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7/07/2003                                                                                       View Comments

Reflections on Hell

Several years ago when I still arrogantly counted myself among the Lord's chosen few, I took my wife to visit yet another church. Why another Church? We were dissatisfied with the lack of spiritual depth or discernment that we seemed to constantly encounter from those in pastoral and leadership roles. For quite some time we remained optimistically (or should I should say naively?) hopeful of finding some place where a demonstration of a higher level of knowledge and awareness might accompany any emotional zeal for God.

It continues to amaze me that those who claim to love the Lord the most, insist on remaining the least read, or the most ignorant, in regards to this very person they claim to love. Church is not the place to have a restlessly curious intellect.

However, that is not the point of this article. I said all that to explain how we ended up one Sunday in the "Lighthouse Baptist Church." This church was, and still is, an Independent Baptist Church of the "Sword of the Lord" variety. Very fundamental in both rhetoric and practice, none of the woman wore pants, and all the men sported short haircuts. Based on the accents of most of the parishioners, there was a strong contingent from West Virginia dominating the membership rolls. To accuse the bulk of the members of being rednecks, would be to state the obvious.

We ended up visiting this choice assemblage of elected saints because some friends invited us. We were assured that this place was where we could finally find the rest for our tired minds and souls.

From the start of the service we knew we were in trouble.

This church had a bus ministry which would scour the less prosperous parts of town, recruiting and busing as many of the poor unsaved children they could find, to church, so that these mis fortunates could be fully indoctrinated in various important aspects of Baptist, theological fundamentals.

As I mentioned, the members of the congregation hailed primarily from West Virginia, with a striking propensity toward being redneck. The children being bused to the church, could rightly trace their roots back to the wilds of Africa.

After the opening remarks by the pastor, one of the children, a 10-year-old boy, was brought forward to the front of the church. The pastor was a portly man who gave no apparent evidence of having ever completed, or even having attempted to complete, a spiritual "fast." He bellowed out to the congregation that this skinny young boy had decided to repent and believe the gospel. He towered above the scrawny youngster, gesturing at him pointedly, and boomed out a question for the rest of the children in attendance:

"DO YOU WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN?" "IF YOU WANT TO GO TO HEAVEN, RAISE YOUR HAND!"

The little boy, looking extremely awkward and a bit confused, tentatively raised his hand to the sky, along with several other of the dark-skinned children. As if on cue, the whole congregation let loose with peals of "Praise the Lawd" and "Thank you Jeezus" and "One more pulled from the jaws of HELL," and so on. The rest of the poor black kids who were there looked around with expressions of mild fear and confusion.

The children were eventually segregated away from the adult service and confined to another room where they could be given more detailed indoctrination. Meanwhile, the people continued exclaiming and remarking how glorious God was for turning the hearts of these little local heathens toward HIM.

The message was clear: Wanting to go to heaven = wanting salvation.

Christianity is not about loving or serving the Creator of the universe. It is not about gratitude for creation, or even the supposed gift of either temporal or eternal life. Christianity is not about loving your fellow man, or giving to the poor. It is not about compassion. Christianity is, pure and simple, about avoiding hell.

There is no real fear of death in Christianity because no one is believed to ever really die. According to most Christian doctrine, everyone will live forever—period. Those who happen upon the right formula, and perform the proper incantation, using the right words, with the most believable sincerity, are allowed to live forever in a place called heaven. All the rest of humanity still lives forever, but in a terrible place called hell. Although humans may reside in different spiritual countries, so to speak, everyone still keeps right on ticking away. Since there is no fear of death, then a fear of hell must be instilled to capture converts. Hell must be so unbelievably bad that no one would ever want to go there, but not too unbelievable to be believed to actually exist.

The Bible is chock full of verses threatening punishment for the wicked and describing the horrors of hell. In evangelical theology, there are only two classes of people: believers and unbelievers. Believers are the righteous, and unbelievers are the wicked. Sheep and goats, wheat and chaff, heaven and hell. The world's population is split into two camps that are easily identifiable to the truly born again Christian.

