Atheist Buses and Hellfire Buses

 

It was clumsy from people who aren't known for clumsiness. It didn't ring true to form, yet I couldn't put my finger on it. Early this year, the atheists slapped this inspirational message on British buses and sent them all over England:

"There probably is no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Richard Dawkins, the grand old man of atheism, appeared himself on launch day. Did he bless the buses as they left the terminal?
 
Now be honest. Is not your first reaction that those atheists should 'man up?' What is this milquetoast 'probably?' Either there is or there isn't. If it's just academic musing - well, then I guess 'probably' is acceptable - but no! we're authorized to take drastic action based on this 'probably.' We're to 'stop worrying' and 'enjoy life,' something none of us would dare do if there's the mere possibility of God lurking about somewhere! And what about this statement from Dawkins himself: "...if we say 'there's definitely no God' - you can't say that...." You can't? He does exactly that in his bestselling book The God Delusion. Why this pussyfooting around?
 
These folks are not milquetoast and they're not equivocal. Some of them you'll think are pit bulls should you run across them on the internet. It doesn't faze them at all to declare God a centuries-old, world-wide fraud- unfit for modern consumption. So why, all of a sudden, do they go weak in the knees? 'Probably?' And why does Dawkins put a positive spin on a mealy-mouthed message he can't stand?
 
Awake! magazine (Nov 2009) solved the puzzle. Citing The Guardian newspaper, it states "the word 'probably' is used in order to meet the rules of Britain's Advertising Standards Authority, since it is impossible to prove that God does not exist."

Ah....now it makes sense. That 'probably' is legalese! It's a disclaimer! It's like those interminable American pharmaceutical ads in which happy, vibrant, fulfilled people frolic on screen....so positively ALIVE now that they don't have to pee as much thanks to consuming this or that drug, and all the while the background announcer drones on and on with his long disclaimer of truly horrible side effects users may encounter, so that we begin to say "who in their right mind would take this stuff for ailments of mere inconvenience?" Ha, but those atheists want their message out so badly that they put up with a word that scuttles all it's impact. And we won't (for now) go into the 'impossibility of proving God's non-existence,' nor the ridiculous assertion that shedding faith is the pathway to worry-free happy life.
 
And yet listen to the words of Ariane Sherine, who dreamed up the project, and you can begin to empathize with her, and even with the grand old man Richard Dawkins:
 
"This campaign started as a counter response to advertising running on London buses in June 2008 which had Bible quotes on them, for instance Jesus died for our sins, and then an URL to a website and when you visited the website it said, among other things, that all non-Christians would burn in hell for all eternity in a lake of fire, and I thought that that was really quite strong...."
 
Yes....it really is....I see her point. Is it even more offensive than 'there (probably) is no God?' You can certainly argue the point. One side says God doesn't exist, and the other says - yes, he does, and he loves nothing more than to see those 'not with the program.' tortured forever. I like the way Isaac Asimov put it: hell is "the drooling dream of a sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, he wondered, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term. [Wikipedia entry on Isaac Asimov] Or, take this quote attributed to Sidney Hatch (the athlete?): “A civilized society looks with horror upon the abuse and torture of children or adults. Even where capital punishment is practiced, the aim is to implement it as mercifully as possible. Are we to believe then that a holy God—our heavenly Father—is less just than the courts of men? Of course not.”
 


 What is truly exasperating is that the Bible emerges as the source of the hellfire teaching. Those fire and wrath people have long hijacked the book and present it as their own, so that the casual observer assumes it really does teach hell. It doesn't.
 
With a single exception, all instances of “hell” stem from only one of three original language words. Find the meaning of those words, and you’ve found the meaning of hell. Two of those words are Hebrew-Greek equivalents: sheol and hades. They refer to "the place of the dead." Bad people are said to go there, but so are good people. When the patriarch Jacob was told his son Joseph had died, for example, he "kept refusing to take comfort and [was] saying: “For I shall go down mourning to my son into Sheol!” Did he really expect to burn in hell someday, or did he figure on dying and going to the grave? (Gen 37:35) Or Job, who, amidst great suffering, prayed  "O that in Sheol you would conceal me, that you would keep me secret until your anger turns back" (Job 14:13) A sensible request if sheol is the grave. Not so bright, though, if it is a burning place of torture.

How I miss the good ol Catholic Douay Bible, which consistently translated 'sheol' as 'hell!' But most translations, like the King James, only sometimes translate it as 'hell' and other times, when 'hell' is clearly ridiculous, translate it 'grave.' Why not translate it 'grave' each time, if that's what it means?
 
Or what about this verse speaking "of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses." (Acts 2:31 KJV) Now, if there is one person whom you would not expect to have gone to hell, wouldn't it be Jesus? But he was in the grave [hades] for three days.
 
The third and last word translated 'hell' is gehenna. Every instance of hellfire is 'gehenna.' The term refers to the valley of Hinnom outside the walls of Jerusalem. It served as the municipal garbage dump and fires were kept burning continually to consume the refuse. Carcasses of criminals and those not thought worthy of decent burial might be tossed over the wall into gehenna below. It even became symbolic. Giving one a proper burial presupposed they were worthy of future resurrection. Heaving someone into gehenna presupposed their death would be permanent. Thus, when Jesus denounced religious hypocrites: "Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?" he was suggesting they merited no future resurrection, not that they deserved everlasting torture.
 
The New World Translation declines to translate the three words into English. Instead, it transliterates sheol, hades, and gehenna directly from the original language into the English. This is an invaluable aid for students in uncovering what these words actually mean. One suspects other Bibles don't do it precisely to keep hidden how shaky is their derivation of 'hell.'
 
The phrase 'lake of fire' occurs only once in the Bible, at Revelation chapter 20:
 
"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Rev 20:10 KJV) One would think it painfully obvious that we're into heavy symbolism here. Literally speaking, the devil ought have a summer cottage on the lake of fire; it ought not bother him a bit! Later (vs 14) death and hades are tossed into the lake. Are they also entities that you can torture forever and ever? Or is the lake merely symbolic for permanent destruction, the "second death?"
 
It's a little like when you accompany someone (alas, we still have a few like this) to the door, and that one is so persistent and so argumentative that the householder finally slams the door shut, and you say "I don't blame him...what else could he have done?" So it is with these born-again hellfire buses running all over the place. You can only push atheists so far. Sooner or later they'll send out buses of their own. Listen, regarding Sherine and Dawkins, I'm not their friend, nor do I understand their evangelistic zeal for spreading atheism. The same fervor Ponce de Leon used to put into finding the fountain of life, these guys put into finding the fountain of death. No, I don't like the atheist bus campaign. But as a response to religionists threatening everyone with hellfire....well, suddenly I can empathize with them a little.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Salvation by Grace, Trinity, Hell, and so forth...

When I first began blogging about two years ago, I imagined that from whatever posts I wrote with a spiritual theme, about half would be directed toward the skeptic crowd and half aimed at the religionists. Like our Lord impaled between two thieves, Jehovah’s Witnesses are caught between two unsavory types. On the one side are the atheists who don’t like us because we are theists (an annoying word…..would you call a married man a wifeist?). On the other hand are the churches who also don’t like us because we fail to line up with their favorite doctrines.

In spite of my noble 50/50 intentions, I find myself writing 90/10 in response to a powerful Carolina force who’s name I will not mention but whose initials are Moristotle. A prolific commenter with boundless energy, he not only writes his blog but he also writes mine in that he plants ideas in my head - they swirl around, and gel into some post geared to something he’s brought up.

