If hell is real, then love has no meaning

If hell is real, then love has no meaning January 7, 2015

Dollarphotoclub_61986496It’s possible for God to be real. It’s possible for hell to be real. But there’s only one way for both to be real. And that’s if we define God as either so powerless that he cannot prevent people from going to hell, or so cruel that he chooses not to prevent people from going to hell.

Uncomplicated, irrefutable logic dictates that if hell is real, then God must be either a sorry weakling or a cruel sadist. There is no third option there. [For more on this, see Christian and Atheist Argue About Hell (In a Starbucks). Atheist Wins.]

But of course that reasoning cannot work for hell-believing Christians. They need for God to be all-loving and all-powerful—and for hell to be real.

So they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. For how does one argue a case that reason itself mocks?

The way hell-believing Christians inevitably attempt to reconcile the inherent conflict between an all-loving God and the reality of hell is by first acknowledging that those dynamically opposed opposites cannot, in fact, be reconciled—and then asserting that that’s exactly how it should be.

“Of course we can’t make sense of such a thing,” they say. “Who are we to understand the ways of God? Yes, to our tiny minds it seems contrary that an all-loving, all-powerful God would allow people to suffer for eternity in hell. But that’s because we’re not God. We must trust that what seems wrong or confusing to us is somehow made right by God.”

To which I call bullshit.

You don’t get to claim that humans are made in the very image of God, and at the same time claim that God’s morality is completely different from human morality. Wrong is wrong, in heaven, on earth, and everywhere else.

To sentence to hell ninety-five percent of all people who ever lived for no other reason than that they died without being a Christian is absolutely and unequivocally wrong. It was wrong yesterday, it’s wrong today, it will be wrong throughout all eternity.

If it’s not wrong, then love has no meaning. Righteousness has no meaning. Justice has no meaning. Then no words, concepts or truths can have any meaning at all, since to God they must all mean something radically different from what they mean to us.

What pure, puerile nonsense. And how dangerous it is, to not just insist upon but teach and finally institutionalize the lie that God’s understanding of right and wrong is obviously and manifestly diametrically opposed to our own. Down that path lies the “biblical” justification for any and every evil. Always has. Always will.

Show me a Christianity that insists upon hell being real, and I’ll show you a Christianity that’s been terribly perverted by forces having nothing to do with God’s will, and everything to do with man’s.


Other posts of mine on this topic: Is Hell Real? What Are We, Six?; What Christianity Without Hell Look Like; The Absence of God: A Kinder, Gentler Hell?

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  • Andy

    Nailed it!

  • BarbaraR

    It makes God look like a crazed stalker, doesn’t it?

    “I love you. I really, really love you! I’ll do anything for you! What’s that? You don’t love me exactly as fundamentalists have been led to believe you must? You had a choice and you blew it. Too bad if you never heard of me. I will let you roast forever! That’s how I show my love.”

    Nope. Doesn’t make sense.

  • barkey

    While I fall into the there’s-probably-no-hell camp, couldn’t a third possibility logically exist where the vast majority are “saved” and a truly evil and heinous (unredeemable?) few are sent to a hell they deserve?

  • barkey

    I’m not saying it does, but I am saying that one could make a logically coherent argument that it could exist in that way.

  • It could, but who is truly evil in heinious in God’s eye? None of us can honestly answer that question.

  • Dani Smith

    I’ve always had this wondering myself, and can’t believe in hell.
    So of course I’d always ask my fellow “educated” Christians. There was one answer that got used more than any other.
    That was, wait for it…:
    “You need to trust God more.”!!

  • BarbaraR

    Coupled with “You don’t understand the scriptures.”

  • BarbaraR

    That might hinge on a few debatable factors.
    What constitutes unredeemable?
    Did God make someone unredeemable?
    If so, why would he do that?
    If not, how did they get there?
    Or is it only human beings who need to see punishment for what they see as unredeemable features?

  • ChuckQueen101

    Of course, John is talking about the literal interpretation of hell, which if it exists, would make God a monster. But is there a place for the language of “hell” when understood symbolically? Here is a quote from a spiritual mentor of mine, Richard Rohr: “Any discovery or recovery of our divine union has been called “heaven” by most traditions. Its loss has been called “hell.” . . . these terms are first of all referring to present experiences. When you do not know who you are, you push all enlightenment off into a possible future reward and punishment system, within which hardly anyone wins . Only the True Self know that heaven is now and its loss is hell – now. (Falling Upward, p. 100).

  • Andy

    This dovetails with exegesis of the terms translated into modern English as “hell” (e.g. Gehenna, Sheol) and what they actually meant (and I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean a lake of fire for eternity).

  • dapowellii

    B-b-but, paradox and stuff!

  • Sue Bonner

    I think I tend to fall in the third way camp on this issue. I have a problem accepting that most of humanity will end up in hell because they didn’t believe the right way. I also think there is a point of human evil where someone becomes irredeemable. I don’t expect Adolph Hitler to be in Heaven.

  • I do not focus on Hell or Heaven, for that matter, rather on the now and experiencing God’s love and sharing it with others now 🙂 I am curious, however, for the sake of the discussion, what do you all think Jesus and the authors of epistles meant when they referred to Gehenna?

  • I think the danger with that Rohr quote is that it supposes it’s possible to satisfactorily “know who you are”–or that “enlightenment,” as a constant state, is possible. That one can know in any permanent or constant sense one’s “True Self” is just … another kind of extreme ideal–this one dusted, as so many these day are, with magic New Age sparklies–that promises people everything and delivers them nothing.

  • Yonah

    People go to hell on their own. It starts here. If they stay there, it ain’t for lack of the Hound of Heaven trying.

    You could dial it down a notch.

  • Yeah, I could “dial it down a notch”–OR I could read the letters I get every day from people whose lives have been made hell by the Christian institutionalization of the “fact” that hell is real, and that lots and lots of people deserve to go there. (And what smug bullshit is “people go to hell on their own.” Tell that to the rape victim, or the family mired in poverty they have no means whatsoever of escaping, to take just two quick examples.)

  • Dandhman

    On some level, I really need to believe that there is some retribution for those who relentlessly make this world a worse place. Now I DONT believe that this MUST be eternal. Moreover I like Neil Gaiman’s take that the damned’s sense of guilt is far worse than actual “torture”.

    He had them begging for torment rather than how they felt. It COULD be a “Christmas Carol”-esque revelation of the truth of one’s misdeeds. So often we are blind to our own faults.

    I agree that the focus on the absolutism and torment of hell is harmful. Many who believe they’re saved use it as an excuse to do the most wretched things. Fire and brimstones lines the pocket of many an unscrupulous “minister.”

    We don’t know. We CANT know. We really only have our consciences.

  • Dandhman

    it IS always someone else who deserves to BURN for eternity … funny huh?

  • Saffy Canady

    As a child I was a neurotic mess trying to pray for every individual that I could think of to ensure that they did not go to hell because I forgot to pray for them. Being taught about hell created a burden on me that made it difficult for me to grow up psychologically healthy. I continuously tried to be a better person and perform perfectly for the church, but always came up short. I was never good enough and grew up being ashamed of who I was. The church did a lot of damage to me and I struggled with the idea of leaving after I reached adulthood. I did finally realise that leaving the church did not mean that I was leaving God. I am grateful for people who helped me realise that I could walk away from the church as it had become a “stumbling block” for me and I could still follow Jesus and experience an incredible relationship with God. I am still on the healing side of it, but I am doing so much better. Thank you for writing … it has helped me in immeasurable ways.

  • Bless your heart, Saffy. Thank you.

  • Skymaster44

    There is no such thing as ‘unredeemable.’ There is ‘unredeemed’ however. God has the power to redeem anybody, no matter what they’ve done. In fact, He died so He could offer it freely. So, God can redeem anyone, all they have to do is accept His redemption. It’s a free gift. It’s like if I told you I would give you 100$ if you just walked over here and and let me give it to you. If you don’t gain 100$ that day, whose fault is it? Not mine, because I offered it freely. So if someone is unredeemed, it is no ones fault except their own, especially not God’s. As far as God looking like a crazed stalker, yes. He loves us more than we could possibly imagine. He is also just. If He allowed sin to go unnoticed, He would no longer be holy, therefore no longer God. As much as He loves us, He cannot leave sin unpunished. That’s why hell exists, (And no, satan doesn’t sit down there, plotting his next big evil scheme). That’s why He died for us. He was the only one who could meet His own standard, therefore He is the only one who could sacrifice Himself for us. That sounds like love to me.

  • Andy

    “Mysterious ways” or “we’re not meant to know” or “one day we’ll understand,” right?

  • Andy

    You might read Ben Corey’s excellent takes on the matter, like this one or this one.

  • BarbaraR


    “That sounds like love to me”?

    Not to me. That’s the human need for revenge on anyone who doesn’t think exactly the way fundamentalists insist is the only true way.

  • Yonah

    Well, hell is real. And, that’s a fact. It’s just not what you and the fundies say it is. Hell is signing up with the Death culture.

    One of your thinkin problems here is the notion that middle eastern religions like Christianity and Judaism should make Western “logical” sense. Well, stick “find your life by losing it” in your western logic kombobulator and see what you get.

    Again, hell would be calling Dick Cheney “friend” instead of just Dick. The people you get letters from along with the rape victim and poor person being falsely accused are all people experiencing persecution FROM hell/Death culture. It is to these persecuted which Jesus assures that Death will not have the last word and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against.

  • Al Cruise

    The fact is no one knows what really takes place after death. It is all just guessing. Close yours eyes and imagine your heart stops beating permanently. Then ask yourself do I know with certainty what will take place with my consciousness .

  • Andy

    “Well, hell is real. And, that’s a fact.”

    Welp, I’m convinced.

    “Hell is signing up with the Death culture.”

    I know all these words, but I don’t understand what you’re saying.

    “The people you get letters from along with the rape victim and poor person being falsely accused are all people experiencing persecution FROM hell/Death culture. It is to these persecuted which Jesus assures that Death will not have the last word and that the gates of hell shall not prevail against.”

    Same as the last excerpt. Can you try it again without the buzzwords?

  • Andy

    A: “If you don’t take the $100 and you end up in debt, don’t come crying to me. All you had to do was believe I’d give you $100, and then come get it.”
    B: “What about the people who didn’t hear you offering $100?”
    A: “Not my problem.”

  • BarbaraR

    Yep. I remember one fundie church lady primly telling me years ago that everyone would hear the gospel, everyone in the world. When challenged about this obvious improbability, she pursed her lips firmly and insisted that everyone would hear it, that God wuld see to it.

    Being a pre-teen, I couldn’t really say, “That is a bucket of horseshit.” I was free to think it, though.

  • BarbaraR

    This made zero sense to me.
    Except the part about hell being calling Dick Cheney “friend.” I can get behind that.

  • “It’s just not what you and the fundies say it is.” I never said hell was anything at all.

    And what in the world is Death Culture as you’re here using it.

    Anyway, thanks for stopping by. See ‘ya.

  • Andy

    Uh huh. How’d that work out for her?

  • Bones

    Try reading it after a couple of drinks. I find that helps.

  • “I don’t expect Adolph Hitler to be in Heaven.”

    We don’t know what, exactly, was going through his mind and how much he was genuinely aware of what he was doing; after all, he mainly gave orders rather than personally carried them out himself. It’s very possible that if a random decent person had been placed in the exact same circumstances of upbringing and personality and external stress as Hitler, he would have been pushed towards doing the exact same thing; likewise, if Hitler had been born into wholly different circumstances, he might have instead become a great person. Only God knows how much of our actions are truly our own. And chances are, there are regular, seemingly-decent people walking around right now who might in fact have the potential to be far more evil than Hitler ever was, the only difference being that they never had the opportunity to express that side of themselves.

  • Andy

    I’d like to, but I’d rather not get drunk on a work night. I have to be at work in 8 hours.

    If you feel like translating for me, cool. If not, I’m just going to assume it’s gobbledygook.

  • With 150 years of neurology, we know what happens. Death is going to be just like the eternity before you were born.

    Science is not in principle committed to the idea that there’s no afterlife or that the mind is identical to the brain. If it’s true that consciousness is being run like software on the brain and can – by virtue of ectoplasm or something else we don’t understand – be dissociated from the brain at death, that would be part of our growing scientific understanding of the world if we discover it.

    But there are very good reasons to think it’s not true.

    And we know this from now 150 years of neurology where you damage areas of the brain, and faculties are lost. It’s not that everyone with brain damage has their soul perfectly intact, they can’t get the words out.

    Everything about your mind can be damaged by damaging the brain.

    You can cease to recognize faces, you can cease to know the names of animals but you still know the names of tools. The fragmentation in the way in which our mind is parcellated at the level of the brain is not at all intuitive, and there’s a lot known about it.

    And what we’re being asked to consider is that: you damage one part of the brain and something about the mind and subjectivity is lost, you damage another and yet more is lost — and yet if you damage the whole thing at death, we can rise off the brain with all our faculties intact, recognizing grandma and speaking English.


  • I went through the same shit about hell as a child. Hell dogma is certainly child abuse.

    I’m happy to leave church — and leave the make-believe too.

  • Dial it up a notch, I say. To 11.

  • thanks for responding to my comment 🙂 I shall surely have a look at the mentioned posts! What an interesting discussion, isn’t it?

  • I of course definitely see what Sam is saying in your quote here, and it’s powerful stuff. But ultimately I don’t see as much of a stretch the idea that, in the afterlife, a person’s mind will be restored to what it was before his or her brain was damaged. Restored to wholeness, and all that.

  • Be careful, please, Tim–or, at least, be careful in this forum–about disdainfully and categorically dismissing the religious beliefs of others as “make-believe.” Thanks for understanding.

  • Several people who I respect get a lot out of Rohr’s writing. And I’m certainly open to metaphysical experience. So I can’t discount Rohr. But I, yeah, “dusted…with New Age sparklies” is exactly how I’d describe his writing.

  • Which to me is one of the many nails in the coffin of the validity of hell.

  • Followed by “I’ll pray for you.”

  • lymis

    The problem, ChuckQueen101, isn’t the definition, it’s the permanence.

    The idea of a softer, gentler Hell that is just eternal estrangement from God rather than lakes of fire and demons with pitchforks being somehow more enlightened and acceptable is ludicrous. It still presupposes either a human action taken within the context of a human lifetime deserving of eternal punishment, or a God who either can’t or won’t engage in the healing of one of God’s children.

    I’ve always seen the parable of the Prodigal Son as the model for hell, if one exists. The option and the offer to return to grace is always present. Nobody could exist cut off from God – that would imply the ability for a human to be, by their own actions, independent of God. So if the connection exists, redemption is possible. And redemption is a healing, not an amnesty.

    I don’t see God as either callous enough or impotent enough for hell to exist. Rather than Eternal Punishment, I see more of a Serious Talking To, in the “What were you thinking?” and “So, how did that work out for you” sense rather than banishment for all eternity.

    However, to the degree that the Rohr quote is about “pay attention to love in the moment rather than focusing on goodies in the afterlife” I applaud the shift in focus.

  • “It’s like if I told you I would give you 100$ if you just walked over here and and let me give it to you. If you don’t gain 100$ that day, whose fault is it? Not mine, because I offered it freely.”
    Sure that sounds lovely, except I can’t walk, or I have this huge chasm to jump, or i’m severly myopic and can’t see that you have an actual $100 bill in your hand, or I’m unable to hear, or read lips, or I’ve been burned by that before, how do I know you aren’t just another scammer ?
    Its expecting people to accept something with a catch. Its not a free gift. A true gift giver ensures that a person has it placed in their hand, not tell them, “It’s yours, but only if….”

