Interview with Tracy Kitten before EMV was a story in the USA
Category: Personal Thoughts
Today we seek to ensure each citizen eligible to vote can vote. Issues like location, geography, education are all elements of the values we must embrace as we work to assure the citizens ability to vote.
The first question of voter and eligibility takes us into the realm of who or how elections are managed. Candidates, contests, question are all elements of what is presented to the voter as a ballot. According to practices and rules, contests involve selecting candidates. While questions focus on yes/no answers or a score.
Anonymity creates a need to construct a mechanism to assure one vote per voter while preserving the privacy of the voters identity. This one requirement solved reduces the risk landscape significanttly and complicates the angle of attack.
Adhering to a security first continous improvement principles and integrating prevention and detection into the design of the source code.
I believe Voatz has solved the most challenging task and embraced best of breed components and partners to build a secure immutable record of each unique anonymously signed ballot.
The rest, as long as vendor certification mechanisms and coherent standards exist, has been done over and over again in: financial services, government services, defense, health, and retail. With sound software design and release procedures, built on quality principles inherent in the companies ethos
All we need is the right to improve democracy.
No one is chosen
How can any tribe claim to be chosen? When so many other cultures and tribes emerged in other parts of the globe. Each grew up with an understanding of the unimaginable Creator. God, by whatever name.
This elemental craving to be better than another goes back to the emergence of language. When we learned to communicate with together we began to wonder: how or why?
These two questions get more complicated when we wonder how those lights appear in the night sky or why the rain does not soak the earth.
Yet up against the Mediterranean this band of escaped Egyptian slaves claim lands from the inhabitants.
A long time ago out of Northeastern Africa Homosapien emerged.
Homo sapien an interesting evolution of the primate. They settled in tribal communities. Evolved and seeking shelter, food source, drinking water, and sanitation together.
A new world order seems to be the next step in man and woman’s evolution. Division twin tribes, cultures, people and religion create animosity. It is this animosity built on fear often times we we must address as we evolve.
Where would I live if both ice caps melted and all glaciers disappeared. How much water did you put on the Earth? Somewhere on what will become Eastern seaboard is where Philip wants to build, I’m home.
The next question, when does it matter. If I think of myself 2050 I would be 96. If I think beyond, 21 sounds like a good number.
The Israel mistake – Sheikh Jarrah – is part of Palestine
In August 2009, the court evicted the al-Hanoun and al-Ghawi families from two homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Jewish families moved in based on a Supreme Court ruling that the property was owned by Jews. The United Nations coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry condemned the decision: “These actions heighten tensions and undermine international efforts to create conditions for fruitful negotiations to achieve peace.” The US State Department called it a violation of Israel’s obligations under the Road map for peace. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said “Tonight, while these new settlers from abroad will be accommodating themselves and their belongings in these Palestinian houses, 19 newly homeless children will have nowhere to sleep.” Yakir Segev of the Jerusalem municipal council responded: “This is a matter of the court. It is a civil dispute between Palestinian families and those of Israeli settlers, regarding who is the rightful owner of this property… Israeli law is the only law we are obliged to obey.”
Sheikh Jarrah – https://www.google.com/maps/place/Sheikh+Jarrahfirstname.lastname@example.org,35.2207493,13z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x150329c27b01f693:0xce2261ccf7265d95!8m2!3d31.790504!4d35.228707
In 2021, clashes occurred between Palestinians and Israeli police over planned evictions in the neighborhood.
12 May 2021
What is a DAO and how do we govern tomorrow
Distributed autonomous organizations, a DAO.
When we think of governance and how we control society, we immediately must consider the realities of people in the tribes they belong to.
Recently the emergence of bitcoin, the understanding of the power of a distributed ledger, the use of a hash chain, the power of cryptographic processes, and the security of the devices we carry establishes a foundation for a brave new world.
What is governance? It is the method processes and mechanisms a society puts in place to establish order and ensure harmony?
