Sunday, 4 December 2011

Burn In Hell!

Ok, I admit it.  I gave this post a provocative title, in part because I wanted to grab your attention.

Having said that, I'm also trying to make a point (keep reading).

I've written before, about hell, right here.  But at that stage my blog was just beginning, and I wanted to tell a significant chunk of my de-conversion story before getting into this issue too heavily.  Suffice it to say, the time feels right to share some of my more recent thoughts on hell.

As I began to strongly consider the fact that Christianity might be false, deliberations on hell became both deeply urgent and deeply personal (for obvious reasons).  Surprisingly though, I felt very little fear throughout.  Logically speaking, I should have been utterly petrified since, if Christians are right, I am now on my way to an eternity of horrific and unimaginable suffering (separated from both God and nearly all of my family/friends).  Why was I (am I?) not more afraid??  As I began to ponder this, it hit me...I'm not afraid because I find the case "for" hell to be alarmingly unconvincing.  I think, at a certain point in the de-conversion process, my mind changed, on hell, without my even realizing it consciously.  But, what was it that led me to conclude hell is imaginary?  Well, there was no one argument.  Actually, I now find the Christian hell to be implausible for all sorts of different (but complimentary) reasons.

As such, consider the following to be my "top 5"...

5) The Christian hell is implausible because only part of the Bible teaches it

Yes, you read that correctly.  It is indeed true that only part of the book that God supposedly wrote (from start to finish?) even teaches that there is an afterlife, at all, much less a heaven or hell.

Listen to John Loftus, "The concept of life after death mostly developed in the Apocryphal literature during the intertestamental time between the Old and New Testaments (from passages like Job 19:26, Isa. 26:19, and Dan 12:1-3)... wasn't accepted until the second century BCE, in the days of the Maccabean crisis when the return to life of the dead came about.  The whole concept of hell developed during the Hellenistic period and then was adopted by the New Testament writers."  (from "Why I Became an Atheist")

It seems to me this is problematic for the Christian worldview.  Don't Christians believe that God inspired all of the Bible?  Is it likely that he would allow entire books, to become part of his holy canon, that hold inaccurate views?  But the bare fact remains...some of the Old Testament, in particular, simply assumes that there is no afterlife.  I'll have more to say on this topic, especially as it pertains to how Christians latched on to the concepts of heaven & hell, in point number two.

4) The Christian hell is implausible because the punishment doesn't fit the crime

Frankly, this is so plainly obvious, I almost feel silly in extrapolating the point.  I need to do so, unfortunately, since many Christians will not accept it at face value.  Also, I've found the usual responses, to this argument, to be incredibly weak.  The most common one seems to be that sinners deserve "eternal" punishment, because they have sinned against an "eternal" God.  But, where is the proof of this contention?  It's a pithy (and as such memorable) way of responding to the objection, sure, but is it anything more than a play on words?  Hardly.  In fact, that's precisely all it is.  Do we, as humans, punish people for greater lengths of time based on the greater age of their victim (ie. an older person vs. a child)?  If anything, it's the other way around.  Thoughtful Christians, of course, will say this comparison isn't applicable (since God is "outside of time", whatever that means, and therefore in a wholly separate category).  But when they're done, with all of the philosophical hand waving, I'll still be here asking them for actual proof that sins committed during a finite lifetime are worthy of "eternal" punishment.

I've also noticed that, on the rare occasions, when Christians dare to talk about people "deserving" an eternal hell, they inevitably use someone like Adolf Hitler by way of illustration.  But the vast majority of those in hell, according to the Christian worldview, will be law abiding citizens.  Not only will they be incomparable to Hitler, in nearly every conceivable respect, they will actually be "good" people by our human standards (did God give us those sensibilities, or didn't he?).  Y'know, your neighbor down the street; the one who volunteers at the soup kitchen once a week.  That's the guy God deems worthy of eternal suffering (with no chance of reprieve).  And it does Christians no favor to argue that hell has different levels/gradations, of punishment, since all of it is still pretty awful by their own admission.

Let's face it, a loving God would never allow a hell to begin with.  And to say that he essentially had no other choice (as some apologists argue) is ridiculous.  He could have created only heaven, for example, with all of us living in it from the very get go.  And if he foreknows that billions of people will burn in hell, for ever and ever and ever, why not prevent those people from ever being born?  Why create the human race at all?  The questions are nearly endless.

This leads me into my third point...

3) The Christian hell is implausible because it necessarily means that humans are more compassionate than the Christian God is

If, somehow, the human race were able to vote on how Hitler would be punished, what do you think we would decide?  Initially, there may be some who would argue for "eternal" torment (mostly the religiously minded, perhaps?) but, after the dust settled, is that what we would wind up settling on?  I don't think so.  I believe that reason would win out, in the end analysis, and even if we did decide to torture him, let's say, we would not vote for it to be never ending (if such a thing were even possible).

Does this mean we are more compassionate than the Christian God?

Dr. Keith Parsons makes a similar point, in a chapter called "Hell: Christianity's Most Damnable Doctrine" (from "The End Of Christianity")...