There is a tendency of some of the branches of the modern Christian cult to distance themselves from the concept and the teaching of an eternal torture chamber. The modern sensibilities of justice strongly resist the easy acceptance of the gross attributes purported to adorn the halls of hell—and rightly so. Any deity that would consider it proper to condemn millions upon millions of people to unending horrific agony for the simple crime of unbelief, is nothing less than a monster. The atrocities of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Genghis Khan, etc., all combined together, fade into comparative insignificance in the face of this god and his "holy" wrath.

What will hell be like? Here are a few collected verses:

  1. "Total separation from God" Matthew 25:41 2 Thessalonians 1:9


  2. A "great furnace" Matthew 13:41, 42, 49, 50 Revelation 9:1, 2


  3. A "bottomless pit" Isaiah 14:15 Revelation 9:1, 2; 20:1-3


  4. "Fire" Isaiah 33:14; 66:24; Matthew 5:21, 22; 13:41, 42, 49, 50; 18:8; 25:41 Mark 9:43-49; 10:43-49; Luke 16:24; Jude 7; Revelation 14:10; 19:20; 20:10, 14, 15; 21:8


  5. "Torments" Luke 16:23-25, 28; Revelation 14:10, 11


  6. "Wailing and gnashing of teeth" Matthew 13:41, 42; Luke 13:28


  7. A "decaying worm" Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:44, 46, 48


  8. "Eternal—for ever and ever" Exodus 34:7; Isaiah 33:14; 66:24; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 18:8; 25:41, 46 Mark 3:29; 9:43-46, 48; 10:43-49; 2 Thessalonians 1:9; 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 6, 7, 13; Revelation 14:11; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8


  9. "Outer darkness" Matthew 8:12; 22:13


  10. And "mist of blackness (or, darkness)" 2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13


According to the gospel writers, Jesus, who supposedly loves us so much that he died for us, plainly taught that hell was a real physical place of unfathomable torture. He said that hell was so bad, even the lasting pain of self amputation and mutilation would be better than going there.

  • Matt 5:22: (NASB) "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty [enough to go] into the fiery hell.


  • Matt 5:29: "And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 "And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.


  • Matt 10:28: "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.


  • Matt 18:8: "And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. 9 "And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell.


  • Matt 23:15: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.


  • Matt 23:33: "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?


  • Mark 9:43: "And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,


  • Mark 9:45: "And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into hell...47 "And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell,


  • Luke 12:4: "And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!


Modern Christians try, and try, to soften the teaching of the Bible on this subject. I don't know how many times I've been told that God does not want any one to go to hell, he wants everyone in heaven, but he won't contradict mankind's free will in the matter. What mental gymnastics I had to go through to have that make sense to me when I was all twisted up in the Christ cult. God gives us free will, but if we choose against being a religious drone, then eternal torture is the only alternative. Where is the freedom of choice? There is no free choice in Christianity. Free choice would allow for differences. Christianity allows no such thing. All people must either become believers or suffer the consequences of being an unbeliever. It is just that simple.

As tastelessly rude as the "Lighthouse Baptist" service was, it occurs to me now that in their overly simplified way, they did actually present the true essence of Christianity. "Who wants to go to heaven?" is contrasted in the hearer's mind with: "Who wants to go to hell?" That is essentially all that Christianity is about: Living forever in heaven or living forever in hell. Hell is bad, and heaven is good, and we know all this because the Bible says so.

I no longer have any false hope that my life will endure past the death of my body, as I once embraced as a Christian. However, I no longer fear the jealous reprisal of an insanely sadistic deity either. I am convinced that when I lie down for the last time, I will not get up in another dimension where millions cry out in ceaseless agony. I no longer see unbelief as having a hopeless future where life ends and nothing follows. I now view death as the eternal rest that it really is. Last night I had a dreamless night. I closed my eyes and suddenly the night was over—it was already morning. Although hours had passed, my conscious mind was unaware of the passage of time or of anything else. While I was asleep I felt nothing, knew nothing, and suffered nothing.

