Oh, Hell

Oh, Hell

Hell either exists or it does not, a tautological statement, and therefore necessarily true. If it does not, then you have nothing to worry about, nothing to be sorry for, and there is nothing you need do in preparing for your death, which will certainly come. There is also nothing you need do in conducting your life, either, to avoid going to a place that does not exist. The only fear is that other people might persecute or punish you for what they, and not necessarily you, feel are crimes. Fearing death is irrational because death brings only non-existence or possibly something else which is not Hell.

If Hell exists, then either some or none go there. In none go there, then again there is nothing for you to worry about or confess. Your behavior, no matter how reprehensible (by whatever definition), can never earn eternal punishment. For Hell, by definition, is eternal separation from God, which is the worst punishment there is. If Hell exists, so does God. If some go to Hell you have to approach your salvation from being sent there with fear and trembling, to coin a phrase.

If there is no Hell it does not follow obviously that after death comes non-existence. But that is because of the ambiguity in existence. Some argue that our lives (all life) are strictly bio-mechanical, meaning we are nothing but machines, albeit complicated ones. If we are machines, it may be possible to duplicate your particular machinery, if only in software, and so duplicate you. But this is impossible given the proof that our existences cannot be wholly material. Our intellects and wills are non-material, i.e. non-physical processes, and therefore cannot be duplicated in any physical way, which includes software. Thus if there is no Hell and no God, non-existence is necessarily your patrimony. From that we deduce your existence is utterly without meaning or importance. End of story.

There are two major beliefs which propound that Hell could exist (and thus so does God) but none go there. One is called universalism, the other is annihilationism. Universalism argues all—yes, even Yours Truly, who certainly deserves Hell if it exists—are eventually brought into God’s grace. Universalism is agnostic on the question of Hell’s existence. Under universalism, it is logically possible people may go to Hell, but they would stay there only a finite time.

If universalism is true, again there is no reason to moderate your behavior in any way, for no matter what you do, it will be forgiven. Cursing God, denying Him, worshiping Satan, murder, rape, listening to NPR, whatever. Nothing you do has the least consequence in “earning” salvation, which is automatic. So you may as well have at it! Eat, drink, and kill, for tomorrow we die. And are received into God’s arms. It is, of course, logically possible that God orders Heaven into a hierarchy and that, because of your misdeeds, you earn a lower spot in paradise, but that you go there, under universalism, is guaranteed.

Annihilationism argues that only the good, considered under God’s rules, reach Heaven, and that the bad are snuffed out, their souls annihilated. Bad people reach complete non-existence. You may call this a punishment if you wish, but it is an odd use of the word, because at the end there is no you to be punished. Where once you were, nothing is left, just as if God did not exist. If annihilationism holds, your behavior matters, but only to the extent you wish to attain Heaven, which is either earned by yourself, or is given to you by God using whatever lights He decides. If you would prefer to use your time on earth to “live it up”, doing whatever you like, the worst that can happen to you is nothing.

If Hell exists and either universalism or annihilationism holds, it is curious that God would send his son Jesus to be sacrificed on a cross. Sacrificed for what? Perhaps, in God’s mind, it was a necessary bookkeeping maneuver, a box to be ticked before universalism or annihilationism could be implemented. There was, however, no need for Jesus to come and tell us to (say) be nice to one another, for there is no need to be nice to one another if nobody is sent to eternal Hell. There is no need to do anything, except what you want. Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. The worst that can happen to you is non-existence, or a possible finite sentence in Hell.

If Hell does not exist, what are we to make of Jesus? Just after the parable of the talents, in which the “wicked, lazy servant” is cast “into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth”, Jesus, his very self, said:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left…

Then he will say to those [goats] on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’

He ends by saying the evil “will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (my, and I wonder if the were also our Lord’s, emphasis).

If there is no Hell, Jesus was either lying, mistaken, or not quite in his right mind. Not just on this occasion, but on many.

Jesus said that “at the end of the age” that the “angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

Jesus said:

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

John, quoting from the source, said that “But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Jude said “Likewise, Sodom, Gomorrah, and the surrounding towns, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual promiscuity and practiced unnatural vice, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”

Paul was convinced of Hell’s existence:

For it is surely just on God’s part to repay with afflictions those who are afflicting you, and to grant rest along with us to you who are undergoing afflictions, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his mighty angels, in blazing fire, inflicting punishment on those who do not acknowledge God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

These will pay the penalty of eternal ruin, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, when he comes to be glorified among his holy ones* and to be marveled at on that day among all who have believed, for our testimony to you was believed.

There are many other quotations, but these are sufficient here. None are denied by those who believe in God and in the non-existence of Hell, or in those who believe in Hell but say no one goes there or no one goes there permanently. These people say Jesus’s direct warnings about Hell were admonitory and not meant to be taken literally. They say that this was Jesus’s way of calling people to proper behavior. If so, this is like a teacher threatening to send a student to detention, when both the teacher and the student know there is no such thing as detention. Or in threatening to punish a criminal with an imaginary whip. It is not only useless, but bizarre and dishonest.

Why would you follow a man who said such things?


  1. richard stadter

    Thanks. I consider it thoughtful, logical and well done.

  2. Why has the current occupant of the office of Pope not yet been cast out? Are the senior Cardinals so spineless and meek that they dare not contradict the first “wise Latino” Pope? A Pope who seemingly does not believe the simple words of Jesus in the Bible, and two thousand years of Christian theology?

    The appropriate response to “There is no Hell” should be “There is no longer a Pope Francis.” It’s time for a vote of no confidence and a new election.

  3. Joy

    To remove the concept of hell for some, who enjoy abuse of power and privilege, is to take away their biggest weapon. Not of truth but of mind control a rule by fear, mental slavery and all that sadists enjoy so much. There are some perhaps particularly evil individuals who need this to be true for their own behaviour to be kept in check. There’s always prison or the death penalty for such individuals. The same ones who demand repentance whilst holding the cleaver.

    “God would send his son Jesus to be sacrificed on a cross. Sacrificed for what?”
    False question for the following reason:

    You see this is one of the problems with amateurs who take advice from the wrong people and who don’t recognise truth even when it’s staring them in the face.

    This idea of payment or sacrifice, or scapegoating, is the substitutionary theory of atonement believed in by hard line fundamentalists and calvinists. Which is why it doesn’t smell right to most Christians and even atheists looking at the logic, (which must include the definitions of the objects or entities being discussed) given how God is defined or understood Brigg’s ideas on this are erroneous..

    This is not What happened at all. He did not “send his son TO BE sacrificed”! What Briggs writes is poor theology and almost certainly false. He was killed because of who he was by ‘us’ by the immorality of mankind. It was his suffering and death which offers to mankind an example of our sins but also demonstrates that God became part of the suffering of man an that he is not distant from it but it is a direct acknowledgement of it. This is to understand atonement properly.

    Ask yourself why you need hell to exist? Briggs did this and revealed his ahem, let’s say, his less gentle side, to use Bernie’s way of describing some religious commentators.

    I have to say that i didn’t read past about half way because he went so far wrong right at the start. The bible quotes are also not referenced and Briggs makes the error as many do and I have done, of thinking that the bible is inerrant (a fundamentalist dogma) Jesus did not speak of hell on numbers occasions. This is a simple untruth.

  4. Sheri

    “If universalism is true, again there is no reason to moderate your behavior in any way”
    I once that discussion with a Unification Church minister. He believed you have all of eternity to come to God, that there is no judgment day. I asked why then I should be good—I have all of eternity to repent. He said I would have a longer time in Heaven if I was good. I tried explaining that when speaking of infinity (as in eternal afterlife), there is no “longer time”. It all leads to infinity and you can’t apportion infinity (yes, some of you math people, I know you say one can but I reject the idea as applicable outside of math) so everyone has infinity no matter when they accept God in the afterlife. He never understood.

    I also asked why eternal reward (Heaven) was okay, but not eternal damnation (Hell). Technically, vitually no one “earns” either one. An eternal reward seems okay based on one’s life, but eternal punishment? People freak out at that idea. Yet they are logically equivalent.

  5. Joy

    According to Kieth Ward, and I quote,
    “St Gregory of Nyssa did hold that life is a journey into God and life beyond this life is a continuation of that journey. So there is a continued growth. Of course you can see this on the one hand, people who have had a very incomplete human life, on the Earth, will have the possibilities of completion in their life beyond and people who have been tyrants and oppressors and causes of harm on this Earth will also be able to progress, (This was certainly Gregory’s view).
    That They don’t just go to hell but they actually learn what it’s like to suffer such pain and through that learning they can too come to share in the divine nature.“

    So, those who proclaim spuriously that people who say ‘life is a spiritual journey’ should have their mouth washed out with soap may possibly be suffering from being in error.
    There is a lot of speculation about heaven and hell, much of it depending into nonsense and I believe depictions are metaphor. To insist upon a creator who is essentially evil, which he would have to be, is a weird kind of view of God.
    Interpretation of scripture used to be a privilege only for the powerful.
    There is good and bad interpretation and correct and incorrect theology. That which is true will never die.

    That which is evil and untrue will always be of ‘use’, though. Each individual has their own conscience, their own intellect. Some more vulnerable than others, of course, but anybody who claims that the conscience must not be trusted is repeating lies and probably needs the existence of hell, too. That’s my take on those kinds of people. They are in mental chains. Often the same people who believe that love comes from the genitals.

