Does Hell Exist? (Apparently, This is an Unsettled Question…)

The Big Questions is a BBC show that tackles you-know-what. The most recent episode asked “Does Hell Exist?

You can watch the show below:

I’ve only seen the first couple of minutes and it was full of Christian embarrassment… if you hear anything else interesting, please leave the timestamp and summary below!

(via Atheist Media Blog)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • JohnnieCanuck

    Hell, no! We won’t go!

  • Counter Apologist

    I’m not sure if I’ve got the fortitude to watch this embarrassment, but the argument from hell is probably one of the best arguments against Christianity and Islam.

    What makes this odd is that since it’s on the BBC, the UK parliament actually voted to remove the doctrine of hell from Anglican teachings way back in the day. The church leaders protested, but they were overruled. It’s one of the best examples I can think of where the lack of Church-State Separation doesn’t always work out so well for the Church.

  • Joe

    How sad to see adults discussing mythology as if it were a true story! Grown men and women exposing themselves to ridicule, speaking like very young and gullible children about a tale written by men 2-3 millennia ago. How very sad :(

  • RedGreenInBlue

    Shorter Liz Weston: “Hell must exist because a universe in which evil went unpunished would be awful…” Argument from incredulity and appeal to consequences within the first minute: nice work, Liz!

  • ulic


    See how simple it is?

  • Gordon Duffy

    Evil goes unpunished through substitutory attonement.

  • slaq

    A universe in which finite evil is punished with infinite torture would be awful. Many thiests don’t seem to realize that if their mythologies were correct, the universe would be a horrible, horrible place, where an all powerful being creates billions of sentient creatures with the knowlege and desire that most of them will be turned into frangments of consciousness, capable of registering nothing but the unbearable, neverending pain they’re being subjected to.

  • Tim

    It gets much more interesting once the people who think it’s a bunch of hogwash start to speak up and poke massive holes in their grim little fairy tale.

  • slaq

    A universe that punished finite evil with infinite torture would be awful. Most thiests don’t seem to realize that if their mythologies were correct, the universe would be a horrible, horrible place, where an all powerful being creates sentient creatures with the knowlege and desire that billions of them will be turned into shards of consciousness, capable of registering nothing but the unbearable pain they’re being subjected to.

  • Fractal Heretic

    Every mention of hell in the Old Testament is being translated from the Hebrew word “Sheol,” which means grave. The idea of hell as a place where you burn forever wasn’t invented until the New Testament. Apparently God forgot to mention it for the first 4000 years of Earth’s history. Or here’s another possibility: they were just making it up as they went along. And since they no longer had a powerful, tribe-slaughtering Israelite army to strike the fear of God into people, they had to come up with a more invisible threat.

  • Duane McCormick

    Made it so far about 9 minutes and there is a skeptic. Can’t believe there is a serious discussion about such things.

  • TiltedHorizon

    Of course hell exists, else Heaven would be Hell, as they will have to coexist for all eternity with the homosexuals, atheists, heretics and anyone else they hate; a “True” Christian’s worst nightmare.

    *insert screams here*

  • Jason Sullivan

    Nice book to read on the subject. The History of Hell by Alice K Turner. Find it on amazon.

  • Anon

    What was most frustrating is how the Christian Liz Weston starts with Hell as a place “where evil can be punished” and then shifts to it being for people who reject Jesus. Sorry, but these are two EXTREMELY different criteria for hell.
    While I get the desire for some sort of punishment for “evil”, going on to make the criteria be acceptance of a particular doctine is horrific.
    And, in this video, the “islamic theologic perspective” presented by Mohammed Ansar sounds much more rational and fair than what the Christians described! Still horrific and wrong, but better.

  • 00001000_bit

    I remember back in college in ‘Philosophy of Religion’ class, one of the
    students making the (Pascal’s Wager-esque) comment that it was best to be a
    Christian, because if Islam was right – a Christian would still get out
    of (their version of) hell eventually, whereas Christian hell was
    eternal. Unfortunately, this was many years ago, and I wasn’t in a place
    to argue what a load of crap that was.

  • Greg G.

    I had an internet discussion a few yearrs ago with a Christian who didn’t believe in hell. My argument was that the Bible said differently but he pointed out the various words that are translated as hell. He persuaded me. When I separated the verses by the Greek and Hebrew words, it became apparent that Sheol, Hades, Gehenna and Tartaroo were differrent concepts in the New Testament. Hades and Tartaroo are said to be where the dead wait until judgement. (2 Pet 2:4, Rev 20:13). Hades and death get thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:14) Perhaps every author had a private concept of sheol.

