Philosophers and rhetoricians, Welcome!
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Good evening,<br /><br />Hell is conventionally conceived in modernity as something quite irrational and silly. Usually, it is portrayed as an arbitrary malevolent judge slamming the door shut on the majority of his creation and torturing endlessly in fire and brimstone for all eternity those who are not devout church going theists of one denomination or another in Christianity.<br /><br />However, in allegories such as CS Lewis' underrated The Great Divorce or the chapter on Hell and also on Heaven in The Problem of Pain Hell is portrayed as something altogether different.<br /><br />Those there enjoy it. They want it. They would hate to be anywhere else. They hate heaven; they wish to rule in hell. The fire in fact is allegorical -- the pain is eternal separation; but they really do prefer it and are blinded by what God really looks like.<br /><br />If you wish to think of a modern view of it, think of the movie Momento starring Guy Pearce.<br /><br />This is a theologically and philosophically difficult topic. It is meant to be. But at the end of the journey, there is a remarkable logic and clarity to it, which, upon reflection, merits serious introspection.<br /><br />Penetrating this mystery, to the extent that you are able, is a most frightening, enlightening, and illuminating journey.<br /><br />Come along for the ride, if nothing else, you will enjoy a panoramic sweep through Western Literature which you never believed possible!!!<br />
So to clarify, the first stop is what the Ancient Greeks had to say about the afterlife. Homer spoke of it, as did Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.<br /><br />Understanding this, is critical to understanding what came later.<br /><br />Or, as CS Lewis put it many years ago in a Latin letter to a Roman Catholic priest:<br /><br />CS Lewis, the great Protestant writer, who wrote the Narnia stories (some of you may know The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and he also wrote many good books on Christianity), once wrote a very interesting thing in a letter.<br /><br />He had a long exchange, for many years, with a Latin priest, a Roman Catholic priest in Italy, and their letters were written in Latin, and the book is called The Latin letters of CS Lewis. In this book Lewis makes a very interesting observation that touches on what we are talking about tonight. He said, <br /><br />“I think that for the young people today, we had better make them good pagans before we make them good Christians.” What does he mean by that?<br /><br />Many Christians would find this incomprehensible. <br />
I've been wanting to comment in this thread for some time - having read the articles, thoroughly enjoyed them and thought much about them - but figuring out what to say is the hard part.<br /><br />First I should point out that, as I have only a passing familiarity with Christianity, I find it somewhat difficult to follow certain aspects of this discussion. But my religion does also include the belief in an afterlife, heaven and hell, so it's not as though I cannot relate at all.<br /><br />Perhaps I should also point out that I have not read Plato yet, beyond what is mentioned in the articles (although I shall be doing so soon; there is a module in my course called Socrates as portrayed by Plato).<br /><br />Anyway - what I find most striking in all the articles is the issue of compassion.<br /><br />I am tempted to call it the problem of compassion, meaning it as the problems related to compassion rather than implying that compassion is itself a problem. However I do recognise, as pointed out in The Hell, It Is!, that compassion can indeed be a problem in some circumstances...<br /><br />(Alas, more mundane things in life call me away now, but I'll give details in future posts...)
Raya,<br /><br />I look forward to your future posts. Since I maintained, as a premise, somewhere else on this board, that it is possible to have perfectly rational and civil conversations about theology, even between those of different religions, I do look forward to continuing this.<br /><br />In the meantime, at the risk of potentially violating copyright of University of Notre Dame Press (although I doubt that they would mind the free publicity) I am going to quote a remarkable passage from the 20th century's most concise Thomist philosopher (who was also a Greek Classicist), the late, great Dr. Josef Pieper from his wonderful book:<br /><br />The Four Cardinal Virtues
Preface<br /><br />
<br /><br />Josef Pieper The Four Cardinal Virtues, University of Notre Dame Press, 1966. Translated from the original German into English.When Agathon in Plato's Symposium takes his turn at making a speech in praise of Love, he organizes his ideas around the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. An Avant-Garde intellectual who, incidentally, is the host at the famous banquet, Agathon offers no special reasons for this approach. That is, the contemporaries of Socrates already took for granted these traditional categories sprung from the earliest speculative thinking. They took for granted not only the idea of virtue, which signifies human rightness, but also the attempt to define it in that fourfold spectrum. This particular intellectual framework, the formula which is called "the doctrine of virtue," was one of the great discoveries in the history of man's self understanding, and it has continued to be part and parcel of the European mind. It has become a basic component of the European consciousness, as the result of centuries of persistent intellectual endeavour by all the creative elements of the emerging West, both the Greeks (Plato, Aristotle) and the Romans (Cicero, Seneca), both Judaism (Philo) and Christianity (Clement of Alexandria, St Augustine).