Essay:Believers in Hell should not procreate, and should embrace antinatalism
The doctrine of eternal Hell has long been a part of many (though far from all) denominations of religions such as Christianity and Islam. Regardless of its veracity or lack thereof, this idea has certainly been beneficial to organized religion's fear-based control over people, and it is still promoted even to this day, with the religious orthodoxy denouncing as heretical figures such as Bishop Carlton Pearson who decide to abandon this doctrine in favor of universal reconciliation. In 2011, largely in response to the controversy sparked in the religious community by Michigan pastor Rob Bell's book "Love Wins", the Southern Baptist Convention went as far as to announce a re-affirmation on their belief in Hell as "eternal conscious punishment", effectively proclaiming that many millions of Americans, and billions worldwide, are destined for this fate.
In response to this extreme doctrine, many good hell-fearing people naturally conclude that their moral imperative is to save as many souls as possible, and accordingly, they try to evangelize and convert unbelievers to their own religion. However, these people are mistaken about their priorities, because the effectiveness of religious evangelism pales in comparison to a much more important moral imperative that stems from believing in Hell, one that religious people seem curiously eager to ignore: abstaining from procreation, and embracing antinatalism.
Although existence (or non-existence) before conception is rarely discussed or even thought about in religious circles (curiously, given their eloquence on life after death), it is generally implicitly agreed that the non-existent are in no danger of going to Hell and cannot be in need of saving. It is the act of conceiving a child, of bringing a new soul into existence, that creates this infinite danger in the first place. Given these unfathomable stakes imposed on the child simply by bringing him/her into the world, belief in an eternal Hell (whether the believer knows it or not) inherently carries the conclusion that the act of procreation is immeasurably more reckless, more heinous, more harmful and more unethical than the finite amount of violence, killing, rape, torture and other suffering that any human has ever caused on this planet.
These facts remain regardless of how good the intentions of the Hell-believing parent might be, or their confidence in their ability to keep their child on the straight and narrow path for their entire life even after the death of the parent (a confidence which is demonstrably often misplaced), or any other factor regarding parenting. They also remain regardless of how immeasurably blissful salvation in Heaven might be: even an infinite right cannot justify an infinite wrong, just as saving a person's life would not exempt one from being charged for later murdering (or even criminally harming) them. Any concept of Heaven must take second place to the primary moral imperative for the Hell-believer, which is to eliminate, if possible, the danger of eternal torment for any new souls - and this can only be done by preventing them from being conceived in the first place, meaning abstaining from having any children and actively working to discourage others from procreating. In fact, the ideal situation, based on a belief in Hell, would be the cessation of procreation and of the human race altogether (in accordance with the aims of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement). As extreme as these statements may sound to some, they are nothing more than ramifications of the monstrously extreme doctrine of eternal Hell.
The fact that the Southern Baptist Convention and other religious bodies and individuals expressing and promoting belief in Hell are not embracing antinatalism - and that Hell-believing demographics have some of the highest birth rates in the world - could imply that on some deep unconscious level they do not really believe what they say they do, or have not fully grasped the devastating implications of the doctrine they endorse. More cynically, in the case of powerful religious bodies, while the doctrine of Hell is effective for maintaining fear-based control, the moral imperative of antinatalism stemming from it is most decidedly not.
Any sincere Hell-believer who follows their belief to its inescapable ethical conclusions, and who wishes to have a child, would do well to adopt one of the many already existing children in need. This would allow all the benefits and joys of parenting (including the opportunity to try to raise and direct the child onto the path of salvation) while avoiding the unspeakable and unforgivable moral repugnance that Hell-belief entails for procreation.
It must be said that there are many denominations of Christianity, Islam etc., and countless religious individuals, who do not believe in eternal Hell, and for them these conclusions do not apply. It must also be stressed that the argument in this essay - that antinatalism is an inescapable moral imperative that results from believing in an endless Hell - does not entail any opinion on the value of antinatalism or on procreation for those who do not believe in this doctrine.
The doctrine of eternal Hell has been an effective control mechanism for many centuries, as mentioned already, and it has been and continues to be responsible for an enormous amount of fear, suffering and violence in the world. The only way that all this could be excused would be if the doctrine were true. However, if this were the case, procreation would be unambiguously evil for all of us, and we would all have an obligation to abstain from procreation to the point of voluntary human extinction in order to prevent the creation of any more souls destined for infinite and eternal torment. Conversely, should the doctrine be false and Hell not exist, then the religious bodies and people responsible for promoting this evil delusion would deserve to be held accountable for all the pointless suffering that it continues to inflict on people. And in both cases, these people need to be held to account for the inevitable moral consequences that stem from the doctrine they promote, and recognized as being either delusional, or insincere in their beliefs, or extremely negligent, or horrifically indifferent to suffering, if they fail to embrace antinatalism.
- Duniho, Fergus. Why some Christians and Muslims should be Anti-Natalists in For the Love of Wisdom, September 2015.
- Felker, Stewart James. The Christian Moral Imperative to Not Have Children in Patheos, February 2016.
- Himma, Kenneth Einar. Birth as a Grave Misfortune: The Traditional Doctrine of Hell and Christian Salvific Exclusivism, in: Buenting, Joel (ed). The Problem of Hell: A Philosophical Anthology, first published by Ashgate Publishing, 2010.
- Southan, Rhys. Life: Why Bother? in The New Enquiry, March 2013.
- Tremblay, Francois. Antinatalism as a challenge to Christianity, April 2011.