Hell: The most problematic Christian doctrine of all

From my experience, I would argue that hell is the worst Christian doctrine of all. I’m not even going to get into how there is no justice in punishing finite transgressions with eternal torture, or into all the other problems with the theological ins and outs of hell. Instead, I’m referring to the practical implications of the doctrine.

I am a mother. I look at my beautiful young daughter, so full of life and joy and excitement and curiosity, and I feel my love for her bubbling up in my heart. If I believed that there were any possibility that this sweet little thing could end up tortured in a lake of fire for eternity, I would leave no stone unturned in desperately working to keep her from this fate.

In my quest to keep my daughter from unimaginable pain, I would probably be highly susceptible to religious leaders offering various methods for raising good Christian children, and easily taken in by their promises to keep my daughter’s soul from destruction. I would do anything I had to do, buy any book, try any method, risk any hurt. What parent wouldn’t?

Fundamentalist preacher and author Michael Pearl promises parents that if they discipline their children just so, including an emphasis on absolute obedience and the use of hitting to back it up, they will not stray from God’s path, and if he warns that if children are allowed to grow up without such discipline, they will be set on the path to hell. Is it any wonder that so many parents follow Pearl’s highly problematic parenting methods?

Leading Christian patriarchy organization Vision Forum promises that if you raise your children according to their teachings, homeschooling in order to “shelter” from “evil influences” and “teach God’s truth” and emphasizing the hierarchical teachings of Christian patriarchy, your child will not stray from Christ’s side like all those willful pagan children in the public schools. Is it any surprise Vision Forum has such a draw?

Bill Gothard’s Institute for Basic Life Principles also promises a perfect godly family, with highly problematic consequences. Mercy Ministries and Hephzibah House promise to restore your rebellious teenage daughter’s faith, though both have been linked to abuse. Exodus International promises to “cure” your gay son or daughter, though actual science is nowhere on their side. And on and on and on it goes.

If I believed there was any chance my small daughter could go to hell, I would turn to any method I could to keep her from this unimaginably horrible fate.

Attend church three times a week? Check. Homeschool using only religious textbooks? Check. Control her every interaction with others to keep her away from “bad influences”? Check. Follow strict child training methods that involve enforced obedience and hitting her if she so much as has a bad attitude? Check. Employ emotional manipulation or even threaten to cut her off if she grows up to make wrong choices, hoping that tough love will bring her back? Check.

Simply put, I would do anything I had to to keep my daughter from eternal torture. I suspect any parent would, really.

And then, if my daughter ceased to follow Jesus and I believed that she was on her way to hell, my heart would break. How could I have joy in life thinking of my daughter suffering eternal torture? How could I be happy knowing that pain without end lay in her path?

And how could I not lay some of the blame for her fate on myself? I would ask myself where I went wrong. Should I have sent her to the Worldview Academy, which promises to make your child immune to the wiles of liberal professors? Should I have sent her to Summit, the McCarthyist worldview conference that promises to give young people a conservative Christian worldview, for several summers instead of only one? Or maybe I should have sent her to an even more conservative college, or taken her to the Creation Museum?

Guilt and blame would ensue. How could I not keep my own daughter from eternal torture?

I understand why my parents raised me as they did and then reacted as they did when I questioned their beliefs. And I think now you understand why I really, really, really hate the doctrine of hell.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • tjhanlon

    Interesting. Do you think that the threat of eternal damnation was more important to your parents than the promise of you growing up happy, healthy, and of strong character?

    This is a problem for the more literal religionists: Inflict suffering on children in this world to prevent a bigger suffering later on. Yet, they are also told to be kind and loving, and it is mammalian nature to want to protect the young. Puts them in a tough place, it does.

    • Libby Anne

      When you throw eternal life into the picture, and eternal torture, what happens in our lives today matters not a whit. If your life is the most miserable thing ever, but you glorify God through it and bear up under it and serve him first, your reward is eternal glory. So being happy in this life? Pointless. Besides, true joy only comes from God, so you CAN’T actually be happy in this world if you’re not following Jesus. Those non-Christians who look happy but are living lives with “selfish” lifestyles and “ignoring” God, they’re not actually happy at all. They’re just faking.

      As for the last bit, let me point you to Hebrews 6: 12 – “Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” In other words, what you see in the Bible is a God who uses discipline and punishment to put those he loves on the right track. That’s the model.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Well, you and I are most certainly not sons so I guess we’re off the hook! Yay! Oh…right.

        lol. Women aren’t people (we’re not even worth mentioning) but we can still get punished like people. What a deal!