"...we now refrain from subjecting even the worst the sorts of punishments that the most advanced societies regularly inflicted on criminals just a few centuries ago.  Not that long ago criminals were regularly broken on the wheel, roasted on gridirons, torn to pieces with red-hot pincers, drawn and quartered, impaled, crucified, flayed, starved, and so forth.  We no longer inflict such punishments on even the worst criminals.  Why?  It is not that criminals have gotten any better; we have.  However odious someone is, we now think it's wrong to boil them in oil, skin them alive, or beat them to death with sledgehammers. Again, why?  Are we more sentimental or more tolerant of moral turpitude now than our forebears?  No, I think that the unwillingness, at least in liberal democracies, to resort to the old medieval punishments is one of the few unquestionable examples of moral progress.

Would you ever tell someone to "burn in hell!", and actually mean it??

2) The Christian hell is implausible because of its origins

Firstly, many Christians don't realize that the notion of having a destination for the wicked was, at one time, tied to a literal place, right here on earth, called Gehenna.  Eventually Gehenna became divorced from its geographical location, but it retained many of the same (fiery) characteristics.

Secondly, as I began to understand more about the apocalyptic nature of Jesus himself (which I discuss here, here, and here) many additional pieces began to fall into place.  Listen, as Bart Ehrman explains...

"...Jesus' message--like that of other apocalypticists--can be understood as a kind of horizontal dualism between this age here on earth and the age to come, also here on earth.  I call it a horizontal dualism because it can be imagined as a horizontal time line divided into half.  At the end of this age, which is imminent, there will be a judgment and we will enter into the new age, on the other side of the dividing line.  When the end never came, Christian thinkers reconceptualized this time line and in a sense rotated it on its axis, so that now the 'end' involves not a horizontal dualism but a vertical one.  Now it is not a matter of two ages, this one and the one to come, but of two spheres, this world and the world above.  No longer is the physical resurrection discussed or even believed.  Now what matters is this world of suffering below and a world of ecstasy in heaven above.  This duality works itself out in a doctrine of heaven and hell.  Why above and why below?  Because the dualism remains in place, but has become spatial rather than temporal... ...In short, with the passing of time, the apocalyptic notion of the resurrection of the body becomes transformed into the doctrine of the immortality of the soul.  What emerges is the belief in heaven and hell..." (from "Jesus Interrupted")

1) The Christian hell is implausible because there's simply no good evidence for it

I don't think there's much more to be said, on this point, other than to issue it as a simple challenge to Christians.  If you have evidence, that hell exists, where is it?  I remember reading Bill Wiese's original (2007) release of "23 Minutes In Hell", while I was still a believer myself. These sorts of personal stories seem to be the best that Christians have, on hell, in the evidence department.  It's worth noting that I found the book unconvincing, even then, despite the fact that I had no doubts whatsoever about there being a literal hell at that time in my life.  I think it goes without saying that I find it even less convincing now, in retrospect.

Before I wrap up, I'd like to share one more quick thought on hell.  It's something I could have rightly covered, under point number 3, but I wanted to save it to the end (since I find it to be especially egregious).  C.S. Lewis once famously argued that the doors of hell are "locked from the inside".  In other words, people are in hell because they choose to be there.  On one level this is an appealing argument, for Christians, since it seems to absolve God of responsibility while, at the same time, acting as a handy justification for why hell is eternal.  There's only one's bullshit of the highest order.  As I discussed a little, near the end of my last post, there are many, many, many people who don't believe in Jesus for primarily intellectual (instead of emotional) reasons.  To imply they will persist in "rebelling" against God, even after death (when they are decidedly proven wrong on the matter), is to assume that there are no sincere (but honestly mistaken) unbelievers out there.  Not one!!  What do atheists, like me, need to do to convince Christians they are dead wrong about this?

So, there you have it.  This is my case, in very brief form, for why the Christian hell is a mythical place.  To the Christian, reading this blog, how would you respond to these five points?  (Or, will you ignore them?)  And are you willing to honestly consider the fact that hell isn't real, or will you just continue to take it "on faith"?


  1. Good post! On the whole "hell is eternal because people sin against an eternal God", Jonathan Edwards said something similar, but different. He said that, in this world, a crime against a noble is considered worse than a crime against a commoner, for the noble has more dignity and value. And so a sin against God----who is infinitely valuable----deserves infinite punishment. I'm not sure if he said it exactly like that, since Christianity believes all humans have value, and the Bible in plenty of places exalts the poor over rich rulers. But Edwards did say something like that. I doubt it would float among a lot of Americans, though, since we don't have a system of royalty or nobility.

  2. I'm a Christian and I agree with you. Try the book Raising Hell by Julie Ferwerda to see a whole different view of Christianity. Just because the biggest mouth in Christianity says there is a hell doesn't make it so.

  3. Thanks for the recommendation, Sisterlisa, I'll check out the book. Have you read Rob Bell's "Love Wins"? I have, and it's worth the read (better than I thought it would be), but of course I still disagree with him.

  4. It looks like Julie's book was positively reviewed (on Amazon) so I'm going to pick up a copy.

  5. Christian Theology: As a fully communicating Catholic, Adolf Hitler is now with Jesus in heaven where he can daily observe Anne Frank burning in hell for failing to accept Jesus as her personal savior.


  6. Nicely done - Thanks for visiting my site and adding me to your blogroll. I really need to put a blogroll together too. In the meantime I think I'm going to trackback to this post from mine. Cheers :)

  7. I hope you'll be pleased to know that everyone is going to heaven. The Christian conception of hell is a misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches about judgment that occurs on the earth in this life.

