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renewedfaith1964

What The Hell?

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I've been a Christian for my entire adult life, over 30 years. Over the last few years I have been troubled by Hell. It just doesn't fit. Jesus talks about God's unending love, but then says that people can go to hell for eternity. Something is missing from this picture. I just don't think we have all the answers. I knew a guy who was killed at 19. He was a decent guy who got into occasional trouble. He and a friend were on a motorcycle, running from the cops. They exited the freeway at 100 mph, lost control, then slammed into a tree. He probably wasn't a Christian. Does is seem fair that a kid who lived about 6 years within the age of accountability would suffer the same eternal consequence as Satan? Somewhere along the line, this message must have been screwed up.

 

I was so upset about these types of topics, that I wrote a book (free download at Smashwords.com) called: "iDoubt: When Faith Falters." One particular chapter is called "What the Hell." It addresses this very topic. I would like input from others.

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Hi CP,

 

Welcome to the forum. Took a glance at your book and it seems to me you will find little IF ANY disagreement in this community. Most have been down the same path of church programming, then doubt, questioning and living with uncertainty. (WHICH IS NOT A BAD THING AT ALL)

 

Take your time and browse around the forum.

 

While you will find a few fundamentalists Christians stop in from time to time (and are welcomed) , we are for the most part a mixed bag of progressive labels here with most coming from a Christian background that identify with some of the insightful teachings of Jesus and Paul but seeing things in a different light than is commonly taught in traditional Christian churches.

 

Personally i went through much of the same as you and also published a book called "Throwing away God" (metaphor) which exposed 5 false premises of the traditional Christian church system (one of which chapters was titled "Heaven and Hell" that succeeded in banishing me from the traditional Christian church and my role as a licensed evangelist. Anyway, feel free to introduce yourself in the Water Cooler (introductions) area of this forum and make yourself at home.

 

Look forward to your mutual participation in sharing and gaining insights from progressive Christians and others here.

 

Joseph

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Wow, I already really like this site! I can't tell you how much your welcome means. Last week, I went on a different Christian website. I decided to try to bring up discussions about doubt, unbelief, and forgiveness. I got judgment. I decided to raise the same issues on a completely different website, an ex-Christian website. That website was even worse. I was thinking, "Isn't there something in between?" This website is what I have been missing. Looking forward to what I will find here!

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Hi,

 

I sympathise. My own distaste with certain Christian beliefs has been part of the reason I have now ended by identifying as a Pure Land Buddhist. When I post now, on various forums, I do so in the context of Interfaith dialogue. More often than not, in engagement with Christians I seek to say that the "work of Christ" extends beyond Creed or any particular Theology, and even encompasses the whole world of Faith, "eastern", "western" and all points between....... :)

 

This has earned me the titles "Anti-christ" , "son of satan", the "voice of satan" and "anti-christian bigot" (these from the past year, the names from further back are now fortunately beginning to fade from memory.

 

Given your own problems with "hell" I would recommend the following......"The Inescapable Love of God" by Thomas Talbot, and "Patristic Universalism" by David Burnfield, both of which argue convincingly for the Universalist option, the latter especially being extremely rich in Biblical support.

Edited by tariki
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I think a firm belief in hell can be one of the most destructive thoughts humans can entertain. It is destructive of the present moment. But without it “heaven” seems to lose its significance. It doesn't seem "fair" if everyone goes to heaven. For a devout Christian, they both go hand in hand. Without them, Christianity pretty much falls apart; may as well become a Buddhist, but without a belief in rebirth, that falls apart too!

 

I have considered this issue over many years, and I think our main fear is an existential one – what are we to make of the fact of existence, and what (if anything) happens after we die? Is it the eternal void, or bliss/damnation? These questions are so speculative, that to dwell on them destroys the present moment, which is the only moment we really have. If enlightenment exists, or the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, we must already have everything we need to access them. What a shame to miss it!

 

 

Peace.

Steve

Edited by SteveS55
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CP,

 

Growing up in a Christian household and giving my life to Jesus at 13, was all normal to me. Hell seemed very nasty but it was God's will, so that ended the matter. Of course that view relied on the validity and particular interpretation of biblical texts.

 

All in all, I was fairly insulated seeing as the Church and church basketball was my entire social life.

 

Then I joined the police force at 18 and had my eyes opened as to how many other people live. Learning law and dealing with crime crime, the concepts of mitigating circumstances and justice were ever-present. This made me question God's so-called justice of sentencing someone to an eternity of Hell because they didn't 'believe' the right doctrine here on earth.

