D&D Alignment and the “Big Six” Moral Values

This is another of my responses to Saving the Game’s alignment series they are currently producing (and still will be producing when this post drops). I added that link in here so you can find them, and so maybe they see the pingback and read this article 🙂

Briefly, a moral philosopher named Jonathan Haidt is a proponent of what is sometimes known as the “Big Five” moral values as a way to understand why, for example, liberals and conservatives can have strong moral intuitions that do not seem to overlap. It is kind of like D&D alignments, but for actual people. Those Big Five are Authority and Tradition, Care and Compassion, Fairness and Justice, Loyalty, and Purity. To those five some have added a sixth, Liberty, and I’ll be keeping that change, resulting in a Big Six.

There is a lot more to this conversation, and a good place to start is Haidt’s TED Talk about why conservatives and liberals seem to see moral questions so differently:

<div style=”max-width:854px”><div style=”position:relative;height:0;padding-bottom:56.25%”>https://embed.ted.com/talks/lang/en/jonathan_haidt_the_moral_roots_of_liberals_and_conservatives</div></div>

All that being said, what I would like to do in thinking about alignment in D&D and similar games is to look at the Big Six and see if they can map onto D&D-style alignment in any interesting ways. (If you want to see the Big Six used as an alignment system in an OSR game, check out my own Iron Pax hack on DriveThru) Let’s take a look at how they might map to 5E’s standard alignments:

Authority & Tradition : Lawful

This first one is kind of a gimme. Clearly, if a character values authority and tradition highly, then they are going to lean toward a Lawful alignment of some kind. Of course, this could easily be Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, or Lawful Evil, depending on the traditions in question and how they are interpreted.

Care & Compassion : Good

This one also seems straightforward. If a character values care and compassion for others, it is hard to argue that they would be other than Good in alignment. If they were only concerned for people in their own in-group, then that would coincide with Loyalty. If they were only interested in caring for those who deserved it, that would lean more toward Fairness & Justice.

We can also immediately see how these alignments could be combined. Just from the first two, if someone interprets the Authority & Tradition of their culture in a way that prioritizes Care & Compassion, we could easily call that Lawful Good. Part of my point here is, isn’t it more interesting to take an in-depth look at what these alignments mean, beyond just “Lawful” or “Good”? I think that using more robust moral language is a way to deepen alignment and make it a more interesting rule, or even just a more interesting roleplaying guide. But I’ve said plenty about that before, and I digress.

Fairness & Justice : Lawful or Neutral

I can see Fairness & Justice being interpreted either in terms of legality or impartiality. If someone sees Fairness & Justice as applying the law to everyone equally, I think that this would indicate what we usually mean by Lawful. If, on the other hand, they see this as someone being impartial, that is, judging situations and people on even terms without preference for one group or another, then that would in my mind tend more toward the Neutrality. Is justice judging everything dispassionately on its merits? Or is justice judging everything according to the same laws or standards? The difference isn’t a huge one, but I think it’s noteworthy, in terms of the stance being ‘I am applying these rules to everything’ compared to ‘I consider everything on its own merits.’ I think that both could be interpretations of Fairness & Justice.

Liberty : Chaotic

Liberty was added by others to Haidt’s moral system, and I think it makes a lot of sense as the ‘sixth.’ And connecting Liberty to Chaotic alignments fits with my experience of people who play Chaotic alignments in game – what they seem to want more than anything else is no one telling them what to do. They want to function without an external standard to which they need to adhere. (That’s the best of it, anyway. Certainly there are players who play any given alignment to be jerks, but just don’t game with them)

Normally Chaotic isn’t so much a desire for chaos for its own sake, but rather a desire for freedom, which fits the moral value of Liberty perfectly I think. We can also see how some of these moral values overlap and others do not, or at least not as well. It is harder to imagine someone valuing both Liberty and Authority & Tradition, for example, though not impossible. I suppose that character would end up being a complicated version of Neutral – but I can think if people I’ve met who seem to value both. The classic rural family that has traditional values but also wants to be left to their own devices comes to mind – values/small government voters in the US. For me it is easier to imagine where Liberty and Care & Compassion overlap – I want to care for people, but in my own way and on my own terms. Chaotic Good.

Loyalty : Lawful

Here I think of Valerie in the Pathfinder: Kingmaker computer game (which I’m currently playing and is a great game). Her alignment is Lawful Neutral, and I think they did a great job with her character. Her comments on your choices are always in terms of loyalty and duty – not cruel, but not particularly compassionate either. After you become the baron of the Stolen Lands, she is continually reminding you of your duty as a ruler and your duty to your people over everything else. But even when she disagrees with your decisions, her loyalty remains.