Now, this is not disagreeable to me, for I tire very quickly of fisticuffs with the religionists. Squabbling with someone over the trinity, for example, brings to mind that Monty Python scene with the Black Knight. You take off one arm; they keep charging you. You take off another; they don’t notice it. Take off a leg and it doesn’t faze them. Another leg and they keep on arguing, confident they’ve trapped you. You take your leave in disgust and they taunt you for being a coward. Look…almost all scriptures proving the Trinity are wordings that would instantly be recognized as metaphor or illustrative device in any other context, and you have to painstakingly go through every blasted one of them with the Trinitarian and then start at the first and do it all over again since nothing you said in the first place registered. Some people enjoy the exercise. More power to them. The field is theirs. As for me, if for some reason I’ve kept a car group waiting, upon my return I may say “I don’t believe I couldn’t get that person to see that Jesus and God are not the same.” You can see veins standing out on the necks of those waiting. “You kept us waiting all that time for the Trinity!?” they seem to be fuming.

Still, in an effort to respect my original Mission, here’s a few tidbits either from my blog or from exchanges I’ve had on other blogs. They've accumulated. They're too good for the dumpster yet too meager to merit a post of their own. So I'll present several together as a casserole. Perhaps I'll expand on some later.

One religious blogger takes issue with our stand on holidays. Most  holidays Jehovah’s Witness refrain from. Does that not border on child abuse? she suggests, recalling how eagerly she anticipated Santa. Yet in the next breath she worries that, deviating from Truth in this or that doctrinal way, surely I and mine are all apt to go to hell. There is not some incongruity here? Refraining from holidays is intolerable cruelty, but she has no problem with an all-powerful God who would hand someone over to be tortured forever and ever!

With a single exception, all instances of "hell" in English Bibles stem from one of three original language words (sheol, hades, gehenna) Find the meaning of those three words and you've found the meaning of hell. None of them refer to a place of eternal torment. A well known early Witness, Charles Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire."

 

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Salvation is by Grace, sir...that's the point. Religion cannot save, only Jesus does.

Well, of course, everyone knows that.

If "everyone knows" that salvation is by Grace, why does JW preach that you earn salvation by good works?

They don't. I think this accusation originates with people who do little or nothing in appreciation for Christ's free gift of life, yet want to feel morally superior to those who do. "Works" that Jehovah's Witnesses perform are in appreciation for that gift, and in obedience to Christ's command to "go and make disciples." (Matt 28:19) They do not imagine for one minute that they are "earning" everlasting life. The importance of Christian activity is supported by James 2:26: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” KJV

Only 144,000 are going to heaven, huh? No wonder you knock on so many doors! There are 7 million of you! That’s a lot of people to beat out so as to grab one of the heavenly spots.

Well....the premise is wrong here.

Jehovah's Witnesses are unique among Christian groups in that they entertain no hope of future heavenly life. Instead, they look forward to everlasting life on this earth when it is ruled over by God's Kingdom, the same Kingdom people familiarly know from the Lord's Prayer. Should we die before that Kingdom comes, our hope is to be resurrected to that paradise earth. God first put humans on earth. He didn't put them there because he wanted them somewhere else. Life on earth is not "second class." to us. It is God's original purpose for humans.

Kingdom rule over earth is not too far away, in our view, and Revelation 7:9-17 is now taking place. This passage tells of a great crowd of persons gathered from all "nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues" who would survive the "great tribulation" and live on into the "new order," life under Kingdom rule. Almost all of Jehovah's Witnesses claim to belong to this group. I do.

The Bible also speaks of a "sacred secret," (Colossians 1:26) a "secret" first made known to the early Christian congregation, that there would be some from humankind, a comparatively tiny number, who would share in this heavenly government. Their ultimate destiny would be in heaven, not on earth. Since this "secret" was made known shortly after Christ's resurrection, and there are only 144,000 of these who will serve as "kings and priests," very few of them are on earth today. Most, we maintain, have long since lived their lives and been resurrected to heavenly life.

I'd like to know where in the Bible it says to keep files on your members, or how about where it says that child abuse should only be reported to elders not the police, and while on that note, where does it say again that you should not support your country? I'm also certain the Bible doesn't tell us there is no hell or that Jesus should not be worshiped. And where exactly does it say that God is not a trinity? I'm really curious where the scripture is that backs up these rules.

