If Hell is Real then…

I think everyone should be very much in ‘fear’ – since the prospect of burning alive for some ‘eternal’ amount of time can only generate such a response (it’s very normal to have this response to such dire consequences). But what does this say about God?

One thing is for sure – God is into intimidation if ‘hell’ is real. The idea is if you won’t follow out of love or common sense – then God will get ya another way – through fear…and not that normal ‘run of the mill’ fear – no something much bigger from a much bigger source (an unknown source at that). This unknown aspect of God can only make one leave some room for this ‘fear’ (can’t be too sure so I better cross all my t’s and dot all my i’s type things).

That’s why ‘hell’ as an idea – as is used in most churches (a literal place) – just has to be wrong. It promotes a fear based faith versus a loving version of that same faith – and one cannot help but keep the fear part and mingle it with the love part – making a contradiction about God.

How can one be pre-supposed to love God and not fear Him? Hell as an ultimate punishment leaves little room for question marks when you think about it – so even questioning falls on the taboo side of things. What if your beliefs are wrong – then what? Then you are dealing with ‘fear’ and no longer ‘love’…meaning your bottom line with God is basically ‘fear’…and is this healthy?

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25 thoughts on “If Hell is Real then…

  1. I think the contradictory nature of Hell and God causes many Christians to sound like battered spouses…. “yes, he beats me… but you don’t understand… he really does love me.”

  2. My question would be … why would hell be created in the first place? What would the point be? Ignoring the logistics of it — as in, if God is everywhere, then God must be in hell, and yet hell is the absence of God — why couldn’t justice be served by simply a permanent death? Especially if the gift God gives is eternal life?

  3. “I think the contradictory nature of Hell and God causes many Christians to sound like battered spouses…. “yes, he beats me… but you don’t understand… he really does love me.”” (Andrew)

    Great analogy – and so true on many levels.

    “My question would be … why would hell be created in the first place? What would the point be?…why couldn’t justice be served by simply a permanent death? Especially if the gift God gives is eternal life?” (OSS)

    I agree…it makes a doctrine of hell that makes completely no sense and makes God look bad – not humans (kind of another scapegoating thing for Christianity to deal with). Death would serve the purpose of eliminating any problems – but I am guessing early Christianity did not know how to make sense of the soul. So they must of figured it would ‘never die’….where this comes from is beyond me…Roman and Greek Philosophy?

    The stuff that gets to you to hell is also quite the debate – believing wrongly about Jesus can land you there for example – and somehow this makes sense? Now if someone argues Hitler deserves hell – I might just let that one slide – but some dude that did well their whole life but never had faith in God – then I have some qualms about the legitimacy of the punishment. What was the crime committed to be punished so badly? They were proud? They rejected faith? Did they committ murder and other horrible atrocities I would ask (for even some grounds to argue such an idea).

    Hell is just plain and simple a useless part of theology when presented as ‘literal’ – it’s the ‘just in case’ card someone can whip out when ‘nice’ doesn’t work.

  4. The whole issue is quite bizarre.

    God created us knowing some us wouldn’t be “saved”. God created us knowing some of us would burn in hell forever. Yet God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives.

    God wants us to love him, yet if we won’t, he threatens us with hell hoping we will begrudgingly love him to avoid hell. If the relationship between Christ and his followers is like a “marriage” what kind of marriage is this?

    Your comment focuses on one of the many problems I have with Christianity.

    Gandhi is in hell because he didn’t believe the right things. If Gandhi had just prayed the sinner’s prayers, had just believed the right things……………Of course, I have long suspected, despite all their talk of grace, that many Christians actually believe in salvation by right thinking or beliefs.

    Bruce

  5. “Of course, I have long suspected, despite all their talk of grace, that many Christians actually believe in salvation by right thinking or beliefs” (Bruce)

    I agree 100%…which they deny up and down is ‘works’ – but basically it is an ‘act’ of their ‘will’…a ‘work’. Man why Christians hate work is really beyond me.

