Most monotheistic religions give lip service to the concept of "free will." However, these same religions teach that failure obey God's laws (as promulgated and interpreted by them) results in eternal punishment in a place called "hell." The big three monotheistic religions -- Christianity, Islam, and Judaism -- all have a doctrine of hell, although it is less defined in Judaism. The contradiction between hell and free will is obvious, as illustrated in the following example:
Most people would argue that any obedience to the commands of the robber are coerced. In fact, if the robber ordered a person at gunpoint to commit a crime, the coercion of the robber would generally be a defense to a criminal charge. The victim would argue that he or she was deprived of free will at the time. The statement that "robbers do not kill people; people choose to die, by choosing to disobey the robber" sounds ludicrous to most people. At the same time, many people have no problem will the identical statement being said with reference to God and hell. How can a person's coerced acts in view of the ultimate sanction (hell) be considered moral or immoral?
George H. Smith (Atheism: The Case Against God) sums up the Christian doctrine of hell as follows:
Hell stands as constant reminder of the essence of Christianity: God is to be obeyed because, in the final analysis, he is bigger and stronger than we are; and, in addition, he is incomparably more vicious. With the warning, "Obey God or burn in hell," we have a straightforward illustration of a physical sanction, as well as a revealing glimpse into the core of Christianity.Before you dismiss the "burn in hell" statement as an inaccurate representation of the big three monotheistic religions, consider this small sample of passages from the New Testament, Old Testament, and Qur'an:
- Matthew 13:49-50: "So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth."
- Matthew 25:41: "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels"
- Matthew 25:46: "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment"
- Proverbs 27:20: Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
- Psalms 16:10: "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."
- Proverbs 5:3-5: But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on .
- Qur'an 56:41: "But those of the left hand-how unhappy those of the left hand. They will be in the scorching hot wind and boiling water, under the shadow of thick black smoke, neither cool nor agreeable. ...They will be gathered together on a certain day which is predetermined. Then you, the erring and the deniers will eat Zaqqoom [a thorn tree]. Fill your bellies with it, and drink scalding water, lapping it up like female camels raging of thirst and diseased. Such will be their entertainment, their welcome on the Day of Doom...the welcome of boiling water and the entertainment of roasting in Hell. This is the ultimate truth."
- Qur'an 37:19: "They will say, 'Woe to us! This is the Day of Doom.' Assemble the wrong-doers and their wives and the things they worshipped besides Allah, then lead them to the fierce flaming fires of Hell."
- Qur'an 74:26: "Soon will I fling them into the burning Hell Fire! And what will explain what Hell Fire is? It permits nothing to endure, and nothing does it spare! It darkens and changes the color of man, burning the skin! It shrivels and scorches men."
While I am on the subject of hell, I would be remiss if I did not point out that hell is an infinite punishment, which is grossly disproportionate to any finite crime that could be committed by a human being.