Monday, May 13, 2013

But will they go to Hell?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the Minnesota Senate has passed a bill legalizing same-sex civil marriage. As we noted on Friday, the Minnesota House of Representatives has also passed the bill.

According to the Star Tribune, only one Republican member of the Minnesota Senate voted for the bill. That Republican, Senator Brenden Petersen represents a district that voted for defining marriage as being between one man and one women in the Minnesota Constitution.  Perhaps picking up on on all the "think of the children" arguments that opponents of the bill used in the Minnesota House of Representatives votes, Senator Petersen told his his kids "Be bold and be courageous and you will never regret a day in your life."

Perhaps recognizing that the arguments about bigotry and children we discussed on Friday were not winning arguments, Republican Senator Dan Hall told his fellow senators that he was praying for a miracle and that the senate would reject the bill. I imagine atheists will say that his prayers went answered because the bill passed. Others might point out that when we ask God for something, sometimes the answer is "no."  Others might think that you cannot petition the Lord with prayer

Once the power of prayer did not seem to be working, Senator Hall tried a different approach and told supporters of the bill that his concern was that if he (and presumably his fellow senators) voted for the bill he would go to Hell. Specifically, he said, "Some people have said that they are concerned about being on the right side of history. I am more concerned about being on the right side of eternity."

Senator Hall's comments about being sent to Hell over voting remind me of the street preachers I sometimes encounter while walking around downtown Minneapolis.  Those folks are often talking about people are going to Hell if they don't either do something or refrain from doing something.  I never see anyone that seems persuaded by that type of preaching.  What do you think Mr. Torvik?  Is the threat of eternal damnation persuasive argument?  Obviously religion is important to a lot of people and has been for a long time.  But does Hell still work as a selling point?


  1. I'm persuaded by the argument that if people really believed in Hell & eternal damnation they would act a lot differently.

    This doesn't really undercut the Senator's argument. If he truly believes that a vote for same-sex marriage is a sinful act that puts him at increased risk of suffering eternal damnation, he would be a fool to vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

    1. The question isn't his beliefs or his vote. Or at least it was not intended to be about his beliefs or vote. The question was intended to be about whether threatening people with Hell was good advocacy. As you note, it is only good advocacy if the listener believes that Hell exists. Based on the votes it looks like it was the wrong message for that particular crowd. But maybe that is too much monday morning quarterbacking.

  2. I agree with you that most people won't find it persuasive to argue that they should do something because not doing it will send them to hell. It's really a form of question-begging.


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