    “God created us knowing some us wouldn’t be “saved”. God created us knowing some of us would burn in hell forever. Yet God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives” (Bruce)

    According to Christians – God doesn’t need to make sense (His ways are greater than ours) – He just needs to sound illogical on all fronts – confusing I would call it. God is not really that loving IMO if hell is an eternal burning place…it’s really a second god God has created there…more people serve an idea surrounding ‘hell’ than to actually ‘love’ God. Like the dude with the book ’39 minutes in hell’…another fear based novel – not about how wonderful God is – how threatening He can be.

    Hell is truly a scary prospect – I admit that – burning 4-ever without family and friends – f*ckin horrible if u ask me and only leaves me with ideas of fear and anger. This is torture so damn cruel I wouldn’t even wish it on the worst person on this planet – nor ever try anything similar as a punishment to anything around me (ie: burn them with fire). Yet this is the God of love not only wishing this idea to happen – using it on some billions of people over human history – ouch. Now maybe God’s mercy is greater than fire – I don’t know – I just know how Christians present hell it makes God look ogre-like.

  6. These are great questions, and they’re the kind of questions that Evangelicals don’t want you to ask. Why? Because they ultimately will lead you to seeing through the contradictions in their “gospel,” which is no good news at all.

    I’ve actually written an entire book on this topic–“Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There’s No Such Place As Hell,” (for anyone interested, you can get a free Ecopy of my book at my website: http://www.ricklannoye.com), but let me share just one of the many points I make in my book to illustrate why God would never ALLOW, much less CREATE, SEND anyone to, or KEEP anyone in Hell. Starting with the strong evidence that Jesus himself rejected the idea of Hell.

    The majority of Jesus’ teachings in the gospels resound a constant theme: Care for those who are suffering! According to most of what Jesus is said to have taught, God wants to help and heal all people, not abandon and hurt them. This, alone, precludes a deity who could torture people for any length of time, much less forever.

    For example, in Luke 9:51-56, Jesus becomes very disappointed with his disciples when they suggest that God rain FIRE on a village of people who had REJECTED him. Jesus tries so hard to explain, “Don’tyou know what spirit is inspiring this talk?” Presumably, not the Holy Spirit! He goes on to say he has come to save, to help, to heal, instead. He had no interest in harming the people in that village, even though they had rejected him. This same Jesus could never turn right around and, not only burn a few people for a few horrific minutes until they’re dead, but burn billions of people for an eternity!

    No, the doctrine of Hell made its way into Christianity long after Jesus’ death, when it became mostly a Greek religion. The Greeks imported their Pagan belief in Hades with them when they converted, and their scribes adulterated the gospels here and there to place the belief on Jesus’ lips.

  7. Thanks for the link ot the ecopy Rick – I will definitely take a good look at the book and see what more I can learn on this topic (likely a lot).

    I enjoy your viewpoint also – concerning hell and comparing that with Jesus’ own ethics. I tend to look at this all the same way also – I figure the best test of what ‘hell’ means has to be cross compared with the totality of Jesus’ teachngs – to make any sense…and like you I just cannot see this teaching in his work…unless ‘hell’ is just like one turning their life into ‘garbage’ (a waste). Hell truly is in that condition and that’s about it.

  8. I don’t know if there is a hell or not, but I am sure that if it does exist, it is empty… because of the Christ who redeemed all the world to the Father.

  9. I’d really like to understand fully where the doctrine of hell came from, what scripture is used to support it, and on the counter side, why can we be confident that there is no hell, or at least a hell with no one in it. Just because it seems like it contradicts Christ’s nature doesn’t seem like all that solid of a reason to throw hell out. I am being very honest here. I don’t know whether to fear hell or feel free of its chains. I want to be free of it.

  10. it’s good to have some fear of something that is larger than you… but maybe fear is the wrong word… a humble awe and reverence might fit better.

  11. it’s good to have some fear of something that is larger than you(Luke)

    “Its not the size of the dog in the fight, its the size of the fight in the dog”

    Ruff………..

  12. “Just because it seems like it contradicts Christ’s nature doesn’t seem like all that solid of a reason to throw hell out” (Doug)

    I think ‘hell’ is a condition we can get into – just not a place where we burn eternally. Jesus’ teachings are basically the frame to view these through – to make a better understanding of what the term is meaning (depending on the passage being cited).

