I’m here to tell you why you shouldn’t fear hell. I’m also going to tell you why you should feel free to defy any god you choose because doing so always somehow ends up working to the furtherance of reason. Beyond that, it is in the interests of your own happiness to spurn what is Christendom and similar delusions, as we shall see.
We are told to fear a hell, at least preachers used to talk like that. Today, how quiet the blogs are without Christians ready to remind us of how hot the afterlife for the unsaved will be. I almost miss it: “Ok, Joe, when God ships you off to hell, don’t say you weren’t warned!” Wait, no, I don’t miss it, but all this silence is admittedly unexpected.
You shouldn’t fear a hell. Deities who say they are going to inflict pain on their erring children are not worthy of our praises or the wearying botherance of our prayers. But Hell is an idle threat. It’s not a real place, and if it were, you still shouldn’t fear it.
If hell was real, the company there, with those who defied the ignorance of the gods through the centuries, would be a sought-after commodity. Being there would be better than spending eternity with the naïve and chattering cowards who bowed the knee to their wrathful father-figure out of trembling and trepidation.
But I’m here to tell you that hell is no threat (you may now fornicate and self-fornicate in peace!) How do I know? The same way you will in a minute if you don't already—through reason. The idea of inflicting pain on an individual for eternity is ridiculous.
When one man wrestles down another in an armlock or a chokehold, the one man submits to the other because he knows his arm will be broken or his air will be cut off if he persists in fighting. His “give” is a natural reaction to the force of the winning aggressor. But in hell, that causal relationship no longer exists. In hell, one is eternal – and we need not debate whether hell is “mental” or experienced as a “spirit being.” That is unimportant. All that matters is that one who, in whatever form, experiences pain exists. A lost soul cannot be maimed or injured or torn apart or mutilated. There is no being crippled or sick, as there is no dying.
In life, a POW is tortured for the secrets he holds. He is captured by the enemy. He fears for his life. Giving up on the hope of living, he just wants out of the misery that his captors inflict upon him. If the torturers do as the Japanese did in WWII by sticking bamboo thorns up his fingernails and forcing them in all the way. The Japanese were also known to sever small limbs and dislocate limbs from joints with tightened wires or guitar strings. Forget living. You want to die more than anything. The enemy can’t be allowed to get the secrets he holds or many more lives may be lost. Death is even more desired with that realization.
But let’s say our hypothetical POW knew there was no way out of the misery, that the agony he is to endure is to go on literally forever. He can’t kill himself or do something to get him killed. Then what? In that case, torture becomes something other than torture. With time, our POW eventually accepts the pain. It becomes not just non-lethal force, but a normal experience—one that would even be missed if it suddenly became absent.
No theist dares to estimate the “agony levels” of hell, just as they don’t the temperature of hell or its location…not anymore. It isn’t something you can register on a scale, if hell can be said to have a temperature at all. But whatever it is perceived as – however much the misery of being lost is thought to be – it will have no meaning in the long-run.
We can’t imagine suffering on a million-year time scale. We have no idea how our psyches will adapt in that great stretch of time, but we know that they would adapt, just as a quadriplegic from birth has had an entire lifetime to come to terms with his situation while a man recently crippled will mentally fall apart in depression, possibly begging for someone to kill him because of the change. It takes only a few years in the slammer to break a prisoner from thinking he will be able to escape. In less than 50 years, he doesn’t even want out anymore.
We humans adapt so well to horrendous misfortunes, and we totally take it for granted. Even acknowledging it, we still underestimate that ability. Look how much you’ve changed over the last five years. Watch a home movie if you have to. The changes are amazing.
We are so pathetic in thinking that when we bounce back from life’s trials that we are doing well. A cripple is not being heroic or showing his true strength of character when he vows to live on a ventilator and find dignity and purpose while having to wear an adult diaper. Such an individual is just giving way to the genetic predisposition to adapt and survive. It’s in the genes. It’s not praise-worthy except to the simpletons and Jesus-lovers.
So how about the long-term, the real long-term? How will someone cope in hell? How will the lost endure suffering for, well, a billion years? If someone with peripheral neuropathy and in constant pain for 30+ years can find purpose and hope, how will things seem for an eternity? After a while, all you know is pain and that you won’t die, and so torture isn’t torture anymore. You know it won’t kill you, and soon, all you can remember is the pain. Everyday is just another day in hell.
While not outright desirable, compare the eternal suffering in hell to the great eternal joys of heaven. The same problem surfaces. We are compelled to believe and “accept Christ” to avoid hurt and to enjoy an everlasting heavenly tranquility, but what joy can there be had in a billion years of partying, of playing harps or eating grapes, or…playing Xbox?...or doing the equivalent? Pretty soon, you’ve done it all; you’ve swept your illustrious angel wings across every illuminated corner of heaven’s shimmering glory. The universe is yours – and has been yours – a million times over, then a billion times over; you’ve graced with your presence every celestial sphere; you’ve sung every song, met every saint, told and re-told every story, and gotten your cherubim-ic jollies under every branch of the now-accessible tree of life. Now what? You can’t have joy forever anymore than you can have suffering forever.
I remember discussing this issue at length during a Wednesday night Bible class years ago. We spent a whole hour on the topic, which essentially ended with one country girl’s statement of belief as she sat in the third row from the front: “Well, I think God will make heaven desirable forever somehow. It’s so great, like, you won’t ever get bored because God will keep making it exciting.” I still laugh in the recollecting.
Well, that pretty much stomps out the motivation to strive for holiness and righteousness and a place at God’s right hand. There should be no longer a drive to cast down your crown around the thrown like those strange four living creatures in Revelation (chapters 4 and 5). One can be made afraid of hell and scared into seeking heaven, but one cannot be motivated to seek heaven for heaven’s sake.
Look at the ruts people get into in their burdened lives, and look at how much people still enjoy their lives. We only know what we know as “pleasure” and want it accordingly without giving a split-haired thought to what we may be missing or how badly we may, in fact, have things. It’s all in how we perceive it, but if life doesn’t suck totally, it is great and might as well be had. No party can last forever. No sky party can be good enough to get us to change what works for us here and now on earth. We live our lives and the only changes we make or consider making are the ones that help us to avoid more discomfort. Then we die and the game is over…at last, over!
The evangelist beats into submission his converts by the employment of fear, that most decadent of motivators. But the fear comes from nothing rational; it comes from the fear of transitioning from one state into another, from moving out of a state of happiness and into one of the unknown or affliction. The result could be called unrest or sadness. Hell would be indescribable pain, but that would become meaningless. After a while, the sinner effectively would say to God, his tormenting, fiendish captor: “Is that all you got, bitch?!!!”
Heaven or hell, you shouldn’t want or be afraid of either. Both would be places of eternal stagnation, not worse or better than the life you’re living now. And if you’re like most of us and haven’t killed yourself yet, the life you’re happy with you might as well live out as long as you can with some dignity and meaning.