When I think of the moral value of Loyalty, I think of the “My country love it or leave it” types in the United States. Patriotism is to a large degree composed of Loyalty. It is a sense that “these are my people”, almost a pack mentality in a way. This is also one of the moral values that I can easily see sliding into Evil, depending on to whom you are loyal, and how you live that loyalty out. Where Care & Compassion as a primary value could just make you vulnerable and idealistic, I could easily see where Loyalty as a primary value could be turned to evil ends.

Purity : Good, or Neutral, or Evil

Purity is interesting – there is a whole sub-category of disgust psychology that I find fascinating. As always, I recommend for Christians the book Unclean by Richard Beck. Really for anyone, but for Christians in particular, as that is his approach.

Disgust is powerful – it comes to mind that pretty much every genocide that has ever occurred has largely been motivated by Purity-style rhetoric and thinking. Even the name we use, “ethnic cleansing” (a term I dislike), has echoes of Purity and cleanliness to it. Think of films like The Purge for another example of how Purity can be bent toward evil quite readily. “Purity culture” is an example of the damaging influence this value can have in Evangelical Christianity, in the United States at least.

Though valuing purity might also motivate a Jain practitioner to adhere to nonviolence and veganism, for example, or a Shinto priest to diligently serve their community, in the real world. It depends on how one defines what, or whom, is unclean. And, basically, if you are defining any person as unclean, you’re flirting with evil right there in my view. That’s why I say that Purity as a value could map to Good (vegan pacifists), Neutral (cleansing ancestral shrines) or Evil (genocide) quite readily.

Alright, this is a first-thought type of post. What do you think? What did I miss? Would you, like me, prefer to use the Big Six in place of the classic D&D alignments?

Genius Advice for Mega-Rich Douchebags

Hi Mega-Rich Douchebags

You don’t wanna be kind and generous and reasonable, changing the world for the better quietly and doing what’s right for it’s own sake. You’re a moron, and  you want to be Batman. Well, you can’t be Batman. No one gets to be Batman, not even Batman.

But it’s even worse. People think you’re a piece of shit just because you’re a mega-rich douchebag. They look at your nesting-doll yacht-within-a-yacht and think “What in God’s name is wrong with you!?” What a bunch of complainers. Can’t they find their bootstraps? So now you’re super sad and money is causing you all of these problems, and you’re too stupid to just give the money away which is guaranteed to bring you joy and satisfaction. You want some ROI, some bang for your beaucoup bucks.

Well, I’ve got your back. I’m going to make you famous. Famouser.

Famousest.

Genius Advice

Instead of being famous for being a mega-rich douchebag, you could be famous or being a hero. Instead of the guillotine, you could have standing ovations in your near future my friend. And you can do this without having the slightest impact on your quality of life. Watch as competing mega-rich douchebags writhe with jealousy on their nesting-doll yachts while you earn the acclaim of millions of plebs and mensch. Let the salt of the earth enhance the flavor of your lifestyle!

You Can End Malaria

It costs about $20 to send a mosquito net to a third world location, and a whole family can sleep under that net. This does a huge amount to prevent them from contracting malaria, which kills almost 2 million people a year, and also protects them from things like dengue fever and any number of other tropical, insect-borne diseases.

According to the CDC, about 216 million malaria cases occurred in 2016, so let’s do some math. 216 million times 20 bucks equals about $4.32 billion dollars, give or take millions of dollars.

According to Forbes, there are 2,153 billionaires in the world with a combined wealth of 8.7 trillion dollars. (I just threw up in my mouth a little) So, for about 1/2000th of that wealth, you could end malaria on Earth, saving millions of lives a year. Some of you could end malaria by yourselves, right now, and still have billions of dollars left over.

Can you imagine how many guillotines you would not be dragged to if you did that?

People Need Water

According to UNICEF and others, the highest estimate of the cost to provide clean water to every human being on Earth is $175 billion, and it could be as low as $10 billion. But let’s go with the higher number. About a third of people on earth do not have access to clean water, and it causes…literally innumerable health problems, immeasurable suffering, millions of needless deaths, etc.

Where you mega-rich douchebags could collectively end malaria 2,000 times over, you would only be able to provide clean water to every human being on Earth about 50 times over.

So for 1/50th of your collective wealth, 1/3 of all humans living on Earth would owe you their lives. After that, you still have 98% of your wealth, as well as the undying gratitude of pretty much every person ever to live. Not a bad ROI if you ask me, mega-rich douchebags.