    Paul never talks about hell, though 2 Thessalonians 1:9 mentions eternal punishment but that epistle is generally considered to be pseudepigraphal. James 3:6 mentions Gehenna and 2 Peter 2:4 mentions Tartaroo. That’s it for the Epistles. So it seems that the concepts of hell spread in the last third of the first century, but since
    the Gospel of John never mentions hell, it was not universal. The conflation of these concepts came even later.

  • Baby_Raptor

    You forgot the part where he created them knowing that they would Fuck up, and that he’d have to punish them, and did so anyway.

  • Baby_Raptor

    You have a point, but she probably meant the two as synonymous. To these people, rejection of their sky daddy means you’re intrinsically evil. They believe that everyone knows God exists, some of us just refuse to worship him because we “like sin so much” or “are angry at him.”

  • MGP

    Having driven I-70 through western Kansas I have concluded Hell does exist.

  • Baby_Raptor

    There’s also Hell, Michigan.

  • busterggi

    I’ve had that discussion many times with belevers including last week on Cross Examined and my conclusion is that to believers the existance of hell depends on their position at the moment.

  • busterggi

    No, Hell was always there but it had belonged to the Greeks and Romans as Hades until the Christians stole it from them. And don’t think Hades/Pluto has forgiven Yahweh for it.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Hell is a group of short, black, limestone formations located in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. They sell fun postcards that say things like “I’m on vacation in Hell…. wish you were here”.

  • Gus Snarp

    Hell wasn’t “always” there. It was invented by the Greeks at some point in time (or maybe they stole it from the Egyptians, I don’t know). The writers of the New Testament took the idea from the Romans they were trying to convert, but the writers of the Old Testament predated the great Greek civilization, thus no hell.

  • fsm

    13:50 “Jesus Christ is the only person in human history to have experienced the afterlife, therefore I choose his testimony.”

    I found this comment interesting, I wondered if this man would believe ‘testimony’ that came from a more direct source (i.e. a telemarketer or a used car salesman).

    And, is it just me from my American perspective, or do the Xtians here sound more kooky than the other believers?

  • Gus Snarp

    And let’s not forget that most of our modern Western idea of what hell is dates much later than that, to the 14th Century when Dante wrote the Divine Comedy. Most of what Americans and Europeans think of as Hell was created as a satire of 14th Century Italian politics (Italian referring here to the basic geographical area as there was no Italian state).

  • viaten

    And of course it has to be “everlasting-worst-possible-suffering” hell. Otherwise, what’s the point if everyone eventually gets to everlasting heaven. But Islamic hell = catholic purgatory? Islamic reincaration? Don’t some Muslims believe hell is forever?

  • TiltedHorizon

    What I could not believe was that in discussions of theology, the Muslim was most the most rational mind on the religious side of the panel.

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    And Hell, Norway, Hell, the Netherlands and Hell, Germany, IIRC

  • Erp

    Citation please. This seems to refer to when the judicial committee of the Privy Council (closest equivalent would be the US Supreme Court) ruled that the Anglican church could not convict a minister of heresy [one of the charges dealt with disbelief in eternal punishment] because what they were charged with wasn’t clearly heresy (the defendants, Henry Bristow Wilson and Rowland Williams, were two of the authors of “Essays and Reviews”, a highly controversial book in 1860 [far more so than Origin of Species that came out at the same time] and the decision came down in 1864). However this is not Parliament voting on it.

  • C Peterson

    Yeah… kind of overlooks the other 9 billion (minus 2) gods, doesn’t it?

  • Andy

    What about Luke 16:19-31? It mentions “great torment” and being “in agony in this fire.”

  • Glasofruix

    Wasn’t that about a particular burning sensation during urination?


  • Andy

    Not exactly… it’s just that an innocent gets punished instead. That somehow satisfies the cosmic scales of justice.

  • Counter Apologist

    You’ve got it correct, I was basing this on what I read from Bertrand Russell’s “Why I am not a Christian”.

    Still, the larger point on Church vs. State separation stands, since as a result of that decision hell was removed as part of the Anglican church’s dogma.

  • Birdie1986

    What I found most appalling about what she said is that she loves Jesus more than any of the real people in her life, and that she’ll be so happy in heaven with Jesus that she won’t care that the people she loved in this life are suffering forever because they chose to go to hell by choosing not to love Jesus. Oy!!