  • lymis

    Sorry, no you can’t. It’s vaguely possible, if you presuppose that God is primarily concerned about things using an entirely human perspective, to make a logically consistent (I won’t evaluate coherence), that some form of punishment is in order, if only for closure.

    But the idea that a loving God would permanently condemn someone to hell for all eternity for the actions taken within a human lifetime is as logically flawed and incoherent as the idea that a loving parent would beat a child near to death, daily, for stealing a cookie once, years ago.

    As John said, you cannot reconcile that with a loving God. A sadistic or brutally uncaring God, perhaps, but not a loving one.

  • lymis

    Not only don’t we know what was going on in his mind, what sorts of mental defects or biochemical problems he had stacked against him, or what traumas influenced him, we also have to remember that, seen through the lens of eternity, he didn’t do any permanent damage.

    On a human scale, and in human terms, what he was responsible for was horrific and unforgivable. The human suffering that resulted was, in human terms, very, very real, and incredibly evil.

    And every one of the people who was killed, or whose spirits were diminished by fear into going along with the Nazi system, everyone one who was tortured, everyone who was damaged by what they had to do to fight the Nazis and what they had to do as soldiers to stop it, and everyone who was hurt by losing people, is, in the end, a wholely undamaged Child of God, taken up by God and consoled and healed as they needed to be.

    I’m not defending or excusing Hitler, but even if it was “fair” for Hitler to relive all the fear and pain and anguish of every person his actions impacted, even ten-fold, that might take millions of years, but it’s still not eternity.

    And if it was wrong for him to cause such things to others, how is it right to do it to him? Even if you could make a case for utter annihilation, you can’t make a case for retributive torture. If anything Hitler did caused permanent damage, torturing him for it won’t change that. If everything he did to the victims could be healed by God, what’s the value of the torture? What’s the point?

    If it has anything to do with “so he can learn from his mistakes” or “so he can know what those people suffered” – why, if hell is for eternity with no chance of redemption. That’s just sadism. Is heaven sweeter for people, knowing that others are suffering, like some sort of sick spectator sport?

  • lymis

    “As much as He loves us, He cannot leave sin unpunished. That’s why hell exists,”

    I can agree that God leaves no sin unaddressed. Brutal torture is not the only way to address a sin.

  • lymis

    I was taught – by all those nuns everyone says are evil whackjobs – that the “way it worked” was that, after death, the blinders came off, and we would all be given all the truths we needed, and wouldn’t have to filter it through flawed human traditions or consciousness, and would each be free to accept or deny God – no matter what we’d been taught on earth.
    Everyone, whether they had access to a “correct” teaching about God during life or not, would have all the information they needed given to them at the time.

    When asked why anyone, under those circumstances, would ever choose anything other than God, the answer was “Exactly.”

    I don’t dispute other people’s stories of sociopathic nuns, but ours were treasures.

  • ChuckQueen101

    I know who I am in my deepest self, don’t you John? I am a beloved child of God. Isn’t true religion all about discovering who we really are in God and then learning how to love the way God loves. This was the heart of the theology/spirituality of Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen.

  • ChuckQueen101

    “I’ve always seen the parable of the Prodigal Son as the model for hell, if one exists” — that’s basically what Rohr is saying. Hell is our own doing, not God’s. Rohr would say that we are never out of union with God. We are born in God and die in God, but many of us go through life unaware of that connection – not consciously living out of that union, which is always about compassion and love and “suffering with” those who are suffering. . . .

  • ChuckQueen101

    I don’t think anyone who is a student of Rohr or one even very familar with his writings would describe his approach to faith as “dusted with New Age sparklies.” Rohr combines biblical exegesis, theology deeply immersed in Rahner, Jungian analysis/psychology, and a deep respect for the mystical tradition. This is not New age stuff.

  • Al Cruise

    “With 150 years of neurology, we know what happens”. You do not know what happens. All those observations have been made on this side of the door, with the observers at a much greater distance from the door than the patients. There is no scientific formula for consciousness. You are merely guessing.

  • Jill

    “I know all these words, but I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
    — Andy just won the internet today.

  • Jill

    If that was true, we’d have to accept that God’s creation is ignorant by design. What a loving God that would be (insert sarcasm font).

  • Matt

    In my mind, a God who saves only about 5% of people from eternal torture is no better than a particularly ineffective medical treatment. We would never accept a vaccine that only granted immunity to 5% of the population. To me, the concept of hell directly contradicts (and even nullifies) the Christian idea of Jesus’ redemption of humanity on the cross, rather than being the reason as so many people who believe in hell claim.

  • Jill

    ..I can just feel the life force curling itself back into my toes, reading those oh so familiar religulous cliches.

  • Matt

    Ah, English. Such a special ability, allowing its speakers to write an entire grammatically correct sentence while conveying absolutely no meaning.

  • Ellen K.

    My problem with this essay is that it doesn’t define Hell. We can’t talk about the logic of Hell without first agreeing on a concept of Hell.

  • Matt

    What is being expressed here is the idea of materialism–that all mental phenomena can be ultimately reduced to physical phenomena. It is true that localized brain damage (such a during a stroke) produces profound issues with function.

    But our brains are our operating system for this plane of reality. Of course if they’re damaged or dysfunctional, our ability to connect with this reality is affected. But we don’t know how that same process carries over after death, if at all. He’s being intentionally flippant talking about “recognizing Grandma” to make a point, but no one knows exactly what kind of processes we would be carrying out with our minds if there were an afterlife. I’m betting it wouldn’t look exactly like this reality, at least.

  • Bones

    Is heaven a place?

  • Bones

    Or I don’t believe you have a $100 bill in your hand. In fact it looks fake or I didn’t even see you in the first place.

    Bit like God giving Jesus as the antidote for hell which is then only available to a select ‘few’ or ‘elect’. Because of course most of humanity doesn’t want it or know about it.

  • ChuckQueen101

    I hear where you are coming from. Your criticism of Westerners reading “hell” literally and trying to make “logical” sense of it has value. However, this is how fundamentalists and many conservatives understand “hell” which does enormous damage and why posts like “to hell with hell” are needed. That’s not to say that “hell” in a metaphorical, symbolical sense as the result of death culture does not exist. I too, see it everyday. We make our own “hells” and in a very real sense most of us have to pass through “hell” before we can get to “heaven” (living consciously and fully in union with God).

  • Bones

    If we were born a couple of centuries ago we’d be burning single women as witches, Catholics, heretics and killing Native Americans. I’m glad I was born in this era.

  • Bones

    Just have faith, sister.

  • Bones

    You mean Dante’s version, the underworld, a spiritual place or separation from God.

    Which is it?

    I’m going with none of the above.

    If anything it’s a condition.

    I think Christians have put gay people through hell.

  • To some of us hell is simply lacking logic.

  • Lymis logic needs to be bottled and sold by the case load. I know I’d be on auto order.

  • What evidence do you have of any other plane of reality than this one? There is no evidence; hence, “faith.”

    No, he’s not being “intentionally flippant;” believers in an afterlife often make serious claims of being reunited with dead ancestors, e.g.:

    Until We Meet Again
    ‘Does the Bible teach that we will recognize our loved ones in heaven?’

  • I don’t know what happens….but you do? Gotcha.

  • R Vogel

    G*d doesn’t send anyone to Hell, so they like to say, people send themselves there. Of course this also means, then, that G*d doesn’t save anyone from Hell either. We all get to self select with less than all of the relevant information. It’s like cosmic The Price is Right!

  • ChuckQueen101

    Whatever “hell” is (now or later) its only function is to send people on their way toward “heaven” (realization of union in God and being the channel through which Divine Love can flow). My hope is that one day “hell” (in all its forms and expressions) will be empty.

  • I feel no drive to define something that doesn’t exist.

  • Ellen K.

    A meaningless statement if we don’t agree what the word “Hell” denotes.

  • Ellen K.

    Without defining it, you aren’t saying WHAT doesn’t exist. Although, that wording is actually a bit problematic, because there’s also the idea that “Hell” is simply ceasing to exist rather than eternal punishment.

  • Graham Nicholls

    Hmm. I have no scriptural basis for this, but I wonder (hey at least I can’t be an evanjellyfish if I wonder, can I?) If hell is where Jesus was after His death & before the resurrection. He went there and smashed the gates open to lead everyone out. Now that’s the act of a loving God, no?

  • Bones

    Hell to me is unending meaningless statements.

    Or eternal reruns of Christian TV.

  • Bones

    Ceasing to exist wouldn’t be hell though, would it.

    That would mean I was in hell before I was born.

  • So, for me–and, of course, given what I or anyone else has the room to do/discuss/define in the course of a single blog post–it’s enough to say simply “hell,” and trust that word still means what … well, what I think pretty much everyone agrees it means: place of eternal torment in the afterlife. Getting any more specific than that wouldn’t really work for what I’m trying to do with this post, if you see what I mean.

  • charlesburchfield

    as an individual i would say my hell is being an alcoholic and all the reasons i became an alcoholic. that was my rock and hard place. however ultimately i escaped the illusion that i was doomed to an alcoholic death by getting w/ the program of a.a. i turned my life and will over to my higher power a few years for the first time & start every day grateful for my reprieve by having constant contact. as a last stage alkie i say the miracle is that i am not seeking to get wrecked every day as that is normal for for alcoholics and drug addicts.

  • charlesburchfield

    wow! i’ve reciently seen an old master rendition of the vision of this! very powerful! thx for this share.

  • charlesburchfield

    yes i take comfort in the fact that i didn’t make myself, have any choice where or to whom i would be born or be now living in a generaton that may be on the verge of global nuclear distruction so if there was ever a plan for my life it’s up to god to reveal it and i believe he has!

  • Bones

    So the people who died before Jesus went to hell?

    What did JC say to the thief on the cross?

  • lymis

    I agree with your last statement, but I don’t see how it fits into this context. For most people, whatever else is true, the idea of hell is inextricably tied to “eternal damnation.” Whatever form that experience takes, or whatever mechanism creates it, it’s the eternal part that is insupportably in conflict with a loving God.

  • How is it meaningless? I simply do not believe that there is an eternal hot place full of torture and misery, or that god would contrive of such a horror, or a Lake of Fire, as I grew up being told was the right way, where those who don’t follow God’s true church, as advocated by God’s true apostle would be brief embers before being eternally non-existent. I know what people…well some, think about it. I just don’t agree..

  • charlesburchfield

    i think i get what yonah is saying b/c i, in fact, am a victim of rape and multiple attempted rapes & i am poor & i understand perfectly what hell/death culture is doing to me. but it doesn’t play out for me to be distroyed b/c of the truth that set me free.

  • Christian tv….Why is all so so bad?

  • Well that begs the question, if the theory is to hold. Why did this place exist before?

  • lymis

    Or you said it in a language I don’t speak so I didn’t understand your offer. Or I live in a culture that doesn’t accept US dollars, and I have enough toilet paper on hand, since it doesn’t appear to be useful to me for anything else.

    Or, my family and friends have seen dozens of other people make what appears on the surface as the exact same offer, only to find that anyone who accepted it was sold into torture and slavery, making us unable to see your offer as genuine, based on what we’ve directly experienced in the past.

    Your metaphor presupposes that the offer is not only valuable and genuine, but presented in such a way as to be received as valuable and genuine.

    If, on the other hand, you extend the metaphor to allow the same essential offer to be tailored to each individual in a way that might speak to them, then I’d say that the metaphor would require allowing for the possibilities of other paths to salvation outside the formal Christian religious tradition.

    God isn’t Christian, you know. It doesn’t follow that he’d demand everyone else would be.

  • Good point. For some the thought of not existing is terrifying. I don’t know why.

  • charlesburchfield

    yes i wonder some times if there is going to be a time when the ‘real’ god will show up and call god to account for his short commings such as you mention: ‘a creation [us Humans] created ignorant by design.’

  • charlesburchfield

    i think it’s rather like bad karma from doing bad things then living w/ anxiety that makes me always have to watch my back.

  • charlesburchfield

    i love this quote! thx for posting it here!

  • ChuckQueen101

    lymis: “hell is inextricably tied to eternal damnation” – that is the reading of “hell” by the conservative Christian culture and that is why posts such as this one are necessary. But Scripture can be read on multiple levels. Here is for me the richness and depth of Scripture. For much of Christian history the literal reading of Scripture was regarded as the least productive and meaningful reading. Reading “hell” then as a present experience, one could say that the purpose of the various “hells” we encounter is to lead us to “heaven” (realization of union with God in which our lives become instruments of the Divine Love).

  • charlesburchfield

    I think rohr lives out of the truth he experiences. Do you think perhaps being, for him, is informed by a truth you have not yet grasped hold of yet?

  • ChuckQueen101

    In the above statement “purpose” is too strong a word. God is not responsible for the “hells” we experience. In fact, God is with us in our “hells” – which is the real meaning in the creed that says Christ descended into hell – and wants to lead us into out. Sometime our hells are necessary though. Ask a recovering alcoholic. He/she probably will tell you that hell was the only way he/she found healing and new life.

  • Al Cruise

    I do not know what happens and no one else knows either. That is point.

  • charlesburchfield

    …& yet some of that god’s followers do indeed insist that this is the way their god is and thus they are as brutish, sadistic, and uncaring as they think he is! Could it be that they have created him in their own image?

  • ChuckQueen101

    As a symbolic reading that is a powerful image. But if you mean this in some sense literally, you have lost me.

  • We could also be on the verge of a rogue asteroid cracking the place in two, or rendering large parts of the planet nearly uninhabitable, which has actually happened once or twice. We could have lived in Europe during the decade of the Black death which killed 60% of the population in Europe, or lived in Pompei, right as a certain mountian spewed death, or on the Titanic, or simply in bed surrounded by loved ones after a long, fulfilling life.
    I’ve heard the “we are in the last days, my entire life.” Yet we as a people are no worse off than we were before, we are no more sinful, or evil, or apostate, or any of that stuff. We just are people.

  • Matt Woodling

    Or, a simpler explanation (and more likely, in my view) might be that people just made up God, heaven and hell because it gave them comfort and seeming explanations for lots of things they couldn’t explain or were afraid of.

  • ChuckQueen101

    Well, despite our accumulation of knowledge we still can’t understand consciousness can we? Materialistic explanations are simply reductionistic explanations that most serious thinkers today reject. Quantum physics is causing us to rethink what we thought we knew about reality. So we still live in a wondrous, mysterious, complex world and there is so much we can’t understand. Faith in God in such a world makes as much sense as disbelief, unless one is so limited in imagination that one cannot imagine a God different than a vengeful, torturing god.

  • charlesburchfield

    yup! always been in god’s hands & always will.

  • Matt Woodling

    I don’t care whether God was a benevolent or sadistic despot, precisely because I don’t think God ever existed (no I don’t have proof – that would be a silly thing to try to prove – I would have to be all-knowing to do that). And because consciousness hasn’t been fully explained doesn’t mean it can’t be explained by study and gathering evidence, creating models for how it works and then proving or disproving the models. Science continues to try and do that, but right now we have to say “we don’t know how consciousness works or how it came to be”.