Death is the last and final sleep and nothing more.

What do you think?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

this was such an amazing post, deep thought

hargo said...

Hell is the great irony of christianity. It is THE motivating factor that leads those TO Christianity, but it is also what keeps christians highly innefective and simply waiting to die.

John said...

I'm really glad that so many of you are finally enlightened, not like those horrible "backwoods rednecks" from West Virginia and the like. Maybe you aren't geniuses, but at least you're superior to those people, right? Good for you! They don't deserve your company.

Lorena said...

John,

The article was well-written and carefully thought out. Nothing that was written there was magicly pulled out of someone's sleeve.

If you are going to refute its contents, use rational thought. The temper tantrum you threw there isn't going to further the christian cause amongst us.

I do not believe that we are smarter or better than those rednecks. We have just had the courage to face the truth. Perhaps some day you will be honest to yourself and will admit that christianity is not a cause worth giving your life to.

Bentley said...

They also knew without the treat of hell, there would be very few that would waste their time on Sunday mornings to go to church, because they really have nothing to offer except threats or a promise.

People are really inheirently fear based, because we were raised to be scared by our overly fearful mothers and fathers, whom according to my wife, most women live in a constant state of fear, fear of being raped or fear of mice or fear of gaining weight, or fear of what other people might think of them, we were all raised in fear, and the bible says we were all born in sin, maybe fear itself is the sin they were talking about, maybe it's a sin to have unnecessary fear, especially fear of an invisible deity, maybe it's a sin to promote fear, just as the preachers do, since sin is un-escapable according to the liebull, maybe it's fear instead of sin, that is un-escapable, everyone has a fear of some type, some more than others, and some less than others, none the less, we all have some type of fear in us.

So the original sin is having unnecessary fear and it is based on the fear from being repremanded by the buybull god and preachers, that we all have committed a sin of unnecessary fear, in the first place.

So we as a society are motivated and guided by our fears that was instilled in us when we were children by our parents and we've allowed the phoney boloney preachers scare us to conform to their wishes and the dopehead sheep herders and donkey chasers of over 2000 years ago started this fear bullshit to control the wankheads back then and now in 2006 we still have wankheads that cannot see it's all based on fear and bullshit lies, it's so amazing that people are still like scared animals, parents are still passing on fear to their children to instill fear in them and teaching them to bow down and to address authorities and self-claimed preachers as being overlords and authoritative rulers.

America, we have become a nation of religious cowards based on fear that the bible, written by men, may somehow be true, when we all know it's a total lie!

Then we have christians that say, but what if it's all true, christians just cannot and will not try to escape from the fear driven by man. So sad! :-(

Ian said...

This impressed me very much...I think I may comment on it later.

Looking at the original comments, I see many stock answers that are given to these questions of hell, threats, choice, etc.

Dave Harty said...

The irony of Christianity's hell is one the main reasons I turned away in the first place, such as the question asked, why did God create hell if he is all loving, and so on. Bad answers or no answers aren't a strong position. I once heard a religious friend say he doesn't "mess around when it comes to religion." I.e., he is very scared about the afterlife and is doing his best to stay out of hell, the one motivational factor. I find this very sad, considering the respect I have for this man. I wish he would just for once think about it the way he rationalizes other things. I don't know about the rest of you, but now that I'm atheist, I don't feel I can just stand around letting my fellow humans perpetuate this nonsense. It has been said that atheists are not anti-theist. Why not? Don't we have a responsibility, as the enlightened, to help others break out of their addiction? Where is the religious rehab? Where do I sign up to volunteer?

freedy said...

This article also brings into the light how abusive christians are,...scaring the "Bajeezus"out of young children.How much mental illness(addictions,obsessive compulsive disorder,..and depression does this create?
Teaching children that billions and billions of people live in a hell on earth, only to die and spend eternity in a fiery hell?
"GOD IS GOOD CHILDREN, GOD IS SOOOOOO GOOD!)