  • duke_of_omnium

    Of course hell exists. Only the locals call it “the New Jersey Turnpike”

  • Lee Miller

    I thought when I was driving I-70 through Kansas I WAS in hell . . .

  • Art_Vandelay

    I have a question. As far as I know, the modern church addresses the problem of Hell for people who have never heard of Jesus (babies, Hindus, etc) by saying that as long as they live a Christ-like life (whatever that means), they’ll be able to go to Heaven. Basically, the “Belief” clause is removed from those contracts. So if people who are ignorant of Jesus don’t have to go to Hell and people who reject Jesus get an eternity of fire and brimstone, why would anyone ever tell anyone else about Jesus? If you’re a parent that thinks apostasy is the only unforgivable sin, why would you tell your child about Jesus and take the chance of them not believing you thereby condemning them to eternal torture? Isn’t that a little sadistic?

  • Lee Miller

    They seemed normally kooky to me. Maybe the British accent gives it a different twist. Like, I expect people who talk like that to be smarter . . . but no, sadly not.

  • Birdie1986

    The Sikh representative made the most sense to me (despite the supernatural aspects of some of it).

  • coyotenose

    Of course Hell exists! It’s where you go if you displease almighty Zeus off enough. But not Yahweh, because it isn’t actually part of that myth, but just absorbed into it exactly like the Romans did who were the dominant cultural influence over the Christians.

  • Question Everything

    When I was a believer, I first believed in hell (I was very young), as I matured I had to change to the position of at worst limbo for sinners (after all, God knows everything, God created all people, ergo God was creating people knowing full well he was consigning them to eternal torment.. not nice), to atheism (there is no god making weird rules, there is no god that encourages me to make decisions one way or the other.. I’m responsible for what I do, good or bad).

  • Artor

    Hades was largely a dreary, grey place, not a land of eternal punishment. You really had to piss off the gods to earn that, like Sisyphus or Prometheus. The underworld concept is not new, but the Xtian idea of Hell is. The name apparently comes from Germanic myth, where Hel was the guardian goddess of the unheroic dead.

  • Orson Sedmina

    Wow, I couldn’t even get through 3 minutes of that garbage.

  • Greg G.

    Yes, Mark, Matthew and Luke are where hell is described in the New Testament. Mark is the earliest and was written in the late first century. Luke seems to reference the writings of Josephus, including his autobiography, so it would have to be dated to the second century.

  • Artor

    But…but…Logic is for blasphemers & infidels! Off with your head!

  • Sven2547

    Just adding to your point:
    In Greek mythology, the pit of suffering and torment (ala Sisyphus, Prometheus, et al) was a section of Hades called “Tartarus”. Tartarus more closely relates to the contemporary Christian concept of “Hell” than Hades.

  • Brian Hogg

    I was glad to see that there were skeptical viewpoints presented in the debate, especially the gentleman who spoke of Hell as a form of social control. Most of the other skeptical arguments against hell were the same as the religious arguments FOR hell: they think such a thing would be shitty.

    But the only question should be of the factuality of hell, whether or not it’s fair or right. I mean, if the Christian god exists the question of justice in the universe is moot, as god is pretty breathtakingly dickish

    I was intrigued by the hardline woman who loves Jesus more than anyone else, with her assertion that there’s no sin in hell. Does she mean that nothing is considered a sin, in the way that nothing god can do could be considered not to be loving? If so, then the whole notion of heaven as reward and hell as punishment is destroyed, since once you’re in the door it doesn’t matter. Does she mean that you’re unable to sin for some other reason? Are you prevented from sinning in some way? If so, that would seem to fly in the face of the notion of people choosing god out of their own free will as being the most important thing.

    Fan fiction is fun!

  • blasphemous_kansan


  • Knut Anders Berg

    Actually, Hell does not exist, but the Hades of classical mythology does. And every time somebody get buried with a few coins of a Public Transportation Pass on him so Chaironf ferries him across the Styx, some christian stranded without the means of crossing the river gives Pascal a noogie.

  • Rain

    She says she think we all would agree that it wouldn’t be a just and loving God if it didn’t punish people. Well yeah, errr no that’s awful presumptuous of her think we would all agree. Note the equivocation of punishment with the horrors of hell. These types of idiotic equivocations are what sustain religious apologies.