  6. Shecky R

    If there is a Hell anyone living a typical American life (with few exceptions) is doomed to it; if there isn’t a Hell (more likely), what a huge waste of self-absorbed verbiage, stuck as usual in the Medieval Ages.

  7. Sander van der Wal

    Universalism is also optimisticly assuming there is still a you left after a long time in Hell. The soul might still exist, but would that still be you?

  8. Cam

    “Whosoever desires to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith. Which faith, except every one do keep entire and inviolate, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” Athanasian Creed. One of the three great creeds of the Church. Want to wager on Joy (whoever she is) or one of the defining creeds of Catholicism? I know who I’m betting on.

  9. Phillip

    As mystic St. Padre Pio said to a certain confessor when he explained that he didn’t believe in Hell.
    St. Padre Pio replied. “You will when you get there.”
    This peronist, jesuit trained, heretical, anti-pope, pos Bergoglio, will too believe, when he gets there. And in my mind, that can’t come soon enough.

  10. Joy

    I wouldn’t wager on a fake calling himself cam who had something to say to Sheri when things got a little hot, too.
    No need to wager on anybody. just read the bible, listen to the arguments and use your head. If ou still have one.

  11. Joy

    Philip your beliefs are false. You abuse poor like al the other angry armchair popes.
    You can believe in hell if you want to.
    The pope’s view is nearer to the truth, not surprising since it’s on theology.
    Climate change? Not his specialised subject.
    Wager what you like, it’s not a bet.

  12. Joy

    Here’s another man who doesn’t believe in the philosophy of hell.

    I have also heard John Lenox speak in similar terms as the ultimate and continued rejection of God’s love.
    There are many commentators who simply have a mechanical understanding of the nature of God and of bible interpretation and of Christianity which is a mystery by it’s nature.

  13. Ken

    BRIGGS: “… the proof that our existences cannot be wholly material.”

    The “proof” is a link to a Feser piece, that includes this falsehood:

    “…a human being can be damaged to such an extent that it completely loses the organs of its animal and vegetative powers, and thus cannot exercise them at all — to such an extent that only its intellectual and volitional powers remain. But those intellectual and volitional aspects of human nature, precisely because they are immaterial and thus do not depend on any corruptible material organ, cannot themselves perish,…”

    EXCEPT, when people’s brains are damaged (e.g. strokes) in particular ways, particular cognitive deficits consistently result. Both intellectual and volitional capacity is tangibly linked to brain matter. How that matter works may be unclear, but that it does and that particular brain matter accounts for particular types of intellectual and/or volitional capabilities is tangibly proven. Remove particular matter and particular results are consistently observed. Sometimes, neuroplasticity/healing is observed and with that a restoration of some capabilities, also demonstrating the locus in the brain matter and not some postulated ethereal.

    If Jesus was right about removing one’s body parts and thereby becoming crippled in this life to be crippled — but saved — in the next then it follows that those with such injuries in this life enter paradise, or hell, similarly impaired (or, does that happen only in the case of self-mutilation?). By extension, those with brain injuries in this life are entering paradise, or hell, similarly impaired.

    If one believes in hell, and believes that Jesus expressed literal fact about entering the next life maimed if maimed in this life, then one believes that the angels would send an unrepentant sinner who became brain-damaged and uncomprehending — before repentance & forgiveness — to eternal punishment by god. Only a sadist would so pointlessly torment such an uncomprehending individual.

    Of course, some assert, contrary to evidence, that intellect is independent of the brain so with that denial of reality the above conflict is avoided…

  14. Gary in Erko

    Ideas of hell and heaven create a serious problem for Christianity. Rewards or punishment should not be the reason for right moral behaviour – the rightness of the behaviour itself should be the only reason for it.

  15. JH

    It is, of course, logically possible that God orders Heaven into a hierarchy and that, because of your misdeeds, you earn a lower spot in paradise, but that you go there, under universalism, is guaranteed.

    It is logically possible that one earns a lower spot in paradise!?

    It is also logically possible that each Christian denomination occupies a different Heaven. It is also logically possible that there are not only 9 spheres of Heaven but also 9 circles of Hell.

    Many possibilities.

    Mr. Briggs, may ALL your loved ones arrive in Heaven at the same spot. It would make a gripping scene. Hahaha. Sorry, I cannot help it.

    “Let God revenge.”

  16. Cam

    Oh thanks Joy….the ancient of ages has spoken…what Joy….no fake here…pure unadulterated wisdom cobbled together in Joy. Joy, Joy, Joy….wiser than all the saints….all time hath waited for Joy. She knows the scriptures….she knows the deep hidden meaning of it all.

