Is Hell Dead?

Just in time for Easter, TIME magazine has a cover story asking “Is Hell Dead?” It’s inspired by and largely focuses on Evangelical pastor Rob Bell and his new book Love Wins. TIME does a fair job of presenting Bell’s case for Christian almost-Universalism as well as touching on traditional arguments for Hell.

And now the Dallas Morning News’ “Texas Faith” feature asks this question to its interfaith panelists, which is dominated by liberal Christians but includes others such as First Unitarian Dallas Senior Minister Daniel Kanter and EarthRhythms’ Amy Martin, the Moonlady. It also includes Presbyterian scholar Cynthia Rigby, whose writing could almost make me reconsider Christianity. Almost – having experienced the Old Gods, I can’t go back to acknowledging one (or three) and pretending the rest don’t exist.

I’ve added my response to the panel in the DMN’s comments section, and I repeat it here:

As a Universalist and a believer in Justice I cannot accept the concept of infinite punishment for finite sins against arbitrary rules. As a Pagan I do not accept the authority of the scripture and tradition on which the concept of Hell is founded. As a Druid I expect that after death I will enjoy a time of rest and reflection before incarnating in this world once again to continue the Great Work of my soul.

And yet…

When I see millions of people living in abject poverty, when I see wars without end, when I see people tortured and killed because of what tribe they belong to, or what god or goddess they pray to, or who they love, then I cannot be so smug as to proclaim that Hell is dead.

Hell is alive and well – not in some underworld but right here right now. It cannot be killed but it will die of starvation when we stop feeding it fear and hatred and greed and indifference.

That won’t happen in this lifetime, but someday… oh, someday!

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  • Which Afterlife?

    In his new book "Love Wins" Rob Bell seems to say that loving and compassionate people, regardless of their faith, will not be condemned to eternal hell just because they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.

    Concepts of an afterlife vary between religions and among divisions of each faith. Here are three quotes from "the greatest achievement in life," my ebook on comparative mysticism:

    (46) Few people have been so good that they have earned eternal paradise; fewer want to go to a place where they must receive punishments for their sins. Those who do believe in resurrection of their body hope that it will be not be in its final form. Few people really want to continue to be born again and live more human lives; fewer want to be reborn in a non-human form. If you are not quite certain you want to seek divine union, consider the alternatives.

    (59) Mysticism is the great quest for the ultimate ground of existence, the absolute nature of being itself. True mystics transcend apparent manifestations of the theatrical production called “this life.” Theirs is not simply a search for meaning, but discovery of what is, i.e. the Real underlying the seeming realities. Their objective is not heaven, gardens, paradise, or other celestial places. It is not being where the divine lives, but to be what the divine essence is here and now.

    (80) [referring to many non-mystics] Depending on their religious convictions, or personal beliefs, they may be born again to seek elusive perfection, go to a purgatory to work out their sins or, perhaps, pass on into oblivion. Lives are different; why not afterlives? Beliefs might become true.

    Rob Bell asks us to reexamine the Christian Gospel. People of all faiths should look beyond the letter of their sacred scriptures to their spiritual message. As one of my mentors wrote "In God we all meet."