"God's not with you, Holy Roller; your heart dwells in Hell..."  Fishbone

The following is the first of two e-mails that Yerserv sent me, replying to my Love is Torture page.  I have deleted Yers's e-mail header and added the original points being argued in italicized blocks; my comments are interspersed in bold text.

Hi, it's me, yerserve.

 I read your "love is torture" web page.

 Some points :

 Yes, torture is evil. When people torture themselves by making bad choices, it is evil.

And when god builds a huge barbeque pit so he can sell us insurance, this isn't evil?
What about when people please themselves by making bad choices, or torture themselves by making good choices?
What is 'torturing yourself with a bad choice?'

And where in the bible does it say all of this is true?  I think you're just making a lot of this up, 'cause it's the only way you can try to defend a god of infinite good who has a huge heap of evil shoveled into his shiny perfect universe so it will work right.

If god is  perfectly good, then how could he desire evil to exist in his universe?
He doesn't desire the evil?  Then why did he design the universe so the evil was necessary for free will to work?
He didn't plan for us to create an infinite amount of evil in the universe?  Come on!

 My argument does not hinge on each statement being an equivalence relationship.

I asked you to prove that LOVE IS TORTURE.  If this is what you were trying to do, you failed, since you do need equivalences to show equivalence.   All your argument as presented can even try to do is show that love makes torture necessary, and I debate you on this point under each link because otherwise it'd get boring, the argument being so very dead.

Logical implication is strong enough. You keep harping on the idea that the argument dies because "An implication isn't an 'is equal to' either". I never said that implication is the same as equivalence - and the logic does not depend on this. Either you lack a basic grasp of formal logic, or you are grasping at straws - I'm not sure which one is the case.

No, I am just keeping in mind the statement I asked you  to prove - that love is torture.  And you didn't prove it.

I believe I made it clear that hell is the state of being separated from God.

...Which is something you apparently just prefer to believe.  I honestly don't know where you Christians get this crazy stuff.

That the degree of pleasure we experience now is because God still (in this life God is extending grace to us.

Again, this is just an unsupported assertation of yours.  Want to try and prove that one to me?
Assuming that it's true, then the pleasure a coke addict feels when snorting drugs is a boon derived from the grace of god?  The pleasure a sadistic murderer feels when throttling a child is a boon derived from the grace of god?  The pleasure people get from viewing pornography is a boon derived from the grace of god?  Please explain.

As we move away from God, things get less comfortable. In this sense, God did not "build" the torture chamber. God built a place of peace, comfort, and joy.

Then the rest of the universe, where god didn't build, is de facto a place of terror, pain and despair?  Who made that part of the universe, if it wasn't god?  I thought that god was supposed to be the creator of all?

The further you get from peace comfort and joy the more you experience the opposite (anxiety, agony, and misery).

Okay... Now prove that your god is peace, comfort and joy, and you might start to get somewhere.
Incidentally, I have read many books in my life that imparted a sense of peace, comfort and joy.  The Christian Bible was not among them.  Is the Holy Spirit just a bad ghost writer?

And yes, of course, if you choose to walk away from peace comfort and joy, it's your own fault that you experience the opposite.

Well, you're assuming that the universe has two poles, one good and one evil, and that your god is at the 'good' pole.  Looking around me at the world, I see nothing that supports this assumption as being real.  Good may be found on many possible paths, and is generally relative.

The Links:

Link 1: Love allows freedom of the loved.
Often it doesn't, but we'll let that pass.  A mother loves her child, but that child is certainly not completely 'free'.  Love is not equal to freedom, but freedom can allow love a greater expression.  And love often demands slavery of one form or another...
Anyway, love  allows  freedom is not the same thing as love is  freedom, so the argument dies here.  But I'll proceed anyway.

All loving mothers desire freedom for their children as they become ready for it. To deny a child a freedom they are ready for is child abuse. Your notion that "love demands slavery" is (forgive me for being blunt) - sick. When I hear atheists say things like this, It just confirms that Christianity is correct. Your atheism has caused you to twist the notion of love into its exact opposite.

Not all mothers desire freedom for their children - they fall into overprotection and can't easily drop it when the child grows older.  Doesn't mean they don't love their children, just that their love is so strong that it drives them to keep control over their children's lives.

A man who claims that love is torture, or that love implies torture has little reason to get all huffy if I were to claim that love is slavery.  You have no moral high horse from which to address me here, Yers; in fact you are beneath me in this matter, intent as you are in stripping an all loving god of his compassion and filling his universe with irredeemable evil.

But that's not what I said, anyway.  I said that love often demands slavery of one form or another - not a literal enslavement with ball and chain, but strong modifications of behavior to please the lover or the loved.  Every married couple will testify that love may have brought them closer, but has also caused them to sacrifice many of the freedoms they enjoyed while they were single.  Love is most often a trade off of freedom for security, peace and affection.  Replace the word 'slavery' with 'restriction' if it still bugs you.

As an analogous point - suppose that you have free will and that you are also good.  By performing only good acts, you are not exercising the fullest extent of your potential for free will.  You are limiting your scope of action in order to be a performer of good acts.  So if you wish to be good, you are not entirely free.  If you want to love or be loved, similar restrictions are necessary in your freedom of action, or the freedom of action of others.

Link 2: Freedom carries a risk of self harm.
Freedom of action does carry with it the risk that you will trip over a rock and hurt yourself.  This is a consequence of properties of our natural and morally and ethically neutral universe; which, as I have stated before, is an extremely poor model for a just and loving god.
Yerserv's strategy is to get you to agree with him that being free can lead to your being hurt - then he pulls a switcheroo when you aren't looking between "hurting yourself" and "being abandoned to hopeless torture for eternity," which are not similar operations.  It is vitally important to Yers that god not be responsible for any torture, since he holds that torture is evil, and he thinks that god is only good.

Anyway, freedom can lead to self harm, but freedom is not self harm, nor does freedom necessitate self harm.  Argument dies here too.  But let's continue.

(As an aside - the function of pain in our natural universe is to tell us that we'll be harmed if we don't stop what we're doing.  But what purpose does the torture of hell provide?  It can't be meant as a warning, since Christians say there is no way out of hell - once you're feeling the pain of hell, it's too late to avoid it.  You can lead a very happy and pleasurable life on earth, and suddenly be chucked into hell because you didn't listen to a group of old myths about a magic sky fairy.  Pain in the Christian hell has no function aside of vengeance.)

You start by agreeing with me (then, rather than actually addressing my argument, you seek to unmask my wicked motives).  You rant a little and then reassert that my argument hinges on implication being equivalence - a falsehood that YOU made up, not me. You talk a little about the "purpose" of harm, but my statement was not about the purpose - it was just about the fact that free acts can cause self-harm. (I believe that this technique of talking about something else is called "using a smoke screen")

Yers - nice of you to sidestep all my refuting points by pretending that they're irrelevant.  To recap:

1) Freedom of action carries the risk that you will be hurt by your actions.  In this sense of your statement, I agree with you.  But I do not agree that this is an appropriate cosmic model for how a loving and all powerful god should behave - it is simply a model for how nature behaves.

You like to start by using general definitions to get an agreement out of your opponent, then suddenly switching to specific meanings to assert something that your opponent did not agree with.  You use 'self harm,' and I am led to believe by context that you mean "hurting yourself by accident."  Then you use the term later to mean "hurting yourself deliberately," since you wish to contend that people in hell are hurting themselves deliberately, that they are stabbing themselves with knives and burning and whipping themselves...  And that they like to do this and are intent on doing it forever. Or do I misstate your concept of hell?

'Cause if these people in hell are not actually stabbing themselves and whipping their own flesh, it follows that this is being done to them, meaning that this isn't self torture...  The smoker who suffers cancer is not consciously directing the cancer to take over more of his body.

Your wicked motives display themselves very nicely without my help, methinks...

Link 3: The risk of self harm implies that some will harm themselves.
Just as the risk of hell implies that some people will go there?  Isn't this deterministic on god's part?  The fact that god built a hell certainly means that some of his creation will wind up in it, doesn't it?
An implication isn't an 'is equal to' either.  Have I mentioned yet that this argument is dead?

 Your point #3 - One more smoke screen - you don't deal with the truth or falsehood of the statement. Rather, you throw it back on God and hell. But if you read the statement it does not talk about those issues, now does it? Another repetition of the implication/equivalence straw man is included.

I was in fact addressing a point that hurts your argument in another way.  If the risk of self harm means that some people will hurt themselves, then the risk of hell means that some people will go there, meaning that god knew beforehand when making the conditions that lead to hell, that some of his creation would wind up in it.

Again, you suppose that an infinitely good god who never performs evil acts found it necessary to add or allow an infinite chunk of evil in his universe to make it work right, which is simply a stupid concept.

Link 4: Self harm is a form of self torture.
Now Yerserv is  trying to slip volition into it without anyone noticing.  Most harms that happen to the 'free' are accidental or unforeseen.  But we're jumping now from 'people experience pain sometimes' to 'people deliberately hurt themselves.'  We're leaping from "I might break a toe on a rock if I run along that path" to "I will slice myself open with knives and burn my flesh, 'cause I'm free."
'Is a form of' is also not 'is equal to.'  From reason's chain, whatever link you strike...

I'm amazed that even atheists can swallow this one. Read the paper, for goodness sake JJA. Every day, people make BAD moral choices  and cause harm to themselves and others. We are leaping from "if I am careless, then I might stub my toe." to "if I choose to smoke, I might get sick and die." all the way to "If I cheat on my wife, I will suffer the breakup of my family."  No duh, dude. It happens on this planet - (i.e. we observe in  nature - it's the stock and trade of psychologists and sociologists).

Yers - If you torture yourself, you're harming yourself - but you can harm yourself without torturing yourself.  This link is broken.

And it has nothing to do with love being torture, and nothing to do with hell.  It's a true observation about the natural world that you have shoehorned into a theological argument to try to give it a solid foundation.  You want people to nod their heads in agreement with this part, then you shove the invalid portions of your argument down their throats.  Well, I choose not to harm myself by swallowing your nonsensical poisons...

