1. “Religion is easily the greatest bullshit story ever told.”
Of course this is just a low cheap shot at religion en masse by an evidently angry individual. But if we were to ask Carlin to demonstrate the truth behind his claim he wouldn’t be able to for it goes beyond his epistemic ability (as I noted in one of our prior Meme Grinder’s before we threw it into the Grinder). For instance, has Carlin thoroughly investigated all the religions in the world? Does he know for absolute certainty that God has not revealed himself to man through one of these religions? Or does he know for absolute certainty that God does not exist? No, of course he doesn’t. So, if anything this charge is sadly a product of his anger & anti-religious sentiments.
2. “Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do.”
Carlin is being too simple here. He thinks that all religions view God in this way. Firstly, Carlin needs to show me a religion that defines God as literally “an invisible man living in the sky.” I know Muslims, Jews & Christians certainly don’t believe in such a concept of God. Buddhists (who don’t believe in a god) certainly don’t and the polytheist Hindu doesn’t either – not even the New Ager would apply here. So, who is Carlin really speaking to? Who should take him seriously if he speaks past everyone? Instead, Carlin is taking a cheap shot at belief in God even though many intellectuals view belief in a creator God as reasonable based on persuasive arguments from history, science & philosophy (so, for the Christian theist, it isn’t arguments from “religion” that convinces him of Christianity’s truth – what convinces him is based on other data & arguments – again Carlin misrepresents the Christian here).
That Carlin says that this God “watches everything you do” I find to be an insightful admission. I feel that he might very well not wish to believe in a God who is the ultimate authority & who keeps track of our good & bad deeds – and who will ultimately be the final judge. This would not surprise me since I pick this up with many atheists that I’ve had discussions with. However, that is ultimately imposing one’s emotions & feelings on the search for truth which should be avoided. Whether Carlin likes or dislikes the fact that God will be the final judge does not make God not the final judge.
3. “And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do.”
Obviously Carlin is slinging mud at Christianity here & no longer just “religion” as he initially set out on. In other words, Carlin’s anger at religion evidently stems from Christianity more than anything else. However, Carlin should at least appreciate the moral excellence of this “special list of ten things” (i.e. the 10 Commandments) especially against the backdrop of an Ancient New East setting, as well as today (after all, who would not think that murder, adultery, theft, bearing false witness etc. are evil, immoral activities?). Even beyond this the Mosaic Law shows a great many moral improvements in the context of the value of human beings compared to their other ANE neighbours – in fact, the atheist John Steinrucken sees the 10 Commandments in a different light (and I’d argue a much more reasonable light) than does Carlin when he asks: “Has there ever been a more perfect and concise moral code than the one Moses brought down from the mountain?” So, I don’t see why these laws are at all unreasonable, in fact, they stand in as an act of a loving God who wishes to guide his people (unless, like Carlin, one does not want God to guide his life).
4. “And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and even ‘til the end of time.’
I genuinely feel a great sympathy for Carlin here as he is evidently upset & repulsed by the concept of hell. However, that does not mean what he says about hell here is true, in fact there are some gross misrepresentations that have sadly led him to such a conclusion.
Firstly, to say, as Carlin does, that God will let you “…choke and scream and cry forever and ever” and then “til the end of time” is a contradiction. Either hell exists eternally or it does not – it can’t be both. The Bible says that it is latter, namely that hell exists eternally (Mark 9:43, Mat. 25:41).
Secondly, I feel that Carlin is reading too literally into the graphic imagery used by Jesus & co. to describe what hell will be like. In other words, Carlin has the misconception that hell is a place where God tortures people. However, God does not torture people since he is the source of all goodness and perfection (James 1:17) & to do so would go against his nature. Instead hell is described as a place of “torment” which is the anguish one experiences being separated from God. At the end of the day there are only two places one’s soul can go – one’s soul either goes to be with God or it doesn’t. If one does not want to be with God then God, respecting one’s free decision, will quarantine him in a place separated from him. This is the explanation for the strong imagery used in the Bible – to warn people that being separated from God will be a place that they will not want to go to. It is also worth noting that the Bible does not only describe hell as a place of fire (Mark 9:43, Matthew 25:41, Rev. 20:13-14) but also as a place of darkness (Mat. 8:12, 2 Peter 2:4). This would suggest that these stand in as symbolic descriptions since hell cannot be both dark and light (fire) at the same time, as apologist and Christian writer Lenny Esposito informs us: “Hell is symbolized as a place of eternal fire, but theologians don’t hold to that as a literal description” (1).
Thirdly, what will be experienced in hell is torment & not torture – it is this torment that is compared to an unquenchable fire. However, the Bible does not describe hell as a place where God is actively torturing souls. Hell is described as a state of torment as a result of man’s free decision to reject God. Yet there is an important distinction between torture and torment. One can be tormented over an act that they’ve committed in the past without actually being actively tortured by anyone. Although it is possible that those in hell will continue to despise & curse God, it also might be the case that those in hell will be continually tormented since they have fully realized the consequences of rejecting God.
In short I don’t think Carlin is correct in his woodenly literal interpretation of hell being a place of “smoke,” “full of fire,” “burning & torture.”
5. “If you don’t do any of these things [God will send you to hell]”
This is a faulty analysis. God does not send a person to hell because they do not obey the 10 Commandments (Carlin is referring to the 10 Commandments here). Instead, the reason a person is sent to hell is because they are guilty sinners worthy of judgment before a holy God. Not only is a person guilty of sin, as are all people (Christians included), but he has also rejected God’s redemptive act by sending his only Son Jesus to die on a cross. And since God is perfectly just he does not allow sin to go unpunished – so God cannot forgive a person should he willingly reject God’s gift of salvation. So, it is not God who sends people to hell, instead people send themselves to hell for rejecting his gift of salvation.
6. “But he loves you.”
This is perhaps the only true thing that Carlin has said in this meme, although he does so sarcastically. It is true that God loves you. In fact God loves you so much that he sacrificed his only son on the cross for your sake (Romans 5:6-8). God didn’t have to do this for you but he did. God desires for all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4, John 3:17) and for all to turn to him to receive life (Ezekiel 18:23). The question is whether or not you will accept his loving gift of salvation.
1. Esposito, L. 2015. Is It OK for God to Kill and Torture People? Available.