    For example, hades or sheol (same translation) are used quite a few times – and they basically mean ‘the place/abode of the dead’.

    “In all appearances but one, “δης”/hades has little if any relation to afterlife rewards or punishments” (Wikipedia – Hades in the Bible)

    That alone should speak volumnes – 1 of 11 instances of hades has an afterlife – and the one occurence is a ‘parable’ (story).

    Gehenna is another term used but here is it’s original meaning “”Gehenna” is the Christian rendering of “Ge Hinnom,” literally “Valley of Hinnom,” known in the Old Testament as Gai Ben-Hinnom, literally the “Valley of the son of Hinnom”, and in the Talmud as Gehinnam (גהנם) or Gehinnom.

    In the Hebrew Bible, Gai Ben-Hinnom does not refer to hell but rather to a real valley in Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8, Joshua 18:16, 2nd Kings 23:10, 2 Chronicles 28:3, 2nd Chronicles 33:6,Nehemiah 11:30, Jeremiah 7:31~32, Jeremiah 19:2, Jeremiah 19:6, Jeremiah 32:35). Garbage from the walled city was burned there.” (Wikipedia – Gehenna)

    Does this mean people are going to Gehenna – where the garbage was consumed and burned (and basically waste was incinerated)…no – because that is a real place – and no one was seen in there that died and went on (if we want to be literalists). But it seems like a comparison to me being used by Jesus – like your life could become that (waste).

    Tartarus is used once (in Peter apparently) in the Bible – and it is comparable to the term ‘abyss’ (according to Wikipedia). However, it’s based on a Roman/Greek god also – a mythical legend about this god helped define that word (is it really that trustworthy?).

    Greek version: “As for the place, the Greek poet Hesiod asserts that a bronze anvil falling from heaven would fall 9 days before it reached the Earth. The anvil would take nine more days to fall from Earth to Tartarus. In The Iliad (c. 700), Zeus asserts that Tartarus is “as far beneath Hades as heaven is high above the earth.” As a place so far from the sun and so deep in the earth, Tartarus is hemmed in by three layers of night. It is a dank and wretched pit engulfed in murky gloom. It is one of the primordial objects that sprung from Chaos (along with Gaia (Earth) and Eros (Love)).” (Wikipedia – Tartarus)

    Roman version: “In Roman mythology, Tartarus is the place where sinners are sent. Virgil describes it in the Aeneid as a gigantic place, surrounded by the flaming river Phlegethon and triple walls to prevent sinners from escaping from it. It is guarded by a hydra with fifty black gaping jaws, which sits at a screeching gate protected by columns of solid adamantine, a substance akin to diamond – so hard that nothing will cut through it. Inside, there is a castle with wide walls, and a tall iron turret. Tisiphone, one of the Erinyes who represents revenge, stands guard sleepless at the top of this turret lashing a whip. There is a pit inside which is said to extend down into the earth twice as far as the distance from the lands of the living to Olympus. At the bottom of this pit lie the Titans, the twin sons of Aloeus and many other sinners” (Wiki – Tartarus)

    It does help one realize that this term (and maybe many more about hell) found it’s actual meaning in Greek and Roman mythology and those views about an ‘underworld’ (even lower than the world of hades or place of the dead). The Tanakh never uses this term nor Gehenna as reference to a place called hell – infact – even hell is not in the Tanakh – only sheol is (place of the dead).

    Also, what term is correct – there are so damn many if we take them all literally…hades/sheol, gehenna, tartarus, abyss, lake of fire, etc. The meaning changes and changes and they do not add up all consistently as we are made to believe. For example – tartarus (an underworld) is a level below hades (abode for the dead). The lake of fire (sulfur) swallows up gehenna apparently (or hades).

    The one parable that used hades (the rich man and lazarus) is actually based on the ideas of sheol/hades (place of the dead – waiting to be judged) and the underworld (tartarus or maybe even gehenna) – revealing a complete picture of how some people viewed the afterlife for the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wicked’. None of these sources are found in the Tanakh but can be found in 2nd century Jewish pseduapigrapha books – which means they were ‘outsider’ views.