    The alternative is faith in God? What does that actually explain at all? How does it increase understanding? Simply by attributing the mystery of what we don’t know to a God you can’t explain, that by definition you can’t understand? That seems beyond silly to me.

    Then finally – let’s say for the sake of argument God created consciousness. How did he do it? Who or what created God? If you never seriously ask these questions, you’re just placing God in a special place that requires no examination. Why would you do that if you really wanted to understand how consciousness happened?

    What’s wrong with saying “I don’t know how consciousness happened or how it works” until you actually do know, and appreciate it for what we DO understand about it?

  • I don’t think that’s a simple explanation so much as it is, frankly, a lazy one.

  • Snooterpoot

    Upvote 5,000 times.

  • R Vogel

    I think the problem here is the myth of pure evil: The concept that there are people who do evil things from no other motivation than evil. I think most people have difficulty reconciling infinite punishment for finite crimes, so to fix this they shift away from the acts themselves and go after the person, declaring them to be ‘evil’ (cue Darth Vader theme) I don’t believe in pure evil. I believe in mental illness, flawed motives, and a whole host of other maladies that affect humanity and make them do horrible things. Adolph Hitler is a favorite go to example. But I think people discount two things with regard to old Adolph. First, he was a product of time and place. Pluck him out of post-WWI Germany and he likely would have died completely unknown. He was not able to perpetrate the Shoah on his own, it required the active support of thousands and a culture desensitized to the oppression of Jews and other minorities, and passivity to the belligerence of the Third Reich born of exhaustion from WWI. Second, Hitler likely suffered from a number of mental illnesses as well as PTSD from his service in WWI. This obviously does not excuse his crimes, and if someone thinks he need to face some sort of atonement for them, so be it. But a million year sentence is not enough? Or a billion? It has to never end? That seems hard to justify.

  • Matt Woodling

    Oh, man, I’ve tried to ask people and understand their reasons for faith in God and belief that God exists. Well, first I always have to ask which God because everyone seems to have his own take and what God is. After long, long conversation, it always comes down to:

    1) “I experience God’s love all the time”
    * I don’t. Why should your experience mean anything to me?
    2) “I see miracles in my life every day that demonstrate God and his love for me”
    * No one is ever able to show me these miracles or they are so trivial as to be explainable by everyday happenstance and coincidence.
    3) “I don’t know where life’s purpose would come from without God”
    *Well, I do have reasons for living and I don’t have God. Lack of imagination and thought are poor reasons for believing in a God.
    4) (less commonly) “I wouldn’t know how to live a good and moral life without God”
    * I live a mostly good and moral life without God’s guidance because I value my relationships with others and society and that makes it obvious how I must behave. And the implication that you don’t think I have a moral foundation for behavior is insulting and a bit frightening.

    Then, with all of the confusion and disagreement the world over about what God is, how I should worship God, the contradictions between faiths, the stark similarity between faiths, the lack of clarity and localism (Indonesians are Muslims primarily because they grew up in Indonesia), to me, clearly and overwhelmingly points to religions (and God) being most likely man-made, out of people’s desire to explain things when they don’t have good explanations. It’s the most likely, most reasonable position to take.

    Fortunately, I was not raised in any faith, which left my mind free from indoctrination to examine, explore, study and decide for what the most likely answer was. It took over 40 years for me to reach a cogent conclusion (after praying, reading the Bible, experiencing success and failure, and attending Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Catholic churches), but I had pretty much developed my core belief and suspicions about gods and religion by the time I was 9 or 10. This is a very common experience among non-believers who didn’t have to overcome indoctrination.

  • Snooterpoot

    Even if you specifically ask them not to.

  • Snooterpoot

    I held my mother’s hand as she died on Christmas Day. I know that before she died she had suffered greatly, and that when she died her face relaxed and her countenance was peaceful. That’s enough for me.

  • BarbaraR

    Despite what it may seem and what certain groups/people want to promogulate, faith is not a group endeavor. It’s personal. If you’re looking for a consensus, you’ll never find it. I suppose many people find comfort in the group setting, knowing everyone believes exactly as they do, but to me, that’s settling for less. It’s like taking a guided tour rather than striking out on your own.

    If you’re happy where you are, more power to you. But other people do have a relationship with God that is intimate and personal and cannot be described adequately to another human.

  • So why should we sacrifice the value of a life about which we know, for an unknown afterlife that may well be completely valueless? (John 12:25)

  • R Vogel

    A garbage dump outside of Jerusalem.

  • BarbaraR

    I think it made her feel contented and self-satisfied.

  • R Vogel

    I would also recommend the film Hellbound? Kevin Miller actually has a blog on this very site.

  • R Vogel

    Told you the ‘People send themselves to Hell’ argument would come out of the woodwork!

  • Matt Woodling

    I get the personal thing. Have at it and be happy. The problem is, lots people with a personal relationship with God (and a belief in ideas that supposedly came from that god, like homosexuality is evil or people should be stoned to death for apostasy) then often insist on everyone else agreeing that their belief is true and try to institute public policy based on their abhorrent beliefs. That is where group consensus becomes more valuable than one person’s experience of God.

    I’m not saying you think that way, BarbaraR, and lots of believers I know also don’t think this way. But when they do, they will be rightly opposed with vigor and their beliefs deserve to be ridiculed.

  • That phrase, while it works for some, has never been my experience at all. I’ve certainly wanted to feel that way at one time, but then realized was just not a reality for me, nor was it something that offered me comfort

  • BarbaraR

    I don’t have a problem with people believing whatever they want.
    It is only when their beliefs become action that hurts or discriminates against others that it becomes necessary to speak out.
    You must be new here or you would already know this blog (and the people who hang out here) is extremely LGBTQ-supportive, and that literal, face-value interpretations of scripture aren’t what we’re about.

  • I don’t like the use of the word “believers” to imply only Christians. I find it problematic as it send the message that believing otherwise is wrong. We all have beliefs in regards to divinity, even within the expansive realm of Christianity, and certainly outside it. We just have our beliefs, and they are as varied as we are.

  • BarbaraR

    I’m just surprised it took more than 15 minutes before they started appearing.

  • charlesburchfield

    what do you want? nobody owes you an explaination or anything atal atal!

  • charlesburchfield

    flame tv!

  • Matt Woodling

    I wasn’t implying ‘believers’ means ‘Christians’. And the fact that everyone has his own beliefs (but that a certain set of them are beyond question) makes me suspicious enough not to believe any of them. Remember, I’m seeing this from the perspective of not having those beliefs in the first place and then considering a Christian’s proposal that I can be saved and go to heaven only by accepting Jesus Christ as my savior (admittedly, not a belief common to all Christians, but it’s really common).

  • James

    Imagine for a moment hell was us, truly, completely realising the damage we’ve done? E.g. not necessarily permanent let alone eternal, but maybe intense (think about truly *completely* understanding how something you’ve done has affected someone and hurt them). Imagine salvation was God saying “It’s OK, I realise the damage you’ve done, was (in some sense) done to you”. I’m kind of with Rob Bell on this. I don’t think to say there is “hell” is to say there is not a loving God – and maybe in some way to truly encounter Him we’ve got to come to terms with our imperfection – to see someone good truly is to recognise how we are not like them.

  • charlesburchfield

    respectfully does anything offer you comfort?

  • charlesburchfield

    thank you for that snooterpoot i’m sorry for your loss but i feel blessed by sharing a moment of comfort w/you. i was not w/ my mother when she died. no one was.

  • Matt Woodling

    No, I got that vibe right away. I was using castigation of LGBTQ folks as an example, albeit an extreme (but common) one. I don’t even think believers turning their beliefs into actions is necessarily bad. But when their beliefs and resulting actions contradict what science demonstrates or proposes actions that the rest of society says are abhorrent, well, then the belief is no longer to be assumed to be true (it never should be, by the way). Could the rest of society be wrong? Of course. Could science be wrong? Sure. But science does have a mechanism for self-correction, where religious faith does not (that I know of). And society does have a mechanism for self-correction, though it’s often messy and destructive. That’s where government comes in – it’s a means and a forum for public discussion, power-struggles and correction, which I think is much of what humans do regardless of religion, beliefs, gods or authorities, for better or worse,

  • Matt Woodling

    Well, just like you, I want an explanation for consciousness, how we got to be here, what it all means, just like everyone does. The problem with so many people of faith is that they think faith/God explains it all. Then, when someone says “How does it explain things?”, the believers dismiss the non-believer as silly or as someone who just can’t hear the word of god and then shut down all further inquiry or discussion.

  • Graham Nicholls

    I am so challenged by the difficulties faced by addicts. Or rather, my faith is. If my God is any use, then why aren’t more of them/us/you saved, redeemed, restored.? I have close personal experience of (terminal) addiction (which confidentiality forbears me from detailing). Despite prayer for these, and for others I know, they remain(ed) unhealed. What good is my God?

    Recently at Church the vicar introduced a man I’d taken an instant dislike to because of his aggressive tattoos and beard. (he did genuinely look aggressive!)
    When the man gave his testimony of recovery from drug addiction through Christ, I cried tears of shame and joy, and pain. Standing next to me was the mother of another addict. A strong Christian woman (by which I mean kind, and brave, and steadfast in the face of adversity – not just cruel and harsh, like a fundie). Her son is not doing so well. I might have been foolish to say to her that God was no use unless ***** was saved, too, but it’s true.

    I despair of my own brokenness, too – and that’s not an empty throwaway – I hate much of what I am. Why are the stories of salvation (by which I mean from addiction, etc) so rare in our lives?

    It’s supposed to be hard, I get it – we’re in training for something important, but I feel like a pathetic recruit who’s not going to make it through basic training.

    God wants only one thing from us: our freely given love. I know that’s why we have free will, and therefore why there is so much evil in the world. But it is just so hard. I’m a useless Christian. I hope my God has better troops than me.

    I don’t know whether there is a hell, and John, for all I love the site, and your writing, nor do you. But I’m not sure why Jesus had to die if there isn’t. Jesus became me, with all my awful sin, and he became Stalin, and Hitler, with theirs. He became a child-rapist, a cruel mother, and a greedy banker, and a male prostitute turning tricks to feed his meth addiction. He took on all our sin. If not to save us from something, then why?

    Sorry to mix up lots in there, and thank you, Charles. I pray that your sobriety lasts until heaven.

  • Jan S Yoder

    “Well, first I always have to ask which God because everyone seems to have his own take and what God is.”
    Reminds me of the whole standardization movement (IT and other fields), and the aphorism “Standards are a great idea – that’s why everyone has one!”

    I believe there is a “GOD”, and I also believe that there were others called “Gods”, AND I have no proof of this. Then again, one of my liver cells, in a more lucid moment may dream of God, meaning me, the greater collective, much as I dream of my greater collective, my GOD. I don’t know. For me, believing something that is positive (for me) is worth it, as long as I am not using my position, my faith, my belief to club someone else over the head, belittle them, take from them their beliefs – if I turn out to be wrong about it later, I will look at it honestly, and do what I can to make restitution. On the plus side this generally means nothing at all, for if we just cease to exist, then it really doesn’t matter one way or the other – it’s just a mechanistic universe. On the other hand, if it turns out that what I believe IS more or less correct, then I backed the winning horse.

    For me, waking up IS miraculous – the sheer number of disparate yet unified systems working together to effect this is staggering, and the fact that it is a self-repairing biomechanism with an inherent ability to experience, filter, cognate, speculate, question and believe (all sorts of rubbish or logic) is nothing short of as miraculous as the uncountable number of stars in the sky!

  • R Vogel

    ‘G*d can’t leave sin unpunished’, let’s leave aside the immense arrogance involved in declaring what G*d can and cannot do (you might want to read Job), and instead consider why killing one innocent man would be an adequate substitute regardless of who he was. So if someone is due to be executed and I stand up and say ‘Take me instead’ they are just going to strap me to the gurney and let the guilty person go free? This somehow satisfies justice?

    And what kind of weird accounting makes one earthly death equal to an eternal punishment for billions? Why does Jesus get off just having to die once, when the rest of us have to face the prospect of eternal punishment?

    So to re-frame this, if the punishment for stealing is cutting off your hand and the King’s son steps up to say he will take that punishment in your stead (which actually speaks more to the son’s judgment of the justness of the punishment than any sane transaction) the King, rather than cutting off his son’s hand, just puts it in a big mitten so he loses use of it for 3 days and calls it even? And that is the same thing? Why didn’t Jesus have to suffer eternal punishment if he was atoning for crimes that required eternal punishment?

    And if Jesus paid the price, then why isn’t is satisfied? Why do I still have to do something? if I don’t accept salvation there will now be a double penalty for the same crime? That doesn’t seem right. You want to then switch it and call it a gift that I can refuse. It’s a nice switcheroo, but if I refuse it you aren’t out $100. You aren’t saying Jesus offered to die for me and I refused, you are saying he did die for me. So then the debt is paid. if someone, without my knowledge 2,000 years ago, put money into an account and had it so that it automatically paid my cable bill, the cable company wouldn’t call me and demand that I believe it or they are going to turn off my cable. The bill is paid, there’s nothing more to be done. If they decide I am not appreciative enough and turn off my cable anyway they would have to give the money back. I’m not sure how that would be accomplished in this case. It would seem strange that Jesus went through all of that just for a conditional atonement. Instead of ‘It is Finished’ should it have been translated ‘My Part’s Done’

    That whole PSA framework is based on a fragile, petty G*d patterned after fragile, petty human tyrants who had to constantly defend their ‘sovereignty’ because they were always at risk of being deposed. Thus, insulting Caesar or the King was worse than physically harming someone at or below you station because a crime was judged not by how much harm it cause but by whom it was against. Since a petty tyrant’s hold over people was tenuous at best, this was important. So you could be killed for just insulting the King. If a ‘sin’ against a human regent could cost you your life, then ‘sin’ against the spiritual regent would have to be worse. Thus, hell. We don’t use this silly moral reasoning anymore. There are no kings and crimes are judged and punishments meted out based on the harm they cause. This leaves us no room to consider Hell as just or moral.

  • I remember the first time I wondered about consiousness. I must have been about six, and found it utterly mysterious. How I got to be here, wasn’t an issue for me, why I was here was. I didn’t know it then, but I would eventually embark on the mystical/philosophical path. The answers are not nearly as fun to explore as all those lovely questions.

  • R Vogel

    It’s a busy day – apostacies all over the place. The work of an orthodoxy defender is never done.

  • Matt Woodling

    You could choose to think of the universe having perfectly come together to make you and your life possible as a miracle. I see it as people (and all other life) having evolved to survive really well within what the universe has collectively become. A good analogy is the puddle in the pothole. The puddle might say “the world has miraculously come together to make a perfectly fitting home for me – see how every crevice, crack and lump has been perfectly formed to fit me”. The street might say “look at that cloud full of rain, some of which filled up that pothole – interesting how water does that”.

    That being said, so much of life and the universe are beautiful, awesome mysteries. And the things we do understand because of science are especially wondrous because we understand them. Saying God put it all there or had a hand in it kind of cheapens it because it provides no new understanding or information about the universe and it suggests to me I may as well stop trying to understand it all and just appreciate God’s mystery.

  • R Vogel

    Whoa! Sorry for the dissertation, John!

  • Addiction is a nasty illness. It nailed my dad, yet he’s been in remission for over 30 years. My ex is chronic, and he will likely die of complications within the next decade. As with all chronic ailments, there are good periods and bad, there are remissions and set-backs. I do hope that you find solace, and comfort, and the compassionate assurance, that no matter what, you are loved, just as you are right now.

