What happens after we die?

This question is generally a fundamental question for believers and non-believers alike, often both groups are pretty certain about what its going to be like.  I am both unsure of a good answer to this question and very skeptical about those who have sure answers both Mormon and Evangelical.

Instead of going through all of the “orthodox” or “official” ideas on the subject, I think it would be profitable to understand what the readers of this blog believe on the subject and why.  I am primarily interested in the basis for the beliefs and the details behind it.

I think there is actually solid scientific evidence for life after death or the life of a spirit outside the body.

I also have solid belief and spiritual experience evidencing God in my life based on numerous experiences as a fully practicing LDS.

However, despite all this, I am very unclear of what is going to happen when we die.  As far as I can see, all we seem to have is a brief and uncertain view of the afterlife, and there are many interpretations.  I base my own concepts on two primary ideas.

  1. God loves us with a love that that is at least similar to what we can understand, e.g. good parental love.
  2. God is just according to a concept of justice similar to what we understand.

Frankly, these two concepts cause me to disbelieve a lot of what is said about the afterlife so I would also be interested to know who believes these principles and  how everybody squares their belief in the afterlife with them.

I am also interested in how primal your belief regarding the afterlife is in the foundation of your faith.  Some become Christians out of fear of hell, others become Christians because Jesus is good and touches them and they never develop any fear of hell. Some are strong LDS because they want to go to the Celestial Kingdom- i.e. the best place, and some want to go to the Celestial Kingdom simply as a by-product of their LDS experiences.

For me this could be a helpful exercise for LDS and Evangelicals, and anybody else, to examine their own personal feelings about this issue while getting new perspectives on this very important area of faith.  Or it could just be a good way to kill some time during the day.

I know I am not offering a lot of my own feelings but I am really at a loss to offer any confident opinions.  I appreciate your thoughts in advance, Thanks for sharing!

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30 thoughts on “What happens after we die?

  1. Oh, snap, Jared. I did not even notice that you had just done a post today. I’ve been so busy I’ve only been checking recent comments.

    Do you want me to pull my newest post so we can discuss this one for a bit?

  2. Kk, I think I’ll leave it then. It’s mostly just a diagram and some scriptures.

    Tomorrow is my long day for classes, but I will try to come read through your post here and comment on the discussion when I get back in the evening.

  3. Well let’s see. I know what I’ve been thought combined with what I sort of believe:

    1) Die
    2) See some light and sort of transition to another realm where greeted by known relatives who’ve previously passed.
    3) Guess I’ll meet extended family of untold generations there.
    4) Experience a generally peaceful/restful “time”
    5) Will have opportunity to teach the gospel to those who weren’t saved in mortality, and assume it’s not under a stifling LDS church type structure. Look forward to the irony of helping to spread faith in Jesus to BY, HBL, BRM, BKP, etc, unless other good souls have already brought those lost souls to Jesus.
    6) Once all of humanity has passed through mortality, all are resurrected in an immortal body, have knowledge of pre-existence restored and face judgment.
    7) The saved are shielded by Jesus as the judgment passes over and enter the celestial kingdom. All others face their judgment to lower kingdoms.

    Am I sure of any of this? Hell no! I just have faith that Jesus will take care of me. But I do know Masonic hooey has nothing to do with what comes next.

  4. I have no idea. But the thought of being anything more than some sort of spirit energy weirds me out because the biological functions of a human body seem irrelevant once they fail me in this life. Mostly I expect that whatever forms the essence of me will be reunited with God and have the opportunity to continue growing in His perfection.

    I have no idea what will happen to other people.

    I have no idea what kind of scripture backs this up, but it fits with my belief that the whole point of being here in the first place is to grow in God’s love. And I am a practicing Methodist Christian because its theological points resonate with my brain and heart, and that is where I have had the most success creating space to let God’s love work within me.

    Honestly, I’ve started to see death and “crossing over” more and more like a law school exam. (Perhaps because four years of law school exams might as well be its own circle of Hell.) I know they’re rushing toward me like a tidal wave, so all I can do is take advantage of the time I have and stay confident in knowing that I’m not going to fail.

  5. To be intellectually honest, I have no idea.

    But given what we do know, I’m relatively sure I’ll cease to exist in any real sense. My body will remain for a bit (obviously this is dependent on how I die, but I’m assuming for this it’s not in an explosion or fire or flood) and then decompose. But my consciousness, my thoughts, my memories, all that I consider ‘me’ will cease to exist upon the death of my brain.