Harm themselves or others?  So I can make a 'bad moral choice' and send someone else to hell?

Also. here on earth, people make good moral choices that hurt themselves, and others make bad moral choices that help themselves.  What's the model for this in your version of heaven?  Do some people go to heaven or hell without deserving it?

Link 5: Self torture is a form of torture.
In the same way that suicide is a form of murder, I guess.  But you can't punish the person who takes his/her own life, whereas we do punish murderers when we catch them.  Torturing yourself of your own volition is not the same as having another person torture you.
By the way, is self-harm equal to self-torture?  No?  Well, guess what, kids...

Again, you start by agreeing but end by illustrating a misunderstanding of formal logic. (And since you saw fit to repeat yourself, i suppose I can as well : THE ARGUMENT DOES NOT DEPEND ON IMPLICATION BEING EQUIVALENCE! Read a book on logic, man.)

 You then extend the argument slightly and demonstrate that the existence of goodness implies the existence of evil. Technically, that is correct. It is because evil is the absence of good (which could be shown to be a corollary of the basic argument). It might even be profound were it not so well known and widely accepted all ready.

If that argument I made was wrong, then yours is wrong, since I modeled it exactly on yours.  But good and evil are NOT exclusive.  There are infinitely many cases in life where something that is good for one person causes evil to another.

   Perhaps I'll deal with the appendix in detail later. One point of interest is that evil acts can have consequences beyond the life of the one who does them. Evil acts can effect children and grandchildren and nations for centuries to come. So, they do not all end with the sickness and death of the person who does them.  Shakespear said so much in "Julius Caesar")

I don't see the relevance of this.

 Do you think that you could take another run at critiquing the argument? What would happen if you were not allowed the implication/equivalence point, and you actually tried to stick to the statements? I could even refine the argument to be more precise :

Okay, let's break it down:

Love implies that the lover desires freedom for the beloved.

No, it doesn't.  Many people love so much that it drives them to overprotection.  Love is not freedom.  Dead argument, as I said.

Since you claim that implications are valid to prove an equivalence, I hereby state that love implies that you will do your best to never harm your beloved or allow your beloved to come to harm through inaction.  This includes not building infinite barbeque pits that you know that some people you love may happen to fall into.

freedom implies the existence of self harm.

Do you mean 'self harm' as in 'suffering an accident from bad judgement' or 'deliberately hurting yourself because the pain feels SOOOO good?'  You get people to agree with you using the first definition, then you switch it to the second when their backs are turned...

self-torture is a proper subset (NOT AN EQUIVALENCE CLASS) of self-harm

No, torture is torture, and harm is harm.  The first carries specific and evil intent, and the second may be due only to incomplete understanding of consequences, or ignorance, or simple accidents in this huge universe of ours.

Again, self torture can be considered as self harm, but self harm is not necessarily self torture.  It's a directional link, and it's broken in the direction you want to use it.

I find in real life many instances of people hurting themselves through miseducation, ignorance or accident.  I find comparatively few cases of people who hurt themselves in order to punish themselves, or because they like pain.  Such are those who find pleasure in their own pain (masochists) and various theist sects who think that if you beat yourself bloody, it brings you closer to god.  If the god in question is the being of pain and blood whom you worship, then perhaps it does...

self-torture is a proper subset of torture

So, the freedom to torment yourself means that others are free to torment you as well, and the two things are identical?  My 'freedom' to stab myself with a knife means that a demon in hell can stab me with a pitchfork, and that's perfectly okay?

Please understand that my position is that hell is a form of self-torture. (Just like smoking is a form of self-torture).

I understand that this is your position, but nothing else about it.  It's something that you prefer to believe, and it has no other support.  Smoking is not self torture, by the way, though it may be self harm.

Yes it is evil for a person to torture themselves, but It's not God torturing you.. It's the consequence of the choice you make.

As a friend pointed out when I showed this mess to him, God has a pretty sweet protection racket going.  "Nice soul you have there...   Wouldn't want anything to happen to it, would you?  Pity if it were to stumble into a big lake of fire forever...  Perhaps you should take out some, eh, insurance..."

In any case, it's my turn now.  Please demonstrate the flaw in the following...

God loves everyone - he wants us all to be saved.
God is all powerful - no one and nothing can stop God from getting just what he wants.
Conclusion - Everyone gets saved, and Hell is a sick fantasy arising in small minds who worship pain, bow to retribution and venerate vengeance instead of God.

If you get past that, you may want to chew on this:

Please explain to me why a god of infinite good, a god who never commits an evil act, nonetheless designed a system of free will that requires, as half its foundation, infinite and eternal evil.

Ten points of extra credit if you do NOT use the word 'choice' in your response. :)

So, stop torturing yourself why don't you? ;)

I'm not torturing myself; this is a fun mental exercise.  If I believed that any of your mythology of pain was true, that might well count as self torture...

Yerserv's second e-mail, wherein he addresses the appendix

The original argument page.