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How Did YOU Think About Hell Back Then?

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I am curious about the variations of the concept of "separation from god" and it's many different flavors. Whether or not separation from god is necessarily painful and why it is painful seems to vary. My mom thinks that god is literally love and joy and therefore separation from god is literally separation from love or joy and those in hell are incapable of feeling either of these emotions without god. This causes great suffering and weeping and gnashing of teeth. I'm not so sure this view of hell is that much more humane than literal fire. Also, I'm not sure about the unbelievers choose separation from god because is reincarnation, no afterlife, nirvana, other heavens really the equivalent from wanting to be sent to a place where you are away from the Christian god. Do Hindus really think, "I want to be sent to a place where I'm separated from Jesus." The they choose hell seems hard to believe for me at least. There are other variations of separation from god where separation from god isn't inherently painful, but the people there's regrets cause them to suffer and it's self inflicted. Others have it as earth 2.0 and a "not that bad hell" and others have it as "annihilation except not quite because you kind of, sort of exist." Which of these variations of separation from god is most common, separation that directly causes pain, separation that isn't painful but people there self inflict pain, annihilation-lite, or earth 2.0?

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On 1/13/2019 at 9:02 PM, megasamurai said:

I am curious about the variations of the concept of "separation from god" and it's many different flavors. Whether or not separation from god is necessarily painful and why it is painful seems to vary. My mom thinks that god is literally love and joy and therefore separation from god is literally separation from love or joy and those in hell are incapable of feeling either of these emotions without god. This causes great suffering and weeping and gnashing of teeth. I'm not so sure this view of hell is that much more humane than literal fire. Also, I'm not sure about the unbelievers choose separation from god because is reincarnation, no afterlife, nirvana, other heavens really the equivalent from wanting to be sent to a place where you are away from the Christian god. Do Hindus really think, "I want to be sent to a place where I'm separated from Jesus." The they choose hell seems hard to believe for me at least. There are other variations of separation from god where separation from god isn't inherently painful, but the people there's regrets cause them to suffer and it's self inflicted. Others have it as earth 2.0 and a "not that bad hell" and others have it as "annihilation except not quite because you kind of, sort of exist." Which of these variations of separation from god is most common, separation that directly causes pain, separation that isn't painful but people there self inflict pain, annihilation-lite, or earth 2.0?

 

I remember watching an interview with Bill Wiese about his book 23 Minutes in Hell.  The gist of the book is that God sent him to Hell for 23 minutes so he could experience it and then preach about it to save souls from going there.  He explained separation from God as the lack of attributes associated with God.  If God is breath, you don't breathe well in Hell.  There's no love in Hell, because God is love.  No light in Hell because God is light, and so on.  It was an interesting take on the subject, especially if you don't cherry-pick your verses and realize that there's no evil in Hell either because God is the author of evil and so on.

 

The belief that sinners choose Hell over Heaven is nothing more than a comforting bedtime story Christians tell themselves to rectify a God who sends people to eternal torment for trivial reasons being all good and all loving.  Members here have rightly made the deduction that Christianity is a feeding frenzy of sadists saying that everyone but them is going to suffer eternally.  Of course, most of these Hell-bound people are other Christians who have "wrong theology", whatever that is.  You'd think that John 3:16 would cover all that, but apparently it doesn't for them.

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I was taught from very young that hell is literal fire where people are suffering and screaming. I remember the terror at age five and I still feel angry my mother didn’t protect such a young child from that indoctrination bullshit.  At some point,that concept didn’t feel right to me anymore and I was open to the idea that hell is a cold,dark afterlife without love (because God is love,so I reasoned). When I went to therapy last year,the concept of hell was the very first thing to go. I love and cherish my children and the doctrine of hell simply wouldn’t fit into my concept of parental love. At all. Within a month,I found ex-Xtians on YouTube and decided to love myself and my family. Which,if my mother had done that before I was born,would have spared me three decades of grief. 

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From what it sounds like, what people imagine the concept of separation from god to be sounds like it's almost always horrific. I don't get why it's more comforting than a literal fire if all the side-effects of separation seem to be able to cause a pain on par with literal fire. How is an eternity of darkness and an inability to feel love or joy superior or choking to death as that book described. If someone said, "hell isn't torture, he's just honoring people's wishes to be away from him. It's just that you'll be choking for all eternity in darkness unable to feel love or joy." I'm pondering the idea that people supposedly choose this fate and god is obligated to do so. If I were god, I would send not send anyone to such a place no matter how much people want it. One thing I'm wondering about is if sending people to hell is about free will, why wouldn't god try to change people's minds. I can imagine many unbelievers preferring to be with god rather than choking in darkness. I don't buy the argument that nobody would accept salvation if it were offered after death. 