 

Years of anger & frustration followed resulting in my leaving Christianity. It wasn't until decades later that I revisited the matter and learnt that there were different things to consider about how the bible came to be revered as "God's Word" and its interpretation. Cultural context and its impact on the bible's writings also threw new light onto the matter for me.

 

As Joseph points out, I am no orphan here in these experiences. For many, yourself included, we are incapable of believing that there could be a loving God somewhere prepared to allow his beloved children to suffer eternal punishment, within his power to rectify, but with such a God refusing to do so. That to me, sounds very much like a man-made concept.

 

Welcome to the forum and I look forward to your participation and further contributions.

 

Cheers

Paul

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Last night I was watching a video of members of the military surprising their families by coming home early. It was a super tear-jerker video. Here it is, just for the fun of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dKWq0CzK-k. The response of the kids was precious. One particular kid was met by his dad at school. The kid was about 12. He walked out of his class, was shocked to see his dad, then ran and jumped into the air, allowing his dad to catch him. It was pure, unadulterated love. I got to thinking: God says that his mercy endures forever. He loves us more than this boy loved his father. If that is so, then my life should reflect this boy's, who had nothing but pure love for his father. My life should not be filled with fear of death and hell. A God who truly loves us would not hang that over heads. I think the translation has been screwed up. I believe that Jesus is the savior, but that the issue of hell is way out of wack.

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My heart tells me that there is no way there could be an all-loving God who is content to see the majority of his children suffer for all eternity. I have two children and would never turn my back on them, ever. A God who would do that is a monster in my book and not worthy of worship. That said, i dont believe a God like that exists and I think any God like that is a fabrication of man's thoughts.

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How many times in your life have you made a romantic pitch to someone else and flopped? Usually the attempt satisfied you even if you did not obtain the desired result. Unfortunately, we have all seen too many stories in the news about a man who kills his ex-girlfriend since she would not reciprocate his love. Such stories always anger me. I usually envision the man being a pathetic, disgusting person.Something is wrong with the concept of using violence to force love.

Is the love God holds out to us any different from the love that the ex-boyfriend has offered? If we accept God’s love, all is well; if not, we will receive damnation beyond measure. Something is wrong with this picture.

I was just reading in John 5:25 this morning, where Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who will hear will live." The scripture clearly is talking about people who are already dead. How can dead people hear the gospel? I thought you had to have your act together before you died? However, Jesus is saying the opposite. From what I gather, even after death, Jesus gives people a chance. I realize this is anathema to many contemporary Christians, but I did not write John 5:25. Maybe God is much, much, much more forgiving than we realize. I would not be surprised if, after death, all were given a chance, and only a very few who truly hated Jesus and wanted nothing to do with him went to hell.

Going back to what I said. If God said, "I love you so much, here's my son. But, if you don't reciprocate you will be DAMNED!" That does not sound like love in any form. I think Satan has distorted this message. Remember, God said that his mercy "endures forever." How can it endure forever if he sends people to hell forever? I think his love does endure FOREVER. Love endures forever, not torment.

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I think its interesting that the concept of Hell is not restricted to Christianity and goes back to ancient Egypt. The idea of judgement makes me think not so much a place to consign those who don't agree with a worldview as the idea of karma. As if our actions are somehow affective to not just the materials forms but non-material forms. I don't buy into the Christian notion of hell that evved out out Jewish apocalypticism but am more wiling to accept the possibility that other dimensions of reality exist at other frequencies where other "beings" exist and that we are somehow linked to. Hell then can be a result of our actions and not seperateness from but still a part of, for lack of a better term, God. There is no anthropomorphic being but an essence or energy which is intelligent in some way as I think all material form is conscious.

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My heart tells me that there is no way there could be an all-loving God who is content to see the majority of his children suffer for all eternity. I have two children and would never turn my back on them, ever. A God who would do that is a monster in my book and not worthy of worship. That said, i dont believe a God like that exists and I think any God like that is a fabrication of man's thoughts.

 

 

Totally agree. I believe in Jesus, but think the whole hell thing is vastly misunderstood.

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Welcome to the Forum, CP.

 

I read the chapter you referenced in your opening post. Nice bit of writing!

 

Hell is only of benefit if one believes there is such a thing as Original Sin. In fact, without out it; OS is fairly meaningless. I think the late Christian church invented the place, fashioning it from bits and pieces of Greek references to Hades. Greek philosophy - particularly that of Plato - is very dualistic. Therefore, Heaven must have a corollary; Hell.

 

The original group of Jesus' followers were Jewish (like me!), and did not have a well defined concept of an afterlife. Judaism has always been focused on the present and not apocalyptic in the same way modern (post 3rd century CE) Christianity evolved.