  • Al Cruise

    John didn’t know what happens either. He was a human and commenting on the mystery just like many here.

  • Being of the mindset of “this is where I’m at now, and it works wonderfully…yet, it is quite possible, that tomorrow things will be different, and it too will be wonderous” is to me quite healthy….plus all that cool science stuff.

  • R Vogel

    Surely at some point the human race will go extinct. It might be from our own actions, sure (but doesn’t nuclear destruction sound so 1983?). Or we may just run our course like everything else.

    I’m not sure why but there is something very comforting to me about a universe that just continues to spin on without us. A beautiful cosmic dance with no one to observe it. Humanity was just an indistinguishable blip in the life of the universe. We evolved, flourished and died out on the blue dot out in the tidewater of the universe and it all goes on without giving us so much as a thought.

    I also like old graveyards and abandoned ruins, so that might explain a lot…..

  • Jan S Yoder

    I, personally, have no trouble allowing both of these to be true at the same time. There IS a GOD (impossibly larger and more complex than I am capable of imagining) AND science is beginning to understand some of the complexities and mysteries inherent in it all. The ultimate self-discovery matrix/fractal. Cool! Thanks for your response Matt!

  • Jan S Yoder

    Glad you’re back John! I was missing your posts.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    And that’s rather the thing – big issues with folks that insist on describing God in terms of punishment, and makes me wonder if those who do such aren’t just living what they’ve learned, as the old poster says… It becomes like Sean Hannity describing the beatings he received as a child as good things, and what every parent should do.

    Very sad, and very much missing the point, as well as quite possibly being presumptious regarding the prerogatives of the Supreme Absolute of the Universe, to my way of thinking.

  • Jan S Yoder

    Cool indeed! Ecstatic bliss in something far greater than me, AND cool wizzy science stuff!?! Thanks allegro63!

  • R Vogel

    In the end it sounds nice but it is just meaningless. You hit it on the head ‘to feel that way’ That’s all it really expresses. I feel like my life has purpose. However you know that feeling something doesn’t make it so, therefore it provides no comfort.

    When we were children, those of us from decent homes felt that we were in our parent’s hands, that they knew the plan, had all the answers. We grew out of that, but I think a part of us always longs for it even though we know now it was just an illusion.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    I see it as an event and a state of being, but there I quit trying to define it.

  • ChuckQueen101

    I find the universe so much more interesting with God in it. And if God is in it, then it is likely going somewhere and that makes it more interesting. And if you can only imagine God as a “despot” you really lack imagination. Maybe that’s why you don’t care. Lacking imagination.

  • charlesburchfield

    i think if you are hearing me then god is at work in your heart and you may find that you don’t have to suffer the torture of hating yourself. you have already taken the first step: admitting you are powerless. can you come to believe that god’s power could restore you to sanity? can you see that heathy balanced mind is yours to inherit as a child of god? then hating yourself will direct you to this conclusion. you don’t deserve to be punished you deserve to find a way where there was no way before. then get ready, as you are being prepared to take the third step: turn your life and will over to god or at least be willing to and rest. keep turning all questions and anxieties as they come up for you to god. if you want to be friends w/addicts and show them you love them you will know that you cant teach what you don’t know. also you can’t love them if you don’t love yourself in a healthy way.

  • Matt

    I made no assertion that there was any other plane than this one. I am supposing, just like everyone else here. The whole concept is interesting to think about, if you’re not narrowly focused on asserting you’re right.

    And what’s with the word “faith” in scare quotes? Everyone has faith. You have faith that your loved ones won’t betray your trust in them. Why the condescension toward other kinds?

  • Jill

    That’s why I noted my sarcasm that I do not accept a concept that God’s creation would be an ignorant bunch. Would you create a sentient race and make them wandering fools?

  • Josh Magda

    Letting go of hell as eternal conscious torment is a monumental step on the road to Universalism.

    And no, Hitler wherever and whatever he is now, is not beyond the Love of God. We would be granting that Hitler’s “power” to destroy through hatred and violence, is greater than God’s power to Love, heal, and forgive, through nonviolence.

    Based on considerable experience with Jewish people, the one-trick pony of evil is not a comparable power to The Spirit of the Living God- in fact, it’s not even close.

    All my Love to everyone here.

  • charlesburchfield

    it sounds like you have actually had that happen to you personally some time somewhere amirite?

  • In the wider sense of the word, I have “faith” in people and things–based on evidence. I maintain my vehicle, keep the battery cleaned and charged, and have “faith” it will start. Same with people, evidenced by prior behavior.

    But no, I don’t have “faith” in the narrow sense of the word–believing things without the slightest shred of evidence, as Hebrews 11:1 defines it. That sort of faith to me is a confidence game, (and even the Bible requires “confidence” for it, in more than one passage. ) I don’t have “faith” that if I send a fellow $500 in Nigeria that I’ll get rich. That’s a con game. I don’t have “faith” that if I hate my life here on earth (John 12:25) that I’ll gain better status in an afterlife. I take a pass on that deal too.

  • Matt

    Gotcha. So from the tone of your comments made here, I’m getting the sense that you live your life strictly based on evidence from the moment you rise to the moment you go to sleep. Every decision you make is laid on a foundation of cold, hard logic. You have never been impulsive, never made a mistake, and never needed a reason to keep going. You have no preferences, likes, or dislikes, as these would be products of emotions and intuition, both of which of course are not necessary.

    The rest of us are irrevocably tied to fairy stories, delusions, and hollow comfort measures. We can only dream of the refreshing, sterile enlightenment that you enjoy.

    Good luck with that, I suppose.

  • Why do people who have no evidence about a “mysterious” afterlife make all sorts of specific claims about it?

  • > You have never been impulsive, never made a mistake, and never needed a reason to keep going.

    Non-sequitur. How in the world can you derive that I nave never made mistakes?

    > fairy stories, delusions, and hollow comfort measures

    You have said it yourself; nevertheless, I tell you: good luck with that.

  • BarbaraR

    So… why are you here on a faith-based blog, then?

  • Tim: We get it. You think people who believe in God are immature, incurious, irrational, etc. Give it a rest now, k? Thanks.

  • charlesburchfield

    geezuz that sounds very existential! did you ever read ‘the plague’ by albet camus? i like ‘the wasteland’ by t.s.elliot also.

  • charlesburchfield

    ‘where there are children there is the golden age’ ~Novalis

  • lymis

    Which simply raises the point that it’s absurd to think that any human conception of God could be complete and accurate. It’s not a matter of “whose image of God is right” so much as that ALL images of God are necessarily limited in some way.

    But, yes, it certainly does say something when, given that fact, people choose to create an image like this.

  • charlesburchfield

    careful tim if you lay down w/dogs you get up w/fleas

  • charlesburchfield

    no i would not. also i would not create a creature so hidious as satan or allow him to wreck my beautiful world and take my beautiful humans captive.

  • Sorry, I never said that.

  • Matt Woodling

    I don’t imagine God as a despot because I don’t think he exists. I AM curious, though – name a thing in the universe that’s more interesting with God added to it? And why?

  • Matt Woodling

    Sure, but not by anyone close to me. It’s a little irritating because people just want to say what they believe and don’t bother to follow up with a cogent explanation for their beliefs. They just cut off the discussion. Quite disrespectful.

  • Matt Woodling

    To ask why assumes there actually is a reason why. It’s possible the universe just is with no reason at all. But the important thing: the why means nothing at all with out the how. To accept answer of why without trying to find out how is just cutting off the investigation and saying “that really important bit over there doesn’t require an explanation – just because.”

  • Matt Woodling

    The cool science stuff embraces exactly that mindset: tomorrow, things may be different and what I believed today might be superceded by what we learn tomorrow. But the time to give up the old ideas is when the new ideas actually prove to be better. It’s fine to cook up ideas because they seem cool. That’s a lot of what basic science is. But science never leaves an idea lying there gathering believers because it seems to be a good idea. It rushes out to demonstrate that it’s a good idea.

  • Matt Woodling

    I don’t get how you get bliss from something something “far greater than you” without any indication that far greater thing even exists. I like to believe in and derive wonder and amazement from things that are demonstrated to be true. Belief in things that aren’t true just seems shallow and empty.

  • bobbygrow
  • Matt Woodling

    Yes, he did. It seems as if Yonah tossed a bucket o’ words in the air, scooped up what fell on the floor and shoveled it into this forum.

  • Matt Woodling

    Well, I gave you a much less “lazy” one. Have you run out of time to consider it?

  • Thanks, Jan!

  • Matt Woodling

    Oh, Jan, don’t underestimate a good set of standards. The Internet and Wifi, for example, (not the web, but the Internet of networks that carries all that traffic between the web servers and users) is built on very carefully developed and tested standards that everyone who makes equipment must adhere to if they want to have some hope of surviving in the market. Getting those packets from here to there is just too complex a task to rely on cowboys being cowboys.

    And those standards are continuously layered on other layers of standards so that you can focus on developing a product or service at one layer without having to think about or test to all the layers underneath.

  • charlesburchfield

    w/respect what would satisfy your need and be acceptible to your requirment of a cogent explanation for their beliefs?

  • Matt Woodling

    Well, if they claim something is true, demonstrate it with evidence. All I’ve seen here so far is “I feel that it’s true because it seems like a good idea and it works for me”. That’s not convincing.

  • I think the snag is that we should reject endless hell while simultaneously recognizing purgatorial hell (that is, the Second Death, Lake of Fire, Gehenna, Kolasin Aionion, Outer Darkness, etc., are figures for the agonizing purgation the unsaved experience on their way to reconciliation).

    As St. Gregory of Nyssa argued in the 4th century,

    “… It will be useless to talk of [the contingency upon earthly failures] then, and to imagine that objections based upon such things can prove God’s power to be impeded in arriving at His end. His end is one, and one only; it is this: when the complete whole of our race shall have been perfected from the first man to the last—some having at once in this life been cleansed from evil, others having afterwards in the necessary periods been healed by the Fire… to offer to every one of us participation in the blessings which are in Him, which, the Scripture tells us, “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor thought ever reached. … But the difference between the virtuous and the vicious life led at the present time will be illustrated in this way: In the quicker or more tardy participation of each in that promised blessedness. According to the amount of the ingrained wickedness of each will be computed the duration of his cure. This cure consists in the cleansing of his soul, and that cannot be achieved without an excruciating condition, as has been expounded in our previous discussion.”

    You and I agree that endless hell doesn’t make sense (see article here: goo.gl/uiek2o). The problem is that when we don’t make it clear that we’re talking only about ENDLESS hell, we risk strawmanning ourselves; an endless hell believer would rightly say, “He thinks there’s no hell of judgment? The Bible obviously says otherwise.” Whereas if we clarify and say “There’s no endless hell… rather, the hell of judgment is purgatorial, as our Jewish brethren assert,” we represent our position with nuance AND we pique curiosity; the assertion cannot be instantly rejected, and invites further investigation from those whom we’d like to reach.

    Attaching “endless” to the front of “hell” also is a nagging reminder that endless hell has no prospective point. If a purgatorial hell satisfies justice, then anything greater is needlessly excessive, and an offense against love.

    Again, St. Gregory of Nyssa:

    “[His plan for the unsaved has these qualities:] of justice, to give to every one according to his due; of wisdom, not to pervert justice, and yet at the same time not to dissociate the benevolent aim of the love of mankind from the verdict of justice, but skilfully to combine both these requisites together, in regard to justice returning the due recompense, in regard to kindness not swerving from the aim of that love of man.”

  • Jan S Yoder

    Oh, Matt, Matt, Matt. It would indeed be foolhardy of me to underestimate good standards – my brother is the chair of an international committee on storage networking – he produces standards and standards documents, I worked 15 years in the high tech arena in all aspects of software development (with the exception of sales), and have great respect for standards. Apart from the ones you mentioned, we almost without thought use them for our nuts and bolts, lumber, milling, parts of many shapes and sizes, so yes, my statement about standards was quite tongue-in-cheek. That’s why I called my statement an aphorism (a pithy observation that contains a general truth, such as, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” – from Google). In most companies that are on the smaller side of things, the truth of the aphorism is that there are no standards, when it comes to CAD work, et al, which is my other area of expertise – hence… Perhaps we should move this offline.

  • BarbaraR

    This kind of discussion happens here quite often and I am really not sure why, since there’s nothing anyone here can offer that would satisfy such a request. You must surely be aware of that. You’re on a faith-based site. You want hard evidence of what people here believe on faith is true. The inability to provide such evidence doesn’t make what they believe true or untrue; it’s just not meeting your criteria.

    If you don’t believe in any higher power, that’s fine, good, and dandy. No one is going to try to take that away from you. But you want something tangible to prove or disprove what is felt in one’s soul, heart, spirit, and mind, and that isn’t an product that can be tested in a laboratory or boxed up and put on a shelf.

  • charlesburchfield

    It sounds like you have some rules of engagement that are being violated here. I’m sorry. What works for me is unique to me and can’t be replicated in you or even explained to you.

  • Al Cruise

    Yes, one thing we do know is existence, exists. There is no reason then, that existence cannot continue after death. Existence is not dependent on biology.

  • Ellen K.

    Now, that isn’t meaningless, because you said what you don’t believe. There are different ideas of Hell, just like there are different ideas of God.

  • well, we all know that – but from all the passages where Jesus refers to Gehenna, it does not look like he was talking about taking garbage outside of the city 😉

  • Universal ism not a bad place at all.

  • Oh that’s easy. Glorious sunsets. Bigger than me. I can stand and bask in the astounding beauty of the play of light, atmosphere and moisture, and get lost in that moment.

    Chopin’s prelude in C. minor…haunting, gorgeous. One of the few of his preludes I can actually play. I love myself blissfully in that music. Or in listening to Ravel’s Pavanne, which I wish I could play.

    Finding those moments of bliss, of just taking time to listen, observe, things we find profound, to me are essential components of the fuel of life.

  • I don’t know if there is existence after death. I have nothing tangible to base it on, other than the guesswork of those who’ve pondered before me. It is not much of an issue whether or not there is a continuation of existence after I leave this life. If so, good, if not, good.

  • The why in that equation is the impossible one. How, is a bit easier.

  • I grew up being taught a version of hell, where the unbelievers faced brief pain in a lake of fire than annihilation. I was always troubled by that concept, even as a child, but couldn’t understand yet what troubled me about it. I read, a lot of greek and roman mythology growing up, and a bit of the Egyptian as well, If my church handlers, or my parents had known,…oh the trouble I would have been in reading that “pagan shit”. I would have likely faced an exorcism. thankfully no one ever checked my colorful reading lists.

    Reading other’s views on afterlife, taught me that we really didn’t have any answers. Some were much kinder than the Christian versions, some just as harsh. I finally decided that it was just hopeful guessing, with a lot of ugly condemnation and bigotry tossed in. Especially the hellish/torturous versions. So I left that belief in the dust heap of rejected dogma

  • I’ve read tons of sci-fi, where the planet known as earth becomes uninhabitable, or it gets outright destroyed by disaster, or even blown up to make way for an interplanetary highway for other beings.

    I am ok, with our species being no more one day, and the universe carrying on just fine without us. We’ve been here such a short time in the eons of existence.