  • Kevin

    I’ve always thought the three genius inventions of Christianity were:

    1. Invention of a heaven for all believers. Prior to Christianity, either nobody went to a place of eternal happiness, or there was at best a place for a very select few (heroes, etc.) The number one selling point for Christianity was the concept that eternal happiness can be found just by being a believer in that very concept (“accepting” Jesus = belief in a happy after-death).

    2. Re-invention of hell as a place of torment. Prior to Christianity, your after-death experience was most likely either a recapitulation of your Earthly experience (hence, the elaborate tombs of the Pharoahs) or a dour place devoid of happiness. Or maybe being reincarnated back on the Earth with no knowledge of your past existence. But the after-death was never a place of torment. And torment wasn’t specifically visited on those who did not believe in the concept of eternal happiness (see 1).

    3. The concept of Jesus’ immanent return. Despite all of the schisms between “grace only” and “grace plus works” Christians and all of the gaps in between, the bottom line is that you can convert on your death bed and still go to a place of eternal happiness. That’s the lesson of the thief on the cross. UNLESS you’re unconverted on the day Jesus returns — then you’re damned. If you didn’t believe before, it’s too late now. Left behind, and all that.

    Brilliant mind-control concepts, frankly. Brainwashing at its finest.

    • Steve

      Also the general concept of sin and Original Sin specifically. Sin is just a control mechanism to get people to behave like the church wants to. They make up sins – and many of them are simply thought crimes – that they can be sure to be committed. Sexuality is especially useful for that, because people have no control over it. Then churches promise the cure for it, being absolutely certain that their victims will be back soon enough for more.

      Then there is the most vile, immoral idea ever: that everyone, through no fault of their own, is cursed with an invisible sickness and that there is no why whatsoever for them to ever be good on their own. That gets even more absurd when you realize that Jesus’s so-called “sacrifice” is just a solution to a made-up problem that doesn’t have to exist in the first place

  • marikozlowski

    Hell is problematic for so many more reasons, too!

    Apparently, it is a place where both spirit and physical body suffer, yet it has no physical properties, or they exist on a different physical plane than this one.

    Scientifically, how can our earthly bodies, made of substance from this universe, be present to suffer somewhere else?

    If Hell exists, than where the H is it????

  • davidct

    It is discouraging that this sort of mind set can be justify all sorts of horrible behavior for the ultimate salvation from hell. It is still being used in some parts of the world to justify killing “witches”. We used to burn them here back in the good old days when religion was properly respected. It does not even reinforce good behavior since one has to have “faith” to avoid damnation no matter how good you are. Fortunately most believers do not think that much about what their religion says about hell. Those that do are dangerous.

  • ArachneS

    There are two ideas about Hell that I cannot for the life of me reconcile.

    1. That people are compelled to proselytize to their family and friends because they love them and that it would be so terrible for the people you love to endure that torment, no matter how bad they are.

    2. That in Heaven, you will be perfectly happy because you are with God and therefore the woes of the people you loved being in Hell will not affect you. You aren’t sad about the people in Hell because you know they ‘deserve’ it.

    If Heaven is a place of perfection, why do people on earth have more compassion than people in heaven? That seems like a serious character flaw for flawless people. Not to mention that caring about the welfare of people before heaven, and the influence of heaven changing your mind, sounds like heaven is just a drug high.

    • Ace of Sevens

      In youth group growing up, they really pushed the idea that most of our friends were going to hell and it was our fault for not telling them about Jesus. TO a kid who believes this, it can be pretty traumatic.

      This is besides the problem that the hell doctrine is pieced together from several books, so doesn’t have the most solid scriptural support. Also, there are all kinds of logical problems with it that have been well covered. They amount to either God being capricious about who he sends to hell by setting arbitrary rules that you can’t really know for sure or he’s not very powerful.

      • Anat

        Terry Pratchett had it right (as usual):

        From ‘Eric’:

        Interestingly enough, 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 think they deserve to go. Which they won’t do if they don’t know about it. This explains why it is important to shoot missionaries on sight.

        (Also from the same book:
        Demons have existed on the Discworld for at least as long as the gods, who in many ways they closely resemble. The difference is basically the same as that between terrorists and freedom fighters.)

      • Aliasalpha

        Anat, don’t forget that as long as you’ve got your potato, you’ll be alright. Or won’t starve, there’s some confusion over the theology there

      • kisekileia

        @Anat: So in Pratchett’s thinking, people go to hell for being depressed or abused and therefore thinking little of themselves? That’s horrible. There’s not much correlation between deserving to be punished and thinking one deserves to be punished.

