The Absolute Monstrous Absurdity of Believing in Hell

The Absolute Monstrous Absurdity of Believing in Hell March 13, 2022

I’ve written about my philosophical and Scriptural problems with the idea of hell in the past, particularly eternal conscious torment (the idea that God will torment bad people throughout eternity). In fact, the posts cost me a potential job with a local church.

I may write again about the origins and wrong-headed Scriptural interpretations that morphed into this diabolical doctrine, but that’s not today’s goal.

Instead, I want to re-address some philosophical problems with this theology and the need many have to protect it at all costs.

The tide is turning

I think it’s important to acknowledge that opinions seem to be evolving. There are many books questioning hell published by mainstream Christian publishers. This is a good sign because money talks, and no one has their finger on the pulse like Christian publishing houses who cannot afford to upset the apple cart.

If a mainline publisher publishes books questioning hell, you better know they did their market research. They’re not about to saw off the limb they’re sitting on. (That said, they need to publish both sides, so they appear to be objective.)

Anecdotally speaking, you’ll find that many of your Christian friends struggle with this topic. But it’s not the shameful secret it once was. A dive into the blogosphere will tell you that struggling with eternal conscious torment (ECT from here on out) doesn’t have the stigma it used to. (Unless you’re on staff at a church.)

Quick aside: Church leaders are fighting a losing battle by forcing people to align with a denominational or a church-wide doctrinal statement. All you do by punishing detractors is drive them underground. But maybe that’s the point? To intimidate doubters into silence by making an example of the vocal minority? Spoiler alert: That’s a strategy from the playbook that killed Jesus.

When God becomes a monster

Imagine being raised by parents who always encouraged you to be forgiving and compassionate. They told you not to fight back against bullies, and that leadership was shown by examples of service and not through position, power, authority, and privilege.

But one day, you come home early and hear screaming from the garage. Peeking in the side window, you see a man tied to a kitchen chair and your dad beating him with a bat.

You’re flabbergasted. This isn’t the man who raised you. Then, with some detective work, you discover that your father, who brought you up in church and talked about love and forgiveness, is a mafia enforcer who hurts people for money.

How would you feel about your dad now?

When God the Father becomes the Godfather

This is the kind of cognitive dissonance that many in the church would have you believe. The God of love, compassion, and kindness will break your unbelieving nana’s kneecaps … forever. And not only that, but His children will enjoy eternal bliss while simultaneously knowing their nonbelieving neighbors, friends, parents, and children are perpetually suffering.

Christians have some fun ways to get around the fact that they worship Tony Soprano. One of my favorites is, “God doesn’t send anyone to hell; people choose to go there.” But how is that different than saying, “Michael Corleon doesn’t want to whack people; people who don’t pay their debts choose to get whacked”?

This goofy argument makes hell seem like a location that God keeps trying to remove from Google maps, but dumb adventurers keep driving there anyway. Of course, poor God is distraught about it.


The New Testament tells us that nothing exists that God didn’t create (Jn 1:3), and God is holding everything together (Col. 1:17). Therefore, it doesn’t matter how you got to hell. If it exists, God created it to torture others forever, and it’s an act of will to keep the torment machine running.

There is a pervasive idea that Jesus is protecting us from hell, while we ignore the fact that he’d also have to be its architect and manager.

Consider this: ECT suggests that for all eternity, while you’re enjoying being in God’s wonderful presence, some portion of His volitional will is actively torturing your loved ones (and will be forever).

Infinite suffering for finite sin

Imagine your daughter never becomes a Christian. You love her so much, but she just has some hurdles regarding the gospel that she cannot get over.

But you believe in a theology that says that Adam’s sin is stronger and more pervasive than God’s grace, and even though she inherited Adam’s guilt without choosing to, she had to opt into mercy or go to hell.

What do you do? Let’s say she lived to be 80. How much suffering makes up for her waywardness? It seems to me that attaching any amount of punitive suffering to her account seems unchristlike, but eternal torment? Can you really embrace a God who believes that an eternity of suffering is adequate compensation for a lifetime of occasional willful sin? Or even total depravity?

Remember, this is not redemptive suffering. She’s not going to see the error of her ways, repent, and become better. Instead, she’s just going to agonize forever.

I have a hard time respecting the spirituality of someone willing to belly up to the bar for a warm glass of that monstrous nonsense.

“Without hell, why believe anything?!”

The number one question I get asked by people who haven’t thought to question ECT is, “Without hell, what’s the incentive to believe in Jesus?”

It’s such a telling question. And it goes all-in on a Tony-Soprano God that rules by intimidation and fear.

The church that needs hell to persuade others is a church that is doing nothing to draw others. It’s a church that says that the beauty of Christ on display in the body isn’t enough. People need fear to compel them.

It’s a church that trades in the idea that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:8) for the belief that fear can lead people to perfect love.

Not every god is worth worshipping

Another favorite question people ask is, “Who are you to question God?”

This question presupposes that Yahweh deserves to be worshipped for simply existing. But let’s say that the ECT interpretation of Scripture is accurate. Is that a god worthy of adoration? Are we genuinely good people for bowing to the torturer Supreme?

Maybe a god exists, and that god is a total fiend. Would you worship a savage jerk out of fear? Would you worship any gaslighting deity who presents itself?

Let’s face it. A god who tells me that my forgiveness is contingent upon my willingness to forgive others while also planning to torture people forever for the crime of simply not knowing about him is suspect.

If your take is, “Well, he’s God, and I’m not.” You’re probably the kind of person who believes all authority is license, and that’s incredibly unhealthy and explains a lot about the current expressions of evangelical Christianity.

It’s your job to discern whether a god is good or whether they’re just telling you they are. That means you don’t just decide whether you believe in god, but whether the god you believe in is worthy of reverence. So the questions have to be:

  • Does god exist?
  • Is that God worthy of worship?

I contend that the god of ECT is not.

Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t teach that God is in the torture business, and it’s high time we abandon the idea it does.

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