• What are your personal views on Hell?

    I would imagine that most of you people in here dont believe in the literal "fire and brimstone" eternal hell.  (though i could be surprised).

    With my catholic upbringing as a child, hell was taught to us as a real place that existed, this idea stayed in my head well into my teens, it's taken quite a few years to wean myself off of this concept. My brother in particular was affected quite badly with threats of hell, .. these have even accompanied him into adulthood in various guises.

    Do you simply see hell as a place that is somehow "not with god"? which could mean some kind of an eternal emptiness. I'd be quite happy with that really, .. it reminds me of Mark Twains quote when asked about death .."I was nothing for billions of years, and it didn't inconveinience me in the slightest"

    It would be interesting to hear any personal views of hell.

  • exchemist May 2012
    I'll have a go Bonnie, though others are far better qualified. I was taught it was a state possibly reached by truly evil people upon their death, due to the self-realisation, upon being confronted with God, of the magnitude of what they had made themselves into, through their evil thoughts and actions in this life. So a self-imposed state of eternal regret, self-loathing, hatred of God for being there at all, or something like that. But it was always stressed that we have no idea who if anyone has really gone to hell, because nobody has any idea of the extent of God's mercy towards sinners. This more or less makes sense to me, if there is a God. 

    (By the same token, purgatory - Protestant readers feel free to wince here - was explained as a similar sort of thing in which the sinner, at death, comes face to face with his moral shortcomings in this life and as a result undergoes a painful process of acknowledgement and contrition that eventually fades, allowing him to enter the heavenly state. My parents (one Catholic, one Anglican) used the War as an example: everyone who fought saw fellow soldiers killed who were very rough, perhaps only used the word "Christ" as an expletive, got drunk, fought, maybe enjoyed killing the enemy, etc. It seemed absurd that such people would go straight to heaven, but equally preposterous that they would have condemned themselves eternally to hell. Purgatory made sense of what would happen to such people.)     

    I have to say that, aside from the above, and not at all consistent with it, there was and is an idea in the Catholic church about dying in a state of "mortal sin" automatically sending you to hell. But since "mortal sins" include a long list of offences that are pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things, such as fornication and not going to mass every sunday, I personally think the idea has no credibility and threw it out long ago. (There is undeniably a mechanistic streak in Catholicism, inherited from mediaeval times, which seems quite absurd to educated people nowadays. I like the church in spite of these defects, not because of them.) 

  • SimonSimon May 2012
    Have we not done this already on your first thread? I definitely recall writing:

    I think I would be very hesitant to say who will or won't experience heaven. In fact the view I consistently take is one of agnosticism when it comes to the afterlife. Like you I find it very difficult to believe in traditional conceptions of hell, and perhaps even more so if it would mean that millions of people were to suffer from being born into the wrong culture. However I think that getting caught up on this issue might be a distraction from more important things.
  • Hi Simon, .. i think I might have briefly mentioned it (without trawling back through all my old threads). But I think it's a subject thats well worthy of more comment.. surely more than one small paragraph. As I've mentioned several times, from my catholic background the subject of hell has left a massive imprint on my life. ( and I've no doubt, millions of other catholics throughout history) .. "Be good or you'll go to hell". A  local church near me (Fairford) has a very famous stained glass window that has extremely horrid depictions of Hell dating back to the 13th century.. you can imagine the terror these images put into many many generations of superstitious folk throughout the ages. I've no doubt it had the desired effect of keeping the local population from wrongdoing.. up to a point, although I'm sure it wasn't 100% successful.

    I've always felt sorry for Judas Iscariot, his very name evokes badness. But surely he was part of gods plan .. didn't he need Judas to play his part in the whole crucifixion scene. Judas seems to be regarded by Christianity as bordering on evil.. or connected with evil. Does the fact ( i use that term loosely) that Judas kills himself mean he's condemned to eternal hell? .. he didn't recieve any redemption from Christ .. unlike one of the thieves on the cross. Surely if Jesus was going to forgive anyone, Judas would be high on his list.( i may have to glean up on the betrayal story in case I'm mistaken).

    I have inumberable problems with the concept of hell. I would not rest easy knowing that anyone is suffering eternal pain, no matter how "evil" they were here on earth, even Hitler I dont think would deserve such agony. I would derive no pleasure in knowing he was suffering in some eternal afterlife, .. it would make no sense to me that an all loving god would send anyone there.. although I'm sure you'll tell me thats not how it works.

    Maybe this is just a catholic hang up with Hell. I'm glad you see the problems of hell as church defects Exchemist, maybe we're both singing from the same hymnsheet.

    I had lots of other thoughts on this subject, but time has caught up with me.

  • Crypto December 2012
    I envision hell as an eternal and complete separation from God. That separation is painful because God is the source of everything that is good, including happiness. However, people that are destined to remain in hell forever have chosen to do so, by repeatedly rejecting God. Why would God force them to be around Him if they don't want to do so? They don't reject God out of ignorance, since the nature of God is revealed in the Bible, for everyone to see it. It is precisely the nature of God what they reject, and that nature is goodness itself. Therefore, by rejecting God, they reject everything that is good, and they replace it with their own moral standards. This is precisely what led Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit: they wanted to replace God. When I think about it, I get to the conclusion that we don't need to be dead to experience hell (the absence of God). We have all experienced the painful sufferings that sin can entail, and sin is a temporal, partial separation from God.