Catholic TV Program Answers the Question, ‘What the Hell?’

Karl can’t catch a break.

Thanks to a tip from reader Ed, I can present to you the following video clip from an Eternal World Television Network (ETWN) program describing Hell, as best as the Catholic Church currently accepts and understands it.

Most of it will be familiar, descriptions of souls suffering from shame, regret, and despair (which sounds like real life so far), but also notes that damned souls are “continually tormented in all their senses, but in priecely what way, we do not know.”

But they do seem to be certain of a few things. For example, they seem pretty sure that the torments are imposed from “outside material things,” including a literal fire of Hell that is “entirely different” from our mere earthly flames.

Some little girls in Portugal got a look into Hell thanks to Mary (she turns up in the most unexpected places), who showed them what it was like, because that’s just how Mary rolls, scaring the shit out of little girls. Anyway, what they saw was a sea of fire, demons, and “blackened” souls in human form.

Of most interest to me was the fact that the could not say with any certainty who might be in Hell.  Theologically, it says Judas is the surest bet, because blah blah scripture something something. But then it shows a collection of photos of bad guys who most would assume are in Hell, like Hitler, Stalin, Ayatollah Khomeini, Mao, and…wait a minute…Karl Marx? Really? He’s one of the obvious damnation candidates? Along with Hitler? Jeez, EWTN. That seems harsh.

About Paul Fidalgo

Paul is communications director for the Center for Inquiry, as well as an actor and musician. His blog is iMortal, and he tweets as @paulfidalgo, and the blog tweets as @iMortal_blog.
The opinions expressed on this blog are personal to Paul and do not necessarily represent the views of the Center for Inquiry.

  • Hat Stealer

    Karl Marx came up with an alternate philosophical theory of economics based on distribution of resources and collective property. Not at all like that Jewish preacher guy who condemned rich men and gave free fish to everyone. They are completely different.

  • John

    And of course we all totally deserve such a harsh eternal punishment for not believing the same things they do. God of love indeed.

  • A3Kr0n

    What a wonderfully odd video. From what I saw at the end, if I keep doing what I’m doing (living in sin, rejecting God), I will go to Hell, continue living in sin and be away from God for all eternity.
    What’s not to like about Hell?

  • viaten

    It always the notorious bad guys that did really bad stuff that are thought likely to be in Hell, more so than famous atheists. They never show famous atheists like Mark Twain, Bertrand Russel, Carl Sagan, etc being in hell. I thought not believing would get you thrown into hell quicker than anything.

  • midnight rambler

    Marx made the mistake of writing his ideas down himself, so it was clear exactly what he meant. Jesus was too clever for that.

  • jtperkin

    Being gay in a world where christians like these exist has already shown me what hell is like. Nothing in that video is any worse.

  • Roy Gamsgrø


    But since I’m an atheist, wouldn’t hell for me be their heaven?

  • more compost

    The more I learn about Christianity the more difficult it becomes to accept that people actually believe this stuff.

    People seriously act as if these twisted stories are true? Really?

  • Rain

    Perpetual longing of the beatific yada yada blah! Got’s to get me some of that I think.

  • Rain

    It’s amazing how they have institutionalized the silly idea that the mere state of being in hell “separated” from Jesus is far worse than the tortures that they also get when they are in there. The worst punishment of all is being “separated”. The other horrific tortures and pain, not so much.

  • 3lemenope

    They are leery of giving atheists any publicity. The dead bad guys aren’t coming back, while the writings and sayings of dead atheists most certainly are still virulent and effective against belief.

  • anniewhoo

    Those Catholics think they’re so smart, but they didn’t answer the most important question. Is there wifi in Hell? And if so, how many bars?

  • Octoberfurst

    I thought about that too. So being in a burning pit, smelling horrible smells and being in all around physical agony is nothing compared to the pain of being seperated from Jesus–who, according to the video, now hates you. Call me crazy but somehow that doesn’t ring true to me. It’s like a prisoner being upset that he won’t get to spend time with the dictator who sent him to prison to be tortured. Oh sure, the whippings and the beatings are bad but they are not nearly as bad as not being able to spend time with the man who sent him there. Somebody please explain the logic of this to me.

