Over the last while, I have encountered many atheists who object to the doctrine of annihilationism according to which God eventually withdraws life posthumously from those who refuse to submit to be in relationship with God and restored creation. I understand objections to eternal conscious torment, but objections to punishment simpliciter (and this annihilationist account in particular) in which God allows people to experience the soul-destroying consequences of their actions, strike me as misguided at best.
Consider an analogy. Most people recognize that there are laws that govern civil society and that in order to flourish within civil society, one needs to observe those laws. For example, repeatedly driving your car at 100 mph through school zones will eventually result in your car being impounded and you being imprisoned. And if you don’t like that, well, too bad. That’s what happens when you violate the law.
By the same token, the person who repeatedly flouts the laws of the Kingdom of God will eventually experience the repercussions of their actions whether they like it or not. There simply is no ground for protest.
At this point, the atheist or non-Christian objector who is indignant that they should be expected to follow the laws of the Kingdom of God strikes me as reminiscent of the movement known as Freemen on the land. These are individuals who insist that they are not subject to the laws of the country in which they abide. For example, when they are pulled over by the Michigan police while driving an unregistered vehicle without a license, they will confidently produce a piece of paper that they claim exempts them from the laws of the United States. They can produce all the paper they want. It doesn’t mean that they will be able to violate flagrantly the laws of the land in which they exist. And so, they will find the police officer rolling his eyes, stuffing the paper into his back pocket, and they placing handcuffs on them while they protest their innocence in vain.
In eternity, the only “land” in which to live is the Kingdom of God. And if you do not wish to abide by the laws of that land, if you flagrantly violate them, then it doesn’t matter which paper you wave around: you will be subject to the divine governance of that divine country no less than the so-called freeman on the land who is arrested by the Michigan police officer.