Humanity, including you, accepts that Biblegod has been proven to exist. Suddenly find yourself in a room with three buttons. The sign says -
Press the Red button to agree to worship god for the rest of your life.
Press the Blue button to not worship god and accept eternal torture upon death without the possibility of revocation.
Press the Green Button to accept torture upon death with an option. The option is, if you agree to worship god at any time during torture, the torture stops after a predetermined additional amount of time, and you will be sent to be with the others who decided to worship during their lives. The additional torture time (the amount of time cannot be revealed now) is payment for your not having worshiped god during your life. Where the others will be after death or what they will be doing cannot be revealed at this time.
You have 5 minutes to press a button - after 5 minutes and not having pressed a button, the system defaults to a press of the blue button.
You now have 5 minutes left
Press your button.
Since we are talking about "Biblegod" rather than "the God of Christianity" (or some variant phrase that could be interpreted to mean "the God of [some version of] Christian theology
" (the two are not the same thing) I would press the red
button, and here's why:
The difficulty of this conundrum arises from the cognitive mistake of confusing an interpretation
of the Biblical data for the data itself. To over-simplify a bit, the Bible offers us two classes of passages presenting information about Yahweh's nature, abilities, limitations, etc.. 1) Boasts of his power, majesty, greatness, ability, etc. given in the words of his press secretaries and putatively in his own words as reported by them; 2) Narrative accounts of his words and deeds.
The first class of passages are (almost?) always written in hyperbolic and/or poetic language, rather than as objective, straightforward explanations. Their purpose is not to offer descriptions of what Yahweh is actually like, but to express and/or evoke emotions of worship, submission, and so on. They are basically the literary equivalent of gigantic statues of Ramses II. It is from this class of statements that the theological interpretation
of Yahweh as an omnimax is derived.
The second class of passages, the narrative accounts, are much less ambiguous. They are generally presented as straightforward reports of Yahweh's words, thoughts, and deeds, expressed in plain and concrete language. The Tower of Babel story, for example, portrays Yahweh as very powerful (he is able to instantaneously invent multiple languages and alter the human race to speak them), but he is not omniscient or omnipresent (he must "go down" for a look before he becomes aware of the Tower of Babel's construction), nor is he omnipotent (he considers it a serious enough threat that he must respond to it by confounding human communiation).
Of the two classes of statements, the narrative accounts carry greater weight in the same way that a politician's voting record is a more accurate reflection of their actual views than their campaign press releases.
If I find myself in HAL's Room of Doom, pressing the red
button and kissing Yahweh's ass gives me the rest of my life to look for a way to kick it. We know from Judges 1:19 (chariots of iron!) and other narrative passages that Yahweh can sometimes be defeated and/or outfoxed by humans and other entities (e.g., talking snakes). He may also be bargained with, as numerous stories of Abraham, Moses, and others show. The very existence of the red
button in the scenario indicates that Yahweh is either A) willing to accept insincere worship (he just wants his ass kissed; he doesn't care if your heart isn't in it), or B) his ability to determine if worship is sincere or not is limited.
So, the main challenge presented by HAL's Room of Doom is to get out of the room
with the greatest degree of operational flexibility. The blue
button yields instant, permanent condemnation to torture; no operational flexibility there. The green
button offers condemnation to torture, with the option of changing one's mind to the second
half of the red
option (worshiping Yahweh in Heaven, i.e., the Afterlife). Operational flexibility is less than selecting the red
button to start with (no remaining period of Earthly life with potential access to weapons, science, etc.), and subjects you to torture (including an unspecified period of torture after changing your mind to the red
option), so why choose that? The red
button is the obvious choice from this perspective. It is also the most "badass," as it offers at least some hope of victory
, instead of brave but futile martyrdom.