  17. Andrew Yanthar-Wasilik

    As to the numbers of the saved, St. Leonard of Port Maurice, fortunately, gives us some numbers in his book “The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved”. Here is the quotation: “The following narrative from Saint Vincent Ferrer will show you what you may think about it. He relates that an archdeacon in Lyons gave up his charge and retreated into a desert place to do penance and that he died the same day and hour as Saint Bernard. After his death, he appeared to his bishop and said to him, “Know, Monsignor, that at the very hour I passed away, thirty-three thousand people also died. Out of this number, Bernard and myself went up to heaven without delay, three went to purgatory, and all the others fell into Hell.”

    Our chronicles relate an even more dreadful happening. One of our brothers, well-known for his doctrine and holiness, was preaching in Germany. He represented the ugliness of the sin of impurity so forceful that a woman fell dead of sorrow in front of everyone. Then, coming back to life, she said, “When I was presented before the Tribunal of God, sixty thousand people arrived at the same time from all parts of the world; out of that number, three were saved by going to Purgatory, and all the rest were damned.”

    So, we have 5 out of 33 000, and in second case 3 out of 60 000 from all parts of the world.
    In means that from my city (about 1.2 mln people) only 200 people are saved (or less).

    And final quotation from “Dialogue” by St Catherine of Siena: God the Father speaking: “No one can escape my hands. I will have them either in my mercy or in my justice.”

  18. Mactoul

    “the evil “will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life””

    Is the “eternity” experienced by the souls in hell same or similar to the “eternity” experienced by the blessed souls in heaven?
    CS Lewis, in the Problem of Pain, argues that the sayings of Jesus emphasize the idea of finality rather than of duration. Hell is final and stories of people that land in hell terminate. It is not the place of living. Other sayings about the “outer darkness” point to a kind of existence where “being peters off into non-being”–a kind of annihilation.

    I don’t agree that Christian religion is pointless if there is annihilation of the damned souls. The point of religion is salvation of the elect–to populate heaven, as it were, and not to damn people into everlasting punishment for disbelief.

  19. Mar

    Mactoul, do you want a Christianity without the hard sayings of Jesus?

  20. Joy

    Mar, No we want a Christianity that tells the truth and doesn’t turn into golem when the truth is told!

  21. Joy

    Cam, are you drunk? Or just incapable of writing sense? Can you read? Do you pick and chose your saints? Understandable, I suppose.

  22. swordfishtrombone

    (Ken beat me to it!)

    “But this is impossible given the proof that our existences cannot be wholly material. Our intellects and wills are non-material, i.e. non-physical processes, and therefore cannot be duplicated in any physical way, which includes software.”

    I followed the link to Uncle Ed Fester’s blog, which is the claimed “proof” that we are partially immaterial. As you’d expect, it doesn’t prove anything of the sort. Feser’s feeble argument (an analogy involving a crippled dog – great choice, Ed!) is IMHO ripped to shreds by commenters, and not just by atheists.

    There is a mass of evidence that our ability to think depends on us having a physical brain, and no evidence at all that it doesn’t. If you can think of some evidence, please tell me what it is.

  23. Joy

    If you’re in a loop GOTO Luke 14:
    “The plain, simple words of the Bible say the there is a Hell,”

    The bible is a library of ancient works of God inspired literature. It is not a plain history or science book.
    It is not inerrant.

    It’s hell or the highway? Nope. What people believe internally is up to them but what they inflict on others is open for criticism. Which learned scholars have done over the centuries.

    Is this true, literally?
    ~Luke 14, 25 *KJV:
    “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”

    I wouldn’t follow such a man as said that if I thought thee wasn’t more to the story…Goto Line 1:

    More careful study is required in order to understand why such things are written. Much of it will never be resolved by it’s very nature.

    The old favourite: God told a man to go and kill everybody and every creeping thing and every horse, cow, dog, duck, (sorry) and baby! I think squirrels and otters might have got a pass. Does anybody earnestly believe this? Not that the principle of an all powerful God might not do anything, logically, but that the man wasn’t mistaken? Or interpreting an event?

    Jesus himself cannot be considered to have been accurately quoted in the bible since documentation took place years later, in a different language to that which he spoke and are memories from those eyewitnesses who knew Jesus.

    If you want to take this entity of hell seriously and not bandy it about for those who are truly faithful, or those who are innocent or vulnerable, such as children or vulnerable adults you need to take a deeper, more responsible look. God is ultimately just, remember. He knows what you really think.

    Hell being true involves interpreting metaphor literally, misunderstanding the difference between what man does and what God does and a whole lot of other mistakes of comprehension and interpretation.

    A sensible person or an atheist sees the threat of hell for what it is separately from the effect that the notion may have. A religious nutcase doesn’t give a fig“, It’s all true! All of it, eat God or he’ll eat you.” It’s not even funny.

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