  6. Jared I agree with the two primary ideas you list, but they are not the only ideas that go into resolving what happens in the afterlife. Our conclusions are going to look a lot different if we leave out the other things scripture say (such as God’s holiness, men being judged for their works, the wages of sin is death, all have fallen short and therefore deserve death, etc.)

    As far as WHAT we will be doing for eternity, I have no flipping idea. I know we will not be weeping, crying, or suffering. I know we will not be married. I know that we will be praising God. I know that we will be living in the New Jerusalem where God is the source of light. I know there are many rooms there. I know that we will have our own crowns, with jewels, that we will gladly cast at the feet of Jesus.

  7. First, Steve EM, your comment about teaching the gospel to “BY, HBL, BRM, BKP, etc.” made me laugh out loud and reminded me that sometimes you say outrageous things. I like it.

    As to the question posed by Jared…

    I don’t have any idea what it will be like after death. I think my assumptions are…

    1)–I will remain me. I have a thought that I’ll remain individually me, consciously me. I hope so, anyway.

    2)–I really like the idea of a “spirit holding period” and then a bodily resurrection. I believe in that, though if I’m honest, I must confess I can’t say for sure that’s what will happen.

    3)–I think the spirit world won’t be so different from mortality. I guess I’ve really internalized the Mormon concept that the same sociality that exists here will exist there.

    4)–Beyond the spirit world and into a state of resurrection, I have NO CLUE. I don’t even know how to begin to imagine it. I expect that every portrayal I’ve ever seen, either in the temple or in art or even the Bible, is probably highly symbolic and not literally representative of what it’s like.

  8. Thanks for the answers.

    Whitney~

    I like the law school analogy, I suppose that is how I probably feel about it, I don’t fear death really, but even if you take away the dreadful consequences of not being around for my children, the uncertainty of outcome is unsettling.

    morsec0de ~

    I suppose believing there is nothing after life can be as comforting now as believing there is great things to come. In both cases you don’t worry about hell. I think there is some evidence that thoughts and sentience don’t stop after the brain is completely dead, but its certainly far from clear what all of that evidence means.

    Tim~
    Thanks for the comments, I suppose some of the other things the scriptures say seem less certain and secure to me than these two truths. I tend to temper all of the things said in the bible by this understanding and usually tend to disbelieve concepts and doctrines that don’t jibe in my understanding. However, I recognize that I am often confused 😉

    Steve EM~

    So is the afterlife prior to judgment like one big long fast and testimony meeting. .. or is that hell.

    ——–Additional Questions that come to mind.

    Does anybody here have any fear of going to hell, or of punishment from God. . . for themselves or for others?

    How sure are you that you are going to a heavenly place and how much of life is about securing this?

    More and more I have stopped thinking about preparing for death, possibly because I have not held on to the hope or faith that the details of the afterlife program are at all certain or knowable.

    I don’t think I am going to a hell (especially for eternity), but given where I sit in relation to biblical teachings teachings I may have cause to worry that I might be worthy of some sort of beatdown in the afterlife.

    Does my uncertainty about death make me lost? Is it a sign of insufficient faith in Christ? And if so, what should I do to get a clearer picture/vision/certainty about what death holds for me?

  9. I worry about going to hell sometimes. I’ve discussed this with my sister at length. My journey away from a literal, dogmatic interpretation of Mormonism has made me feel at times as though I’m risking eternal life (defined in Mormonism as exaltation, and hell as anything but).

    My sister tells me that any God who would look at someone like me, who am trying to understand God and follow Him as best I know how, and damn me for not “knowing it right” isn’t much of a merciful God. I mostly agree with her, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some anxiety about the issue deep inside.

  10. “I suppose believing there is nothing after life can be as comforting now as believing there is great things to come.”

    It’s not so much comforting as it is not scary. If that makes sense.

    “have any fear of going to hell, or of punishment from God. . . for themselves or for others? ”

    Nope. I do fear sometimes that some people will turn this world into a type of hell, however.

    “How sure are you that you are going to a heavenly place and how much of life is about securing this?”

    Being a non believer, my goal is to make this life as close to a kind of heaven, for me and others, as I can make it.

    “I don’t think I am going to a hell (especially for eternity), but given where I sit in relation to biblical teachings teachings I may have cause to worry that I might be worthy of some sort of beatdown in the afterlife.”

