One of the favorite objections to Christianity is the specter of infant damnation.
(BTW, I’m using “infant” for anyone below the age of discretion.)
Now, I have no settled opinion on the subject, for the simple reason that Scripture has so little to say on the subject one way or the other.
Within Calvinism you have some Reformed representatives like Grudem, Warfield, Piper, and Storms who believe in universal infant salvation.
However, suppose, for the sake of argument, that God damns some individuals who die in infancy. Although this is speculative, I’m going to discuss it because infidels use this as a wedge issue. So it’s good to confront head-on the toughest objections they can raise.
This objection involves a suppressed premise. That if an infant dies and goes to hell, he goes to hell as an infant. But why assume that, even for the sake of argument?
Suppose that Stalin died of cholera as a baby. Had he lived, he'd grow up to be the mass murderer that history denounces.
And suppose that’s the “infant” Stalin whom God consigns to hell. He dies as a baby, but when he goes to hell, God instantiates his adult counterpart. The counterfactual Stalin who, had he lived, went on to be a mass murderer. The Stalin of the alternate history. Not baby Stalin, not the Stalin who (ex hypothesi) died in infancy–but Chairman Stalin.
Let’s consider this from several different angles:
i) Suppose a serial killer is about to murder his 20th victim, but just before he slits her throat, a sharpshooter caps him. The serial killer goes to hell.
Is he punished for killing 19 women? Or is he also punished for the 20th victim he intended to kill? Does he get off the hook for #20 through a fluke of timing? Wouldn’t that be morally arbitrary?
ii) God created Adam and Eve as adults. Yet God could also imagine Adam as a baby, or a teenager. God had the concept of younger Adamic counterparts. In God’s mind there was a continuum of Adams. God chose to instantiate one of those Adamic ideas along the continuum, to the exclusion of others.
iii) Suppose a senile Christian goes to heaven. Is he senile in heaven? No. God restores his memories. God ages him back down to the psychological age when he was still lucid, when he had all his faculties intact. In a sense, God instantiates a younger counterpart. His younger self, glorified.
So even if (arguendo) God were to damn some babies, that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to visualize cute little babies writhing in hell. Rather, it would be reasonable to formulate this in terms of counterfactual damnation. God damning their adult counterparts, for their alternate futures.
An atheist might complain that this answer is too speculative. To that I’d say, if you don’t like conjectural answers, don’t raise conjectural objections.
Likewise, an atheist might complain that this answer takes too many Christian presuppositions for granted. Yet the objection itself takes certain Christian presuppositions for granted in order to exploit the emotional tension they (allegedly) generate.