On a recent thread on my discussion forum an atheist endorsed the view: “It is better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.” Of course, this atheist, like all atheists, rejects any notion that heaven and hell are real. Nonetheless, there are a number of reasons for making the argument. It essentially amounts to fundamental rejection of the ‘terms of engagement’ that Christians contend that God has laid out. (This is especially fundamental when the atheist is, as in this example, an Ayn Rand Objectivist). Additional layers of the argument take it as true for the sake of argument that the God of the Bible is real as described but the atheist will retort that they don’t want to have anything to do with a God like that.
So you see, either way you go, either rejecting the existence of the Christian God or accepting it, the atheist possesses some sort of moral standard (which they’d prefer not to explain) by which to measure the conduct of God and the terms he lays out. But I find this all very ironic. After all, the whole point of disgust has to do with people being eternally punished by God and how unfair and indecent that is (“What? Just for not believing?!?!??”) but when it is pointed out that the Bible further describes this eternal punishment as an eternal separation from God (relationally), shut out from his presence forever, they are not satiated? I mean, isn’t that what they wanted? If God turns out to be real and they hate him so much don’t they actually want there to be something like ‘hell’ where God will leave them to their own devices?
Yes it is. Here you see one of those classic “there is no pleasing them” scenarios. Even if there is a God they don’t like him and would rather in that case spend eternity separate from him, but when that actual opportunity is presented to them from the same texts they reject God as being unloving and Christianity (and religion in general) as fear mongering. Dudes. You’re getting what you want. Why complain?
Of course, we Christians understand that getting what you want isn’t all it is cracked up to be. The idea that you could actually ‘rule in hell’ is a joke. The idea that you could actually be happy and contented apart from God is a farce. For all good things come from God- this is according to definition- and to be separated from God means to be separated from these things. One cannot expect that in hell one will have their intellect, food and drink, other people to talk to… all of the things that you count as ‘good’ today and don’t believe have anything to do with God, according to the Christian definition of God, would necessarily be stripped away in the course of ratifying the atheist’s choice of being ‘separated from God.’
Anyway, in the course of the discussion on this matter, a forum member mentioned an old Twilight Zone episode about a man going to heaven and not finding it to his liking. I thought it makes the point nicely. If you don’t want the ending spoiled, I wouldn’t go and read the discussion forum thread first.
Here is the link to the Twilight Zone episode which I managed to find online… enjoy! I did!
(if it doesn’t work go to their twilight zone page and find episode “A nice place to visit.”)
Oh yea, and short answer to “Would an atheist be happy in hell?” is “No, because happiness is, by definition derived from God (assuming he exists), and in hell one is deprived from God.”
God won’t need fire and brimstone to inflict eternal suffering on someone. He needs only to leave them to themselves forever- which is exactly what many atheists want: to be left alone.