Hell is the Absence of God
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18-10-2016, 07:55 AM (This post was last modified: 18-10-2016 10:48 AM by Vera.)
Hell is the Absence of God
"It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beau¬tiful and interesting things about me.”, Fanny Crosby.

While I still find this as shudder-worthy, as when I first came across it, I think it would make the perfect epigraph for Ted Chiang’s Hell is the Absence of God, a rather interesting take on the mental gymnastics religious people have to resort to in order to explain why bad things happen to good people... as well as the infinitely worse ones of why good things have happened to them, because they are so special and beloved by the good lord above. I swear, I once heard someone tell the story of how they were in Indonesia at the time of the Xmas tsunami and because someone from their group had forgotten their towel, they had to go back to their hotel and were thus spared, praise the Lawd. Which she did – proudly and beyond repulsively thanked god for choosing her over the thousands who died (obviously, infinitely less deserving than her). As you can probably tell, I’m still pissed Dodgy

Figured the novelette might be appreciated here (or not Rolleyes )

“What did bother him was the tone of the meetings themselves, when participants spoke about their reaction to the visitation: most of them talked about their newfound devotion to God, and they tried to persuade the bereaved that they should feel the same.
[...]
Neil hoped Benny could say something to help him love God. Benny described Heaven's light as infinitely beautiful, a sight of such compelling majesty that it vanquished all doubts. It constituted incontrovertible proof that God should be loved, an explanation that made it as obvious as 1+1=2. Unfortunately, while Benny could offer many analogies for the effect of Heaven's light, he couldn't duplicate that effect with his own words. Those who were already devout found Benny's descriptions thrilling, but to Neil, they seemed frustratingly vague. So he looked elsewhere for counsel.

Accept the mystery, said the minister of the local church. If you can love God even though your questions go unanswered, you'll be the better for it.

Admit that you need Him, said the popular book of spiritual advice he bought. When you realize that self-sufficiency is an illusion, you'll be ready.

Submit yourself completely and utterly, said the preacher on the television.

Receiving torment is how you prove your love. Acceptance may not bring you relief in this life, but resistance will only worsen your punishment.

All of these strategies have proven successful for different individuals; any one of them, once internalized, can bring a person to devotion. But these are not always easy to adopt, and Neil was one who found them impossible.
[...]
Neil's reaction to such attempts at persuasion depended on who was making it. When it was an ordinary witness, he found it merely irritating. When someone who'd received a miracle cure told him to love God, he had to restrain an impulse to strangle the person. But what he found most disquieting of all was hearing the same suggestion from a man named Tony Crane; Tony's wife had died in the visitation too, and he now projected an air of groveling with his every movement. In hushed, tearful tones he explained how he had accepted his role as one of God's subjects, and he advised Neil to do likewise.

[...]
“Perhaps, he thought, it'd be better to live in a story where the righteous were rewarded and the sinners were punished, even if the criteria for righteousness and sinfulness eluded him, than to live in a reality where there was no justice at all. It would mean casting himself in the role of sinner, so it was hardly a comforting lie, but it offered one reward that his own ethics couldn't: believing it would reunite him with Sarah.”

There is a (supposedly good) movie based on another story by this guy, (seeing as it is both science fiction and about translation, I have no choice but to see it, of course Shy )


Of course, this is what hell really boils down to. Heart

“Is it necessary that Heaven should borrow its light from the glare of Hell?

Infinite punishment is infinite cruelty, endless injustice, immortal meanness. To worship an eternal gaoler hardens, debases, and pollutes even the vilest soul. While there is one sad and breaking heart in the universe, no good being can be perfectly happy.

Against the heartlessness of the Christian religion every grand and tender soul should enter solemn protest. The God of Hell should be held in loathing, contempt and scorn. A God who threatens eternal pain should be hated, not loved – cursed, not worshiped. A heaven presided over by such a God must be below the lowest hell. I want no part in any heaven in which the saved, the ransomed and redeemed will drown with shouts of joy the cries and sobs of hell – in which happiness will forget misery, where the tears of the lost only increase laughter and double bliss.

