Easter is a time for reflection. As Christians, our focus should not be the traditional existential threats but a potential S-risk (suffering risk) that's often overlooked by the Effective Altruism community: eternal damnation in hell.

For us Christians, hell represents an infinitely long period of excruciating suffering. The scale of this potential suffering dwarfs any conceivable earthly catastrophe. Even the most nightmarish extinction events pale in comparison to an eternity of torment.

From an EA perspective, this raises a critical question: Shouldn't preventing hellfire be our top priority?

Here's why it deserves serious consideration:

Scale: The sheer number of souls potentially at stake is immense. Depending on the denomination, billions could face this fate.

Intensity: The suffering described in hell is often characterized as unimaginable and unending.

Irreversibility: Once condemned, there's no escape.

So, what can we do?

Traditional EA focuses on near-term, measurable interventions. However, the nature of the afterlife makes traditional solutions challenging.

Here are some potential avenues to explore:

Increased outreach and evangelism: If preventing hellfire requires faith in Christ, then efforts to spread Christianity in could be a great existential risk mitigation.

Advocacy for annihilation: Fewer humans means fewer people that can face eternal torment. Encouraging apocalyptic x-risk could potentially reduce the overall suffering risk.

Prayer and research into theology: Perhaps there are unexplored avenues with God that could shed light on the nature of hell and potential escape routes.

I believe the potential scale of suffering justifies further exploration. What are your thoughts?




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I think another promising intervention would be to persuade God to be a conditional annihilationist or support universal reconciliation with Christ. Abraham successfully negotiated conditions with God regarding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah with just a few sentences. Imagine what we could do with rigorous and prayerful BOTEC analyses! Even if there is a small chance of this succeeding, the impact could be incredible in expectation.

There's a lot to unpack there. One quick observation: in some Christian theologies, the question is completely intractable. (Note that I am not endorsing Calvinism!)

I find this really interesting for personal reasons. I grew up in a Calvinist church (and also, for a brief period of time, considered myself a calvinist).  

Now, looking back, I find it fascinating that the church was successful in motivating itself to take evangelism still very seriously. 

It did so not on consequentialist grounds. No one ever said "evangelize because your effort actually might affect where someone spends eternity." 

Instead, people said things like "evangelize because you can share Good News of the hope that is within you" (1 Peter 3:15) or "God wants to work through you to bring nonbelievers to knowledge of salvation - that's how God works: through people like you and me" (Romans 10:14-15). And people seemed to find that quite inspiring and motivating. 

They would have probably balked at language of "tractability" of evangelism.

Eric Sampson published a paper on this in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. See here

Abstract: Longtermist Effective Altruists (EAs) aim to mitigate the risk of existential catastrophes. In this paper, I have three goals. First, I identify a catastrophic risk that has been completely ignored by EAs. I call it religious catastrophe: the threat that (as Christians and Muslims have warned for centuries) billions of people stand in danger of going to hell for all eternity. Second, I argue that, even by secular EA lights, religious catastrophe is at least as bad and at least as probable, and therefore at least as important as many of the standard EA catastrophic risks (e.g., catastrophic climate change, nuclear winter). Third, I present the following dilemma for secular EAs: either adopt religious catastrophe as an EA cause or ignore religious catastrophe but also ignore catastrophic risks whose mitigation has a similar, or lower, expected value (i.e., most, or all, of them). Business as usual—ignoring religious catastrophe while championing the usual EA causes—is not an option consistent with longtermist EA principles.

Not a popular topic among secular EAs, in my experience.

Thanks for your post! However I'm kind a priori worried about your underlying hell model:

You stated earlier that int_{-\infty}^{+\infty} f(x) = dx[/33], setting your baseline intervention of Insecticide-Treated Bed Nets being set at ^{+12*33)). 

I think what you actually meant was  int_{-\infty}^{+\infty} f(x) = dx[/32].

Happy to take a look at your spreadsheet, which due to the topic at hand, I assume is in excel not google sheets.

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