 

I'd like to know where in the Bible it says to keep files on your members  [I’m not exactly sure what “files” this writer was referring to, but I took a stab, in view of the point she brought up next]

The policy of Jehovah's Witnesses is that a known child molester may never be appointed to any position of oversight. Plainly for such a policy to succeed, someone has to keep track, otherwise simply changing congregations would be enough to thwart it. Jehovah's Witnesses should not be criticized for this. Rather, you should criticize churches who do not care enough about protecting children to have done the same. A simple police background check is not enough. Many known molesters have never been convicted. Nor are police records necessarily reliable. A report from Toronto last week laments that, due to loopholes, only half of the province's convicted sex offenders appear on the national list.

or how about where it says that child abuse should only be reported to elders not the police

There is nothing to say congregation members can't call the police in cases of child abuse. Where do you get this from? If they choose to contact the elders first, or instead of, then the elders contact the police as required by law in New York, and I think all of the United States.

and while on that note, where does it say again that you should not support your country?

I'm not sure what the author means by that remark. Jehovah's Witnesses scrupulously obey laws, they diligently pay taxes, they stand for family values. Do those things not count as supporting your country? Or is he speaking of attitudes toward military ventures? At present this country is sharply divided over military policy. Does he feel one side or the other is not supporting the country? If so, which side?

I'm also certain the Bible doesn't tell us there is no hell

I've already answered this in my comment about the three original language words from which the English word hell is translated. None of them refer to a place of fiery torment. When you translate a word, you have to translate it according to its meaning, not according to what simply fits into your belief structure.

or that Jesus should not be worshiped. And where exactly does it say that God is not a trinity?

Since the Trinity goes against common sense, one would not expect the Bible to expressly deny it, any more than one would expect it to deny that the ground is really green cheese. Exactly the opposite. If the Trinity is true, one would expect the Bible to explicitly and unambiguously state it. It doesn't. The only verse that directly states the Trinity is found at 1 Jn 5:7 in the King James Bible. Virtually all modern Bibles have either removed or footnoted the verse, since it appears in no ancient manuscripts prior to the 6th century. In other words, it was inserted into the text, [!] most likely by someone intent on proving what the Bible otherwise does not say.

I'm really curious where the scripture is that backs up these rules.

There’s quite a few grousers who like to portray Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization of rules “enslaving” people. Two thoughts on this. First, there’s no question that we do adhere to standards as close as we can approximate to that of the first century Christians. No apology for this.   

But where someone presents a list of JW rules, and some of them seem too petty to believe, in general, they should not be believed. They are usually the result of some discussion in the Watchtower or Awake, sometimes decades old, sometimes mentioned only once, with no intention of proposing rules, but only food for thought. To be sure, we have some folks who take every suggestion found anywhere as a rule, as acknowedged in the July 1 1994 Watchtower:

An elder could think that in order to be theocratic, the brothers should obey all sorts of rules. Some elders have made rules out of suggestions given from time to time by “the faithful and discreet slave.”

Don’t such folk exist anywhere? From time to time, these ones are readjusted.

For example, from the Aug 1 1994 Watchtower:

Responsible brothers today are equally interested in reaching hearts. Thus, they avoid laying down arbitrary, inflexible rules or turning their personal viewpoints and opinions into law. (Compare Daniel 6:7-16.) From time to time, kindly reminders on such matters as dress and grooming may be appropriate and timely, but an elder may jeopardize his reputation as a reasonable man if he harps on such matters or tries to impose what are primarily reflections of his personal taste. Really, all in the congregation should avoid trying to control others.—Compare 2 Corinthians 1:24; Philippians 2:12.   (page 18)

Or from the Sept 1, 1996 Watchtower (page 23):

