There’s a theological problem with black holes

Posted: 7th October 2013 by Khannea Suntzu in Uncategorized
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Black Holes are collapsed stars that are so dense they have several distinctive effects on objects nearby. At the gravitational states of black holes the universe operates rather haphazardly and different from the normal universe, let alone the parochial mundaneity of our Earth’s surface. It won’t serve much use to explore in exhaustive details what black holes do precisely, but there’s a specific problem with black holes that has profound theological implications for an all-powerful deity such as being believed in by (for instance) the catholic church.

Near the stellar mass of a “normal” black holes gravity quickly increases as any object would get closer to the singularity space. The actual black hole is so heavy that it has compressed more matter than is in the sun to an area of mere kilometers. There is no frame of comprehension human minds can apply to describe this. What is however known is that near any black hole, whether it is minimum sized (several solar masses) to large (galactic ones weight millions to billions of solar masses) the ordinary flow of time is functionally disrupted. Thus an object that falls in to a black hole, as perceived by observers, falls ever closer to this transitional realm of space where the ordinary flow of time is retarded and effectively objects that get close to this “event horizon” effectively freeze before falling in. In other words, what falls in to an already formed black hole falls towards the event horizon and then becomes an image frozen in time, never to fully observationally fall in. It is still there millions of years later, at least in theory still in a state of temporal retardation doing things, potentially making decisions and (from a moral stand point) able to engage in functional moral choices.

From the perspective of a person who actually falls in to a black hole (and survives long enough to deliberate the consequences) something else of considerable importance happens. This mental experiment could not occur in the confines of smaller black holes, as these exert a marked increase in gravitational torque as you approach them. In other words, smaller (stellar mass) black holes are relatively concentrated gravitational points and falling towards these exerts a force that jumps up to fast to allow a person to deliberate much as you get closer. But in case of very heavy black holes the transitional state of falling in gets aggravated by the resulting acceleration caused by falling in, and the observers speed increases as well, thereby causing an ever more considerable slowing of time for the astronaut who falls in to the hole. In other words, the bigger the hole, the more time the traveler has to have a while to look at the surroundings and contemplate matters and exert free will of some sort.

Now this has an interesting implication for theology of some religions. In some religions there is a thing called sin, and in many monotheistic religions certain moral choices have implications on whether a soul is “saved” by the grace of an all knowing deity. This is especially poignant for catholicism, where it is assumed that specific private choices of a moral character can have bearing on when a person becomes damned or saved. Also, in catholicism (and a few other comparable monotheistic ideologies), there is a certain assumption that in some moment in the (allegedly) near future there will be some kind of intervention initiated by the divinity in Earth’s affairs. For many christians it is assumed that this will be within a few years, at most decades, but certainly not in a multitude of centuries, in several millenia and certainly not in millions of years.

However there is a problem with this. And I’d love to hear theologians take this problem seriously and respond to it.

My question is relevant to some theoretical astronaut to travel to a very heavy black hole at some point in the future, and hurtle him or herself in to this object at a very high speed. Just the flight inward of the astronaut will move him or her to “relativistic speeds”, thereby inducing from his or her perspective a change in time flow. Now let’s assume the astronaut is a virtuous soul by the standards of any religion. He or she might be saved or might not be saved by the grace of the almighty, and at the moment of proximity to the singularity mass this is uncertain, even in the contemplation of the divine. However as the astronaut falls in, he or she may experience a retardation of time that he or she is still alive in a point, far in the future of Earth. In fact, with very heavy and large black holes this moment may be literally billions of years in the future.

This implies that the almighty would not be able to properly decide on the moral state of this astronaut for billions of years. Even worse, this astronaut might literally end up the last human (or the last person with the particular kind of free will associated with the divine plan) in the universe for literally billions of years after any other human being has long since passed away. If the almighty would not intervene in the experiential flow of time, and if the act of jumping in to the black hole was not to be regarded as a mortal sin of suicide (for instance – the astronaut were to be thrown in to the black hole by a particularly insidious scientist as an experiment) then we’d all see an unsaved soul frozen in time at the event horizon, still in an undecided state for a long long time.

While no theologian can presume to know the will of the almighty, I am fairly curious on how this question might be resolved, from a merely theoretical theological perspective. When does the almighty make a choice on the state of grace (respectively damnation) of the astronaut? Does the almighty have to contend with potentially waiting billions of years before “rolling up the universe”, so finally it is possible for the end of times to occur, after the last soul has been properly accounted for? Inquiring minds are keenly interested in finding out.

Update: Turing Church (see comments)

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