  • Good lord yes. The list is substantial. But I’ve found that religious platitudes, and dogma don’t cut it for me. I see value in religion, but in my experience, comfort hasn’t been a part. Maybe its because I don’t really fit in the constructs of what people expect faith to be, never have actually.

  • hmm. It does to me.

  • Wise nuns. They were indeed treasures.

  • thanks for sharing 🙂 so, when in
    Matthew 10:28, for example, Jesus is reported to have said: “….rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in, ‘Gehenna.'” – He meant, taking the soul and body of the unrighteous into the dump outside of Jerusalem, where they will be annihilated?

  • ps. universalism is a much better platform to walk in love towards everyone, imho, so, again, I am asking all these questions for the purpose of the discussion/reasoning only 🙂

  • Jill

    Well I’m about as literal on the concept of Satan as I am that Adam and Eve were two naked kids kicking around a nature preserve.

    On a completely unrelated side note, is your Caps Lock or Shift key not working?

  • Ok.

    Consider what an infinitude of potential means. It means that whatever can be, simply will be because.

    No limits.

    This is the why and the how.

    Now consider the nature of experience within this.

    Consciousness. Awareness, but not different than existence. Neither Thing nor Self. Singularity.

    At our scale, the knowledge of it, is enlightenment. The potential fruition of our nature. Yours and mine.

    “I and the Father are One.” – Jesus of Nazareth

    You can live your life just fine without considering any of this. But why?

  • I don’t think its the body/soul, but rather the concepts that make life so much more painful for others. To me anything that doesn’t portray love for neighbor to the level that I feel so richly deserved should be chucked.

    Maybe one day I can stop having to take out all that self made trash.

  • Andy

    Both interpretations seem about as cromulent to me.

  • Andy

    My girl! Thank you Jill 🙂

  • Andy

    I don’t know what Yonah means by “death culture”. I looked it up, and the only thing I found was a pretty incoherent ramble on Urban Dictionary.

  • Andy

    I think there are 2 types of people that bring most of this type of discussion: trolls and the genuinely curious. Trolls just want to get you all riled up and/or feel superior to you. The genuinely curious are more polite and either want to try to understand why believers believe because they either don’t or are on the fence, or they are questioning and exploring the possibilities of belief. And I suppose there may be some overlap between the two.

    A lot of the people who aren’t blatantly trolling list a lot of reasons why they disbelieve, or think it’s preferable to not commit to belief, that don’t apply to most of us that don’t believe in a hateful god or one whose words should be used to promulgate bigotry. I think most of the non-believers who aren’t trolls, if they didn’t think so before discussing with us, realize we actually have a lot in common after doing so. I know that, in terms of opinions on theological and political matters, I have more in common with a number of non-believers than I do with some believers I know.

    But I have no idea why trolls visit us. A lot of their bait falls flat on us.

  • Andy

    I don’t know, Bones, what did JC say to the thief on the cross?

  • Andy

    I occasionally find the thought terrifying, though I don’t know why. Other times I’m fine with it. Odd, I know.

  • Andy

    I dunno, I can watch Robert Tilton for a bit. I might tire of him after a few hours, but if some more amusing televangelists relieved him I might be able to watch for a while. Maybe somebody like this guy you posted that got constipated on stage.

    Edit: on second thought, he looks more like he’s passing a kidney stone.

  • Andy

    I’ll bid one dollar, God.

  • Andy

    Well said, bro.

  • Andy

    There is no need to sacrifice the value of this life, regardless of whether or not there is an afterlife. You will not find many people in this community that think this way.

  • Andy

    I don’t know why other people do. Most of us in this community don’t make such claims.

  • Andy

    I don’t sit what you’re waffling in potatoes.

  • ChuckQueen101

    I would never charge God with bearing any responsibility for the “hells” we go through in life. I think God can and does use our “hells” redemptively the way God uses the alcoholism of the alcoholic or any other addiction. But all our “hells” are either made for us by the injustices and deadly “isms” of our culture or our own doing – even though some of these “hells” are necessary for our transformation. Have you noticed that usually the most un-transformed, un-liberated people in our society are people who have sort of sailed through life with few setbacks, failures, or major tragedies?

  • Paul Julian Gould

    Indeed, Chuck…

    I can attest to having walked through a few fires, myself, some of my own making, others not, and have the singe marks on my soul still as evidence…

    Those who have only comparatively mild adversity and consider it hell tend to be seriously lacking in the sorts of compassion that are actually meaningful, IMHO, and fall into the “be warm and well-fed” category of hypocrisy… It’s not to say that there are not those who are nonetheless decent people, and it’s not wishing adversity on folks, but the tendency towards blindness and self-centeredness is there…

  • Matt Woodling

    Yes, the ‘personal god’ idea. You can understand why I might be skeptical (read: “not ready to believe”). If one isn’t trained at an early age and if one isn’t prone to just jump in and believe any idea he runs across, you can see why the personal god idea is unattractive.

  • Falken

    The part where atheists start looking like dicks is when they’re as hardcore about their own beliefs – as well as putting down others for their beliefs – as fundamentalists. In turn, you stop looking “enlightened” or “mature” and instead come off as a wounded child wanting to slash back at their bullies. Understandable. Immensely. The part where it stops being so noble is when the attacks are aimed at everyone, regardless of their own personal beliefs due to a small segment of shared ones. The whole “they have similar beliefs as the douches who try and victimize as many people as possible and wave around a magic book to keep the law out so I’m going to poke fun at them too” schtick gets old. Wise men, religious or not, at least pick proper targets or targets known for dishing out what they indeed love accusing others of. Cowardly, childish clods will target anyone they can.

  • If your job is conjuring grievances, you’re doing a superb job.

  • That’s a good thing.

  • Falken

    I’ve conjured nothing, that’s not in my skillset. What I mean is, the segment of atheists who come, attack people, then feign either being attacked or like they did nothing. True, there’s this “persecution complex” going around with quite a few fundamentalists, but the problem comes when everyone is told they’re not allowed to believe what they’re allowed to believe without it being ridiculed. If one’s belief isn’t leading to selfish proclamations of the “Godlessness” of a country or persecution when privilege is merely revoked, it’s not a bad thing. If one’s belief leads them to actually try doing good in the world because that is part of their religion, it’s not a bad thing. If one’s belief is that someone shouldn’t get to believe something that even individuals with degrees in physics can’t completely shake off, then it is a bad thing.

  • You’re conjuring offense and “attack” when none was given. If you can’t ague a point without being offended, then that is your problem, not mine.

  • Falken

    I can’t argue a point that doesn’t exist. Are you sure you made one?

  • charlesburchfield

    i think you have been traumatized by some very toxic ppl and i think you are wise to have steped out of a situation that, neverthe less, damaged you in ways that, are not permanant emotionql injuries.(i hope!) i also think it’s a good sign that you are persistant here trying to get some answers. the only evidence i have to offer is that i attribute my sanity and sobriety to an intervention in my life of miraculous deliverance from addiction to alcohol and drugs. i had to hit bottom as they say in a.a.

  • charlesburchfield

    yonah is a very talented creative guy and he may have made up the term ‘death culture’. i sure know what he means! you may have heard the term ‘structural violence’. in my mind the two terms are interchangable.

  • charlesburchfield

    i never thot to use them.

  • charlesburchfield

    maybe a good topic for a discussion would be about being marginal, or being marginalized, or how do yoy know when you fit the category of ‘marginal’. i have been marching to the beat of a different drummer all my life and it really has given a lot of ppl the rantods!

  • charlesburchfield

    yeah someday we’ll all exit stage right. ‘a tale told by an idiot’

  • I’ve already argued my epistemological position. If you want to rebut it in a civil way, you’re welcome to.

  • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)

    Don’t tell anyone I said this, but in my family, the answer was, “I can see your house from here.”

    Of course, I’d never tell that joke now. 🙂

  • BarbaraR

    Oh, sure, the trolls usually reveal themselves right away, and they’re easy to spot and fun to whack.

    The angry atheists get old, just like the fundamentalists do. It’s the same old, same old every time. I suppose they’re looking for a forum to roar that we’re all stupid (the term “fairy tale” appears very often), as though those posts are going to suddenly convert anyone to their position.

    But continually asking for “proof” in a faith-based forum – they must be aware that they aren’t going to get what they’re asking for.

    And most of my friends and family are non-believers, from my agnostic husband to atheist nieces, and that’s fine by me. I honestly have little in common with most professing Christians in real life.

  • BarbaraR

    OK, both of you: don’t make me stop this car.

  • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)

    Robert Tilton’s hair used to look like a wheat field! I’m going to Google him to see if he still looks like he did when I was in the 10th grade.

    Wheat field: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/m5LQFyxAtOM/hqdefault.jpg

  • Falken

    Then kindly remake it. If you have a point, I’d very much like to see it.

  • It’s nice that you mentioned Hitler, because a great many Jews who were interred in those camps practiced forgiveness every day. Of course, they didn’t want to be there and lamented the loss of their loved ones… but, in accordance to their faith, they forgave their oppressors. They have consistently done this with all the hatred and violence they’ve endured through the ages. It is an integral part of their faith.

    And the best part is: Jews don’t believe in hell.

  • BarbaraR


  • Hahaha!

  • BarbaraR

    That made me laugh out loud.

  • Ok. Andy is right. The man does look like he’s in pain. Sadly he also looks as plastic as the fake ferns behind him. Too much pancake make-up.

  • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)

    My work here is done. 😉

  • There is also stage left, stage rear, stage forward, and for the properly connected stage up, any of which is adequate for an exit.

  • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)

    I *knew* this was the audience that would appreciate this. (Whew!) Ha!

  • I’ve been a religious outsider my entire life, even when I tried to fit in mainstream. I understand quite well what being marginalized is all about, especially when one grows up in a cult. I wrote this last year. https://allegro63.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/drawing-trees/

  • BarbaraR

    We may look sophisticated but actually we’re all 12 years old.

  • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)

    I’m always telling people I’m a 12 year old boy on the inside. A 12 year old boy who texts her best friend like a 14 year old girl.

  • oh thank goodness I’m not the only one!!

  • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)


  • charlesburchfield

    oooo i’m looking forward to reading this later! gotta catch a bus…

  • charlesburchfield

    …the music they play on m.a.s.h.

  • Ellen K.

    Matt Woodlling, regarding your number one, I would just say “I experience love”. The best statements about God are statements about love.

  • Matt Woodling

    Traumatized? Toxic? Damaged? I guess I don’t see it quite so dramatically, but I appreciate your concern and your welcome to this forum, though.

  • InnoVader

    So, I’m not trying to be a jerk here, because I actually like your writing, love it sometimes. I may not always agree with you, but I respect your views and often learn great insights. I’ve been blessed by your work. This feels different. You made a lot of statements and never really fleshed any of them out. I’m a little disappointed. It felt like a rant and not a monologue. I still remain unconvinced. Just stating that it is obvious doesn’t make it so. I believe in Hell. I’m not gonna say a literal hell, cause no where in scripture are we given a literal description, just a bunch of metaphor and imagery. But for me God’s love and hell are not incompatible, but rather complimentary. Here’s why. Scripture reveals to us that sin separates us from God. Because we are image bearers, because God expects so much from us, we stand condemned. But it also proves human worth! If we were meaningless, then why would God even care? The fact that God is so offended by our sin actually magnifies the value and importance of humanity. God does not owe anyone anything except what they deserve. God is under no moral obligation to save or forgive anyone of anything. The fact that even though we deserve judgement but God offers mercy is the very heart of the gospel. God’s offer of love is so amazing because we don’t deserve it. I may not be able to tell you exactly what it means to be in hell, or go to hell. But you haven’t shown me any reasons that make such a destination an injustice. In light of the free gift offered to all who seek and believe, I would say that hell actually makes God’s love that more amazing and brilliant.

  • Great post, Matt. I totally 100% agree with your view. Even though I’m a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool born-again Christian, I’m not offended by people who aren’t because I’m confident enough in my Christianity to KNOW that I can’t prove God exists. Of course, I can’t prove He doesn’t exist, either. But, I enjoy being a believer. It gives me a sense of comfort… and, if that’s all it ever does, then that’s good enough for me. We’ll all find out in the end, anyway, because none of us are getting out of this alive. LOL

  • Josh Magda

    “Over 300 years ago, King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great Christian philosopher, to give him proof of God. Pascal answered, “Why the Jews, your Majesty, the Jews!”

    “Jews don’t believe in hell”

    That’s mostly true. Jews are mostly disinterested in the afterlife more generally. Some of the earlier Rabbinic literature mentions the maximum duration for hell being one year, so presumably Hitler would have done his time under this model. I’d venture that many if not most Jews see annihilationism as the proper destiny for Hitler and other human beings who engaged in truly evil acts during their Earthwalk. There’s always a Universalist holdout within every Western tradition though, and truly, I think those Jews who have forgiven Hitler, are luminous Living testaments to the reality of God/Spirit/The Sacred. For those who are not there yet, we have every compassion. It is not our place to ask them to forgive. For one thing, Jewish tradition teaches that sins between “man and man,” rather than those between “god and man,” can only be forgiven by the victim if the perpetrator asks… Even God can’t forgive in these instances. (This is one of the very few instances, where I think Jewish tradition is off base, though it’s not my place to judge or impose that judgment on those who have suffered so deeply.)

    In short, there are a variety of Jewish responses to forgiveness and the Holocaust.


  • My question is where did this theory even come from?!?

  • BarbaraR

    God’s love and hell are not incompatible, but rather complimentary

    Love me or you’ll burn forever.

    God does not owe anyone anything except what they deserve. God is under no moral obligation to save or forgive anyone of anything.

    Try though I might, I can’t seem to find this in my Bible.

    Because we are image bearers, because God expects so much from us, we stand condemned

    I can’t seem to find this either.

    In light of the free gift offered to all who seek and believe, I would say that hell actually makes God’s love that more amazing and brilliant.

    And those billions of people who never heard – what about them?

  • Hi Vader. You mentioned that “Scripture reveals to us that sin separates us from God.” This is true. But, are we assuming that sin separates us eternally, or just for the moment? Or, does it separate us in reality or only in our minds?

    The reason I ask is because Paul said that we are alienated and enemies of God “in our minds,” not in reality. And he says we got this way “because of our wicked works” (see Colossians 1:21). This concept is evident from Eden, because it was Adam who separated himself from God. God never separated Himself from Adam.

    In fact, it was God who sought Adam.

    You also mentioned that “God is so offended by our sin.” I’m not sure where in Scripture you get this idea, but there are literally hundreds of examples where God seeks us, woos us, looks for us, invites us, searches for us, calls for us, etc. This is a recurring theme throughout the centuries that Scripture was being recorded and is definitely not the behavior of someone offended by our sin.

    Again, I think we believe He is offended. But that belief is all in our head. It’s not a reality.

    And finally, you said that “God does not owe anyone anything, except what they deserve.” But what people deserve is love and kindness and forgiveness and healing and hope and encouragement and strength. And these are the things that any father would willingly give his children – regardless of their “sins.” So, let’s not forget that God is our Father.

    And the Creator of all things. Which means, if hell truly does exist, then God created it. And if He created it, then why and for what purpose? Think about this for a second: If you, as a dad, built a huge bonfire in the back yard to burn trash and old leaves in… would you EVER, under any circumstances, EVER throw your children in that fire?

