Recently I watched a video of an Ohio State University student challenging Christian apologist, Frank Turek, during an open forum. The girl, an atheist, asked one question and posed it very simply for added effect, “Am I going to hell?”
If you don’t believe in God then logically you don’t believe in hell either. Why then does an atheist who doesn’t believe in hell ask if they are going there? For instance I would never ask a Hindu if I am to be reincarnated after death because I don’t believe it is true though their religion teaches it is so. Likewise this girl, if she were truly an atheist, didn’t believe she would go to hell when she died.
The real reason she asked Frank Turek that question was because she knew according to the Christian belief that if she didn’t believe in Christ that yes, she would go to hell and she wanted everyone in the room to hear Turek condemn her. This question is an obvious and sometimes effective technique that atheists use to undermine the Christian faith. The “Am I going to hell?” question is designed to expose God as cruel and merciless and convince Christians or at least agnostics still on the fence, that they shouldn’t worship a God that condemns you to eternal damnation.
The fact is that answering such a question forces you to play God. How could Turek or anyone else decide her afterlife any more than they could determine whether she would get cancer, win the lottery or die in a plane crash? Atheists and other non-believers such as Muslims are converting to Christianity every day. She could very well have a religious experience and become a devout Christian before her death. Frank Turek’s responsibility was not to condemn her.
Now I know what you are thinking. My response is a cop out and I’m dancing around the question. Here’s the real answer then; you have a choice. God has given you the free will to choose to be with him or not be with him. You aren’t a robot. He won’t flick that cigarette from your mouth before you take a drag. He won’t pour out all your liquor bottles before your next party. He won’t pluck you in the back of the head every time you lie. He won’t throw a bucket of cold water on you every time you are about to have sex outside of marriage. He won’t crash your computer every time you choose to view an objectionable site and no he does not block your hand should you throw it in anger. Similarly he won’t force you into his presence glorious though it is. Perhaps one could argue that the immense amount of free will God grants us is one reason why so many doubt his existence. This is a question worth exploring later.
For now I will give the most simplistic answer possible. God won’t force you to go to the party with him and choosing not to believe in him doesn’t remove heaven or hell from the equation. When your body dies you are going somewhere and where that is, is your choice.
To me, the many terrible things in this world that atheists blame God for are the very things from which he wishes to remove them. I wonder if they truly don’t believe in God or if they are just angry with him?