    It comes down to what kind of deity you believe in. Is that deity going to punish people for their beliefs, as opposed to their intentions and actions? If so, is that a kind of deity you want to worship or follow, assuming it existed?

  11. My personal belief is that all of God’s children will eventually be reconciled to Him through the atonement of Christ. We become one with God through the conditions of the atonement when we recognize our own sinful nature and beg Him for forgiveness, which in turn leads us to forgive those who have harmed us. This is how Christ’s blood will heal us, and why it was necessary for Him to meet the demands of justice by suffering on the cross for the sinner. Knowing that I need a Savior as much as the person who murdered an innocent enables me to develop charity for my brother.

    I do not believe in a literal Hell, or Satan. The Bible is rich with metaphors on this topic. Hell is a temporary state of being until we repent of our sins, and it’s also a state of being for those who have not forgiven another. Is it also a place? Yes, I believe in this state we are separated from God, but I believe His love is so unconditional for each of His children that the door will always be open for us to come home if we knock.

    Whether it’s 3 Kingdoms we can progress through to make it back to our Father, or a temporary hell/purgatory until we repent, I do not believe God will judge and banish His children from His presence for eternity.

    I no longer believe in the LDS doctrine of eternal marriage/procreation/exaltation, where the Patriarch enters plural marriage to start populating his world as a God with his Goddesses. (how exactly is that going to work if my husband no longer has blood in his resurrected body? 😉 But I do believe in progression and that we won’t be sitting around in heaven singing praises to God all day long either.
    If the sealing power is a true ordinance, I believe it only means that we are sealed back to Christ as brothers and sisters. The doctrine of forever family is one of the most nonsensical doctrines in the church, but it makes people feel warm and fuzzy inside so I understand why LDS embrace it so passionately.

    I don’t know if there was a pre existence but I do not believe in the “war in Heaven” Mormon doctrine. It never felt true or right to me.

    As for eternal rewards, I believe our jewels will be the people we have served and given love to throughout our life. My joy in heaven will be to see how I made a positive impact in their life, and the love we feel in their presence. Our good works will be rewarded with the peace, love, and happiness we feel in our heart, and the people we have touched with our kindness. Conversely, our sins will bring us misery and pain without letting Christ’s blood pay for our sins. I do not believe in literal mansions of glory and powers, with servants/ministering angels waiting on me because I lived a more faithful life. I can’t believe in a candy bar type reward system. It’s a very puerile way of looking at heaven.

    But I do hope and believe heaven is a beautiful place beyond our imagination. I’ll be happy if it’s the same as earth, but with an immortal body, and no evil. I hope we continue to learn and progress.

    As a Mormon, I used to have a lot of fear and sickness about the afterlife. The fear of not doing enough to be with my forever family (Celestial Kingdom), and later the fear of losing my eternal marriage; it was this dark cloud hanging over me all the time. Since evolving from Mormon “doctrine” and embracing a more Christian universalist belief, I finally feel at peace and have lost many of the fears I once had.
    For the first time I feel that God loves ME.

  12. Does anybody here have any fear of going to hell, or of punishment from God. . . for themselves or for others?

    I have plenty of fear for others about Hell, but none for myself.

    How sure are you that you are going to a heavenly place and how much of life is about securing this?

    I feel absolutely certain I am going to be with Jesus after I die. The thought of it not happening doesn’t even cross my mind. If Christianity is true, I’ll be in heaven. If it’s false then I’ll be dead and that will be the end of it anyways.

    I don’t spend any of my time trying to secure Heaven. I have confidence that Jesus did everything there is to do. I do spend my time trying to secure the Kingdom of God (here and now) in my life and the life of others around me.

    Does my uncertainty about death make me lost? Is it a sign of insufficient faith in Christ? And if so, what should I do to get a clearer picture/vision/certainty about what death holds for me?

    Having those doubts does not condemn you, but it possibly shows that you either don’t understand why the blood of Jesus is enough for you or that you can’t let go of your desire to earn it for yourself.

    Getting a clearer picture is simple. Just let go.

    Tell Jesus “I’m trusting you to forgive my sins. I’m letting go of the afterlife and my present life and relying on you to be good enough and safe enough to take care of me.”

  13. I really appreciate your faith and confidence Tim. . .

    I suppose I believe the Savior is always there waiting for me, but remains somehow obscure.

