Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Virtual hell

Hell has fallen on hard times. There are "evangelical universalists" and "evangelical annihilationists". 

As interactive video games and virtual reality become increasingly sophisticated, it will be possible to be the "god" of your own virtual world. Design a virtual world that mirrors your values. You devise the plot, setting, and characters. Unlike the real world, where you're subject to legal and social restrictions, in the virtual world you can be totally uninhibited. You can act with absolute impunity. You can do whatever you wish to your virtual characters, without fear of consequences. The perfect double life. 

How many of these customized virtual worlds will be psychopathic utopias? A bacchanalian orgy of exploitation and unbridled cruelty? A sociopathic dream come true?

Hell doesn't brutalize the damned. Rather, hell exposes the unrepressed brutality of the damned. 

Heaven and hell are reciprocal conditions. There's a sense in which hell is what makes heaven heavenly and heaven is what makes hell hellish. Which is not to deny that heaven has a positive identity, but in a moral universe there are two divergent paths. Evil reveals what goodness is not while goodness reveals what evil is not. Although good would still be good without evil, good and evil are mutually interpretive conditions. 

In principle, each human life might have the same starting-point, but fork off in opposite directions. Heaven and hell represent divergent paths taken to consistent extremes. The saints in glory can look back and say, "That's why I might have been!" Every saint had an alter-ego.


  1. Look at what happens in countries where it starts to become clear that the government is losing control (e.g. recently in Iraq, Syria, Libya, the Sahel). Suddenly, petty and serious crime flourish. People loot and murder their neighbours without fearing that justice will catch up with them. What does this show? As Steve says, it shows what people always wanted to do, but were simply constrained by other factors. It wasn't the morality of the action, but other factors (chiefly, the consequences) that determined whether they did it or not. The removal of restraint doesn't create new desires, but reveals ones that were always latent.

  2. That's the theme of the brilliant black mirror episode USS Callister. A Computer programmer is God in his own virtual world. For those unfortunate souls trapped in that world it truly is hell.