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Could a Materialist Believe in Heaven and Hell?

In the Biblical view, the life of every person is ultimately resolved into an eternity of joy with God or an eternity of being subject to the wrath of God. Materialists reject the idea of a personal spirit that can spend eternity in Heaven or Hell. However, I will demonstrate that the reality of a heaven and hell can be proven if an assumption of “sufficient randomness” is granted. Heaven and hell in a purely material reality would be largely random with no resolution into a permanent supernatural order by the action of God’s justice and grace.

The Bible portrays torment in Hell as being high in intensity and infinite in duration. However, the Bible gives no cause to infer that the torment is infinite in intensity. Much to the contrary, the Bible provides cause to infer that some instances of torment on Earth may be more intense than some instances of torment in Hell. The rich man had sufficient mental faculties to converse with Abraham and to plead for his brothers. A person’s consciousness on Earth can be so focused on torment that the mind has no resources remaining to think about anything else. A mind can create its own hell by being so foolishly focused.

I have discussed finite intensity and infinite duration, but what about continuity? With regard to the conscious experience of a person in Heaven or Hell, the person’s consciousness need not necessarily be continuous with respect to time. I will demonstrate this point with the following material illustration. Suppose a man lives discontinuously for one hundred years as follows. He lives for ten seconds and then his life is instantaneously suspended and then instantaneously resumed exactly as it was in exactly identical surroundings but a trillion trillion trillion years later and a million trillion trillion light years away. Suppose these suspensions and transits occur between every ten second interval of his conscious life. The man may be disassembled during the long gaps in consciousness provided that he is reassembled exactly to his original state by the instant that he regains consciousness. Under these circumstances, the man’s entire lifetime of conscious experience is absolutely identical to what it would be if he lived continuously for a hundred years. The possibility of disassembly and perfect reassembly makes the illustration even more interesting because the chronological order of the ten second segments of consciousness would consequently be of no significance to the man’s lifetime of conscious experience.

Before I proceed any further, I need to present a concept which I shall call “sufficient randomness.” What do I mean by my concept of “sufficient randomness?” It is natural to ask questions like “sufficiently random for what?” or “sufficiently random in what context?” I do not want to lose the reader with a lot of rigorous mathematics. Too much rigor leads to mortis. I will define “sufficient randomness” with this simple sentence: A system is “sufficiently random” if and only if anything that can happen at all within it is sure to happen an infinite number of times. Is this concept of “sufficient randomness” useful for understanding anything? I will try to answer this question with some further explanation and a few examples.

“Sufficient randomness” does not mean that there are no rules and that anything that you can possibly imagine is sure to happen. A “sufficiently random” system can actually be very restrictive as to what can go on within it. An example of this is successive tossing of a die. The permissible result of a single die toss is any integer from one to six. “Heads” is not a permissible result of a die toss. One thing that is obviously necessary for a system to be “sufficiently random” is for the system to be infinite. If not, how could anything be sure to happen within it an infinite number of times?

A simple example of a “sufficiently random” system is an infinite sequence of fair coin tosses. You can specify any sequence of heads and tails that you want and that sequence is sure to turn up an infinite number of times in the infinite tosses. It does not matter how long your sequence is. Whether your sequence is simply “HHT” or whether it is a complex sequence of a trillion heads and tails, your sequence is sure to turn up an infinite number of times in the infinite sequence of fair tosses. But, if you include the number “four” in your sequence then, that sequence will never happen at all because the number “four” is neither a head nor a tail.

“Sufficient randomness” does not necessarily mean that there is no order within the system. Suppose a coin is very heavily weighted. Then, a fair tossing sequence may commonly give us extremely long sequences of heads with very few tails in between. Even in this terribly lopsided case, we can still be sure that any sequence of heads and tails you specify will turn up an infinite number of times if the tosses are fair and infinite in number.

Now here is an interesting case of a system that is not “sufficiently random.” Suppose we allow a sequence of ten heads in a row to happen five times and then prohibit it from ever happening again. Suppose we do not place any other restrictions on this infinite coin tossing system. We would still be able to specify an infinite number of different sequences of heads and tails that are sure to turn up an infinite number of times. However, the inability of “ten heads in a row” to appear more than five times disqualifies the system from being “sufficiently random.” Placing this kind of restriction on a system can introduce a problem of infinite regression. If the infinite tosses begin at a specific time then there is no infinite regression problem. However, if the tosses extend infinitely into both the past and future, then when did the last of the five allowed occurrences of “ten heads in a row” happen? Everything would be dependent on something that happened infinitely in the past.

A system that is “sufficiently random” never has an infinite regression problem. We can prove “sufficient randomness” for a mathematical system. We can never prove “sufficient randomness” for a real system because we would require an infinite knowledge of the system to do so. However, a materialist may infer “sufficient randomness” of reality from what he knows about the infinitesimal fraction of reality that he can observe.

Now I will introduce a quotation of Dr. Victor Stenger as provided by Mark Vuletic:

The so-called “anthropic coincidences,” in which the particles and forces of physics seem to be “fine-tuned” for the production of Carbon-based life are explained by the fact that the spacetime foam has an infinite number of universes popping off, each different. We just happen to be in the one where the forces and particles lent themselves to the generation of carbon and other atoms with the complexity necessary to evolve living and thinking organisms.[1] (Stenger, 1996)

If universes are truly infinite in number and reality is “sufficiently random” as I have defined above, then very interesting consequences follow. A certain fraction of those universes will contain conscious entities. No matter how tiny that fraction may be, the number of universes containing conscious entities must be infinite. A certain fraction of those infinite supernatural entities experience at least ten seconds of unspeakable torment. Therefore, reality must contain an infinite number of conscious experiences of unspeakable torment lasting at least ten seconds each. Likewise, reality must contain an infinite number of conscious experiences of amazing happiness lasting at least ten seconds each. So there we have it, an infinity of unspeakable torment and an infinity of amazing happiness, deduced strictly from materialist cosmology. Reality may contain an infinity of other experiences in between but, from the perspective of those conscious entities which are in the midst of experiencing the greatest of either extreme, reality contains nothing else.

[1] Creation ex nihilo – Without God (1997, 1998), by Mark Vuletic