Ep 6 – Hell
You wake up and all you see is darkness. You hear tormented screams, curses and cries of pain. An overwhelming sense of sadness comes over you but you lay still, afraid to move. You start to fill a warm sensation come over your body, slowly it gets warmer and warmer until it starts to burn. You try to move but you can’t and your body begins to burn all over. You desperately look for some help, some relief but none is to be found. You start to scream out in agony, the pain touching every nerve in your body. You hope and pray for it to stop, that you will soon be dead and the pain will stop but you slowly realize that death is not coming; that the pain you feel is not going away but only growing in intensity. This pain and torture will never end, you are forever condemned to spend eternity suffering because you rejected the one true God, and you are in HELL!!!
Hell is not a universal understanding. Different cultures and religions express hell within the context of their worldview. Hell, as we have come to know in the West, is the place souls go to after death if they reject the teachings of Jesus Christ. Hell has been described as a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, of outer darkness, a place of torment, a place of sorrows, everlasting destruction and a place where men are tormented with fire and brimstone for eternity.
This punishment seems very extreme and if Christians really believe this, why are there not more Christians desperately trying to convert people before they die? The Bible clearly states that no one comes to the father but through the son. Simply put, you have to believe in Jesus’s sacrifice to be able to join God in heaven. What are some of the things that will get you a ticket straight to Hell? Here is a list: Idolatry, adultery, prostitution, theft, greed, drunkenness, swindling, impurity, witchcraft, discord, jealousy, fits of rage (Jesus did this in the Temple and at the fig tree), dissensions (Jesus went against the priest), factions and envy, orgies, lying (God has caused people to lie for his benefit), cowardice, unbelief, sorcery, sexual immorality, homosexual offenses, slander, hatred, selfish ambition, abomination and murder. Wow, with an exception to the few items on this list, just being human pretty much condemns you to Hell. Only a handful of these have any civil or criminal repercussion in the United States and even the more severe ones like murder have punishments way less than what God would do to you if you get drunk. How can God be compassionate and all loving but still be OK with torturing souls for eternity? Isn’t that a contraction in terms? Before we get into the philosophical reason on why Hell is improbable, we have to first look at where Hell came from, it’s evolution through history.
Over the course of human history, civilizations have adopted different beliefs throughout the world. Some cultures preach a hell-type place and other don’t. Briefly, here are a few of the major ancient cavitation’s that had an influence on our concept of Hell.
The Assyrians and Babylonians had their version of hell. When you died, you were sent to a grim underworld from where you could not escape. This place was known as the “house of dust” because it was believed that humans crawl around on their bellies and eat dust. This hellish place was ruled by the goddess Erishkiggel and her husband Negal. After spending a year in darkness, crawling around on your stomach and eating dirt, your soul was eventually annihilated. One interesting story about the Babylonian underworld is the one about the goddess Inanna. Inanna is the sister of Erishkiggel, the goddess of the underworld. Inanna visits her sister, they get into a fight and Erishkiggel hangs Inanna on a stake for three days. Inanna’s followers petition the gods to allow her to return and Erishkiggel reluctantly let’s her go but someone would have to pay her ransom. So Inann’s shepherd consort Dumuzi is turned over to Erishkiggel for Inanna’s ransom . Does that sound familiar? No eternal suffering found here .
In Ancient Egypt, eternal life was typically reserved for the ruling class. However, during the Middle Kingdom, which lasted between 2055 BCE and 1650 BCE, the rise of the cult of Osiris lead to even the humblest of follower gaining access to eternal life. Moral fitness was the dominant factor in determining ones suitability. Upon dying, an individual faces judgment by a tribunal of forty-two divine judges; this had to be somewhat intimidating. If you were found to have lived a good life according to the precepts set forth by the Goddess Maat, you were welcomed into the afterlife. If you were found guilty, you were thrown to the devourer and no eternal life for you. If you were taken to the devourer, you were subject to terrifying punishments and then annihilated. You were not tortured for all of eternity .
The Greeks had a version of hell that is somewhat familiar. Below heaven, earth and the sea is Tartarus, a deep, gloomy place which is used as a dungeon of torment and suffering. It resides within Hades, which is the entire Greek underworld. Souls were sent here to be punished for their sins both men and gods. Also, both men and gods came and went so it appears this state was not eternal.
Now let us turn our attention to the first of three Abrahamic religions, Judaism.