  • Anna

    I thought Catholics didn’t promote the whole torture thing? They seem to avoid it entirely.

    Of most interest to me was the fact that the could not say with any certainty who might be in Hell.

    This is par for the course. Catholics refuse to identify the damned. They’ll say it like it’s a good thing, but they don’t have any problem at all with the idea of damnation. This refusal just seems like a convenient way for them to avoid thinking about specific people being tortured.

  • viaten

    Perhaps, but I think it’s more that when it comes to hell’s existence being argued, no believer is going to challenge the really bad guys being there. Saying specific non-violent atheists are in hell might not sit the same or as well with believers when trying to impress upon them that hell is real.

  • Anna

    It’s especially bizarre because we’re separated from Jesus right now (you know, since we don’t think he exists), and there’s nothing bad about that. My life is quite happy wihout their deity.

  • advancedatheist

    According to Dante, damned souls can have foresight of events on Earth, but they forget things which have already happened. So, for example, a damned soul can see who will win the Superbowl next year, but he has already forgotten who won it this year. And that process will repeat itself with every Superbowl between now and Judgment Day. At Judgment Day, secular time stops, along with the annual Superbowl, and the damned souls will remain permanently ignorant from then on.

  • the moother

    “We know that hell exists, we know what happens there… but we are not exactly sure in what way it happens.”

    By claiming that they are not sure of the third supposition it seems that they are sure of the first two. But they have no evidence for all three in reality.

    Nice little psychological trick they use. But we all saw what they did there!

  • Nomad

    Well see, the thing is, the whole separation anxiety thing is about all the bible has. Hell is otherwise largely an extra biblical concept. I think the bible has the lake of fire and the gnashing of teeth, but otherwise most of the popular notions of Hell came from Dante’s Inferno.

    I’m out of sarcasm, so I can’t adequately comment on a popular religious concept coming from revenge fiction instead of the bible.

  • Nomad

    I’m reminded of a particularly odd Heinlein book, “Job, a Comedy of Justice” in which Hell is more of a representation of the carnal aspects of modern society. So a new resident is offered sexual services by a minor demon type character who offers to become whichever sex the resident desired. It has jobs and an entire financial system, possibly including credit cards, but it’s all optimized for the needs of sinners.

    Whereas Heaven was dead boring, just a bunch of people wandering around in robes.

  • Anna

    I’m always interested in how and why people become frightened of hell, so convinced that it’s (at least potentially) a real place.

    I’m curious about how atheist parents deal with this issue. What’s the best way to “neutralize” hell for young children? The last thing I would ever want is my small child fearing that such a thing might exist. My idea would be to handle it the same way my parents handled ghosts, monsters, and the boogeyman. They firmly told us those things weren’t real.

    I also thought that a good way to desensitize children might be to treat negative supernatural concepts in a fun way, like on Halloween, with cartoon depictions of devils and ghosts, or to read children’s books in which devils are portrayed as cute and mischievous rather than evil and powerful. Thoughts?

  • wmdkitty

    And how’s about Gandhi? I don’t know if he was an atheist, but he was non-violent.

  • Librepensadora

    My good Catholic mother never believed anything about the so-called Fatima apparition. She was devoted to the woman Catholics call “blessed Mary ever virgin” and did not believe this exemplary saint would have shown a vision of hell to small children. On the other hand, she did believe Mary and Joseph had marital relations. I think one factor in the whole Fatima story is that Lucy, the only one of the three children to reach even adolescence, was a bully.

  • Jeff P

    I told my kids that hell didn’t exist – that it was just make-believe. My wife believes in heaven but not hell so she reinforced that idea of hell not existing. My kids have no fear of hell which is good.

  • viaten

    Probably not for a video like this. Someone probably put Karl Marx in there just because he’s associated with communism, a bad choice in my opinion. It seems you never know what specifically named people religious types will say are in hell. It’s not always world leaders. It seems to depend on the point they’re trying to make. I think others have put Gandhi in hell when the point is that just being non christian is enough to send you there no matter how good you are. But when it comes to atheists, Hitchens is probably the most recently “honored” that way for “hating” God so much.