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m suddenly reminded of the Christian sects who believe that the King James Bible is the perfect and literal word of God, but only the King James Bible, all other translations are in error. Among the many common Christian beliefs that just fly in the face of human knowledge and reason, this one sticks out at me. So the group commissioned by King James in the 17th century to write a new translation of the Bible to support the doctrines of the Church of England wrote the most perfect translation possible? Instead of one written by scholars with better understanding of the original languages and new information, writing in a modern and understandable English? Why exactly? Did God inspire the original authors directly and then again show up in England in 1604 to directly inspire the new translators? Why did he wait that long? Do they really not get that they believe in this version because it does things like treat Sheol as Hell and have a flowery, archaic language that sounds ceremonial to us? When Christians are just completely willfully ignorant of historical context as that, I get particularly annoyed.

  • Andy

    So isn’t that an example of hell in the Bible? Or are you saying that there are different versions of hell throughout?

  • blasphemous_kansan

    This is great. If Heaven exists, and even 1/10 of the people who have told me in my life how badly I need to avoid Hell can get there, then that’s reason enough for me to never, ever, want to be there.

  • CultOfReason

    Does Hell Exist?


    Betteridge’s law of headlines

  • Rich Wilson

    Liz seems confused as to the definition of ‘evil’. At one point she talks about torturing pensioners, but since the way to avoid Hell (which is there to punish evil) is to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then it would seem that ‘evil’ (for which you will be punished) should be defined as “not accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior”.

  • Gus Snarp

    The interesting part is that this is fundamental dishonesty. She knows she has real feelings for real humans and she doesn’t feel that way about Jesus. She KNOWS she loves real people more than Jesus, but she says what she’s supposed to say. She’s probably even partially convinced herself of it, but deep down she knows it’s false. She’s been so indoctrinated by religion that she thinks it makes her sound good to lie and say something truly horrible.

  • Gus Snarp

    Good stuff starts at 8:20 with the representative of Hampton Skeptics. Then Liz Weston shakes her head pityingly at him when he says there’s no such thing as hell. Then at 9:40 we get the former Cabinet faith advisor Francis Davis who tells us the nature of God is awesome love and to be excluded from that would be terrifying. Apparently he doesn’t realize that millions of us have voluntarily excluded ourselves from God and fell just fine.

  • Verimius Reinstorff

    Hi Fractal,

    The word “gehinnom” is also translated into “hell” in the King James Bible. Gehenna is a valley outside Jerusalem, supposedly where they used to burn trash. The concept of gehinnom is closer to our concept of hell, i.e. a place where the wicked are punished. Wikipedia (caveat lector) has an entry on Gehenna.

  • TiltedHorizon

    Thank you! This aggravates me to no end. The bible is a transliteration of languages no longer spoken. Which means the sense of the words and phrases has to be altered from their original meanings because thoughts, symbols, images, and cultural idioms have changed drastically.

    Most multilingual people should be able to understand this, its like trying to translate jokes between languages, the ‘humor’ is sometimes lost in translation.

  • Glasofruix

    But he sent himself to earth to get himself killed in order to appease his own anger even though he knew beforehand that his creations would fuck up.

  • Castilliano

    I think you’re overestimating God’s fan base there.
    I had a bookstore customer, dressed professionally, ask to see the Bibles. I asked which translation (as they were separated that way). She raved about the KJV being the best, adding how King James was blessed by the Holy Spirit to translate them, yada, yada yada.
    When I shared that King James didn’t translate any of it, but it was dozens of scholars under his banner, she was stunned. She accepted it, but…well, she remained stunned.
    Another customer stepped in to assure her it’s all good, it’s God’s word nonetheless, and she was able to shake it off.
    How I wish I’d known King James was a bisexual then… :)

    Or how a mistranslation re: killing witches led to 1000′s of deaths… :(

    Or how words were added re: a guy, not David, killing Goliath, when (most?) every other Bible matches the source material.

    There’s a website by a minister-type using that passage to validate that the KJV is the only word of God because the KJV version doesn’t conflict with the David vs. Goliath passages. Perhaps willful ignorance, but he’s so strident that I believe he’s earnest (though still ignorant).