  • Gordon

    I’ve always thought that christians should just do away with the idea of hell, even when I was one. How are you suppose to believe you can be happy in heaven if a single person you love is in hell?

    My solution, when I was religious, was to choose to believe in reincarnation instead. Now, I just don’t believe either place exists, and imagine both would be a form of torture if they did.

    • shargash

      One of the most intereseting critiques of Christianity I ever heard was reported by Prof. Walter Kaufmann of Princeton University. The Zen master Suzuki, while visiting Kaufmann’s philosophy class said, “I cannot understand why any Christian would want to go to Heaven. They should want to go to Hell to comfort the damned.”

      On the other hand, the church father Tertullian thought that one of the chief pleasures of Heaven was looking down on Hell and watching the suffering of the damned.

      Very different world views…

      • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

        I’m currently reading Pinker’s Better Angels, and he talks about all the elaborate tortures for criminals and heretics (burning alive was pretty much the *kindest* of them) that were practiced only a few centuries ago. He makes the point that these weren’t generally done in the back room of the dungeon — they were *public spectacles*. Slow mutilation of some poor sod? A grand day out! Bring the kids! Same attitude that would consider box seats on the Hell Show one of the attractions of Heaven. We are indeed different people than our ancestors were, not even all that long ago.

        So it’s unsurprising that Hell gets down-played or dropped in modern Christianities. Even the evangelists who believe in it don’t go into such graphic detail as traditional art and literature do on the subject (I know the standard Navigator pitch didn’t, back when I was in the club). I think they realize half the audience would get up and walk out, were they made to face the implications that starkly. Instead it’s all on the positive side — “abundant life” and “Jesus will be your BFF”, like Christianity was a self-help programme.

        “A damnable doctrine”, as Darwin put it (no doubt with intentional irony).

    • KG

      How are you suppose to believe you can be happy in heaven if a single person you love is in hell?

      FIFY.

      • ArachneS

        Yeah, but that kind of thought takes a little more logic I think. Hell is like revenge therapy, when believers get so worked up about how terrible it is that someone they have personally condemned (example: Casey Anthony) goes on free to live their life, they can take comfort in their belief that she will “get her punishment from god” when she dies.

        It’s when close family and friends that they care about are included that they feel uncomfortable with the idea of someone suffering eternally.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      It seems like, in practice, a lot of Christians who have been taught to believe in Hell find ways around it in there own minds. And who can blame them? I can’t imagine going through life thinking that so many people I love are doomed to eternal torture.

      A college friend of mine is a very devout Catholic. In some ways he’s very liberal–believes in the social safety net, universal healthcare, was against the wars, and, despite being very anti-abortion, against criminalization and for increased mother-support services. But he’s also very against “picking and choosing” when it comes to Catholicism, so he’s stuck with the idea that the Catholic Church is the One True Church and the only way to salvation, which means that most of his friends are screwed.

      But he fudges it. I asked him one time if he believed that I was going to Hell and he said that he did not. His reasoning was basically that the purpose of the Church is to enshrine good moral values and I already lived my life by those, so I was kind of already in the Church. I responded “So, basically, I AM Catholic, I just don’t know it.” He said “Well…kind of, yeah.”

      I suppose I could have pointed out that the officials of his church would most certainly not sign off on the “Catholic=nice so all nice people are actually Catholic” doctrine. I suppose I could have justifiably been angry and said that this idea patronized and insulted me by denying me my own self-chosen identity. Instead I just kind of shrugged and said “Okay, well, if that works for you, fine.”

      I wonder how many other people find ways to square their belief system with something a little less grim than “All the good, kind, non-Christian people I know and love are going to burn forever.” I bet it’s a lot more than will admit it.

  • Zerple

    I agree with this post. The doctrine of hell is the only reason I have not told my father than my wife and I are atheists. Even though I don’t believe in hell, and find threats of hell to be almost comical 99% of the time.

    I know that my father believes in hell and that if he thought my wife and I were headed there, he would be greatly distressed. I do not want to stress out my 72 year old, failing health father. So, because of a religious doctrine that I find absurd, which is part of a religion I do not believe in, I keep that detail of my life from him. So far as he knows, I am a Southern Baptist (which I was until I was like 13-14 years old, nearly a decade ago) and my wife is a fundamentalist Pentecostal (which she was until about a year ago).

