance between them is measured in discrete steps.
    bongo fury

    If there's a 50% mark. If you are more than fifty percent ethical, Heaven. Less, Hell. And God can read ethical tendencies down below the ethical 'Planck length', so every falls to one side or the other.Coben

    How about 2 people that lead identical lives except: one accepts Jesus Christ as their lord and savior, the other accepts Thor as their lord and savior.

    Sounds pretty darn similar to me, and yet one goes to heaven and the other to hell (if purgatory exists and the Thor guy had NEVER been exposed to Christianity, then they might be allowed to go to purgatory).

    Does that work?

    I think the point that Sider was making was more along the lines of the binary nature of heaven and hell. IF those are the only two options, then there must be an exact line dividing those that deserve heaven and those that deserve hell. People just barely south or north of the line would have lead very similarly moral lives.

    To be fair, I would have guessed that Sider made his argument at least 100 years ago. Many modern christians seem to believe that awful people go to hell, while everyone else goes to heaven (all religions or philosophies that help people to behave "good" are part of god's plan). In that case, there is no need to worry about "the line" because it is WIDE and STARK.
    ZhouBoTong

    In my humble opinion I think there's a problem with this view which is not quite clear to me but I'll lead you to it as best as I can.

    Hell is for evil people and heaven is for good people. This is quite obvious but, if Sider is right, then, as some of you have suggested, morality should be on some kind of continuum and there has to be a cut-off point between those destined for hell and those destined for heaven. This would be problematic just as Sider says: there will be people without noticeable differences in moral standing and yet have futures that are polar opposites.

    However, look at how we view sin and virtue. Let's take murder and altruism as two of the best and clearest examples of sin and virtue respectively. It's simply impossible that these two can appear close enough in whatever scale of morality we're using to cause a situation like Sider expects. One is obviously bad and the other obviously good and there are no grey areas to confound us.

    Of course we can't deny that language betrays a moral continuum: worst to very bad to bad to ok to good to very good to best and we fall to the temptation of thinking this is a problem as it doesn't fit with a binary model of hell and heaven.

    What bears mentioning here is that sins and virtues, at least those said to have definite effects on your afterlife e.g. murder and altruism, are completely binary. We can't commit half a murder and torture, although scalable, isn't ever good enough to cause confusions in judgment. Similarly a good samaritan can never be confused for a murderer or torturer.

    It seems that though morality is on some sort of continuous scale from the worst to the best, the sins and virtues that determine the afterlife are binary in nature which makes the hell-heaven dichotomy perfectly sensible.

    The model that I think more accurately conveys the truth about morality is that of two islands, one island is that of the good and the other that of the bad, with a clear separation between the two. Morality is scalable within each island like so: worst to very bad to bad in the island of the bad and good to very good to best in the island of the good. Nowhere in this model are the two models close enough to cause a problem like Sider describes. The gap between these islands is adequate enough to make the dichotomy of heaven and hell reasonable. Also this gap between the islands can be crossed in either direction, either by making amends for sins e.g. by repenting and compensating or by committing sins that'll take you in the opposite direction.

    What say you?
  • bongo fury
    180
    What say you?TheMadFool

    I disagree that sin and virtue aren't just as continuous as any other conception of moral variation. And your rumination at the end, about redemption, is (to me) similarly off-point.

    But your 'islands' metaphor is my choice too: fuzzy shorelines separated by clear blue water. Hence my original gripe at the all too common conclusion,

    There is no black and white, only shades of grey. — http://tedsider.org/papers/hell.pdf

    Only one shade is needed. Sider denies the possibility of fuzzy shorelines, and hence overlooks the equilibrational benefits of having two of them.
  • Coben
    1.1k
    Morality is scalable within each island like so: worst to very bad to bad in the island of the bad and good to very good to best in the island of the good.TheMadFool

    I think this is more or less what I was saying. If you lean towards the bad, even by the minutest degree over 50% bad, you will tend to create a net negative whatever. In an eternal colony, where life just goes on, you are a slow poison, whereas a person with a however slight tendency in the other direction, will create net good. There are a slow improvement in the way things are, even if they are just over the halfway point.

    I don't think this can be evaluated by acts, since you might simply be lucky that bus hit you when you happened to slip over into the good a tiny amount. It would have to be a reading of your heart.

    But if you are a slow poison, even if this is intermixed with goodness, you drag things down. and vice versa.

