• OmniGod and the problem with age

    A interesting quote came in from Marcus Ashes the other day upon which I would like to expand. He said:

    I haven’t read the book yet but does anyone know if it talks about the age problem with regards to Christianity?
    For example Christopher Hitchens died at the age of 62 and according to christianity is burning in hell now. However Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking etc. are in their seventies now and still atheists.
    My question is is it unfair for them to live longer lives and have more time to get right with jesus?
    We all live to be different ages so have varying amounts of time (sometimes considerably) to become christian and as I said get right with jesus.

    This is a simple and effective point. The issue is with God’s fairness. So God has a mix of people, some very good, some very bad, some who believe strongly, others who don’t. These people seem to live at different lengths According to the Old Testament, do-gooders of the time lived to incredibly ripe old ages of 930, or some other such nonsense. final cropped unholy cover2

    We have a scenario of bad people being allowed to live longer and do more evil on account of their longevity than some thoroughly nice people whom God has seen fit to allow to die at young ages.

    This sort of odd, higgledy-piggledy approach is something which we would utterly expect under naturalism. That’s the natural way of things. But on theism, data like this needs explaining.

    And, as Marcus suggests, how is it fair that the people who live longer, who disbelieve, have a greater chance of getting to know Jesus and becoming saved? This is exactly the same point as the following question which I set out in The Little Book of Unholy Questions:

    53. In the New Testament, your disciples were given visions and / or appearances of Jesus returning from the dead, with disciples eating meals with the resurrected Jesus. However, most of us now are not shown such luxury and evidence. Why is it that the level of evidence is not uniform across humanity and history, with some people receiving much more evidence than others for your existence?

    So Doubting Thomas gets to touch Jesus, and I get to, what…? He goes to heaven (presumably) and I am condemned to some sort of hell.

    Well that’s fair.

    As ever, the theist can defer to the ever-present skeptical theistic theory whereby we simply don’t or can’t know the mind of the vastly superior God and thus cannot fathom why this might be, but that there must be some sensible reason. How convenient.

    God does have control over life and death, and if the Bible is to be believed, he also uses that control to shorten or lengthen people’s lives at will. So why, in this 2,000 year holiday, has he appeared not to alter anything? Why do some great people die young, and some bad people die later? Or why do some people get lots of chance to repent/find God and others get zip?

    Of course, as hinted, this is just another formulation of the Problem of Evil, but it is interesting to ruminate on these theistic quandaries. And then sigh at the ad hoc rationalisations which follow.

    Category: AtheismFeaturedGod's CharacteristicsProblem of Evil


    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

    • Vandy Beth Glenn

      By the same token, every human who lived and died before Christ’s redemption, including absolutely everyone in the Old Testament who served God, including Abel, Job, Moses, and Solomon, is also presumably in Hell, because they never had access to the acceptance of Christ.

      • Void Walker

        A great point, oft countered by theists with….well, come to think of it, they don’t have any good answers for this dilemma.

        They sure as fuck try, though. It’s rather sad.

        • D Rizdek

          Found this answer:

          “Christ’s death paid the penalty for past sins of Old Testament saints and future sins of New Testament saints.”


          See, when you can make it up as you go along, no question is difficult. Just pull out another rule book.

    • Void Walker

      This post…

      It’s awesome, it really is…



      Determinism! (C’mon, now. You know you want to)

    • Marcus Ashes

      The whole system of christianity is built on unfair convenience which knocks the whole shebang tumbling down. One can see that this is not a just and well founded system from looking at how people had easy access to the supernatural and how this would lead one to conclude that they had an unfair advantage in belief (knowledge) of god. Yet its premise is that you must believe and accept your lot in life without this advantage that they had.
      It is just humanity’s way of making sense of and justifying injustice and chaos.

      I would say determinism is a better explanation. It is obvious that we are subject to biological and chemical processes that affect how long we live and what we do as we age. Just think about Alzheimer’s and dementia. Both affect the mind and behaviour resulting from quantifiable processes. If the soul had any effect it would keep us alive and not be subject to these two brain diseases.

    • Marcus Ashes

      Also saying it is god’s will how long we live is humanity seeing patterns in white noise. Classical primitive perception biase.

    • Simon K

      I’m a Christian universalist – I believe that everyone is saved eventually. Many people go to hell, and spend some time there, and then go to heaven. I don’t claim to know in which place Christopher Hitchens is right now (I have some doubts that “right now” makes any sense, since the time of heaven/hell may not be able to be put in simple one-to-one correspondence with earthly time.) However, I doubt he would go to hell for any longer than the average person does (maybe only a few years, maybe even less than one), since I don’t think he was a particularly bad person. Unlike say Hitler, whose term in hell is measured in millions or billions of years.