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com tommykey

    To me, one of the most absurd examples of salvation vs. eternal damnation was encountering a Christian who believes that serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is in heaven if he repented before he died. Of course, if any of his victims were not “saved” before Dahmer killed them, then they’re just SOL.

    • Ace of Sevens

      There’s actually a Chick tract to that effect. Witness Gun Slinger.

    • mnb0

      At the age of 13, 14 I was susceptible to christianity. My class was visited by Youth for Christ. A classmate asked about Pinochet exactly that question. The answer that he would go to heaven if he just repented the last minute put me off for ever.

  • Beck

    I have to admit, I’m not nearly as sympathetic to my mother as you seem to be to your parents. I guess it’s because even when I believed in God, and hell, and all of that, I never let what I believed make me a jerk.

    For me, at least, there has always been a very clear line–my beliefs aren’t going to stop me from liking someone of a different faith, or being friends with them, or generally being a decent person. (Much easier now that I’m a secular humanist.) And however great my mother’s pain may be over what she imagines to be the fate of my eternal soul, that’s not my problem.

    As a parent, it was her job to love me and protect me. She failed at both. When I came out to her, she cut off my contact with my 4 minor siblings. That’s not love. I don’t care how much self-delusion she is under about religion: when you know that doing a specific thing will deeply, irreparably harm someone, and you do it anyway, that’s not love. And however much justification she can find for it in her precious bible, when she looked at me and deliberately destroyed our relationship, she knew exactly what she was doing.

    I don’t mean to rant. I’m sure there are factors in your relationship with your parents that cause you to speak of them so graciously. But when situations come up where what is clearly the right thing to do conflicts with your beliefs, we all have a choice: do the easy, safe thing, and stay with our beliefs, or do what is right and re-examine our beliefs. It isn’t easy to critically view what you’ve believed for a long time, but that still doesn’t excuse you from doing the right thing. I have sympathy for my mother, and your parents, and everyone else stuck in the awfulness of dogmatic religion. But I do not extend that sympathy to forgiveness of the awful things they’ve done in the name of that religion.

    • Charlesbartley

      One of Dan Savages more brilliant tactics is to tell the person that is afraid of their parents reacting like this that they can neutralize this tactic by flipping it on its head. “Hey mom and dad, I’m gay, you have 1 year to rant, rave and otherwise get over yourself. After that, you either deal with me and my partners as real people that you love or you lose me and you will have to live with yourself.”

      Any time people are presented with this choice, they are given the chance to prove themselves to be more moral than their God is purported to be: by really following the Golden Rule and truly loving other people.

    • seditiosus

      I’ve always been a bit suspicious of “tough love”, because while I understand the concept I think there can be a very fine line between tough love and abuse. Sometimes it’s not about what a person genuinely believes is best for their kids, it’s about forcing the kids to obey for the sake of it. And even if the parent genuinely believes they’re acting in their child’s best interest, I think “tough love” can still be abusive. As you say, that’s not love.

      • Beck

        it’s not about what a person genuinely believes is best for their kids, it’s about forcing the kids to obey for the sake of it.

        This. Exactly this. “Tough love” or as Christians call it, “hate the sin, love the sinner,” is almost never (in my experience) necessary or appropriate. It comes from the attitude that the parent is the ULTIMATE authority and what they say goes, no matter what. Same problem as Christianity, really. Morality is based on what the strongest person decides.

  • Adam

    My inability to reconcile the concept of hell with reality is one of the big things that lead me to start questioning the idea of religion. I couldn’t accept that anyone who really actually believed in the hell they taught us about in my fundamentalist church could behave in any way other than what you describe above.

  • Sheena

    As far as religion goes, I have the biggest problem with the concept of hell vs. heaven (as accepted by most religious folks, especially of the fundamentalist nature). The variety of God one does or doesn’t believe in should not be a determining factor for “eternal” fate. If any kind of afterlife exists, I’m more inclined to think that “heaven” is much more populated than fundamentalists of any religion would believe. Otherwise, I tend to think that it’s probably more like dreamless sleeping — not scary, not painful, neither happy nor sad.

    I take serious issue with the idea that only the “saved” go to heaven, and everyone else to hell. I refuse to believe that a ten-year-old who dies young and was raised by non-believers (of any faith) is guaranteed hell, but any sociopath who can convince other that she/he has “repented” of terrible crimes or has a “deathbed conversion” (like Ted Bundy, or an abusive relative) will be in heaven. Can’t and won’t believe it.