  • Fear exists as contemplation of the unknown to some degree, so loss of existence, of self, can set off an alarm. Especially since how that operation would work is unknown. (Though I do no believe such loss is possible)

  • Andy

    “If I push just a little harder…”

  • The fact is we shall never know the truth about it until we are on the other side of the reality 🙂 I just keep wondering whenever I read discussions about this issue, why would Jesus, who is the Truth Himself, mention hell/gehenna at all if really salvation is universal and regardless the choices people make? Also, how are we to understand the Book of Revelation?

  • Jeannie Boen

    I remember the first time I realized this was when I was about 19 years old. I was in the middle of one of the deep seasons of depression that comes to call on me from time to time. It suddenly dawned on me how meaningless the love of God was if he would abandon me to an eternal torture chamber if I thought the wrong things about him..

    At the time, it horrified me. Gradually I came to accept it and was able to jettison my belief in Hell. Ironically, I have some of my most lucid thoughts when I am in my depressions.

  • Bones

    That’s actually an ancient belief though. That in the 3 days Christ was dead, He was destroying the gates of hell.

  • Bones
  • Bones

    Does sin separate us from Jesus?

    How is that revealed in the gospels?

    Jesus reveals the nature of God in the Parable of the Prodigal Son or the Loving Father.

  • Bones

    Was Jesus offended by people’s sins?

    “God is under no moral obligation to save or forgive anyone of anything. ”

    Really. Then why send Jesus. And why are we obligated to forgive.


    But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

    Do you think the Father did?

    Maybe we’re more offended by sin than God is.

  • Bones

    Don’t know who you’re talking about but it sounds darn funny.

  • Bones


    Push that word out.

  • Bones

    Why would you create something simply to destroy it.

    I couldn’t condemn people to eternal suffering – not even televangelists!

    Am I better than God?

  • Interestingly, God spoke through Jeremiah the prophet when the Jewish elite were sacrificing their children through the fire to Molech. That practice, as told by the prophet, was something that never entered the mind of G-d (Jeremiah 7.31). Come to think of it, the idea of an eternal torment chamber of fire ever called hell never enters the Old Testament. According to Bishop Ussher’s calculations, that is the first 4,000 years of humanity’s existence on the planet.

    God never warned of such a place, ever… until the New Testament comes around. We all know that that was only in the last 2,000 years at best. The places in the New Testament where the eternal fire is mentioned is very revealing as well. Most of the time, it is mentioned in conjunction with something else that obviously does not need to be taken literally (like when Christ says pluck out your eyes, chop your hands and feet off because it is better to enter life blind, maimed and crippled than to enter into eternal condemnation). Seriously, would plucking my eyes out prevent me from going to hell? A lot of people say, well, Christ was speaking figuratively there. If that is the case, what makes one think that Christ might NOT have been talking figuratively about an eternal fire?

    Well, there is Revelation. Yup. Notice Death is thrown in the Lake of Fire as well. As if Death was a person….

    In all honesty, when one reads about fire God sends to (with a general exception of Sodom and Gomorrah) it is always to purify someone. A pillar of fire led the Israelis through the wilderness. The disciples had cloven tongues of fire on Pentecost Day, which allowed them to speak in tongues and things like that. John the Baptist even mentioned that the one coming after him will baptize in Spirit and Fire. The Apostle Paul even says that we Christians, though are saved, will be tested through fire (1 Corinthians 3.13ff). Again. God’s fire for God’s people.

    If fire was used as retribution, then my suggestion to you would be to stay away from the Pentecostal/Holiness churches, because I heard one day those people say that they were going to set the world on fire of God’s Spirit!

  • The flip side to that is that if the “fundagelical” (as John Shore likes to call them) Christians are right, then these Jews that have died being tortured in Auschwitz and other places will end up in all eternity in a far worse place, simply because they would not accept the religion of the people who hated them so much. Kind of makes one wonder about the love and purpose of it all, the very sensitivity of G-d, doesn’t it?

  • Here here!

  • Ah yes! Sylvie, your comment reminded me of that part in the Lord of the Rings, I think it was the first book, “Fellowship of the Ring” where Galadriel looks into the cauldron and asks Frodo to look with her. She says that a lot of people would think that this is “magic” though she cannot possibly fathom why those folks would reckon so. To her, it was just the way the Universe operates. I guess, overall, it is just the way we perceive things. Thanks for reminding me of that!

  • Josh Magda

    How wonderful to know that they’re wrong. DoomGod can kiss our collective ass and launch out into the irrelevant eternity of nonbeing aboard the S.S. Epic Yawn, for God is, delightfully, always better than we can imagine… and I have a pretty big imagination.

    In short, God’s future is gonna be jam packed with Jews. So find a dreidel, pour yourself a glass of wine, and get used to gefilte fish… because Bubbe G-d is coming this way and she’s gonna get some sugar.

    And yes, honey, in case She asks, you’re still planning on going to medical school. 😐

  • charlesburchfield

    me too! i’m just comming out of one now, ‘dropping back into life’~PARKER PALMER.why the deep freeze? isit b/c i’m so dead and abandoned to self god can get thru w/ the still small voice?

  • charlesburchfield

    howza bout we don’t own sin, sin owns us. i think romans 7 explains it.

  • charlesburchfield

    i think maybe it’s spiritual pride and control freekyness. also a tendancy to micromanage everyone and everything. then theres a heaping helping of greed so i get everything thats owed to me by my privileleged status cuz by this time my myths about myself have kicked in and i literally believe i am god!

  • charlesburchfield

    many ppl believe as innovader does and i think i have too. it’s just in the last 10 years or so that i’ve really heard something to counter the claims that seem so toxic and are counterintuitive about god.

  • Bones

    Studying Orthodox theology opened my eyes. It is certainly different to Western Christian Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Sin is seen as a disease from which WE need healing, not God.

    The church should be a hospital, not a law court.

  • charlesburchfield

    yes i’m just comming around to this too! i’m re reading romans 7 w/thots about things like the effects of trauma & p.t.s.d. also growing up in an alcoholic family or a religiously addicted one. who can rescue me from patterns grooved in since i was a child? yes it takes a miricle of love!

  • ^^^this!!^^

  • Guest

    Here’s the thing. When we talk about Hell in a theological context, we aren’t just talking about what the word “Hell” generally conveys in contemporary English. We are talking about a history of ideas, in different languages and across time. The Bible was written long long ago, and in other languages, not English. So, yes, it’s meaningful to actually say what we mean by Hell.

  • Ellen K.

    Here’s the thing. When we talk about Hell in a theological context, we aren’t just talking about what the word “Hell” generally conveys in contemporary English. We are talking about a history of ideas, in different languages and across time.

  • Of course. But I only have about 500 words to use in a blog post. And, again, within that context I’m more than comfortable assuming that most everyone knows what I’m talking about when I use the word “hell.” It’s certainly a common enough concept–and it’s that common concept I’m here addressing.

  • r a

    Here’s the thing. People are immature, incurious, and irrational. That includes avowed atheists as well as believers.

    Every time I’m tempted to look down at believers, I remind myself that my mind “believes” things to be real that obviously aren’t. It even can go so far as to create a physical response and drive concious actions.

    I don’t watch horror films because I have an overactive imagination and fear response. It’s not that I conciously believe that those characters I see on screen actually exist, but my mind will, at certain dark hours and places, bring to mind images of things which aren’t there, things I know don’t exist, except in my mind.

    I don’t choose to believe they exist. My mind though will sometimes act as if they do, quickening my heart rate, alerting my attention, and making me otherwise physically uncomfortable.

    So I, too, believe in fairy-tales, at least at certain times.

    This involuntary “belief” is the product of an irrational, electro-chemical machine called a brain, which works the same way more or less for believers as well as non-believers.

    Our minds are amazing things but hardly rational.

    My problem with belief is when it becomes maladaptive to one’s own wellbeing, to the wellbeing of their friends and relatives, or to society. The kind of belief that my family has, for example, makes them fearful and sorrowful because of my non-belief.

    That’s obviously not a good thing for me, because I’m concerned about their happiness, or them, because their belief brings them sorrow.

    We all as humans suffer from things that do not exist in reality. We suffer from things in our memory from the past, and in our imagination of the future. This suffering comes from not living in reality, but from living in our minds. Why should we suffer because of things which do not exist?

    The needle is frightening to the child because of the anticipation of imagined pain. The actual pain is quite tolerable, and even more so with the knowledge that the pain is short and mild. My first root canal was more painful than the second, not because of the procedure, but because of the anticipation of an unknown quantity of future pain.

    But just as we can suffer, so too can we be made happy from our memories and our imaginations. And a good thing it is, too, wonderful memories and the anticipation of amazing things to come. This happiness also comes from living in our minds, from not living in reality, and from believing in things which do not exist.

    So, believer or not, let’s be wise about our beliefs, careful about what fictions we dwell on, and considerate to irrational minds other than our own.

    Now excuse me while I turn on the light to prove that the involuntary belief I have about a murderous ghost is a fairy-tale.

  • Dandhman

    “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” Matthew 7:13,14

    How do we square this with a non-eternal hell or judgment? I wonder if this was a problem with the translation? do we know what it was in the original Greek?

  • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)


  • lymis

    Why would we assume it has anything to do with eternity? That’s a later interpretation of the text.

    We “square” it with a loving God who cares for his people.

  • lymis

    Even if sin separates us from God, sin does not, and cannot separate God from us. Even if we sin as totally as it is possible to sin, and somehow achieve a state in which it is no longer possible for us to reach out to God, that doesn’t constrain God in the slightest from continuing to reach out to us.

    One of the parables Jesus tells us about how God feels about is was to compare us to sheep and God to a Shepherd who, if one of the sheep is lost, drops everything, including caring for the other sheep, until the lost sheep is brought back to the fold. Similarly, God is like a woman who stops all other household activities until the missing coin is found and returned.

    If Jesus used the examples of a dumb animal and a bit of material wealth, how much more Is God, with all eternity to work in, going to refuse to give up on a single soul until everyone is brought back to the safety of the fold.

    God may not “owe” anyone salvation. But everything Jesus taught was that God doesn’t love us out of grudging duty, but because of the very nature of God. Claiming that God would give up on someone because God is sufficiently “offended” by any human action to violate God’s own nature is, to me, completely absurd – and offensive.

    Jesus didn’t repeatedly say that God is Justice. He repeatedly said that God is Love. In that lies all the difference.

    And before anyone says that God can’t “break his own rules” let’s remember that He’s the one who sets the rules, and it’s only human limitation that equates justice with sweeping rules that don’t allow for individual circumstance and motivation. God’s justice takes into account ALL the factors that go into our decisions, in ways that human law simply can never do. So God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness are written right into “the rules” – and are not in any way incompatible with perfect justice. If God appears to break the rules, it’s because as humans, we aren’t able to see the whole of the perfect complexity of the rules.

  • Worthless Beast

    It is the dissolution of all that you are or ever will be. No more sunsets. No more symphonies. No more self-expression. You can’t even control how people will remember you, ultimately. That is pretty terrifying. Also, the only metaphor we have for it is darkness – total sensory deprivation has been known to drive people insane.

    It’s not just us superstitious God-ninnies that hate the idea. I’ve talked with transhumanists on the Internet. There are also friends of mine who say things like “The most painful thing about my sister’s death is that I imagine her going into nothing.” – Because, for most people, just having memories of their loved one (especially one that died violently) isn’t enough, they want them “to be okay” even if they don’t believe they are. Especially if they don’t believe they are.

    The void is scary. Personally, I lean elsewhere, but since I don’t know what happens after death, I’ve been trying to imagine it lately as a way of trying to become comfortable with it just in case my hopes are wrong. I actually try to imagine Hell scenarios sometimes, too…. (as in, if it exists, I’ll go there to be defiant) – just because I don’t want the sole reason or even the major reason why I soldier on in life and don’t kill myself to be “fear of death.” I want better reasons to stay alive.

    But don’t look down on those who find the void terrifying. Many people who firmly think that’s the destiny of all find it horrible. (Oftentimes, because they want their loved ones to still exist).

  • Worthless Beast

    A lot of people who don’t believe in an afterlife readily compare dying to anesthetic. If this is so, I don’t believe in “going into the dark” as people also use. Why? When I had my wisdom teeth removed, between waiting for the stuff to work and waking up was an uninterrupted stream of consciousness for me. I’m pretty sure that if that’s what death is like, I’ll be trapped in a moment, you know, “When is this stuff going to kick i- ”

    If that’s what death is like, it’s terrifying to think of people who spend their final moment in pain, isn’t it?

    I have had “darkness at the edge of my vision” that people like to compare to under a milder anesthetic, but I actually had a dream with that stuff, so it didn’t really “turn me off.”

  • Worthless Beast

    Hell is a place I regularly visit against my will.

    Average mortals know it by another name: Depression.

  • Worthless Beast

    Oh, Lord! Oh, dear sweet Jesus! Give me the strength…the POWAH to remove from me this massive log! Oh, Lord! Forgive me for the sin of eating way too much cheese! Deliver me from the ceramic altar!

  • Worthless Beast

    I’ve encountered some interesting Hells in regards to fiction.

    There’s one place I go to with a lot of writers/artists (the TV Tropes forum). There are sub-fora there set up for people to help each other with their creative ideas. One guy there (atheist, raised Muslim, I think) asked for help in ideas for creating a Hell setting in a cosmic horror story scenario. He was borrowing from different religions, but basically set up a God who was not pleased with any but maybe the one percent of us and would send good people to Hell. This was because the writer wanted his heroes to be in Hell for the purposes of stretching the idea of “enduring despite knowing you are never going to win.” He wanted to see how much he could make an audience care about people trapped in an unwinnable situation. I suggested to him to talk to people with chronic illness (physical and mental) as a way to get a handle on people living in horrible situations and seeing it as “life.” I don’t know if he ever decided to write that story/webcomic idea he had, but I thought some of the premise was cool.

    Then again, thinking about it again, it sort of reminded me of an infamous webcomic that already existed that I’ve read a few story-arcs of and didn’t like, a “furry” / cartoon animal comic called “Jack.” It’s about a grim reaper rabbit who’s a personfication of the sin of Wrath (but is somewhat mellowed out after having been on the job for a few centuries) and because the author favors a harsh cosmic setup that’s like Dante on steroids, most of the souls he takes wind up in Hell – sometimes for really stupid reasons. I got curious about the comic after I’d heard of it and stopped reading right about at the arc about the rape victim who went to Hell for suicide only to make a pact with the soul of her rapist (who became the personification of Lust) to go back to earth and live…. who dies trying to warn people of their impending deaths and winds up, because of the pact, becoming her abuser’s slave. GAAAAGGGAAHGHGHA!!!! Technically, in the “Jack” people can escape Hell and go to Heaven, but few do because Hell makes them think they deserve to be there, which keeps them there and… yeah….

    Just throw the basic idea out there and let people’s imaginations fly with it and sometimes even people who don’t necessarily believe in such a thing will come up with the most interesting and horrible scenarios.

  • Worthless Beast

    Maybe faith, for some, is really supposed to be all about turmoil. I mean, it seems like some of us are just naturally inclined/spirtuallly inclined to ask the big questions, the weird questions and the painful questions to which we don’t ever get answers that satisfy everyone. Maybe a healthy faith is supposed to do what science does or what art does – dive in deep and look for pearls in the darkness, but, you know, you’re surrounded by that ocean of the unknown.

