Someone once asked the famous mystic Padre Pio, what he thought of modern people who didn’t believe in hell. His blunt reply was, “They will believe in hell when they get there.”
Must we believe in hell? Surely, when faced with Auschwitz, Hiroshima, the Boko Haram, and the barbarians of ISIS, the question should be, “Is it possible not to believe in hell?” I don’t simply refer to the fact that concentration camps were a kind of hell on earth. Instead I wonder how one can deny the existence of a place of severe and eternal punishment when faced with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, murderous jihadists, and African soldiers who chop off little girls’ hands for fun.
When faced with such monsters can we really cry with our suburban good conscience, “God would not send anyone to burn forever in the fires of everlasting torment!”
The article explores the idea that universalism–the idea that a good God would not send anyone to hell–is a kind of suburban luxury.
We don’t know anyone who is that awful that they should go to hell so we can’t imagine that there are such people.
However, it only takes a quick read of history or yesterday’s paper to realize there really are people who do the most vile and horrible things and continue in them without regret, remorse or repentance.
They hate God. They hate all that is beautiful, good and true. They parade around saying “Hell will be fabulous!”
Why should God prevent them from going where they wish?
We think everyone ought to go to heaven, but can we imagine that a person who hated God, goodness, truth and beauty all his life would actually enjoy heaven? If they could visit that place of eternal beauty and laughter, they would howl with serious terror and run with all their being in the other direction. We know this is true because there are people in this life who hate truth, beauty, and goodness and do everything in their power to flee from the light.
Does God send them to hell? I think he watches them flee to “their own place,” and that he does so with a broken heart, for as Mother Julian of Norwich says, “He looks on us with pity not with blame.”
Go here to read the full article.
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