It may be surprising in this day and age that substantial majorities of rank and file Muslims
alike cling still to the conception of a literal burning Hell
, where sinners
eternally suffer actual physical sensations of immolation
, and perhaps various other demon
. Some even maintain, still, that this pit of torment is physically geographically located somewhere under the surface of the Earth, perhaps in its molten core
. But it is more popular these days amongst the intellectual
classes of Christianity -- and specifically in Roman Catholic doctrine
-- to frame their theology
of eternal punishment
of sinners and nonbelievers not in terms of a physical Hell, but simply as a state of being constituting a "separation" from the divine, a kind of eternal angsty lonesomeness
. This separation is framed as a consequence of the individual's rejection
of God, essentially as God honouring that person's choice to not spend eternity associated with it. Although such a proposition is logically far more defensible than pilfered Bronze Age
imaginings of an eternal period of torment in flames under the Earth
, there remain some conceptual problems with this contention.
Our Creator, as a superhumongous broccoli banquet
Now I happen to love broccoli
, but I am keenly aware that the are those who despise it. Suppose we had before us five beings, two are broccoli lovers, two a broccoli haters, and the fifth is a judging-type deity. And suppose such deity intoned that because of their behavior, one each of the broccoli lovers and haters had behaved rightly and was to be delivered to an infinite reward, and one each of them had behaved wrongfully and would experience an infinite punishment -- and suppose this reward was an infinite banquet of broccoli. And, the punishment was an eternal deprivation of broccoli. So on death, the four people to be judged discover that 'God' itself is like a personified superhumongous broccoli banquet
, and that theists get to spend eternity eating broccoli. This then is a win for the theist broccoli lover, and the atheist broccoli hater. The theist broccoli hater is stuck eating broccoli for eternity. The atheist broccoli lover is stuck without it.
It may be that God is so incomprehensible to man that to claim that an afterlife of isolation from it would be akin to denial from the diet of something no one would eat -- an eternal cuttlefish
-- or of something not even recognizable as food in the first place -- an eternity of eating nothing but a paste of finely ground gold
, for example, or of eating pure magnetism -- which to the average man might sound at the same time extravagant and unappetizing. And, naturally, if the punishment is isolation from God itself (and nothing more), then the atheist essentially comes out of the bargain lacking an association that he had never valued in the first place.
Inseparability from the inseparable
But then there is a problem with the omnipresence
attributed to God. If there is a God who indeed fits these typically recounted qualities, then it is actually literally impossible for a person to be at all separated from such deity. A person might feel
as if they were so separated, but would have to, upon reflection, know that either they were naetheless in constant contact with the God from whom separation was supposed, or that this God was in fact not omnipresent, not omniscient, and so not 'God' after all. Simply put, a person could not be aware that an omniscient God exists and without at the same time knowing that such being was always with
that person; and so it is knowledge of the existence of an omniscient being which, in essence, makes one be
with that being.
And upon even deeper reflection an even more substantial issue arises, that being the sustenance of all things in any metaphysical form. For the continued existence of sense of a meaningful personal existence -- as a soul
, apart from the body -- would be a miraculous thing; and the sustainment of that condition for even hours or days, much less millennia or an eternity, would be an even greater miracle in its triumph
. And so, if we discover ourselves existing 'after death' at all, it is necessarily because some entity with sufficient power
is bothering to busy itself with the task of our postmortem sustenance. Hence, we can not then be separate from our Creator, because we would exist entirely as a product of our Creator's continued willing of our existence. Even if men were stripped of their faculties in some afterlife and became unaware that this was so, it would still necessarily be the underlying case. To return momentarily to our earlier example, it is as though everything that exists after death is
broccoli, that the wandering spirit of the unbeliever is made of
broccoli, and yet we insist that this spirit has no contact whatsoever with broccoli.
Which brings us roundly to the theological model proposed by Pandeism
(and to a lesser extent Pantheism
generally), and some other variations within that realm of thought. Remembering that we are at bottom made up of electrons and protons and neutrons, and the charges and forces which sustain them, Pandeism proposes that our Universe exists at all because our Creator became it, chose to spend a Universe's lifetime
existing as it for the propose of experiencing existence through it. And if this be the case, than two points flow therefrom. Firstly, that our sustainment now is every bit as miraculous and intercessory as any postmortem sustainment would or could be. And secondly, that we can never be 'separate' from our Creator, because we are, then, of
our Creator, fragments of an All in which we are already eternally bound up.