Hell does not exist.
The Christian hell evolved in three significant phases starting with Sheol:
“To make a place for ancestors in the scheme of things, while supplanting the ancestor cult, the Hebrew monarchy and priesthood promoted the idea of Sheol (literally, the grave). Sheol was a single underworld for everyone, a vast realm in which all of the dead shared equally without distinction of family, wealth, or virtue. It was little more than a synonym for death" (Bernstein, 1986, p. 80).
so those who go down to Sheol do not come up ... (NRSV)
This is an evil in all that happens under the sun, that the same fate comes to everyone.
The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no more reward, and even the memory of them is lost.
“Then came the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (in 721 B.C.) and the Babylonian Exile (587-38 B.C.). Both events raised unsettling questions about how a community of the just - a community, indeed, that considered itself the Chosen - could be allowed to suffer political impotence and exile. Helpless in the here and now, the Jews sought justice in an afterlife. A new and more differentiated view of death and the underworld emerged in the Scriptures” (Bernstein, 1986, p. 80).
“The development within Jewish religion of such matters as angels, dualism, eschatology, and the resurrection of the body is commonly attributed to the impact of Iranian religion [Zoroastrianism]” (Barr, 1985, p. 201; Boyce, 1979). “The concepts of a heavenly paradise (Old Persian paira daeza) and a hell of punishment for the wicked (an idea later developed in Christian tradition) are also seen in ancient Iranian religion but absent from pre-exilic Israelite sources” (Foltz, 1998, pp. 11).
The post-exilic apocalyptic, book of Daniel (c. 165 B.C.E.) diverged from Sheol introducing everlasting life and everlasting contempt:
Daniel 12: 1-2
But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Jesus took up the apocalyptic theme that began in Phase 2:
Jesus in Matthew 25: 31-33, 41, 46.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left … Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels … And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
As previously mentioned, Jesus expected the Son of Man to return at least nineteen centuries ago:
Jesus in Mark 13:24-27, 30
But in those days, following that distress, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven… I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
- that the Son of Man would return at least nineteen centuries ago before the generation that he was speaking to passed away;
- that all nations would be judged when the Son of Man returned at least nineteen centuries ago; and
- that all nations would receive eternal punishment/life when the Son of Man returned at least nineteen centuries ago.
But, this hasn't stopped vested interests from continually bullying the uninformed with fire, based on what Jesus incorrectly predicted.
- “All human sin is finite in seriousness.
- It is unjust to punish sins disproportionately to their seriousness.
- To punish sins finite in seriousness with infinite punishment is to punish sins disproportionately to their seriousness.
- Therefore it is unjust to punish sins finite in seriousness with infinite punishment.
- Therefore it is unjust to punish human sin with infinite punishment.
- Hell is infinite punishment.
- Therefore it is unjust to punish human sin with hell.
- God does nothing unjust.
- Therefore God does not punish human sin with hell.
The first premise is based on the fact that not even the worst villains in history have done an infinite amount of wrong; Nero, Genghis Khan, and Hitler inflicted a limited amount of harm to a limited number of people. Even if one does not measure the wrongfulness of actions by their consequences, there seems no reason to assert that the amount of guilt incurred by any human action is infinite. Premise (2) is held to be an obvious ethical principle. Premise (3) is plausible, for if a finite punishment can be disproportionate to a finite sin (as twenty years in prison is disproportionate to the sin of petty theft), surely infinite punishment is disproportionate to finite sin. From (2) and (3) follows (4), and (5) follows from (1) and (4). The sixth premise is based on the definition of hell as everlasting punishment. Premises (5) and (6) entail (7). Premise (8) is held to be true by virtue of God’s nature as perfectly good. From (7) and (8) we can draw the conclusion that God does not punish human sin with hell” (Seymour, 1998, pp. 69-70).
- Babylonian captivity
- Zoroastrian eschatology
- Islamic hell
- Buddhist hell
- Hindu hell
- Jainist hell
HELL ON EARTH
- List of major religious wars
- French Wars of Religion
- Thirty Years' War
- Medieval Inquisition
- Spanish Inquisition
- Portuguese Inquisition
- Goa Inquisition
- Roman Inquisition
- Witch trials in the Early Modern period
- The Catholic Church and AIDS
- Catholic sex abuse cases
- Barr, J. (1985). The Question of Religious Influence: The Case of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 201-235.
- Bernstein, A. E. (1986). Thinking about Hell. The Wilson Quarterly, 10 (3), 78-89.
- Bernstein, A. E. (1993). The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
- Boyce, M. (1979). Zoroastrians. Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. London: Routledge.
- Christian. J.L. (1994). Philosophy: An Introduction to the Art of Wondering. 6th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.
- Foltz, R. (1998). Judaism and the Silk Route. The History Teacher, 32 (1), 9-16.
- Mill, J.S. (2007). The Autobiography of John Stuart Mill. Minneapolis: Filiquarian Publishing.
- Seymour, C. (1998). Hell, justice, and freedom. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 43, 69-86.