    Here is an easy-to-read book which explains how the Bible teaches that everyone is going to heaven. It does not just talk about a certain part of the Bible, but rather all of it. I hope you will read it.

  8. Hey, thanks Mike. I was a Christian for over 25 years and I never so much as even met a Universalist but, for some reason, this post of mine seems to be bringing them out of the woodwork (perhaps I just needed to get out more :)). I'll be sure to take a look at your easy-to-read book.

    ToonForever, thanks for the trackback, I really appreciate it.

    Analyst, nice way of cutting to the chase.

  9. Well, if Universalism is true, then a lot of people are in for a nice surprise when they die (of course that depends on what heaven would actually be like). I think the reason most Christians reject Universalism is because there are verses in the Bible (new testament) that appear to confirm the eternal judgment of the unsaved (such as Matthew 25:46, Rev. 20:15 or John 3:36). A Universalist will respond with their own set of verses to prove their own point. The fact that they can make an argument raises an important question: If hell were real, wouldn't God have made it clear? (If the Bible was inspired?)

    To read some of the arguments made by Universalists against the existence of hell, see and if you have time to kill take the hell test for pastors.

  10. Dave,

    The verses you mention are references to the judgments of God against our sins which occur in this life and on this earth. (The link which I gave above will include a link to an explanation of this judgment.) People really can put themselves through hell on earth through their own bad choices before they go to heaven. And their bad choices can make life hell for others also - many times undeservedly.

    I have never paid much attention to universalist teaching because it usually seems to ignore the justice of God and the importance of doing the right thing in life. I learned that everyone is going to heaven by reading the Bible. Eventually I realized that churches pay lip service to the Bible and don't really do what it says.

    Nothing is more important that turning to Jesus Christ and seeking forgiveness for our sins so that we can do righteousness (that is, be more moral - more loving and selfless). Because we do not do this, pain continues to abound in the world. If you really love people you will turn to God for the cleansing of your heart. Don't wait for others to join you. Do it right now in the privacy of your own heart.

    Living with God has nothing to do with going to church. I hope you never go to church, but I do hope you seek Jesus Christ and walk with Him. You don't have to go to a physical location to find Him - He is everwhere.

  11. RA - all of the points raised in your post are highly persuasive, but I find point 4 to be especially so. According to the Christian worldview, someone could live their life as a murderer, rapist, molester, etc., then have a deathbed confession, and reap the benefits of heaven. However, someone who lived a good life, provided for his family, paid his taxes, fed the poor, etc., but didn't ask Jesus into his heart will burn in hell.

    Believe that if you wish. I for one don't.

  12. Thanks very much for the encouragement David.

    An unbelieving 17 year old, who dies in a car accident, but fails to accept Jesus, is also doomed to eternal punishment, according to evangelicals (simply because they are old enough to have passed the so called age of accountability; a concept that's nowhere to be found in the Bible, but is a later development of Christian theology).

    I trust (hope?) that your own personal journey is still going well...please let me know if/how I can help with the process, as you continue to sort things through (seriously).

    And I notice you're currently reading "Why I Became An Atheist". I'd be curious to know what you think of it, when you're ready to share.

  13. As a young Christian, I was great influenced by C.S. Lewis's book, "The Great Divorce."

    It does seem to me there is a huge difference between someone struggling with intellectual doubt concerning Christian faith, but honestly seeking truth, and to do good as they see it, or someone who has never heard the "good news," and that person who deliberately chooses evil, cares nothing for truth, and intentionally rejects the cross of Christ.

    Jesus says that whoever seeks truth will find it. I think this is a process for many of us. The atheist of today may become a committed person of faith by the time of death. And, there are plenty of extremely religious, wicked people in the institutional church. "The tares are mixed with the wheat."

    There are many wonderful Christian folks who are universalists. My husband is one of them. We've often had discussion in this whole issue, and we do agree that the gospel is so much more than a "fire escape."

    But, I can't personally fully agree with universalism. It does seems to me to negate free will. Isn't an aspect of God's love that He doesn't make us as mere robots or force people to spend time in His presence for all eternity? I think part of what it means to be human is to be free moral agents.. And, what about people who would make a Hell from Heaven so to speak, as we all could apart from our unity in Christ, and the whole aspect of justice?

    The absolute bottom line for me is that we can trust the wisdom and mercy of God in this. Only He knows in the end who will be "saved," or "lost." If the incarnation is truth, who can be more merciful than the triune God?

    I also think it is one thing to say that ultimately all "salvation" so to speak is in and through God's work in Christ. But, it's another thing to affirm that only those with conscious faith can be saved. I believe the former, but cannot affirm the later.

    Also, in my own life, I've come to be much more concerned with how I am walking out my own faith, and living the gospel, rather than to attempt to judge where all the other folks are at.

    Guess, I could write a book on this, but probably have said enough for now. Needless to say all Christians will not agree. Everyone has to draw their own conclusion.


  14. Hey Rebecca,

    Welcome back, I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year's!

    You say, "there is a huge difference between someone struggling with intellectual doubts" and someone who "intentionally rejects the cross of Christ". But this is precisely my point. I think many people who "reject the cross of Christ" do so BECAUSE of "intellectual doubts". Do you really think it's fair that such a person should be punished for all eternity, with no chance of reprieve (simply because they got it wrong)?

