According to David Lewis, “Some worshippers of the perpetrator are obviously evil. They relish contemplating the torment of the damned. Some of them even think that delight in the eternal sufferings of worldly sinners will be a component of the bliss of the save,” Philosophers Without Gods, 239.
In the endnotes (295n12) he quotes a colorful passage from Tertullian to illustrate his point.
Several comments are in order:
i) Like so many atheologians, Lewis carries on a moral tirade against the Christian faith without bothering to explain how he, as an atheist, is in a position to moralize.
Now, perhaps he could marshal sort of argument for secular ethics. But he doesn’t. He simply takes for granted the moral authority of his value-judgments.
ii) We also find some imprecations and taunt-songs in Scripture. What are we to make of these?
One needs to make some allowance for hyperbole and picturesque figures of speech. It’s funny how many unbelievers quote the Bible in the same vein as Elmer Gantry.
iii) Let’s remember that the Scriptural imprecations and taunt-songs are directed at powerful enemies of the faith. Men who persecute the people of God. Men who hound the poor to death and corrupt the system of justice through bribery.
iv) Lewis seems to think the saints will glory will spend eternity gloating over the fate of the damned. There’s nothing in Scripture to justify that assumption.
What we have, instead, are the righteous taking moral satisfaction in the final judgment. The scales of justice are finally righted. Evildoers who defrauded widows and orphans or massacred the faithful will get their comeuppance at last.
How is that obviously evil? On the contrary, what would be obviously evil is someone so morally blind that he is offended by retributive justice.
We should rejoice when the wicked receive their just deserts. It’s a good thing when the innocent are vindicated and the guilty are punished.
This doesn’t mean the saints spend eternity munching on ambrosia while they literally look down on the damned, from their Olympian heights, as the damned writhe in agony. Some unbelievers have clearly seen too many reruns of Clash of the Titans.
It’s not as if, after a judge has sentenced the accused, the family of the victim stays in the courtroom, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. No, once the sentence is pronounced and the court is adjourned, they go back home and get on with their lives.
Justice is a liberating force. It doesn’t keep you trapped in the past, but—to the contrary—frees you to move forward.