    Now this is me playing devil's advocate, but I don't think the idea that 49.999% is simply a tiny quantitative difference from 50,001% so they should be in the same place holds.

    In the long run they have very different effects. On a given day, they might be hard (for us) to distinguish. But for God and over what will be eternity, they are worlds apart.

    It's a bit like a tipping point.
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    I disagree that sin and virtue aren't just as continuous as any other conception of moral variation. And your rumination at the end, about redemption, is (to me) similarly off-point.bongo fury

    Why? How do you come to that conclusion?

    To make it easy for you, I ask for one plausible case of the Sider variety where two people who are morally indistinguishable have different fates in re heaven and hell.

    I think this is more or less what I was saying. If you lean towards the bad, even by the minutest degree over 50% bad, you will tend to create a net negative whatever.Coben

    Ok
  • Coben
    1.1k
    To make it easy for you, I ask for one plausible case of the Sider variety where two people who are morally indistinguishable have different fates in re heaven and hell.TheMadFool

    You haven't really addressed my argument. First you are asking me to distinguish between two people where there is a fine line between them. I am not God. A god, it seems to me, could distinguish between just that tiny fraction over half good and that tiny fraction under. And then I continued the argument based on the long term consequences of having a net negative as opposed to a net positive.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6.2k
    Some suggest that we add in Purgatory as a means to solve the binary afterlife debate, leaving our options as Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. This is still immoral and there is a division among very similar people who will receive eternal damnation in Hell and people who will make it to Purgatory, eventually making it into Heaven. Even if it takes several years to get into Heaven, it is still more satisfactory than eternal damnation in Hell. I believe adding in Purgatory is also an issue for the division between those going to Purgatory and those going to Heaven. Although they will all eventually make it into Heaven, it seems immoral that very similar people will either have to work for their place in Heaven whereas some will receive eternal salvation without the effort of Purgatory.Bridget Eagles

    I don't see why Purgatory doesn't solve the problem. The time spent in Purgatory varies according to the individual. Two similar people will spend a similar time in Purgatory, but not the same time. Therefore the problem, which is the issue of small differences between people (if there even is such a thing to begin with), corresponding to large differences in reward/punishment, is avoided. The reward/punishment scale allows for each individual to receive one's just desert.
  • bongo fury
    180
    Why? How do you come to that conclusion?TheMadFool

    Possibly a misunderstanding. Were sin and virtue simply your labels for the separate islands? (And not some distinct species of moral variation as I assumed?) So that the least sinful sin is a moral ocean (or English Channel) away from the least virtuous virtue?

    Then we agree, probably. I would think this interpretation jars somewhat with common usage, which tends to suggest that sin and virtue do meet, and possibly overlap. But that wouldn't matter too much. You could either adjust your terminology or else be content to offend common usage (somewhat).
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    I would think this interpretation jars somewhat with common usage, which tends to suggest that sin and virtue do meet, and possibly overlap.bongo fury

    First you are asking me to distinguish between two people where there is a fine line between them.Coben

    Sider's claim is that hell and heaven don't make sense because morality exhibits a continuum structure that allows for two morally similar people to have different afterlives. Basically, imposing a binary model on what is, according to Sider, an analog system is the issue here.

    As I explained it such a point of view is ridiculous. Why? Let me offer another analogy. The integers are divided into 3 groups - positive, negative and zero. Interestingly and conveniently, positive also means virtue and negative means sin.

    If you commit sins then you get negative points and if you're virtuous then you get positive points. Your position on the moral landscape depends on the sum of your virtues and sins. If are more sinful than virtuous you have a net negative moral standing and if your virtues exceed your sins then you are in the positive zone. Which side of zero you're on will decide where you go - hell or heaven.