    Christian backwards logic at play again…

  • icecreamassassin

    I have a problem with ‘punishment’, in and of itself, for evil, as that is not justice. I just fail to see how inflicting some manner of harm on ‘evil people’, strictly to inflict harm, makes any sense. It makes perfect sense in a justice system full of fallible individuals that needs to present some deterrent, showcase that we as a society deem some actions harmful, and to do things like remove freedoms from criminals to aid in prevention of further harm. Would torturing a serial killer, especially outside the purview of anyone but the killer and the torturer, result in anything besides increasing the net amount of suffering that occurs in the universe?

    Which is my major problem with the doctrine of hell – it is a place to punish evil for the sake of punishment. No justice gets served; no individuals learn more morality, or at least can learn some moral lesson and put it to use (seeing as how it is an *eternity*). And it seems a pretty crappy deterrent, seeing as how the existence of such a place/state is questionable in the first place.

    I dunno. Hell seems like a great way for a deity to extol *vengeance* but not any sort of way to deliver *justice*.

  • Greg G.

    OK, I see your point. Verse 23 says it is Hades.and it is a parable. The Greek Hades had many punishments. Sisyphus rolls a rock up a hill only to have it roll back down. Tantalus stands in water near some fruit. It he tries to eat or drink, the fruit or the water moves out of reach.

    Luke has Jesus inventing another punishment in Hades rather than saying that everybody will get that same punishment.

    Parables tend to be about hypothetical people, places, and events to convey ideas. The point of the parable is not about the punishment but that people don’t heed the prophets.

    No doubt the early Christians used that example to construct their versions of Hell, though.

  • Rich Wilson

    I understood Francis as explaining the Christian perspective at that spot, not agreeing with it. He was sitting on the “no hell” side, and lambasted the RC church pretty heavily.

  • Mario Strada

    Yes, you could hear the cognitive dissonance ringing loud there.

  • Gus Snarp

    I noticed the RC blasting, but I’m pretty used to Christians of other sects doing that, so I don’t know. Could easily have been explaining the perspective, not agreeing with it, I couldn’t tell one way or the other.

  • Gus Snarp

    Overestimating? I guess it could read like I’m expecting the flock to have thought all this out, but really, whether they know the historical context and ignore it, or just are completely ignorant of it, either is just as infuriating to me.

  • Andy

    Cool, fair enough!

  • chicago dyke

    it’s called “free money and attention.”

    some people don’t like real work, and aren’t qualified to get a job. gawd talking for donations is a great substitute.

  • chicago dyke

    many pre-christian religious traditions had a separation. the Valorous got to go to (the Summerlands, Valhalla, Stovalkor, etc where ever that was cool) while the average, sinful, and bad were just ghosts floating around for all time.

    it’s not an original idea the xtians invented. priests have been shilling this BS for 0000s of years, so they would get money from frightened believers.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Dammit! That logic thing always comes back to bite me in the ass.

  • WallofSleep

    “There is no hell, there is only France.”

  • chicago dyke

    honestly, this is why i am so not worried about the very slim chance of an “afterlife.” or “rebirth” or whatever.

    i live a good life. i am kind, gentle, charitable, and i love kittehs. i do not kill and i hardly ever swear and i only drink a little bit of forbidden grape products.

    if there is an/some all powerful, judgement oriented being/s that absorbs my wal or soul or whatever, i will pass the test.

    i raped no children. i cheated no widows. i worked hard, was mostly honest, and showed honor to those who deserved it, and i listened to the Wise.

    any gawd who won’t take me into paradise, well, fuck him. i did everything right, mostly. i’ll see you all in Hell if i’m wrong. we can have some flaming volcano juice adult beverages and dance, forever.

  • Greg G.

    Is it anything like Heywood Banks’ Interstate 80 Iowa song?

  • Pseudonym

    Yes, I was hoping someone would mention this.

    Gehenna is indeed closer to our concept of hell, but it still isn’t that close. There is a clear vibe in the gospels that being thrown into gehenna is being thrown away in the rubbish (most obvious in the Sermon on the Mount; see Matt 5:29 for example), and that it’s a place of destruction, not eternal existence (e.g. Matt 10:28).

    We now know that the notion of eternal punishment was a minority opinion among Christian theologians until around the time of Constantine. Most of our concept of “hell” is actually from Dante.

    Fundamentalists don’t know their bible or their history. Film at 11.

  • Greg G.

    Marcus Aurelius

    Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.

  • Greg G.

    Harry McCall, over at Debunking Christianity tells about how he lost his job teaching an adult Sunday school class by telling them that Jesus and the apostles didn’t use the 1611 King James Bible.

