Go To Hell - Don’t Be To Certain
Traveling through the web, one can read many differing opinions regarding morality. One of the opinions regarding morality, or lack of it more specifically, which sticks in my craw, is the supposed question of whether or not atheists are moral individuals.
I’ve contemplated this supposition for many years, and the answer, I think, is a definitive yes, and I will illustrate my answer with two stories, after quoting from a post at the blog Wintery Knight titled Are atheists just as moral as Judeo-Christian believers? Full disclosure. I was brought up in the Dutch Christian Reformed faith, attended Christian schools for all but two years of my K through 12 education, and was president of the Christian Reformed church I attended at the age of 30, a position normally held by the pastor of the church, and thus could be classified as a Judeo-Christian believer, though I am not a member of said church today, but I am an individual of faith.
Here’s the quote from the post Are atheists just as moral as Judeo-Christian believers? which compelled me to relieve the sticking in my craw.
Don’t make the mistake in thinking that an atheist is just like you because he lives in the same time and place as you and seems to act according to the fashions of the day. Atheists have no objective standard of morality. They think that “ought” statements are just arbitrary customs and preferences – like cooking style and clothing style and music style. It’s all arbitrary on their view. They think that people behave well not to conform to a Designer’s plan that values self-sacrificial love but in order to have happy feelings and to be accepted and praised by others. They think the universe is an accident, and the purpose of life is to compete with other people in order to be the happiest. There is no final judgment for anything they do, on atheism.
This quote from the Wintery Knight post can basically be reduced down to the statement, atheists are going to hell, and I will address this with the following two stories which I mentioned above. The first story.
When I was ten years old, living in Holland, Michigan, I got into an argument with an older individual standing on the street outside my parents’ home. I do not recall what the argument was about, but I do recall the point in the argument where I emphatically stated to this individual “Go to hell!” Just as those damning words were slipping from my lips, my father stepped from the house, and the full force of my curse rumbled in my Dad’s ears.
“John Edward Venlet,” my Dad commanded, extreme consternation in his voice and visage, “come here!” I did as I was bode, and approached my Dad. When I came within reach, my Dad grabbed my arm, hauled me to the back porch, grabbed the “Seater Heater” and commenced to whack me, hard. Hard enough that I began attempting to evade his punishment by jumping around. My evasive actions only further incensed my Dad, causing an increase in the power of his strokes, and resulted in a broken “Seater Heater,” though I was sufficiently cowed that I took no pleasure in its breaking.
With each stroke of that “Seater Heater,” my Dad also lectured me. “You,” whack, “never,” whack, “tell,” whack, “a person,” whack, “to go to hell!” Whack. “Do you understand me?!” Whack. “If you tell a person to go to hell,” my father continued with the broken “Seater Heater” dangling from his hand, “God could very well send you to hell.” “I don’t ever want to hear those words from you again.” “Do you understand me John?”
I meekly and apologetically affirmed that I understood my Dad, and with that I was sent to my room for the rest of the day. It was a long day. When I was released from this extended punishment, early in the evening, I remember the shame I felt as I joined my five brothers, two sisters, and Mom and Dad in the living room, as the lesson I had received for my damning curse had been shared with all. Their eyes reflected the lesson.
Here’s the second story.
Four years after the first story, but now living in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, I was traveling with my Dad on business. While driving down the road, my go to hell episode came into the conversation. My Dad and I discussed my error in telling an individual to go to hell, the lesson was still quite fresh in my mind, and then we began a more philosophical discussion of hell.
One of the points my Dad brought to this discussion was this. His boss, who Dad was quite good friends with, was not a believer, at least not in the Judeo-Christian sense. And though Dad did not say that his boss was an atheist, specifically, any non-believer was understood to be an atheist. As we talked about this, and his boss’s lack of faith, my Dad said, “There is no way I can say _________ is going to go to hell simply because he does not profess a faith in God.” To which I could only reply, “But isn’t that what the Bible says, Dad?” To which my Dad replied, “We are led to believe that is what the Bible says, but what person can know, with certainty, what God’s specific plan is for any individual?” “God can do what He wills, and though the Bible does have many passages which seem to suggest individuals will go to hell, how can I make that judgement on someone.” “I can’t,” my Dad said, “only God can.”
I heartily concurred with my Dad in this statement, and still do.
The post at Wintery Knight then ends this way.
I am more concerned about how my actions will cause someone to either turn to God or away from him. I would not act in a way that turns a person away from God. Even if it made me happy, even if I could get away with it. I just don’t care that much about being happy in this life. It’s not a big deal to me.
In response to the concluding quote, I can only state that the opinion expressed in regards to the alleged lack of morality in atheists in the post linked does not reflect the concern expressed in the conclusion.
NON-UPDATE: I hit the publish button in error the first time this post appeared. It was incomplete at that time. It’s done now, though.
Personally, I find it just as worrisome to think that some of my neighbors believe that the only reason to distinguish right from wrong is because Someone told them to.
A person who had proper morals would act rightly even if no one was watching.Posted by Tam on 12/05 at 04:57 PM
... I find it just as worrisome to think that some of my neighbors believe that the only reason to distinguish right from wrong is because Someone told them to.
A person who had proper morals would act rightly even if no one was watching.
Dead on, Tam.Posted by John Venlet on 12/05 at 06:03 PM
I agree with Tam, people that need to be told what NOT to do also need to be told what TO do, otherwise nothing gets done. sticks in the mud
Me? I treat people like I hope to be treated, what could be simpler or more complete? I’m not religious and don’t even claim to be atheist or agnostic. Those are pidgeon holes created to divide people, to the advantage of the word creator. Treat me right and I’ll not hold your fairy tale thoughts against you.
Regarding the quotes in blue, much of the wording is just childish and insulting. Seriously, conversing with grown-ups like that is similar to conversing with children - quite a chore.
Hey John, we share the same middle name.
Venlet is pronounced just as you thought. “Ven Let,” but the “l” is definitely lower case.
I’m glad I treat you “right,” like I attempt to do with all individuals, cause I wouldn’t want you holding my “fairy thoughts” against me.
Remember the “last rung.”Posted by John Venlet on 12/06 at 12:44 PM
I’m a believer (for the sake of disclosure), and I may be oversimplifying, but I think that the fundamental issue of whether one is moral boils down to this:
Is it all right to use people as things?
Who answers “No” is moral, regardless of the source of the answer. Most likely, anyway; I confess I haven’t thought ‘er all the way through yet.Posted by Ken on 12/09 at 12:33 AM
Is it all right to use people as things?
Who answers “No” is moral, regardless of the source of the answer.
I agree, Ken.
Though individuals of faith may consider their source as these words from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “Do unto others as you will have them do unto you.,” citing that statement, and the speaker, as their source does not provide any grounds for alleged moral superiority.Posted by John Venlet on 12/09 at 12:31 PM
I thought quoting your site from a posting of mine would end up here in the comments. Guess not, but no matter.
Your Dad rightly whupped your young ass, and God stood smiling as you tried to evade said whupping.
Hell, and damnation are none of our business, and pretending it is, is pretending to be God, and I guarantee you, that is beyond the pay grade of us all.
Having said that, I did go to some lengths this am (into the pm) to write this obituary.
FYI - jbPosted by jb on 12/16 at 06:09 PM