Why I No Longer Believe in Hell

So my theology has gone through a multitude of changes over the years, mostly because the experiences of my life have led me to a single conclusion which many standard notions of God don’t actually allow for: God is love.

It says this in the Bible, sure, but it also says lots of things about Hell in the Bible, too. Do an all-loving God and Hell mix? Sure, say theologians, God is a just God, he punishes the unjust for eternity and all who go to Hell deserve it.

But here’s the thing: No one deserves to go to Hell. Nobody. Not mass murderers, not rapists, not child abusers, not anyone. There is no crime which deserves an eternity of punishment, and no human being so totally devoid of all worth that their time in eternity would be best spent in ceaseless agony/fire/loneliness/separation/darkness/whatever Hell is supposed to be. Exactly why would a crime within a relative nanosecond of the universe’s lifespan warrant horrific punishment for longer than the life of the universe itself?

And even, somehow, if there was a crime that warranted such a punishment, love would forgive it. Love forgives everything. If harm is done lazily, because it knows it will be forgiven, love waits patiently for the harmer to come around.

But wait, say the theologians – you need to accept the forgiveness for it to be valid. If you choose not to accept the forgiveness, it will be your own choice to be thrown into Hell.

Not so. Love doesn’t care whether its forgiveness is acknowledged – and it doesn’t punish people for not accepting forgiveness – what kind of forgiveness, accepted or not, involves punishment? Not the kind of sincere forgiveness which I describe. Not accepting forgiveness, and choosing to live on in guilt or shame or ignorance or power-hunger, is its own punishment, for it brings only unhappiness to its perpetrator. Harm attracts its own consequences. No additional punishment is necessary. The results of declining to accept forgiveness last only as long as the refusal itself. No longer.

Keeping in mind that I’ve come to this as a result of experiences in my own life, I’ll use the premise that God is Love to make one more point: A god who forgives all and loves all and condemns no one to Hell is infinitely more loving that any god who would condemn someone to Hell. And seeing as I believe that I could become, with decades of practice, the type of person who, given the choice, would condemn no person to eternal punishment, that pretty much means that I could become more loving than any supposed god who would abandon and torment anyone. And if I, a human, full of many negative unloving things, could achieve this (and I do believe it is possible), than how much more love and forgiveness could a being of pure goodwill and compassion be capable of producing?

A hell of a lot more. Or should I say a heaven?

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8 Responses to Why I No Longer Believe in Hell

  1. I agree that nobody deserves eternal punishment in the Hell you no longer believe in.

    But what if there is in fact one single unforgiveable sin (Mk 3:29)? Then even if there is no eternal punishment, it still might be true that the wages of sin is death (Rm 6:23).

    In fact, the Bible speaks more about destruction than about eternal punishment. Some theologians have spun this destruction as if it were eternal punishment, but check the wording. The concept of Hell as a place of punishment has very little place in the Bible – but it has a very large place in the beliefs of Greeks and pagans. The false theologians who preach Hell are intellectual descendants of the Greeks and pagans who became Christians long ago and imported their Hell-concepts into Christianity by replacing the idea of destruction with the idea of eternal punishment.

    So it’s great that you have stopped believing what is not a very big teaching in the Bible. The reason the theologians needed an idea of eternal punishment was because (like the Greeks but not like the Hebrews) they believed that everyone was born immortal – with immortal souls.

    But if we are not born immortal but only may become immortal through some kind of life-relation with God, then the unforgiveable sin could spell death for the person who commits it – if he dies before discovering this life-relation with God.

    What do the atheists preach as to the end of life? They say it’s nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero. OK that could be exactly what they will get if they have completely rejected the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Not punishment but simply the end of existence. No pain, no suffering, just the very thing they are preaching and what they in fact expect to get.

    What I am talking about is called Conditional Immortality, and it has a long history but is not popular with theologians.

    • cmdrquack says:

      Thanks for the comment! I’ve never heard of conditional immortality, so thanks for exposing me to a new idea.

      I can’t say I’m likely to believe in it very much, though, because I agree with the Greeks – I think everyone has an immortal soul. I just don’t share their need to believe in eternal punishment.

      As far unforgivable sins go, I don’t believe anything is unforgivable. Forgiveness, by its very nature, holds no wrongs against anyone. I can’t imagine anything which would we unworthy of forgiveness, and nor can I believe in a God who refuses to forgive wrongdoings as insignificant to eternity as all such actions by humans are. To claim that something is unforgivable is to, in effect, claim that there is a wrongdoing which is just as important or as powerful or as consequential as forgiveness. And I don’t believe that – my experience has been that love and forgiveness are infinitely more powerful and consequential than any wrongdoing can ever be. So to claim something is unforgivable still misses the point – which is that love and forgiveness outweigh everything everywhere all the time.

      Peace.

      • Your position is only another form of predestination (a predestination to blessings), so I’m guessing human will and desire is not an issue for you. And that leaves no need for God’s love to be returned in freedom by his creatures, so – I get it.

        I’m not hanging around to be annoying. I’ll soon be gone, but I think you ought to perform as clear an exegesis as you can on Mark 3:29 (and parallels) before you presume to influence others to accept your position. Because you need grounds for rejecting those texts as untrue in order to assert that they do not report a teaching of Jesus.

      • cmdrquack says:

        I don’t see it as being predestination to blessings, though that might logically be arguable. Rather, I see blessings as a constant: love and forgiveness are always there, and eventually, be it before death or after death, we’re going to stop refusing to notice this.

        In regard to Mark 3:29, I make absolutely no claims one way or the other about whether this is actually a teaching of Jesus, because I don’t see the words of Jesus in the Bible as infallible, for various reasons.

        My position of “God is Love” is based on my own experience as a human being, not on the Bible – I merely mention the Bible as an example of one other place that someone has written a statement that lines up with my experience. I’m not a biblical scholar, just a person well educated in philosophy, who bases beleif on lived experience before basing it on any text.

      • OK my apologies. I thought you were a refugee from the inerrancy cults, who has had a little philosophy and is just beginning to see that mercy is as important as justice. I was concerned that you, in the process of recognizing the truth that the ministers of your youth were off their nuts – then made the mistake of thinking that those heretic pastors were what Christianity was all about, and so were in the process of leaving Christianity itself behind. Which would be a huge mistake.

      • cmdrquack says:

        No problem, and thanks for the conversation. If you’re interested, I’ve written more about my religious views here.

  2. RJeffers says:

    My personal theory has always been this: God loves and cares for his children, and forgives his sins. Certain faiths teach that if you don’t come to Jesus in your lifetime, you won’t be saved. What about all the people in third-world countries who have never even heard of God? What about people that don’t believe yet live decent lives? When they die, isn’t it reasonable to think that when they die, they’ll meet Jesus and enter into heaven? As for horrible sinners, isn’t it reasonable to think that they will be made to suffer for their sins, but not for eternity?

    As a Christian, what I try to do is love my fellow man. Everything else stems from that. I’m no Bible scholar, but I figure I’ll know what happens when I die. We all will.

    • Good point, RJeffers, about non-condemnation for those who have never heard of Jesus. The passage I cited in Mark is paralleled by Matthew (12:32), which reports that Jesus wasn’t condemning anyone for opinions pro and con in regard to himself – so long as the person did not deny the funnctional reality of the Holy Spirit. For the scoffer, apparently, there is no bridge.

      I could be wrong, and I think it is our duty to hope that all will be saved. But there remains a good reason to not rest assured in our hopes and to spread a good kind of religious teaching in hopes that all will see the light.

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