End Medical Debt

This one is local, to the mere 585 billionaires who are citizens of the United States. As you may know, crushing medical debt is a huge driver of bankruptcy in the United States, and all over the country people are making daily health decisions driven by the fear of debt rather than on their own merits. It’s a big enough issue that it comes up in pretty much every Presidential debate. Remember Obamacare? That sure took a lot of attention, didn’t it? That’s in many ways because of medical debt, which drives maybe 800,000 people into bankruptcy each year (again, the numbers are hard to nail down).

The total wealth of all US billionaires is somewhere around 2.2 trillion dollars. The total of medical debt in the US is difficult to figure out, though 49.2 million Americans were in medical debt themselves as of 2017. The good news is that, because of the system that you mega-rich douchebags have created, it is possible to buy other people’s medical debts and cancel them. And because the system is entirely created to benefit investors and punish debtors (Isn’t it always? Am I right? High five!) you can buy that medical debt for about 5 to 10 cents on the dollar.

So, if you really wanted to go out with a bang, you could cancel 22 trillion dollars of medical debt, or almost $70,000 for every American man, woman and child. Of course that’s way more than they’re likely to have, so we can tone it down. Let’s say you put a tithe (10% you heathens) toward cancelling medical debt – that would still cancel far more medical debt than currently exists in the US. Even 1% of your wealth put to debt cancellation would enable you to cancel a minimum of $220 billion of medical debt and possibly up to $440 billion. And, come on. You can’t tell me you’d feel a 1% loss. (For a sense of scale, that’s half of the entire Pentagon budget and, again, only 1% of your wealth)

The Point

Look, mega-rich douchebags – we only admire you when you’re looking. The overwhelming majority of us think you are all pieces of garbage who are hoarding resources that any idiot could find better ways to use. We see the fleet of Lambos and then the starving children and think, deep down in our guts, fuck you.

So this is some genius advice for you – you could spend just a fraction of your wealth and change the world for the better.

And if you don’t, then our worst opinions about you are completely true, and every fall of a guillotine blade will be justified. Shunk! You could have ended malaria, but didn’t. Shunk! You could have rescued millions from misery, but didn’t. Shunk! You hoarded resources and made the world worse and there’s no justification. Shunk!

Your move, douchebags.

If you would like to find out my secret methods for avoiding the guillotine and clearing the miasma of greed that chokes you even now, I offer a full suite of consulting services for only 0.1% of 1 billion dollars. A steal!

Thanos: The Apocalypse of Unprocessed Grief

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Thanos’s Core Grief

From the very beginning, Thanos’s plan seemed ridiculous to me. It was a significant hurdle for me to get over to get into the story of Avengers: Infinity War. Ultimately I did, of course, because it’s an amazing movie, and you have to get over logical problems to enjoy any superhero movie. I thought, OK, fine. They can’t just have Thanos want to kill trillions to impress Death, so I guess this is another reason. Balance in the universe. Whatever. Still a great movie.

Something struck me, though, when on Vormir Thanos said this: “I have ignored my destiny once. I will not do it again, even for you,” right before he murders his child for power. Then, it sealed the deal when Thanos explains what happened to Titan to Doctor Strange. His half-genocidal plan wasn’t listened to, and then somehow having a lack of food completely destroyed his planet and…killed everyone there? Ruined gravity? Again, don’t look too closely.

What struck me was that Thanos’s irrational plan was a lot like a lot of our irrational actions – it was rooted in unaddressed grief.

Thanos’s Grandiose, Idiotic Plan

Thanos’s plan is stupid. It’s the kind of stupid that is very human – he is fully able to rationalize it, but is unable to realize how irrational it actually is. Significant time is given, in Infinity War, to rationalizing Thanos’s plan. Apparently murdering half of the poeple on Gamora’s homeworld turned it into a paradise where everything is great. (I take this to be Thanos deluding himself, but it’s presented as a fact) After all, he’s been doing this to planets for what seems to be years. He has a whole system – the Maw even has a monologue.

In Endgame, we see a much more accurate depiction of the aftermath of such a horrific act. A whole planet, traumatized. That’s what Thanos’s plan does – it spreads trauma throughout the universe, multiplies his grief by Infinity. Thanos’s most human attribute is that he is so able to rationalize what he is doing, despite the pointless suffering it inflicts on others, and the fact that his grand plan will solve precisely zero of the problems he says he wants to solve.