GoneNsane said...

"Don't we have a responsibility, as the enlightened, to help others break out of their addiction?"

Most people are not ready to even realize they have an addiction, much less give it up. Without their religion many of them would self-destruct. That's why the more you expose the lie the tighter they cling to it. It's their lifeline that saves them from drowning, and if you take away that lifeline before they're ready they will surely sink rather than learn to swim.

When I was in lay ministry school, I once asked my professor what the purpose of hell was, and he astutely replied, "To scare the hell out of you." ;)

Jim said...

Hells bells. What some people believe is unbelievable. As an ex Christian myself, who also did the rounds of churches looking for true Christians, who practiced what they preached, I never found any. As I began to question and research I came to the conclusion that both heaven and hell are figments of the minds of those indoctrinated and that in reality they don't exist. Cheers all Jim Lee

Hellbound Alleee said...

Hey there.

So, when is a Christian going to answer the question why? Why do unbelievers have to be "punished" with either eternal torture or eternal psychological torment? This has nothing to do with free will. So, he can choose to not follow God. Why is this choice punishable at all, let alone with such unbelievable cruelty?

Someone just answer why, how, this punishment is moral, and why, if it is, don't we have governments that do the same thing?

And why, as one of the first commenters said, is it reasonable to believe that some kind of soul-puff comes out of you after you die (when there is no more you) to judge your actions? That's what we do when we live. Cause and effect is no more if there is no existence. Reasonable? How?

Anonymous said...

As a Christian I do understand all of your valid points. However, why not go ahead and ask Jesus into your heart, just in case all "this Christian non-sense" really might be true. Better to be safe than sorry, eternity is a long time to be suffering.

boomSLANG said...

Anonymous # 1,438,832 said: "As a Christian I do understand all of your valid points."

You understand our valid points? Good. Thanks.

....then he/she said:

" However, why not go ahead and ask Jesus into your heart, just in case all "this Christian non-sense" really might be true."

Let's see...."valid point" No. 1:

There's NO objective evidence for the existance of any deity named "Jesus", living or dead. Hmmm, maybe that's why when we, as former Christians, asked this Jesus into our "hearts", we got nothing, zip, zero, nadda, zilch....big fat goose EGG.

...then Anony finished with: "Better to be safe than sorry, eternity is a long time to be suffering."

Yes, eternity's a long time---why don't you "play it safe" and ask Mohammed into YOUR "heart"?....the Islam "Hell" is much hotter than the Christian Hell.

Dirac said...

Oh Christ, that was so funny. Could you make future podcasts even more filled with sarcasm please?

Anonymous said...

Your Wrong Christianity is not about just avoiding Hell

Its about having a relationship with God your Creator one that you are choosing not to do.

sadly when you stand before him all your excuses and sarcasm wont stand up..

.:webmaster:. said...

What's perhaps even sadder, Anony, is that with your persent command of English grammar, syntax and punctuation, you'll be barred from employment in anything other than the service industry. I hope you like fast food.

I suggest you finish high school and then come on back to the site. Until then, please do your homework.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting article. I'm not sure I quite agree with everything though. When I received Christ as my savior (got saved), It was because I knew I was a sinner and needed forgiveness of my sins. Yes, I knew that I deserved hell, but Jesus provided the bridge to heaven for me. He shed His blood on the cross for my sins and gave me the gift of life (heaven). God put man on this earth to bring glory to Him. I knew that in asking God to forgive me of my sins and save me, that I was asking Him into my heart. I have seen people, one being my brother whom I love very much, turn their backs on God. Are they ever truly happy?-No. The only true joy is found in the Lord. I truely believe that as a born again Christian. I John 5:11-13 says, "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may beleive on the name of the Son of God. (KJV)

.:webmaster:. said...