    You say, "whoever seeks truth will find it". I used to believe that too, but remember this is quite simply an article of faith on your part (since it comes from a book that you believe to be the Word of God). I no longer believe that everyone who seeks the truth will find it.

    I would encourage you to think more deeply about what you are saying here. Do you REALLY believe that every honest and sincere doubter will accept Christ before they die? If not, than do you think it's o.k. for God to punish them eternally?

    And, remember, you can't quote the Bible as "proof" since the validity of the Bible is the very thing we're disputing (this is a formal fallacy known as "begging the question").


  15. Hi, Respectful, thanks for your welcome back. I had a great, but hectic holiday. My kids don't live in the area, so a lot of traveling. :) Hope your holidays were wonderful also.

    Now, back to blogging. Have to make up for lost time. LOL

    What I'm sharing about Hell is definitely an article of faith, as well as reason on my part, not something that can be proven in an empirical sense.

    It is connected with what I know and see of the love of God in Christ. Yes, I absolutely think that no honest, and sincere seeker after God and truth will be seperated from Him for all eternity. This seems inconsistent to me with everything I believe concerning the mercy and justice of God. Does it make sense to think that He created the human race in His own image and likeness to throw us all away as fodder for Hell?

    Here is another interesting quote from the Christian philosoper, Peter Kreeft.

    What is hell? The popular image of demons gleefully poking pitchforks into unrepentant posteriors misses the point of the biblical image of fire. Fire destroys. Gehenna, the word Jesus used for hell, was the valley outside Jerusalem that the Jews used for the perpetual burning of garbage because it had been desecrated by heathen tribes who used it for human sacrifice. In hell you make an eternal ash of yourself. Hell is not eternal life with torture but something far worse: eternal dying. What goes to hell, said C. S. Lewis, is "not a man, but remains".

    The images for hell in Scripture are horrible, but they're only symbols. The thing symbolized is not less horrible than the symbols, but more. Spiritual fire is worse than material fire; spiritual death is worse than physical death. The pain of loss—the loss of God, who is the source of all joy—is infinitely more horrible than any torture could ever be. All who know God and his joy understand that. Saints do not need to be threatened with fire, only with loss. "All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it—or else that it was within your grasp and you have lost it forever" (C. S. Lewis).


  16. Sure, well this all well and good Rebecca, but it still totally misses the point of my objections.

    What I'm saying is that Hell, more than likely, doesn't exist as a literal place at all (regardless of how you define/re-define it and/or who does/doesn't go there).

    If what you're saying is that you take the existence of Hell on "faith", regardless of the state of the evidence, than there's really not much else (if anything) I can say to convince you otherwise.

  17. Respectful Atheist, Faith is a paradox for all who have it, and everyone employs faith regardless of them being able to acknowledge it. Not everyone has faith in a kind, gracious, merciful, all loving, knowing, omnipotent, omniscient God...but they have and practice faith of one sort or the other. The paradox of faith is that faith, in and of itself, does not validate the object of faith. Only the object of ones faith can validates the faith one employs by that object responding back or else that faith will eventually perish due to the lack of hope come alive (response) ...This is the beauty of Christian Faith - Authentic Christians have a Truth within them that is alive and responds, and though they cannot objectively prove it to the world, they know by their own testimony, their own searching that they have found what they are looking for, so much so, that they are willing to be ridiculed, spat upon, persecuted, imprisoned, and even put to death. We have witnessed through history that Christians have faith in a living God, who responds, hence the inability of men, regimes, ideas to extinguish the Truth of Christ and the faith and hope His followers have in Him. The reason we know Christianity works, is because we see the transforming power in the lives that it has changed forever...I know what a futile argument it is to try to logically prove the existence of such a God and His Christ, yet, faith is not logical, it is faith...

    1. Christians have been persecuted. However, as you well know, persecution does not belong to Christians alone. I can take your appeal and say the same thing as an atheist, agnostic, secular humanist, non-theist, former Christian or as a believer in some other "God" belief.

      Authentic humans, who are not Christians, have a truth within them that is alive and responds, and though they cannot objectively prove it to the world, they know by their own testimony, their own searching, that they have found what they are looking for, so much so, as in my case, I'd likely be willing to be ridiculed, spat upon, persecuted, imprisoned and even put to death. We have witnessed through history that believers from all denominations, sects, cultures and traditions have faith in their "God(s)" or as the case may be, in humanity in general, hence the inablility of humans, regimes, ideas, to extinguish the truth of all belief systems &/or my humanism, my non-belief, and the faith and hope I have in humanity. The reasons humanism works for me and Islam works for the Muslim and the converted Muslim (and insert here any other belief system that exists in the past, present and future), is because we see the transforming power in the lives that it has changed forever. I know what a futile argument it is to try to logically prove the non-existence of your "God" and "His Christ" . . . yet, apparently, . . .

  18. Yes, but even "faith" needs to be rooted in evidence, Rebecca, otherwise I could simply say that I have "faith" in the flying space monster who orbits the moon.

    Much of the rest, of what you have written above, comes down to nothing more than an emotional appeal.

    I used to think that "the object of my faith" validated my faith too, but now I think I was wrong about that.

    Beliefs cannot be validated by a feeling in your gut or your heart (that you believe to be the Holy Spirit). Besides, there are many different religions who also claim to have THEIR faith validated by precisely the same thing!

