Why does God give up on nonbelievers?

If rejecting God is a grave mistake, then why would God not wish to help nonbelievers see the error of their decision? Why would he let them perish in hell for all eternity (or simply perish) without any hope of redemption? The reason, Christians tell us, is one of respect: God respects the decision to reject him, and therefore will not devalue this “free choice”—however irrational—by interfering. Below, I show why this answer is problematic.

First, the answer assumes that the “free” decision to reject God is worthy of respect, since without this assumption, it is impossible to explain why God would respect it. It makes no sense to say God will respect decisions unworthy of respect. So what is it about the decision to reject God that is worthy of respect? I see only two possibilities: the decision is either (1) intrinsically respectable or (2) worthy of respect because it is made by a free being who is itself worthy of respect. No will argue the first possibility. As for the second, the Christian needs to demonstrate the connection between a free agent being worthy of respect and the (irrational) choices she makes being worthy of respect. What is this connection? If I see my friend ready to jump into a volcano, should I “respect” his choice, or attempt to prevent him from making a grave error? The latter, clearly. Thus, I can respect my friend’s worth without having to respect his irrational choices. As the example illustrates, I can even respect my friend’s worth while interfering with his free will.

Christians will undoubtedly argue that God cannot interfere with the nonbeliever’s free will, despite how she chooses to exercise it. For if God were to not accept the nonbeliever’s irrational choice, he would be devaluing her humanity or intrinsic moral worth. I’d like to see some justification for this claim, but even supposing the Christian could provide a satisfactory answer, there lies a deeper problem: why would God wish to give up on the nonbeliever? According to Christians, the decision to reject God is indicative of a deep defect in the nonbeliever’s moral and rational faculties. So it is utterly incomprehensible why God would wish to give up on trying to correct this defect. If God thinks the nonbeliever is making the biggest mistake one can possibly make, then it is far more plausible to suppose he would do everything in his power to help her realize her error—reach out to her until she ‘gets it’, no matter how long it takes. Hence, the obvious answer to the question of when God should give up is ‘never.’ It is what a fully compassionate and loving being would do, and therefore what God would do, if he exists.

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