Why unbelievers will not go to hell

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked his response if, upon dying, God were to ask why he had not believed. Russell’s answer: “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!” He raises an interesting question: why are we obliged to believe if we do not think that the evidence supports it?

The emphasis on belief is peculiar to theistic religions. The common question in the West is “what are your religious beliefs?”. It would seem that a more pertinent question would relate to one’s spiritual practices or views. After all, there is more to religion than sitting quietly in a corner and believing something. Surely it is more important to love thy neighbour, practise forgiveness, speak the truth and give generously. These things have a much greater effect in the world.

People hold many views on how the universe was created, how humans came about, and the role of God and whether he exists. Some of these views may be wrong, and they may be many different perspectives on the same thing. In Good Company, there is a story of an elephant who appears in a village inhabited mainly by blind people. Each wanted to experience the elephant, but of course each touched a different part.

The one who felt the foot said an elephant was a pillar, the one who had felt the tail said it was like a stick, and so it went on with the ears, trunk, tusks, fat belly, etc. Each person described it according to the type of experience to which they could relate it. Then they started arguing. ‘Yours was not the proper elephant, yours was illusion, mine is the only real one, etc.’ Later on the mahout told them, ‘You cannot have a complete picture of the elephant. All you can do is put together all your different experiences of “elephant”, and out of these experiences you can imagine a novel creature known as “elephant”. But it is the sum of all these parts and something more, which represents the wholeness of the creature known as “elephant”.’

Like the blind men and the elephant, it is easy for us to disagree about the nature of the universe or a concept such as God, even if we are all talking about the same thing. Does this disagreement matter?

At the end of the day, I do not think we will go to heaven based on our understanding of metaphysics. Our religious beliefs are not a strong indicator of our character. The Truth is beyond our comprehension, and there is no shame is saying that we do not know, or in saying, as Russell said, “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!” If we are to judge our character, it should not be based on our beliefs in God, a soul, or life after death. Instead, it should be based on who we are, how we treat others, and how we live our lives. It is qualities such as honesty, integrity, and love, that will determine our final destination.

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  1. Imran said,

    May 19, 2009 @ 4:24 pm

    No offence, but your entire point is disregarded because you are dishing this out of thin air. You have no book or evidence of any sort to proove this. At least religious people are claiming their book to be from God and saying this is what happens, that holds more weight and less risk, your view is v risky because it is just based on what you think; everyone has a different view so they can’t all be true.

    My recommendation to you is read all the religions and pick the book you think makes most sense and think is from God and follow that. Any other option is too risky.


  2. Josh Carley said,

    August 2, 2009 @ 5:17 pm

    You say, ‘The truth is beyond our comprehension…’. One question… how do you know THAT’S true?

  3. sujata prakash said,

    July 11, 2010 @ 5:00 pm

    Seems like you put more faith in B. Russell than on God’s word in the Bible! That elephant story is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand, but it does provide an interesting premise -blind men cannot be trusted on anything! Only the one who has clear vision 100/100 can lead you to the truth – in other words, Jesus.
    Oh well, if you insist on being blind and led by other blind, then so be it. But don’t blame God when you are judged and thrown into hell. In your own words, you say your final destination will be decided by how much you loved or how honest you were – but based on whose standards? Your own? Not enough evidence, old chap, not enough evidence, that you even came close to knowing what is true love and honesty. Thus, if you rely on your OWN standards, you will fail each time. If, however, you rely on Jesus, then He will present His own standards to God. He will substitute His name for yours, and you will be given a free pass to heaven. God bless.

  4. Tj said,

    January 2, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

    “My recommendation to you is read all the religions and pick the book you think makes most sense and think is from God and follow that. Any other option is too risky.”

    wow. total ignorance. just your favorite flavor or something? free thought is too risky?

    I’ll tell you this, I believe in God. but as for religious texts, screw it.
    I tried being a Christian and the problems I had were:
    – A specific race was supreme and first on Gods list (Jews)
    – Unbelievers burn in Hell forever just for not believing, talk about a good way to scare people into following. So, even if I lived a perfect life (I know isn’t possible), I still go to Hell? What about those too young to make the choice? Or in areas of the world unaware of Christ? Or those before Jesus’ time?
    – The Bible has been in human hands for thousands of years.
    – Most Christians who lecture on Gods forgiving and kind nature haven’t read the whole Bible.. most time NONE of the Old Testament apart from Genesis.
    – Women are lesser. Worth less in trading, cause of Adams fall, can’t speak in church, must have heads covered. If raped, become rapists wife.. or just killed.
    – “Witches, occultists”.. murdered. And use those terms as loosely as you want..

    need I go on?

  5. JB said,

    February 21, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

    I urge you to reconsider your position on this issue because it is too important and life altering to be wrong. Read, study, seek, ask, discuss, pull out all of the stops to confirm or discard your reasoning on this matter. Do it for yourself, not for someone else.

    Have you started yet?

  6. Naeem said,

    April 25, 2012 @ 11:03 am

    So you think Bertrand Russell will be able to argue with God and God will not be able to counter argue and it will go something like:
    hmmm! good point Russell! you are right. Before I created you all and asked you to believe in me, I forgot to put enough signs of myself in the universe. And you are right, all these people who believe in me and try to spend all their lives thanking me for my favors and being patient when my trials hit them are stupid idiots. You are the smartest of all. You even outsmarted me……

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