What about Hell? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
It’s not a shock that someone like Mills goes straight to the topic of Hell. One problem is that Mills consistently holds that if you believe in Hell, you believe in a fiery torture chamber. There are a multitude of different views on the topic. There are some who hold that God just annihilates those who reject Him. My own view can be found here if you are interested.
So Mills really starts his case this way:
Common sense tells us that God would create Hell only if He had a reason to inflict this punishment. In other words, God would not have decided arbitrarily that He would enjoy torturing humans (and fallen angels) and have created a hell on that basis, for this scenario would imply that God behaved sadistically and brought this lake of fire into existence to satisfy his desires to perceive suffering and to hear screams of pain.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 171). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
In all honesty, aside from the torture chamber idea, this seems reasonable enough. So what reasons does Mills give that would be reasons God could create Hell? First, he clarifies his position further saying:
1. God had a reason to create Hell and therefore did so. 2. God had no reason to create Hell, but did so anyway—He just enjoys torturing others. 3. God had no reason to create Hell and therefore did not.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 171-172). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
Mills lists three reasons for punishment of any kind:
1. To establish a precedent that will benefit society, by serving as a deterrent to future offenses; 2. To separate the offender from those individuals whose rights he would violate; 3. To correct the offender for his and others’ benefit.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 172). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
To this, I have to say that I highly encourage you to read C.S. Lewis’s essay on a humanitarian theory of punishment. Lewis said that he wrote his essay on behalf of the criminal. The criminal must still be treated as a man and Mills ignores the main reason Lewis gives for punishment. If you’re interested, go ahead and read it, but I will save Lewis’s reason for punishment till the end.
So in talking about deterrence, Mills says the following:
“Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth into life, and few there be that find it.”2 The Christian Church wholeheartedly believes this “Divine” biblical prophecy, which announces that the majority of humanity will follow the wrong road in life and will, as a result, end up in Hell instead of Heaven.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (pp. 176-177). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
MIlls doesn’t bother to look at any contrary ideas on how to interpret this verse. I happen to think it is speaking about the immediate response to Jesus, not the universal one. This applies to Jesus’s own life and the response of His immediate hearers.
Speaking of the atonement, Mills says:
So Jesus, in effect, became a victim of His own judgment when dying on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice—a blood ritual which Jesus offered to Himself so that He could forgive “sin.”
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 180). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
I’ll just say people who don’t have a clue about the Trinity have no business writing a book against Christianity.
A truly benevolent and omnipotent God could simply let bygones be bygones and forgive “sinners” even though they adopted mistaken religious beliefs. If this universal and unconditional forgiveness is impossible for God to bestow, then He is not omnipotent; He is controlled and tossed about by circumstances superseding His authority. If He could forgive all “sinners” unconditionally, but refused, then He is not benevolent.
Mills, David. Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (p. 181). Ulysses Press. Kindle Edition.
But if God does this, then He is saying that something is greater in the universe than His own goodness and that that must be sacrificed for human happiness. It is a form of idolatry. For MIlls, God is just a superman, a really big man. If a man can do this, well God is just one of us except really big so He can do the same.
There’s not much to say about separation or rehabilitation, but in all of this, Mills misses the one obvious reason why we punish people. It is the one that Lewis looks at the most.
They deserve it.
If you punish someone for deterrence, then you are using them as an object to others. You could punish someone who wasn’t even guilty of something as a lesson to others. If you punish to separate, again, you don’t need to be someone who has done something wrong to do this. A tyrant can take you away from your loved ones. As for rehabilitation, how many times are we hearing people being sent into sensitivity training and things of that sort for perceived wrongs? Again, you don’t have to have done anything objectively wrong. Just thinking you have is enough.
And what if this is the reason for Hell?
That people have done something deserving of punishment and God treats them as people still deserving of punishment?
This never occurs to Mills. He sees punishment in functional terms. If so, then the person becomes a means to an end. In the end, Mills’s case for how unbelievers should be treated is actually inhuman.
Funny how that works out.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)