    Given the above picture, Sider's view on the matter pops out, even if it's just an illusion. What about someone who's -0.0001 sinful and someone who's only +0.0001 virtuous? Aren't they similar enough to make heaven and hell look ridiculous. The difference between them is so imperceptible to be almost meaningless. However, the outcome of god's judgment is based not on the difference between these moral points, which can be said to be unnoticeable, but on their signs(positive/negative) which is clear and unequivocal.
  • Coben
    1.1k
    I read this as agreeing with what I wrote.
  • bongo fury
    180


    So are sin and virtue separated by clear blue water, on your view? Or do they square up either side of a sharp border?
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    So are sin and virtue separated by clear blue water, on your view? Or do they square up either side of a sharp border?bongo fury

    Good (+), amoral (0), Bad (-)

    0 is as sharp a border as it gets. One may not be that bad a guy. In fact one might be just a teensy weensy bad but that doesn't mean one is in any way good. Similarly, one might be just a tiny bit better, in a moral sense, than a rock but that earns one a place in heaven.
  • bongo fury
    180
    0 is as sharp a border as it gets. [...] ...one might be just a tiny bit better, in a moral sense, than a rock but that deserves a place in heaven.TheMadFool

    Fine, so you get how it is...

    possible that two ethically similar people have contradictory outcomes (one going to hell and the other going to heaven)?TheMadFool

    And you get how Sider thinks that this consequence of a sharp border conflicts with most people's intuition of "proportionality" as a criterion of justice?
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    And you get how Sider thinks that this consequence of a sharp border conflicts with most people's intuition of "proportionality" as a criterion of justice?bongo fury

    I agree that reward/punishment should be proportionate to the good/bad deeds respectively we do. However, Sider's claim isn't about this particular aspect of the issue. Sider claims that two people who are morally indistinguishable can have opposite destinations in the afterlife. This is what I was arguing against by showing that bad, no matter how small can never be good enough and vice versa.

    As for proportionality I think our intuitions about hell are much clearer than that about heaven. Hell seems to offer a variety of pain depending on what your sins were but heaven is uniformly accessible whether you were just someone who never hurt anyone or someone who gave everything away to charity. This only makes sense in a qualitative perspective i.e. divine judgment is based on whether someone was good or bad and not on how good or bad s/he was.
  • bongo fury
    180
    I agree that reward/punishment should be proportionate to the good/bad deeds respectively we do. However, Sider's claim isn't about this particular aspect of the issue. Sider claims that two people who are morally indistinguishable can have opposite destinations in the afterlife.TheMadFool

    But that is what he sees as offending our sense of proportionality:

    Choose any moral matter of degree you like: number of charitable donations made, number of hungry fed, naked clothed or feet washed, number of random acts of kindness performed, or even some amalgam of several factors. Given a binary afterlife, there will be someone who just barely made it, and someone else who just barely missed out. This is impossible, given the proportionality of justice. — http://tedsider.org/papers/hell.pdf

    It might not have seemed to you to be the same kind of problem as proportionality. But it is, inasmuch as mapping the large, fine-grained scale onto the course-grained scale of 2 (or any much smaller number of) values will somewhere or other require differentiating the punishment of two barely different cases the same as two dramatically different cases. Hence the difference in punishment can't be in proportion to the difference in moral grading for both pairs. Hence it is the same problem as not being able to satisfy:

    that reward/punishment should be proportionate to the good/bad deeds respectively we do.TheMadFool
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    I take your concern about the necessity for consequences to be proportionate to moral actions as valid. My personal belief is aligned with it.

    However, let me draw your attention to a queer fact about morality in religion. In most religions morality isn't quantified which is a necessity for Sider's argument. I don't think any scripture has ever used comparative terminology like "best" or "worst" or "very" when they discuss morality. As far as I know morality in religion is spoken of in terms of the unqualified, plain good and bad.

    Either this is an indication that good and bad are qualitative and not quantitative or heaven and hell have a graded scheme for dealing with the dead. I think the latter is more plausible and I did mention that hell is usually presented as having a hierarchy for punishment. The thief and the mass murder are treated differently. Although there is no clear indication in scripture that heaven too shares this feature I think that it does follows as of necessity.

    However, this doesn't imply that there's a possibility that a good person will burn in hell or a bad person will be frolicking gaily in the garden of eden.
  • bongo fury
    180


    Ok, do you see that you basically agreed with Sider and the OP all along?
  • Teaisnice
    9

    If you argue that all beings experience a Purgatory of sorts where they will eventually enter into Heaven, you're going to need to say why you are denying that there is Hell at all. Clearly that argument would be
    a universalist position. Sider's argument concludes that we should not view the afterlife as binary. But he does not claim that there is no heaven or hell. Perhaps, because you favor Sider's conclusion, you might ascribe to a universalist argument that goes like this:

    1. If hell exists, then there is a distinct boundary between heaven and hell.
    2. If there is a distinct boundary between heaven and hell, then God decides that similar people will receive radically different afterlife sentences.
    3. If God decides that similar people will receive radically different afterlife sentences, then God will not be perfectly just.
    4. If hell exists, then God will not be perfectly just.
    5. But God must be perfectly just.
    6. So hell does not exist.