    So, basically, if there’s a heaven I’ll probably see most of y’all there.

    • Besomyka

      I’m with ‘ya, Sheena. I’m normally more on the atheist side of things, but when I doubt my own atheism I think that, if there is a God and that God is just, then at least She knows what is in my heart, that I’ve tried to do good as best as I understand it and am able, that I have followed my own mind and tried to come to the best decisions I could given the restraints the world has placed on me, and that I will be treated fairly.

      No matter what your particular beliefs happen to be, if it leads to help rather than hurt and to have empathy for all people, then a just God is on your side.

      • KG

        If there is a God, what reason is there to suppose it to be just other than that you’d prefer it to be? Does this look like a world created by a just God? Does it, in fact, look like a world created by any sort of God except, perhaps, one determined to conceal its existence?

  • Besomyka

    Like with other commenters, the idea of Hell was one of the first concepts that started me questioning my faith. I tried to put myself in God’s shoes.

    Lets say that there is someone that I love, wholeheartedly, but who thinks I betrayed her at some point and no longer speaks to me. Flood waters then come and I’m on a boat. She’s stranded and it’s within my power to row over to her and save her. Without my help she is likely to die to the rising water. Would I help her?

    Yes, of course! Why? Because I have compassion for other people, and I would try to save her even if I didn’t love her, but the fact that I do, even if it’s not returned, makes it all the more urgent that I act.

    The thing here is that I would act because of how I feel. I feel empathy, and I feel love. What she returns to me isn’t as important in the moment. Sure, long term it might hurt me to be distant, but it would be abhorrent to me to force the issue. I care about her, so acting to try and coerce love is an act of hostility not compassion.

    The God taught to me in the stories of Lot, the Flood, Pharaoh, and The Fig Tree at the private Catholic school I attended does not love. He demands love, but does not experience it.

    How can punishing someone for not loving you ever be moral?

  • KG

    If you really believed in God and hell, why would you ever have children? If there is a God and a hell, then God is infinitely evil. Why would you bring another being into an existence under the dominion of infinite evil?

    • Besomyka

      I certainly can’t speak for all believers – not least of which because I no longer AM one – but from what I remember back when I was and form the people that I knew, it’s never them or their kids that are going to hell. Hell is something that happens to OTHER people. The people that are close, even if they sin and are threatened with hell always have a chance to repent and they hope that they will.

      I don’t know how people reconcile the God that creates Hell with Love (which was my point above), but people constantly keep two conflicting ideas in their heads without a problem. I suspect that they just don’t think about it. In the rare cases in which they do that fall back on ‘God knows best’ and ‘I’m an ignorant sinner’ lines of reasoning. It might SEEM bad, but it can’t possibly be. It only seems that way because I’m ignorant about something. God loves me and I have faith, so everything will work out for the best!

      People can rationalize a lot when put to it.

  • calicocat

    My learnings of hell were inconsistent throughout my life.

    First, it was the classical “fire and brimstone” type thing, but you didn’t have to remain there for eternity.

    Then the hell of fire and brimstone was replaced with something like purgatory, where you were in a featureless place, and you spent the length of your life on Earth thinking and contemplating your actions while alive.

    Then it suddenly changed to a “Personal Hell” which was what you were in when you forsake Jesus/God, or lived with the weight of the sins on your soul or a sinful life. But everyone from any faith got to go to heaven! How nice of the Pope to give them an out! :P

    I attended Catholic school (As an agnostic, then atheist all my life, I was a “cultural Catholic”, baptised to keep family from harping on my Mother). Since Catholics don’t take the bible literally and pretty much ignored the Pope when they felt like it (It was Canada, and the 90s were so lax!) I guess these were just different ways people wanted to interpret what “hell” personally meant to them. Whatever helped them sleep at night I guess?

    • calicocat

      To be clear, this “personal hell” is what you struggle with when alive. I think it’s supposed to be when you can’t form a relationship with god, which it seems like quite a few of you have gone through! When you feel like a bad person, guilty, alone, because no matter what you do, even when you do everything “right” you still can’t believe. but I don’t know where happy atheists fit in.

      Like I said, made it up as they went along.

      • Besomyka

        Yeah, for a while I liked the notion of an afterlife as described in the movie What Dreams May Come. The notion that Hell is self-imposed and an extension of the ways we beat ourselves up when alive over whatever.

