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Scott R. Paeth

  • Scott R. Paeth is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. He works in the fields of Christian Social Ethics and Public Theology.

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« The Damage Done | Main | In Your American Skin »

July 12, 2013

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Rosie

I'm a visitor over here from Camels With Hammers (which I read regularly), so this is the first post of yours I've ever read. I like your writing.

And as a former evangelical (I was raised in a family of preachers and missionaries), I can say in all honesty that "damnation" by your definition looks so beautiful and enticing as to make me want to go there. Heaven seems the threat by comparison. (But then, I never was able to be the kind of person the church said I ought to be, no matter how I sacrificed myself in the trying. Not-being sounds deliciously relaxing.)

Scott Paeth

Greetings and welcome Rosie, I appreciate your comment about my writing.

As for damnation as the threat of non-being seeming enticing, I think I know what you mean. Certainly by comparison to the tradition understanding of hell, it is a vast improvement. Some Christians do embrace the idea that there is no real "hell" but simply the annihilation of the damned, but what inclines me toward a more universalistic possibility (and I really can only think of these in terms of possibilities, since obviously no one can really be said to know these things), is the old metaphysical idea that goes back to Aquinas, which asserts that the worst possible thing is not to be at all.

And as I noted above, if in fact there is no ultimate ground or source of meaning, then from my perspective, the possibility of meaning in life is rendered null (despite the attempts we may make in our own way to create meaning from meaninglessness), and that threat is I think even more dire than the possibility that my own individual existence may be snuffed out.

But of course, others see the matter very differently. Heck, what I'm calling damnation is for Buddhists the very essence of salvation, so this is by no means a knock down argument. For those for whom the threat of non-being is no real threat, this argument obviously won't carry much weight. But for my part, I'd rather anticipate the possibility of the enjoyment of Being Itself in some eternal sense.

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