We can have faith that Jehovah God by means of his holy spirit will influence the hearts of true worshipers. Thus, mature Christians appeal to the hearts of their brothers, entreating them, as did the apostle Paul. (2 Corinthians 8:8; 10:1; Philemon 8, 9) Paul knew that it is mainly the unrighteous, not the righteous, who need detailed laws to keep them in line. (1 Timothy 1:9) He expressed, not suspicion or distrust, but faith in his brothers. To one congregation he wrote: “We have confidence in the Lord regarding you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:4) Paul’s faith, trust, and confidence surely did much to motivate those Christians. Elders and traveling overseers today have similar aims. How refreshing these faithful men are, as they lovingly shepherd the flock of God!

There! Now back to those pesky atheists.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Turning the Hose on Hell

To swelling crowds the shiek rails against “the traitor Souleiman Ghali” and called for jihad....holy war....against Israel and U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. He works the crowds to fever pitch. "Our killed ones are in paradise, and their killed ones are in hell!"

How come the really mean groups always believe in hell?

Is it that hell appeals to mean people? Isaac Asimov called hell "the drooling dream of a sadist" If unlimited retribution for limited wrongs [80-90 years at most, and that assumes you were an unmitiaged louse through and through] strikes a warm and fuzzy chord…..well, hell is your doctrine.

Or is it that the hell teaching makes people mean? After all, if God’s going to fry your enemy forever, why….what objection could there possibly be to getting a few licks in yourself?

Either way, there could be no finer a service to humanity than to put out the fire. Which is exactly what Charles Taze Russell did, Jehovah's Witnesses founder. In his lifetime he was known as the man who “turned the hose on hell and put out the fire.” Not that big of a deal now when only zealots take hell seriously, but a huge deal in the late 19th - early 20th century, when general society thought it axiomatic. Jehovah's Witnesses have never bought into the hell doctrine.

Putting out the fire is not so hard as one might imagine, at least from the Bible’s perspective. With a single exception, all instances of “hell” stem from only one of three original language words. Find the meaning of those words, and you’ve found the meaning of hell. Easier still, two of those words mean the same thing: the Hebrew “sheol” [Old Testament] is rendered into the Greek as “hades.” [New Testament]

For example, this scripture in the Old Testament [Hebrew]: “For you will not leave my soul in Sheol; you will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.”    (Ps 16:10)    is quoted this way in the New Testament [Greek]: “…because you will not leave my soul in Hades, neither will you allow your loyal one to see corruption.”    Acts 2:27

Both words simply mean the grave. Not the individual grave where this or that individual is buried, but the common grave that is waiting for all of us. There’s no distinction between good and bad…..all end up in sheol, or hades:

All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going   Eccl 9:10

This leaves only the third word: gehenna. All instances of hellfire stem from gehenna.

“And if ever your hand makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go off into gehenna, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot makes you stumble, cut it off; it is finer for you to enter into life lame than with two feet to be pitched into gehenna. And if your eye makes you stumble, throw it away; it is finer for you to enter one-eyed into the kingdom of God than with two eyes to be pitched into gehenna, where their maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.”       Mark 9:43-48

That doesn’t sound pleasant at all, does it? Still, it’s not because gehenna was a place of eternal torment. In fact, it was a garbage dump - in the valley surrounding Jerusalem. Fires were kept burning always. Worms crawled through the crud. Its history was more sordid still. It had once, centuries ago, been the location of child sacrifice:

And he [Ahaz] himself made sacrificial smoke in the valley of the son of Hinnom [Hebrew term, translated into Greek as gehenna] and proceeded to burn up his sons in the fire, according to the detestable things of the nations that Jehovah had driven out from before the sons of Israel.     2 Chron 28:3

In time, Jesus used gehenna...everyone knew what it was on account of garbage day.... as a symbol for persons so despicable that they might not merit a resurrection. Just heave their dead carcass into gehenna!

