If One Cannot Believe, Can He Get a Pass From Hell?

“When I think about religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for those who cannot believe: the Confraturnity of the Fatherless one might call it.”

These were the words of Oscar Wilde, published in 1907, were written while he languished in prison.

Certainly, there are people who have made valiant efforts to believe and failed.  Some have been put to death for their inability to believe. My guess is they tried.

I’ve heard the Christian faith, or some part of it, maintains babies go to heaven, even though they have never confessed belief.  Also, people are given a pass, so I understand, if they have never in their lives heard of Christianity.

But, what of people who have heard it all and found the Belief Lever out of their reach?  It seems to me they are “handicapped” like the babies and those who never hear.

I know the standard line is something like, “If you don’t believe, it’s because you haven’t tried hard enough.”  I don’t understand how one person can make a judgement like that about another.  If a person says she has tried and cannot succeed in belief it is only fair to assume he/she is telling the truth.  Believers are given the benefit of the doubt. Others should be given the same break.

A disclaimer:  I try to understand believers, but have made no effort to believe so I don’t qualify for a pass.

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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25 Responses to If One Cannot Believe, Can He Get a Pass From Hell?

  1. Henry says:

    Romans 1:20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

    Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Henry 11:35 Using God to prove God does not help. Sorry.

      • Henry says:

        Jon 11:43 Using nothing to prove nothing does not help. Sorry.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Henry 11:56 “Using nothing to prove nothing…”

          At least I’m not trying to prove there is something, a god, without providing independent evidence. There’s a moral case to be made that this independent evidence should be provided if there are claims the god is real.

          • Henry says:

            The books within the Bible are not independent? I believe I gave you two witnesses, Dave and Paul.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Henry 12:11 “The books within the Bible are not independent?”

            Now you have me confused. I thought everything in the Bible was either written be God or guided by God. Thus, the books cannot be “independent”. If they were not written or guided by God, the Bible is not a “Holy Book”.

          • Henry says:

            Dave and Paul writing the inspired Word of God. Sorry to overload your black-and-white thinking.

  2. Bob Jorgenson says:

    I like the part in this post where you wrote, “If a person says she has tried and cannot succeed in belief it is only fair to assume he/she is telling the truth. Believers are given the benefit of the doubt. Others should be given the same break.” Jon

    Its kind of like a form of mind rape when believers just won’t let non-believers be. Faithheads just gotta force themselves on us infidels time and time again, and when they’re done, zip up their justification pants and tell us we deserved it.

    • Henry says:

      Mind rape? My, you are extreme. Johnny asked the question, “But, what of people who have heard it all and found the Belief Lever out of their reach?” I provided an answer.

      Is the “mind rape” term designed to stifle an open discussion? A closed discussion from Jorgenson ditto heads would not be in the true spirit of “free thinking”. It would also be…well, kind of boring.

  3. June says:

    Jon,

    If you are right, and I am wrong, then nothing is lost, and nothing is gained. You lose nothing and you do not gain anything. And neither do I.

    But if I am right, and you are wrong, then I gain eternal life and you gain … nothing.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      June 2:26 Thanks for the first-time comment. The old Pacal’s Wager argument, it comes up here about every week or two as if on a scheduel. Maybe the “almighty” sends it on some kind of schedule. And, I respond the same way each time: If one invests much of his/her life and money on the theory of an afterlife, and, there is no evidence such exists, he/she has wasted that part of their life. She could have been doing something to make the world better for coming generations. There would be a question raised as to the moral ethics of a person who invested selfishly in her own welfare while ignoring the welfare of others.

      • Henry says:

        “There would be a question raised as to the moral ethics of a person who invested selfishly in her own welfare while ignoring the welfare of others.”

        Good observation, Jon. Like all the atheist missions set up in Latin America and Africa to feed and medicate the poor. That is clearly what atheists do. There is absolutely no record of the church doing that.

        • Bob Jorgenson says:

          You can bet a fair number of the doctors (scientists) from Doctors without Borders are non-believers.
          Bill Gates is atheist, and he does so very very much good in the world.
          There are many many godless people who do good works, without the threats Abrahamic religions bring with them.

          • Henry says:

            Jorgenson: “You can bet a fair number of the doctors (scientists) from Doctors without Borders are non-believers.”

            True. When you are the receipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, you generally have to have something wrong with you.

        • entech says:

          On self interest didn’t a fellow called Martin Luther have something to say about the sale of indulgences for the selfish benefit of both the buyer and seller? Considering the lying and cheating that still goes on did they come with some kind of Caveat Emptor.

  4. entech says:

    The Bible is the word of God. If there was no God there would be no Bible. Obvious.

    • Henry says:

      Good observation, entech.

    • entech says:

      There is more than one Bible. Does this mean there is more than one God?

    • entech says:

      Perhaps each of the many denominations has their own God, the differences between them, some accept some things that others reject, is sufficient to make the case. Or perhaps the same God has different instruction sets for each of them, for one no female ministers for another Gay ministers are OK. For the God of the WBC everyone is a sinner except the dozen or so members. The one allows faith alone, another demands good works, so confusing.

      Perhaps they call all the Gods by the same name to make it seem simple and unified, certainly makes the numbers bigger when you are trying to win influence.

      • Henry says:

        Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh

        • entech says:

          It is very interesting that your response to talk of many names and many gods turns on a point where according to the story Moses did not know even one name. None of the Patriarchs knew the name. The ambiguous “I am that I am” or “I am who I will be” or whichever variant you ascribe to is all make believe, what is really meant is “Never mind my name, mind you business and do what you are told”. At this time in history the Jews were moving from and older and primitive polytheism towards a rather more sophisticated monotheism. Even though Baal was still popular, witness the episode of the golden calf years after the burning bush. As anthropology will show it was common thought that if you knew the name of the deity or demon you could control, this is why the shamans and witchdoctors kept all their spells and incantations secret, go back to the Zoroastrians and early Hindus, the words were all written in a priestly language that was not to be known by the common people, secrets are used to control the gods and the people, great to be a priest. Could have some relevance to the fact that translating the Bible from Latin into the local language was punishable by death for so long.

  5. Avatar of Mac Mac says:

    My understanding of this is that when one reached the age of consent, the answer to this question would be no.

    I heard an interesting argument to the question of why would God create people and then let them die and move to hell before they had an opportunity to be convinced? The response was that no matter how long they lived on earth, they never would believe anyway so God just cuts to the chase and sends them on their eternal reward.

    The disturbing part is I’m pretty sure this was a fundie argument.

  6. Dan says:

    If you don’t believe then don’t believe. Either you will be right or wrong. If you’re right that God doesn’t exist, then you’ll never know that you were right since you will not exist after death. So why worry? If you are wrong that God doesn’t exist, then you will have plenty of time to contemplate your decision. It’s no sweat off anyone’s back but your own.

  7. You are so ignorant of the Bible that you should not make one comment about it…ever. Comment on some other religious scriptures..that is if you know anything serious about them. You criticize something you know nothing about because you have such hatred for it.

  8. Candyman says:

    Let me ask you, what does a sinful man have to do to have earned the right to have a relationship with a Holy God? …what is the standard?

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