Believe in hell -- or don't believe at all?

brother joe made a really interesting point on another thread:

A suggestion: If you cannot believe in a Hell, then believe in Heaven. If you cannot believe in a God who judges, then believe in a God who forgives (In any event it is more catholic to believe in an all-good God who is all-forgiving than to either believe in a god who is bad or doesn’t exist).

discuss. :slight_smile:

I used to have a hard time believing in Hell… You know, the old “How could God send anyone to Hell?” question… But i now see that people send themselves to Hell… They go against their conscience once, then its easier the next time and even so much easier the next time - until they don’t have a conscience left… Even then, they can and sometiems do repent… but it is far more difficult 2 repent, to even see a NEED of repentance - when you have gotten to that point…

Anyway, it is SIN that propels people into Helll and some people just don’t fight sin… or they fight for awhile, then give in… they give in for 1 reason or another… then when they see the terrible consequences of sin, they sometimes will blind themselves to this, rationalize… bury their heads in the sand… deny reality… Sin, which is more powerful than we are, takes control and rules us when we do this… causing the devil himself to “have” us… Very hard to break free… but Jesus gives us the power to do so… (through the Church).

The spooky thing is that most people who are truly possessed never show any outward, visible sign that they have sold hteir souls to the devil. In fact, they “act” like wonderful people, so they can get you to believe they are OK… so they can get on in the world, have everything their hearts desire (so they think…).
Anyway… just my rambling thoughts… God bless…

Hell is reaql. Demons etc. roam there.

But whether any people are in hell is the real question, isnt it? I hasve posted my thoughts on hell like 6 times now, so I’m sure all of you know my opinion on this matter.

when you didn’t believe in hell (or had a hard time believing in it), was it, for you, an obstacle to believing in god? did you feel that a god who allowed us to go to hell must not be a god at all?

i ask because a lot of people who aren’t christians are turned off by the “hellfire and brimstone” stuff, and are ready to write off the whole of christianity because of it.

is it alright to say to a person, “okay, you don’t believe in hell, but that’s no reason not to believe in god!” should we be welcoming of converts who don’t/won’t believe in judgment or hell or satan?

I think there is a big problem in this because people are trying to look at truth from a single perspective. It’s like taking a clay pot, snapping a photo, and telling people the photo is the pot. It shows some of the pot, but really it is also very lacking.

When I used to attend Ole Miss, I asked a near identical question. It seemed I knew many protestants who would have been Catholic if we just dropped all the “Mary stuff”. And I started asking, “If being in the true Church, with the Eucharist, and the sacraments is what really matters, why don’t we just drop our teachings on Mary and have millions of Protestants come join us?”

But we can’t do my idea or yours. Mary’s role in Catholic teaching. The place of Hell in Catholic teaching. They are both parts of a proper understanding of the universe (or of beyond the universe) in it’s truest state. Giveing people less would be a lie.
First, we can’t just stop mentioning them b/c people will simply ask b/f converting and still have to accpet it. So we would have to actually change doctrine, which we can’t b/c most of it is scriptural and even the Magestarium can’t erase lines from scripture.
Secondly, if we just tried de-emphasising it, we wouldn’t be doing what the scriptures, previous Catholic teachings, and Marian visions have required of us. There are great blessings in knowing Mary’s role and Hell’s existance. God willed for us to posess this knowledge and therefore it is logical there was good reason for His telling us.

First of all, thanks to Emily for starting this thread. I simply know very devout (and perhaps afraid) Catholics who simply cannot believe in Hell unless that means that God is somehow horrible. I’ve told people that the goodness of God is a far more fundamental teaching of our faith than the details of what happens to those who never repent in this life. I believe they are better catholics living joyfully in the light of a good God than living under the fear of a bad one.
I believe there is a Hell, but I’m not convince that the tortuous nature of Hell must be taken literally. I try hard to keep a clean soul and to pray for the salvation of souls, but my heart and imagination can only stand so much.


Ok, I can understand why many Catholics cannot reconcile the idea of a benevolent God with the idea of Hell.

But consider the following:

  1. Hell is a dogma of thw Church. We are required to believe in it’s existance, and the existance of Satan and his demons. If you do not believe this, you have placed yourself outside of the Church. As Padre Pio once said to a man who didnt believe in Hell, “you’ll believe it when you get there”.

  2. Christ Himself speaks of the existance of Hell in the Scriptures. Several Saints and visionaries have seen visions of Hell (including the Three children at Fatima).

  3. God does not put us in Hell, we put ourselves there by denying Him. God’s mercy is infinite, but we cannot partake of His mercy unless we accept it (by confessing our sins and recieving absolution in the Sacrament of Penance)- God will not force His mercy on us, it is something that we must accept for ourselves (through Man’s fall in the Garden of Eden we have been given freedom of will).