Thanos Inflicting His Grief on the Universe

Thanos, driven by his own grief, is trapped in a cycle of inflicting grief on everyone around him. Whether it is his tortured “children” like Gamora or Nebula, or…every living thing in the universe.

“Hurt people hurt people”, and because Thanos refuses to have his hurt end with him, he ends up inflicting that hurt on everyone around him one way or another – mostly through genocide and torture, since he’s a supervillain, but in all of his relationships, in all of his plans, this hurt will be reiterated. On a smaller scale, this is something anyone could fall into, Mad Titan or no. Whatever hurt we don’t deal with on our own, we export. What we don’t come to terms with, we inflict on others, intentionally or not.

As a way to solve problems and achieve cosmic balance, Thanos’s plan is terrible. But as a very human character inflicting his pain on others, Thanos isn’t even unusual.

Don’t Be Thanos

I’m not an expert on grief – find a therapist. Talk to people you trust. Just commit to processing your own grief. Figure out the cycles that repeat in your life and change them. I’m saying as a geek who thinks that we can look to Thanos as an emblematic example of how, in Jung’s words,

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

Or, in Thanos’s case, “I am inevitable.” He’s right, but not for the cosmic reasons he thinks. He’s inevitable because he is failing to take responsibility for himself, and ends up inevitably inflicting his grief on everyone else.

This Christmas, Baby Jesus Is Being Raped In A U.S. Concentration Camp

Matthew 2:13-23

13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 Then Joseph[a] got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”

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Mathew 25:31-33;41-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Let’s Be Clear

This Christmas, Jesus is being raped in a United States concentration camp. His parents came to the Untied States’ southern border, seeking asylum as protected by US and international law. They were captured, their child taken from them, and they were locked in cages in separate concentration camps. Presently in that concentration camp, held in cages with 15,000 other children taken from their parents, Jesus is being sexually abused by concentration camp staff. Mary and Joseph, panicked and sobbing and despairing of ever seeing their child again, are locked in cages a thousand miles away. There is no plan to release them, and there is no plan to reunite them with their traumatized son. He was taken as a baby, and does not speak English, and there are no careful records being kept, so it is unlikely he will ever see his parents again.

This. Is. WhoWe. Are. Now.

If you take the Bible seriously, then this is the conclusion you must come to. Why? For the first reason, which is that the Holy Family fled to Egypt seeking asylum when their lives were in danger, and for the second reason, which is that Jesus says very clearly that how we treat the least among us is how we treat him. There are complex interpretive challenges when reading the Bible, but this is not one of them. This one is simple.

As I write this, filled with rage and disgust that has grown beyond words, I find that I have nothing else to say.

Merry Christmas.

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Tear Down Every Confederate Monument

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Why Tear Them Down?

There are so many reasons to tear them down. They were erected primarily to intimidate black people in the South. Monuments went up at times we can best understand by looking not at the history of the Civil War but at the history of the Civil Rights struggle in the South. Preserving them has nothing to do with preserving history – books exist, and there is no chance of erasing the Civil War from American history, which is something that precisely no one wants to do. Confederate monuments do not preserve history, but they do seek to preserve white supremacy.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center studied Confederate monuments and concluded that they are overwhelmingly placed in order to support white supremacy. 

Who is defending them? We have recently seen in Charlottesville and elsewhere that Nazis, the KKK and other white supremacist terrorist groups are the ones literally up in arms defending the Confederate legacy. Those are the people who are stepping up to defend these monuments – all the more reason to tear them down. Nazi support alone is a reason not to do something, and if we find symbols that Nazis and the KKK feel they can rally around, we should tear down those symbols and replace them with symbols that, ideally, Nazis and the KKK will detest.

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The South Has A Lot to Be Proud Of

Maybe it’s hard, sometimes, for some Southerners to find things to be proud of, but I think that’s only because a significant number of them insist on trying to be proud of the Confederacy. It’s like a Robert DeNiro fan insisting on being a fan of The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, or insisting that Ben Kingsley’s greatest film was The Love Guru. The same people who decry participation trophies seem to desperately want to erect monuments to that time they were on the wrong side of history and lost a war. I have a lot of family in the South, and they don’t have to dig around for something to be proud of, nor do they need Nazis and white supremacists to tell them about their heritage. 

The Right Side of History

Most of the people who risked the most, fighting on the right side of history during the Civil Rights Movement, were Southerners. All Southerners can be proud of what black Southerners have fought for and achieved, and of the white Southerners who marched and fought beside them. But the people who showed the greatest courage, and fortitude, and restraint, and who achieved the most progress in the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s were Southerners. Where do you think they learned the values that carried them through that struggle? Where did they learn to fight like that?