  • Claude


    All but one of the references to “Gehenna” in the NT are ominous utterances attributed to Jesus:

    Translation from the classicist Richmond Lattimore:

    Mark 9

    43 And if your right hand goes amiss, cut it off; it is better for you to go into life one-handed than with both hands to wander off into Gehenna, into the quenchless fire.

    45 And if your foot makes you go amiss, cut it off; it is better for you to go into life lame than with both feet to be thrown into Gehenna.

    47 And if your eye makes you go amiss, pluck it out; it is better for you to go one-eyed into the Kingdom of God than with both eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,

    48 where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. (allusion to Isaiah 66:24)

    Matt 5

    22 I say to you that any man who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement; and he who says brother, fool, shall be liable before the council; and he who says to his brother, sinner, shall be liable to Gehenna.

    29 If your right eye makes you go amiss, take it out and cast it from you; it is better that one part of you should be lost instead of your whole body being cast into Gehenna.

    30 And if your right hand makes you go amiss, cut it off and cast it from you; it is better that one part of you should be lost instead of your whole body being cast into Gehenna.

    Matt 18

    8 If your hand or foot makes you go amiss, cut it off and throw if from you; for it is better for you to go into life one-handed or lame than with both hands and both feet to be thrown in everlasting fire.

    9 And if your eye makes you go amiss, take it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to go into life with one eye than with both eyes to be thrown in Gehenna.

    Matt 23

    15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you sweep the sea and the dry land to make one convert, and when it is done, you make him a son of Gehenna twice over as much as yourselves.

    33 Serpents, viper’s brood, how can you escape the judgment of Gehenna?

    Luke 12

    5 Fear the one who has authority after killing you to throw you into Gehenna.

    Not sure what the textual critics have to say about all this, but…Jesus believed that God’s intervention in history and judgment was imminent. He seems to have believed in bodily resurrection and a place of eternal fire called Gehenna where the “chaff” would burn. (It’s not clear whether the damned would burn in eternity, however, just that the flames in Gehenna are “unquenchable.”) In the video the Christian Liz Weston’s jawdropping theology is not without foundation in the Gospels. These alleged words of Jesus do not sound allegorical to me.

  • Greg G.

    Hi Claude,

    My understanding of Gehenna is similar to the last sentence of the first paragraph under Extra-Biblical documents on the Wikipedia page, that is, that the Valley of Hinnom, translated to Greek as “Gehenna”, was a trash dump with constant fires burning. Carcasses of animals and criminals were tossed there. The worms would refer to the maggots and since one maggot looks like the next, it would seem they never died and the fires would appear to be unquenchable. What goes into Gehenna is consumed by the maggots and fire.

    As I understand it from James, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and 2 Peter, the basic idea was the Greek Hades was where the dead went until Judgment Day. A part of Hades, Tartarus, might have some creative punishments, according to the Greeks. On Judgment Day, you either get eternal life or you get tossed into Gehenna and consumed. The same happens to Hades itself in Revelation 20:14 where the lake of fire would be Gehenna.

    Even 2 Thessalonians 1:9 mentions “eternal destruction”. Isn’t that just being destroyed and never undestroyed, rather than tortured forever?

  • Rich Wilson

    That’s a nice quote, but he probably didn’t say it

  • olive

    Kind of sounds like factory farming, only infinite.

  • olive

    I came all the way back from the afterlife to give you a great deal on this used 2005 Camry!

  • Kimpatsu

    Hell most certainly does exist. I’ve been there. It’s a town about 60km outside Trondheim in Norway.

  • Claude


    Thank you for your very helpful response and pointing me to that Wikipedia entry. The Gospel citations sound less ambiguous for having read it. Yes, “eternal destruction,” in English, would seem to mean permanent destruction.

    I was shocked by this Liz Weston person and her sanguinary, fatalistic view of eternal happytime with God in Heaven while her loved ones might be tortured in Hell. (Really, Liz?! Do you have children?) It’s not just the KJV that translates Gehenna as “Hell.” The RSV, in widespread use by the major denominations, does so as well. Jesus’s references to Gehenna-become-Hell are so visceral and concrete, I can (sort of) imagine how they resonate with believers who hold the conventional view. In 2008 Pew reported:

    Belief in hell, where people who have led bad lives and die without repenting are eternally punished, is less common than is belief in life after death or heaven, with about six-in-ten Americans (59%) expressing belief in hell.

