I don't think I understand the concept of hell...

(133 Posts)
deadlift Fri 12-Apr-13 20:10:15

Hi, I hope I can explain my question clearly. I've been thinking about it for a while and I just don't really understand.

As a Christian, I would never condone torture because I don't think we should ever treat people like that, regardless of what they've done. If I can love my neighbour enough not to condone torture than how can God, who loves us more than I could ever love anybody, commit somebody to eternal torture in hell? I don't think I could condemn anyone to that (I certaintly hope I couldn't) so how could an all loving God do that?

I'm sure there's probably an explanation that I just haven't thought of (I know my current understanding of God is pretty rubbish) and I'd really appreciate it if somebody could help me.

BigGiantCowWithAKnockKnockTail Fri 12-Apr-13 20:12:26

My understanding of hell is eternal separation from God, so not physical torture as such, but the lack of His presence which would be considered torture.

Anthracite Fri 12-Apr-13 20:22:16

Hell is separation from God.

headinhands Italy Fri 12-Apr-13 20:43:55

Who made hell? Who goes to hell?

deadlift Fri 12-Apr-13 21:00:33

Ok, that makes a lot more sense, thanks for your responses. So Hell then isn't so much a place of punishment but a place where you can't have a relationship with God. Of course, that's not great but I mean it's not a place made to make you suffer but a place where you go as a logical conclusion of having rejected God. Have I got that more right?

headinhands Italy Fri 12-Apr-13 21:03:18

So if a man rapes and murders an atheist woman but then finds god, or should I say the right god, in prison, she ends up in hell for eternity while he goes to heaven. And that's fair?

deadlift Fri 12-Apr-13 21:48:44

I think that that example doesn't do the complexity of the issue justice. If a rapist truely did 'find God' than they would really, truely regret what they had done. What they had done would still be abhorrent, and if they had really come to know God then they would know that. I know that their regret would not help their victim but then if they truely came to know God then they would want to make up for their previous sins. (I would hope that that would involve some sort of work to prevent rape or protect women or women's rights in some way). If that really did happen then perhaps that person would get to heaven.

However, in practice it obviously wouldn't work like that because the rape would not be the only thing they ever happened in their lives. An athiest women might be raped and then separately in the rest of her life be really unpleasant or they might be the nicest person you ever met. So basically I have no idea whether she would go to heaven or not. I still wouldn't know if I knew everything about their lives because I don't know everything about God, and I never will. All I know is that I believe in Him, so I want to try and understand and live a good life myself. And that simplistic examples are rarely helpful.

Sorry, I know that's rather rambly and probably makes little sense. I'd be interested to hear other people's ideas.

headinhands Italy Fri 12-Apr-13 21:58:45

So the only way he could regret what he had done would be if he found god? What if he already believed in god? So how do those of us without a belief in god manage to live good lives?

What if he believes in the wrong god? What if the woman was just a normal woman, not perfect but just like you and me, going to work, paying bills, looking after her kids, but still totally rejected the existence of a loving god on intellectual grounds?

You say its a complex issue but in terms of statistics it will have happened at some point Do you think the woman goes to hell and he to heaven?

deadlift Fri 12-Apr-13 22:25:47

I never said that the only way he could regret what he'd done would be to find God. I don't believe that. Knowing God would cause you to regret it but that's not the only way.

If he already knew God then he wouldn't have committed rape in the first place. If you truely knew God then you would love Him and therefore your neighbours. You don't rape people you truely love. He might have said that he believed in God but a someone willing to commit rape couldn't possibly truely know God.

So, I think that if a rapist came to truely know God then yes, they would go to heaven. But they would also truely and wholeheartly wish they hadn't committed the rape.

I don't think that I can say whether the average women like you or I would go to heaven if she'd been raped. You don't get to go to heaven because horrible things happen to you, whether that's rape or assault or bereavment or homelessness or whatever. You get to go to heaven if your responses to what happens to you in life are right. Personally, at the moment, I think that if this women lived a good life, so cared for her neighbours etc, she would go to heaven.

Do you think that people who have rubbish lives should be automatically entiled to get to heaven? And do you think that someone who truely loved their neighbour could commit rape?

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Fri 12-Apr-13 22:59:28

Matthew 13:41-42 "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth."