  19. As you leave your body — you realize something is happening. You hear a sound. . . getting louder and louder. . . screaming . . .weeping. . . wailing. Terror and fear beyond anything you could imagine overtakes you. "This can’t be happening!" you scream. Your nostrils are filling with the awful stench of burning souls. Your face ignites from the heat. Flames are now blazing from your eyes, nostrils, ears, mouth — every opening in your body, flames are roaring out. Your body is sizzling and crackling from the flames.

    Your body is now madly thrashing and convulsing from the horrible pain. "Why don’t I die?", you scream. You begin weeping and gnashing your teeth with the millions. "When will this pain stop?" But you know it will never stop. . .

    The darkness is so terrifying, it begins engulfing you. You feel something moving in the darkness. . . something horrible is happening. "No! No! This can’t be happening" you scream — as your worm is emerging.

    You begin cursing the day you were born. You scream — "Oh God, why didn’t you warn me?"— but you remember the preacher pleading with you to receive Jesus Christ. You remember reading that gospel tract. You cry — "God don’t you care?" — but you remember John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,. . ." "God is a God of love — He won't allow this", you cry — but you remember John 3:36, ". . . he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

    And you soon realize, that Jesus Christ was right!

    There is a place called hell.

  20. Hi Marquice,

    Did you plan to provide any actual evidence (or response to my arguments)...or only fear tactics? Your call.

  21. Marquice, I find it interesting that in your illustration God still doesn't talk to us directly.

    I think this is what RA is getting at. Most people in this world, atheists, agnostics, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc, are all searching for "god" or "meaning" or whatever you want to call it. This is why philosophy, science, and religion have always been such fascinating topics to most of us. We are smart enough to know that life is special and that it will end, so we strive to find some purpose in it. I don't believe in the supernatural, and I certainly don't believe in the Christian god, but it's not because I don't want to. It's because I find Christianity's claims to be at odds with reality.

    However, if Christianity is true, I want to know -- what benefit is there in rejecting it if it's true? And most people feel the same way; we're all searching after truth. And if God is completely loving, why wouldn't we want to find him? So since the vast majority of humanity is not "rebelling against God" when they don't become Christians (instead, they're just not convinced of its arguments), why should they be punished for it?

    God hasn't told us any of the things you mentioned in your last paragraph. You got those statements from a book. No one actually knows who wrote that book. You believe that the book contains messages from God, but why should the rest of us believe that? As an atheist, I'm not rejecting God -- I'm rejecting people who claim to speak for him. That's a HUGE difference, and it's one of the main reasons that the concept of Hell is so problematic.

  22. Nate, if you are searching for truth, I commend to you Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament (and foretold in the Old). While I'm sure you will counter that you already have, I would invite you to do so again...unencumbered by presuppositions, doctrines, or baggage of any kind.

    Like Marquice I believe in Jesus and in hell. However, unlike Marquice I believe that hell is on this earth in this life...and that everyone is going to heaven at death. Everyone. You, me, Marquice...everyone.

    Now, my immediate point to you is not that you should believe me instead of Marquice. Rather it is that you should see in this discrepancy that Jesus of Nazareth is not necessarily wedded to the doctrines you may think He is. Forget the doctrine and focus on Him as a person.

    I have never seen or heard of a life like His. If you care about humanity, if you care about goodness, honor, and love, if you care about meaning, then Jesus Christ is the one you want to know. There truly is a baby in all that dirty bathwater of Christianity, and His name is Jesus. Only He is not a baby anymore. He is reigning supreme! However, if you study Him in the humility of His earthly life, you will find it find Him. I pray you will.

  23. Mike Gantt,

    How does one "find Him" and what's the point in doing so?

  24. Thanks Mike, I appreciate the message you're bringing. In fact, your view of Christianity is one I have no problem with (provided it's not pushed into schools or government) -- I even hope you're right. Having an afterlife would be great.

    I have looked into universalism before, though it was definitely not one of the doctrines I was raised with. I'm fascinated by it, and I'll take a deeper look -- I would imagine your blog contains more information about it too, so I'll check it out. However, one of my main contentions with Christianity comes from the fallibility of the Bible. And after seeing those issues, it's hard for me to see why any part of the Bible should be considered divine.

  25. Anonymous, what is the point of finding anyone worthwhile? Isn't the true richness of life the richness of our relationships? And with Jesus, all the more so because He is the one who created us.

  26. Nate, the literature of universalism has never interested me. As for the Bible, I never sat down to read it until my late 20's (I was agnostic and had been so for about 15 years). I started with the book of Ecclesiastes. Its world-weary view was something to which I could relate. Then I went to the New Testament. While I never enjoyed science classes in school, I always enjoyed history. With the New Testament documents I felt that I was reading primary research and these documents carried the ring of truth. Moreover, I had never seen morality as I saw it displayed in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Nor had I ever heard a genuinely humble person make declarations like "I am the way the truth and the life" and have it sound consistent with the humility. Thus, I came to see Jesus and fall in love with Him, not by first accepting the Bible as the word of God, but just by accepting it as a collection of extant documents from antiquity much as I would anything out of Greco-Roman history. I don't think you have to accept the Bible as the infallible word of God in order to research Jesus.

  27. Oh, I agree with you. I think there's a lot of value that we can get from studying the Bible, just as there is value in studying Homer. I'm a huge Star Wars fan, and there are some great life lessons contained within that as well. But having an appreciation of those things is very different from having a belief in them.

