Hell. Do you imagine that a loving God has ordained eternal damnation and suffering for some portion of His creation? That’s what a good many Muslims, Christians, and other religious groups believe. Can one really reconcile condemnation of sinners to eternal torture with the notion of Infinite Love as the motivating power of the universe? Maybe everyone is just ushered into heaven. But what about those who don’t repent and change their evil ways? My colleague, Tony Lobl, writing for the August 31, 2016 edition of the UK Huffington Post, brings some light (not heat!) to this subject. Here’s Tony:
Is hell really a terrifying post-demise destination created by God to scare us into better behaviour?
Or could such “traditional” views of hell be poised to gently fall by the wayside?
For example, I’ve recently read of Christians perceiving hell as spiritual desolation rather than eternal damnation, or as total absorption in self rather than fire and brimstone.
Are these steps in the direction of both heaven and hell being viewed as states of thought? The former aligned with the joy, forgiveness and harmony that express the goodness of God, the latter associated with the less appetising elements and consequences of our so-called human nature?
“Sin makes its own hell, and goodness its own heaven,” is how one thinker – Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy – summed up the difference in her text Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
This understanding of heaven and hell can go some way to healing the dread that can accompany belief in a definitive judgement day looming as an afterlife moment that might sentence us to damnation.
Clearly, not everyone is championing less intimidating perceptions of hell. I was recently engaged in a lively discussion with several people who subscribe to a view of hell as literal hellfire – a view I struggle to equate with the loving divine Parent I accept God to be.