  • Andrew Ayers

    Wait – I thought Hitler was a staunch catholic? Also, just where does

    Pope Pius XII reside?

  • Without Malice

    Since Marx’s economic theory seems pretty close to what the first Christians practiced (having all things in common), it’s hard to see why he would warrant hell for that. But there was that religion is the opiate of the masses thing, maybe that would do it; that and being an atheist and all. The idea of an eternal hell is not found in Judaism, so it’s hard to say where Christianity came up with it; most probably from the Zoroastrians. The idea is preposterous on theological grounds, since it sets forth the proposition that God’s creation will always be tainted with evil and suffering and that’s Gods mercy is so limited that it cannot be extended to sinners once they have died. I would not subject anyone to torture no matter what they might have done, and I cannot understand why anyone would want to worship a God that would. St. Augustine, one of the great teachers in Catholic history (I shake my head in disbelief as I type) actually thought that even unbaptized children and infants were worthy of hell, which shows what kind of a monster that cold hearted bastard was.

  • Without Malice

    I guess maybe they figure that once your in hell you finally realize how wonderful and loving Jesus is and the thought of not spending eternity with him will be even a worse torment that the flames of hell that he’s been “forced” to consign you to.

  • Hat Stealer

    What my parents told me was that hell might or might not exist, but that they personally did not believe in it. This strikes me as the correct way to go about it- it encourages children to think about it for themselves and try to come up with their own conclusions, while at the same time reassuring them.

  • DavidMHart

    Well, I guess you could read to them about other underworld mythologies: Mictlan, Tartarus, Jehannom, Naraka etc. (this may have the added bonus of sparking an interest in anthropology) . Make it clear that these are just myths – and, crucially, make sure they understand that they are mutually incompatible so that at least all-but-one have to be imaginary. Then when they encounter tales of Christian Hell, they’ll recognise it as just another myth, hopefully.

  • L.Long

    And the RCC knows all this about hell because???
    Did one of their saintly popes come back from hell to describe it all???
    Their holey book of BS says sometin or ruther???
    I think the RCC is bustin a gut trying to say something really stupid AGAIN!!!!

  • 3lemenope

    That’s what happened to me, more or less. My parents gave me a copy of D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths for my sixth birthday, and they had also introduced me to Tolkien by ten, so by the time I had any serious encounter with the Bible, it popped right into the “fantasy storytime/mythology” category because it seemed a natural fit.

  • Christian Kemp

    Or the capitalist Catholic church does not like the idea of socialism. :)

  • DougI

    So if you’re a good Catholic like Hitler then you go to hell. And they advertise on a Catholic show that being Catholic gets you damned?

  • DougI

    Maybe they’re just saying all economists in general go to hell?

  • Richard Wade

    According to Catholic theology, Hitler is in heaven and Anne Frank is in hell. Say that to a Catholic, and some will start rationalizing into contortions like they’re performers in Cirque du Soleil.

  • randomfactor

    The only way I could be convinced of such a thing would involve extensive brain damage…so in effect it wouldn’t even be me being tortured.

    The flip side of this is that knowing that a large number of their friends, relatives and loved ones are in Hell, the saved souls in Heaven would have to be drastically altered in consciousness so as to enjoy that state of affairs.

    So nobody goes to Heaven OR Hell.

  • randomfactor

    Revenge fiction involving a number of popes being tortured…

  • randomfactor

    There are two kinds of Christians: those who believe in a literal Hell, and those with SOME sanity left.

  • randomfactor

    In Robert Heinlein’s novel “Job: A Comedy of Justice,” the main character goes to Heaven and Hell both, and describes Hell as a kind of Las Vegas experience.

    God’s in the book too–but he’s not the good guy…

  • randomfactor

    Of COURSE there’s wifi in Hell. I’ll be fixed tomorrow (repeat as needed.)

  • randomfactor

    I mentioned this above…should’ve scrolled down further.