  28. Yes. Only if you saw something in Jesus in Nazareth that you did not see in George Lucas or Homer would you take the additional step of faith. I find the contrast between the former one and the latter two stunning, and that's without attributing anything significantly negative to the latter two.

  29. The other two were certainly just examples. But I'm just not struck by Jesus the same way you are. I think he said some great things (if the Bible's account can be trusted), but so has Marcus Aurelius, Plato, Socrates, Mark Twain, etc. I don't think any of the latter were divine, and I don't think Jesus was either. But please don't view that as some sort of sleight against you -- I don't mean it that way. You and I just view him differently.

  30. Nate, I don't feel that you've sleighted me in the least. I'm puzzled that you put those people in the same class as Jesus - but you don't owe me an explanation.

    Thanks for interacting with me.

  31. I Just don't understand how people can go through life believing they're flawed and sinful. I don't need to be saved, saved from what? life?,being yourself, making mistakes etc.? I think your belief system is just another belief of many and not the truth. Any god that creates us they way he does, than gets mad at us for doing what he designed us to do in the first place, is no god I would want to believe in.

  32. Gentlemen,
    Your concerns are certainly something to think about and try to resolve. Either God is the Author of the Bible--or He is not. I believe that Scripture has all of the true answers we need to base our ultimate acceptance--or rejection of Jesus Christ as Savior and Redeemer. Many will not believe for whatever reason, but there is sufficient evidence in that Book to know for sure (prophecy understood)if indeed it's God's message.

    Every man has been granted the ability to exercise the measure of saving faith that will ensure an eternal, happy life in the society of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, the Holy angels, and the unfallen beings of other worlds. God's purpose for the plan of salvation is to destroy Satan's works, and give a remnant of people who choose it--everlasting life instead of everlasting death. There is no such thing as an eternally burning hell--the Bible does not support that. It is a lie of Satan.

    For those who choose to seek life--here are studies that will reveal step-by-step what the Bible says that God wants you to know.The only requirement is an honest belief that He is there--just ask Him to reveal to you what His Word means. Ask Him if these studies are correct or incorrect.

    John 8:32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

  33. Hi there.

    You asked me to come and comment on this post, but, to be dead honest, I'm really discouraged. As an example of one reason why, take (1). In typical positivist fashion, you ask for "evidence" of hell, yet, this is a nonsensical request whether hell exists now or in the future. If hell exists now, evidence for it would be impossible, as it is described as a place the living are barred access to. I shouldn't even have to explain why the request is nonsensical if hell takes place in the future, but... it's nonsensical for the aforementioned reason, plus the additional reason that it's logically impossible to provide evidence of non-extant phenomena.

    Do you really believe that your doubt is rational and/or justified because a Christian can't provide "evidence" of hell? What are they supposed to do? Conduct a study? Build a better telescope? Hell is a metaphysical proposition. Your objection is simply not reasonable.

    1. Hey cl,

      All I'm intending to say there is I see no convincing reasons to believe hell exists. And I additionally think there are some decent reasons for believing it does not (the ones I discussed above, and others I didn't happen to mention). I'm not talking here about anyone providing evidence for hell, in the scientific sense. I agree this would be impossible.

      Why should I believe the Christian hell is a real place?

      Literally any answer you give, to that very straightforward question, will be your "evidence" (for believing in it), in the sense that I mean the word above.

  34. People many centuries ago saw no reason to believe asteroids exist. According to your values and manner of thinking, should they have believed asteroids don't exist? If you say yes, then you endorse a methodology that lends quite well to error. If you say no, undermine any "I see no reason X" defense that doesn't invoke additional arguments of the variant "I see reason ~X." Now, that wouldn't apply in this case, because your denial of hell is not based solely on "I see no reason X" -type reasoning. As for the reasons you believe it doesn't exist, I'll address those.

    "Why should I believe the Christian hell is a real place?"

    Because given a choice between atheism and Christ, if you don't believe, and hell is real, you're screwed. OTOH, if you do, and it isn't real, well... you just had a false belief that motivated you to be a better person. IOW, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by choosing Christ over atheism.

    1. I'm not sure I fully understand your asteroids query. If there were no reason to believe in asteroids, many centuries ago, than it seems to me the appropriate response (for the people of the time) would be to withhold positive belief in them (but this is different than saying "asteroids don't exist"). However, if there were additionally reasons to believe that "asteroids don't exist", than perhaps a denial of their existence would also become appropriate. Does this answer your question?

      So, your reason, for believing in hell, is Pascal's Wager? I'm sure you've already heard the typical atheist responses, so I hesitate to repeat any of them (I know how much you generally hate those). But, assuming that you have indeed heard these, I'm curious as to how you would respond...for example, why aren't you afraid of the Muslim hell? What if you're wrong, as a Christian, and only Muslims will make it to heaven? Doesn't the same logic apply? In other words, isn't there a risk (of hell) for both of us? It also makes me wonder...does god really want people to choose Christianity because they are utterly terrified?

      And what sort of god would punish people, for all eternity, for making an honest intellectual mistake? Doesn't this make him a monster, of nearly unimaginable proportions?

  35. "5) The Christian hell is implausible because only part of the Bible teaches it."

