An Experiment That Is Hard On The Rats
“I would not for my life destroy one star of human hope, but I want it so that when a poor woman rocks the cradle and sings a lullaby to the dimpled darling, she will not be compelled to believe that ninety-nine chances in a hundred she is raising kindling wood for hell.”
* Robert Green Ingersoll, "How To Be Saved" (1880)
“If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant. I make my choice now. I despise that doctrine. It has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. It has polluted the hearts of children, and poisoned the imaginations of men.... What right have you, sir, Mr. clergyman, you, minister of the gospel to stand at the portals of the tomb, at the vestibule of eternity, and fill the future with horror and with fear? I do not believe this doctrine, neither do you. If you did, you could not sleep one moment. Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.”
* Robert Green Ingersoll, "The
There is a compelling logical to what Col. Ingersoll has written, at least for those of us who believe that God, Heaven and Hell exist. As a believer along Jewish lines, I do not reject the notion of judgment and purgatorial cleansing for some, and eternal punishment for “everlasting abhorrence” (Daniel 12:2).In looking over the biblical record (Hebrew scriptures - Tanakh) it is obvious that not only do most fall short of the Almighty’s righteous standards, but in most instances profoundly so.
There is repentance and forgiveness for missteps, yes, and the kipur (Atonement). But even so it is difficult to conclude but that most of us wind up in Hell (Gehenna), though for how long is debated (Learned Rabbis feel this is a purgation process that lasts on the order of several years at best.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_eschatology Christians generally believe that those in Hell are consigned there for a time then tossed into a “lake of fire” for eternity).
And to Ingersoll’s credit, yes, the realization is enough to drive one to distraction -- “insane”, as it were. And this even after one shifts through the ancient record and extracts truth from the obvious hodgepodge of human blunders, transpositions, interpolations, myths and such.
As I indicated in my brief essay, "Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory: Is God A Scientist? – I am inclined to believe that God is indeed conducting an experiment or series of experiments involving humankind. Guidelines and revelations are deduced, assumed and given – and then tests arise both naturally and from “without” to see how faithful, true, and loving we each are. For most us, our performance is surely a mixed bag; a mishmash of missteps and hits. I think, however, that by-and-large a hefty percentage of each generation has more of the former than the latter. We are the failures – so often derided by clerics and reminded that “broad is the way to destruction, and many are they who enter into it”.
While the experiment in-process seems to be coming out favorably in terms of the realization of God’s specific designs and desires for the nation of Israel and the people of the Covenant (Jews and Geirim), most of the world’s participants look to be falling way short of the proverbial mark. There will be (it would seem) incredible success, yes, but also profound failure. Success for the few and failure for the many.
Why bother setting in motion an experiment almost certain to send more folks to Hell than to Heaven? As I contend in “Rats in the Cosmic Laboratory”, this is no doubt due to the fact that God does not know the outcome (in advance) when it comes to individual choices. True enough. But an intellect as vast as His must have calculated the odds and known the general drift. And if not from the “get go”, then certainly by the time He had dealt with humankind for a few generations.
So with so much misery lying ahead
for so many – why did He not just terminate
the experiment? That is, before making promises to
All things considered, it seems highly probable that the biblical revelations that “can drive sane men mad” are part and parcel of the grand test; a component of the Almighty’s experimental design that helps automatically sort the “wheat from the chaff”. Revealing, yes, and possibly beneficial insofar as at least a few folks lost in the moral wasteland will take to heart biblical admonitions and make their way back onto the “straight and narrow”. But for the vast majority many clerics contend, the experiment ends for them in being consigned to some kind of purgatory or Hell. This may be very telling about moral choices and failings, but in the final analysis is definitely hard on the rats!
Offered for your thoughtful consideration by Dr. Anthony G. Payne
© 2005 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.
Things to wrestle with: