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Escapism, religious luck, and divine reasons for action



In our paper, ‘Escaping hell: divine motivation and the problem of hell’, we defended a theory of hell that we called ‘escapism’. We argued that, given God's just and loving character, it would be most rational for Him to maintain an open-door policy to those who are in hell, allowing them an unlimited number of chances to be reconciled with God and enjoy communion with Him. In this paper we reply to two recent objections to our original paper. The first is an argument from religious luck offered by Russell Jones. The second is an argument from Kyle Swan that alleges that our commitments about the nature of reasons for action still leaves escapism vulnerable to an objection we labelled the ‘Job objection’ in our original paper. In this paper we argue that escapism has the resources built into it needed to withstand the objections from Jones and Swan.



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1. Buckareff, Andrei A. and Plug, AllenEscaping hell: divine motivation and the problem of hell’, Religious Studies, 41 (2005), 3954.

2. An additional note on B: we allow that it might be psychologically challenging for some agents to accept God's offer if their characters have settled into a position where they will not accept God's grace. However, according to escapism, God never gives up on any individual. See n. 21 in ‘Escaping hell’ for further clarification on this point.

3. What follows is a brief summary of our theory of hell as outlined on 40–42 of ‘Escaping hell’.

4. For a compelling recent argument against a retributive view of hell on which God eternally punishes persons for their sins, see Kershnar, StephenThe injustice of hell’, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 58 (2005), 103123.

5. Jones, Russell E.Escapism and luck’, Religious Studies, 43 (2007), 206216.

6. Swan, KyleHell and divine reasons for action’, Religious Studies, 45 (2009), 5161.

7. See Zagzebski, LindaReligious luck’, Faith and Philosophy, 11 (1994), 397413, especially 397. See also Williams, BernardMoral luck’, Supplement to the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 50 (1976), 115135; Nagel, ThomasMoral luck’, Supplement to the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 50 (1976), 137151; and Feinberg, JoelProblematic responsibility in law and morals’, The Philosophical Review, 71 (1962), 340351.

8. By ‘grace’ we mean the unmerited favour of God.

9. Jones ‘Escapism and luck’, 209.

10. Ibid., 212.

11. Stephen Kershnar helped us clarify what may be unjust about such a luck scenario.

12. See Jones ‘Escapism and luck’, 210–211. Jones introduces two types of accounts. It seems to us, however, that the cases introduce a distinction without a real difference between types of cases.

13. Second-chance views that only allow for a limited period of time for those in hell to accept the gift of salvation will, however, have a problem here.

14. We owe this objection to Stephen Kershnar.

15. Jones ‘Escapism and luck’, 211–212.

16. It is worth noting that if it is a problem for our version of escapism, it seems to be no less of a problem for sophisticated universalism.

17. An analogy to set theory might help here. Two infinite sets may be of the same size even when one is a proper subset of the other. For example, the set of all natural numbers and the set of all even numbers are the same size (cardinality) even though the second set is a proper subset of the first. Here the benefits received by the two individuals are both infinite and both appear to be of the same cardinality and so of the same size. Perhaps the main lesson here is that infinity is odd and counter-intuitive.

18. Jones ‘Escapism and luck’, 211.

19. In the section of the paper where he addresses the second scenario, Jones refers to the ‘bad of hell’ twice (see ibid.).

20. Jones ‘Escapism and luck’, 211–212.

21. Swan ‘Hell and divine reasons for action’, 51.

22. Swan also objects to our characterization of the commitments entailed by retributivism. We will not be taking up his remarks, however interesting they are, due to time and space constraints. Suffice it to say that Swan's remarks on retributivism are quite provocative and, if he is right, could be a proper part of a project of offering a defence of a more tenable version of retributivism than has been offered to date.

23. Buckareff and Plug ‘Escaping hell’, 48.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid.

26. Swan ‘Hell and divine reasons for action’, 55.

27. Buckareff and Plug ‘Escaping hell’, 45.

28. Swan ‘Hell and divine reasons for action’, 57.

29. Ibid., 59.

30. Ibid.

31. Buckareff and Plug ‘Escaping hell’, 48.

32. Swan ‘Hell and divine reasons for action’, 60.

33. Ibid.

34. Ibid.

35. The order of the authors' names does not imply priority of authorship. We wish to thank the Editor, Russell Jones, Stephen Kershnar, Kyle Swan, and Michael Murray for helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.


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