    Your conclusion does not flow from your premise. How many pages need to mention "hell" before this objection dissolves? Is gravity implausible because only a part of science teaches it? Where is the logical connection between the aforementioned, and:

    "Is it likely that [God] would allow entire books, to become part of [His] holy canon, that hold inaccurate views?"

    ...? You went straight from "hell is only in part of the Bible," to, "the Bible is inaccurate," but the fact that something is only in part of the Bible is no good reason to automatically assume it's inaccurate. The argument is invalid.

    "But the bare fact remains...some of the Old Testament, in particular, simply assumes that there is no afterlife."

    You didn't cite a single verse to back up this alleged "fact" of yours. Doesn't that make the claim unfounded?

    "4) The Christian hell is implausible because the punishment doesn't fit the crime"

    This only applies to traditionalism and dissolves if annihilationism or universalism are true. In fact, even if traditionalism is true, that the punishment doesn't fit the crime is your opinion, and certainly our opinions about things aren't good reasons to believe or disbelieve the things themselves. So, this objection dissolves completely.

    "Let's face it, a loving God would never allow a hell to begin with."

    Again, that's just your opinion. A rational rejection requires reasons, as in, valid arguments or evidence, not naked assertions, invalid arguments or opinions. Surely you'd agree, right?

    1. "The Christian hell is implausible because only part of the Bible teaches it."

      You seem to be missing the main point of my argument here. The germane question is this...would god allow factual errors, in his holy book? And if you respond by saying something like, "well that's not a problem for me, because I don't hold to biblical inerrancy", than I again want to know why it is that you believe in hell to begin with. Aren't you getting the idea of hell, from the Bible itself? So, if the Bible indeed has factual errors in it, than how do you determine which parts can and cannot be trusted? If I am right, and part of the Bible teaches there is no afterlife...while other parts of it teach that there is, why would god allow this discrepancy? Was one of those biblical authors inspired, and the other not? Is god trying to confuse us with conflicting information? That's the point I'm making.

      "But the bare fact remains...some of the Old Testament, in particular, simply assumes that there is no afterlife."

      In terms of citing verses, you are correct. I don't tend to write in a formal argument (premise 1, premise 2, premise 3, therefore...) sort of way, so feel free to call my bluff when I make assertions that need further backing. If memory serves, I became convinced of this assertion primarily through the arguments made in Bart Ehrman's book "God's Problem". Give me a week or two, to lay my hands on the relevant quotes & passages, but once I've got them in hand I'll circle back and share them here.

      "This only applies to traditionalism and dissolves if annihilationism or universalism are true."

      I agree. In fact, if Christianity is true, I really hope that either annihilationism or universalism are true...for my own sake!

      "Again, that's just your opinion."

      Well, yes, but if us sinful humans would eventually choose mercy (over endless torment)...and even for people like Adolf Hitler, as I assert above, than either: a) we are more compassionate than the Christian god, or b) our conceptions of compassion and love are really screwed up. (In fact, it would appear that we are far too compassionate!) Maybe we should be wishing eternal torment on people?

      I'm off to bed in a few minutes, but I'll try to check in again tomorrow (I hope), or a few days at most (work has been nuts lately). Cheers for now.

  36. "3) The Christian hell is implausible because it necessarily means that humans are more compassionate than the Christian God is

    If, somehow, the human race were able to vote on how Hitler would be punished, what do you think we would decide? Initially, there may be some who would argue for "eternal" torment (mostly the religiously minded, perhaps?) but, after the dust settled, is that what we would wind up settling on? I don't think so. I believe that reason would win out, in the end analysis, and even if we did decide to torture him, let's say, we would not vote for it to be never ending (if such a thing were even possible)."

    Again, this rests on the assumption that traditionalism is true. It also *SEEMS* to rest on the assumption that God actively inflicts "torture" on the unrepentant, but maybe you were just being a little loose with words there. If that's what you actually meant—that God actively "tortures" the unrepentant in hell—I'll respond that there are no biblical grounds for that claim, and biblical grounds to reject it. If you think there are biblical grounds for that claim, you'll have to explain precisely what you mean by "torture," then show the scriptures. If we agree that God doesn't actively inflict torture on the unrepentant, then your analogy is imprecise: the relationship between the unrepentant and hell is better expressed by analogies where we jail Hitler until he dies (annihilationism), or jail Hitler forever (traditionalism). That humans generally approve of the "life sentence" suggests that the concept of the permanent removal of the wicked is not at odds with human morality.

    "2) The Christian hell is implausible because of its origins"

    Gehenna was where they burned trash. It became a metaphor for hell. How does that make it implausible?

  37. "If I am right, and part of the Bible teaches there is no afterlife...while other parts of it teach that there is, why would god allow this discrepancy?"

    What discrepancy? We can't get anywhere until you make your case. You say you'll do so, so I'll suspend further judgment of (5) until you do.

    "Well, yes, but if us sinful humans would eventually choose mercy..."

    God chose mercy. Hell is not mandatory for sinners. It's not like God took the offer off the table for Hitler.

    1. Not sure which verses RA will find, but here are two:

      Ecclesiastes 9:5: "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten." Another translation: "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead are not conscious, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten."

      Job 14:10-12: "But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep."