The ancient Turks, Greeks, slave spoke of democracy, the idea that each member of the tribe, the town, the city, or the state could assemble and determine new laws, regulations, and best practices. We then evolved into Republican governments the concept of a group of people representing a larger number of citizens.
Influence and power define what shall evolve. In my lifetime, the idea of being able to plug the handset of your telephone into the back of a terminal and establish a connection to a computer somewhere out there was a novelty. For my father it is Time in Geneva when Aryanism stood out as a challenge, opportunity or threat. Telephones were just emerging and radios were available. TV was still not present. Paper books and libraries surrounded the environment we will call Geneva.
City on the Lake, what is this thing place in his history his is as relevant as your or mine.
One question why anonymity at the profound process of engagement. When you are something called anonymous I am not sure I want to play. If your anonymous is mandatory; I don’t want to play.
The innovative spiritual and the. Nurturing essence of life.. How this evolves involves countless engagements.
Each sublime note to the fabric of the virtual environment we present to the public is.
And, all of us form the fabric of the public.
He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said,* ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say that whoever tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,’* then that person need not honor the father.* 6 So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word* of God. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said:
8 ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines
“Listen and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”
What shall we do? Simple honor the one Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31
You commit to what you believe in with a robust desire to adhere to the moral imperatives. The one God is the same God written about in so many different ancient lore.
The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32
Who is your neighbor?
Anyone you engage in an event. An event is is anything we all seek to record. By the way any unit of one can record as long as all parties are aware. It is our contracts and promises. Those such as payment, voting, identity and influence.
See you next time.
Spirituality and Religion
Long ago, the idea of religion led me to understand we could control the masses through their indoctrination by a few. When speaking to someone of their religious beliefs, they remind us that if we put our faith in Jesus or the Almighty, they call God, all will be right with the world. They point to the ever after and the chance to live in heaven. They argue we live in a sinful world, and it is man’s sin that brings upon us the challenges many of us have faced. Some talk of reincarnation this thing called soul, nirvana has some future we cannot know.
On the other side of the discussion, there is spirituality, that inner sense of understanding. Some would argue our spirituality comes from our religious beliefs. Others would suggest it is better to have a spiritual foundation not based on religion but your inner sense of self. This inner sense of self begs the question,
“Who Am I.”
History repeats itself. Throughout time charismatic leaders have been able to grab hold of the hearts and minds of the masses. These charismatic individuals have led their followers in either positive or negative ways.
The question really should be who is in control. Is it the charismatic leader, or are there others who sit in the darkness operating as puppet masters responsible for the strife and misery inflicted upon many as these few enrich themselves?
Governance a Question for Society
Distributed autonomous organizations, a DAO
When we think of governance and how we control society, we immediately must consider the realities of the people and the tribes to which they belong. Without understanding their history and the context of the culture, we gamble with knowing the truth as we try to understand their focus, purpose, and future.
What is governance? It is the methods, processes, and mechanisms a society puts in place to establish order and ensure harmony? The ancient Greeks spoke of democracy, the idea that each member of the tribe, the town, the city, or the state could assemble and determine new laws, regulations, and best practices. We then evolved into representative structures where appointed, elected, or heredity groups of people came together to represent many citizens.
Long ago, yet, in my lifetime, the idea of plugging the handset of your telephone into the back of a terminal and dial into a computer somewhere out there was a novelty.
Last decade, in response to the financial crisis brought on by those who sought to profit from the creation of financial instruments derived from the derivate of another financial derived instruction, we read Bitcoin: A Peer-to-peer Electronic Cash System. This seminal piece of work drove us to understand the immutable and trustless power of a distributed ledger.
When bitcoin emerged, Satoshi’s whitepaper described a new world order. A world built on mathematics, founded in a meritocracy, and governed by software. It makes one wonder about the written into science fiction novels. They expressed concern and worry about computers and pure logic taking over the world. Sometimes humanity became technology’s servant.
While learning, I remembered a series of conversations with David Chaum as he explained the concept of a hash chain, the power of cryptography, digital signatures, and certificates as I explored the security of the devices we carry. This journey drove me to explore relationships, artifacts, cards, and credentials.
After 45 years serving the financial community with a technical orientation, I came to understand the power of identity, the fallacy of software, and the integrity of people. At the same time, history was rewritten, curriculums were changed over and over again. Disinformation, trust, fake news, and propaganda meld into this cacophony. A collage of perspectives linked to our identity and flavor soured by the relationships and encounters we have had during our limited existence. Today I wonder about elections, opinion polls, proxy votes, and the selection of representative government.
Today it is time to embrace a citizen-centric view of technology. If we do not stop and think, the brave to a new world we may construct could look like 1984 or a world under the watchful eye of Skynet. If we reflect on what we, the citizen, want and direct what we do to achieve that collective vision. We can work as one together and establish the foundation of that brave new world we all seek.
A distributed autonomous organization seeks to address a myriad of challenges. As peers in a decentralized structure, the participants deliberate, vote, and reach
Like in any organization, people are attracted to thoughts and ideas that meld well with their own. But what makes this so new? Long ago, when representative governments or councils were created, the community decided to allow a few to manage the needs of the many.
What is so different? Our interfaces have changed. The way we engage has expanded and no longer restructured to verbal or hand-delivered written communication. In written communication, there is a thought. I stare at my computer screens; my pen is poised over a tablet as I use script to write notes or the keyboard to chat across multiple instant messaging applications. While staring at a word processor, PowerPoint presentation, or spreadsheet, I can engage and share with people spread across the planet using my cameras, speakers, and microphones.
A distributed Autonomous Organization is simply the grouping of people using technology to widen the breadth of participation. No longer restricted to location, we can continue to expand networks and engage with our peers.
Voter suppression cannot be what the political parties seek
I am confused. I thought the goal of a democratic society was to ensure each citizen of age had the ability and the right to vote. In 2020 there was and still is a pandemic often in history there have been natural disasters these challenges create issues voters have to consider when attempting to voice their intent on who shall represent them at a city, municipal, county, state, or federal level.
Many legislatures, Secretaries of State, or Lieut. Governors decided to expand the ability for voters to vote by mail. Our previous president argued mail-in voting was subject to fraud and built a case or better-said conspiracy theory that would allow him to contest the election of Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States. Now the GOP is busy attempting to rewrite the law that will remove the ability of those unable to attend the voting place to use mail-in ballots. Why one should ask! To restrict the number and class of people who can vote in a democracy is unacceptable. Our political class should wish and work and make sure our democratic process of voting enables each of us the ability and the right to vote. Any attempt to limit someone’s ability to vote should be classed as a criminal act. By making this statement one could easily argue the GOP are criminals.
Often in history, those who seek power seek to suppress those who wish to also participate. We can only hope the good people of this country will decide that we are a free nation built upon laws that engender respect and seek to include everyone.
Voting Needs to Be Easier. Period
Social Media and the Threat of Mis or is it Dis Information
A long time ago, while installing Voice, Video, and Digital services on Trading Rooms in London and on Wall Street, stories of dis-information and the ability to manipulate the market were often told around the Bar at Harry’s on Hanover Square. Today we see manipulation in the political and economic spheres capable of alternating world order and drives nations into Civil war.
We must find a way of removing the risk of misinformation and restore truth and fair play into everything we hear and do.
Voatz Has Successful Developed a Mobile Voting App Used in the 2020 Presidential Election
What is happening to this country
It is Monday, January 11, 2021. Last week we watched the riots. We saw people breaking into the US Capital and gleefully waving their Trump and Confederate flags as they stormed this house of the people.
This nation is divided. Be they conservatives, or liberals. People who believe in social justice or white supremacy. Or, individuals who align themselves to the left or the right. We are a nation divided!
One can pontificate as the media does. They fill countless hours as they work to brainwash their followers into believing one story or another. Where is the truth? It lies someplace dormant in the minds of all. To find it we must explore the reaches of the left and the depths of the right. We must understand and contemplate how white supremacy and religious intolerance drives people to hatred.
Christians speak of their Savior Jesus Christ and we read the red words in the Bible. Jesus was the ultimate socialist he believed in a world that cared for each other. He spoke of how we must tolerate, accept, and embrace our enemies. He reminded us of the golden rule – love thy neighbor as you wish to be loved.
Instead, men and women seek to be superior to others. Tribalism and intolerance greed contempt and animosity.
Where is our salvation? How do we restore sanity?
Reflecting on the year 2020
This morning I am drawn by the press to reflect on who and what we are.
I was glad to read this editorial from one of the various pro-Trump papers. https://nypost.com/2020/12/27/give-it-up-mr-president-for-your-sake-and-the-nations/
It causes me to believe that this nation would be great if “we the people” found common ground and work together to build upon our ancestors’ creation.
We have issues with race and wealth https://www.minneapolisfed.org/events/2021/racism-and-the-economy-focus-on-education.
This discussion of race then leads us to reflect on our history and how the south effectively established segregation as a means of voter suppression. https://www.economist.com/christmas-specials/2020/12/19/reconstruction-reshaped-america-along-lines-contested-today
We distort the truth to satisfy the minds of those in power. Greed and pride are two sins we each must own and work to remove from our evil character.
We must remember, we construct history to serve those who seek to control and influence our young and impressionable children https://twitter.com/pandreae/status/1343923775998455810.
The courts, multiple states Attorney Generals, and those who ran the elections in over 9,000 jurisdictions all agree we worked tirelessly in the face of a pandemic to enable the American citizens’ right to vote. https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/election-lessons-2020
We must respect the people’s decision and stop attempting to claim fraud when no one can convince a court of law and the republican judges appointed by Donald Trump that there was massive voter fraud.
We then must also recognize there was an active attempt to intimate people. https://www.propublica.org/article/pistols-a-hearse-and-trucks-playing-chicken-why-some-voters-felt-harassed-and-intimidated-at-the-polls White men banishing guns carrying Trump flags is the typical image we saw throughout this nation.
And, Today, our President shares his anger with the general public https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump.
It is time we restore order, accept the will of the people, and work together for the future we all crave.
The question we must ask is why
Why do we allow lobbyists to have so much influence?
Why do members of Congress forget the people they represent and focus on themselves and the will of the vocal minorities?
Why are people so willing to embrace conspiracy theories and follow such charismatic leaders as Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler?
Why can’t the media simply provide a neutral report of the news and not taint the news with opinion?
Why has this country become so divided?
Where are we in this age of dis-information
It is 11 AM December 6 and I wonder about the past and future of the United States of America. The news is divided. There are those that focus on the Trump-centric right-wing media. There are then those that focus on the Biden-centric left-wing media. The challenge where is the truth. For those capable and willing to watch both sides of the story we may be able to fathom reality. For those fixated on one side or the other, they are no longer are capable of appreciating where the middle of this country lies.
November 3 we had an election and over the next several weeks it became clear that Joe Biden would be our new president. Unfortunately, the current president Donald Trump could not nor would not accept the fact he lost.
In 2016 the popular vote said he lost. Based on how our Constitution is written, the electoral college decided he won. We had to accept this truth and we had to get on with life.
The challenge, since then we have had to live with the lies, the untruths, and the constant cry “fake news”. We had to deal with the constant barrage of POTUS reminding us he is a narcissist, he is the president of the United States, and recognize he was allowed to lie to the public. Is he sane one might ask. Are we?
Am I or am I not
While walking the beach at the moment of the low tide the idea of the digital native emerge. A boy maybe 5 years of age, clearly born to this age. Am I simply a digital immigrant born as computer emerged as massive tabulating machines. Paper tape and punch cards I remember loading into computers as I fit learned how easy it was to cause a computer to go into an endless loop.
Communications and the protocols designed to assure the delivery of binary data. Keyboards, printers and screenc capable of inputting and outputting letters and number we these living creates could comprehend. Cable and sound waves allowed us to transfer these streams of commands and information across what was to become to information highway we now call the Internet. Our imagination was limited by speed of the technology until we harnessed light and shot it down a fiber cable capable of traversing great oceans and deep under our city streets. Far off lands and ships floating on the ocean surface could be reached with radio waves bounced off of satellite high above our heads.
People who came before us struggle to appreciate what how technology has reshaped the world. They knew of telegraph and the telephone and probably remember speaking to an operator to make a connection. For them to grasp the ability to actually use a watch similar to what Dick Tracy used is science fiction made real. Their children, my generation, grew up with the television and as a teenager watch Neal Armstrong walk on the moon. We grew up worrying about termo nuclear disaster whereas our parents grew up being told of the great war when men spent years hunker down in trenches and dieing on battle field in the tens of thousands. They came age as we learned how to harness the atom and decimate cities with a single bomb blast.
Sunday June 7th 2020
Since early February, we here in the United States have had to live with the coronavirus and its economic implications. Over the last two weeks, we have confronted with the reality of our racist tendencies. Over the last 20+ years, this country has fractured into the left the Democrats and the right the Republicans; groups like the tea party have driven these tribal tendencies who wish to engender their thoughts on everyone.
The sense of discomfort that lives within my soul creates tensions and a sense of despair. If only we could see the light. If only we could believe the truth. If only we could come together as one people each of us would be much happier and able to live a more productive and satisfying life
What can I do? What can you do to change the way we think to change the way we act to change the way we embrace each other? Some would remind us of the works of great religious leaders such as Jesus Christ, Lao-Tzu, Confucius Siddhartha Gautama. Men and I am sure women who have spoken of peace and tranquility. They talked about friendship and the bonds of togetherness? It is these bonds of friendship we have to find again. It is the ability to accept and embrace each other we need to remember. We need to stop arguing with each other. We need to start embracing each other. We need to remember that debate is a good thing, while arguments are not.
When I was a young man, I believed it would take three generations for us to address are the racial tensions in this country. I think my problem then was from which age do we begin; it was not the generation that I came from the baby boomers. Maybe not even Gen X. It needs to have a fresh start. It needs to be built on the beliefs of togetherness. Yesterday evening we watched a documentary about Thurgood Marshall. I had no idea how complexed the arguments and the legal battles have been to reach where we are today. The Jim Crow laws so divisive created the division in the South. Separate but equal established a baseline to segregate those of color from those who believed they had the power.
I so much want to walk forward into a world where peace is the norm where cooperation is how we work together. But, the tension, the tribal tendency, seems to be deeply ingrained in our human psyche. It is the human psyche we need to address. We need to transform our thinking from that of fight and right to that of compassion, cooperation, and solidarity.
What more can I say? I can only pray that ‘we the people’ will find the way forward. That ‘we the people,’ will work together to find a more peaceful union. That we, the people, will finally achieve what the founders envisioned. What some would say God offered us in the Garden of Eden before we fit into the fruit of knowledge. We should harness understanding for good.
In March 2020, I moved from the payments industry into the election industry. This movement caused me to wonder about democracy, politics, academia, and the world of technology. What amazed me is how computer science academics could rail at the idea, technology could be used to innovate on the election process. Years ago I imagined participating in a national referendum simply by opening a browser searching for the government website and voting on the measures and contests currently under consideration.
Unfortunately what I’ve learned troubles me. Certain clusters of intelligent individuals believe that they know best. They stigmatize technology and argue that a human being, who writes software, could leave unintended bugs which might lead to unintended consequences. They forget software is an evolutionary science. Through piloting, continuous improvement, testing, and rigorous testing we can eliminate bugs and create stable and secure critically important applications serving our financial, health, national security, and public interests.
Recently in a letter written by verified voting, a nonprofit organization, the word settled science appeared. An intriguing word, an intriguing phrase. I was driven to wonder what did it mean. From my high school years, science was an evolutionary process. A hypothesis was put forward. it was tested. If it was found to be false a new hypothesis was offered, it was tested and on the scientific community went. In one article when googling “Settled Science” I was intrigued to read the word oxymoron followed by an explanation of how if Sir Isaac Newton’s beliefs had been settled science Albert Einstein would never have been able to put forward the concepts of general relativity.
This whole conversation feels very much like a religion, a church, who has a dogmatic belief in the written word of the Bible being the written and only word of God. We forget how man inserts himself into every dialogue. Too often we insert our beliefs on others. Maybe “Settled Science” is the dogmatic belief that we are right and everyone else is wrong.
If this is the case then how do we move forward? If scientists – academics force there will on society than society has lost its objectivity.
What has this world come to
When we listen to the news, we must think first of the bias of the reporter. This unfortunate truth is troubling in a world where the United States leader speaks of fake news and uses Twitter to stir up the masses. This body of citizens struggles with truth and is easily bent to believe what the leader says.
This particular charismatic leader, like many others in the past, can cause people to believe anything. The challenge, these same people will follow both those with high morals and those without.
Jesus Christ, Siddhartha Gautama, Confucius, Laozi, and a few others spoke wisely and became spiritual leaders many continue to follow.
To name one well remembered, Hitler, like the recent President of this great country, spread lies, and fermented hatred.
How can we rise above when so many are unwilling or unable to see the truth. We must rise above the madness these charismatic immoral individuals ferment.
That is the concern I have felt since first I looked upon the control a church exerts upon the mass.
Is hell for those who are wrong because I am right
This article offers an interesting perspective on what we believe Heaven and Hell is. It draws one to think like much of what history is. It is the thinking of people designed to categorize and allows one to pridefully assume they are either the best or the worst.
Hell therefore in thinking this way, it is for all those people who do not believe as you or are wrong because you are right.
Why Do People Believe in Hell?
The idea of eternal damnation is neither biblically, philosophically nor morally justified. But for many it retains a psychological allure.
By David Bentley Hart
Dr. Hart is a philosopher, scholar of religion and cultural critic.
Once the faith of his youth had faded into the serene agnosticism of his mature years, Charles Darwin found himself amazed that anyone could even wish Christianity to be true. Not, that is, the kindlier bits – “Love thy neighbor” and whatnot – but rather the notion that unbelievers (including relatives and friends) might be tormented in hell forever.
It’s a reasonable perplexity, really. And it raises a troubling question of social psychology. It’s comforting to imagine that Christians generally accept the notion of a hell of eternal misery not because they’re emotionally attached to it, but because they see it as a small, inevitable zone of darkness peripheral to a larger spiritual landscape that – viewed in its totality – they find ravishingly lovely. And this is true of many.
But not of all. For a good number of Christians, hell isn’t just a tragic shadow cast across one of an otherwise ravishing vista’s remoter corners; rather, it’s one of the landscape’s most conspicuous and delectable details. If one happens to conduct a bible study, most often they might be presented with the same information.
I know whereof I speak. I’ve published many books, often willfully provocative, and have vexed my share of critics. But only recently, in releasing a book challenging the historical validity, biblical origins, philosophical cogency, and moral sanity of the standard Christian teaching on the matter of eternal damnation, have I ever inspired reactions so truculent, uninhibited, and (frankly) demented.
I expect, of course, that if people have taken up specific youth ministry lessons, they can defend the faith they’ve been taught. What I find odd is that, in my experience, raising questions about this particular detail of their faith evinces a more indignant and hysterical reaction from many believers than would almost any other challenge to their convictions. Something unutterably precious is at stake for them. Why?
After all, the idea comes to us in such a ghastly gallery of images: late Augustinianism’s unbaptized babes descending in their thrashing billions to a perpetual and condign combustion; Dante’s exquisitely psychotic dreamscapes of twisted, mutilated, broiling souls; St. Francis Xavier morosely informing his weeping Japanese converts that their deceased parents must suffer an eternity of agony; your poor old palpitant Aunt Maude on her knees each night in a frenzy of worry over her reprobate boys; and so on.