    As for the discussion above about the end of the world… I live next to a cemetery. I love walks in it on spring and summer evenings. (I find the lights people leave on the graves pretty and I enjoy the atmosphere). Also, have you ever seen the History channel series/specials “Life After People?” I love those.

  • Ellen K.

    In a 500 word blog post you can take a few extra words, one noun phrase, not even a full sentence, to specify that you are talking Hell as a place of torment. It doesn’t take that many words to do so.

    While unable to sleep tonight, I thought of a song line I like, which has a view of love as how we get into Heaven. Which made me think about, then, what’s not-Heaven. Which made me think about this blog post.

    To me, Hell means not-Heaven. It’s separation from God. And I don’t say that as a church of one. I say that as a member of a church of one billion (estimated). In Catholic teaching, separation from God is what Hell is. Yes, the idea of Hell as eternal punishment is there. But it’s not the essence of what Hell is, in Catholic teaching. Nor is it the only idea of what Hell is like. And Catholics, by the way, are approximately half (or more) of Christians worldwide. So, no, Hell as eternal punishment isn’t a universal given as being what Hell is.

  • R Vogel

    April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain…probably the single greatest stanza of any poems written in the English language!

    I like The Plague, and The Stranger even more.

  • AtalantaBethulia

    The language in this verse does not exclude annihilationism or that there possibly is no afterlife at all.

    Destruction could mean when you’re dead, you’re dead.
    Destruction could mean an unpleasant, turmoil-filled life.

    Life could mean life to the full, life more abundantly, to which Jesus refers in his exchange with the Lawyer when he shares the parable of the Good Samaritan.

  • If you can’t see how perfectly you’ve contradicted yourself here, I … can’t help with that. You’ve made the case that hell is eternal suffering: what else do you think “separation from God” is? Hell Light? And saying “Yes, the idea of Hell as eternal punishment is there,” and then saying, “but it’s not the essence of what hell is,” is like saying, “Sure, the collapsed building is now crushing you. But what’s essentially happening here isn’t about you suffering. It’s about architecture.”

    You’re kind of driving me nuts on this. Would you mind letting this drop now? I’d consider it a favor. Thanks!

  • if hell is seperation from God, and God is omnipresent, which is a standard Christian teaching, then we have a big problem with the concept of hell.

  • Been there more times than I care to admit. Leaving the situations that contributed to that hell, helps a great deal, not without lasting effects of course, but a healthier environement and a low dose anti-anxiety medication has done wonders.

  • Linnea912

    Also, let’s not forget that God *does* change his mind at a few points in Scripture… see in Genesis where God decides never again to flood the earth, there’s at least one other instance that’s escaping me at the moment.

  • charlesburchfield

    mixing memory w/desire: a superpotent halucinogen i think! it takes me back…

  • Bones

    So is purgatory a place as well?

    Let’s face it, the whole ‘ hell is separation from God’ is an attempt to sanitise hell especially after the nonsense from the Middle Ages and we know there’s no Underworld with demons torturing people because they didn’t know the catechism.

    It is or it isn’t a place.

  • …because Paul said that we are alienated and enemies of God “in our minds,” not in reality. And he says we got this way “because of our wicked works”

    “Wicked” is a weird word.

    I think the first part of the statement gets us closer to a workable definition of sin.

    i.e. Actions, attachments and thoughts, arising from the fallen mind beget more confusion and pain, mediocrity and grandiosity . This condition is sustained in God, but prevents knowledge of God.

    Knowledge of God, is non-difference from God. The knower and what is known, are One. This is the deathless freedom of Love.

    Thank you for your post.

  • Bones

    Why does God have a plan for your life and not for kids being killed by Boko Haram?

    Or was that their plan?

  • Bones

    Of course it will.

    Our Sun will die one day taking us with it. If we don’t kill ourselves before hand.

  • Bones

    Better put that in the too hard section with the ‘mysteries’ of God.

  • R Vogel

    I’m not sure of the time-line, but I have a hard time believing humanity will survive until the end of the sun, or until it cools sufficiently to make the earth uninhabitable. But who would have thought we’d make it this far!

  • charlesburchfield

    i think knowledge of god is on a ‘need to know’ basis & ‘what can be known’ contingent on my willingness to know which somehow ties in to my experience of god in my life & how well i am processing input. maturity also is playing a part as i am now 63 and have been experiencing god’s interventions in my life 40.+ years

  • Jill

    XO my darling!

  • Jill

    Fair enough.

  • Jill

    You admins are simply delicious.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    e. e. cummings lives!


  • Worthless Beast

    Probably because it’s all about forcing a message. TV Tropes calls such things “Author Tract” – or sometimes, in a multiwritten TV show, the “Writer on Board” phenomenon. It’s when someone or some group is so bent upon hammering people with a specific message that they derail any kind of entertainment, subtlety or enjoyment their work may have otherwise had.

    It is possible to have a very strong message and to do it well enough that it’s enjoyable to people not already “in the choir,” but it takes a lot of skill, so the lazier route of just hammering is taken more often.

    The pages at the site-that-will-eat-your-Monday list more than just religious examples. There are athiest examples, political examples…. if you’ve been in creative fandom/geekery you wind up seeing it in people using their fanwork to preach the romantic-pairing that gives their toes tingles.

    But, mostly you see a whole slew in it in Religious-Brand “entertainment,” especially with people who are afraid of imagination and will inevitably go bland. I’ know I’m not the only one who’s baffled at people who believe in horrific eternities being so adverse to writing or making film in the horror genre (“because that’s sinful!”). Some of these guys could make top-notch horror.

  • Andy

    You might be thinking of Genesis 18, where Abraham pleads for God to not destroy Sodom.

  • Worthless Beast

    What I wonder about and feel disturbed by is the idea that “not believing in Hell” means you’re going there. I’ve seen that from some people in regards to Universalists (before I became one). I mean, people can totally believe in Jesus, that he was real, that Salvation hinges on him, done and believed all the right things that church tells you to do to “get saved” and… suddenly because they think the story is more complicated and that God is able to work with people more / beyond death / whatever…. somehow, that cancels out the “But I trust in the same way for salvation?”

    It’s like, you’re going to Hell because you hope God is really nice.

  • Jennifer

    There’s a big difference between claiming that all non-Christians regardless of circumstance will go to hell and that hell doesn’t exist; the Bible speaks clearly on that and you blatantly choose to ignore it. You speak as a fool and are in more danger than those who don’t know His Name.

  • Andy

    Your name does not befit you.

  • More to the point, even, is where in that quote does it say anything at all about the idea that in order to be really good–meaning good enough to make it into heaven–a person must be, or should be, Christian? It says the gate is narrow; it doesn’t say what kind of I.D. you need to gain passage through it.

  • charlesburchfield

    ‘Why does God have a plan for your life and not for kids being killed by Boko Haram?’
    what is is. what is not is not. I think if there is a plan for all of us the plan for right now this minute is for you to make me aware of this and has more to do w/ you than the kids being killed by boko haram. what can I do for you?

  • Dandhman

    What I am asking is: use of the word “destruction” in that particular verse in the case an on eternal hell

  • charlesburchfield

    “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)”~EURYTHMICS

    Sweet dreams are made of this

    Who am I to disagree

    I travel the world and the seven seas

    Everybody’s looking for something

    Some of them want to use you

    Some of them want to get used by you

    Some of them want to abuse you

    Some of them want to be abused

  • Funny enough, this appears to be the Mormon teaching as well.

  • There is a gnostic (IIRC) school of thought which states that when Jesus died, he spent the three days of his death in Hell just like everyone else… and promptly began harrowing it.

  • Well, you won’t see him there, but that doesn’t mean he’s not there.

  • It’s a good parable to use as an example, considering the fuss other people make about their estranged siblings being invited to join in the feast. “But I’ve been your loving child all this time!”

  • Now to write a poem about a grasshopper which no one can read!

  • Nah, is not a fact. I specifically checked.

  • Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

  • I find it hilarious that this was exactly my experience. “Oh man, I just want to be out before this thing star–huh, I’m in the car now.”

  • The best I can do is “I have a particular belief because I experienced it. That experience could have been a hallucination or a dream, but how would I be able to tell the difference? Assuming it was real, how could I prove it?”

    And so I either had a phenomenally detailed fantasy episode which I have post-hoc embellished to satisfy a particular narrative desire, which is far from impossible, or we’ll find out and maybe y’all can hit me up when I get back there and giggle at how bad I was at explaining it.

  • Anything which evokes the autonomous sensory meridian response!

  • Absolute perspective, objective and uncompromising, is indeed a form of hell, and can indeed have eternal repercussions… because even if it’s not too late to repent and turn toward trying to better the world, that knowledge will remain with you forever.

    And then you’re told, “You still belong here.” …

  • Exodus 32, verse 14 is a striking one, but there’s also Numbers 27 when Zelophehad’s daughters argue to Moses that the law is unfair, Moses takes it to God and God says “They’re right, it is unfair, so change it.”

  • I’d say Matthew 7:21 is a better argument. 13-14 doesn’t specify having anything to do with the afterlife, and I can attest that going by the easiest path does lead to destruction… it’s quite easy to do a lot of things that result in a much worse world for everyone.

  • AtalantaBethulia

    God changes God’s mind that animal sacrifices are the way to atone for sin.

    God changes God’s mind (according to Ken Hamm and some biblical literalists that in the time of Adam and Eve) that incest is appropriate in order to populate the earth and later makes it forbidden.

    God changes God’s mind about the order in which Creation was created based on the two conflicting Genesis narratives.

    God changes God’s mind where Jesus was from and to where he returned after he was born based on the conflicting birth narratives.

    God changes God’s mind about which foods are unclean.

    And Christians decided that God changed God’s mind or that it really doesn’t matter that much to God on which day of the week we worship.

    Some even teach that the earth upon which we live now is take two, after God destroyed the first one in frustration, as well.

  • Worthless Beast

    I’ve read that some forms of anesthetic, such as those commonly used in dentistry don’t actually “turn you off” so much as screw with your brain’s ability to form memories. So, I wonder if that happened – if I was suggestible zombie-girl while my teeth were being worked on and the waking up without thought-inturruption was the result of a lack of memory.

    All I know is that brains and perceptual experiences are weird.

  • Well, you wouldn’t have been in a functional state while you were anesthetized, I’ll wager. When my family saw me, I was a complete mess, staring emptily and occasionally making incoherent bubbling sounds while the assistant chided me for chewing on the gauze. “Nrrrmgle.”

    I have a few memories of the car having to be stopped so I could get out and throw up — fewer memories than how many times they actually had to stop, apparently. And then I was home on the couch, becoming lucid, barely able to write down my thoughts.

  • Matt Woodling

    I get the comfort thing. It doesn’t work for me because I can’t take comfort in something so import that isn’t demonstrably true.

  • Guest

    I don’t know what “an infinitude of potential” even means. How do you decide the possibility of something is infinite?

  • Matt Woodling

    I’m sorry, but you completely lost me. I don’t know what “an infinitude of potential” means. How do you decide the possibility of something is infinite?

    “Consciousness. Awareness, but not different than existence. Neither Thing nor Self. Singularity. At our scale, the knowledge of it, is enlightenment. The potential fruition of our nature. Yours and mine.”

    These just seem to be words thrown together.

  • Bones

    Humans won’t be around when the Sun expands past Earth.

  • Loved those books.

  • Matt

    Thank you! I was trying desperately to think of that example sentence, but could only recall “…sleep furiously.”

  • Bones

    I’m trying to think it through Charles.

    Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favourite verses and got me through some hard times.

    “11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

    But does God really have a plan for us and not others?

    I’d like to think He would, but the world tells me different. Maybe it’s a western mindset of the Joyce Meyer types.

    If I was sitting in squalor in Africa would I be thinking about God’s plan for my life?

  • vj

    I think God has plans for all of us, but the plans for specific individuals are NOT the same. I find it very hard to understand why everyone doesn’t get a ‘fairytale’, but I choose to trust that God is ultimately just and loving. I very deeply hope that there really is more to life than what we see playing out in the world around us, because many people’s experiences just suck!! Sometimes the only hope left is of peace in the hereafter 🙁

    Which is not to say I think “it doesn’t matter if someone suffers now, they’ll be happy in heaven” – I believe that a major theme throughout the Bible is that those who wish to be considered followers of God are supposed to be looking after the poor and downtrodden, enacting just laws that protect the weak and marginalized, and identifying more strongly with the oppressed than the oppressor… I think the things that dismay us the most in life are perhaps that things that God wants us to be doing something about? Poverty, war, abuse, injustice – on both a local and global scale.

    And, as someone ‘sitting in Africa’, I daily see many ‘sitting in squalor’ – and many do indeed believe in God’s provision, in God’s plans and purposes for their lives (many in my local church are destitute locals and immigrants/refugees from elsewhere in Africa) – we don’t gather to worship God for what He gives us, but for Who He Is.

  • R Vogel

    Three whole days! Well that makes up for eternity for everyone else! Kind of smacks of the rich business owner making his son work in the mail room before he makes him CEO, yeah?

  • “These just seem to be words thrown together.”

    Yes. but, was there actual consideration of “infinite potentiality”?

    When contemplating God in this fashion, (which is what this exercise is about), the first step is to get use to the idea of “non-limitation” i.e. nothing is Outside of That.

    Outside and Inside, is how we think of “things”. Things cannot be infinite in the absolute sense of the word. Therefore do not represent God.

    But things (and the experience of things), though finite, also do not NOT represent God, since they are not Outside of God.

    There is a paradox here that is beautiful to embrace.

    I apologize for running this past you without your actually asking for it.

    To put it more in a nutshell, “Infinitude” is the reason and the “means”. “Potentiality” is ‘what’ that looks like.

    To bring this back to Earth, we are not separate from God, no matter how it seems. If we know this, our motivation, behaviour, and experience are different than if we don’t.

  • Matt Woodling

    Paradoxes of things that appear to be meaningless are not inherently beautiful to me. You’re just fitting words together to make them seem to have meaning, but when I try to parse them, I can’t. These are “deepities”, a term coined by Daniel Dennett.

    It also kind of sounds like you’re saying that “infinitude” or infinite things have something to do with a god. Why would you think that? And which god? There are a lot of them to consider. And once you attribute them to a god, I again ask you to seriously ask the question “what or who created the god, and how.did.that happen?” Until you answer these questions, the idea of a god explains nothing and seems not worth considering.

  • charlesburchfield

    I have often contemplated somebody else’s seeming hell & compared it to my relative safety & immunity. In a.a I looked at the utter devastation alcohol had on last stage alcoholics and thanked god I wasn’t there…yet. Suffering, for me, can sometimes be triggered by hearing a story about powerless, vulnerable ppl (especially children) being abused or killed by structural violence. What are my triggers telling me? I think they are unresolved questions I have about god, justice, fairness & fairplay. Also these hideous things I hear & see happening to ‘them’ haven’t happened to me…yet.

  • vj

    [I posted a reply earlier, but it appears to have vanished…?!?]

    I think it is a very Westernized mindset to think that God’s plan is necessarily going to revolve around material comfort/riches… I wish that everyone got the ‘fairytale’ life, but I know from experience that that is simply not the case. And I don’t think that everything that happens to everyone is always ‘orchestrated’ by God (since there are nearly 7 billion people on the planet, most of whom have the capacity to choose to exercise their God-given free will). I do hope and trust, though, that EVERYTHING that happens will ultimately be redeemed in the greater purposes of God, and that every ounce of earthly suffering will somehow prove to be insignificant in the light of a fully revealed God.