Historically in Judaism, there was not concept of hell or an afterlife. This can be seen when God told Abraham that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars. During the Hellenic period, which was between 323 BC – 146 BC, the concept of an afterlife was develoedt, mostly due to the influence of the Greeks at the time. Judaism does not have a concept of hell but Orthodox traditions describe a place called Gehenna. Gehenna is not hell but a grave. It is a place where one wait’s to be judged based on one’s life’s deeds. You would not spend eternity in Gehenna and the longest one could stay there is 12 months, similar to the Assyrians and Babylonians . Sheol, which is described as a dark and deep pit, is where you go after death where you are cutoff from God and mankind. Some Jewish traditions think a heaven-like afterlife await and others think a resurrection into a world similar to the Garden of Eden will occur. If you do not make it to the resurrection, you cease to exist. Some texts suggest an eternal punishment but this is not clear .
Continuing on our journey through the Middle East, our next stop is Islam. Islam has been accused of borrowing a lot from Christian and Jewish traditions. This is pretty apparent when it comes to the concept of Hell. Hell in Islam is called Jahannam, which is related to the Hebrew word Gehenna. Muslim Hell resembles Christian Hell where souls are condemned to a fiery fate with different levels of punishment based on sins committed while alive and punishment is for eternity.
Christian Hell is pretty straight forward. It is a place where condemned souls go to be punished for eternity. There are different theological perspectives on Hell based on what denomination you look at. Most Protestant churches, the Catholic Church and some Greek Orthodox churches teach that punishment is for eternity and souls will be tortured. So denominations teach that souls sent to Hell will be annihilated, some teach that all souls will eventually reconcile with God. Jehovah’s Witness hold that the soul ceases to exist when you die and Hell is just non-existence. Our modern concept of Hell is heavily influenced by the Poem Dante’s Inferno which depicts different levels of Hell and torture based on the sin committed while alive. Christian Hell is similar to Zoroastrian hell but in Zoroastrian hell, punishments fit the crime and souls do not rest in eternal damnation. Eventually the souls will be resurrected and judge and the sinful ones will be destroyed. Some versions for Christianity take this worldview but it is still not entirely clear.
Let’s now focus on the Christian God and Hell. Are the Christian God and Hell compatible?
There are two main issues with Hell and the Christian God.
- Is Hell compatible with justice? and
- Is Hell compatible with God’s mercy?
The believer has to jump through many hoops to reconcile the infinite punishment of Hell with the finite span of a human life. If we are to believe this life is just a test, then it has an end, which makes it finite. If we are to believe Hell is real and infinite, do the sins we commit in a finite life warrant infinite punishment? The believer claims to have special knowledge that we are all sinful in God’s eyes but it really is a guessing game. Another problem is how salvation is obtained. One must accept Jesus Christ in order to be saved from Hell but there are many people on this planet that have not heard of Jesus. Are they to be punished for eternity because of ignorance? The concept of original sin is a convenient loophole believer’s jump through when you mention the fact that we are not responsible for the sin of being human. Why is it my problem if a guy name Adam ate a fruit? Is it fair to punish children for the sins of the father? God seems to think so. This also calls into question the concept of free will. How can a God that is omniscient and omnipresent not know how things will turn out? God knows the final stage of everyone ever born and yet to be born. How can we have free will? Does this mean God knowingly condemns people to Hell? Is this the action of a merciful God?
How can an omnibenevolent God send people to Hell? Apologists will claim that Hell is a choice. We freely choose Hell or Heaven. But is God knows the final state, how are we to freely choose to go to Hell? Wouldn’t God already know I would reject him, even till my death? If this life is a test, are mere mortals capable of making such an important eternal decision? If my soul was to be sent to Hell and God did not provide me with enough evidence of his existence, am I responsible for rejecting Him? The deck is stacked against us, what do we have to go on? A book written over 2000 years ago? God is just using scare tactics to force you to believe in Him. Either you believe in me and are saved or go to Hell where I will punish you for eternity. God is not giving us a free choice. He is bullying us to believe in Him.
Hell is not real. It is mythology and I feel sorry for any person that believes in its existence and to believe in a God that created Hell is all loving and care about you. If we take the Bible at face value, God created the problem of Evil, then he proposed solution of sacrificing himself to himself but it was his son to fix a problem he created. On top of that, we are to believe that his is all-knowing, all-powerful and merciful and that we have free will. These statements contradict each other. The believer will say that you have to have faith. I challenge any believer to demonstrate to me how their God can exist without using faith. Do the punishments fit the crime? What does Satan gain for gathering all these souls? Wouldn’t Satan know what he is doing is for nothing in the end? What is God’s end game? What religion is the right one? There are some many variables that need to be accounted for before you can make a decision that will ultimately decide your eternal resting place. It is best to place Hell and God in their rightful place, in the realm of mythology.
The Gospels According to Google Voice Mark 2:1-12
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