Surely it would be welcome news if it turned out that, on the matter of hell, something got garbled in transmission. And there really is room for doubt.
No truly accomplished New Testament scholar, for instance, believes that later Christianity’s opulent mythology of God’s eternal torture chamber is clearly present in the scriptural texts. It’s entirely absent from St. Paul’s writings; the only eschatological fire he ever mentions brings salvation to those whom it tries (1 Corinthians 3:15). Neither is it found in the other New Testament epistles, or in any extant documents (like the Didache) from the earliest post-apostolic period. There are a few terrible, surreal, allegorical images of judgment in the Book of Revelation, but nothing that, properly read, yields a clear doctrine of eternal torment. Even the frightening language used by Jesus in the Gospels, when read in the original Greek, fails to deliver the infernal dogmas we casually assume to be there.
On the other hand, many New Testament passages seem – and not metaphorically – to promise the eventual salvation of everyone. For example: “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” (Romans 5:18) Or: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) Or: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) (Or: John 13:32; Romans 11:32; 1 Timothy 2:3-6; 4:10; Titus 2:11; and others.)
Admittedly, much theological ink has been spilled over the years explaining away the plain meaning of those verses. But it’s instructive that during the first half millennium of Christianity – especially in the Greek-speaking Hellenistic and Semitic East – believers in universal salvation apparently enjoyed their largest presence as a relative ratio of the faithful. Late in the fourth century, in fact, the theologian Basil the Great reported that the dominant view of hell among the believers he knew was of a limited, “purgatorial” suffering. Those were also the centuries that gave us many of the greatest Christian “universalists”: Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Didymus the Blind, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Diodore of Tarsus and others.
Of course, once the Christian Church became part of the Roman Empire’s political apparatus, the grimmest view naturally triumphed. As the company of the baptized became more or less the whole imperial population, rather than only those people personally drawn to the faith, spiritual terror became an ever more indispensable instrument of social stability. And, even today, institutional power remains one potent inducement to conformity on this issue.
Still, none of that accounts for the deep emotional need many modern Christians seem to have for an eternal hell. And I don’t mean those who ruefully accept the idea out of religious allegiance, or whose sense of justice demands that Hitler and Pol Pot get their proper comeuppance, or who think they need the prospect of hell to keep themselves on the straight and narrow. Those aren’t the ones who scream and foam in rage at the thought that hell might be only a stage along the way to a final universal reconciliation. In those who do, something else is at work.
Theological history can boast few ideas more chilling than the claim (of, among others, Thomas Aquinas) that the beatitude of the saved in heaven will be increased by their direct vision of the torments of the damned (as this will allow them to savor their own immunity from sin’s consequences). But as awful as that sounds, it may be more honest in its sheer cold impersonality than is the secret pleasure that many of us, at one time or another, hope to derive not from seeing but from being seen by those we leave behind.
How can we be winners, after all, if there are no losers? Where’s the joy in getting into the gated community and the private academy if it turns out that the gates are merely decorative and the academy has an inexhaustible scholarship program for the underprivileged? What success can there be that isn’t validated by another’s failure? What heaven can there be for us without an eternity in which to relish the impotent envy of those outside its walls?
Not to sound too cynical. But it’s hard not to suspect that what many of us find intolerable is a concept of God that gives inadequate license to the cruelty of which our own imaginations are capable.
An old monk on Mount Athos in Greece once told me that people rejoice in the thought of hell to the precise degree that they harbor hell within themselves. By which he meant, I believe, that heaven and hell alike are both within us all, in varying degrees, and that, for some, the idea of hell is the treasury of their most secret, most cherished hopes – the hope of being proved right when so many were wrong, of being admired when so many are despised, of being envied when so many have been scorned.
And as Jesus said (Matthew 6:21), “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
David Bentley Hart is the author, most recently, of “That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation.”