  • randomfactor

    Since I’m an atheist, I’m in heaven NOW. Why do they keep trying to screw it up for me?

  • cipher

    EWTN has been a black hole of right wing Catholic insanity from day one. They’re contemptible, and at least several of their on-air personalities are in desperate need of hospitalization.

  • Emmet

    Crap. “According to Catholic theology” – according to what now? Give us a reference or two?

  • Rationalist1

    I grew up in a parish where the priest preached sermons on hell he cribbed from Joyce’s Father Arnall in Portrait of the artist. (I’m sure Joyce cribbed it from the sermons he heard growing up.) Society used to accept hell the same way it used to accept mass bombing of civilians in war. But times have changed and to preach the sermons I heard as a child and that caused me nightmares) is now viewed as immoral. So the Catholic Church uses separation from God” as it description of the pains of hell as they have learned from secular society that certain teachings are now morally unacceptable. They’re learning and we have to keep teaching them. Next up – Women are the equal of men and to teach women have one role in society and men have another is unacceptable. No more equal but different.

  • 3lemenope

    What’s fascinating to me is the desperation that Christians seem to have to set up a parallel society with the secular one, where they get to have all the same stuff that the sinners have, but sanctified or something. EWTN has baking shows. Are secular baking shows sinful? I dunno, but when nuns are baking, it must be more wholesome. Christian bookstores, Christian rock music, Christian movie industry, Christian radio, Christian restaurants, Christian daycare. I will absolutely not be shocked when they come out with Christian Coke.

  • cipher
  • axelbeingcivil

    They’re referring to Hitler being Catholic and Frank being Jewish, though Hitler wasn’t really in any way a practicing Catholic. To say he was in any way conventionally religious is erroneous.

    Most Catholics would answer that Hitler was not a Catholic in any sense of the word and Frank was “innocent” and therefore obviated of failing to pick the right religion.

    No comment about the millions of other Jews, though.

  • Klypto

    Always the visions come to uneducated people. If a credible educated person saw the visions they would at least be more believable. Uneducated shepard girls ? How would they even comprehend a mesage like this.

  • busterggi

    Most Catholics might not think Hitler was a real Catholic but the RCC never excommunicated him so it must have found him acceptably Catholic.

  • Carmelita Spats

    As I understand it, Catholic lore teaches that righteous
    people of other faiths along with absolved pedophiles are saved. The ones who will face eternal wrath, Yahweh’s spite, torture, an army of sharp-toothed fairies and cave-dwelling, semi-visible demons, are giggling Catholic apostates such as myself. I’ll be in a kettle full of mockers. Hell, I’m glad I’m female because my male counterparts have been informed that they won’t be laughing when they see demons using their testicles as ping-pong balls. Of course, I’ve been told, “I can’t wait to see the look of surprise on your face as Jesus drop-kicks you off the cliff of glory into the lake of fire!”

    Women who have had an abortion or used the IUD or the pill are also on Satan’s roster since the Roman Criminal Church views the pill and the IUD as abortifacients. The
    mother of the nine-year-old
    rape victim
    in Brazil is hell-bound because she authorized
    her third grader’s abortion after the child was raped by her stepfather. Also, straddling the Pope across your knees and spanking him once and for all will land you in Hell since any Catholic who uses physical force against His Holiness is excommunicated. Killing six million Jews is not
    on the list of excommunicable offenses and you can be absolved of the sin by a priest. You don’t have to go to the bishop as with an abortion.

  • Carmelita Spats

    So true! Fidel Castro was publicly and officially excommunicated for being a Communist.

  • L.Long

    I was programmed into catlick theology and the only thing Hitler did wrong is have a war that involved killing other catlicks in other countries. Even as late as 1958 we were told that the jews are evil devils that should be killed for killing Cheeses.

  • L.Long

    Not for hating gawd as that is forgivable. He denied the ‘holy Spirit’ which is not forgivable.

