I argue that the notion of eternal conscious torment (ECT) leads to absurdities, and that theists can easily avoid these absurdities by abandoning ECT. For example, a believer in ECT must defend the following proposition: “A perfectly good, merciful, just, and loving God superintends the eternal conscious torment of human beings.” This proposition is incoherent simply in virtue of the meaning of those words. (The word “superintend” implies responsibility without suggesting that God is directly involved in the minutia of operations.) If a being oversees the eternal torment of humans, that being is not perfectly loving, good, merciful, or just. But these divine attributes are far more central to theism than ECT. Since ECT leads to conflicts with core aspects of theism, and since ECT is not itself a core aspect of theism, theists should not believe ECT.
So, either God doesn’t exist, and there isn’t anything to worry about; or God exists, and we shouldn’t fear eternal conscious torment precisely because the God of theism exists. If God’s nature is anything like theists have traditionally affirmed – good, merciful, just, and loving – eternal conscious torment is not a feature of the world.
Whether atheists or theists are right, there is no reason to be afraid of eternal conscious torment.
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Music by ichika Nito & Whalers. Used with permission.