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12 hours ago, megasamurai said:

From what it sounds like, what people imagine the concept of separation from god to be sounds like it's almost always horrific.

 

That's the point.  If it isn't horrific then there's no reason to join or stay in the faith.  When Christians were persecuted it was kind of a fuck you to everyone who hurt them: they may have the upper hand now, but in the end we get mansions and streets of gold and they get a lake of fire and eternal torment.  I imagine after that it was to keep the money flowing.  Remember after the Council of Nicaea the Romans went to all the disparate churches and made the ultimatum that the Romans had the true Gospel and everyone else was a heretic.  That way the Church got all the power and all the money.

 

Anyway, I think I got off on a tangent there, but really the gist of the message is Hell has to be bad otherwise there's no leverage for the churches of the denominations (or really any religion that emphasizes Hell doctrine) to hold over the congregation.

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The contradiction of the churches claiming that their separation from god hell is superior to the majority literal fire hell is quite interesting since the Bill Wiese example seems to demonstrate that the term "separation from god" is merely a euphemism for unimaginable torments. It seems to be mental gymnastics and doublethink that allows them to believe that it is more humane than a literal fire yet just as agonizing. Billy Graham also teaches that hell isn't literal fire, but separation from god, but I'm not sure what Graham's hell entails. It's probably painful and agonizing, but the exact details on how and why Graham's hell is painful is probably different from Wiese's. Does anybody know what Graham's hell is like? It seems like the idea that separation from god is painless is an extremely rare belief as a painless hell isn't scary. Lee Strobel's argument in The Case for Faith that separation from god hell is loving and superior to the literal lake of fire holds little water when Strobel/Giesler's hell is maybe a hair less horrific than Wiese, being a place where everybody feels nothing but sadness and regret. Anyway, there seem to be so many variations on the separation from god hell but they seem to come more from Wiese, Strobel, Geiser, and other people's butts rather than scripture and the claims that they are superior to the "classic" hell make no sense when they have their own forms of pain and agony. "Separation from god" just seems like a brand name used to make a place of pain and agony easier to sell.

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On 8/19/2018 at 12:03 PM, ThereAndBackAgain said:

Having once been a Christian, you presumably believed in Hell at some point in your life.  For me, Hell is one of the hardest parts of Christianity to accept. And of course Christians are all over the map when in comes to attitudes to Hell...

 

What is Hell? 

During or since our deconversion, many of us have seen videos or articles explaining how the concept of Hell can be seen to evolve in the pages of the Bible, and how it continued to evolve up through Dante’s Inferno and the many medieval paintings that featured Hell.  In modern times, some say that Hell is merely an eternal separation from God, which sounds just fine to many of us apostates now, especially if this God resembles the one in the Old Testament. Or maybe Hell is just annihilation - death as the end of everything - which again sounds better than some of the alternatives...

 

Who Goes to Hell?

Christians also differ sharply as to who actually goes to Hell: for some fundamentalists, everybody who doesn’t conform to their particular denomination’s dogma and practice is Hell-bound for sure.  Others say that all who accept Jesus as their savior (however that is done) escape the flames.  Or all baptized Christians avoid Hell but everybody else is toast (but wait: were you baptized by sprinkling or by immersion???). For others, Hell is reserved for only the worst of the worst of humanity, such as Hitler and people who drive too slowly in the fast lane.

 

So I’m interested to hear what you thought about Hell when you were a Christian.  And I’d especially like to hear how you felt about people going to Hell.  Surely you knew, if only slightly, people who didn’t qualify to be saved from Hell.  Maybe close family members, friends, or just acquaintances. Maybe just strangers you saw coming out of dens of sin like bars, nightclubs, strip-joints, brothels or movie theaters, or folks walking their dogs or playing golf while you drove to Church. Did you feel like they deserved it?  Or did you try not to think about the nice but unchurched guy next door burning for eternity?  Was Hell one of the things that pushed you away from Christianity?  Or did fear of Hell keep you in the fold or torment you as you went through the deconversion process?  Or both?

My earliest thoughts on hell were of course fearful.  Thinking back, the idea of hell is what I first remember about Christianity.  I recall having nightmares about hell as a child.  I was terrified of death or doing something wrong and going there.  As a child though I was reassured children didn’t go to hell.  I suppose that’s scriptural.  Who knows?  Supposedly there’s no where in the Bible which declares the actual age of accountability.  

 

Being brought up in the South, predominantly baptist hell was literal.  A place of eternal burning torment.  A lake of fire. That lake of fire really got to me.   The imagery of people burning forever and not dying makes me think death is a release. Death would be preferable over something as such.  