    In the end, what the hell is hell? Should we believe Greek/Roman mythology on the subject – which is how hell is defined as we know it. Should we believe it is just an abode of the dead – where they wait to be judged? Is it a word being used to describe one’s outcome in life?

    For me, it’s just to weird to believe a literal hell exists – now God has it – but Zeus had it just prior. It makes sense to say ‘sheol’ may exist – a place we go until we ‘resurrect’ and be judged – maybe? But I also lean towards the idea one can make choices that inflict hell on others and upon themselves – their lives become waste like gehenna.

  13. Luke said, “it’s good to have some fear of something that is larger than you… but maybe fear is the wrong word… a humble awe and reverence might fit better.”
    Luke, it doesn’t feel good, I can tell you. I’d like to find the good in it.
    Julia

  14. Julia,

    i’m uncertain to what you mean. you don’t like to feel small? i know many don’t like to comprehend how big the universe is for this very reason. or is it guilt that is attached to this feeling?

    just trying to get an clearer picture. what i’m talking about is the type of feeling like when you contemplate the universe or get struck by a piece of art, or see some industrial machine, and realize that there is no way that you could have possibily put something so vast together. like it doesn’t fit inside your brain even though you’re look’n at it.

  15. I guess what I mean is that the experience of FEELING/EXPERIENCING FEAR. Fear feels bigger than me. I can’t control fear. I would like to hide it under the bed but I can’t. it is bigger than me. It looms larger than my ability to control it. And I hate it that God is mixed in that feeling for me, because I just want God to be on the FEELING LOVE side. I want Him to be my comforter, but He’s all mixed up in the fear (because of hell).
    Julia

  16. and you can’t control awe either… so when you read “FEAR” in the bible, put in awe, because that is the feeling they were after… not the terrified feeling you get when you watch The Ring (or whatever scary movie you like).

    cool?

  17. The grudge either – not that kind of fear – or drag me to hell – that kind of fear is not what they were going for neither (lol)

  18. erm hell isnt exactly a place where you will “burn” or be tortured but you are tormented by the fact that you will never be with God. In hell you can never be with God and that is why it is so bad. People only choose to go to hell because they choose not to be with God. If you believe in Jesus and you love God you will go to Heaven and be with God. People think that to go to hell means you will burn and be tortured, but it isnt it just means you will never be graced by God’s love.

  19. Aziza was born in Jordan to a Palestinian Muslim father and an American Christian mother, and she grew up first in Jordan and then in Kansas.

    Ms. Hasan: While growing up in Jordan for a good 17 years, I was constantly faced with that question: “What are you, Muslim or Christian? Isn’t one better than the other?” And even like the questions about, you know, “Your mom’s going to hell. How do you feel about that?” So I spent so much time praying as a child, you know, oh, I want my mom to go to heaven. And then we moved to Kansas and all of a sudden like we had great neighbors, but they all thought that I was going to hell and my mom got to go to heaven. You know, things got flipped and it was, you know, an answer to my prayers, but it wasn’t exactly what I really wanted. Assumptions: Interreligiosity meets a new generation

    Had to smile when I read this. If there is a hell and who goes there depends on where you grew up and the books you read, not on God.

  20. “In hell you can never be with God and that is why it is so bad. People only choose to go to hell because they choose not to be with God” (Alex)

    Choose God you say…how does one go about doing that so as to avoid hell? There must be a way to ‘choose God’?

    “If there is a hell and who goes there depends on where you grew up and the books you read, not on God” (Yael)

    Hello Yael! I have heard this point before also – the view of hell is based on one’s culture – in this case being a Muslim or a Christian…don’t forget the Mormon’s also (lol).

    Hell is something I can admit I know little about – I do know aspects of it exist in this life and that’s as much as I know.

    Thanks for the link Yael…will try and read through that when I get a chance. Good to hear from ya in all honesty!

  21. Hi Jay,
    I’ve been staying away from the blogging world for awhile now, but….decided to see what you were up to these days and ended up replying. I was listening to the program I quoted above at the same time I was reading here. Both amusing and annoying to see someone looking at everyone else: “Oh, you’re like me? Great! You can have a piece of God, too! You’re not like me? Too bad. No God for you!”