      Why does God take some people sooner than others? The age at which people die changes the set of future people in existence. If Hitchens was still alive today, maybe he’d be holding a public lecture, at which two young atheists would meet, and go on to fall in love and have kids. But he is dead, so they won’t (maybe they both liked Hitchens enough to hear him publicly, neither are such big fans of other public atheists), and those kids will never be born – his death prevents the existence of certain future people. But the non-existence of those people (whom God does not love) makes way for the existence of others whom God does – if that couple never meet, they will instead meet other people, and have other children with those other people. So God took Hitchens’ life out of love for those whose births would be purchased by his sooner death.

      • I would be interested to know as to how you know about what goes on in heaven etc?

        You make these claims above as if known facts.

        • Simon K

          Argument for an afterlife: Inconceivability is good evidence of impossibility, especially when the inconceivability is inherent, not something which could be plausibly changed by future developments (such as more scientific knowledge or better technology). I cannot conceive of the permanent cessation of my own conscious awareness, and this inability is inherent – no plausible future development will change this fact – so that is good evidence that the permanent cessation of my own conscious awareness is impossible. If the permanent cessation of my own conscious awareness is impossible, then an afterlife exists.

          If we can establish that an afterlife exists, then we can discuss which particular model of the afterlife (e.g. heaven/hell, reincarnation, etc) is more likely.

          • You cannot conceive of life just ending? Surely you can. Otherwise you cannot make sense of my question! I think you would be being victim to the just world theory and wishful thinking.


            ” If the permanent cessation of my own conscious awareness is impossible,”

            There is simply no rational defence of this impossibility.

            • Simon K

              You cannot conceive of life just ending? Surely you can.

              I can conceive of observing the cessation of someone else’s life – but then, I am only conceiving of the cessation of the outwardly visible signs of their conscious experience, not the cessation of their conscious experience itself. I can conceive of the cessation of my own life, if I imagine myself as someone else observing my own death and funeral – but once again, this is just conceiving of the cessation of the outwardly visible signs of consciousness, not conceiving of the cessation of consciousness itself. In fact, in both cases, I am conceiving the continuation of consciousness, since I am conceiving of someone (myself or someone else) consciously observing those things. I can conceive of my own death, in the first person, if it involves going somewhere else (heaven, hell, reincarnation, what have you), and thus continuing conscious experience post mortem. But I cannot conceive in the first person of my own death if it involves a cessation of my existence. Since I cannot conceive of this, since my inability to conceive of it is inherent rather than something that might be changed with more information, and since I believe the inherently inconceivable is impossible, it is rational for me to conclude that my future non-existence is impossible.

              Otherwise you cannot make sense of my question!

              The question “how you know about what goes on in heaven etc?” Or your original question about how could it be fair for God to give atheists shorter lives than believers? Whichever you mean, I don’t need to conceive of the cessation of my future conscious existence to make sense of your questions, since both of your questions make sense under the assumption that such a cessation is impossible and inconceivable.

              I think you would be being victim to the just world theory and wishful thinking.

              The argument I presented for the impossibility of the permanent cessation of my conscious existence does not depend on any “just world” premise. It would be compatible with this argument for the universe to be ruled by an omnipotent omnimalevolent god who created humanity for the sole purpose of torturing every member of it in hell forever and ever. That would violate just world theory, yet is completely compatible with the claim that the permanent cessation of my future conscious existence is impossible. (I don’t believe such a scenario, but this particular argument cannot disprove it.)

    • Kenja

      This falls under the umbrella of an argument I call “Argument from General Disparity.” This includes age of death disparities (including miscarried embryos, deceased children etc.) differing religions, cultures and eras in which one is born–all of which leads to (as you point out) highly variable opportunities to be “saved” and go to heaven via correct belief, the purpose of life, or even for basic moral behavior. This relates to the argument from evil in that it destroys any broad explanation or defence (free will, human moral development) of moral evil, since at least some human beings with at least the potential for free will never get the chance to exercise it, and to the contrary, some are purely victims of either natural or moral evils. The Christian cannot explain this messy variety of life situations or scenarios with such sweeping arguments or one-size-fits-all Christian life purpose.

      This becomes even more apparent if you consider large losses of human life in war or disasters. Christians may be able to rationalize individual, natural deaths (“God took him up to heaven,” or “She was wicked”), but it becomes more difficult to explain how large yet geographically discrete chunks of a population who die in disasters such as a tsunami (Christian tourists and natives of various religions died alike) can be anything but wholesale unfairness as people die indiscriminately in a continuum of life stages or religious beliefs, and all at once. So it’s not just the quantity of evil in such mass death, but also the highly variable quality of life and opportunity affected that is easily explained via naturalism yet extremely problematic under Christian theism.