    As for the people ‘sitting in squalor in Africa’: my church (in Cape Town, South Africa) has members from all walks of life, including some virtually destitute local and immigrant/refugee members, some of whom have little more than shacks to call home – together we trust in God’s plans and purposes, and bear one another’s burdens, and we gather to worship God not for what He has given us, but for Who He Is. Those who seem to have nothing (by worldly standards) are often the most joyful…

  • Bill Steffenhagen

    I wrote this back in Nov 2013 in response to “christian platitudes” seen in comments to one of John’s blogs where he took on the simplistic well known platitude that “God works out all thing for good to those who love Him.” We all know very well that most christians who think that way are thinking of god as a sentient entity that thinks and feels like us rather than thinking in terms of loving Love.

    “What bothers me about so many “christian” platitudes is that they anthropomorphize God. I have a serious problem with such an immature, simplistic approach to God. The ancient gods were actually little more than humans with human emotions but special powers; gods made in the image of Man. They were fickle and, of course, false. When Christians speak of God as “Him” or “He”, they are doing the same thing. I suppose it may be comforting somehow in the absence of REAL arms and hugs, but ultimately, there’s no there there. I need, and I give Jesus with skin on, for instance.

    I do believe God exists, but the reality is that no living human has any way of
    knowing what God is beyond it’s very definition in the Bible and what Jesus and
    many others have shown us; that “God is Love”, and to anthropomorphize God into a mere superhuman with human emotional responses to ourselves, is preposterous. From that approach we get what John illustrates in today’s blog which is, ultimately, nothing. God is something INSIDE of us, not outside somewhere. With Love, WE are God with skin on to each other.

  • I’m also fond of a certain Chinese poem that shows how a nonsensical sentence can have meaning. The English equivalent is “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”

    Buffalo no longer looks like a word.

  • Good grief. You are on autopilot! If it makes you happy, OK.

    But really, it is just “feeling superior” without cause.

    Nothing “deepity” about what I said. It is the common sense of the matter that Dennett lacks as well.

    The infinity of Infinite things”, is not the Infinite Entirety of Singularity. And, the reality of this is not in the words being used to focus your attention on it.

    If you need to convince us that that gods don’t exist, fine, but at least understand where you have drawn the line.

  • charlesburchfield

    allrighty then!

  • It is about realizing that we wear the blinders of self interest. Ego. Personality. Abstracted self. Whatever you might call it.

    Gaining access to a less abstracted awareness of “I am”, we apply it to making that the foundation of our existence.

    This turns out to be seamlessly integrated to the source of Awareness that is part and parcel with the Universe.

    Don’t call it God if that is against your religion, but missing the boat as regards this understanding, means that you die when your body dies.

    Because, the body/mind complex, is all you ever thought you were.

  • Trilemma

    Your arguments remind me of Thomas Talbott’s trilemma which I came across years ago. It helped me abandon the doctrine of Hell and eternal torment. I think it’s valuable to step back from all the arguing about individual verses and how words should be translated and interpreted and take a more philosophical view of what the existence Hell implies about God. Great article.

  • Matt Woodling

    Ok, start with something very focused and simple. What do you mean by ‘singularity’?

    And what reality do we have besides what we can sense via our senses and machinery that extends our senses? And how dodo we describe that reality to anyone else except via language?

  • Depression can be called being stuck. This is a universe where every particle is in motion relative to every other particle. As humans we both want acceptable motion, or change, and to hold things in place enough for it all to make sense. When these ideas are not in balance per one’s own belief, unhappiness follows. How to get out of it? Look things over. What is the stuck idea? Get perspective on it. Once understood, one is free. So your process as you describe is actually figuring this place out. It is growth, even spiritual growth if you accept there is spirituality. Eventually it gets easier, if you stay in moment. My experience.

  • Now if He’d only change his mind about the Cubs.

  • paganheart

    Wow. Congratulations on your sobriety. I have a lot of alcoholism and drug addiction in my family tree and have seen the destruction firsthand. If I had a dollar for every addict I’ve known who prayed to be relieved of their addictions, to no avail, I’d be doing pretty well financially. I have much respect and admiration for everyone walking the path to getting (and staying) sober.

    I have pretty much come to the conclusion myself that any hell that exists, is the hell that we create for ourselves here on Earth. Personally I am too well acquainted with the demons known as “major depression,” “generalized anxiety disorder” and “chronic illness” (asthma and lupus.) Hell for me has been living inside my own head and a body that is often at war with itself. My struggle has been trying to believe in a loving God when suffering is so constant, for me and basically everyone else I know. Still trying to figure that one out….not sure if I ever will….but I am trying.

  • paganheart

    Boom. ^^^This^^^

    Anxiety attacks are also little journeys to hell in my experience.

  • charlesburchfield

    I have a lot in common w/ you. I too have come to the
    conclusion that hell exists & that i not only create it for myself here on Earth but that there are certain inescapable patterns coming to me from childhood traumas I have had, being raised in an alcoholic family and lingering symptoms of p.t.s.d. to contend w/ and recover from..

    as a survivor of “major depressions”, “generalized anxiety disorder” and “chronic illness” (type 2 diabetis and missing a left eye) Hell for ME has been living inside my own head and a body I
    struggle everyday for the miricle of sobriety and serenity. My struggle and like you I have also been trying to believe in a loving God
    when suffering is so constant, for me and basically everyone else I know.

  • Your questions are too well practised.

    Please convince me that you have made just a little effort.

    Perhaps, muse for a bit, about how there has never been any other moment than this instant. Here and Now.

    We have a sense of time passing, but what is it really?

    Or, when you are intently interested in a person across the room, what causes them to look up and meet your gaze?

    What is the medium of that communication?

    Reality is everything and nothing. Every nuance. Not just that which our mortal senses perceive. Do you really imagine it all so small? But neither is it big. These are the terms of our relative experience. Past-Present-Future. All sharing this very moment.

    How can this be? Who asks the question? Who schemes to make it sound banal?

  • Singularity: in physics, a point at which a function takes an infinite value, especially in space-time when matter is infinitely dense, as at the center of a black hole. In other words, when you are seeing one particle in the center of the black hole, you are seeing the entire center.

    To personalize it, let’s say one looks at one’s participation in this universe as a drop of water participates in the ocean. One exists as the ocean, minus a few extra complexities, so one could say seeing one drop from every perspective is seeing the ocean at least in terms of understanding how the ocean works as a system.
    Now let’s say we grant the ocean awareness. The ocean is immediately aware in the now of every drop and event within.
    The drops, however have limited awareness. One could be a very large drop, say the size of Manhattan, in which case one’s perspective would be of islands and continents. That would be one’s reality. The small drop would be aware of other drops or systems of drops. It might not be easy to comprehend a drop of a much larger size and the entire ocean, even more difficult.

    So the extension of our senses is not so much super human sensory organs, but perspective.
    Allow oneself to see from a larger viewpoint and one likely will. That larger reality may involve a kind of superannuation-one builds gradually till one arrives. It may also call for senses that allow awareness beyond the physical. That you have to experience for yourself, but there is much literature, including many classics, that enters that area.

  • I think your struggle is quite common for those of us who’s lives have had a major trauma, or a series of them, or just an extended period of time, where the traumatic seems almost normal. The disconnect we experience between our lives and our pain, and the concept of a loving God, who loves, protects, heals and rescues is profound and difficult, to reconcile.
    I believe that is why we need the empaths, the compassionate folk in the world.

  • charlesburchfield

    yes & i was fortunate to meet one at just the most critical moment at a time i hit bottom.

  • A suggestion: If God exists, at least as awareness and co-creation with each of us in this place, then a means to understanding God is to change one’s life operation a bit.
    By this I mean, one is pushing the keys on the keyboard. Consciously let God do it. Let God lift you arms and move your fingers. Feel God doing it. Let God comment as God, not as you. (This can take some letting go so don’t worry about how it feels at first.)
    We can be too human to feel God at times. Too receptive to the sensory pitch tossed at us by daily life. Let God back into it for a while.
    A nice part is God is never unhappy or accusative so it is, really, all good.
    Oh, another one is, just before you fall asleep, let God dream with you. Consciously say out loud, “I want to dream with you.”
    Good luck!

  • Should we also speak in tongues while we’re at it?

  • Since they are the same to you, why not?

  • charlesburchfield

    i think god exists & for me in this circumstance my strategy is to try to stay in constant contact w/ god as i understand god. i think he is aware of my pain and past and has been showing me a way where there is no way. i have a lot of years already witnessing his interventions in my life and on a day by day basis it is ‘all good’. i am grateful & sometimes have a felt sense of well being now as i used to have before trauma, even before i was verbal like when i was a tiny child. I think I will try your suggestion about being consciously aware of god dreaming w/ me. Thank you for that!! Btw do you know josh magda? You sound kind of like him.

  • No, I will look him up. My process is how to take steps out of a stuck position, which is really all the problem is. So anything is better than nothing, generally. I am glad to hear you are doing so well. Best wishes!

  • Mark L

    Great post.

    Most conservative apologists will argue that one of the core evidences for God’s existence is some sort of innate moral sense or compass he has placed in the human conscience. In fact Paul alludes to as such?

    Surely this moral sense implanted by God himself, can be trusted to deduce a plausible image of God and what are moral or immoral theological teachings?

  • Mark L

    By the way it is interesting that perhaps the greatest Christian philosopher (widely admired by evangelicals) of the past few decades, Alvin Plantinga, is now essentially a universalist.

    Watch his debate with Richard Gale “The Existence of Evil and the Problem of God” (the video is online), Plantinga, asserts that he believes that what God desires (ie to save all men) is what he will eventually get. It seems Plantinga believes in hell, but not an eternal one.

    It seems some Christian philosophers (Marilyn McCord Adams also) are realising that the problem of evil is can only , in the end, be solved through some form of universalism. Note that one can be an exclusivist in the sense that all who are saved must come through Christ (I think Plantinga is an exclusivist), but at the same time still be a universalist.

  • Mark L

    The Eastern Orthodox seem to hold that heaven and hell are not so much as spatially separated but rather how one experiences God’s love – ie God loves both the saved and unsaved —however the unsaved because of their hatred of God experience this love as suffering, while the redeemed experience it as bliss.

  • Jessica G

    Bubbe G-d….love it! lol. I like this idea.

  • Jessica G

    This is one of the most gorgeous takes on faith I’ve ever heard. I’ve tried with less success to articulate this very thing lately. Thanks for this wording! I’m stealing it:)

  • Jessica G

    I have been talking to my higher power. Higher Power told me (which you don’t have to believe: this is my own experience) “Science is there for a reason. Learn what I’ve set in place, allow yourself to grow and use your mind. I won’t be offended.” So I’ve gone from being a biblical literalist to being “open”, I guess. Sure, the Bible says 7 days for creation. I’m open to the fact that maybe it’s not 24 hour days, or maybe it’s a metaphor or maybe it meant something else in that culture. I’ve begun reading the Bible through the lens of science, and not necessarily the other way around. I don’t know why people feel like God (higher power) couldn’t be real if the Bible isn’t 100% accurate in our times today. I think God’s allowing people to find scientific discoveries, and those could be God’s working in our lives now, which maybe could even take precedence over the bible. I might be totally wrong, but this is what I’m getting from higher power for now.

  • Jessica G

    OMG I love that joke!

  • Matt Woodling

    Can you use science to examine God?

  • Thats like asking us if we can use The Bible to examine the mating habits of guinea pigs. You can of course try, but the tools just aren’t designed for the task.

  • Matt Woodling

    Well, why not? If God can affect the physical world and, let’s assume he does, why can’t you look for evidence and demonstrate how the physical world was affected?

  • Matt Woodling

    Well, sure, those could be considered the best in many people’s view. The kicker for me is: are any of the statements about god’s existence actually true? People accept belief in god for lots of reasons, but a disturbing reason that a lot of people give is that it’s comforting or the statements about god are good, therefore god is good, therefore, I suppose, god must exist. You can see how circular that reasoning is.

    For me, none of it means anything at all until it’s demonstrated with some confidence that god exists. I’m not asking for proof. I’m asking for reasonable evidence. Until then, god, in some aspects of some faiths, is just a nice idea.

    Also, a really horrible idea if you take a lot of scripture and popular belief seriously, such as eternity in heaven, eternal worship, eternal attention from god, hell, infinite punishment for finite crimes, us vs. them, inability to solve or shed light on the problem of human suffering for the 100,000-300,000 years of human existence. So many bad ideas.

    Of course, I don’t fault god for any of this because there doesn’t seem to be a shred of evidence that any god exists and there seems to be a lot of evidence that people make up their gods.

  • Matt Woodling

    Yeah, allegro63, I agree. Those are incredibly wonderful things.

  • Matt Woodling

    BarbaraR, I am genuinely curious about god, faith and belief. I will admit that the reason I discuss and argue is that faithful people keep doing things in public like denying what science has found that we really need to be concerned about. I really don’t care what believers believe, but the problem is, they tend to want to fling their belief on others. I get the sense that few of you here do that.

    So, I poke people in faith forums every once in a while to see if arguments for belief ever change (how would I ever find out in an atheist forum?), and I keep finding that they don’t. People believe because they want to and they think it’s a good idea to. It works for them. They’re mystified that I can have the same wonder they do about the universe and the same level of fulfillment, which is a little galling, but I can understand that.

    I like it here because people discuss without immediately dropping into a defensive posture. They’re a little condescending at times, but I have to expect that people won’t be perfectly charitable in their responses if someone is here poking at them.

  • Matt

    I don’t find it mystifying at all that you have the same awe, wonder, and fulfillment that we do. You’re a person. People feel those things. You just find it in a different way.

  • Matt Woodling

    “You just find it in a different way.”

    Well, yeah, Matt. We all experience these things, with similar feeling and awe. My point is that adding a god to it doesn’t seem to add anything at all to the experience (like understanding or appreciation) unless you already believe. So, if I don’t already believe, why should I believe? What do I gain?

  • Matt Woodling

    Evil? Do you mean the harm that people do to other people? I think it can be solved by the hard work over generation or two of empowering women (equal opportunity for work, for investment and control of their bodies). Solve that problem and evil tends to melt away.

  • BarbaraR

    You have to remember that we get a very wide variety of people here – the deliberately antagonistic, the trolls in all their splendor, the deeply angry, the hurt, the fundamentalists, the proselytizers, and so forth. People who are genuinely curious and questioning are relatively rare. And it is very difficult, if not impossible, to explain faith in a concrete way to someone who wants proof. Most of the people who come here stating they want proof are actually here to stir up shit, and we have an extremely low tolerance for that.
    Yes, we defend faith, though I don’t think any two people here hold the exact same beliefs about their faith. It can range from complete trust in what the Bible says at face value to seeking spirit animals to feeling an energy that bonds all people together.
    And that is what makes this a great forum – there’s room for all kinds of questions, interpretations, and beliefs. It’s only when posts get ugly, accusing, self-righteous, personally insulting, etc. that we have to shove someone out and slam the door.

  • Lipstick Lesbian

    Yeah, like homosexuality was a sin and is still a sin, eating seafood used to be a sin but is not a sin anymore, incest used to be ok but now is a sin, and mixing fibers used to be and now it is not a sin. It sounds like a bunch of man made bullshit.