The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has some ads broadcast on CNN recently. The spokesperson, Ron Reagan, ended the ad with the phrase ” “life-long atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.” The FFRF has an excellent blog post addressing the outcry about that particular phrase and the idea of “hell” here.
I have not much to add to the FFRF post about hell. I find the idea of a hell, in any religion, to be nothing more than violent sadistic fantasies indulged in by people who want anyone who disagrees with them punished. Many theists have retreated from their more violent versions to say that their hell is just “separation” from God a la C.S. Lewis, and insist that it’s the choice of the non-believer in whatever religion to go to hell since they don’t want to be around this god anyway. However, that is just one more fiction to add to the myth.
10 thoughts on “Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – The case against Hell”
The Christian ‘hell’ does not even feature in the bible and Judaism has no concept of it and did not teach it.
The character,Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew and he did not teach it either.
I’d have to disagree, from what I learned as a Christian. When the character Jesus speaks about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, it certainly reminds me of the classic Christian hell that I was taught was real. Same with the claims of eternal fire in Matthew 3, 18 and 25, for what use is an eternal fire but for eternal torture? Same with Mark 9, where worms and fire are promised in hell, taking the words from Isaiah 66, where it’s only talking about dead bodies.
JC is certainly looking forward to fire and death: Luke 12 “49 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
We all read the bible on English.
From my research, the words used in the bible were Sheol ( OT )and Gehenna. (NT) which refers to an actual place outside Jerusalem – a rubbish tip that once continually burned and the place where the ancient Canaanites performed human sacrifice – apparently.
The area is now a park! Go figure?
There is another word used in Psalms, I think, for a place for fallen angels only. I forget the word, Begins with T.
In Greek it all became Hades and the closest English equivalent was Hell.
I can dig out a more accurate account later but at the moment I’m dog tired.
I guess this is where Google is your friend!
I agree, there are different words used in the bible, but the idea of a hell, where people are sent to be tortured for refusing to obey a god is in the bible.
Perhaps you were thinking of Tartarus?
That’s the word! Gracias.
I’ll need to dig up the resources I have.
But not this evening.
I know Sheol simply means grave/ underworld.
This changed a bit when the book was translated in Greek.
But as far as I am aware there is no concept of an eternal hell for humans in Judaism.
no, not in Judaism. They seemed to be pretty sure dead was dead. 🙂 except for the few that were taken to heaven in UFOs 🙂
Re: Hell is just “separation” from God
I’ve always wondered how an omnipresent God will pull that one off. 🙂
yep, those “Omni” claims for this god always make it rather entertaining to watch Christians make excuses. 🙂
Allow me to make a couple of corrections as to some misunderstandings that you have about Christianity.
Sadly, hell is not a place of separation from God. I say “sadly” because simple separation from God would be better than what will happen. As you correctly pointed out, God is omnipresent. This means He will be present in hell. However, instead of revealing grace, mercy, love, etc., He will unleash the full presence of His wrath and justice on those who decline to accept His free of salvation. None of us are perfect; we have all done wrong things which are a crime against His perfect Holiness. Jesus took our punishment in His place. If we decline to accept this gift it is like we are saying, “no thanks, don’t give me the key to get out of prison. I’ll stay here.” We chose to be punished.
Not only that, but the Christians I know do not want to inflict hell on those who disagree with us. Yes, there are always misguided nut jobs like Westboro Baptist, but don’t let the bizarre extremists set the narrative for the rest of us. The truth is, we want people to know Jesus in a saving way. We give time, money, and energy in a task that we are often ridiculed for, not because we like the ridicule but because we have a desire that people escape God’s wrath. Trust me, I don’t wish my worst enemy a moment in hell.
I know hell is a thing that we don’t like to talk about and thus, due to either weak theology or weak stomachs, many Christians try to water it down. That does not mean that it won’t be what God has said that it is, though.
For further reading to find out more about what evangelicals really believe the Bible says about hell, try Erasing Hell by Francis Chan.
I was going to write a longer reply but I figured I’d start with a couple of questions.
How do you know your version is the right one?
How do you know everyone else, including other religions are wrong?