Right, now let me tighten the thumbscrews a bit and replace "Biblegod" with the omnimax god of "orthodox" Christian theology. This god is the product of what amounts to Christian Bible fanfic that attempts to retcon the Bible into a coherent whole while assuring that the resulting deity will win any "my god is bigger than your god" contests. This is done by taking the praises and hyperbole (or as I like to think of them, the Ass-Kissing Courtier statements) straight, while shouting LA LA LA LA LAAAAA really loud to get past the narratives. Thus, the great and powerful Oz--er, Yahweh imbued with the whole set of "omni-" attributes. Here, there is no hope of victory. It's a celestial Kobayashi Maru.
In this scenario, a case can still be made for the red
option: in the Book of Revelation, it is promised that Yahweh will wipe every tear from the eyes of the saved. Since many of the saved will have loved ones in Hell, or, under ordinary circumstances, have enough empathy and compassion to find everlasting maximal suffering of other beings intolerable, this passage, if true, would suggest significant alteration of the self. In the Gospels, Jesus is portrayed explaining that in Heaven, people will be "like the angels," neither marrying nor giving in marriage.
It is thus arguable that the end result of pressing the red
buttons would be the creation of what amounts to a completely different entity deprived of compassion and sexuality, and apparently content to chant "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord who was and is and is to come" over and over again, forever. Would such an entity still be "me" in any meaningful sense? Or would the red
button result in death (cessation of existence) for the real "me," followed by the creation of an emotionless and inherently compliant simulacrum of me to worship in my place? Since the other two options involve either eternal or long-term torture for the real "me," the death (or maybe "alzheimerization" or "zombification") offered by the red
button starts sounding preferable.
However, this presupposes a trust of Yahweh's willingness to actually do as the Book of Revelation and the Gospels forecast. We have good reason for doubt. Conventional Christian theology includes at least one angelic revolt (the rebellion of Lucifer and a third of the angels at the beginning of creation), and Genesis 6 tells of a second (the defection of angels who married human women and produced the Nephilim). These rebellions prove that "Heaven" is not a place of wondrous bliss or perfect, rebellion-proof totalitarianism. The conundrum Yahweh faces here is one of logic, which means that even omnipotence is of no avail.
The conundrum is this: if the praises and worship are wholly coerced (the worshiper is incapable of anything else), they lose all meaning and value, and Yahweh could just as easily surround himself with recorded praises playing on a loop. If the praises and worship are to any degree given freely, they may also, to that extent at least, be withheld. Rebellion/"sin" remains an ever-present possibility.
Since the tiniest hint of "sin" (even the faintest thought!) is considered to be deserving of Hell, and all trips to Hell (except for the green
button scenario) are one-way with no hope of parole, any degree of free will in Heaven creates a ratchet that must ultimately condemn all beings to Hell. If there is any free will, there is a probability, however small, that any given entity will "sin." Over the course of eternity, any probability greater than zero will eventually manifest.
In the light of this conundrum, we have to consider the informed
choices of the two waves of rebel angels. They were directly aware of what Heaven is like, Lucifer being the very closest to Yahweh of all the angels. Given this status, they were also likely to have known Yahweh well enough to be aware of his attitude toward rebellion, and the kind of wrath he would unleash against them. Theirs is a far superior knowledge to ours, as we only get to read about this stuff in a book, and on HAL's sign. They chose blue
(or perhaps "yellow"--go to Heaven worshiping Yahweh, with the later option of going to Hell). Perhaps a brief period of liberty (the present age until the Apocalypse) followed by Hell was and is preferable to cowering before Yahweh in Heaven, living in terror of the inevitable, tiny little misstep that will open Hell's trap-door under their feet. So, the approach of "press blue
and get it over with" makes sense, especially if individual identity were conserved (as it was for the angels, not necessarily for us).
In this scenario, I would probably still press the red
button, because the "me" that exists now would for all practical intents and purposes die, leaving my asexual Yahweh-worshiping clone to face the predicament of Hell's Ratchet. Unfortunate for the poor clone, but then I am not responsible for the creation of the clone, or of the predicament Yahweh places it in. Choosing blue
would be sacrificing myself to everlasting misery to spare an arguably sub-sapient clone of me to which I have no moral obligation from the same fate. So...red