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American Music

American music has largely been defined by the South. Jazz, blues, bluegrass, country, folk, gospel and rock music all originated primarily in the South. While hip-hop originated in New York and LA, multiple strands and sub-genres have developed in the South. Most of the music we hear every day would not exist without Southern artists, and that has been true for at least a century.

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Natural Beauty

The South includes places of incredible natural beauty. The Gulf coast, the Ozarks and Appalachian mountains, the Florida Keys, the barrier islands of the Atlantic coast, Daniel Boone National Forest, the bayous and waterways of Louisiana, the Craggy Gardens of North Carolina, and more. The South is beautiful, whether you like historic places or natural beauty. If we made more of these beautiful places into state or national monuments, it would also protect them for generations to come.

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Writers and Storytellers

Many of the best American writers and storytellers have been, and are, Southerners. You might think of William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor, or more recently Cormac McCarthy. We could be here all day listing great Southern writers, and the novels that many consider to be “great American novels” are largely representative of the South as well. In many ways, the voice of American storytelling is a Southern voice.

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Tear Them Down and Replace Them

Of course people in other parts of the country have things to be proud of as well. They have music and art and natural beauty and their own history of struggle. That isn’t the point. The point is that the South does not need Nazis and the KKK and other white supremacist bigots to tell them what to be proud of. They don’t need white supremacist bigots to stick for them or tell them how to honor and protect their heritage. And they definitely don’t have to fall back on the Confederacy as the last great Southern moment. The South is good. The South should be proud. Just not proud of white supremacy and slavery.

So tear every Confederate monument down, and replace each one with something to truly be proud of. 

 

#95Tweets Against Hell Compiled

As promised, here are all of our 95 tweets, categorized by the kind of argument they are making – ethical, theological and biblical, in that order. (I’ve gone through each of them and updated some of them from our first version) What it boils down to is that there is no ethical justification for Hell whatsoever, no good theological reason to posit a doctrine of Hell, and there are literally hundreds of Biblical passages that do not support an eternal Hell of conscious torment. Given enough time and dedication, we probably could have assembled 190 tweets, or theses, against a doctrine of eternal Hell.

We did not even scratch the surface of the ethical, theological and interpretive work done to contend against the doctrine of eternal Hell. What we did is draw from our own thoughts as well as places where arguments accumulate, particularly debates around the issue of Hell, and some of the books we have read and are reading.

Obviously, we are hearkening back to Luther’s 95 Theses. We have no expectation that our tweets will have anywhere near that impact. On the other hand, the doctrine of Hell is far worse than indulgences could possibly be. We want to fire the equivalent of grape-shot into the doctrine of Hell and sink it forever, so that no one ever has to feel it is necessary to believe in Hell ever again. Over-ambitions, we know, but it’s a start.

 

Ethical/rational

#95Tweets E1: Eternal Hell is not in any way just (restorative) – it eternally severs relationship and eternally prevents redemption

#95Tweets E2: Eternal Hell is the teaching that there are people and things that can never be redeemed, even by God

#95Tweets E3: Eternal Hell is retribution made infinite, and is therefore even less noble than vengeance

#95Tweets E4: Eternal Hell lacks the sole moral underpinning of punishment, which is correction

#95Tweets E5: Eternal Hell is beyond disproportionate – eternal Hell cannot be an earned punishment, no matter what a finite being does

#95Tweets E6: Humans perpetrate horrific, incomprehensible evil – eternal Hell is infinitely worse than any human (finite) evil

#95Tweets E7: Punishment in an eternal Hell would even be unfair to Hitler, who committed incomprehensibly evil but finite crimes

#95Tweets E8: With the effects of poor information, bias, culture, neurobiology, psychology and so on, we do not make free decisions

#95Tweets E9: This amounts to a situation where human fallibility, not even human misdeeds, can result in eternal torture in Hell

#95Tweets E10: As eternal Hell is traditionally understood, mental illness could easily be an absolute bar from salvation

#95Tweets E11: Fear of (eternal) punishment is the most brutal, crass and callous way to seek to encourage good

#95Tweets E12: Fear of punishment is not effective in encouraging good, it only prevents overt misdeeds while being watched

#95Tweets E13: Whatever happens after death, there is no concrete evidence whatsoever that anything like Hell exists

#95Tweets E14: Eternal Hell is the worst possible story ending – for the vast majority, the end is an infinite and insurmountable tragedy