    I have glimpsed and felt the vision of Jesus that Evangelicals have, in the hearts and faces and words of Evangelicals I have met. .. the open arms of Jesus the unending love, the sweet embrace that will soften cries and wipe away tears, lifting them somehow above what is the world. The assurance that HEAVEN is there waiting.

    But there is something in me that refuses to believe that this life is about going to heaven, some itch that tells me that life is not about living the eternal life now when there is eternity to live it afterward. If it’s the devil that makes me think this, he is certainly a crafty beast, but somehow the coldness of the morning makes me think that God dwells far from the moments of my life and watches and lets me, or wants me, to soak in the sadness and the joy and the confusion that is reality.

    For all of my feeble beliefs, for all of my confused attempts at understanding I can only think God has gentle laughter. Often I think that if God is God, How can any belief I have be the determining factor in expressing his love and salvation toward me? And if God is God, how can he not see his child and save him with some method that will expand his soul? I am pathetic but I want and would offer no less for my child. I guess this is part of what I understand love to be.

    I suppose I remain a believer of sorts in the faith that was expressed through the heart and spirit of Joseph Smith and so many millions after him because from that tradition I grasp that God is the observer of my life and wants nothing more that I complete it in all its confusion and glory and sadness and then meet me to discuss all that can be learned from this marvelous experience, and then open my heart and soul for what must come next. Perhaps I am, as I say, a heretic even to this faith.

    Because I have no sure understanding or knowledge of what really will happen, I suppose I am stuck with working out some sort of salvation with fear and trembling when the time comes, or maybe I’ll just take the guidance of He who might meet me there.

  14. some itch that tells me that life is not about living the eternal life now when there is eternity to live it afterward

    I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on this. My view is that our lives are not at all about just “getting to heaven”. But instead Jesus came to show us how life is to be lived. He shows us how we can be in full communion with God again (now and for eternity) and how we can find redemption for all that is broken around us.

    How can any belief I have be the determining factor in expressing his love and salvation toward me?

    I think God is freely offering that love and salvation to you and everyone else. The only belief you need to express is the acceptance of that gift. The gift isn’t yours until you take it from the person offering it.

    or maybe I’ll just take the guidance of He who might meet me there.

    But why wait to meet him there, when he’s ready to meet you here? Why wallow in chaos and confusion when he offers a peace that brings understanding?

    And if God is God, how can he not see his child and save him with some method that will expand his soul?

    You assume he doesn’t?

  15. “Why wallow in chaos and confusion when he offers a peace that brings understanding?”

    Unfortunately I don’t know that this is the case, I think that peace may be available, but I don’t see a whole lot of understanding among Christians. Seems like they, and most other people, are looking in a blurry mirror at themselves and reality.

  16. I really don’t have time to read all the posts here, but I do feel inclined to give my opinions.

    At death the spirit leaves the body. If righeous it will enter in the rest of God that is refered to as Abraham’s Bosom in Luke 16, and paradise in Luke 23: 43. Also in Luke sixteen we see that the rich man (representing the wicked) are in a place of torment.
    Now, it is true that at the time this story of Lazarus and Rich Man was told there was a gulf between the two areas. However, in 1 Peter 3: 19 we read that Christ preached to Spirits in prison, which I take to mean that he bridged this gulf, thus connecting Paradise to prison, allowing for those in paradise to preach to and save those in prison, bringing them out of torment.

    These two areas are not the final destination. All people will be resurrected, which is the reuniting of body and spirit, never to be separating again, in a perfect order (no deformities or handicaps). However, there is still a separation of the righteous and the wicked.
    The righeous will rise first, and then the wicked (Revelation 20).

    After this resurrection comes the judgement, and each will be given their glory, for not all men will inherit the same glory (1 Cor. 15: 39-42).

  17. What all that I have said really means is very difficult to say. All is mostly speculation, and that is why I have not gone into greater detail. However, this is the basic outline of the after life.

    As to what we will do, it will depend on what glory we are raised to, but the details are again, mainly speculation.

    As to your additional questions.

    I have no real fear of Hell. While I know the possibility is there, I know the love of God and the Mercy of Christ is sufficient that I am 99.999999999999999999% sure I will not end up there.
    As to his punishment, outside this life I really don’t see things as being punishments. I see it as the mercy of God. If we do not prepare to enter a higher glory in this life than it would be torment for us to enter one. I see it as us attaining a glory, and when we enter the eternal world God will place us as close to him as he can without causing us pain (think of standing closer to a light and feeling a greater amount of heat the closer you come).