Three words…..sheol, hades, gehenna....and not one of them means eternal torture! Yet these are the three words which Bible translators render as “hell.” Some transations do so at every single instance. More frequently, they pick and choose, sometimes rendering the word hell, sometimes grave, sometimes death, pit, or what-have-you.   The New World Translation makes matters simple. Each time "sheol" occurs, NWT renders it sheol. Each time "hades" occurs, NWT renders it hades. "Gehenna" likewise transliterates to gehenna. This methodis so intrinsically honest one wonders why it is not more widespread. It makes hell easy to track, and when you do so, the fire promptly goes out!

To be sure, there are a few backeddies, fakes, fades, asterisks, and addendums, but nothing that changes the big picture, especially if you know not to take obvious metaphors literally.

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More here and here (second part)

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Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Isaac Asimov and Ignaz Semmelweis

I once worked with a girl named Casey who positively loved science fiction. In the context of other things, I mentioned the film I, Robot.

Oh, that was terrible! she said.

But as we kept talking, it turned out she had never seen it. Um...Casey, how do know it's terrible if you've never seen it? I asked. The answer was that she was a purist. She knew the movie did not follow Isaac Asimov's storyline, and that was enough for her!

For an Asimov purist, the movie would indeed be blasphemy. Asimov, who wrote literally almost all the time, having 500 books (written or edited) and 90,000 letters to his credit, with works in nine of the ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal system, penned the Foundation trilogy and the I, Robot series, both pillars among science fiction. His plotting was ingenious, and had he been able to empathetically sketch people as well as ideas, he might have gone down as one of literature's true greats. Alas, his characters are cardboard, like those TV characters who are freely interchangeable save for one or two superficial features: this one is mean, this one likes to eat, that one is a geek, etc. Too bad - for every other aspect of Asimov's writing is extraordinary.

Asimov was an atheist, but I always imagine that, if current atheists had been taught the Bible by Jehovah's Witnesses instead of the churches, they may not have turned atheist. It's probably not so but I dream it anyway. For example, in his last autobiographical book, Asimov observes that hell is "the drooling dream of a sadist" crudely affixed to an all-merciful God; if even human governments were willing to curtail cruel and unusual punishments, wondered Asimov, why would punishment in the afterlife not be restricted to a limited term.  [Wikipedia entry on Isaac Asimov] Yeah! Man, I wish he had heard first from Jehovah's Witnesses! Virtually alone among Christian faiths at the turn of the last century, Jehovah's Witnesses exposed hellfire for the vicious rubbish that it is. JW "founder" C. T. Russell was known in his lifetime as the man who "turned the hose on hell and put out the fire!"

At any rate, had he been a Witness, it would have benefited him personally. He died in 1992, of AIDS contracted from a life-saving blood transfusion nine years prior.

Still, I am grateful to Dr. Asimov, not only for the hours of intriguing science fiction he laid upon me, but also for his non-fiction works. Asimov's Guide to Science probably was my springboard to individual branches of science. If Asimov lacked in sketching fictional characters, he was gifted in sketching real ones. Not only the pillars, but also the buffoons, he succeeded in portraying the humanity of scientists. It is from him (Asimov's guide to Biology) that I first read of Ignaz Semmelweis, early advocate of antiseptic surgical practices and forerunner of germ theory.

In the mid 1800's, Semmelweis got it in his head that fever and death following doctor-assisted childbirth could be curtailed by washing hands and equipment frequently. Doctors back then would deliver a baby, having just emerged from an autopsy, only wiping their hands on their smocks! There were some sort of tiny "particles" contaminating the women, Semmelweis proposed. Doctors howled with laughter at such nonsense. Asimov's book vividly portrays Semmelweis' presenting his ideas at seminars, with his esteemed audience mocking him, hurling catcalls! Doctors argued that, even if Semmeweis' findings were correct, washing one's hands each time before treating a pregnant woman would be too much work. Semmelweis enforced strict antiseptic practices at the hospital under his supervision, cutting deaths to under 1%, and it made no difference in their attitude! Colleagues ridiculed him his entire life, he suffered a nervous breakdown and, says Asimov, died in an insane asylum tormented by memories of women screaming in their death-agonies following hospital-acquired infections. With Semmelweis out of the way, his own hospital went back to familiar practices and the mortality rate climbed to 35%.