#95Tweets E15: It is morally untenable to expect any person of conscience to enjoy Heaven knowing that others are in Hell

#95Tweets E16: Eternal Hell makes Heaven look a lot like North Korea – worship the ruler or else, and ignore the suffering around you

#95Tweets E17: Believers in eternal Hell must either be hypocritical, saying they believe but not behaving as if they do (1/2)

#95Tweets E18: Or believers in eternal Hell must be callous, understanding the infinite stakes but not caring proportionally (2/2)

#95Tweets E19: The doctrine of eternal Hell encourages either hypocrisy or callousness by necessity

#95Tweets E20: A reasonable person’s response to any possibility of eternal torture in Hell would be constant panic and desperation

#95Tweets E21: A doctrine of annihilation is morally preferable to eternal torture by every conceivable measure

#95Tweets E22: A doctrine of universalism is morally preferable to annihilation, if God is both powerful enough to save and also good

#95Tweets E23: Since Aristotle, we have a strong case that good is not good simply because God says it is

#95Tweets E24: For God’s actions to be good, they must actually be good, not just called good; eternal Hell could only be “good” by fiat

#95Tweets E25: The only crime that might justly warrant a punishment of eternal torture would be…eternally torturing people

#95Tweets E26: Yesterday, about 150,000 human beings died. In traditional Hell theology, we must conclude that the majority are in Hell

#95Tweets E27: Given that being in Hell is to burn, and scream, and beg, and weep for eternity, 1 human being in this condition is too many

#95Tweets E28: If eternal Hell and Heaven both exist, no person of conscience could be at peace in Heaven

#95Tweets #Ethics: For all of these reasons and more, eternal Hell is an ethically unjustifiable belief.

 

Theological

#95Tweets T1: Eliminating a doctrine of eternal Hell does not mean eliminating justice, judgement, punishment, sin

#95Tweets T2: Eternal Hell is entirely unnecessary to any traditional view of salvation, no matter how exclusivist

#95Tweets T3: Eternal Hell does nothing whatsoever to glorify God, unless the powerful torturing the weak is glorious

#95Tweets T4: Eternal Hell is about vindication of an exclusive, violent orthodoxy even at an infinite cost to those left out

#95Tweets T5: Eternal Hell renders God’s love meaningless – no definition of love could include allowing infinite torture

#95Tweets T6: Eternal Hell renders God’s justice meaningless, as eternal punishment cannot be just by any definition

#95Tweets T7: Eternal Hell renders God’s mercy meaningless – eternal punishment which will never abate. Couldn’t be less merciful

#95Tweets T8: Eternal Hell renders God’s sovereignty meaningless. If God is good, God is impotent to save the vast majority of humans

#95Tweets T9: Eternal Hell renders God’s power meaningless, since God’s plan to restore all creation can be foiled by human sin

#95Tweets T10: Eternal Hell renders God’s omniscience meaningless, since God just can’t figure out how to save most people

#95Tweets T11: Eternal Hell renders God’s holiness meaningless, given that evil and sin and torture would be eternal as God is eternal

#95Tweets T12: Eternal Hell teaches of a God with finite patience but an infinite capacity for violence and retribution

#95Tweets T13: Rather than a “day of wrath”, Eternal Hell means that a trillion trillion trillion days of wrath are just the beginning

#95Tweets T14: Eternal Hell means that whatever else God is, God cannot be good by any reasonable definition of the word

#95Tweets T15: Eternal Hell annihilates meaning of all kinds – what is the point of doing anything but fearing eternal torture?

#95Tweets T16: Eternal Hell means we know God primarily as monster – monstrous judge, monstrous father, monstrous creator, etc.

#95Tweets T17: Eternal Hell is far beyond even the most evil we could visit upon any children – and are we not God’s children?

#95Tweets T18: Eternal Hell cedes eternal victory to sin, evil and suffering. God, and goodness, fail utterly for most

#95Tweets T19: In contrast to scripture, Eternal Hell promises eternity to unrepentant sinners

#95Tweets T20: Eternal Hell ascribes infinitude, eternity and finality to pain, horror, despair and terror

#95Tweets T21: A doctrine of eternal Hell puts torture at the heart of the Gospel. God is the tormentor

#95Tweets T22: Eternal Hell makes a mystery of horrific evil – it is beyond comprehension, rather than limited and destined for defeat

#95Tweets T23: Eternal Hell teaches of a God who is incapable of empathy – an image of God the callous sociopath

