Saturday, March 18, 2006

Overheard in a bar

'I worked with him a few years ago and he was always trying to convert me to Islam. It would drive me mad. Finally, I said "So you believe that when I die, I will go to hell and suffer eternal punishment, and so will my wife, and so will my two beautiful daughters". He thought about this for a bit then said "Yeah. But let's not let that get between us as mates"'.

A similar thought, isn't it, to this "The Roman Catholicks are certainly the most zealous of any sect in the Christian world; and yet you will find few among the more sensible people of that communion who do not blame the Gunpowder-treason, and the massacre of St. Bartholomew, as cruel and barbarous, though projected or executed against those very people, whom without any scruple they condemn to eternal and infinite punishments. All we can say in excuse for this inconsistency is, that they really do not believe what they affirm concerning a future state; nor is there any better proof of it than the very inconsistency." (Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, I. iii. 9).

1 comment:

Crude said...

So long as you pointed me at this, two comments.

* Clearly, no, the man does not "believe that [the original original] will go to hell and suffer eternal punishment and so will his wife and his two beautiful daughters" (I wonder why 'beautiful' is in there?). But why doesn't he believe it? Because there he is, trying to get him to convert. In other words, it's a conditional possibility, not a certainty.

Likewise the problem is with Hume. First off, he cherry picks - clearly the sensible people agree with him, so let's ignore any arguments to the contrary right away. And what of those sensible people? It cannot be that their views on hell, punishment and evil are nuanced, or that ('merely') being wrong, even damned, does not result in a permit of barbarous treatment - as if the Catholic Church teaches that if a person is likely to go to hell, it's okay to vivisect that person.

And finally there's this problem as I alluded to before: A question about hell is not a question about God. Perhaps universalism is true. Perhaps - and I believe the Church teaches this - we cannot be privy to the actual eternal fate of any particular person, even Judas, though we may have beliefs about hypothetical cases.