Hell no!

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   …or yes?

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[Much of what follows got lost at the end of my extended post of Oct. 18, 2013¹, when I discussed the Bible and metaphor. Hence some words from that post, along with some new ones, about what "the dark side" of the hereafter might be like. “May whatever's true and important here be remembered. May whatever is trivial or false be forgotten or do no harm.”  -- A familiar prayer that I offer up once again.]

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At  the university when talk about God arose, students often would complain, and say that if God really did create the world and the people in it, He did it all “wrong.” When I’d ask why, I’d often be told that “God wasn’t fair.”

“Okay then,” I’d often say, “Suppose you were God, how would you, according to your value system²,  create differently?” After saying this  in class (or in my office if only one student) to help things move along I’d add something like, “Would you, for example, create male and female, or would everyone be the same?”

Students would usually agree, that unisex instead of two sexes would be pretty disappointing, so I would go further with something like, “Would you have both men and women bear children, 50-50? Wouldn’t that be the best way to be fair?” If they would accuse me of joking, I would add, “Not hardly. I’m being very serious. You’re God, right? You want to be “fair” with everyone. So take your moral system, whatever you consider right and wrong to be, and show how if babies are born in your world, which people would bear them, and how? And how people would be responsible for them, and how things would be different from what they are now, and how men and women would be “free” and fulfilled, with nobody starving or being thrown out on the streets for mistakes. How would you, as God, make this happen? Or would you be hard-nosed and have survival of the fittest with the “losers” dying off?” Unregulated freedom is a hard thing to enjoy if everyone around has the same privilege. People have a habit of getting in each other’s way.

Discussion then would often lead to cultic notions, or an undefined expression of pantheism, or the conclusion that any “god” they could think of would have trouble, or that no god could exist, or a retreat to bewilderment and direct or indirect agnosticism or atheism.

Since I would listen and take them seriously, they usually would talk.

Am I wandering…too far? I don’t think so.

Now let’s take a trip to Hell…which the Bible includes as part of the package deal of human existence.

To say it quite simply from my framework, according to my interpretation of the Bible, God wants people to do two things: (1) Love Him first and foremost, and (2) Love people around us as we love ourselves.³ That requires the risk of personal commitment to Him. (Of course, there’s some more fine print but let’s not worry about that now.)

Many Materialists and Darwinists—who extend their naturalistic faith² beyond science—consider those two reasons absurd. Modern society should know better than to depend on a “selfish” God, or gods, or absolute values established by superstition. Or to putting one’s human genes at risk by making oneself too vulnerable to one’s neighbors. Look at the violence, hatred, and terror in our world. More than a few have said we would be better off wiping away all memory of God, starting over, and deciding things for ourselves.

Hell may just give people that chance.

Let me build a story.

Let’s suppose that in Hell, “human minds” now housed in new “forever” bodies, find themselves in a new, and different, multidimensional never-ending world where “literal eternal hellfire”¹ doesn’t exist and isn’t an issue.

Freedom without rules” and “(a better) survival of the fittest” is implanted in every brain. FIVE FACTORS, however, control what can happen. (1) Every memory of God, or a god, and his influence is erased. (2) Although resemblance to Earth humans remains in many ways, your body at an “ideal physical condition and age” can’t die or be killed, or be physically injured or maimed because eternity owns you. (3) You can’t ever be imprisoned or physically constrained. (4) You can freely see the thoughts in others’, including fallen angels’, minds; therefore no secrets (which by their very nature lead to “domination,” or advantage, over others) are possible. (5) And, like the fallen angels, you can’t repent and enter Heaven, or harm anyone who might be there. 

No secrets, no unfairness. No “selective” natural disasters. No God interference with anything. No demeaning, whining prayers that could belittle you. No “God memory” to cause fear. No capital punishment or unfair reprimands.

Your new body that houses your human consciousness or “life” is finally yours to make of it whatever you will–or can.

But, as with the animals in your previous existence, nothing is wrong. Will there be some kind of spacial environment to resemble the lost 3 dimensions of Earth and our solar system? Possibly. The “old” 3 dimensions are gone along with the 4th dimension of time. The new dimensions–that we can’t conceive of, but can play with with numbers–would be hard to say much more about. But since the universe began, matter and energy has had a history of moving and spinning outward in large spirals around large clumps of burning gas and solid matter. Would new bodies somehow be able to “relocate” away from those you want to be away from? Maybe, maybe not. But some movement from place to place may be possible. And sleep? It’s unnecessary. It may be an unheralded chance to finally live out the “Sinatra Philosophy”: “I did it my way.” But you’ll be doing it “elbow-to-elbow” in the company of  millions of others. And without the supernatural hang-up of rules and rights and wrongs that has faded from memory. The lessons of history have disappeared. if some have longed for a new age, well, the true New Age has arrived.

So that’s how the Bible pictures Hell?

Absolutely not! The Bible offers hardly any detail, beyond holding out to humans two, only two, possible destinations for “forever after”: Heaven and Hell. And for describing the latter, God sticks with its metaphor of a place of eternal fire and torment which has the strong, but to some modern people the one-dimensional force of a never-ending automobile crash.

What Hell actually is is God’s secret.

My description is the most terrifying picture of Hell I can imagine–an eternal place without any God protection, God knowledge, or God history– and sharing personal freedom without consequence with everyone around me. Why do I have such a hang-up with this “God thing”? Three reasons: (1) Evidence, even scientific evidence, that strongly suggests that God exists; (2) My personal experience of having thrown myself  upon His mercy, accepting the salvation that He offers, and committing myself to Him; and (3) My long-time experience–one of education, chastening, forgiveness, comfort, and joy–that has come through personal prayer (my words) and reading the Bible (His Words).

I cannot bear the thought of giving that up.

My knowledge is too much and my faith too weak to come up with a logical, consistent, and compelling alternative philosophy as to what and who we are, and how we should spend our lives.

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¹ The post of Oct. 18, 2013 (you can look it up in the sidebar “date archive” at the upper right of this page). Discussion there focused on the abundant use of metaphor in the Bible. This in no way diminishes the literal sense of other parts of the text. Saying “My God is a fortress” or “a rock,” does not insist that God is no more than that. Here my point is that wherever I say about Hell (which I capitalize, incidentally, because it’s a real place) is speculative metaphor to encourage thinking. (Note I will refer to the same endnote more than once.)

² Everyone has a “personal value system” that one rarely admits as such. This refers to things a person believes but cannot absolutely scientifically prove. For those that doubt this, I contend that if a person were locked in solitary confinement in a cell, having to stay there until he could write out a logical, consistent, and believable personal value system, he could do so. More on all that later…perhaps…

³ Many people with a superficial knowledge about Christianity, think that “(2)” here is what Christianity is all about. If so, that, I believe, is missing the main point. First and foremost is (1) which refers to the Christian’s main focus which is no less than God himself, making (2) an important corollary of that. See Mt. 22:37-39.