    2. Thanks anonymous. Yes, these are good examples, and sufficient to illustrate the problem. In speaking of Ecclesiastes, Bart Ehrman makes this general comment (chapter 6 of "God's Problem"), "Nor, for this author, should it be thought that there is a good afterlife for those who have been good, wise, faithful, and righteous or punishment for those who die in their sins. There are no rewards or punishments after death--life is all there is, and so it should be cherished while we have it." And even Wikipedia says the following, "Early Judaism had no concept of Hell, though the concept of an afterlife was introduced during the Hellenic period, apparently from neighboring Hellenistic regions."

  38. You want proof of Hell? You only need to view the Kingdom Bible version (

    The Golden Ratio format of the Bible (seen only in the Kingdom Bible version) proves
    1) that all of the Bible is of Divine origin.
    2) therefore, all of what the Bible says is of Divine origin, and is not of man's device nor thought.
    3) therefore, everything that the Bible says should be taken seriously and literally, in accordance with the grammatical, historical interpretation of Scripture.
    4) The Old Covenant believers DID believe in an afterlife. David said of his dead son, "He shall not return to me, but I shall go to him." 2 Samuel 12:23
    1 Samuel 28:19: Saul saw a vision of Samuel after he had died, who told him, "tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me."

    Numbers 16:28-34: "And Moses said, “Hereby you shall know that Jehovah has sent me to do all these works: for I have not done them of my own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they are visited after the visitation of all men, then Jehovah has not sent me. But if Jehovah makes a new thing, and the earth opens her mouth, and swallows them up, with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Hell, then you shall understand that these men have provoked Jehovah!”

    And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground that was under them split apart; and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that belonged to Korah, and all their goods: they, and all that belonged to them, went down alive into Hell; and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the congregation. And all Israel that were round about them fled at their cry: for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up also!"

    1. Thanks for your comments Max.

      As I already mentioned, above, the consensus is that "EARLY Judaism had no concept of Hell, though the concept of an afterlife was introduced during the Hellenic period, apparently from neighboring Hellenistic regions."

      And here are a couple of articles for you to check out,

    2. Moses didn't live during the "early Hellenic period". You assume that liberal criticism of the Bible, that says that most of the OT was written much later than the names of the Books would suggest, is correct. But what if the liberal critics are wrong, and the literal sense of the Books, that suggests strongly that they were written by the people named in the titles, and all conservative Jewish scholars would agree, that the Law of Moses is called that precisely because Moses actually did write it?

      I suggest that you download a free copy of the Kingdom Bible, and look at the proof of the Golden Ratio format of the Bible found on my website. The Golden Ratio format proves that the Bible is of Divine Origin, and that means that everything in it must therefore be true.

      I'm sorry but your hope that there is no Hell simply isn't supported by the facts.

      If you really want to spend eternity roasting in fire like a chicken on a spit, screaming in pain and begging for a drop of water and mercy, but receiving none, then continue on the path you are on, and you will soon be there.

      But Jesus Christ has already paid for your sins on the cross and rose again from the dead. All you must do is acknowledge that he died for you and rose again from the dead; then repent, which means to be sorry for the fact that you have sinned against God, and ask God for forgiveness because of what Jesus Christ did for you.

      That's what I did over 30 years ago, and ever since then, I knew without having to have anyone persuade me that the Bible is literally and completely true; and yes, there is indeed a Heaven and a Hell.

      Hell is a place you must avoid at all costs.

      This website is a slap in the face of Almighty God; and God is still waiting for you to repent and trust in Jesus. But He will not wait forever.

      Hell is waiting for you and anyone else who has not been born again through faith in Jesus Christ.

    3. Most scholars firmly reject the idea that the Torah was written by Moses. For further reading & evidence, regarding its authorship, I recommend "Who Wrote The Bible?", by Richard Elliott Friedman. Or you can just continue insisting, really emphatically, that he must have written it. Your call.

  39. Here is a sample of the Golden Ratio format of the Bible from the Gospel of John. The text format here makes it impossible to show all of the format, but you can go to the link I put in above to see many, many more examples of this.

    1 U Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in his Name, when they saw the miracles which he did;
    2 C but Jesus did not commit himself to them, because he knew all men;
    3 C and he needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
    1 U There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
    2 C The same came to Jesus by night, and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that you do, unless God is with him.”
    3 C Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

    1 C Nicodemus says to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born again?”
    2 C Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a man is born of water and [also of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God: that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
    3 U Marvel not that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but cannot tell where it came from, and where it is going; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

    1 U Nicodemus answered and said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak what we know, and testify what we have seen; and you do not receive our witness.
    2 C If I have told you earthly things, and you do not believe, how shall you believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
    3 C And no man has ascended up to Heaven, but he that came down from Heaven, even the Son of man who is in Heaven.

    1 U And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up [on the cross], Rthat whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have Eternal Life.
    2 C For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have Everlasting Life.
    3 C For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

    1 C He that believes on him is not condemned;
    2 C but he that does not believe has been condemned already,
    3 U because he has not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God.

    1 C And this is the condemnation, that Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than Light, because their deeds were evil:
    2 C for every one that does evil hates the Light; neither does he come to the Light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
    3 U But he that does truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they were performed in God.”



  40. IN the first century, Jesus had an argument with the ruling priestly class who were appointed by the Romans, and we know them as the Sadducee, never mind the origins for now. These guys do not believe in the after life! No, there is no HELL. And I am not an atheist, but the writer of this blog is, then more power to you man. Keep on studying.