    I have not been writing at all lately other than to prison penpals. Kind of strange to correspond the old fashioned way after getting used to instant communication via the net, but I’m getting used to it again.

    I’m now working on bringing to life an idea that first came to my mind when I stopped blogging and was doing a recap in my mind of my successes and failures in the blogosphere these past two years. Since then I have been working on this idea with our rabbis and am quite excited about the possibilities.

    We will be doing what I had been encouraging others to do. If you see something lacking in the world around you, don’t wait for someone else to take care of it, step up and begin taking care of it yourself. We set ourselves a deadline so that this won’t become something we’re always meaning to do but never quite get around to doing, and we’re moving right along. Our goal is to launch with the secular new year, ….I’ll let you know what we’re up to then.

    A few bumps and bruises along the way in life but good things keep happening anyway. If you would just become like me, you, too, could have a share of the goodies! After all, my sacred texts say this so it must be true…never mind that they do and they don’t depending on how one reads them…. Oh, and make sure you only use translation tools that come directly from God, such as Christian concordances and Hebrew sites run by Christians, rather than any of those other horrible sources that come from human Jews or Christians! (I loved that one!) You need to mend your ways, dude. I used to be like you, but now I’ve moved beyond being like you so you need to move beyond being like you as well and become like me! (So many different me’s in the world…) LOL Take care!

  22. “I have not been writing at all lately other than to prison penpals.” (Yael)

    How is that going btw?

    “Our goal is to launch with the secular new year, ….I’ll let you know what we’re up to then.” (Yael)

    Can’t wait to hear all the cool things you will be up to. For the new year I am planning something similar myself. I read this one blog some 3 months ago about 50 things one can do to make the world a better place – kind of a living your faith expedition in 50 possible examples…I think I am going to try and do all 50 in one year. Can’t say I will succeed – but even if I get 25 of them going I’ll be more than happy.

    “Oh, and make sure you only use translation tools that come directly from God, such as Christian concordances and Hebrew sites run by Christians, rather than any of those other horrible sources that come from human Jews or Christians! (I loved that one!)” (Yael)

    Oh, you have been reading some of the conversations I have been having – yeah they’re a laugh and a half.

    “I used to be like you, but now I’ve moved beyond being like you so you need to move beyond being like you as well and become like me! (So many different me’s in the world…) LOL Take care!” (Yael)

    Finally some humor – you know – many people aren’t too sarcastic in the blogs I read these days – and I love humor. Letting you know I am wishing you well!

  23. The prison thing is going pretty well I think. The one guy didn’t have any Jewish resources so I ordered a few books for him so he would at least have access to the basics. We write about sports, history, travel and then I include one teaching from Torah, Talmud, something current in the world of Judaism, and one Hebrew lesson. I try to include things that I know interest him so he can contribute to the conversation with the result that both of us benefit from the interaction. We are presently discussing Talmudic passages relating to criminal justice. Interesting that sometimes I take a more lenient view than he although I would have thought with him being in prison he would want leniency.

    I encourage other bloggers to take on a prison penpal. Rather than going round in circles on the net constantly, pandering to our own egos, why not do some writing that can make a difference in someone’s day and life? I’ve learned much about the prison system since I began this endeavor and what I have learned I find troubling. I’m no bleeding heart, these are just human beings created betzelim Elohim, in the image of God and as long as they have life there is still hope for teshuvah, not necessarily release from prison..

    I am seriously considering going into prison chaplaincy. I find my background and personality quite well suited to being able to meet these guys where they are. It still amazes me how life keeps falling in place for me while I’m just going along trying to do the things I should.

    I’m pleased to hear of the challenge you are setting for yourself this next year. One never knows the results. You’ll have to write about what you’ll be up to.

    I do read some of your conversations here, depends on the topic. Too Jesusy and I don’t read, but other topics, sure, I stop by now and then to see what you’re up to. I’ve been trying not to comment because I figure what good does it do you to hang out with this old Jew, but…we’ve been conversing for more than two years now so…likely I’ll still drop by on occasion even if I’m a bad influence!

    It’s easier to maintain a sense of humor when I don’t blog! Life is pretty doggone good.

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