A “controversial” sign sets the words, “If you think there is no God you’d better be right!” over small picture of flames.
News reports say the sign was in front of the Attleborough Baptist Church in south Norfolk, England. The very sensitive, and undoubtedly precious, civilian Robert Gladwin, 20, saw the sign and “decided to contact the police after comparing the message to other forms of hate speech.”
The police, duty bound, treated the “incident” as hate speech and got the church to agree to remove the sign.
Gladwin said, “I was just astounded really. We live in the 21st century and they have put that message – that non-Christians will burn in hell – up to try and scare people into joining their mentality.”
In other words, Gladwin reacted emotionally to the sign while wondering how anybody in these Enlightened times could react emotionally to the sign.
The question before us is not Gladwin’s obvious feminine nature—who are we to judge? Instead, we must decide whether the sign is indeed “hate speech,” i.e. a thoughtcrime.
Now either the message of the sign tells of real or of fantastical things. The sign could be relating a truth: repent and be saved or be cast outside the gates where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. If the sign’s objurgation holds, hellfire is a danger. It therefore cannot be hateful to tell somebody of this, especially in the form of an impersonal sign on private property.
The sign could be relating an approximate truth. Hell could be real but it is not meant for people, as many modern theologians insist. But then there is nothing to worry about and the sign is merely metaphorical, as the entire Bible then is.
The sign could be fantastic. There is no God, no Hell, life holds no meaning, the time we have here is everything there is. In this sad case, the sign also cannot be hate speech. It would be the equivalent of threatening to stab somebody with a unicorn’s horn, or to whack them on the skull with Thor’s hammer. The threat is entirely empty, and known to be so. Telling somebody you will sprinkle them with Pixie dust will not cause them to tremble if they believe Pixie’s do not exist.
Threats only have force if the message or circumstance is believed to be real. Gladwin must then, in his heart of hearts, believe the threat to be real. This is probably why he is quoted as saying, “It is my basic understanding that Christianity is inclusive and loving in nature.
“The message being displayed outside of the church could not be further from the often uttered phrase ‘love thy neighbour’.”
Ignore the incoherence and instead notice instead how odd it is that folks outside the Church have such a passion for preaching to those inside it. Here is what your Church really teaches. What’s happening here is that Gladwin wants to be reassured he himself is under no danger of eternal punishment. It can’t be that he already believes he is not or he could not have seen the sign as “hate” speech.
If Gladwin really did not believe in Hell, then he could not have seen as hateful a warning that he risks going there, any more than he could have seen as hateful a warning that he risks being sentenced to eternally quarry stones in Bedrock next to Fred Flintsone. That he secretly knows the truth means there is hope for Gladwin, as there is hope for all of us.
Readers, incidentally, might be curious to learn that the Catholic Church has never consigned anybody to the flames. No person in all of history was ever officially said to be in Hell, not even Judas or Ted Kennedy. The reason for this is simple enough: there is no proof any individual is. There is, however, plentiful evidence some people are, we just don’t know who. Just make sure it isn’t you.
Update Don’t forget to answer the question. If you leave the answer blank, we’ll assume you do NOT think the sign is a thoughtcrime.