The Ultimate Sacrifice?

In the aftermath of the horrendous movie theater shootings in Aurora, Colorado, attention has turned to the heroic sacrifices of three young men who gave their lives trying to protect the ones they loved. Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn and Alex Teves are rightfully being hailed as heroes for their selfless actions that saved the lives of their girlfriends in the heat and confusion of the moment.

It’s called the ultimate sacrifice for a reason. When you give your life to save another, there is nothing more to give. But when people begin pushing religion into the picture, which always seems to happen in America after tragic events like this, things become decidedly more murky.

 Let’s assume that the Christian “God of the Bible” exists for a moment. It would mean that the men who so selflessly gave up their lives to protect their girlfriends are in one of two places right now–Heaven or Hell–and according to the Bible, their sacrifice has absolutely no bearing on which one they found themselves in. The only thing that matters is whether they were born-again believers when they died.

If they were born-again Christians at that fatal moment, then they are basking in the glories of Heaven right now, and not only will they be experiencing almost unimaginable joy and happiness, they will be rejoicing that they are no longer suffering the trials and uncertainties of life here on Earth.

In other words… What sacrifice? After all, their death was the best thing that ever happened to them.

But what if they were not born-again believers when their lives were cut short? Their sacrifice changes nothing. They are still destined to endure an eternity of pain and anguish in Hell. Their noble deed means absolutely nothing to God, and they are even robbed of any joy or pleasure through knowing that they saved the people they loved. Such things are not allowed in Hell.

Either way, if the Biblical account of the afterlife is true, the noble sacrifice of these three men is greatly diminished in the light of what supposedly happened to them once they died. It was either by far the best thing that could have happened to them or it condemned them to the worst fate anyone could possibly imagine.

But now suppose there is no God. Suppose that when your life here on Earth is over, there is nothing more. Only then can we see the actions of these men for what they truly are–the ultimate sacrifice. They have given up everything they were, are, and could have been, with no expectation of any reward.

And so it is only in a world without God can we say for sure that these men have paid the ultimate price. Biblical Christianity only cheapens the moment.

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4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Sacrifice?

  1. This argument is fallacious. You’re saying that if an afterlife were to exist, that would change our worldly opinion of this great and noble deed. This is completely false: whether or not Heaven and Hell exist, this act was still a great and ultimate sacrifice. The only difference is the viewpoint of those who have sacrificed, and in this Biblical Christianity seems to offer a more satisfying result: if they were believers, then they would be aware of this sacrifice. If there is no afterlife, then they would have no knowledge of such an act, because their consciousnesses are nonexistent.

  2. If there is Hell and if the three young men were not born-again Christians, then they would have paid the ultimate sacrifice because they will suffer for eternity without any hope of reversal in their after-life. If they were still alive, at least there is a chance in their remaining life time that they would become a Christian. On the other hand, if life ends at death then it would not matter because they cease to exist at death and hence no more suffering.

  3. The sacrifice of giving your life to save another is an extreme act of love which trumps any notions of what happens in heaven or hell. The thing is that no one really knows what heaven or hell is. Only when we die do we truly know so why can’t we acknowledge that it was a beautiful loving act.

  4. Based upon a couple of comments in this article, it seems that the author is equating Christianity with Evangelical Protestantism (“born again” Christians). E.g. “The only thing that matters is whether they were born-again believers when they died.”

    Of Americans who identify themselves as Christian, only about 1/3 belong to Evangelical churches. http://religions.pewforum.org/reports

    That is a mistake that many of the “new atheists” make. It is probably because Evangelicals are politically active in America and they make a lot more noise about themselves and their theology than other Christians. Also, a high percentage of Evangelicals are “new Earth Creationists” and they often debate atheists on evolution. Evangelicalism and evolution are mutually exclusive since Evangelicals believe that death did not exist before Adam & Eve sinned.

    If any of those men were Roman Catholics, then their fate would also depend on the role of the Church: were they baptized and/or were last rites performed? If any were Mormon (assuming that you consider Mormons to be Christians), salvation is a little more complicated since we all existed as spirits before we were born and became mortal.

    The statement above that the moment of death determines salvation also disagrees with the belief of most Evangelicals. E.g., if that were true, then everyone who died before Jesus was born and every non-Christian ever born (e.g. Jews) is destined to spend forever in Hell. That view disagrees with the Evangelical view of a loving God. This is where the “second coming” enters the picture. When Jesus returns, everyone who is not already saved – dead or alive – will get a chance to accept Jesus as his/her savior. They are a little fuzzy about how this will work for the billions of people who died before being saved, but they believe it will happen.

    I also disagree with the characterization of “the ultimate sacrifice” as applied to the men who died trying to protect loved ones. First, it was only an “ultimate” sacrifice if it was their choice. I don’t believe that any of these men had time to make a choice. I believe that self-sacrifice in these cases is a reflex action or a product of instinct. E.g., many animals will sacrifice themselves for a chance to save their offspring, but we normally attribute this to evolutionary drive rather than to rational thought.

    Even if the men made some kind of instantaneous decision, it may have been driven by self-interest. I.e., they may have thought, “What if I don’t try to save her? How will I live with myself?” In this case, the choice is between hoping that there is no Biblical Hell and living out the rest of his life regretting this one choice. To me, that is a very good working definition of “Hell on Earth.”

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