    59%! Pitiable.

  • The Fog Horn

    The lake of fire was the lava filled volcano crater.
    The ancient Hebrews worshipped volcanoes.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I think that list will get you into the Egyptian afterlife. I’ve read the BooK of the Dead, and it has a bunch of recitiations just like that about all the bad stuff you didn’t do. If you can arrange for your relatives to have you mummified after you die, then it should be clear sailing. Their descriptions of the afterlife are pretty rockin’, better than the xian ones anyway, and almost as good as the Beer Volcano awaiting us Pastafarians!

  • cipher

    I was shocked by this Liz Weston person and her sanguinary,
    fatalistic view of eternal happytime with God in Heaven while her loved ones might be tortured in Hell. (Really, Liz?! Do you have children?)

    Yes, she would gladly sacrifice her children for her own salvation – and she’s one of millions. They’re psychopaths, as well as the most selfish people in all of human history.

    The best thing we could do right now to ensure human continuity would be to forbid these people from breeding. Of course, this will never be done.

  • cipher

    They don’t think it through to that extent.

    Also, most Christians are sympathetic to the idea of geographical barriers, but the idea of psychological barriers – not so much.

  • Greg G.

    You’re welcome!

    Many Christians are brain-washed like Weston. A few years ago, someone asked a well-known apologist if he would kill his daughter if God told him to do it. At first he was repulsed by the idea but later he said that he would. A Christian friend of mine started to preach at me later in the week so I posed the question to him. He reacted the same way but the next day, he tracked me down to tell me that he would do it. Of course it is a repulsive thought and they usually say God wouldn’t ask that but the correct biblical answer is to obey God as Abraham did so they eventually come to that conclusion.

    Liz can’t imagine a universe without eternal punishment for evil but her view also allows the most evil person to repent and not be punished. A natural thought, like lust, deserves infinite torment in her view.

    If they really, really believed that, they would sell everything and put up billboards, like the Camping group, to warn people and save as many people as possible. That warning would be akin to someone waking you up to tell you that your house was on fire. But they seem to realize that it’s more like someone knocking on your door at all hours to say your house is on fire when they have no way of knowing whether it is or not.

    It’s frightening to think how many of these people vote. No wonder we get creationists on congressional science committees.

  • Greg G.

    The best thing we could do right now to ensure human continuity would be to forbid these people from breeding. Of course, this will never be done.

    That would be extreme. Even the Westboro Baptist Church is losing family members. Those ideas rise and fall in the population over time.

  • Claude

    Yes the Isaac story is terrible as is its sequel the Crucifixion. I have to credit the heretic Marcion for concluding that Yahweh was strictly second-rate. Why would our contemporaries even contemplate sacrificing their children “if God asked them to”? I thought the New Covenant forever superseded the necessity for blood sacrifice.

    If they really, really believed that, they would sell everything and put up billboards, like the Camping group, to warn people and save as many people as possible.

    But do we really need another Great Awakening!

    The God that holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider, or some loathsome Insect, over the Fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his Wrath towards you burns like Fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the Fire; he is of purer Eyes than to bear to have you in his Sight; you are ten thousand Times so abominable in his Eyes as the most hateful venomous Serpent is in ours.

    Actually, if there was anybody out there as awesome as Jonathan Edwards, it might be worth it.

  • Daniel Schealler

    Remind me of a Terry Pratchett quote:

    The gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that’s where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won’t do if they don’t know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.

  • Daniel Schealler


    Stupid history, not adhering to my simplistic expectations again.

  • Claude

    The best thing we could do right now to ensure human continuity would be to forbid these people from breeding. Of course, this will never be done.

    Oh! That is shocking, too. Christians are very diverse; I hardly think such chilling lack of empathy is typical. Even if it were, children aren’t clones.

  • Travis Myers

    Don’t be hatin’. That’s a serene drive in my opinion.

  • indorri

    Sort of the same logic as the the entire “if God were real, not aborting or murdering your child would be unethical”.

    Well, unless you go with the entire Calvinistic “infants a span long in hell” derangement.

  • indorri

    We have some very different definitions of “awesome”.

  • indorri

    Again, this is why I argue neoplatonism is the destruction of the intellect and the instigator of the worst ideas of human history.

  • Claude

    He was brilliant at what he did.

  • hoverFrog

    I can’t believe that people are debating whether hell exists. It’s the 21st century. Surely we’ve moved beyond such children’s stories?