Eternity and the Human Need of God

Over the last few months, I have had a number of exchanges with a correspondent who calls himself MyAtheistLife.  One of the recurring themes which has come up is his refusal to accept that human beings need God’s help to love one another.  While I am sympathetic to most of his reasons for disbelief, his rejection of the human need for God seems entirely irrational to me.  Perhaps the difficulty lies in a topic that I have been meaning to address for a while, the nature of eternity.

One of the things that it would be impossible for us to truly grasp as finite human beings is just exactly how long eternity is.  While it is possible for a human being to pay lip service to the fact that any eternal being will eventually be trillions of years old, just exactly what this means is beyond the understanding of a person who has only lived a few decades.  We examine ourselves and we say, “I am a good person.  I am a loving person, I am not prejudiced, I recycle, I am usually honest, I am nice to people, I try to be helpful.  If someone comes to me and talks about a problem, I do my best to hear their point of view.  God should let me into heaven because I am a good person.”  But can we be good enough to love other people over time periods that make billions of years tiny in comparison?

The problem with loving someone for eternity is that any level of imperfection is going to cause problems.  As I argue in my essay, “Speculations Concerning the Divine Plan“, if you are not physically violent to your spouse 99.99% of the time, this still means you are physically violent 52 minutes a year.  Over the course of eternity, only someone who is 100% free of violent tendencies will be pleasant to be around.

But physical violence is just the tip of the iceberg of what makes other people difficult to love or be around.  There are many people who I hate being around who are not physically violent to me at all.  Jealousy, envy, pettiness, greed, pride and many other bad attitudes can make other people difficult to love.  (“Have you seen my new car?  It is so much nicer than his.”, “That person is such a loser they are not attractive at all.”, “Oh yeah, I had sex with that girl.  Been there, done that, got the tee shirt!”)   I would simply shoot myself in the head rather than be around such people for all eternity.  It would be like being in high school forever . . . it would be hell.

But the difficult question is, would being around people that we like for eternity be any better?  Haven’t we all had friends, family members or love interests where we thought our feelings of friendship would last forever?  Have we not seen these relationships die as a gulf opened between us and someone we previously cared about?  Even though I am no more eternal than any other human being, I can easily imagine that the constant and eternal Chinese water torture (drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip) of minor irritations would eventually make people I like anathema to me.  This is the picture painted by C.S. Lewis of hell in his book The Great Divorce and it makes a great deal of sense to me.

God often gets a bad rap for requiring us to be perfect.  “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”  (Matthew 5:48)  But what if this isn’t just some nit-picky requirement?  What if living a life of perfect love is the secret sauce that makes eternal life joyful instead of unbearable?  If that were the case, then a new question arises.  Can you be perfectly loving without God’s help?  When I examine my own life the answer to this question is so obviously no that coming to the other conclusion seems completely irrational to me.

As I have said before, it is my firm belief that every created being is inherently evil.  That is to say, I believe that no created being can love well enough to live in eternity without God’s guidance and forgiveness.  But can a good God force his help on us unwillingly?    If the answer to this question is no, then this suggests a purpose for the horrors of this world.  It was to persuade created beings of our need for his help as painlessly as possible that God created this world.  If you will not admit your need of God in this world with all of the horrible suffering caused by human evil, under what conceivable circumstances would you ever admit your need of God’s help?

About Robert V

Former atheist currently living in Toronto.
This entry was posted in God's Purpose for Suffering and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Eternity and the Human Need of God

  1. Thanks for the shout out, shame about the link….
    Not sure if you want me to comment on this one?

    • If you have a comment, then I would like to hear it. I would hope that you would not break with your tradition of substantive comments and contradict me for the sake of contradiction. “The Christian is saying that “2 + 2 = 4” I have to object that this depends on the definition of “+”.

      Hope you have a great 2014,

      rob

      • rob,

        I get what you’re saying about trying to get along with people over a very long time span. It is problematic at best, even for just decades never mind eternity.

        I have trouble with the assertion that we humans will live or exist for eternity. That won’t happen on this planet, it’s scheduled for destruction in about 5 billion years. Where would we exist then? What evidence is there for this eternal place? You also included the assertion that humans are created and I know that you do not have credible evidence to support such a statement, never mind having credible evidence to support your understanding of a creator god being. Without credible evidence to support the premise any argument that follows is for naught.

        To agree with your post entirely the reader has to
        1 – believe a creator god exists without any evidence for this
        2 – believe that this creator god will keep them around for eternity, without credible evidence for this
        Further they would have to believe that your personal incredulity about life and love is evidence for somoething more than your subjective opinion.

        You seem to want to rationalize away the notion that your creator god created the world and universe to be terribly painful and harmful to life to teach us a lesson but cannot explain why we needed to be taught a lesson. It does not stand to reason that death and pain are needed to teach us. Even the Christian bible shows that Adam and Eve were perfectly happy to obey the law so the creator god sent in the satan disguised as a snake to make sure they broke the law. An omnipotent and omniscient being (and I argue that these qualities are incompatible) would ‘know’ how to explain the way to love and would be able to create creatures who are naturally that way.

        Your creator god did not do those things and has left you here to try to rationalize how it all works… and supposedly your creator god knew that would happen yet provided nothing to even show evidence of his work as creator that could not be mistaken for or understood to be a result of the natural laws.

        The premise of Christianity and other monotheistic belief is that humans are created broken and unworthy of a god’s attention yet your god wants your love so much that he did things which are both abhorent crimes against humanity and morally corrupt.

        When you claim to need your god’s help I find it difficult to understand how you forget the true evils committed by your god. This does not seem to be rational.

        It has been some good conversation. I hope that 2014 is a good year for yourself and those around you.

      • Mal,

        I am going to call you Mal instead of MyAtheistLife because it is less cumbersome and because Firefly was my all time favorite television series and because it seems to me that you are a bit like the main character Malcolm Reynolds.

        In my essay “A Case for Christianity Part 1” I discuss the importance of reductionist techniques in trying to understand complicated phenomena. As a man who appreciates the power of science, I am sure you will understand that argument. In that vein, therefore, let me agree with the points that you have made while at the same time declining to offer an answer to them here. The only thing I wanted to establish with this essay is the truth of the proposition that you agreed to with the first sentence of your comment.

        Thanks for your comment,

        rob

  2. A person can’t ask for more ‘fair’ than that. Mal is what most folk tend to call me. The conjurations of links to Firefly are accidental but I truly liked that series/movie too.

  3. Pingback: Hell: Punishment or Consequences | A Thoughtful Christian

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