The Evangelical Universalist Forum

ECT and Dehumanization

Dear Richard, et al,

After reading some posts in theMissions as an UnfundamentalistChristian thread, I started thinking about the people in the pre-Columbian Americas. As a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, I and some other people with Native American ancestry had asked in a Bible study about what happened to the people who died before Christianity arrived in the Americas. Being Caucasian for all intents and purposes, I didn’t give much thought to whatever the answer we were given, and pushed the question out of my mind.

But now after thinking about UR for a while, it seems to me that ECT and dehumanization go hand in hand. As you mentioned in* Unclean* about Darwin’s disgust at the “naked savage” touching his food, it seems logical that most of Western societies would have viewed these native as not-fully-human savages. Today, we generally don’t come into contact with, or even refer to them as ‘savages’, but we still use ECT in a dehumanizing context with our neighbors. Now, there isn’t a hugely visible difference between the ‘churched’ and the ‘unwashed heathens’ so the mechanisms of scapegoating and ostracizing are used to identify the outgroup. There are some huge churches and lots of airtime used to send the message letting the entire world know who doesn’t belong to the ‘good guys’. And I think this huge boundary wall is necessary to dehumanize the outgroup; how else could anyone believe the position that the ‘saved’ will be looking down on the tortured souls in ECT with rejoicing?

Forgive me if you already covered this elsewhere (or if I missed it in my first reading of Unclean), but it seems quite relevant to me right now.


Hi Eric, I think it’s a great observation. I don’t connect the argument of Unclean with hell, but it’s a logical step and connection. One of my early posts here at the forum made a similar argument to the one you make here, though my focus was on ethnocentrism rather than dehumanization. Though the two are intimately related. Here’s a bit of what I wrote then:

In their book Us against Them: Ethnocentric Foundations of American Opinion Donald Kinder and Cindy Kamby define ethnocentrism as generalized prejudice, the propensity to separate the world into in-groups and out-groups. From Us Against Them:

Ethnocentrism is the psychological tendency to separate our social worlds into “us” and “them.” As a part of this process we attribute virtue to people similar to ourselves and vice to out-group members, people from different ethnic groups, nations, socioeconomic strata or belief systems. More, given these attitudes we are ready to help in-group members and thwart out-group members. One more quote from Us against Them:

It seems to me that hell is quintessentially ethnocentric, the religious outworking of an ultimate and eternal separation of Us against Them, with the virtuous in-group in heaven and the vice-filled Others in hell.

From a more technically metaphysical standpoint, any ECT or annihilationist theory necessarily involves God either cooperating with (and authoritatively sealing) the dehumanization of humans (even of sinners’ dehumanization of themselves); or else necessarily involves something successfully dehumanizing what God has made human and does His best to keep human.

That this concept then becomes projected onto the sociological axis of group competition (which involves primarily inhuman and instinctual evolutionary behaviors at best anyway), shouldn’t be surprising. :wink: