My good friend OpinionJournal.com blogger James Taranto drops his insistence that there is no tension between American tolerance and a belief in eternal damnation for wrong-believers (not without getting in one last crude mischaracterization of my argument, however).
Now he says that our disagreement boils down to the following statement of mine, from which he deletes the final clause:
[I]t is an empirical matter, presumably verifiable after the Last Judgment, whether unbelievers and the unbaptised are eternally punished, not just a matter of feeling.
James pretends that I was proposing a scientific test today for what will transpire after death. In fact, I was just stating the obvious: If hell is real, we will all find out–some of us directly–after the Last Judgment. By contrast, the statement which James offers as an analogy to the belief in eternal damnation: “She is the most important thing in the world” is a value judgment that cannot be corroborated by actual experience.
In an effort to be cute, James states that I “must be the only atheist who thinks [that] the Last Judgment is a real event.” Earlier James accused me of lacking imaginative sympathy with religious belief; now he accuses me of believing religious doctrine. I wish he’d make up his mind.