Sooner or later this topic was going to come up. As a former religious person, I find the concept of Hell somewhat revolting, and it is one of the most important things which got me to consider leaving Christianity. So let’s discuss Hell and its problems which Christians tend to overlook.
The Bible teaches that everyone is a sinner and unclean in God’s eyes. Anyone who dies and doesn’t receive salvation from Jesus will go to Hell, because everybody has sinned at least once and therefore isn’t worthy of being in the presence of God. This is presented like it’s a choice; if you choose to not receive salvation then you will suffer eternal torment after death. How this salvation occurs differs slightly depending on your denomination, but for most it isn’t earned and it’s a ‘choice’ you have to make.
What kind of asshole God demands that his creation must worship him or else they suffer eternally in Hell?
There is nothing remotely just about this.
It’s not loving.
It’s not a choice.
If you think we have a choice then let me explain. Let’s say I’m a robber and you’re a storekeeper and I put a gun to your head demanding all your money or else I will blow your brains out. Do you have a choice in the matter? Well technically you do, but since you’re under coercion I would hardly consider it a choice. You would be stupid to say no since your life is on the line. If I didn’t put a gun to your head and demanded the same thing, it’s unlikely you would comply otherwise. Similarly, who would decline Jesus’s ‘gift’ of salvation if they believed they would suffer in Hell eternally – hardly a choice!
It’s not justice. One thing many Christians like about Hell is that it means punishment for the wicked. They say, wouldn’t you rather the thief above be punished than be let off free? But the problem is, the thief would still go to heaven if he receives salvation while someone else who lived a mostly good life would still go to Hell if they didn’t. THAT is what The Bible teaches, not that Hell is only for evil people like Hitler. Justice…not.
How can a loving God create something like Hell? If I give you the option to love me or else I will throw you into a furnace forever, is that love? I am pretty sure that would be sadistic abuse if a person did that, yet God somehow gets a free pass. If people aren’t evil, can’t God let them do their own thing?
So yeah, I have a big problem with the concept of Hell, despite fervently believing in it as a Christian and being worried I might end up there someday. Interestingly, the concept of Hell seems to occur only in the New Testament, as Jews (who use a lot of the Old Testament for their teachings) don’t seem to have the same concept of Hell, but rather a temporary place of purgatory (Gehenna). I can’t speak for all Jews though… Even in the New Testament, supposed descriptions of Hell are quite vague. The most graphic descriptions mention “weeping and gnashing of teeth” and “the place where their worm doesn’t die and their thirst doesn’t quench”. Many of the other descriptions of Hell such as being punished by demons or being burnt alive don’t come from The Bible but were inspired by popular literature such as Dante’s Inferno.
Hell was likely created later on after the Old Testament times and was used as a (must I say effective) tool of fear control to keep people under submission to religious authorities. Now Christians mostly like to avoid discussing Hell despite still believing in it and having it in their Bible. When I started to question my Christian faith, I had quite a few dreams where I was being sent to Hell, and damn did it suck. I’m gradually letting go of this, but sometimes a nagging voice in the back of my head tells me:
“But what if?”
Trying to fear me back into submission again.
Trying to get me to abandon rational thought for some strong emotions I once felt.
Trying to get me on a cycle of feeling I’m not good enough and having to turn from my ‘sins’ which I can’t.
I believed in Hell all my life, so getting away from it wasn’t easy.
But I won’t have it anymore.
I won’t be a slave to God anymore.
I can do what I want as long as it makes me and other people happy.
I am free to enjoy my life in the way I truly want to. How is that for some real freedom?
A truly loving God wouldn’t want you to go to Hell.
They wouldn’t even consider creating one.
They wouldn’t coerce you to “choose” to not go there by following them.
In general, I don’t have a problem with religion despite not believing in it myself. But Hell is a grotesque concept that ruins peoples lives by making them slaves to fear, it should be burnt like the many heretical books Christians burnt. There is no place for Hell in today’s society.