    As to entering a Heavenly place, I have a great hope, for all people have their sins forgiven (except the sons of perdition) eventually. This is told in the Bible. With your statement that God is perfectly just he could not deny anyone entrace into heaven if they have their sins forgiven.

  18. Jared, I had a difficult time with this question after my mother died. I found it very annoying that people kept trying to comfort me by telling me “she’s in heaven now” or “she’s with Jesus” or “you’ll see her again someday.” What the hell does any of that even mean?

    There’s an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer called “The Body” (Season 5 Episode 16) that deals with the death of Buffy’s mother, Joyce. At the start of the episode, Buffy enters the house and finds Joyce dead on the living room sofa. She died suddenly from a brain aneurysm, and Buffy arrives hours after she’s gone cold. This episode is fairly unique for the series. There’s no background music, very little supernaturalism (just one token vampire slaying toward the end of the episode), very little glib humor. The entire episode is pretty much just a drama about a 20 year-old girl who has just found her mother dead from natural causes.

    At the end of the episode, Buffy and her little sister, Dawn, are in the morgue staring at their mother’s corpse. The last two lines of the episode are:

    Buffy: That’s not her, Dawn. She’s gone.
    Dawn: Where did she go?

    The episode ends right there and never answers Dawn’s question. I felt the same way after my mother died. Where did she go?

    Pop culture reference #2: in The Simpsons Movie, there’s a part where Homer goes into a panic and begins flipping frantically through the Bible. “This book doesn’t have any answers!” he shouts in distress. For the first time in my life, I was beginning to think that Homer had a point. To be blunt, the image of my mother chilling out in a white robe while having a Jesus party really wasn’t all that comforting to me. I wanted to know what happened to her. Specifics.

    I still don’t have the answers to this question. Oh sure, I believe what the Bible says about heaven and salvation and hell. I don’t believe in annihilationism or the post-mortem slumber doctrine or any of its variants. I believe that when the spirit separates from the body, it remains conscious after death, and I think there’s even good biblical reasons for thinking that the spirits of the deceased may be permitted to visit this world.

    There is a part of me that is afraid of dying, more because I’m enjoying life than because I’m afraid of what will happen to me. I hate the thought of leaving my husband and daughter and other friends and family behind.

    There is also a part of me that is afraid of hell, but this has more to do with my struggle to get over the way my father treated me growing up than my theology. This may sound cliche, but nothing I ever did was good enough for my father, no matter how many straight As I got or contests I won or extracurricular activities I excelled in, I was still a bad daughter to him. It’s hard for me to remember that my Heavenly Father is the exact opposite. I don’t have to merit my acceptance with him; he loves me and offers me salvation in Christ no matter how pathetic I think I am.

    As far as LDS soteriology goes, I have 0% worry about being permanently consigned to a lower kingdom. Exaltation as it’s currently taught in the temple doesn’t appeal to me, so if what’s taught in the temple is true, the terrestrial kingdom sounds chummy to me. If the things that bother me are being taught in error, the stuff about “no progression between kingdoms” might be in error, too. So I’m good to go either way.

    Besides, there is always the Jack Clause . . .

  19. MorseCode- I don’t believe in a God that punishes people for their beliefs.

    Seven- I like your approach, I think my beliefs have similar leanings, Although, I find it interesting that you only now understand or feel that God loves you, and that this was somehow related to a rejection of Mormon doctrines. This is the strongest, lasting feeling and believe that I have that grew from my life as a Mormon.

    Shemawater- Thanks for your thoughts.

    Jack- I really deeply appreciate your personal answer to this question. I suppose I feel the same way about the Bible and even the LDS Scriptures (which have lots more about the afterlife), they have terse and ultimately descriptions but no answers. I appreciate your faith regarding salvation despite the feeling of not having the answers.

    I like your thoughts about the Mormon teachings on afterlife and reward. I also think it shows how difficult it is to make any decisions in this life based on the possibility of receiving different rewards. This is especially true when we are explicitly told that even the lowest heaven is going to kick -ass beyond our wildest imaginations. It seems that when we do get to the final great-place, we really won’t know what we are missing had we been able to progress further. I frankly think the motivations for Christlike life have to be much closer and tied to the experiences in this life, not hope for the next.

    And for the record, I believe in the Jack Clause, I just wish there was a Jack-Mormon clause too 🙂

  20. I frankly think the motivations for Christlike life have to be much closer and tied to the experiences in this life, not hope for the next.