Yeah, sounds like it's just separation from God.... no torture or anything.....

headinhands Italy Fri 12-Apr-13 22:59:38

No, the way she dies is immaterial, I used the scenario to juxtapose her with the man. What about if he had a mental illness and never found god after. Is he still culpable. Psychology has shown us that certain conditions make individuals more likely to commit certain crimes. We are all a product of our genetics and environment and free-will is effectively a comforting illusion. Of course that's not to say we shouldn't imprison dangerous and habitual offenders, there's no perfect solution, but the heaven/hell conundrum is a very very poor one. The reason I ask all these questions is that when I do, I see that the model for heaven/hell that all the religions come up seem very immoral. Even as a mere human I able to say 'no that would be grossly unfair' and therefore have to suppose my moral reasoning is superior to the god who would do that.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Fri 12-Apr-13 23:04:19

Revelation 21:8 "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

I think that clears up the issue of the rapist and the atheist victim, they will both be off to the fiery lake.

headinhands Italy Fri 12-Apr-13 23:08:43

The cowardly? So that'd be people with any sort of anxiety disorder? Or have I got that out of context?

headinhands Italy Fri 12-Apr-13 23:10:26

No offence to people with anxiety disorders of course! they're certainly not cowards as far as I'm concerned so what does it mean when it says cowardly.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Fri 12-Apr-13 23:14:08

Don't know about the cowardly, but I'm more concerned about those who practice magic arts. I can't genuinely believe that Ron Weasley's gonna burn in sulphur.....

LizzyDay Fri 12-Apr-13 23:25:15

Deadlift - I think you'll find that modern day Christians, in the UK anyway, will be falling over themselves to say 'oh no, we don't promote the idea of hell any more, it makes us look like loons if we do '. Few will admit to being motivated by a future in heaven either.

headinhands Italy Fri 12-Apr-13 23:37:39

Poor old Paul Daniels and his lovely assistant/wife Debbie Magee!

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 08:47:54

I really don't know what heaven or hell are like but I too see it as a separation from God. Very hard to get my head around so, to be honest, I tend to concentrate on trying to live this life in the best way I can (possibly a cop out but works got me).

As an aside I wouldn't see 'cowardly' as those who suffer from anxiety, it's more likely to mean those who do not have the courage to follow what they know to be right as revealed by God in my opinion. Otherwise I am stuffed by my inability to be more than 20 feet off the ground without my knees knocking.

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sat 13-Apr-13 08:51:03

So you don't believe in the bible description of hell then?

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 09:06:32

I can imagine that for me, as a Christian, permanent separation from God would feel worse than being cast into some fiery furnace, perhaps it is a state of the soul rather than a literal massive bonfire but this was how the writers were able to interpret it. Perhaps it is more internalised than that. I don't disbelieve what is written because I can see how permanent separation from God could be beyond the worst things I could imagine.

As I said it's hard to get my head around, I don't pretend to have the answer and, if I am honest, neither is my faith based on a fear of it, therefore I am trying to concentrate on living this life as best as I can and trusting in God as a loving God.

headinhands Italy Sat 13-Apr-13 09:20:44

It's more likely to mean those who do not have the courage to follow what they know to be right as revealed by God in my opinion.

Interesting. Can you give me some examples of what god has revealed to be right, and that it takes courage to follow? Furthermore how come you'll have one Christian saying 'this is right' and another saying 'no this is'. Why does god tell different followers different things such as is the case with homosexuality?

Gingerdodger Sat 13-Apr-13 09:23:51

There is one simple message for all Christians in my opinion 'to love one another as I have loved you'.

Easy to say, very difficult to practise.

headinhands Italy Sat 13-Apr-13 09:30:51

If you have decided that the biblical description of hell is a metaphor, how do you then not see it all as metaphor? And what are the rules for deciding if something is metaphor because from a lot of the threads on here it seems like this: if it sounds horrible it's a metaphor but if it sounds lovely it's literal. It's another example of how most Christians, thankfully, use their own standard of morality when interpreting the scriptures which shows that you, as a person living in 2013 have superior values than either god, or the people who wrote it, and I think the latter is clear the answer.

headinhands Italy Sat 13-Apr-13 09:35:43

There is one simple message for all Christians in my opinion 'to love one another as I have loved you'.

Is the one another everybody or just fellow believers?

How does it take courage to love one another? Can you give examples? How is a Christian loving one another different to a non-Christian loving their fellow human?

PedroYoniLikesCrisps Sat 13-Apr-13 09:41:44

But what about all the complicated messages that are also conveyed?

I also think that to love as he has loved you is not that difficult. He's not exactly shown a great deal of it over the last two thousand years and even the bible accounts aren't that great an example.

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