 

Who deserved to go there according to what I was taught?  Let’s see, anyone who didn’t believe in god, people who were gay, murderers, abortionists, doubting god, adulterers, liars, people who drank alcohol, people who gambled, people who didn’t believe the way you did like Catholics, Mormons, or even other Christians who just didn’t believe the way your sect did, people who specifically believed in once saved always saved, thieves, people who said words like goddamn or took gods name in vain - huge debate over what it meant to do that though in different churches, the list grew according to what church you attended - listening to any other music than gospel, watching r rated movies or probably anything above pg or a movie not related to god, the same went for books or any other entertainment, cursing, not being baptized, having anything to do with magic, the occult, or things of that nature.  Basically it seemed pretty much everyone ever deserved to go to hell for some reason or another.  

 

The list went on and on.  Did I feel they deserved it?  At some point early on yes but I questioned some of those things.  Later I couldn’t reconcile why god would make people a certain way and then send them to hell for it.  As I got older it made less and less sense to me.  It really never made sense.  I was just told to accept it.  

 

Hell both pushed me away and kept me in.  Somehow it was a duel reality in fantasyland hell.  The mental torment that comes from the idea of hell is unreal.  However unbelievable the idea, when you have been indoctrinated to accept it as truth it’s so difficult to rid yourself of.  

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14 hours ago, megasamurai said:

Anyway, there seem to be so many variations on the separation from god hell but they seem to come more from Wiese, Strobel, Geiser, and other people's butts rather than scripture and the claims that they are superior to the "classic" hell make no sense when they have their own forms of pain and agony. "Separation from god" just seems like a brand name used to make a place of pain and agony easier to sell.

 

I'd agree with that wholeheartedly.

 

On 1/16/2019 at 4:37 PM, megasamurai said:

I don't buy the argument that nobody would accept salvation if it were offered after death. 

 

I agree with this too.  The problem is that once you're dead it's too late, so they say.  Again, this is a measure of control.  If the churches can't have obedience and/or money when you're alive, then there's no happy ending waiting for you postmortem.  Heaven is a reward, not a promise, as I understand it.

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On 8/19/2018 at 11:03 AM, ThereAndBackAgain said:

So I’m interested to hear what you thought about Hell when you were a Christian.  And I’d especially like to hear how you felt about people going to Hell.  

 

This is where the early cracks in my faith started to form. First, I conceived of hell as a place that was outside of god's presence. That's all. To clarify, I believed that god sustained this world. That without his presence, goodness, empathy, compassion, etc. would not exist. That even evil people can experience goodness on this earth because god's spirit permeates all creation. So hell was a place god set aside that was outside his presence and spirit of goodness. Descriptions of wailing and gnashing teeth, of fire and torment weren't god actively torturing people, but rather metaphorical descriptions of what it would be like to exist outside of god's presence. That it's literally indescribable as no one has that frame of reference, but that it would be misery and pain. 

 

This also helped me resolve the mental gymnastics of why god would "send people to hell." I reasoned that he doesn't "send" anyone, but rather everyone has the opportunity to choose to be in god's light or choose to reject god and leave his presence. So, hell made more sense to me then. God isn't "doing" anything, just allowing people to choose their own fate so to speak. 

 

But there was one fatal flaw. I met too many people who didn't get to choose. Or rather, their choice would've been so heavily influenced by the tragedies of their lives. And it was one young man who I was witnessing to (trying to convert him) who was sobbing in tears because someone he loved was going to hell because they were openly gay. This person didn't know much about Christianity (he assumed I could interpret his dreams because he thought they taught us that in church) but he knew enough and I did too. I remember then trying to justify in my own mind why the being gay didn't really matter but I caught myself and realized I was rationalizing. And while this young man cried without dignity or grace, the cracks in my faith started to form. Was the dead man given the choice and he rejected it? 

 

Then I did something even worse to the certainty of my faith. I started googling. I looked up the man who had died and found his blog that was still online. And I read. Years worth of posts. Rants. Successes. Musings. His parents were Jehovah's Witnesses. They take an even dimmer view of homosexuality then mainline Christianity and I read about how his mother kicked him out and disowned him. At the one year anniversary of his death, there was a memorial service was I invited to and learned from the people there that an invite had been sent to his mother but she replied that her son had died years ago when he rejected Jehovah.

 

So I was left with my own thoughts on this. With all the tragedy in his life, was hell justice? Did he really get to choose? If he did, was his choice truly an informed choice, understanding everything clearly and not obfuscated? Was this right? Was this justice? And what do I tell the man who was suffering? Jesus comforted those who were suffering. Yet the Bible makes it clear to tell the truth, that lies are evil. I could think of no truth to comfort him. To comfort him would be evil? 

 

And the cracks deepened. 

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