    I concur. I heard a quote that resonated with me and went something like:

    “there’s too many attempts at trying to get people into heaven, and not enough attempt at getting heaven into people.” ( A central teaching of “The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard)

  21. I’ve just read over my comment again and I should say that I didn’t mean to be so hard on my dad. He made mistakes with me, and it hurts that he could never bring himself to apologize, but he really does care for me and we get along much better now.

    He even talked another woman into marrying him later this year, and I’m happy for him. He couldn’t be making a better choice in a wife.

  22. I think motivation should be tied more to this life.

    This is me talking, but it is based in the words of the LDS leaders, particularly Bruce R. McKonkie and his book Mormon Doctrine.

    It is in this life that we must live to our fullest. The rewards that God has promised must first come in this life. The eternal worlds are simply an extention of them. Thus, if you do not enjoy the blessings of a Celestial life here you will not receive them in the Here-after.

    I don’t know if I am explaining this properly. It should be simpler, but I am not sure how to make it so.

    I just remember reading John Taylor when he said that he lived in hell before he had the Gospel, and after he got it he enjoyed the blessings of the highest heaven for the rest of his life.

  23. i am a lds elder my wife recently passed away it is weird because sometimes when i do evp i can hear her voice and being a elder of zion i hear her like i hear my friends talking to me the one thing that is weird is that after she passed the next morning i awke and i heard her talking to a bunch of people on the other side like a group testify of how much she loves her husband
    but i do know that as a rightous spirt it will take sometime before she fully crosses over and when she does i will cease to hear her but i know from time to time she will check in on me i look fwd to the day i get to see her again

    sealed for all time and eternity

  24. Thank you for your post and thoughts. I enjoyed reading the various comments. So far i haven’t noticed anyone recognizing a legitimate authority on these subjects. I certainly could have missed something. But if you don’t mind me asking a few clarifying questions so I can better understand your propositions. I especially like that you’ve made these few propositional statements. This is the way we come to know/believe truth.

    1.God loves us with a love that that is at least similar to what we can understand, e.g. good parental love.

    God loves who?

    Why do you think we can understand His love?

    2.God is just according to a concept of justice similar to what we understand.

    If God is just, how can any of us hope for salvation?

  25. Robert,

    Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

    Let me answer your questions:

    God loves who?

    Why do you think we can understand His love?

    My answer :
    God loves his children, us,
    I think we can understand his love because it is described in a way we should be able to understand. The love of a just king, a father, a hen that gathers her chickens, a shepherd who loves his flock, etc. If God’s love is like these we can understand it.

    If God is just, how can any of us hope for salvation?

    Because God understands the limitations we were given when we were born and, if he is completely just, would judge us accordingly. I don’t agree that justice means damnation for any transgression. I don’t think that is just at all. It seems the punishments should fit the crimes, most of the petty sins people commit do not seem to justify harsh punishment or a withdrawal of love and care from God.

  26. 1.God loves us with a love that that is at least similar to what we can understand, e.g. good parental love.

    God loves who?

    Why do you think we can understand His love?

    You misunderstood what Jared originally said. He didn’t say that we could understand God’s love. He said that God’s love is similar to love we can understand. The point is that we might not be able to fully understand God’s love, but that we can understands love that is at least categorically similar to God’s love.

    If we can not fully understand it, we can at least understand it to the extent that it is similar to kinds of love we can understand.

  27. 2.God is just according to a concept of justice similar to what we understand.

    If God is just, how can any of us hope for salvation?

    Because, despite the way a lot of evangelicals and fundamentalists want to portray it, justice is way more complex than merely mechanically applying a penalty to every bad act, regardless of context or circumstances. Justice is not strict liability.

    That’s why in our system of justice we don’t punish someone who accidentally lights a house on fire as harshly as we do someone who intentionally lights a house on fire. The house burns down in both cases but the person who did the burning only goes to jail if he did it on purpose. A person’s intentions are in fact extremely important in meting out justice.

    It’s why we don’t punish children for their crimes as harshly as we do adults. To punish children like adults would be to assume that children were just as culpable as adults, but they’re not. The extent to which a person is accountable for their own actions is also extremely important in meting out justice.

    A god who judged human beings by an inflexible standard that did not take circumstances and intentions into account would not be a just god at all. He would be a tyrant. He would be judging human beings and punishing them for failing to act according to the standards of a divine being, which standards human beings cannot reasonably be expected to live up to. That’s not justice.

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