The idea of hell was born of ignorance, brutality, fear cowardice, and revenge. This idea testifies that our remote ancestors were the lowest beasts. Only from dens, lairs, and caves, only from mouths filled with cruel fangs, only from hearts of fear and hatred, only from the conscience of hunger and lust, only from the lowest and most debased could come this cruel, heartless and bestial of all dogmas.”

"E se non passa la tristezza con altri occhi la guarderò."
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18-10-2016, 09:49 AM
RE: Hell is the Absence of God
Thanks Vera. the 'like' button is a fine thing, but it does not really express the appreciation I often feel.
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18-10-2016, 10:47 AM
RE: Hell is the Absence of God
(18-10-2016 09:49 AM)skyking Wrote:  Thanks Vera. the 'like' button is a fine thing, but it does not really express the appreciation I often feel.

What are you trying to say - that a like button ain’t worth a thousands (or even several) words? Big Grin

And, it’s my pleasure. Sharing something you’ve enjoyed increases the enjoyment severalfold Shy

Which is why (and because it’s so topical it’s scary that it was written in the 90ies), I just have to mention the great Octavia E. Butler. Heart
Her Parables series feels so much like a depiction of this year’s US election (among other things), it’s hair-raisingly scary and unsettling.

(Sadly, she died before she could finish the series Sadcryface But the drafts for the sequels contain one of my most favourite quotes ever:
“There’s nothing new
under the sun,
but there are new suns.”


Here’s a description of one of the presidential candidates from the book. Sound familiar?

“So now we have another group that uses crosses and slaugh-ters people. Jarret's people could be behind it. Jarret insists on being a throwback to some earlier, "simpler" time. Now does not suit him. Religious tolerance does not suit him. The current state of the country does not suit him. He wants to take us all back to some magical time when everyone believed in the same God, worshipped him in the same way, and understood that their safety in the universe depended on completing the same religious rituals and stomping anyone who was different There was never such a time in this country. But these days when more than half the people in the country can't read at all, history is just one more vast unknown to them. Jarret supporters have been known, now and then, to form mobs and burn people at the stake for being witches. Witches! In 2032! A witch, in their view, tends to be a Moslem, a Jew, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or, in some parts of the country, a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, or even a Catholic. A witch may also be an atheist, a "cultist," or a well-to-do eccentric. Well-to-do eccentrics often have no protectors or much that's worth stealing. And "cultist" is a great catchall term for anyone who fits into no other large category, and yet doesn't quite match Jarret's version of Christianity.

As for the beatings, the tarring and feathering, and the destruction of "heathen houses of devil-worship," he has a simple answer: "Join us! Our doors are open to every nationality, every race! Leave your sinful past behind, and become one of us. Help us to make America great again."”

Also, her equally excellent Lilith’s Brood is apparently being made into a TV series. Not too sure how they’ll pull it off (and if it’s even possible), but I enjoyed the books immensely.

[Image: 23uyaog.jpg]

"E se non passa la tristezza con altri occhi la guarderò."
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09-11-2016, 10:12 AM
RE: Hell is the Absence of God
With the damage to the fight against climate change that this random muddy dirt pig of pointless snort grunt and orange shout chief of massive nonsense fluff wig is bound to cause, Octavia Butler’s Parables are getting frightfully close to coming literally true. Undecided

“When apparent stability disintegrates.
As it must
People tend to give in
To fear and depression,
To need and greed.
When no influence is strong enough
To unify people
They divide.
They struggle,
One against one,
Group against group,
For survival, position, power.
They remember old hates and generate new ones,
They create chaos and nurture it.
They kill and kill and kill,
Until they are exhausted and destroyed,
Until they are conquered by outside forces,
Or until one of them becomes
A leader
Most will follow,
Or a tyrant
Most fear.”