You can read the bare facts in many places, but Asimov's account is the most vivid I have come across, remarkable in a book that purports only to be an outline, a "guide."

Whenever those atheists start prattling on about how scientists graciously change their views at the first hint they may be off-base, whereas it's only the pig-headed religionists who "stay the course" come hell or high water, I play the 'Semmelweis' card.

Athiest or not, I miss Isaac Asimov.

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Is Hell Exothermic or Endothermic?

In the aftermath of the Judge First - Ask Questions Later religious conference recently concluded in Martha’s Vineyard, Tom Whitepebble was so miffed that his organization did not win first prize that he neglected to report just who was the punk who did win. Subsequent fact-finding uncovered an amazing coincidence.

It was Tom Weedsandwheat, long-lost brother of eminent Whitepebble staffer, Tom Wheatandweeds!

This discovery helped take the edge off Whitepebble’s discontent, since it was kinda like keeping the prize in the family. As reported, Weedsandwheat’s paper decisively settled the issue of whether hell was endothermic or exothermic.

The paper, in part is reproduced here:

First, we postulate that if souls exist, then they must have some mass. If they do, then a mole of souls can also have a mass. So, at what rate are souls moving into hell and at what rate are souls leaving? I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.

As for souls entering hell, lets look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Some of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to hell. Since there are more than one of these religions and people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all people and all souls go to hell.

With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in hell to increase exponentially.

Now, we look at the rate of change in volume in hell. Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in hell to stay the same, the ratio of the mass of souls and volume needs to stay constant.

So, if hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter hell, then the temperature and pressure in hell will increase until all hell breaks loose.

Of course, if hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in hell, than the temperature and pressure will drop until hell freezes over.

It is important to note that, thus far, no new ground has been broken. Many researchers have taken the question to this point. But thereafter they were stymied. There seemed no way to choose between the two equally plausible alternatives.

Weedsandwheat’s breakthrough, which so wowed the judges, came from realizing that the answer could not be found by theology alone.  In a blinding flash of insight, he realized that an entirely separate field had to be examined, specifically, his own lovelife!

He reflected upon the fact that, ever since he began employment at his thinktank, he has been pestering a pretty, young co-worker to go on a date with him, only to have that co-worker reply that “it will be a cold day in hell before I go out with you.” Since, after several years, she has still not gone out with him, it became clear to Weedsandwheat that a cold day in hell was not in the cards, thereby ruling out one alternative to this great puzzle.

By process of elimination, it stands to reason that hell can only get hotter and hotter, hence, hell is exothermic!

It must be reported, though it detracts from the joy of the festive conference, that some of the sorehead and loser delegates were heard grumbling over Weedsandwheat winning the award. Hadn’t they heard this research somewhere before? Wasn’t this, in fact, blatant plagiarism?

Weedsandwheat held his ground. Plagiarism was an ugly word, he pointed out, carrying connotations of theft. He preferred to think of his work as recycling, which carries admirable connotations of saving the planet.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


At the Judge First - Ask Questions Later conference

Since the Whitepebble Research Institute derives a full 40% of its income from religious commissions, it behooves them to keep abreast of all recent developments in the field. Venues in which one may encounter rising talents, new ideas, and the latest research papers are therefore most desirable. One such avenue is the Judge First - Ask Questions Later religious conference, held annually in diverse locations. It is, for sure, a must-attend event.

True, Tom Sheepandgoats, the Whitepebble representative has not attended for years, ever since they awarded top prize to that schlocky rhyme about walking with Jesus, in which two footsteps are seen in the sand, that of the life-traveler and Jesus. But in some places there is just one set of footprints, and so the life-traveler accuses Jesus of leaving him….always during tough periods of his life…..but Jesus answers that, no, I did not abandon you…..during those times I carried you.

Not a dry eye or nose could be seen among the blubbering judges, but Whitepebble vowed in disgust not to return, since it seemed to him that the judges were turning the power of the gospel into so much sentimental slop.

This year, however, cash prizes were offered for original papers….always a sufficient motivation for Whitepebble to reexamine his principles. Moreover, with, not one, but two worthy entries….the Gospel of Howard, and Acts of the Pioneers……chances of snagging some of that dough seemed good.

This year’s conference was held at Martha’s Vineyard,IMG_0322
 at the
  Campground tabernacle,
between sessions of other events. IMG_0309
Delegates arrived in style from
far and wide. Unfortunately, the attached photograph turned out to be not conference delegates, as was initially reported, but merely local residents, who were nonetheless thrilled to host such a prestigious event in their hometown or ought to have been. IMG_0327Martha, at left, herself met us all at the gate to lay down the law:Aunt bea no carousing, no womanizing, no dancing, no card playing, no coveting, no bearing false witness. No using informal pronouns….thees and thous will do nicely.

It was a truly thrilling event. Competition for top prize in pure theology was intense. In the end, the winner ventured outside the traditional realm of theology, into chemistry, to prove a point that theology alone has never been able to answer definitively. By ingenious reasoning, it was proved that hell is not endothermic, as had long been supposed, but exothermic……that is, it absorbs heat over time, rather than shedding it. Whitepebble Institute's two entries both received honorable mention, so Whitepebble wasn’t too sore. Moreover, he was so impressed with the new research on hell that he abandoned his characteristic frugality and was heard to vow…..we have to get that kid on our staff…I don’t care what it costs, as long as it’s not too much!

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me           No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Who's Afraid of the Lake of Fire?

Disagree with a fundamentalist, and he may remind you of hellfire, much as a bully might remind you of his big Cousin Paulie. And if he really wants you to shake in your shoes, he reminds you of the Lake of Fire! But I’m not afraid of the Lake of Fire, and you don’t have to be either.

The Lake of Fire is found only one place in the Bible: Rev 20:10-15. (21st Century King James Version)

10And the devil who had deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

11And I saw a great white throne and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them.

12And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to their works.

14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Take the verses literally and you might worry, especially if you’ve been…..well….bad. Quite obviously, though, the verses are not literal.

If they were, then you’d have to explain how death (vs. 14) can be thrown into hell. Is death something you can torment (for ever and ever)? In fact, hell itself is thrown into the Lake of Fire. Hell thrown into hell, a prospect many find….awkward.

While we’re at it, we must also throw the Devil (vs. 10) into the Lake of Fire. But that doesn’t quite work either. Turns out that the Devil maintains a summer cottage on the Lake of Fire. He’s not bothered by it a bit. The hotter the better.

Fortunately, common sense can prevail, for verse 14 tells us what the Lake of Fire really is…..the second death. That is, death (or destruction), which is permanent, unlike the first death, from which one can be resurrected. Thus, being cast in the Lake of Fire simply means that, in the new system….God’s Kingdom rule over earth….death, hell (Greek: Hades, or the grave) and the Devil will be no more.

New writings apparently appear (vs. 12) in the new system….the existing Bible serves mainly to get us to that point. How will resurrected ones….those emptied from the grave…..respond? Some (vs. 15) will not respond well at all, and thus are added to the list of ones done away with permanently.

Yeah, but what about the Devil being tormented in the Lake of Fire (forever and ever)? What about that, Tom Sheepandgoats, hmmm?

Matthew 18:34 refers to jailers as  tormentors, presumably because that’s what they did. They were not nice. But the key thought is that they kept you out of circulation. (Matt 18:34  (KJV) And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.) So the Devil is jailed….kept inactive….out of circulation …in the Lake of Fire. (forever and ever)

See Rev 21: 4

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Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash