andy asked me to “point out a couple of things, such as (1) the inconsistencies you have found in the bible, and (2) your definition of evil.”
i will address the evil one now.
i think that evil, kind of like obscenity, is hard to define, but we know it when we see it.
a simple definition would be, “that which hinders, rather than progresses, god’s intentions”.
but that hardly covers it.
yah, the holocaust hindered god’s intentions for us as a species, but the phrase hardly conveys the grotesqueness of what went on there.
now, the word evil, as i used it in my “boiling it down” post was used to describe the concept of hell, so i think (correct me if i’m wrong, andy) that what’s being wondered is what in the world do i think evil is, if i can call what is ostensibly a biblical concept evil?
is hell a biblical concept?
well, first i will state that i do not believe it is a biblical concept. it is at most a vague idea, hardly mentioned, and never fleshed out, in the text.
i firmly believe that someone approaching the evangelical sixty-six book canon with no concept of “hell” would never get the idea from the text that we have today.
it’s just not in there.
there are vague references to “the grave”, a “lake of fire” (for satan and his angels), a “second death”, “hades”, “tartarus” (see peter) but never once does the text come out and say, “this is hell, and this is who goes there, and this is why”.
the threat of hell discourages honest seeking
having said that, i believe the idea of hell is an evil one because it discourages questioning.
people are so scared to be “wrong” about god because of this incredibly mean-spirited threat of eternal torture, that they end up never honestly questioning/seeking.
the emotional need to feel safe and “okay” is so strong that we humans will cling to the things we have faith in, despite incredible evidence to the contrary.
in conversation after conversation i have had since i “came out” as a non-christian, i have heard something along this line: “i’d be too scared i’d be wrong.”
and i used to be scared too.
i had many knee-jerk reactions along the way to where i am now because of that fear — pascal’s wager at work.
but i’m not anymore.
i’m not 100% positive i’m correct, but i’m not scared to be wrong.
an, wow, is that a freeing thing.
anticipating some further questions
no, i don’t think hell is required in order to have a reason to love god, nor to want to please him, nor to encourage moral behaviour.
yes, i think god will one day reconcile all people to himself.
yes, i think this is fair — why would it be more fair to let someone be tortured for ever? who made the rules that says that’s fair?
yes, i really do believe the human-invented concept of hell actually discourages, rather than encourages, most people from seeking god.
so, then, what is evil?
to come round to this question of “what is evil” again…
i believe there are malicious people out there — people who desire to cause harm rather than good.
we are all selfish by nature, as far as i can tell.
but we are capable of amazing feats of love and goodness too — i have real trouble with the idea that we are, every one of us, “evil” in the sense that i have been taught we are.
so, the best i can do is to say, “i’m not sure right now.”