Life is better without hell. It is.
I used to live devoted to keeping hell alive and well in my spiritual paradigm.
I mean, how can we live without hell? Take away hell, and the entire universe would implode.
Removing hell would have cataclysmic metaphysical reverberations. It would rip all scientific progress in string theory to shreds.
Similarly, certain church teachings and religious norms suggest that believing in hell keeps us on the straight and narrow path of saintly living. Hell, supposedly, draws us in and keeps us devoted to a loving God.
On the contrary, I grew to understand that believing in hell imprisons the soul.
For at least a few years now, I have let go of my hellish ways. That is, I no longer believe in hell. Last week, during days 238-244 of my year of quitting my Biblical studies, I experienced much freedom in living a hell-less lifestyle.
In this post, I discuss religious hell power, why believing in hell is unnecessary to follow God or Jesus Christ, and letting go of hell in my beliefs.
Religious Hell Power
Religious institutions and their corresponding cultural communities can have a profound influence over masses. God or spirituality, in some form or fashion, occupies a place of importance to most of the entire world.
With 84% of the world’s population identifying with a religious group, more people are turning to religion. Hell and the afterlife, depending on one’s religion affiliation, then, can emerge as a critical issue in our beliefs.
A mass desire to follow God, live devout, escape life’s troubles, or maintain unequal societal power relations helps to create a communal spiritual vacuum. This void can give way for controlling and fear-driven religious cultures to fill it.
When it comes to matters of the body, soul, and spirit, numbers of us want to “get it right.” As a result, we can learn, teach, lead and serve in the church with little to no critical inquiry about our belief systems or institutional structures.
With organizational dynamics that incentives blind followers, indoctrinating people about hell and playing into our fears reinforce allegiance and acceptance within a religious community. Arguably, it does little for our spiritual growth or personal evolution.
Hell: So Unnecessary
Hell is so unnecessary.
It is so 404 CE.
We do not need hell to live or thrive. We do not need hell to live godly.
We do not need hell to love. It is unnecessary for a peaceful and just world.
We do not need hell to follow the path of Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, we need hell to control.
We need hell to keep seats filled in the church. We need hell to scare people into doing what we want them to do.
We need hell to fill deez offering plates. We need hell to use people’s spiritual yearnings for self-serving purposes.
We need hell because it satiates our repressed lust for revenge. We need hell because it feels safe to believe what we are told.
Otherwise, hell is so unnecessary.
I’m preaching mighty good right now. It’s awfully quiet in this church.
Throughout time, people have been able to do good, live in generosity, and follow love without a need for hell in their framework for living.
Hell is something we created and continue to energize. If you believe that you are going to hell for some misdeed, then you will. Go for it.
There is more to this world and universe than what we find in the Bible. Venturing beyond these pages and besides books about the Bible, might seem like frightening territory.
The Bible is a human sacred text filled with allegory and descriptions of phenomena according to the cultural lens of the writers. You get to decide if interpreting the locusts resembling horses in Revelation as a contemporary helicopter armed with weapons during apocalyptic calamity makes sense.
You get to decide if your eschatological views involve literally waiting to see a woman sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns, intoxicated from the blood of dead Christians.
You have freedom.
If you think you need a concept like hell to live godly or spiritually, then the larger issue resides in what is truly happening in your soul and spirit.
If you think you need fear or coercion to do good in the world or to grow, what is really at the core of your spiritual and personal development?
Letting Go of Hell
I am not in agreement with hellish theology. I let it go. Sending me to a place I do not believe in, for whatever reason that falls in someone’s religious crosshairs, has no power over me.
If I shared the belief, then someone could possibly sway or manipulate me using the construct of hell. That is, I have to share this belief in hell in order for threats of an abysmal fiery grave to impact me.
Before I revised my beliefs about hell, I had already sent myself to hell countless times. I sent myself to hell for wanting to let go of hell.
I sat with my judgment of others and self. I allowed myself to wade through the muck of fear.
I faced “what if’s:” What if I am wrong and God sends me to hell?
I revisited rationalizations: If Jesus referred to it, then it must be real. What about the lake of fire?
I re-evaluated the spiritual insurance approach: I need to believe in hell because it is better safe than sorry.
When I stopped believing in hell, I experienced substantial stress reduction.
My joy, peace, love, generosity, and sense of justice grew. My perception of people and the universe expanded.
Like a fog lifting, my eyes opened wider to a world God so loved. I explored more into the behaviors housed under my beliefs of good and evil.
My peace in the unknown and mystery charted more paths. By releasing the desire to be perfect in my faith, I uncovered another layer of surrender to God.
As a result, my curiosity stemmed from a loving longing—a richer, more purified hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Hell became one less thing to weigh a sista down. You hur me?
Taking Hell Off the Table
When we take hell off the table, more questions might surface, like:
- What happens to people who do evil in the world?
- What is the point of following Jesus?
- What about the devil?
- What happens when we die?
- Most importantly, when I am having “one of those days,” where will I send people, who get on last my nerves, in my imagination?
I think the more dogmatic we are, the less comfortable can feel about the mysteries of the universe. I know from firsthand experience.
Taking hell off the table challenges us to explore beyond the Bible and the church. It pushes us beyond the dogma.
And this effort takes more exploration and a comfort with tension from unresolved inquiry. It can either get us feeling excited about the great unknown or even feeling overwhelmed and hopeless.
If we have a growth mindset instead of fixed mindset, we can find joy in the journey of discovery. Instead of fixating on getting God right according to a passage of scripture, we can increase our capacity for new and expanded ways of thinking, seeing, feeling, and being.
Altar Call: Invitation Out of Hell
If you are committed to having hell as part of your spiritual paradigm, I do not judge you.
How can I?
*cue the organ music and choir in the background*
I have held onto this belief for years and battled with letting it go. I have felt hell’s scorching grip on my heart, mind, and soul.
Maybe, you have been pondering about letting go of hell and have been scared to take the first step.
You might be tired of your hellish ways. I am here to let you know there is rest for your weary soul.
The doors of the church are open.
I invite you to take hell off the table to live and explore. I invite you to try it for a day- or even a week.
If you are really bold, go for a month. I am not telling you to give up on hell. I am asking you to try God without it.
I invite you to use your imagination to live without hell in your framework.
For a day or even a week, I encourage you to notice what shows up about yourself and others.
What emotions do you experience? What is easy, difficult, or surprising? What questions emerge?
Allow yourself to be a child by wondering, searching, and discovering.
I invite you to go outside your theology and play.
You can still have Jesus in your heart while you are at it.