        Ultimately, though, I realized that we all were just making it up. The Church made it up to control and manipulate, and people like me made it up to help rationalize conflicting thoughts. It took me a while to see that the reason there was a conflict was because the system itself was broken. At least one part of what I thought I knew was just wrong, and that’s why things conceptually broke.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    I don’t blame you, Libby. As wrong as so many of the things that your parents did to you were, I mean it when I say that I feel sorry for them, and so many like them, who are stuck with the idea that their “strayed” children are doomed to eternal torture. That must be so painful, and so painful for you to think that people YOU love are plagued by this fear.

    And yeah, Hell is a pretty rotten idea. Because it basically justifies anything. No matter how horrible what you do to your kids to try to keep them in the fold is, there’s no way it can be worse than what will happen if you don’t do it. That’s pretty dangerous.

  • calicocat

    I have one more thing to add, where I live (Toronto, Canada), we have the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, both funded by pretty much the same pool of taxpayer money. There’s not much difference at first glance, except the Catholic schools have religion classes, uniforms, and sometimes mass in the building.

    It only just occurred to me, and now it’s no wonder our school’s teaching on the afterlife was so wishy-washy and liberal!

    One of the things about the afterlife we were taught is that no matter what, all faiths are a path to God, and so long as you are a good person in life you’ll get into heaven. It gets kind of sketchy, but I think the theory is that eventually it will end up with you accepting their God. Even bad people get to go after the whole reflection in Purgatory thing.

    The hell being a personal state of mind type thing, keeps the focus off other people. Imagine if a school funded with taxpayer money was teaching that hell is this actual place that people go to.

    I don’t think these views are the Church’s official stance. But the schools don’t want to traumatize kids who have parents and other family members who weren’t Catholic, or make the public angry. I can’t believe this didn’t occur to me before. This is just incredible, I didn’t mean to go so much off topic.

  • kisekileia

    I’m really struggling with the ideas of heaven and hell. Intellectually, I don’t believe in hell–in fact, I think teaching the concept is probably intrinsically spiritually abusive. Emotionally, I have a lot more doubts.

  • http://www.arizona-writer.com Kimberly Hosey

    Thank you. You’ve done a beautiful job of showing both the motivations of parents who believe they’re saving their children’s souls, and exactly how awful a doctrine Hell really is. It’s horrifying, but if you truly believe you are saving your child from eternal torment, sure, why not try whatever it takes?

    Happily, I was already re-examining my own beliefs when my son was born. It was a host of things, piling up over time, that made me see things clearly, but that was the turning point. One look at my son told me this couldn’t be an evil person. This wasn’t a person deserving of eternal torture. Any god who allowed that, even if he existed, was a god I wanted nothing to do with. It wasn’t my disbelief that made it not so, of course, but it sure helped me to “see the light,” so to speak. I have never once told my son to fear Hell. It should be something in which to take pride, but in light of so many of us being brought up to fear, to never question, to blindly obey … yeah. My son LIVES. I’m proud.

  • Andrew

    As far as Christian Holy Writ is concerned, yes there is a hell. However the problem with how it’s taught is due to the lack of believe in salvation through Grace alone and that you don’t need to rely on works and that if you sin (and everyone does) you can receive forgiveness.

    The reason fire and brimstone preachers can only see obedience to the law and not see the message of Grace is due to Reformed/Covenant theology as defined by guys like John Calvin who had a serious problem with loving and forgiving others. The Apostle John wrote that if a man claims to love God but expresses hatred to others then that man is to considered a liar.

    • leftwingfox

      If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26

      Couldn’t resist.

    • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

      Um, no. The problem is the doctrine of Hell, period.

      That any crime — no matter how monstrous — is worthy of infinite punishment is an obscene perversion of any notion of proportionate justice. It’s the ultimate revenge fantasy. And worse, that we get that punishment, not even for having done some particular sin, but for not believing the right things, or saying the right words, or having the right inner attitude, or however you want to define conversion and grace operationally, is obscenity-squared.

      It doesn’t matter how much you spin it or suger-coat it or fine-tune it — the moral obscenity is at the core of the doctrine itself.

  • mnb0

    Perhaps hell is the worst christian doctrine, heaven surely is the most problematic one. Just try to picture how it looks like: everything is perfect. Then what is there left to do? Eternal boredom is the inevitable result.
    Eg, I like to play chess. Suppose I’d like to play it in heaven too. There are three possible results; two of them require imperfection. Heaven being perfect means that all games will end in draws, which takes away all the excitement.
    Heaven has all the problems of hell plus that it doesn’t fulfill it’s promise.


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