#95Tweets T24: Eternal Hell ascribes to human sin the power to overwhelm and defeat Jesus’ incarnation, life, death and resurrection

#95Tweets T25: If there is an Eternal Hell Jesus’ incarnation, life, death and resurrection accomplish nothing definitive

#95Tweets T26: Eternal Hell breaks God’s covenants – ex: it is infinitely worse than a second Flood

#95Tweets T27: Eternal Hell means that God calls “good” a creation in which flawed beings can err so greatly they are tortured forever

#95Tweets T28: Eternal Hell means, in justification theology, that First Adam’s sin is more powerful than Second Adam’s obedience

#95Tweets T29: Apparently Jesus descended to Hell, as in the Apostle’s Creed, but left it intact, only saving himself – cowardly

#95Tweets T30: Eternal Hell, if you believe in the Devil, ascribes to him victory in the vast majority of human souls

#95Tweets T31: Eternal life contrasted with annihilation more fully fits the themes and teachings of both the Old and New Testament

#95Tweets #Theology: For these reasons and more, eternal Hell is an unnecessary, horrifying and destructive theology.

 

Biblical

#95Tweets B1: The overwhelming majority of Bible verses support some form of annihilation; more support universalism than eternal Hell

#95Tweets B2: Gen 3:19: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, not dust to eternal conscious torment. Death, not eternity, is our default end

#95Tweets B3: The Bible never mentions Hell in the original languages. We (mis)translate Sheol, Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna as “Hell”

#95Tweets B4: Sheol, the realm of the dead in the OT, is nothing at all like Hell, but is clearly where they thought the dead went

#95Tweets B5: Tartarus, sometimes translated as “Hell”, is a prison holding the Greek titans after the Olympian gods defeated them

#95Tweets B6: Gehenna, or Ge-Hinnom, translated “Hell”, was the smoldering garbage-dump in a valley outside Jerusalem

#95Tweets B7: Hades, translated as “Hell”, is imported from Greek mythology, and is simply the realm of the dead, or the god of death

#95Tweets B8: Hades, while still not Hell, is thrown into the lake of fire and destroyed at the climax of the book of Revelation

#95Tweets B9: Genesis and the Gospels compare Satan/sin to a croucher or devourer, never an eternal torturer

#95Tweets B10: In Job, Satan is clearly an ally of God, or at least a colleague, and is busy going to and fro, not torturing anyone

#95Tweets B11: In 1 Samuel 28, “Sheol”, elsewhere translated as “Hell”, is apparently where the prophet Samuel is. Prophets in Hell?

#95Tweets B12: Psalm 139 – God is everywhere, even Sheol, elsewhere translated as “Hell.” No eternal separation

#95Tweets B13: In Psalms, sin = death, perish, consume, destroy – examples are Psalm 5:5-6, Psalm 37:38 – no eternal torture

#95Tweets B14: Sin = death in the Prophets: Jer 12:3, Isa 1:28; 33:12, Ezek 18:4, Nahum 1:2-13, Zeph 1:14-18, Mal 4:1-3

#95Tweets B15: Isaiah 25:6-9, God swallows up death forever, and everyone rejoices. Except the billions screaming in Hell, right? No

#95Tweets B16: The NT dichotomy is clearly between life and death – Luke 20:34-38, John 3:16; 6:48-58, Rom 6:23

#95Tweets B17: Matt 7:21-23 Jesus contrasts those who enter into his kingdom and who do not – no eternal torment mentioned

#95Tweets B18: Matthew 10:28 Jesus threatens Satan’s power to destroy, not eternally torture

#95Tweets B19: In Matthew 24:36-51 the sinner is cut to pieces, destroyed, not tortured for eternity

#95Tweets B20: Mtt 18:34; Luk 12:58-59 Jesus implies that the unreconciled receive finite, proportional punishment

#95Tweets B21: The rich man & Lazarus is not literal – if literal, then all in Heaven will hear people begging in Hell for all eternity

#95Tweets B22: Sin in John = death, die, perish – John 6:50, 8:51, 10:28, 12:25 – no eternal torture

#95Tweets B23: Sin = death – examples are Matt 3:10 and 13:40, and then Luke 9:25, and Acts 3:23

#95Tweets B24: Rom 2:7, 1 Cor 14, 2 Tim 1:10 – the NT message from start to finish is rescue from destruction, not eternal torture

#95Tweets B25: Paul says nothing about Hell – kind of a big thing to omit from every single letter, but he did not believe in an eternal Hell

