Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hellish Pronouncements...and Biblical Comfort for Voting Day

Thanks to my friend Arni Zachariassen giving me the heads-up on these matters, I've learned that as a philosopher I'm uniquely vulnerable to eternal damnation, and that as someone with a propensity to vote Democratic I'm pretty much doomed to the writhing agonies hell (primarily, it seems, because of the Democratic Party's growing support for same-sex marriage).

Actually, the article about philosophers and hell is a clever little piece by a pair of atheist philosophers--Scott Aikin and Robert Talisse--that aims to be a kind of reductio ad absurdum argument against anything like the traditional doctrine of hell.

Tragically, it appears that the article about Democratic voters going to hell, written by a guy named Dennis Marcellino, is not a satirical Onion piece but is meant in all seriousness--a kind of scare-you-to-vote-my-way article which, while it isn't likely to sway Democratic-leaning voters to rush out and vote for Romney, might actually inspire some of them to stay home on election day (operating on a better-safe-than-sorry mentality).

I think a philosophical refutation of Marcellino's absurd argument is actually laid out in the clever little piece by Aikin and Talisse. I defy you to find someone who chooses to vote Democratic (or Republican for that matter) because they correctly believe that the party they are voting for is the party of satanic evil bent on defying God and undermining all that is good and true--and so, out of a love for evil and mayhem, they vote for the party they judge to be most evil. And can eternal damnation really be warranted if a vote is cast out of a sincere belief that in an imperfect world, forced to choose between imperfect political parties (or not vote at all), the party one is voting for is perhaps a little bit more on track? If not, then your eternal fate isn't likely to rest on what you do on voting day.

But such philosophical arguments won't impact those who look to the Bible for all their answers. And Marcellino's case for the damnation of Democratic voters rests on a Biblical argument (albeit a very bad one that makes huge, utterly unwarranted interpretive leaps at every single step).

So, for those biblicists who suddenly find themselves hesitant to vote Democratic out of fear that Marcellino might be right, I offer the following words of comfort: At least according to what Paul says in the Bible, you won't be eternally damned for voting how you do. And why do I think that? Well, consider these statements made by Paul:

"Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous" (Romans 5:18-19).

"For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he many have mercy on them all" (Romans 11:32).

"For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22).

"For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (Colossians 1:19-20). 

I've italicized the relevant "alls" here in order to make it obvious that Paul clearly thinks everyone is going to be saved--regardless of how they vote--on account of Christ's reconciling and justifying work on our behalf. So go vote as your conscience sees fit, without fear that God will smite you for it.

(Yeah, yeah, I know this is proof-texting, and that my proof texts can be interpreted in slightly different ways than what I offer here...but if Marcellino can claim that Democratic voters are all damned based on a few biblical texts taken out of context and then lavishly interpreted to force them to say what he wants them to, then I can take a series of biblical texts and assert that what they clearly seem to be saying is what they really are saying).


  1. So can I ask.. why worry about atheists or do evangelism of any kind? Isn't it kind of pointless, other than making you feel part of a larger group in this world, or allowing you to pontificate, etc.? And why did Jesus dwell on having to believe in him if you really don't have to believe in him?

    1. Why think that evangelism has to be about hell-avoidance? Evangelism, in terms of its literal and original meaning, is about spreading good news. Why think that the reason to spread the good news diminishes if it turns out that the news is a little less good--because if you don't believe in the good news you're going to roast forever (not very good news at all, really)?

      Or, to approach the issue in another way, why do you actively and persistently seek to convince theists that they are full of balogna, given that you believe that theists end up with the same final fate as atheists?

      There are many motives we have share our beliefs, our stories, our hopes, our convictions, and our reasoning--the threat of cosmic punishment for those who get their beliefs wrong hardly strikes me as the best or most coherent of these motives--and if you take that motive away, many motives for sharing our thoughts and convictions and treasured narratives remain.

    2. hi Eric; My pet speculative notion is that salvation MEANS becoming the kind of person who loves the same radical way Jesus loved, and the main way to evangelize is to emulate that love (I fail way too frequently of course). In that case, The idea that in the end God successfully guides us all into salvation makes it easier to move in the direction of salvation so defined. If you look at the person you hate the most, and you imagine that in the future you and he will be friends like brothers, well the distance from thee to sincerely blessing this person has become shorter. If my speculation is right, then it makes perfect SENSE for universalists to spread that word--the more people who see life like that the better it is for all of us.

  2. I'll never understand how Fundamentalist Christians got themselves all mixed up with the Republican party, whose values are generally even further from the ethos of the gospels than the Democrats' are (war, ignoring the poor, individualism, wealth envy, global inequality, capital punishment, torture, raping Creation for selfish ends, etc. etc.)

    Although I do understand why, having made a commitment to the Republican party, they are so fiercely against gay marriage. When your party stands for 101 things that the New Testament speaks out against, you have to cling onto the few things that the Bible and the Republicans actually do have in common, like homophobia.

  3. Øystein EvensenJune 1, 2012 at 2:41 PM

    Ah, the fine art of proof-texting, how I miss it! It makes theology so much simpler.

  4. "Gay couples are going to get together. It's been happening since ancient times. Legal prohibitions didn't, couldn't and would never stop it. Isn't it better that gays conduct their relationships within the context of a well-defined marriage law, same as heterosexual couples?"