 

In our faith expression, we celebrate Yom Kippur (you Gentiles call it the Day of Atonement). This is the point in time within the Jewish calendar that we recognize that G-d has already forgiven our sinfulness.

 

 

יב. כִּרְחֹק מִזְרָח מִמַּעֲרָב הִרְחִיק מִמֶּנּוּ אֶת פְּשָׁעֵינוּ: As the distance of east from west, He distanced our transgressions from us. - Tehillim (Psalms) - Chapter 103

 

The whole concept of a creator-god punishing it's creation like a little boy on a sidewalk burning ants with a magnifying glass repulses me.

 

I hope you find this Forum a place of intellectual discovery.

 

NORM

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I sometimes wonder about the notion of God's punishment and how we end up thinking about God. If of course you are inclined to personalize or anthropomorphise God. Having children has made me think more about it. When I have to discipline my child as they begin to become more conscious of themselves and begin to realize how much they can get away with they might form an image of me as overtly disciplinary. To them there is some fear as they realize the limits of their own actions. Even despite my assurance that I love them it is almost impossible to communicate why discipline is needed. I am not tslking corporal punishment here either. Raise this natural growth of consciousness with the need to right formation to the cosmic level along with some natural human tendency for dysfunction and no wonder the image if God can be seen as disciplinarian who will punish you for eternity. I can only wonder. Even the law of karma is somewhat worrisome as it implies that you are redponsible of the pain an suffering you may cause to yourself and to others and that amount of suffering and pain in indeterminable. Do we know anything about our past and future lives - if you buy into that. Even if you font thee is the acceptance that our actions, thoughts and intentions matter and no matter how good we think these are they might not be enough. Good intentions can go back very easily. No one knows if they can do good without doing harm. Never was a good act done without someone being harmed by it to some extent. That caild be a necessary harm, but harm nonetheless. Some Christians believe that Hell is not so much punishment as it is purification on a deep spiritual level.

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I don't ever remember believing in hell (or heaven for that matter).

Even when I half heartedly tried becoming a Christian (the Lutheran flavour) over forty years ago; these concepts seemed unreal, and by and large unnecessary.

 

Today these concepts are the here and now and are perceptions, a result of thinking in terms of good and evil (tasting the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

 

ps

for me god might exist, God definitely is an illusion.

By coincidence I chose rom as my handle ... overtime I find that Rom was and is also an illusion.

Edited by romansh

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As a Roman Catholic growing up the notion if Hell was similar to how Bart Simpson thought of it - kind of cool because there were pirates in Hell. I kept being told it wasn't a good place to be.

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I hope you find this Forum a place of intellectual discovery.

 

NORM

 

Thank you, Norm. I sincerely appreciate it. The weird thing about Jesus and hell is that it almost looks like it was forced into the text. One minute, Jesus is discussing the Sermon on the Mount, loving your brother, and caring for the needy. Then in an instant, he suddenly comes out of left field with this declaration that people are going to hell! What? That just doesn't seem to fit the true character of Jesus.

Edited by renewedfaith1964

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It's no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense. Mark Twain



To me it makes sense to view theNew Testament as primarily a collection of different authors who are trying to describe their spiritual view points using Christ as a metaphor that is somewhat dodgely interwoven with a historical Jesus.


Many historical scholars would argue that Jesus did not speak of heaven and hell, and that it was later authors that added those bits.



Here is Rex Weyler's account of what Jesus may have actually said. While Weyler is not a scholar himself he said he based his conclusions on other Biblical scholars' work. Makes for a nice read either way.

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I feel hell is in our minds, not so much a place with flames so if one feeds the fire it becomes the prominent thought. It is sad it is used as a whip to manipulate others with fear to either stay in church or to go to church. I like the church that makes holy water by boiling the hell out of it.

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I read this story somewhere but haven't been able to find it since (I wish I could because I'm sure the original is told much better!).

 

A Christian woman was bathing her three young sons in the bathtub when she was overcome with fear for their eternal existence. She started asking herself these questions - "What if they didn't become 'saved' when they grew up? What if they turned their back on God? What if they led sinful lives? It would be better that I just drown all three of these innocent creatures now in the bathtub to ensure they get to Heaven. Oh God please, please - take my soul instead, punish me with eternal Hell instead of my sons who I so love. Please take your wrath out on me, send me to Hell, and let my children live with you for eternity."

 

And then God spoke to her - "If you love your children this much, that you couldn't bear the thought of them suffering eternally and that you would even rather suffer an eternal Hell in their stead, then as God how much more love must I have for you and your children!"

 

I hope that makes sense. As a father of two young sons myself, it resonates with me and the story gave me reassurance when I needed it that such a place, such a God, could not exist.