    It seems that if hell exists, then there must be a solid boundary between it and heaven or purgatory. This is because if there were no boundary separating hell from heaven or purgatory, then hell would just be just like purgatory, or an extension of it. In other words, something like eternal damnation is not on a spectrum of shades of gray, but a solid division. The problem, however, is that this argument could be applied to heaven. That is, something like eternal salvation is not on a spectrum of shades of gray, but a solid division. Clearly, an argument like the one above is not sufficient for denying the existence of hell. But if, as you claim, there is purgatory where all beings eventually enter into heaven, then we need to say why there is a heaven but no hell. It would have to follow, then, that all beings are placed on the spectrum of purgatory depending on how they lived their earthly lives, eventually passing some threshold into heaven. But if a threshold like this exists for heaven, why can't it exist for hell? Perhaps God never sentences anyone to eternal damnation (hell) for some reason, and, from their spots in purgatory, they can only move up the spectrum toward heaven. But why would hell exist if nobody ever gets sent there by God? It would seem that you still need an argument denying the existence of hell, and one that is better than the one laid out above. Clearly, Sider's work concluding that we should not view the afterlife as binary does not work for denying hell. But it would be important for you to address why you agree with his conclusion, yet see the afterlife as having two distinctions: purgatory and heaven.
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    Ok, do you see that you basically agreed with Sider and the OP all along?bongo fury

    I agree insofar as Sider thinks reward/punishment should be proportionate to the virtue/crime but this doesn't mean two morally indistinguishable people will have opposite fates in the afterlife which the OP was about. If anything's amiss then it's that heaven doesn't discriminate between the just good and the best and the same applies to just bad and worst in hell.

    However, punishment in hell is usually said to adhere to the proportionality principle which makes Sider's complaint pointless. As to why heaven is never portrayed as having a hierarchy of rewards commensurate to virtues I have an explanation viz. that to have such a system is tantamount to discrimination and inequality which isn't good.
  • ZhouBoTong
    588
    Hell is for evil people and heaven is for good people. This is quite obvious but, if Sider is right, then, as some of you have suggested, morality should be on some kind of continuum and there has to be a cut-off point between those destined for hell and those destined for heaven. This would be problematic just as Sider says: there will be people without noticeable differences in moral standing and yet have futures that are polar opposites.

    However, look at how we view sin and virtue. Let's take murder and altruism as two of the best and clearest examples of sin and virtue respectively. It's simply impossible that these two can appear close enough in whatever scale of morality we're using to cause a situation like Sider expects. One is obviously bad and the other obviously good and there are no grey areas to confound us.
    TheMadFool

    This is what is what I was getting at here:

    To be fair, I would have guessed that Sider made his argument at least 100 years ago. Many modern christians seem to believe that awful people go to hell, while everyone else goes to heaven (all religions or philosophies that help people to behave "good" are part of god's plan). In that case, there is no need to worry about "the line" because it is WIDE and STARK.ZhouBoTong

    This view is increasingly common...but one would struggle to defend it using any sort of traditional religious doctrine.

    We can't commit half a murder and torture, although scalable, isn't ever good enough to cause confusions in judgment. Similarly a good samaritan can never be confused for a murderer or torturer.TheMadFool

    Well someone could be a good Samaritan today and a murderer tomorrow...right? Also, what about taking the lord's name in vain? I can't do that half-way...does that make it a hell worthy offense? Disrespecting your parents? What about those that NEVER repent (for their menial offenses). If I live the same life as someone else, but own it, as opposed to being ashamed of my sinful ways...is that hell-worthy?

    And just to point out...according to the vast majority of christian doctrine and the bible, and assuming he is sincere (only god would know), Charles Manson will go to heaven. Doesn't that make Sider's point of very similar people going to heaven/hell?

    Are there offenses severe enough that the bible says one could never repent? According to the bible, if Hitler or Stalin sincerely regretted and apologized for their actions, then they would go to heaven...right?

    The idea of hell contradicts so many aspects of christianity (or Islam) that it is pretty much nonsensical (even relative to other aspects of religion)...at least it leads to interesting discussions :smile:
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