#95Tweets B26: Romans 6:23 Paul says the wages of sin is “death”, not “eternal conscious torment” – an important distinction

#95Tweets B27: In 1 Corinthians 15:22 the grammar and context are clear that all are made alive in Christ

#95Tweets B28: Galatians 6:7-8 – Paul is pretty clear that there is destruction or eternal life, not eternal conscious torment

#95Tweets B29: Phil. 2:9-11 says every knee will bend and tongue confess, not that most knees and tongues will be tortured forever

#95Tweets B30: Col 1:18-20 – God reconciles with all creation through Christ…or fails miserably to do so if eternal Hell exists

#95Tweets B32: More in the Epistles – 1 Cor 1:18, 2 Cor 4:3, Phil 3:19, Thess 5:3, Heb 10:27, 10:39, 12:29 – still no torment

#95Tweets B33: And more – James 1:15, 4:12-14, 5:20; 2 Peter 2:6, 2:10-12, 3:7 and 10 – sin = death and destruction; not torment

#95Tweets B34: The Bible writers’ worldview does not have a place for the default immortality of a disembodied “soul”

#95Tweets B35: The NT culminates in a new Heaven and new earth where there is no longer suffering – where is the torture exactly?

#95Tweets B36: Almost every verse (all but maybe 2) taken to refer to “Hell” talks of destruction very clearly, and not of eternal torment at all

#95Tweets #Bible: For all of these reasons and many more, the Bible clearly does not teach a Hell of eternal torment.

 

The Tweeting-Room Floor

Those are all the tweets as we posted them, put back in their categories. What follows is what we called “The Tweeting-Room Floor” – ones that we cut for various reasons. One of the challenges, particularly in the Biblical section, was combining texts and arguments so that we could be more efficient. Taking each passage that we wanted to use individually, we could easily have had 95 tweets based only on Bible verses.

Some were cut because they were weak, or weaker than ones nearby, or could be combined, or didn’t fit with our ultimate plan for putting them out there. If you would like to argue some of these, and we’re sure many of you will, please stick to the ones listed above.

In the Epistles, sin = death and destruction, not eternal torment – Rom 1:32, 2:12, 6:23, 9:22 – no eternal torment (1/3)

Nor can we account for those who hear a ‘false’ Gospel, or who unknowingly have wrong beliefs or practices

Eternal Hell is far worse than the worst human calamities: the Inquisition, the Holocaust, Soviet labor camps, etc.

With a doctrine of eternal Hell we cannot really account for those born before Jesus

Eternal Hell cannot really account for those who never hear the Gospel, which is almost entirely an accident of birth

This means that a vast number of people supposedly tormented in Hell were doomed at random

There is nothing in the mostly-apocryphal story of Satan to explain how he would become such an avid torturer

Jude 1:6-11 “everlasting” is defined as “until final judgement”; then sinners compared to animals who simply perish (1/3)

Jude continues 12-13 with imagery of emptiness, futility, twice dead, fruitlessness, etc. Not eternal torment (2/3)

Jude 1:7 compares fate of sinners to Sodom and Gomorrah – no eternal torment, just destruction (3/3)

Eternal Hell makes all of God’s talk of salvation in the OT into nonsense at best, lies at worst

Adam and Eve are not warned about Hell – seems like a big deal, and something they’d want to warn us about

Neither Sheol, Tartarus, Gehenna, or Hades are the Hell of popular imagination and theology

Jesus uses the example of the tower of Siloam in Luke 13:3-5 – the example is of perishing, not torment

“Hel” in Norse mythology, presides over a realm of the same name, and receives a portion of the dead

In the Gospel of John 10:24-30, God’s judgement looks like death rather than life – not eternal torment

At least 18,250,365 human beings sent to be tortured for eternity in a single year – the pop. of Shanghai or Mozambique (in the years since we first posted, I actually forgot where we got this number, so I cut it and replaced it)

Conclusion

We’ve already said a lot. If we were convinced that the doctrine of eternal Hell was necessary to Christianity, or even strongly supported, then we would have to become misotheists. We cannot possibly worship a God who permits an eternal realm of torment to exist, and would actually have to do all we could to undermine belief in that God.

Fortunately, the doctrine of Hell is merely an infection, albeit one that has been spreading corruption throughout the Body of Christ for a long time. It is indefensible on ethical, theological and Biblical grounds, and it is time to lance the wound and heal. There is no Hell, no good that comes from teaching a Hell of eternal conscious torment, and a great deal of evil that comes from it.

There. Is. No. Hell.

Thank God, and good riddance.