  • Anna

    I can understand atheist parents being a bit more wishy-washy about deities (lest we be accused of indoctrination), but I don’t think it’s moral to take that stance with hell or devils. Those were invented specifically to terrify people, and the amount of psychological damage they can inflict is immense. I wouldn’t have a problem telling my children flat out that such things are imaginary. There’s nothing good that can come out of believing in them, and a great deal of harm might result.

  • wmdkitty

    They already have their own dating site — christianmingle (with the worst. ads. ever. on the telly.) They have “faithbook” (Facebook ripoff). I would not be surprised if they really did have a whole parallel culture. (The “Why?” of it? I don’t know….)

  • Anna

    That seems like the most reasonable way to go about it, particularly if they’re growing up around other people who think hell is real. My worry would be that it might not be enough, that the surrounding culture could do a number on the kids regardless.

    When you read conversion stories by people who say they grew up atheist (assuming that’s true), presumably they once thought hell was imaginary. How did they transition to believing it’s actually real? What would make them go over to the “eternal torture” side?

  • Anna

    That’s a good idea. I plan to give my children a solid introduction to mythology, so both creation and afterlife myths would be crucial for them to get a global and historical take on the supernatural.

  • viaten

    Whatever. There’s no real difference. Some Christians make a distinction as if they were two different things but might never agree on what counts as examples of each. “Blaspheming” or “denying” the Holy Spirit can take various forms by some Christians if they want to make it look like someone is doing something unforgivable.

  • yohocoma

    …like Hitler, Stalin, Ayatollah Khomeini, Mao, and…wait a minute…Karl Marx? Really?

    Yeah, we wouldn’t see people like W. Bush, Obama, Edward Bernays, or various US generals and capitalists enshrined in their suggestive little tableau. God is not only man’s creation, but specifically the creation of the culture – political, economic, etc. – that a specific god comes out of.

  • aaa

    Nope, hell is dial-up

  • Emmet

    Was he? “Publically and officially” huh? You’ll be able to provide an official and public reference for that claim then.

  • Emmet

    Define: “real Catholic”; “excommunicated” and “acceptably Catholic”.

  • Emmet

    You have an interestingly colourful way with words but – no offence – I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. Key phrase: “…as I understand it.”
    You make a lot of claims – where’s your evidence to back them up? That *you understand* that the Church teaches that a woman who has an abortion is going to hell doesn’t mean that that is in fact what the Church teaches.
    That you understand the mother of the Brazilian girl is “hell-bound” according to the Church doesn’t mean that is how the Church sees it. You’ve heard this before: criticise the Church’s teachings all you like, but be sure you understand what they actually are, or you’re the one who ends up looking the fool.

  • Emmet

    “To say he [Hitler] was in any way conventionally religious is erroneous” – nice one. This comment wins understatement of the year!

    The Church’s “comment” about the millions of other Jews and their salvation is, as it is for Hitler and Frank and all people everywhere, something like this: “However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.” [para. 1861]

  • tatoo

    Credible, educated people do not see Jesus in grilled cheese sandwiches.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Is he in any book?

  • The Other Weirdo

    Of course there is no wifi in hell. Nobody wants to complete with an invisible power that actually works.

  • Carmelita Spats

    “La pena de excomunión que el papa Juan XXIII aplicó el 3 de enero de 1962 al máximo líder cubano….” This was personal and PUBLIC…John XXII relied on the organizational document formulated by Pius XII in 1949…

    Members of the Communist Party were excommunicated…See the “Decree of the Holy Office Formulated by Pius XII: Excommunication of Communists”

    I am desperately trying to find a similar official document in which the Roman Criminal Church excommunicates fascists…So far, no luck in my research. Please let me know if you have found anything similar with regard to fascists.

  • Nomad

    Emmet, when you’ve just implied that others are inadequately educated on the policies of the Catholic church and then demand to have as simple a concept as excommunication defined, you might want to reconsider what you’re doing here.

  • Emmet

    I’m asking busterggi to tell me what he/she understands excommunication means. I know what it means.

  • John Sabotta

    The “”Hitler was a staunch catholic” assertion is, of course, a lie.

  • wmdkitty

    No, it’s not. Hitler was indeed a Catholic.