Anyone here who does not believe in Hell, I suggest you take this up with a faithful priest. This is a serious matter. Perhaps you could also listen to these audio tracks about the Last Things and Death and Judgement by Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

Death and Judgment
Heaven is not so far away
The Hell there is!

As St. Faustina who wrote immensely about God’s infinite mercy, and who was given a vision of Hell, said:

“I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there…But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell.”

Coming in as a Convert, I always have believed in Hell- I grew up on hellfire and brimstone revivals. But as a Catholic now, I have a more ‘refined’ idea of the ‘place’ of Hell. Jesus spoke of it and the judgment required of each us to go either direction when we pass on. Our parish Priest says his God- the God of Love, wouldn’t send anyone there, but I know in my heart it’s ‘there’ as the alternative to heaven or the ‘right choice’. Whether we put ourselves there by failing to do God’s will, or he ‘sends’ us there is up to us-that’s why he gave us free will.

I do want to say that I would rather imagine heaven as my imagination is very vivid and Hell is scary to me.

I fully agree with all your comments! :thumbsup:

We shoudlnt indulge in imaging Hell too much, but many Saints and theologians have taught that we should remind ourseles sometimes. These are some writings about Hell which, although painful to read, do help to strengthen our faith in the reality of Hell. Can anyone know for certain what the pains of Hell are like? No, but we can get a pretty good idea of them.

The Pains of Hell, St. Anthony Mary Claret
Hell exists and we might go there, from the Fatima Bishop’s Conferance
Cry of a Lost Soul
The Reality of Hell

Unfortunately, modern culture has turned Hell into a cliche, mocking it, which has inevitably led many people to laugh at the idea of Hell. A few months ago Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that this is no laughing matter and that Hell is a very real possibility for our souls. If Hell does not exist, or if God’s mercy is given to all regardless of acceptance of that mercy or not, the Sacrifice of Christ would have been without a point and His teachings useless.

We should not dwell on the existance of Hell, but we cannot forget it either. It might be comforting to think only of Heaven and Salvation, just as it might be difficult to think of Hell (or, more commonly, laughable to believe in it), but these are the realities our Catholic faith gives to us. We must accept the good with the bad, virtue with sin, salvation with damnation, Heaven with Hell.

The fact that this made major headlines in the media shows the state of the world’s acknowledgment of Hell.

Quite right. One of the greatest triumphs of Satan is convincing people not to believe in him.

If there is a God, and the Bible and the Holy Christ states there is so I will not refute that for the time being, Then there is a Satan. If there is a Satan, then there is a Hell. It is that easy.

Satan is a good argument for the Problem of evil as well. God causes the good, Satan causes the evil.
It is stated that God is all powerful, at no point (that I know of, feel free to correct me, but give the chapter and verse please) does it say that Satan is not.

This is a very difficult subject… a subject that truly keeps people away from faith, so it’s not one to be taken lightly by simply saying “Hell exists, so there”… that kind of teaching turns people away.

Yes, Hell exists… but MUCH more needs to be said.

Some people simply cannot rationalize that God (logically being an all-loving creator) could allow Hell to exist. That very concept makes people fearful of the idea of God.

It needs to be emphasized that God does not WANT Hell to exist. He yearns and longs for each and every single solitary soul to be with Him.

Hell is where souls go who do not want to be with God… by their own will and choice. God pushes no one away… if a soul wants to be with God, then He invites them.

One aspect of Hell that I don’t think is discussed often enough is the “life” that the souls in Hell have to endure.
I have every reason to believe Hell is a horrible place (fire and brimstone and whatnot).
But I also have every reason to believe in the infinite mercy of God.

God is actively giving each and every soul “life”… without God we do not have “life”.
I personally believe that one aspect of God’s infinite mercy is that He lowers the “life” given to the souls in Hell. What an extreme mercy it would be if those souls in Hell didn’t have the “life” required to feel the pain of Hell!! Those precious souls that God still loves and He doesn’t want them to suffer… yet, they still choose to not be with Him… He still has mercy on them.

Just my personal thoughts on the subject… :smiley:

Hell is necessary because God loves us so much and has given us the greatest gift in the world, to be able to love. But what makes love so special and beautiful is that is given completely freely and received completely freely.

Sin is always a failure to love as we should–and as we know, sin causes suffering even in this world. Those who love and receive God’s love are blissfully transformed and partake of Him Who is love–St. Bernard even calls love God’s substance.

But those who choose not to partake of love, but rather to cling obstinately to sin, suffer immensely. Imagine what it would be like to have only the torment of your sins and no love? It would literally be Hell.

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