When I received Christ as my savior (got saved), It was because I knew I was a sinner and needed forgiveness of my sins. Yes, I knew that I deserved hell,....

Yes, that's exactly how it was for me too. I knew I deserved hell and that Jesus was calling me. I knew this because the evangelist said so. I heard the evangelist say it, and I believed him with all my heart, mind and soul. I believed what the man said and accepted the entire story, lock, stock and barrel.

Many years later I started using my mind, studied theology, history, and a wealth of apologetics and commentaries. That's when I finally realized I'd been sold a bill of goods -- I'd been ripped off. None of it was true, and I was following a lie. Perhaps the lie gave me comfort at difficult times, but still, it was nothing more than a fantasy.

Anonymous, you believe you deserve hell. You believe you deserve to be tortured mercilessly for ever and ever and ever. You believe that divine justice would demand that you be horrifically pained throughout all time, unending, because of the sins you've committed. I'm curious to know what heinous acts you might have committed that would deserve such a horrific punishment. I mean, surely 1,000 years of torture would satisfy any deity's wounded pride, wouldn't it? Or if not 1,000, then how about a million years of mind-bending torture? Wouldn't that satisfy your god's blood lust and assuage his righteous anger? A million is not enough? How about 100 million years of agony? Would that be enough?

According to Christianity, billions of people suffering torturous agony for all eternity because they didn't believe in the right version of the correct religion, will not make your God turn the other cheek. He will vent HIS indignation on everyone who believed incorrectly or dis-believed , and all eternity will not be enough to calm his rage.

Your God is a maniac.

Any sentient being who would deem it just to torture untold billions of other sentient beings for all eternity for some moral offense, is, for lack of a better word, a monster.

Anonymous said...

i accidently stumbled onto your website, and i must say that i am extremely sorry that you feel this way. Obviously when you counted yourself among the "chosen" (which is a misnomer since God has chosen everyone for salvation, some sadly decide not to choose Him) you never really understood salvation, or anything Christianity is based on. Avoiding hell is not the point of salvation. Hell is a consequence of a restricted relationship with the Creator. Yes, often hell has become the focus of salvtion, but that is not it. When Adam and Eve sinned God did not immeadiately threaten hell as punishment, He simply indicated that His loving relationship with His creation had been broken by sin and that He wanted to repair it. Jesus Christ came to save sinners and grant them a relationship they would otherwise be incapable of attaining. And if you logically think about it, hell is something you want to avoid. It is also something you want anyone you know or love to avoid. I'm sorry that you are so mislead and disillusioned about Christianity, but I hope that one day all of you will find the love of God. Don't look to people, for people can be hypocritical, look to God.

Anonymous said...

And if you logically think about it...

Admonishing people to think logically about magic and mythology is preposterous.

Anonymous said...

Avoiding hell is not the point of salvation. [...] hell is something you want to avoid.

Anyone notice any illogically cognitive dissonance here?



Fascinating — Spock

Simon Jacobs said...

The Lord Jesus Christ is not the author of the doctrine of an unending torture chamber called Hell. Jesus said "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not PERISH but have EVERLASTING LIFE. Jn 3:16
Mark the two clear and plain options 1)"perish" or 2)have "everlasting life" The context of this scripture is one dealing with "whosoever"s Not Israel etc. Jesus Christ is indeed going to deal justice to all the unsaved. When he does his wrath will be pacified. The traditional doctrine of unending torture teaches (between the lines) that Gods justice will never be satisfied. This is a great error.
Jesus Loves you, look unto him and be saved. He understands how you feel about the false doctrine of the sadistic christ. sendbillemail@yahoo.com

.:webmaster:. said...

Simon,

According to the Christian myth, God ordained everything that has happened and will happen since the foundation of the world (Eph 1). Since it is clear that your god claims credit for establishing everything, then your god purposely arranged for most of humanity to everlastingly suffer in horrific torment in HIS creation: the Lake of Fire.

Perhaps you aren't a real Christian?