 

Cheers

Paul

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Paul

I must admit i have difficulty understanding how any adult could possibly worry about a literal heaven or hell.

 

It just boggles my mind ... I don't grok it.

 

rom

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Romansh

 

It's my opinion that groking is essential to engage in dialogue with those whose beliefs differ than your own. Of course it's everyone's right not to grok. I know in many of my posts I seem critical of PC as it some (perhaps most perhaps not as many) seem unwilling to grok. Hey it's their right. It's been my experience that coming to know "the other" (in this case those Christians who have very very very different theological views from my own) then I don't seek to change or enlighten them with my own views. That would make me no different than how negatively I perceive them to be.

 

I understand why the view of Hell of some Christians is held. These people are not moral monsteras. Some might be. They have a very solid rationale and sturdy foundation upon which to state their beliefs. You're free to disagree with that or not but it's a fact that their beliefs are reasonable to them. Whether they are wrong or not well for me I don't know. I only know what works for me - the greatest virtue a progressive christian can hold. What matters is will I consign these people to hell because I don't like them or disagree with them? By hell I mean demonizing them or not seeking to understand them.

 

Should we want to imagine why people think differently than us? That doesn't mean what they believe is right. But we all have to get over this "we/them" mentality.

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Paul, I remember reading that story as a news item in the paper. It was a while back so can't remember the details.

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Paul

I must admit i have difficulty understanding how any adult could possibly worry about a literal heaven or hell.

 

It just boggles my mind ... I don't grok it.

 

rom

I can understand that, Rom (after looking up what the word grok means) and I'm sure the concept would be as foreign to you as trying to explain colour to a blind person. It must seem like such an irrational concept. But having grown up with it, it never seemed anything other than normal. Obviously children are very impressionable, so if you're told from birth that Hell exists and indoctrinated with the surrounding theology, it's very hard not to grow up believing it.

 

There's plenty of theology and apologetics around the concept, and when you are a child who trusts their parents unquestioningly, I think it is pretty normal entering early adulthood with the concept of Hell firmly embedded in your psyche.

 

It may seem strange that an adult new to Christianity (if there is such a thing in our culture as 'new' as Christianity is so embedded in society) would take on Hell belief, but as complex as human psychology is I'm sure there are many latent conditions or reasons why that person's mind accepts that belief. Perhaps it provides them with some security that others will get 'justice', or reaffirms the opposite for them - that there is a Heaven that they will go to one day. I'm sure psychologists could write unendingly on the various reasons different people believe different things.

 

In my case, I believed from ever since I can remember until I was 18/19, then rejected the concept, but I can tell you it is a hard one to shrug when you've been indoctrinated with it from birth. I thought it was all gone until I suffered anxiety at the age of 40 because of financial worries and how they might effect my family (wife and two young sons) and because of a prompt from a Christian friend at that time, the memories of that Hell belief came rushing back. It took me over a year to get over that little episode! (I'm 45 now). During that time, as irrational as it may seem, I couldn't shrug the worry, but I couldn't make myself believe it either. At one point I was very nearly suicidal even (quick plug - this forum helped me through that time immensely). Why my mind works that way? - as I said before, I'm sure psychologists could write volumes.

 

Hell is absurd and I wish we could stop people indoctrinating their children with this fear. The psychological harm it sets so many of them up for in later life is horrendous. It's tempting in these times to say we should just let people believe what they believe, and who are we to say they are wrong, etc. But just like slavery and homophobia were once the norm, I think there comes a point where we should be saying loud and proud "this is wrong, you are hurting people teaching this stuff, there is no Hell so stop this nonsense".

 

Cheers

Paul

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From a dualistic standpoint, it seems to me , that Hell is as real as the screen you are reading this post on. While it certainly cannot be seen directly with your eyes, it seems to me its effects indeed can be seen. In my experience, one can experience what i see as Hell directly as feelings, uncontrolled thoughts, or negative emotions. It may not have a physical locality that you can identify but it seems you can non-the-less experience its depths in relation to the depth or extremeness of tormenting jelousy, covetness, anger, grief, sorrow, etc. or depression one may pass through. It also seems to me that in a sense, Hell is a state of non-acceptance or mental resistance to what is in the moment. Perhaps a burning desire that cannot be filled or quenched. Obviously this is not exactly the way traditional Christianity teaches but to me, i see those in some level of torment daily. On the other hand i see people who experience Heaven daily. I read of experiences on this forum that convince me that many others here have also experienced some depth of both even if they don't identify it with those words. (Hell or Heaven).


Just musing,

Joseph

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