[Image: octavia-butler-440747.jpg]

"E se non passa la tristezza con altri occhi la guarderò."
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14-12-2016, 09:07 AM
RE: Hell is the Absence of God
Just when I thought I couldn’t despise C.S. Lewis any more (and trust me, he's the epitome of most of what I abhor about Xtianity. Not to mention that his "brilliant" apologetics, so beloved of so many of the more desperate Xtians, is beyond laughable and how anyone with more than a couple of brain cells can actually take him seriously is beyond me (found him ridiculous even when I myself was still under the influence), I come across this:

“There is no such thing as a sum of suffering, for no one suffers it. When we have reached the maximum that a single person can suffer, we have, no doubt, reached something very horrible, but we have reached all the suffering there ever can be in the universe. The addition of a million fellow-sufferers adds no more pain” or, as Annie Dillard bluntly paraphrases it: The sum of human suffering we needn’t worry about: There is plenty of suffering, but no one ever suffers the sum of it.

So it’s a-OK than. Dodgy What an abhorrent and vile human being that man must have been.


(All this started after, having finally read everything Ted Chiang has ever written (I might’ve been savouring it Rolleyes ), I read his story notes, too (and they’re just as brilliant), where he mentions a rather interesting Annie Dillard quote: “Perhaps I was subconsciously thinking of Annie Dillard. Later on I remembered she once wrote that if people had more belief, they'd wear crash helmets when attending church and lash themselves to the pews.


The rest of the stories are equally brilliant, diverse and unexpected Heart

“I hope you are not saddened by that awareness. I hope that your expedition was more than a search for other universes to use as reservoirs. I hope that you were motivated by a desire for knowledge, a yearning to see what can arise from a universe’s exhalation. Because even if a universe’s lifespan is calculable, the variety of life that is generated within it is not. The buildings we have erected, the art and music and verse we have composed, the very lives we’ve led: None of them could have been predicted, because none of them were inevitable. Our universe might have slid into equilibrium emitting nothing more than a quiet hiss. The fact that it spawned such plenitude is a miracle, one that is matched only by your universe giving rise to you.

Though I am long dead as you read this, explorer, I offer to you a valediction. Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so. I feel I have the right to tell you this because, as I am inscribing these words, I am doing the same.”


“Nothing erases the past. There is repentance, there is atonement, and there is forgiveness. That is all, but that is enough.”

(For the record (and no offence Johnny ;-)), turns out I am not going to be seeing Arrival after all. I have zero interest in watching a brilliant and imaginative idea turned into standard, ‘Mericans-good-Chinese-bad, time-travelling fare, complete with a romantic subplot (with an immensely unlikeable actor, at that). But above all, after more than a couple of months I still feel like Villeneuve’s puked in my brain and that was after a measly twenty minutes of that affront to human intelligence, Prisoners. Luckily for me, twenty minutes of that bilge and a “brilliant” quote by that joke of an actor, Hugh Jackman (‘I’m a Christian’ and I dedicate every performance to God Facepalm ), were enough to tell me I should turn it off and run for my life (and sanity)

But mostly, I needed to rant about C.S. Lewis, tbh Rolleyes

"E se non passa la tristezza con altri occhi la guarderò."
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14-12-2016, 06:53 PM
Hell is the Absence of God
Then it is certainly true what they say, hell is other people.

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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15-12-2016, 04:25 AM
RE: Hell is the Absence of God
(14-12-2016 06:53 PM)ClydeLee Wrote:  Then it is certainly true what they say, hell is other people.

... often, projected as their "god" Undecided

Not, however, according to T.S. Eliot (and Girly ;-)):

“What is hell? Hell is oneself.
Hell is alone, the other figures in it
Merely projections. There is nothing to escape from
And nothing to escape to. One is always alone.”


Me, I think I'm with Ingersoll, heart and (non-existent) soul. And with Issa...

“Never forget:
we walk on hell,
gazing at flowers.”

"E se non passa la tristezza con altri occhi la guarderò."
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